I recently had a debate with a brewing buddy of mine about malts that "need to be mashed". For instance victory malt is listed in Palmers "How to Brew" as being in the needs to be mashed column. I can understand that there are unconverted starches in the malts and mashing them makes fermentable sugars, blah blah blah.

Base malt certainly needs to be mashed because it normally consists of 80-100% of the grist. But if you were putting victory malt in at the rate of 5% or less. What starch load would you really get? If you made a base wort and steeped 5% of victory in a 6 gallon batch would a starch test even show positive? What does it matter at such a low amount.

What makes victory different than say crystal or chocolate malt, that it needs to be mashed when we are using them for small flavor or color adjustments? Victory can't self convert, but neither can Crystal 60.

So what does it really mean "needs to be mashed"?

  • Crystal doesn't need to convert. It's been "mashed in the husk" so to speak. i.e. its starches are already converted. May 7, 2011 at 1:22
  • I think you missed my point about using crystal as a comparator.
    – brewchez
    May 7, 2011 at 15:17

2 Answers 2


Grains that don't need to be mashed fall into two categories, crystal malts and highly kilned malts.

The crystals - you're right that they can't "self convert" but they don't need to - the conversion is already done. So they don't need to be mashed - their sugars can be extracted by steeping.

The chocolate and other highly kilned malts are usually used in small quantities. Although these technically can be mashed, their contribution is mainly color rather than sugar. If starch is transferred to the beer by these dark malts, it's usually not noticable since the strength of the color far outweighs the cloudiness from the starch content.

Not mashing victory malt might not do any harm, but even at 5% you can end up with cloudier beer, since it doesn't contribute a strong color and the starch will be visible. If it's just a color enhancement you are looking for, consider using 1/4 oz of chocolate malt, or caramunich, which like all crystals, will give a good head and round out the beer.


I think you've already answered your question, really. Grains "need" to be mashed if you "need" their sugar contributions for the OG. If you're just looking for flavor/color contributions, then you don't need to mash. If the grain is particularly starch, that might be an undesirable contribution based on how starchy, what percentage of the mash it is, &c.

But "needs to be mashed" just means "can't self-convert/needs diastatic enzymes from another malt".

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