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I know the difference has to do with how the grains grow on the stock, but I'm not completely sure what that difference is. It also seems like 2-row is more commonly used as a base malt, but I've seen some recipes that say it's ok to substitute 6-row instead.

Biologically, what's the difference between the two? In terms of brewing, what's the difference between using 2-row malt as opposed to 6-row malt as the base for a beer?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Taste wise you're going to get a slightly more grainy flavor out of 6 row.

Biologically 6 row has more diastic power and is better used for converting starchy adjuncts. You also will get about 2ppg more out of 6 row than you will 2 row.

But quite frankly, today's 2 row is well modified and has enough diastic power to convert a large amount of starchy adjuncts. 2 row malt has enough enzymes to convert around 10% of it's own weight in adjuncts with no enzymes.

For example. 10lbs of 2 row can convert 1 lb. of adjuncts.

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2-row:

  • Favored by European brewers
  • Lower protein content
  • Yields greater theoretical extract
  • Tend to be more uniform in kernel size (better for less-sophisticated mills)

6-row:

  • Grows better in the U.S. and is cheaper, so used by big domestic breweries
  • More enzymes and husks help with adjunct cereals (so good for e.g. an oatmeal stout)
  • Higher protein content
  • Often sorted into different kernel sizes

More info at: http://www.brewingtechniques.com/bmg/schwarz.html

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Wow, that linked article was extremely informative! Thanks. –  Jeff Roe Jun 3 '11 at 14:15
    
Keep in mind that the BT article is very old and much has changed in the years since it was written. –  Denny Conn Jul 1 '11 at 15:19

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