So...finally have these things going...hopefully I'm using them correctly
Malt Extract: the Secret of the Ooze
January 22, 2014
When brewing at home for the first time, I had visions of mashing grains expertly and creating beers that were nothing short of existential. Then I found out what was involved with all grain beers. Mash tuns, sparging, water temperatures, grain bills, saturation and on and on. This was definitely not the kind of brewing I was prepared for starting out (and I don’t think would be to be honest) which is where malt extract kept my dreams of brewing from being completely dashed. While most of what I make these days is all grain, that doesn’t denote any ill-will towards malt extracts on my part. On the contrary, the goal of this post is to highlight the benefits of brewing with the ooze (Ninja Turtles reference, take a drink). In particular I know a few folks who will be brewing their own first batch soon so this is an effort to help understand what this stuff is and why it is your friend.
So, just what the hell is malt extract? To put it simply it is all the stuff you want (and more importantly that yeast would want) from the grains used to brew reduced down to a tub of goo. That might sound pretty unappealing at first read but if you think about it, this is basically the same thing that happens to make corn syrup. Malt extracts can also come in a powdered form for those of you who don’t want to deal with the mess of the syrup (or just really want to have a clear plastic bag full of powder so you can pretend your Scarface). Extracts also come in varieties that allow for brewing of most basic ale types and generally will be sold in conjunction with kits that provide the remaining ingredients for whatever that specific brew is you want to make (if you are in the Denver area, Brew Hut does a really good job with their starter and malt extract kits, check them out!)
The actual process of brewing with extract is fairly simple and again the best way to get your groove down when you doing your first few beers. This still involves boiling water in your brew kettle and adding ingredients, but in most cases it will be a smaller boil than would be done for an all grain beer. Allot of malt extract kits for a 5 gallon batch will have you boil 2.5-3 gallons and stir in your extract, then add cold water to top off to 5 gallons in your fermenter afterwards. This has the added advantage of eliminating the need to chill your entire batch as the mix of cold water to your wort will get it to a temperature that will make your yeast happy (if you don’t know what I’m talking about as far as why cooling your wort is important, stop reading this post and take a look at the one from 1/21. Don’t worry this will still be here when you get back I promise).
Another added advantage of malt extract brewing is the cost factor. Malt can be expensive, and the initial investment in everything that you need for making all grain beers can a bit steep if you’re not going to be brewing frequently. LME can range from $10-$20 depending on the volume and type you are buying. While this limits the variability of your malt profile to some degree (you can always supplement the extract with grains) it does make it more cost effective if you are wanting to get the cost of your beer down.
So I think that is a good high level look at malt extracts and all their sticky goodness (If you laughed at the use of “sticky goodness” take a drink…I just did). I’m planning on doing another post about all grain stuff in the near future, but if anyone wants to see more about extract brewing just let me know with the form on the “About” page. Yay! Knowledge!
What I was drinking during this post: Old Ruffian by Great Divide