Many new home brewers wonder, “what is extract brewing?” Extract brewing is a simplified way of making home-brewed beer, using malt extract and fewer grains.
One of the most popular ways of making beer for beginners is extract brewing. This simplified technique allows new home brewers to learn the techniques of brewing, fermenting, and bottling without investing extra time and money. If you’re new to home brewing, you might be asking, what is extract brewing?
Extract brewing is a method of making beer that uses a malt extract product with a small number of grains. Unlike all-grain brewing, which uses large quantities of barley, wheat, oats, and rye to create the malty flavor and color profile of a beer, extract brewing uses the pre-made malt product.
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What Is Extract Brewing, And Why Use It?
Extract brewing is a simplified version of the normal, all-grain brewing process. It utilizes malt extract as a substitution for the process of steeping grains in warm water. However, most extract brewing recipes require you to steep some grains to create the base flavors of your beer, to go along with the malt extract that you will use to add substance and sugars for fermentation.
Many beginners to home brewing use extract kits or extract recipes because they take the guesswork out of making beer. Extract brewing also uses less equipment, so you don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of brewing equipment to make a batch of beer.
Many extract kits allow you to brew a batch of beer using the cooking equipment you already have in your kitchen. Extract brewing is a great way to make beer or experiment with beer without milling grains. To mill grains, you need to invest in a grain mill or have a good local brewing supply store that can mill grains for you.
Extract Brewing For Beginners
If you’ve just started brewing, investing in a grain mill may not be an ideal purchase. Likewise, if you are living in a smaller community and are relying on online brewing supply stores for your brewing ingredients, extract brewing is a great alternative.
The mash step of all-grain brewing can be challenging to get right. Experienced homebrewers have learned how to manage temperatures for proper mashing and have taken the time to learn how to properly sparge their grains to extract flavors and color from milled grains.
This process takes a long time to learn and can be challenging for a first-time homebrewer. Extract brewing does not require the mashing step, so new brewers can work on perfecting their boil, hop additions, and fermentation before they add a challenging new step.
Drawbacks Of Extract Brewing
While extract brewing sounds pretty great, there are some downfalls to this brewing style. The biggest complaint about extract brewing is that it really limits the control you have over the complete profile of your beer.
Extract brewing really leaves you with minimal places to experiment and tinker with your beer. Beginners will benefit from extract brewing by allowing hoppiness, alcohol content, and color to be manipulated with ease. When you are confident in manipulating these features, you can then jump into the process of all-grain brewing.
Benefits Of Extract Brewing
Many people choose extract brewing as their first experience in making beer at home because it is relatively inexpensive and can be accomplished with minimal equipment. Many home brew equipment kits even come with your first extract brewing kit.
Extract brewing is the easiest way to learn how to brew beer. Many first-time homebrewers choose to use an extract brewing kit for their first batch of beer. The benefits of extract brewing range from speed to cost.
While new brewers most frequently use extract brewing, it is also a popular way for experienced brewers to experiment with different types of beers or to make a favorite recipe faster than a batch made by all-grain.
Extract brewing is also a popular option for experienced home brewers that need to make beer in a hurry. This simplified method of making beer eliminates some of the more time-consuming steps of traditional all-grain brewing.
Why Do I Still Need To Steep Grains?
One part of extract brewing that often confuses new home brewers is that even with extract brewing, you still have to steep grains. Like the mash step, steeping some grains adds simple fermentable sugars, color, and substance to the beer.
Many beer kits come with a small amount of pre-milled grains to be used in this step. Or, if you are using an extract recipe, you will need to acquire some milled grains for this initial step.
Grains are steeped before the boil, usually in a smaller, separate pot from the boil kettle. Grains are placed in a steeping bag and allowed to sit in water that has been heated to 150° to 170°F (65°-75°C). You might be wondering where do beer hops come from.
The milled grains are submerged in the warmed water and allowed to rest for around 30 minutes. This process pulls the sugars, colors, and unique flavors from the milled grains. This process does not need to be as exact as mashing grains in all-grain brewing.
The grains that are used in this steeping step of extract brewing are specialty grains that are used to provide specific flavor profiles that make a particular beer style unique. Not all malts are great for steeping in extract brewing. Lighter malts are better for all-grain brewing, so you may find that these are flavors that are added using malt extracts.
What Is Malt Extract?
Now that you know a bit about why malt extract is used in homebrewing, you may be wondering where malt extract comes from. Malt extract is made by concentrating the sugars that are removed from grains during the mash step of brewing.
Manufacturers of malt extract products will make large quantities of the mash of specific grain blends. The resulting wort is then concentrated, and the water is removed until all that remains is a syrup of sugars. In some cases, this syrup is packaged as a liquid, or it may be dried to a powder and packaged.
Types Of Malt Extract
There are two broad categories of malt extract that you will find in your local or online brewing supply store. They are the dry product or the liquid product. Check out these reasons why malt extract is great for home brewing.
The two are different in their sugar content and add different flavor profiles to your beer. When recipes call for one type of malt extract, you will need to stick with this type, or the quality of the finished beer will not be as expected.
Dry Malt Extract (DME)
This is the dry or powdered form of malt extract. Nearly all the water has been removed from the malt, leaving only the sugars.
- A more stable malt product
- Can handle shifts in temperature
- Increased shelf life
- Easier to measure
- Does not do well in humid environments
- Fine powder can be messy
- Can clump in your boil
Liquid Malt Extract (LME)
This type of malt extract is like syrup or molasses. It is made of approximately 80% sugar and 20% water.
- Comes in a sealed can for easy storage
- There are more varieties of LME
- When fresh, it gives a rich flavor
- Sticky texture makes it difficult to pour or measure
- Cannot be stored easily when the container has been opened
- Flavors of the malt will change with age
How To Practice Extract Brewing
If you are thinking about starting with extract brewing, you will follow these basic steps:
- Add the necessary amount of water to a brew kettle and begin to heat.
- Transfer the grains to a steeping bag.
- Steep the grains in the main brew kettle or warm water in a smaller container.
- If the grains are steeped in a separate pot, transfer water from steeping to the main boil kettle.
- Add LME or DME to the boil, constantly stirring to avoid scorching them to the bottom of the kettle.
- Add the hops according to the recipe instructions.
- Cool the wort.
- Transfer to the fermenter and use cold water to bring to volume.
- Add yeast to the fermenter and allow it to sit for up to two weeks.
- Transfer the fermented beer to a clean container and add priming sugars.
- Place beer in bottles or kegs for consumption.