There is a simple reason why homebrewing is a very popular hobby across the globe: making your own beer is awesome. However, if you are new to this, it will take some time to perfect your techniques. You will need to learn a lot about the whole process, as well as make a lot of choices about everything: all the elements of the beer-making equipment, all the ingredients, the beer styles, the different recipes, etc. One of those choices is whether you should use malt extracts or try going through the whole process of mashing yourself, and which type you should choose.
Malt extracts are sugars extracted from malted grains. They can be made from any type of grain, but typically they are an extract of malted barley. They come either as a dry or a liquid extract. As the name suggests, the dry version is a dry powder, while the liquid one is a sugary malt syrup. Both are very popular and a great aid if you brew your own beer. There are different variations you can get for different types of beer, which depend on the grains used in the production.
Some people prefer brewing with grains and they claim it’s better. Nevertheless, although there can be some advantages when mashing, such as more control over the brewing process and access to additional ingredients, brewing with a good quality malt extract has produced delicious and award-winning beers.
Using a malt extract to make your beer at home has many advantages, which is why it’s a great option, especially for homebrewers. It makes the process easier, faster, and it makes for a more consistent beer flavour. Some very important reasons why you should use it for your homebrewing is that it will save a lot of time because you would skip the mashing process, you’d also need less space because you wouldn’t have as much equipment, as you would need for all-grain brewing.
Liquid Malt Extract
Depending on the brand, liquid malt extract (LME) is available in sealed cans or in pouches. It is thick and sticky with a consistency like molasses. The typical mash is made by milling grains, adding them to heated water and living them for a while. Then the spent grains are removed by filtering the sweet wort. LME is made by removing 80 per cent of the water of the typical wort, or in other words by dehydrating the wort to the wanted consistency
Experienced homebrewers consider LME to be a better option for beermaking because it creates a more pleasant flavour. It’s also a great option for recipes that require large amounts of malt extract. It can be hard to get all the LME into the boil, which is why if you are a new beermaker you could get an LME that has been hopped, for easier brewing. However, you swish around some hot water in the container and get it all.
Protected in a sealed tin or pouch, LME can be good for months or even for years, if kept under ideal conditions – in a cool, dark and dry place. However, it’s best if you use it sooner since it can degrade a bit over time. It will also get darker with age, and if you store it improperly pretty soon. Furthermore, it’s best if you use all the consents of the LME since after it’s been opened, it will degrade quite quickly. But if you have to store it, it should be used as soon as possible.
You can choose many different types of LME to create your favourite bear: extra light, light, blonde, dark, amber, wheat, rye, Vienna, Munich and more. The choice depends on your own taste, and what kind of beer you wish to make.
Dry Malt Extract
Created the same way as LME, dry malt extract (DME) is the powder you get if you remove even more water from the wort. In other words, it’s produced by dehydrating the wort further than with LME, reducing the water down to around 2 per cent. The low content of water gives DME a better shelf life, and moreover, DME doesn’t have any darkening issues.
Because it’s a powder, it’s easier to use in more ways. For instance, if you aren’t using the whole package, you can weigh it easily, whereas with LME this can be quite difficult. Furthermore, when opened, if you don’t use it entirely, you can store it by simply seal it tight and store it properly, in a dry, dark and cool area. If you don’t store it properly, after it’s exposed to air, DME will begin taking in moisture. That can cause the powder to clump, making it much harder to work with.
DME offers fewer options than LME, but still, there are some good choices out there: extra light, light, dark, wheat, amber…
Which One Should You Get?
Both types of malt extracts are a great option for a beginner home beer brewer. They both have their advantages and disadvantages, meaning that they can be better suited for different recipes or different situations. Like with any other hobby that’s worth your time, especially one that will give you a great final product, a fruit of your labour, beer making will most likely take some trial and error. So, choosing whether to buy dry malt extract or go for a malt syrup means that you have to learn about them through your own experience. And whatever you choose in the end, whether you go for a beer brewing malt in a dry or a liquid form, or even if you choose to try making the mash yourself, remember that the best ingredient for a good homemade beer is patience.