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Old 05-21-2012, 08:51 PM   #1
wrangler83
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Default Extract vs. Partial Mash

I am really new to brewing, but do you guys know what the benefits of doing a partial mash over an extract brew are? I know extract saves time vs a full grain brew, but wasn't sure how much extra time it takes to do a partial mash over an extract brew. I've heard that doing a partial makes a huge difference in flavor and body, but I assume this is maybe debatable. Also - should I try to get 3 or 4 extract brews under my belt before I step up to partial maybe? I'm thinking of buying my next kit within the next week or two and am trying to decide between the two methods. Any input would be greatly appreciated.


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Old 05-21-2012, 09:26 PM   #2
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IMHO, there are several benefits to Partial Mash, and yes I would do after you have done a few pure extract kits and are comfortable with your process.

1. It gets you used to the All Grain method, while still using your extract equipment. You are basically doing all of the steps for all Grain brewing, just on a smaller scale and still relying on extract to help out with fermentables. Only adds 30-40 minutes to your brew day as well.

2. Sometimes the kits are less expensive as you are buying more grain and less expensive extract in your kit.

3. The beer is perhaps better, although not substantially so.

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Old 05-21-2012, 09:51 PM   #3
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In Ray Daniels' book, Designing Great Beers, he mentions an interesting observation about the percentage of extract, partial mash, and all-grain beers that typically win first place in homebrew competitions. I believe he reviewed the statistics of a couple of these competitions and noted that not one extract beer ever won first place. Partial-mash and all-grain brewers always took the gold. I would say this has a lot to do with PM & AG brewers' ability to add complexity to their malt bill while keeping FG lower than similar extract recipes.

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Old 05-22-2012, 02:14 AM   #4
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There are several reasons to brew using a partial mash:

It bridges the gap between extract and all grain brewing. People who plan to go all grain can get a feel for the process by doing it on a smaller scale.

Also, if you cannot move to all grain for whatever reason (limited space in your home, cost of extra equipment, time constraints,etc), it gives you much (but not all) of the same added control over your beers as all grain brewing. You can use ingredients that you can't steep (Munich, Vienna, rye, oats, corn, rice, etc, etc).

I brew both extract with grains and partial mash beers. I live in a condo and brew in my kitchen. All grain would take more space and time than I can really give to the hobby. To be honest I'm not sure if I ever will go all grain. Between my extract recipes and especially my PM brews, I'm brewing some really excellent beer. I'm quite happy with both processes.

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Old 05-22-2012, 03:46 AM   #5
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Thanks for the replies. I plan to go to partial mash eventually, but may try to get a few more extracts on the table first. It would be interesting to taste the same recipe with one extract brewed and one PM.

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Old 05-22-2012, 12:35 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrangler83 View Post
Thanks for the replies. I plan to go to partial mash eventually, but may try to get a few more extracts on the table first. It would be interesting to taste the same recipe with one extract brewed and one PM.
I think it would depend on the style. I think beers that are super-hoppy, roast-flavored (stouts and porters), or ones where the yeast defines the flavor profile, you won't notice much of a difference.

I've brewed an extract hefe-weizen, and a PM version and tasted no difference whatsoever. The yeast is what makes that style more than anything. I would expect an all grain version to be no different unless you used a decoction mash.

At the same time I brewed a PM pale ale, and subbed the two-row malt for Belgian Pilsner malt. It gave it a flavor I wouldn't have gotten with regular light extract. And that's really what mashing (PM or all grain) allows you to do: incorporate malts that you can't steep.
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Old 05-22-2012, 12:50 PM   #7
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I think there are several reasons to do a partial mash- most have been already mentioned except for one. That reason is the most important, I think. A partial mash means being able to make ANY kind of beer, even those you can't make with extract alone. Grains like flaked oats must be mashed, so in order to make an oatmeal stout, a partial mash must be done. Other grains like flaked corn (cream ale), Vienna malt (lots of different kinds of beer), rye, etc, all need to be mashed. But doing a partial mash means being able to include these grains in a brew.

In addition, the beer tends to have a better flavor with a less "extract" taste and if the partial mash is on the large side, it's much cheaper to brew as well. Extract is really expensive! The last time I bought a three pound bag of DME, it was $12, and you need at least two of them for most 5 gallon batches. Grain is cheaper. 5 pounds of grain will replace 3 pounds of DME. Two-row is $1.60 or so a pound when you buy it individually. That's $4 savings right there on one package of DME.

A partial mash is super easy- if you can make tea, you can do a partial mash. The technique is just like steeping the grains. All you would need is a large mesh grainbag and a good thermometer. But you need those things anyway, so it's not really "extra" equipment.

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Old 05-22-2012, 01:45 PM   #8
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Nice - I've heard you need a 3 gallon cooler with a spigot for a partial mash and I've been shopping around a little bit. I saw that lowe's and home depot both sell 5 gallon coolers like this for around $20. However, the 3 gallon one's I've seen are all (gatoraid or igloo) around $40. Would the 5 gallon cooler work, or would there be a water level issue when steeping the grains?

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Old 05-22-2012, 01:59 PM   #9
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Wrangler, most of us are doing partial mash without a separate brew pot and mash tun (the cooler). Simply mash with a grain bag in your brew pot. If you've got another brew pot, you can "dunk" sparge which from experience is actually exceptionally efficient and consistent.

See this thread, which outlines a basic way of partial mashing: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f39/easy...ng-pics-75231/

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Old 05-22-2012, 02:03 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrangler83 View Post
Nice - I've heard you need a 3 gallon cooler with a spigot for a partial mash and I've been shopping around a little bit. I saw that lowe's and home depot both sell 5 gallon coolers like this for around $20. However, the 3 gallon one's I've seen are all (gatoraid or igloo) around $40. Would the 5 gallon cooler work, or would there be a water level issue when steeping the grains?
I have an unmodified 3 gallon cooler. I use 5 gallon paint strainer bags to line the inside of the cooler. I can get away with a little more, but I usually mash no more than 6 pounds of grain, and keep the mash a little thinner. I batch sparge.

I used to do partial boils with this method, and added the extract late. Now I have a bigger pot that allows me to do a full boil, so I add the extract right away. Both worked very well.

You don't necessarily need a 3 gallon cooler though. A 2 gallon would work, and allow you to mash 4 pounds of grain.
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