Is malt extract the same as malt syrup?

Malt extract and malt syrup are two common ingredients used in baking and brewing. They are derived from malted grains, usually barley, and provide sweetness, flavor, color, and nutrients. But are they the same thing? The quick answer is no, malt extract and malt syrup are not identical. While they share some similarities and can be used interchangeably in some recipes, there are important differences between these two malt products.

What is Malt Extract?

Malt extract, sometimes called malt flavoring or malted barley extract, is a thick, sticky syrup made from malted barley. It is produced by soaking barley grains in water to initiate germination, which activates enzymes that convert the starch present in barley into fermentable sugars. The germinated barley grains are then dried in a kiln, stopping the germination process and converting the sugars into soluble extract.

The malt extract is extracted by mixing the malted barley with hot water and then straining the liquid to remove the grains. The resulting extract is a dark, viscous syrup that is around 70% sugars by weight. It has a rich, malty flavor along with some bitterness. Malt extract comes in different varieties, including diastatic and non-diastatic types. Diastatic malt extract contains active enzymes that can further convert starches into fermentable sugars, while non-diastatic has had the enzymes deactivated through heating.

Characteristics of Malt Extract

– Thick, sticky syrup consistency
– Dark brown color
– Strong malty, slightly bitter flavor
– Contains 70% fermentable sugars
– Sold as liquid, dried powder, or granulated forms
– Available in diastatic and non-diastatic varieties

Malt extract adds a pronounced malt flavor, dark color, and fermentable sugars to recipes. It is commonly used in beer brewing to increase the malt character and body of the beer. In baking, malt extract can help improve browning, add malt flavor, and act as a natural sweetener. It is also sometimes used as a supplement in diets to boost calories and nutrients.

What is Malt Syrup?

Malt syrup is a sweetener made from sprouted barley grains. To make malt syrup, the sprouted barley is first dried and processed into malt extract. The malt extract is then evaporated or cooked down further to condense it into a thick, sticky syrup. This helps develop the sweet flavor while intensifying the malt character.

Compared to malt extract, malt syrup has a thicker, more viscous texture. It also tends to be darker in color with a more pronounced caramelized, roasted malt flavor. While regular malt extract contains about 70% fermentable sugars, malt syrup may contain anywhere from 30-75% sugars. The exact sugar composition depends on the length of cooking time.

Characteristics of Malt Syrup

– Very thick and sticky consistency
– Dark amber to black color
– Robust malty, caramelized flavor
– 30-75% sugars
– Available as syrup or powdered form
– Used as a sweetener and flavoring agent

Malt syrup imparts a sweeter, more candy-like maltiness than plain malt extract. It adds excellent flavor, color, and browning qualities to baked goods, similar to molasses or barley malt syrup. Malt syrup is sometimes used as a substitute for corn syrup or maple syrup. It also finds some applications in beer brewing when a very dark, malty flavor is desired.

Nutritional Comparison

Both malt extract and malt syrup are considered nutritious sweeteners, as they retain some vitamins, minerals and proteins from the original malted barley. However, malt syrup is more condensed and tends to be higher in calories:

Nutrient Malt extract Malt syrup
Calories (per 100g) 270 310
Total carbohydrates 65g 75g
Sugars 55g 70g
Protein 3g 1g

As shown, malt syrup packs over 300 calories and 75g of sugars per 100g, while plain malt extract is lower at 270 calories and 65g of carbs. Malt syrup is predominantly sugars with very little protein, while extract retains more of the barley’s protein.

Both contain significant amounts of the sugars maltose, glucose, sucrose, fructose and maltotriose. These provide sweetness and food for yeast in brewing applications.

Differences in Taste, Texture and Color

The biggest differences between malt extract and syrup lie in their taste, color and texture:

Malt extract has a dominant malty, slightly bitter flavor. Malt syrup tastes much sweeter with prominent caramel, toffee and roasted notes.

Malt extract has a thick, sticky viscosity. Malt syrup is even more thick and viscous, with a very dense syrupy texture.

Plain liquid malt extract is amber to brown in color. Malt syrup is significantly darker, ranging from reddish-brown to nearly black depending on roast level.

So in summary, malt syrup has a darker color, thicker texture, and stronger caramelized sweetness compared to plain malt extract. Malt extract is lighter, thinner, and has more pronounced malty bitterness.

Brewing Uses

In brewing beer, both malt extract and syrup can be used to add flavor, color and fermentable sugars to the wort.

Malt extract is commonly used by beginner homebrewers to simplify the brewing process. Dried or liquid malt extract is reconstituted with water and boiled to create wort. Additional hops and yeast can be added to complete the beer. This “extract brewing” is easier than using raw grains.

Malt syrup isn’t as commonly used in full-wort brewing. But brewers may add some malt syrup to increase the body, head retention, color and flavor of the beer. Malt syrup works well in darker beers like porters and stouts. A small addition of malt syrup to a pale ale recipe can also amplify the maltiness.

When substituted for malt extract, more malt syrup is generally needed to achieve the same level of sugars and gravity. This is because malt syrup contains less fermentable sugars, having been concentrated down more than plain extract. But the syrup imparts unique flavors and qualities that extract alone cannot provide.

Baking Uses

In baking, both malt extract and syrup are useful for enhancing flavor and color in breads, cookies, and desserts. They also affect the texture and crust browning.

Malt extract adds a subtle malty, yeasty flavor to doughs and batters. It improves the color and promotes better browning through Maillard reactions. Extract contains diastatic enzymes that break down starches into sugars for food, fueling more rapid fermentation and rise. It can be substituted for about half the table sugar in recipes.

Malt syrup has very pronounced malty caramel notes, giving a rich flavor and aroma. The thick syrup consistency also makes baked goods moister. Malt syrup is sometimes used as a replacement for molasses, honey, or corn syrup. It has similar properties to these sweeter syrups. Because malt syrup is less fermentable, more should be used in recipes – about 1 1/4 times the amount of sugar replaced.

Baking Use Malt Extract Malt Syrup
Flavor addition Subtle, yeasty maltiness Robust caramel, toffee flavor
Color and browning Light to medium color enhancement Significant color/browning boost
Texture Minimal effects Increases moisture & density
Fermentation Boosts fermentation Less impact on fermentation

So in summary, malt syrup adds more sweetness and color while extract enhances fermentation and more delicate malty notes. Either can be used creatively in baking recipes.

Price Differences

Malt extract is generally more affordable than malt syrup. Liquid malt extract costs approximately $5-8 per pound, while dried malt extract powder is $9-12 per pound. Malt syrup can run $10-15 per pound.

This price difference is because malt syrup requires additional processing beyond malt extract production. The malt extract must be concentrated significantly through extended cooking, evaporation, and caramelization to turn it into a thick syrup. This extra time and energy increases the price.

However, when considering the differences in sugar content, malt syrup may provide more sweetening power per dollar than plain malt extract. The higher concentrations of sugars and flavors mean you may be able to use less malt syrup in a recipe to achieve the desired taste.


Both malt extract and malt syrup can be purchased at well-stocked grocery stores, beer and wine supply shops, bakeries, and online retailers. Malt extract is more ubiquitous – it can be found in various forms at many mainstream grocers. Malt syrup may only be available at specialty stores focused on baking ingredients, brewing supplies, or natural foods.

When purchasing malt extract, common options include liquid, dried/powdered, diastatic and non-diastatic varieties. Amber, dark and blackpatent styles are also available for varying color and flavor intensities. Popular brands include Briess, DME, and Muntons.

For malt syrup, shoppers may come across blackstrap, medium or dark grades based on the degree of caramelization. Common brands of malt syrup include Eden Foods, Briess, and Crisp Malting Group. Those wanting to avoid GMOs should look for organic certified options.

With the growth of artisanal baking and homebrewing, malt extracts and syrups are becoming easier to source both in-person and online. Home cooks have more choices than ever before to experiment with these malt-based sweeteners.


In a pinch, malt extract and malt syrup can often successfully substitute for one another:

– In brewing, use about 25-30% more malt syrup to compensate for the lower fermentable sugar content compared to malt extract. Add syrup slowly to ensure proper dissolution.

– In baking, replace malt syrup with an equal amount of malt extract, and supplement with additional table sugar or honey to account for malt syrup’s extra sweetness.

– When swapping malt extract for malt syrup in recipes, use about 25% less extract and expect slightly less browning and moisture. The flavor will also be more bitter, malty than sweet.

While not exactly equivalent, malt extract and malt syrup can work in place of one another in the appropriate proportions. Having both stocked provides more flexibility in different recipes.

The Bottom Line

Malt extract and malt syrup originate from the same ingredients – malted barley grains. Through differences in processing, they provide some distinct flavors and textures, particularly with malt syrup being darker, thicker, and sweeter than plain malt extract. While they can be substituted in some instances, malt extract imparts more delicate malty notes, while malt syrup contributes robust caramel and toffee flavors. Both can add desired qualities to baked goods and brews when used creatively by the cook. Having an understanding of their nuanced differences allows you to choose the best option for your desired tastes and outcomes.

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