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In this article, we explore both 1-gallon and 5-gallon extract brewing methods. Brewing beer can be done in many ways. But, most people who make beer, whether they do it for a job or just for fun, typically use one of three different methods. In order of complexity, the most popular methods for brewing beer are Extract Brewing, Partial Mash Brewing and All-Grain Brewing.
Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. But one thing is clear, extract brewing is by far the easiest way to make beer. Partial mash brewing is a bit more complicated, and all-grain brewing is the most difficult.
In this article we explore the extract brewing method. This style has many advantages, particularly for new brewers, making it a great place to start for someone who is brewing their first beer. Use it with our beginner beer making kit for the easiest beer making experience possible.
Fun fact, did you know that brewing was made illegal in the U.S. during the 1920's? Although prohibition was overturned in 1933, home brewing remained illegal for almost another 40 years until Jimmy Carter signed HR 1337 in 1978, making it legal to brew beer at home again.
What is Extract Brewing?
Extract brewing is a type of home brewing that simplifies the beer-making process by using malt extract, as opposed to the more traditional method of mashing whole grains. Malt extract is actually a concentrated syrup or powder produced from malted grain. By using malt extract, as opposed to making a beer mash with whole grains, the process is a bit easier and is faster too.
Malt extract contains all the necessary sugar needed for fermentation and the creation of alcohol. Malt extracts can come in two different forms, dried and liquid. It’s also made using varying amounts of specialty grain and with different roasts, meaning that it can be used to make anything from light lagers to ambers to dark and heavy stouts.
Extract Brewing - The 1 Gallon Method
Extract brewing requires less brewing equipment and fewer steps than all grain brewing, which are a couple of the reasons that most brewers start out using this method. In fact, it’s possible to brew an entire batch of extract beer using basic kitchen equipment. However, the process does require a small fermenter, bottles, bottle caps, and a bottle capper, which aren’t common kitchen items. For this reason, most new brewers will buy a beginner beer making kit that includes all of these items as well as the ingredients.
Watch the below video for a full guide on how to use our beginner beer making kit to make a delicious Citra Pale Ale.
The extract brewing process is fairly simple and consists of the following steps:
- Heat water
- Steep specialty grains (for flavor only, not for sugar)
- Remove the grain
- Heat to a boil
- Turn off heat
- Dissolve the liquid (or dried) extract sugar
- Turn heat back on
- Boil and add hops
- Chill to room temperature
- Add yeast
- Ferment and condition
- Package and carbonate
And voila! You've made your very first batch of beer using extract brewing. When you're ready to move on and make a greater volume of beer, use the 5 gallon method we've detailed below.
Extract Brewing - The 5 Gallon Method
The Clawhammer Supply brewing system is completely modular, meaning you can add parts in order to upgrade it over time.
Watch the full brew day video below to learn more about our modular brewing system and brewing extract beer. Or keep reading the article for a full written recipe.
5 Gallon Extract Beer Recipe
Begin by filling your brewing kettle with 2-3 gallons (7.6 - 11.4 liters) of water. Tap is fine, spring is better.
Heat to 155° F (68.3° C) to prepare the water for our steeping grains
Our starter system comes with a thermometer which allows you to monitor the temperature inside the kettle
Steep The Grains
Add the grain basket.
Our brew system comes with a mesh grain basket which makes it easy to add grains and take them out
Once the water has reached 155° F (68.3° C) add a .5 pound (8 ounces) of Crystal 150 and a .5 pound (8 ounces) of chocolate malt into the grain basket.
Maintain temp and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
If your water gets too hot while the steeping grains are present there may be off-flavors in your finished beer
After the time expires, lift basket, place on clips, and allow it to drain into the kettle for 5 minutes.
Our starter system comes with 3 hooks so you can let your grains drain for a bit after pulling them
Next, place kettle back on the stovetop and heat to a boil.
Stir In Malt Extract
Once boiling, turn off the heat completely.
Stir in two containers of Amber liquid malt extract and 1 pound (453.6g) of dark dry malt extract.
Do not stop stirring until both are completely dissolved.
Add basket back to kettle and bring heat back to a boil, but be very careful to not add too much heat and boil over. You do not want that to happen, trust us. Adjust heat so boil is rolling, but not aggressive.
Set a timer for 55 minutes once boil begins.
Add Your Hops
With 45 minutes left on the clock, add 1 ounce (28 grams) of East Kent Golding hops to the basket.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, add 1 more ounce (28 grams) of East Kent Golding hops to the basket.
Once the time expires, turn off heat.
Yeast & Fermentation
Add enough cold bottled water to top the kettle off to 5 gallons (18.9 liters).
This should drop the temperature. If it has fallen to 70° F (21.1° C), skip ahead to yeast pitching. If not, cover the kettle and place it in a cool place (outside, or in a refrigerator).
Leave it sit until the temperature has dropped to 70° F (21.1° C).
Once the wort has reached pitching temp - 70° F (21.1° C) - transfer contents to a sanitized fermentation bucket and add one package of liquid London Ale yeast.
Our brewing kettle has a ball valve on the bottom that makes transferring wort easy
Sanitize everything, even the yeast package and the scissors you use to cut it open
Cover the bucket, shake for one minute to aerate, add the lid, add an air lock, and place somewhere that will maintain a temp of 65-72° F (18.3 - 22.2° C) for two weeks.
We keep our office around 70° F (21.1° C) so we just set it off to the side and waited for the magic to happen
After that keg or bottle and ENJOY!
The Biggest Advantage of Extract Brewing
The toughest part of brewing for new brewers, especially if using basic kitchen equipment, is the mashing process. Mashing is completed by heating malted grain to a very specific temperature for a set amount of time. During this process, enzymes found within the malted grain convert starch into sugar.
Mash temperature is important for a couple of reasons. If the temperature is too low the enzymes will not activate and sugar will not be created. If the temperature is too high, enzymes will be destroyed and sugar will not be created. And in either of these scenarios, if mashing does not create sugar, yeast cannot make alcohol, and the beer brewing process will not be successful.
Because sugar is required to make alcohol, it's one of the most important ingredients in beer. Therefore, the easiest, most consistent, and most reliable way for new brewers to make beer is by utilizing the convenience of malt extract, which, as we already mentioned, eliminates the need for mashing and ensures that there will be enough sugar for the fermentation process.
Does Malt Extract Make Good Beer?
While many advanced brewers prefer to create sugar by mashing malted grain, that doesn’t mean the beer will be better than beer made with malt extract. In fact, malt extract can quite literally be used to make award winning beer.
Extract Brewing Pro Tips
There are a few tips and tricks that new brewers should implement to make sure their extract beer is as good as it can possibly be:
1. Use Fresh Ingredients
The website Brulosophy actually did an experiment comparing two different beers; one made with old malt extract and fresh malt extract. They served the different samples to blind tasters. The tasters were able to tell the difference between the two different beers and, unsurprisingly, preferred the beer made with fresh malt extract. So make sure to use fresh ingredients.
2. Clean and Sanitize
Proper cleaning and sanitation is a must for any style of brewing. Using dirty equipment will make it impossible to sanitize the equipment. And a lack of sanitation will make it possible for wild yeast and bacteria to contaminate the beer. In general, contaminated beer won't taste as it's intended. In some cases this will just mean that a different style of beer will be made. In other cases the beer will be outright unpalatable. In the worst possible case, the beer could even make someone sick.
3. Ensure Proper Fermentation
Assuming the brewing process went off without a hitch, there's one more step that must be nailed in order to make great beer. To make beer, one must ferment beer - and this is perhaps the most important part of the entire process. Yeast need a healthy, stable environment to do their thing. Make sure complete these items in order for fermentation to turn out its absolute best:
- Slowly bring refrigerated yeast to room temperature before pitching to wort
- Make sure to aerate wort before pitching yeast.
- Maintain fermentation temperature as close to the recipe directions as possible.
- Make sure to not allow beer to be exposed to direct sunlight during the fermentation process.
- Be patient and allow 10-14 days for ales to ferment and at least 4 weeks for lager fermentation.
The Disadvantage Of Extract Brewing
There aren't many types of malt extract. Whereas on the other hand, there are many, many types of malted whole grains. This means that extract brewing can only be used to make a limited number of beer styles. For example, this medieval ale recipe would be hard to genuinely replicate using malt extract, considering the fact that malt extract didn't exist in the middle ages. For this reason, many brewers move on to partial mash brewing and then all-grain brewing. Also check out this tutorial for a general overview of how to make beer.
Moving On: Intermediate and Advanced Brewing
Once someone masters extract brewing, they have a choice to make. They can keep brewing extract beers, which is perfectly fine, or they can try their hand at more complicated methods such as partial mash brewing and all grain brewing. Sticking with extract may be tempting because it's simple, it's fast, and it's reliable. But the disadvantage is that it's limiting. If you’re ready to move on, keep reading for our 5 gallon method.
Beer Making Guides
Feeling advanced? Check out the rest of our beer making guides to move beyond extract brewing.
Watch this video below to learn how to bottle your first homebrew.
If you like this recipe, check out this other extract beer we made!
When making your very first batch of beer, use extract brewing with our 1 gallon starter beer making kit. If you're ready to move on or make a bigger batch, you can make a 5 gallon batch of extract beer in our modular system. Happy brewing!