Following up on my previous entry, Top Homebrew tips for extract brewers, here are some more tips.
3. Don’t boil your grains. Remove them before 160F.
Many extract recipes call for a small quantity of crushed grain in a “mini-mash.” Adding grain to an extract recipe can help you control the color, flavor, body and head of your beer. So definitely try it!
But some recipes have you just toss the loose (crushed) grains in the pot, bring it to a boil, and remove the grains with a kitchen strainer.
The trouble with that method is that boiling grains brings out tannins that you don’t want in your beer. Once the temperature gets over 160F, you need to get the grains out of the pot. The easiest way to do that is to put the grains in a grain bag, which is sorta like a sock made of cheesecloth. You can get these at your local homebrew supply store for cheap, and they’re definitely worth it!
(You can also use them for your hops, which is a big help when you’re using leaf or plug hops. They tend to make a mess.)
So here’s your basic procedure.
- Crack / crush the grains in a mill shortly before you boil,
- put the crushed grains in a grain bag and add them to cold water in your brew pot,
- slowly bring the temperature up to about 150 and leave it there for 15 minutes,
- remove the grain bag and add heat to boil.
4. Remove your brew pot from the heat when you add your extract.
You want to avoid burning your extract on the bottom of the pot because that will change the color and flavor of your beer.
There may be times that you want to caramelize your wort (like for a Scottish ale), but that doesn’t mean you want to burn it. You can caramelize your wort with extended high heat — i.e., a really long boil.
5. Use dried malt extract and specialty grains rather than specialty liquid extracts.
There are a couple reasons why some people say DME might be preferable to LME.
First, DME has a longer shelf life than LME, so you’re more likely to have better quality. (Of course fresh LME is perfectly good stuff! And feel free to ask the store how long the can has been on the shelf.)
Second, if you use DME and adjust to style with adjuncts, you have a little more control over your final product (and you may feel a little more pride in the results?).
For example, if you want to brew a Munich, you could purchase Munich LME, or you could purchase DME and add a pound of Munich malt in a mini-mash.
I’m listing this one because I’ve seen a lot of other people recommend it, but honestly … I’m skeptical of the advantages here. I’ve never had trouble with LME, and when I’m doing an extract batch I don’t mind that somebody else has done the mashing to a certain style.
But there is one situation where DME is superior, and that’s when you want a very pale ale or a pilsner. You can get a lighter colored beer with DME.