Fast & FREE Shipping!

This blog provides information for educational purposes only. Read our complete summary for more info.

May 23, 2020
Last updated

Extract Brewing: The Beginner's Guide To Brewing Beer

Owner of Clawhammer Supply

Brewing 101 > Extract Brewing > Partial Mash > All Grain Brewing

extract beer

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.

dry malt extract

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:

  1. Heat water
  2. Steep specialty grains (for flavor only, not for sugar)
  3. Remove the grain
  4. Heat to a boil
  5. Turn off heat
  6. Dissolve the liquid (or dried) extract sugar
  7. Turn heat back on
  8. Boil and add hops
  9. Chill to room temperature
  10. Add yeast
  11. Ferment and condition
  12. 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

This method of extract brewing is done with larger brewing equipmentspecifically the 10-gallon BIAB system

clawhammer supply modular brewing system

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.

filling brewing kettle with 2 - 3 gallons of water

Heat to 155° F (68.3° C) to prepare the water for our steeping grains

thermometer at steeping grain temp of 155

Our starter system comes with a thermometer which allows you to monitor the temperature inside the kettle

Steep The Grains

Add the grain basket.

adding 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.

 showing 1 pound of specialty grains to steep in the extract beer

adding chocolate malt into our grain basket

Maintain temp and allow to sit for 30 minutes.

do not let the temperature exceed 175 degrees f while steeping grains are present

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.

removing grain basket and letting it drain 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.

once your liquid reaches a boil turn off the heat completely

Stir in two containers of Amber liquid malt extract and 1 pound (453.6g) of dark dry malt extract.

brewer's best amber malt extract

Briess CBW traditional 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.

adding east kent golding hops to grain 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).

adding water to kettle

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).

chilling option 1 - place the kettle outside

chilling option 2 - place the kettle in a fridge

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.

transferring wort to a fermentation bucket using the ball valve at the bottom of the kettle

Our brewing kettle has a ball valve on the bottom that makes transferring wort easy

 pitching London Ale Yeast into the fermenter

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.

adding airlock to fermenter

placing fermentation bucket on the floor for a room temperature fermentation

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.

Brewing 101 - Extract Brewing - Partial Mash Brewing - All Grain Brewing

Bottling Tutorial 

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! 

Extract Brown Ale With Wild Yeast

Final Thoughts

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!

Kyle Brown is the owner of Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company which he founded in 2009. His passion is teaching people about the many uses of distillation equipment as well as how to make beer at home. When he isn't brewing beer or writing about it, you can find him at his local gym or on the running trail.

  • Good day. I am presently doing my masters on malt syrup. I would like to know the step by step of making malt syrup without hops or yeast for break making. The temperature for mashing and boiling of the extracted wort gives me problems.

    Posted by Adeola on March 16, 2021

Leave a comment

Please note, the design of our website does not allow us to respond directly to blog comments. Please email us directly regarding questions about products. We don't answer questions about recipes, procedures, etc. However, feel free to leave a comment or respond to comments made by others!