Malt extract brewing

If you already add hops and specialty grain to kits of concentrate, you're more or less making malt extract beers. However, with malt extract brewing — or simply "extract brewing" — you add bitterness to unhopped malt extract, rather than relying on the bitterness from the can of concentrate. You add hops at various times, and possibly other ingredients such as grain, to make the wort that is fermented into beer.

To be able to brew quality malt extract beers you need to know, among other things, what effect the length of boil is going to have on the bitterness imparted by the hops. Get this wrong and you could end up with a beer that's too sweet or too bitter. Neither will be very nice to drink. To know the effect of hops on bitterness you have three options. The first is to follow recipes, perhaps with minor tweaks. The second is to do some reasonably straightforward manual calculations about hop bitterness. The third option is to have software do the hard work for you. Check out the Secrets of successful brewing section for a list of popular brewing software.

Step-by-step guide to malt extract brewing

These steps will be very familiar if you're already adding hops or grain, or both, to cans of concentrate.

  1. If using liquid malt, soften it in a sink of hot water.
  2. Steep any grains as outlined in the previous section on Adding hops and grain.
  3. Add the liquid from the steeped grain to a large saucepan along with about two litres of water.
  4. Add 300g or so of malt extract and bring it to the boil, making sure you stir frequently to prevent the malt caching on the bottom.
  5. Adjust the heat to a good rolling boil with the lid off then add the bittering (copper) hops. For details about how to use hops, see Adding hops and grain.
  6. Boil for an hour or the length of time in the recipe, uncovered.
  7. Add any late hops at, for example, 15, 10 or 5 minutes before the boil is finished. You can add hops at all three times, or as often as you like, although hops boiled for more than about 20 minutes will contribute only bitterness, not any flavour or aroma.
  8. Turn off the heat.
  9. Add any steeping hops, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
  10. If you like, strain the liquid into another saucepan and discard the hops. Straining the liquid will avoid the risk of the bottling tube becoming blocked when your are bottling.
  11. Dissolve the rest of the ingredients in the liquid. You may find you need to add some extra boiling water to dissolve all the ingredients, as some of the water will have evaporated during the boil.
  12. If necessary, cool the liquid in a sink of cold water for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  13. Tip the whole lot into the fermenter.
  14. Top up the fermenter, being as vigorous as you like to make sure plenty of oxygen gets dissolved into the liquid.
  15. Add the yeast and give it all a good stir with a sanitised spoon.
  16. Proceed to the fermentation steps.


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