Getting Started with Extract Brewing

What is Extract Brewing?

Beer is made from sugars that are extracted from malted grains. The process of extracting these sugars requires specialized hardware and time, when you use extracts this process of extracting sugars has been done for you. Extracts save you time while delivering great quality, when you couple the extracts with steeping grain you can get great control of your beer. Extracts come in 2 distinct varieties liquid malt extract and dry malt extract.

  • Liquid Malt Extract – These malt extracts have the consistency of molasses but have a great malt flavor. Liquid malt extract have less fermentable sugars than dry malt extracts, because of this liquid malt extracts offer good body.
  • Dry Malt Extract – This extract is a very find powder and since it has been completely dehydrated it does have a longer shelf life. Dry malt extract is clean and does have a bit more fermentable sugars than liquid malt extracts.

Blending liquid and dry malt extracts can add complexity to a beer. Malt extracts also come in a variety of colors and flavors, everything from pale golden, wheat, amber, and dark. The amber and dark malt extracts are already blended with specialty and roasted malts. These specialty malts add color and flavors to the malt extracts again adding more complex flavors.

Essential Equipment

  • 6.5gallon fermenting bucket, sealing lid, and air-lock with plastic grommet
  • 6.5gallon bottling bucket
  • 3 gallon pot (or larger) Stainless preferred
  • Long handled stainless steel or hard plastic spoon
  • Timer, Thermometer, Hydrometer
  • Clear plastic tubing, bottling wand
  • Bottle brush, bottle capper, caps, bottles
  • Cleaning agent (PBW), Sanitizer (Star-San) 
  • 6-7 Gallons of good clean water (bottled water preferred) 

Optional Equipment

  • Funnel (with a filter mesh if possible)
  • Auto-Siphon
  • Wort chiller
  • Spray bottle (to spray sanitizing solution)

Optional Reading

  • How to Brew – John Palmer
  • The Joy of Home Brewing – Charlie Papazian

Sample Recipe – Ingredients 

American Ale

Original Gravity: 1.038-1.044 | Final Gravity: 1.006-1.010 | Alcohol: 4% by Volume

  • 5lbs Wheat Malt Dried Extract 
  • 1oz Cascade Hops (for bittering)
  • 1oz Cascade Hops (for aroma)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss
  • 1 Packet Ale yeast (S-04)
  • ¾ cup corn sugar (for bottling)

The Boil Basics

  1. Bring two gallons water to a boil in your brew pot (15-20 minutes is normal)
  2. Turn off heat or remove from burner (this will prevent scorching of malt extracts). Pour all the malt extract into the pot while stirring ensure that all the malt sugar has been dissolved. Once sugars have been dissolved reestablish the boil.
    * Turn down heat to avoid a possible boil over and watch the pot.

* If the foaming starts to get too aggressive turn off the heat or move the pot off the burner CAREFULLY! 
* Never leave the lid on!

  1. When your wort begins to boil, add hops at the times indicated on the recipe:
    * It is expected that you will boil off roughly 1gallon of water per hour. Your results may vary. 
    1. Set the timer for 60 mins and add ½ oz of Cascade (bittering hops)
    2. When 15 mins are left on the timer add Irish Moss (wort has been boiling 45 min)
    3. When 1 min is left on the timer add the last ½ oz of Cascade (aroma hops)
    4. When the timer beeps (0mins) turn off heat and remove pot from burner
  2. Once the boil is done be careful not to touch your wort with anything that hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. 

Dry Yeast Proofing 

This process is when we hydrate dry yeast ensures proper growth and vitality of the yeast. This step is not necessary for liquid yeast. You can start while the wort is cooling. More information on yeast proofing can be found here.

  • Pour 1 cup of lukewarm water into a sterile glass. Sprinkle yeast into the water, cover the glass with foil and let stand 10-15 min. The yeast should dissolve and release a dough like aroma. If this does not occur, repeat with new yeast.

Cooling the wort

The most basic way to cool the wort is using the ice bath method. Below we will describe the process of ice bathing along with tips to ensure your wort is cool enough for the yeast. 

  1. Fill the kitchen sink with cold water, remove the brew pot from the stove top and place it in the water bath. This initial step will pull most of the heat with it.
  2. Once the water in the sink is hot take the brew pot out of the water drain the sink, add ice and fill the sink back up. This will allow your ice to be more effective. 
    • [IMPORTANT] Ensure that during this process nothing that hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized touches your wort as you might introduce wild yeast or bacteria that can later sour your beer.
  3. [Protip] If you are using bottled water keep a few bottles in the fridge and slowly add the cold water to the wort to cool it down faster. 
  4. Ideally the temperature you are shooting for is 66-68 degrees.

Fermentation 

  1. Sanitize your 6.5 gallon fermenting bucket while everything is cooling and the yeast is proofing. 
  2. Transfer cooled wort to the sanitized fermenter this can be done by just dumping the entire contents of the brew pot or by using a ball valve on the front of the kettle (assuming you have one).
    Optional: Strain the wort by pouring through a sanitized funnel with filter mesh, this step is not necessary.
  3. Add enough clean cold water to the wort in the fermenter to bring the total volume to 5 gallons.  Again, AERATE and splash this into your wort.  Mix with a sanitized long handled spoon and check the wort temperature with a sanitized thermometer. Wort should be 66-68degrees ideally – do not exceed 70degrees.  
  4. Pitch the yeast by pouring in the proofed mixture ensuring that most has made it out of the glass and into the fermenter.
  5. Sanitize the case of your hydrometer, take a sample of wort from the fermenter, and take a hydrometer reading, this will be your Original Gravity(OG), make a note of it.
  6. Sanitize the lid of the fermenter and the inside and outside of the airlock. Secure the airlock to the fermenter using the plastic grommet. Fill the airlock with vodka or water mixed with star-san and secure the dust cap.  Securely place the lid (with the airlock) on to the fermenter.
  7. Place the fermenter in a warm dark location between 66 to 70 degrees.  
  8. Fermentation usually starts within 12 to 24 hours.  You will often notice the airlock bubbling, but lack of bubbles or slow bubbles may not mean fermentation is not happening. Allow the fermentation process to run 7-14 days. 
  9. Take readings with your hydrometer to ensure fermentation is complete.  Fermentation is usually complete when the gravity stops changing.  Final gravity should be within .002 points of suggested gravity. The final gravity (FG) is the last reading from your hydrometer.
  10. Using the OG and FG you can find out how much alcohol by volume (ABV) your beer has.

Bottling

A typical 5 gallon recipe will yield about 48 bottles. You can re-use non-twist off brown beer bottles (traditional long neck bottles- some brands of oddly shaped or squat bottles do not cap easily) or flip top “Kolsch” bottles. 

Priming Sugar Step: In a small saucepan, boil 5oz corn sugar with 1 cup water for 2 minutes and allow to cool.  This simple syrup is the food source for the yeast that will carbonate your beer.

  1. Gently set your fermenting bucket full of beer on a counter or high table near where you will be bottling. Let any sediment roused by this settle back to the bottom of the bucket.
  2. Clean, sanitize, and leave the bottles upside down to dry. 
  3. Soak caps in star-san or boil for 5 mins to sanitize them (any longer you risk damaging the rubber seal). It is always good to sanitize a few extra caps. 
  4. Ensure you have cleaned and sanitized the auto-siphon, tubing, bottling wand and the bottling bucket including the inside of the valve. Install the valve on the bottling bucket.
    • [Protip] Use sanitizer to leak test your bottling bucket after installing the valve. Empty any remaining sanitizer when you are sure of no leaks around the valve.
  5. Set the bottling bucket on to a chair near the fermentation bucket and bottles. Make sure the valve in front is in the closed position. Add the simple syrup solution you made earlier.
  6. Siphon the beer from the fermenting bucket to the bottling bucket. Make sure the tubing is resting on the bottom of the bottling bucket, being careful not to splash. Splashing can result in oxidized beer and off flavors. 
  7. Leave any hop matter and yeast (called “trub”) in the bottom of the fermentation bucket. Typically, 1” to 2” of trub is left after fermentation.
  8. Attach tubing to the spigot on the bottling bucket to the end of the bottling wand.  
  9. The bottling wand has a spring-loaded button on the bottom, once the tip of the wand is depressed it will let beer flow.
  10. Begin filling bottles – Fill the bottles to the very top of the bottle and when you remove the bottling wand it will displace the correct amount of liquid for capping. 
  11. Place a cap on top of the bottle, the caper has a small magnet to hold the cap in place, press down on both handles firmly to ensure a good seal. 
  12. Keep capped bottles at the same temp as you fermented at (66-68degrees) for 14 days to allow for natural yeast carbonation to take place. If carbonation is low try putting them in a warmer area. Store in a cool dark place.  
  13. Homebrew is “alive” and will often improve with age, don’t rush the maturation step.

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