Each and every homebrew supply store offers a bevy of options when it comes to extract beer kits. They make claims that extract is capable of making great beer, but oftentimes; the beer can fall a bit short of expectations. However there are some things you can do to brew award winning beers with extract? Here are some tips from the workshop:
Attack of the “ZING”. First, and most importantly: Do full volume boils. The most frequently heard complaint about extract brews is “extract zing”. One of the best ways to help avoid the dreaded “zing” is to boil the full volume of liquid you plan on using. Full volume boils will also help ensure proper hop utilization; speaking of hop utilization…
Hop Utilization. One of the great things about brewing with extract is that, if you need to, you can make a big batch of beer in a small pot. Once your wort is cooled down, simply add enough bottled water to reach your final volume. While I recommend doing full volume boils on everything, a partial boil for wheat beers, porters, stouts and other “malt-forward” beers is a major convenience. However, partial boils can be a major hindrance when it comes to producing a top-quality IPA. To get the most out of your IPA or any other hop-heavy beer, a full boil is your best option. The more malt sugar that is in your boil, the less hop extraction you get from each hop addition. So you end up requiring more hops to reach an equivalent IBU. So, if you can, go with a full boil for that big, gnarly IPA.
Steeping Grains. Put no more than 2 lbs of steeping grains in a muslin bag. Ever. If you’ve ever dumped grain into water, you’ll notice that it has a tendency to clump up. So what happens when you dunk a muslin bag with 4 lbs of grain in to your kettle? The outside grains clump together to form a nice waterproof barrier for the other 1.5 lbs of grain in the middle. So how can we remedy this? Easy! Use another muslin bag!
Nylon Bags. To get the most out of your steeping grains, you could borrow (or buy) nylon bag from a “Brew in a Bag” brewer and dump the grains in your kettle and give them a gentle stir. These bags are much larger than the muslin bags that typically come in beer kits; so your grains come in greater contact with the water. When you remove the nylon bag, all of the grains come with it. This method will add 30-40 dollars to your equipment cost, but the bag is reusable and it’s a great way to venture into partial mash and all-grain brewing.
Fresh is best. Use fresh ingredients! Extract can get stale and over time it will affect flavor. Old extract can be a major contributor to “extract zing”. Hops are also affected, so store them in the fridge or freezer. Lastly, don’t forget about the freshness of the other ingredients. I.E. When brewing a Belgian wit, use fresh coriander and fresh orange zest. The difference will be obvious in the finished beer.
Stir it! Add extract SLOWLY after you remove your steeping grains and stir, stir, stir, stir with the heat source OFF! This is especially important if you’re using liquid extract. Nothing ruins a batch faster than liquid extract being scorched on the bottom of the kettle. Note: Some brewers add extract at the end of the boil to help keep the color light. I only recommend doing a late addition if you are using dry extract. It’s super easy to scorch liquid extract while the boil is going and dry extract is also lighter in color vs. liquid extract.
So there you go! Hopefully these tips will help your brew day go a bit smoother and aid in crafting a great beer. Extract brewing is fun, easy and can make AMAZING beers. And just like anything else, it takes a bit of practice and patience. Utilize these tips to help you on your brewing journey. Prost!