Brewing beer at home - Using the Malt extract method.
There are 3 main different methods for making beer at home. From kits, using malt extract and full mash/all grain. In this post we will cover making beer using unhopped malt extract.
This method uses the same basic techniques as kits but you prepare the wort from ingredients rather then using pre hopped wort concentrate. Water, malt extract and hops are boiled for approximately one hour before cooling then adding yeast.
This method requires a large pan and strainer in addition to the basic equipment required for kits. You choose and buy packs of malt extract, hops and yeast then follow a recipe or purchase a pre weighed out recipe pack like our crafty brews extract range. If you want to create your own recipe, then there are lots of different recipes available on the internet and in books. The addition of herbs and spices can be a fun way to experiment and tweak recipe to create unique blends but always add with caution as high levels of strong flavours can be over bearing, ruining a once great beer.
Fermentable sugars in malt extract come from malted grains, predominately barley. The sugars are created from the starches in the barley in a process known as mashing which is carried out by the extract producer. Here malted grains are mixed with water at a set temperature, around 65c and left for about an hour. The enzymes in the barley break down the starches and create fermentable sugars which are then dissolved in the liquid and extracted to create malt extract.
The liquid is then removed either by boiling at low temp under pressure to create liquid malt extract (LME) or spray drying in a vacuum to create Spray malt extract (DME). They can both be used in the same way as they are the same thing although LME has 20% more water than DME so therefore you would need 20% more of it to get the same volume of fermentable sugars. Malt extract comes in different colours, light, medium, dark and extra dark which denotes the colour that it will create which is measured in EBC (European Brewing Convention). The higher the EBC number the darker the malt. These can then be rehydrated to the desired volume and boiled with hops to give flavour and bitterness.
Some crushed malt grains can also be used in extract brewing as the sugars or character of the malts do not require a full mash process. Steeping these for 30 mins before the boil will add colour, sugar and flavour to the beer. Not all malts are suitable for steeping so please check that a particular malt okay before using. Most roasted and crystal malts are suitable.
Once water is added to the malt extract, and any grains have been steeped and removed, the wort is then brought to the boil and hops are added. Hops give the beer flavour, bitterness and aroma. Hops are boiled for different times and the length to time will determine the character extracted. Hops added at the beginning of the boil will impart bitterness from the alpha acids which are then dissolved into the wort. Hops added later will add flavor and aroma from the more delicate essential oils. There is also a huge range of hops which all have there own unique characters and uses.
Boiling usually takes about an hour after which the wort is cooled to yeast pitching temperature. The yeast is the pitched and the wort fermented just like a beer kit.
Creating beers using malt extract works out slightly more expensive than using a Premium kit especially if you create your own recipe as you may need small amounts of different ingredients which may have to be purchased in larger packs. The results from extract brewing are well worth the extra effort and cost. Using fresh hops and grains gives the final beer a flavor dimension that simply can’t be found using beer kits. You also start to get the satisfaction of creating your beer rather than just rehydrating a beer kit.
Here is a sample recipe for a standard real ale
Ingredients for 23 lts @ ABV 4.9%
3.0 kg Light Dried Malt Extract
200 gms Crystal Malt
50 gms White Household Sugar
15 gms Chocolate Malt
30 gms Challenger Hops
16 gms Golding Hops
English Ale Yeast
- Bring 6 litres of water to between 65-70°c.
- Steep the grains for 30 mins.
- Monitor the temp and add heat if it drops below 65°c.
- Remove the grains with a strainer.
- Dissolve 700 gms of the Malt Extract in the liquid and bring to the boil.
- Add 30 gms of Challenger hops and boil for 65 mins.
- Add the 10 gms of Golding hops and boil for a further 10 mins.
- Turn off the heat and allow the liquid to cool to 80°c
- Add the 6 gms of Goldings and allow to steep for 30 mins
- then add the rest of the malt extract and the sugar.
- Add 8 litres of cold water to the sterilsed fermenting bin.
- Strain the boiled liquid into the water.
- Top up the fermenting bin to 23 litres
- Add the yeast when the liquid has cooled to 16 – 24°c.
- Move to a suitable area in the house with a temperature of 18 – 22°c and leave in the fermenter for 14 days until fermentation is complete.
- Bottle or Barrel, using 3.5 gms of priming sugar per litre and wait approx 1 - 2 weeks to clear.
The basic equipment needed for brewing beer from malt extract:
- 10L Pan
- Kitchen Strainer
- Digital scales (unless using a pre weighed kit like craftybrews ones.)
- 25 Litre Fermenting bin and lid - this is to initially ferment the beer before you bottle or Keg
- Syphon - this is used to Syphon the beer (also known as racking) from one vessel to another, ie from the fermenting bin to keg.
- Hydrometer - this is used to measure the density of the beer before, during and after fermentation so the amount of sugar that is present can be measured and therefore how much alcohol has been produced.
- Paddle - used to stir the liquid when adding the yeast.
- Sterliser - used to ensure all equipment is free from bacteria which may spoil your brew.
- Bottles or Barrels.
Tips for creating great beer at home:
1. Keep clean – ensure everything that touches the beer has been sterilized as infections from bacteria is the greatest threat to great beer.
2. If using Tap water treat with ½ a crushed Campden tablet per 25 litres to remove the chlorine. Just add to the water, stir and leave for 5 mins before using.
3. Have Patience. Brewing beers takes time so don’t rush things. Leave for at least 4 weeks after bottling for the flavours to develop.
4. Ferment at the correct temperature and away from direct sunlight. Most ale yeast ferment between 18 – 22 c and keep the temperature as constant as possible for best results.
5. If bottling – use a second ferment bin fitted with a little bottler. Mix all the priming sugar with some boiling water, add to the second ferment bin then rack the beer and bottle using the little bottler. This avoids having to prime each bottle and ensure the sugar is sterile and mixed evenly. It also makes bottling a lot easier.
6. Get oxygen into the wort before you pitch the yeast. Do this by adding any water from a height so it splashes or give it a really good stir. This will help the yeast get starter quicker.
7. Relax and enjoy the process. Making beer is easy and reasonably hard to mess up.
Check out our great brewing forum for more tips, advice and brewing banter.