Malt Extract 101
My very first beer was made using malt extract and it’s likely that the vast majority of beginning home brewers will start off their brewing obsession using it as well. So I wanted to put together a little FAQ of sorts on some of the questions new brewers may want answered so they can fully understand how to brew the best beer possible using it.
I know many people will get a recipe to brew a beer with first and then go to their nearest home brew shop and pick up a everything on the list to make that beer. This is where I want to start off the FAQ.
Malt Extract FAQ
What is malt extract and how is it made?
I will get the simplest question out of the way first. I will refer you to this article on malt extract to give you an idea of how it’s produced and how it replaces the bulk of the base malt in your home brew.
Does it matter if I use liquid malt extract (LME) or dry malt extract (DME)?
In terms of what it is, no. Both liquid and dry malt extract are the same thing and that is malt extract. You can get different colours of DME and LME ranging from pale to medium to dark for example but pale malt extract is the same thing whether it be dry or liquid. What you do have to bear in mind though is that you can’t just substitute equal quantities of each, a recipe calling for 3kg (6.6lbs) of liquid extract will require more dry malt extract because liquid malt extract weighs more. Which brings me onto the next question.
How can I convert liquid malt extract (LME) to dry malt extract (DME)?
Liquid malt extracts are roughly 20% water so 1kg of liquid is the same as 800g of dry malt extract. If you want to convert a recipe that list LME then multiply the amount by 0.8 to achieve the amount of DME required. If your recipe list dry then divide the amount by 0.8 to reach the amount of liquid extract needed. For example
3kg of LME = 3 x 0.8 = 2.4kg of DME
3kg of DME = 3 / 0.8 = 3.75kg of LME
Can I convert a all grain recipe to use malt extract?
Yes. Take a look at this post here for everything you need to know.
How much sugar does malt extract contribute?
What we need to look at is the extract potential, similarly to how you’d measure malt but the difference being that you’ll get 100% using malt extract. As we know that you’ll always get 100% we can easily calculate the specific gravity of a extract beer according to how much DME or LME is used and the size of the batch.
Liquid malt extract has a extract potential of 300 LDK (litre degrees/ kilo) or 1.036 ppg (points/pound/gallon) for US brewers. To work out the gravity of a beer we can use these figures in a simple calculation to get the answer.
In a 19 litre batch we have 3kg of malt extract, the calculation would be as follows:
(3kg x 300 LDK) ÷ 19 litres = 47
This means we would be making a beer with a specific gravity of 1.047 which would end up roughly around 4.8% ABV
For US brewers using a PPG of 1.035 for liquid malt a beer of 5 US gallons using 6lbs of LME the calculation would look like this:
(6lbs x 36ppg) ÷ 5 gallons = 43
or a OG of 1.042, so a beer of around 4.4% ABV
If you are using dry malt extract then the extract figures you need to use in your calculations are approximately 350 LDK or 1.042 ppg
If you are having difficulties calculating this manually then there are plenty of software solutions you can use or try using hopville online for free to help you calculate your recipes.
Does malt extract have a shelf life?
Although malt extract is tinned or dried it does lose some of it character over time. When you are buying extract you want to try and find the freshest tins or bags that you can. A common suggestion is if the tin is covered in dust give it a miss. People have reported a staleness or metallic tang when using older malt extract.
As a general rule dry malt extract stores better than liquid malt extract especially once opened. Store DME in an airtight container otherwise it will quickly attract moisture and go bad. As with anything you are planning to consume look for the freshest ingredients, they are going to taste better than something that’s been sat around for a while.
Is beer made using malt extract worse than all grain?
Not at all. Just because you use extract doesn’t mean it will be a poorer beer, many home brewers use extract and never bother progressing to all grain for the very reason they can make high quality beer using it plus a variety of speciality grains to produce nearly any style of beer. If you make a beer using only extract then you are going to be limited but take a look at this article on steeping grains and you open up a whole variety of options.
Why would you bother brewing all grain then?
Although extract + speciality grain beers can be superb you still lose some control over the final outcome of the beer. The whole process of mashing is taken away from you which means you lose control of things like the mash temperature,style of mash (multi-step, infusion, decoction) and using certain grains that need to be mashed.
Also because of the way that malt extract is produced it’s difficult to make very light beers and certain styles. I also think that by removing a chunk of the process you feel less connected to the brewing process and it’s a little less fun.
If you have any other malt extract related questions or tips then be sure to add them below.