Over the last decade, home brewing has grown from a fledgling hobby into an activity that millions of Americans take part in every year. The ability to brew your own beer at home isn’t just a great way to spend an afternoon, it is an activity that teaches people a lot about the chemistry and science behind brewing. The first thing most homebrewers are tasked with when deciding to try their hand at brewing, is whether or not they are going to use an all-grain recipe or make use of extracts. Few topics in the homebrew world are as polarizing as extract versus all-grain brewing and, quite honestly, extract brewing receives some criticism from certain camps of homebrewers. In today’s post, we here at Brau Supply wanted to take some time to look at the benefits associated with extract brewing in hopes of taking some of the negative feelings associated with this form of homebrewing.
What is Extract?
When a person brews beer, they can either utilize an all-grain method or an extract method. Using the all-grain approach, the malted grains are soaked in water at a certain temperature for a specific amount of time (a process known in the brewing world as mashing) in order to extract the fermentable sugars from the grains that the yeast eat in order to create beer. With extract brewing, a malt extract is made by taking the liquid collected during the mashing process and dehydrating it into a syrup or powder form. This extract is then added in place of grains in the beginning stages of the brewing process to create the mash that is the base of all forms of beer. While all-grain recipes allow for more control over the ingredients, using extract offers multiple benefits to home brewers.
Efficiency: Anyone who has used the all-grain method to brew beer can tell you that one of the hardest aspects of the entire process is hitting a target gravity. Gravity, in this sense, refers to the amount of sugars that are extracted during the mashing process and is the main factor that affects the alcohol content of the beer as well as many of the flavor notes. Doing this with an all-grain recipe requires the homebrewer to boil the mash under very precise conditions in order to get the amount of sugar that is needed, a process that can easily go awry. Extracts simplify this process because they provide a predictable amount of fermentable sugars when added to a specific amount of water. With extracts, homebrewers do not have to worry about hitting certain temperature marks, greatly increasing the efficiency of the homebrew process.
Save Time: When brewing beer using the traditional all-grain method, homebrewers can expect to spend a lot of time waiting. The all-grain method involves soaking the grains in water for approximately one hour, lautering (the collections of the mash liquid), and sparging (rinsing the grains with water to get more sugar). All told, this process can take two to three hours to complete and, when added to the amount of time it takes to brew the beer and clean up afterward, a homebrewer could be looking at an entire day of work for a single batch of beer. With extracts, however, the entire brew day can be completed in as little as two to three hours, making it a great option for people who do not have the time needed for all-grain brewing.
Consistency: One of the toughest struggles homebrewers face when using an all-grain recipe is being able to consistently brew a beer. Because so many variables come into play when using an all-grain recipe, even the smallest variation can result in an end product that can taste drastically different from one batch to the next. Extract brewing eliminates many of these variables and makes it much easier for homebrewers to produce a beer that tastes the same multiple times in a row.
Even though we here at Brau Supply fall into the all-grain camp of the homebrew world, we hope that this short blog on extract brewing has been informative. If you would like to learn some benefits associated with all-grain brewing to complement the knowledge you gained in this post, be sure to check back for our upcoming blog post on all-grain brewing. Additionally, if you would like to learn more about the products that we offer and the brew systems we have available, please visit our website today.