Beer Brewing with Bulk Extract

Brewing with beer concentrates is the most expensive way to brew. Full mash is actually the cheapest way, but using bulk extract is a halfway house: mash tuns and the knowledge of how to mash are not needed.

We do need a decent kettle, the bigger the better, 20L at least. If you intend to eventually move on to full mashing, even if not for some time, you would be advised to buy a 40-50L stainless steel kettle, plus a 3 ring burner, high pressure regulator and 9Kg propane bottle. The reason is that you need to do a full wort boil of all fermentables while not making the boil gravity so high that you cannot extract enough bitterness in the boil. For our vigorous 10-15L boils the kitchen stove won’t be good enough.

Before we look at what extracts are available, here is one golden rule for good extract brewing:

Use light extract, and get the color and flavor from specialty malts

So, there is no need to order 25kg of dark extract. Light extract is the go, so which one?

Dry extracts, Bintani light, Muntons Spraymalt extra light and band dried light are all possible candidates. The spraymalt is so fine that it flies up with even the most careful handling and settles over every surface in the room. Trust me, I know!

Dry malt extract will suck moisture out of the Sahara! Once you open the bag you have the problem of preventing the malt attracting moisture and turning into unusable “toffee.” You can carefully transfer some of it into airtight containers, put cling wrap right on the surface of the extract etc.

Liquid extracts, only Coopers bulk liquid malt is a candidate. It is a good choice.

Surprisingly, the liquid malt can be easier to handle than the dried (buy a 25L food grade bucket and lid, buy and fit a honeygate (from an apiarist supplies shop) and pour the extract into the bucket. By adjusting how wide the honeygate is open an exact (to 1g) amount can be measured.

The disadvantage of liquid malt is that it gets stale quicker than dried malt, and a bucket once opened must be used up within 6 months or mould will start growing on top of the extract.

Some discussion of malt extracts can be found here.

The Bodensatz site has lots of good information and recipes etc.

I have studied the specifications for all the bulk extracts available in Adelaide and have decided to recommend the Coopers light liquid malt extract. It is made entirely from malt, unlike all the dried extracts. With dried malt extract you will need to cut it with sucrose to avoid ending up with a gluggy, high FG beer. The Coopers, being locally produced is a bit cheaper and it does not have the attenuation problem of the dried extract.

I will discuss both the use of dried and liquid extract and show how to convert the recipes using liquid extract to dried extract.

Make sure the extract is fresh, then use it within six months. As extract stales, the beers made from it acquire the unpleasant “extract twang.” An extract beer made with stale extract and high sugar (dextrose or sucrose) content may also develop a cidery taste not wanted in beer. Liquid extract does age quicker than the dried extract, so buy a bucket of it at the start of the brewing year and finish it up within the six months.

If you brew relatively infrequently it will be advisable to buy a bag of the dried extract, good for 24 months, instead of the liquid.

Coopers Liquid bulk extract comes in 29Kg buckets and retails for $125, $4.31 per Kg, way cheaper than the 1.5Kg cans ($9.95/1.5Kg=$6.63/Kg) let alone the 1.7Kg kits!

Dried extracts start at $140 for 20Kg sack, $7.00 per Kg. Way dearer than the Coopers! No, not really, since the liquid extracts contain water you need 1.2Kg of liquid extract to equal 1Kg of dried. So the Coopers 29Kg bucket contains the equivalent of 29/1.2 = 24.17Kg of dry extract, costing $125/24.17 = $5.17/Kg dry malt equivalent.

One other consideration before getting into the extract brewing: extract and part mashes go together really well, so I hope you will look in the Part Mash chapters in Part 2 of this manual, and gradually start using base malts to supplement the extract and improve your beers!

Procedure using dried extract

This has been explained in Chapters 3 & 4. Add the required amount of cold water and have your kettle over moderate heat. Scoop in say 500g dried extract, stir to dissolve, add the next 500g until it is all dissolved, bring to a simmer, skim the foam.

Beforehand you would have steeped the specialty grains and/or performed a minimash. When the wort is simmering quietly, pretty much free of the foam, strain the wort from the grain and/or sparge the minimash and add this wort to the kettle. Simmer a bit more, skim any new foam that appears, then turn the heat up and add the hops, etc.

I must stress that, as you are adding much more extract you will get much more of the foam when the wort reaches boiling point. Be ready! Adding all the bittering hops before the wort reaches boiling point will very much reduce the danger of the foam boiling over.

Procedure using liquid extract

Place the specified amount of cold or hot water in your kettle and bring that to boiling. I recommend carefully bailing out two litres of the boiling hot water to another food-grade container, add the extract to that, stir well to dissolve add back to the kettle. You will probably find a small amount of syrup on the bottom of the smaller container, rinse that off with a small amount of hot water and add that to the kettle.

Adding liquid extract direct to the kettle, even with the heat off, will likely result in some extract sticking to the bottom of the kettle and burning! Funnily enough, all the books I have read recommend adding the liquid extract to the kettle. I really wonder if those authors actually did any extract brewing!

Again, the foam from the coagulating broken down bits of protein will form a pretty huge foam and require skimming or adding the first hop addition prior to boiling point to reduce the danger of boilovers.

Add dried extract to cold water, add liquid extract to hot water. Watch for the foam and skim or add some or all of the first hop addition to prevent boilovers!

Converting liquid extract recipes to dried

This is fairly easy, but remember to convert the right way round! Liquid extract contains water so you need more of it to replace dried malt extract and you need less dried malt extract to replace a given amount of liquid malt extract.

Assuming Wl is the amount of liquid malt in the recipe and Wd the weight of dried extract you need to replace the liquid then:

Wd = Wl/1.2 so 12Kg liquid malt can be replaced by 12/1.2 = 10Kg dried

Now, assuming you saw a recipe using dried malt extract, and want to convert it to liquid malt extract, you go as follows

Wl = Wd x 1.2 so 10Kg dried malt can be replaced with 12Kg liquid malt

Other conversions

While we are on the topic of conversions from published recipes:

5US gallons = 18.9L, 6US gallons = 22.7L 1US gallon = 3.785L
1US quart = .25US gallon = 2US pints = .946L
1US pound (# or lb) = .454Kg
°F to °C = (F-32) x .5555

A note about boil volumes and hop bitterness

In the recipes in the next chapter I assume you can boil 20L of wort:- it is really hard to brew beers from extract without doing a full wort boil or close to it. However, while you are getting kettle and burner etc organised the following procedure can be used. The problem with very concentrated boils is that the hop utilisation suffers, not enough bitterness is extracted from the hops and the beers taste too sweet.

To overcome this we wil do a split boil. In the biggest pan you have, boil all the extract bar one kilo. This boil should be vigorous but need only last 20 minutes. Get this wort chilling. In an 8L pan add 4L water and one kilo liquid extract, bring this to the vigorous boil stage, then add the hops and boil for a total of 70 minutes, adding the next addition when the boil has fifteen minutes left to go. Cool, strain from the hops into the fermenter. Rather a mess and extra work etc. You should start doing full wort boils as soon as possible.

Doing a full wort boil ending with 22L of wort makes chilling the wort difficult, unless a immersion or counterflow wort chiller is acquired, see the Full Mash chapter in Part 2. One customer chills his wort by putting the kettle on the first step of his swimming pool, wort is cooled to ambient in 20 minutes. I do not give notes on calculating hop bitterness here as there are too many variables. If you have a recipe we will be happy to advise on the hop additions. If you do want to calculate IBUs etc look at the Brew Math chapter in Part 2 of this Manual.

Calculating gravity

Based on a 22L batch, to work out the OG of a recipe you might formulate or find on the web:

1Kg dried extract adds 364/22 = 17 gravity units to the beer

1Kg liquid malt extract adds 303/22 = 14 gravity units to the beer

So if you dissolve 1Kg dried extract in 22l of 20°C water you end up with a wort of OG = 1017. If you brew double batches, 44L, then a kilo of dried extract yields 8 gravity units and a kilo of liquid extract yields 7 points. More generally, if you want to brew a volume, V1, of beer other than 22L then multiply extract and hop quantities given in a recipe by V1/22. So, if you brew 25L batches multiply the quantities given in the recipes in Chapter 7 by 25/22 (or multiply by 1.136.)

Since we are also steeping specialty grains (crystal or caramalt or dark roasted grains) we need to work out the gravity supplied by those:

250g of specialty malts gives 2 gravity points in 22L of wort
500g of specialty malts gives 4.5 gravity points in 22L of wort
750g of specialty malts gives 7 gravity points in 22L of wort
1000g of specialty malts gives 9 gravity points in 22L of wort

All the recipes given will contain specialty malts in multiples of 250g, for other recipes 100g specialty malts gives .9 gravity units.

Having seen lots of crap recipes on the net and in books I urge you to calculate out a recipe before brewing it to avoid disappointment. If a recipe gives an ingredient like “500g crystal malt” or “500g caramunich” then actually use 250g light crystal/caramalt and 250g dark crystal/caramalt or even 170g each light, medium and dark crystal/caramalt. This way you will get some complexity in your beer.

Replacing “crystal malt” with crystal rye or crystal wheat will really bump up the flavor and color of your beer! Cararoma will add a fair bit of color from even a small addition, chocolate malt in the same amount will really darken your beer. 35g of black patent malt will give your beer a “red” color. If using chocolate, black malt or roast barley in amounts over 100g then cold steep these, see Chapter 4.

Avoid “steeping” adjuncts like rolled oats or puffed or flaked wheat rye or barley, these really need to be mashed with a small amount of pale malt and will add starch haze to your beer if just “steeped.” Pale, brown, amber, Munich and Vienna malts also need to be mashed, not steeped. Use amber dried extract in place of Munich or Vienna malt.

So, let us work through a recipe for a stout.

To make a gutsy stout we will cold steep 250g chocolate malt and 500g roast barley in 2.5L water the day before brewday, this will give a definite roasty-toasty flavor and nice licorice notes!

On brewday add 4Kg liquid malt extract to 20L hot water, stir well to fully dissolve, bring the wort to simmering point, cope with the foam then strain the wort from the grains using a metal-mesh sieve, sparge with 250ml water heated to 80°C. Bring to a vigorous boil, add the bittering hops, boil 60 minutes, whirlpool, chill and strain into fermenter.

Let us calculate the Original Gravity of the stout:

IngredientGravity Units
250 g chocolate malt2
500g roast barley5
4Kg LME55

Original Gravity in units 62

So our stout has a Original Gravity of 1062. Because the dark malts are only 10% fermentable the stout will have a final gravity 6-7 points higher than if we had steeped 750g crystal malt with our 5Kg of extract. Our one addition of hops will provide about 40IBU, so this is a stout gutsy in all ways a beer can be gutsy and will benefit from several months ageing.

Hoppy extract brewing!