What does Diastatic power mean?

Answered by Willie Powers

Diastatic power is a term used in brewing to describe the enzymatic activity of malt. Enzymes are responsible for breaking down starches present in the malt into simpler sugars that can be fermented by yeast during the brewing process. Diastatic power is an important characteristic to consider when selecting malt for brewing, as it determines how efficiently the starches can be converted into fermentable sugars.

The diastatic power of a malt is typically measured using the Lintner scale. This scale quantifies the degree of enzymatic activity present in the malt, with higher Lintner values indicating a greater diastatic power. Different malts can have varying diastatic powers, and this can influence the brewing process and the resulting beer.

One common comparison in terms of diastatic power is between 6-Row and 2-Row base malts. 6-Row malt generally has a higher diastatic power compared to 2-Row malt. This is because 6-Row malt contains more enzymes, specifically alpha-amylase, which is responsible for breaking down starches into fermentable sugars. The higher diastatic power of 6-Row malt makes it suitable for use in recipes that require a higher level of enzymatic activity, such as when brewing beers with a high proportion of adjunct grains or a large amount of unmalted barley.

On the other hand, 2-Row malt has a lower diastatic power but is still capable of converting the starches present in the malt into fermentable sugars. It is commonly used as a base malt in many beer recipes and provides a solid foundation for the brewing process. The lower diastatic power of 2-Row malt may be preferred in certain brewing scenarios where a lower level of enzymatic activity is desired, such as when brewing styles that require less attenuation or when using a high proportion of highly modified malts.

It’s important to note that diastatic power is not the only factor to consider when selecting malt for brewing. Other characteristics such as flavor, color, and extract potential also play a role in determining the suitability of a particular malt for a specific beer style or recipe. However, diastatic power is a key consideration for brewers looking to ensure efficient starch conversion and achieve desired levels of fermentability in their beers.

In my own brewing experience, I have encountered situations where the diastatic power of the malt played a significant role in the success of the brew. For example, when brewing a beer with a high proportion of unmalted grains such as corn or rice, I found that using a malt with a higher diastatic power, such as 6-Row, helped to ensure thorough starch conversion and prevented any potential issues with stuck mashes or incomplete fermentation. On the other hand, when brewing a more traditional beer style that called for a lower level of enzymatic activity, I opted for a base malt with a lower diastatic power, such as 2-Row, to achieve the desired flavor and character in the final beer.

Diastatic power refers to the enzymatic activity of malt and its ability to convert starches into fermentable sugars during the brewing process. It is measured using the Lintner scale and varies between different malts. Understanding the diastatic power of malt is crucial for brewers in order to select the appropriate malt for their recipes and achieve desired levels of fermentability in their beers.