working on improving recipe formulation and wondering which is better?

Looking for good mouth feel and head retention,(who isn't I guess) but most of all a big malt forward beer. In doing unrelated research I found that the region I live in (Northwest) produces way more malty beers then other regions, for example our amber ale would be would not fit in the BJCP style guidelines on the east coast. Just curios if anyone has experimented with either of these two grains or any other similar types.

Formerly brewed all-grain on a sabco machine but currently working on partial mash recipes

3 Answers 3


Special B and CaraPils are as different as night and day, so it's going to be hard to compare them directly.

Special B is a very dark Crystal Malt (about 140-150L), typically Belgian in origin, which is used to add flavors like: very dark caramel, raisin, or plum. It is the specialty grain that makes Belgian Amber Abbey Ales taste a bit raisin-like, and Dubbels taste pruny. It does give a bit of increased body because it's a crystal malt, but not much, because you typically never use more than 8-10oz of it. I use it often in levels around 4oz and enjoy it in Dunkelweizens especially.

CaraPils is a pale crystal malt (10L) used to add body and head retention to very pale beers with little to no color or flavor adjustment. You can use as much as a full pound on a pale, otherwise thin beer, but I wouldn't go much over that unless you want a chewy beer. Often times, all grain brewers will lower the amount of CaraPils in a recipe and just mash higher. When using CaraPils in conjunction with other Crystal Malts, don't forget that CaraPils is a type of Crystal on its own, so don't go too heavy on either if you use both (unless your intention is for a thick, rich beer).

  • brewed two winter warmers in a row, one with caraPils and one with special B and you are exactly right, just switching that and there is a huge difference... thank you!
    – Ryan Shdo
    Nov 27, 2011 at 22:43

Each of those tastes quite different from the other. Special B is more like a raisiny Crystal 120L than anything. Carapils is going to give you a lot of dextrins, and is probably what you're after as far as a thicker mouthfeel and head retention, but it isn't going to add much in the way of flavor. Some flaked adjunct grains (barley, oats, etc.) would work for the stated goals you have as well, though you will definitely need to mash those.


In my experience, neither of those malts drives mouthfeel more than mash temp. I have brewed dry and crisp beers with more than a half pound of Special B in it, by using a lower mash temp. Head retention has more to do with freshness, protein content of the base malt and how you mash it more than cara-pils helps it out.

Maybe people will disagree, but if you are mashing then look there to control mouthfeel and to a lesser extent head retention.

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