What is Malt Extract?

We sell 2 kinds of Malt Extract for Home Brewing. Liquid Malt Extract (LME) and Dried Malt Extract (DME). But what is Malt Extract?

Malt extract is derived from barley grains and water. It is packed with sugars plus some nutrients, including vitamin A and riboflavin. After the war it was popular as a dietary supplement for undernourished children. After decades of relative oblivion outside of home brewing, it is starting to creep back into our collective consciousness.

Malt Extract in Recipes

But malt extract has always been a familiar ingredient if you brew your own beer. Both LME and DME tend to be available in at least 3 basic variations: light, medium and dark. Then you will see more specialised variations like pilsner, wheat, Maris Otter, amber and extra-pale. The variations will depend on the grains used in production.

Is Spray Malt the same as Dried Malt Extra (DME)?

Yes. You will often see Spray Malt for sale. Or Spray Dried Malt. Or Spraymalt. It is all Dried Malt Extract.

What is the difference between Liquid Malt Extract (LME) and Dried Malt Extract (DME)?

Liquid malt extract (LME) has a consistency a bit like molasses. It is available in cans and in pouches, depending on the brand. Dried malt extract (DME) is a fine powder.

Whilst both behave similarly when you use them in beer making, the main difference for the home brewer is how easy they are to store once you've opened them.

LME in sealed tins and pouches will store for a long time. The use by date on them is often months, sometimes years. Once you open the tin or pouch, ideally you need to use all of its contents. If you don't, it is difficult to store without the LME degrading a bit over time. Most containers of LME state that malt extract will darken with heat and age.

We have a customer who keeps LME in the fridge for some time once opened, and he says it's still fine to use weeks or months later. Other brewers say that Liquid Malt Extract starts degrading quite quickly after you open it. We haven't tried so we don't know.

Meanwhile DME is simple to store once you've opened the pack. Just put what you haven't used in a flip top jar and keep it sealed until you need it again.

Malt Extract cooking

I store mine in this way. I cut the label off the package and stick it to the jar tag so that I know the use by date (which tends to be months, if not years away). The reason I keep it on hand is because I'm trying out Dried Malt Extract in the kitchen in some recipes as a sugar substitute.

How is Malt Extract Produced?

To produce Malt Extract, water is heated and the grains to be used are milled. The milled grains are added to the heated water and left for a period of time. This produces a sweet 'mort' which is filtered to remove the spent grains. The wort is then evaporated to remove 80% of the water, leaving thick, sticky LME. If DME is being produced then the liquid is also sent through a centrifuge to separate the liquid from the malt, leaving DME powder.

Malt Extract Recipes

Does Malt Extract contain sugar?

Malt derived from malted barley is sweet, like sugar. That's why some people use it in cooking, in preference to using processed sugar. But Malt has a relatively high glycemic index of 40. So whilst it may be a better alternative to white sugar, it is ultimately sugar. For this reason, malt is not suitable for diabetics or those with other related blood sugar issues.

Can you cook with Malt Extract?

Yes you can! I'm experimenting with a few things at the moment, such as breadmaker rolls with oats and malt extract.  


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  • Hi Ellicia, the different coloured malts do taste different. The lights tend to be the most popular for modern lighter beers, the dark contain a percentage of grains that have been baked for longer and give a stronger flavour, affecting bitterness as well as colour. It’s all down to personal taste. When I’m baking with malt extract instead of sugar I tend to use medium but in reality it doesn’t make much difference because the amount I’m using is so small. But when you’re making beer with it, the malt extract you choose will definitely make a difference to the final taste as well as appearance.

  • Is there a difference in taste between the different colours? Is the darkness relative to malty-ness or sweetness – or is it simply appearance? Thanks

  • I have indeed Nina. I blogged the recipe I made in the breadmaker but I’ve also used it in place of sugar in the other recipes I use. It’s a subtle flavour change, not massively malty but there’s definitely a hint of something there that isn’t there with sugar. The following link isn’t clickable but if you cut & paste into your browser it should be there :)

  • Have you ever used malt extract to make bread?

  • That’s an interesting idea Alice, I’ve never done it because I’m assuming it will change the taste of the tea too much (plus I don’t take sugar!). Let me know how it turns out!


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