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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Extract Brewing > Help for Better Extract Brewing
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Old 07-26-2008, 02:43 AM   #1
Bonneville
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Default Help for Better Extract Brewing

I've been extract brewing for a while now (4 kits, 7 recipes) and am not in a hurry to jump into AG due to constraints (space, time, etc). What I am interested in is improving my beer which has generally been good and occasionally better-than-good. The two major points I've seen on here are:

  • DME better than LME
  • Late extract additions for better hop utilization in partial boils

Any others? I'm planning a porter this weekend. The process was as follows when I brewed this before.
  1. Steep specialty grains at 155F for 45 minutes in 2.5 gallons
  2. Remove grain bag
  3. Bring to boil
  4. 60 min - Add 6.6lbs Light Malt LME, 1lb Light DME, 8oz maltodextrin, and 1oz bittering hops (11% alpha)
  5. 30 Min - Add 1 oz flavor hops (8.9%)
  6. 3 Min - Add 1 oz aroma hops (4.3%)
  7. Cool wort, add 2.5 gallons of water, pitch yeast, wait....

So, how can we improve the process? How do I convert the LME called for in the recipe to DME? When should extract be added and how much (some at 60 min and some later)? How about the maltodextrin (added for more body)?

My primary objection to my homebrews is lack of hop character, so the late extract method is appealing to me to improve utilization. I've never noticed the 'twangy' LME taste, but maybe I'll notice it once its gone.

Other suggestions welcome. If you need more details on the recipe, let me know... but I'm mainly interested in the process. Besides, the recipe usually changes on the fly when I realize the home brew store is out of what I needed and the substitutions begin....
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Old 07-26-2008, 12:50 PM   #2
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I am in a similar boat as you, just a few more brews, but I am venturing into PMs a little more. Here is what I have picked up:

LME x 0.89 = DME

Use only Light or Extra Light extract. The color in the others is due to the manufacturers mixing in adjuncts (Mostly Crytal but others as well). The problem is, you have no idea what they added or in what quantities. Any color you need you can get from your steeping grains. Go with the light extracts only, for better, more con ssistent beer and better control of your flavor profiles. (The exception to this is when you need some fo the specialty extracts, like Wheat extract, Pilsner Extract, Munich Extract, etc. Those you shouls use when your recipe calls for them. Just don't use "Amber," "Dark," or "Extra Dark" extract. I seriously wish I had realized the importance of this advice about 2 weeks ago, when I bought ingredients for an IMperial Stout... alas, this is how we get better, right?)

You can put 75% - 80% of your extract in as a late addition. It is already malted and all the sugars are readily fermentable. It just needs to be sanitized, really. So save it for 15 - 10 minutes left in the boil. Charlie Papazian says that a good amount to go with for the full boil is 1lb. DME for each gallon of water in your boil.

When you say you are missing hop character, what do you mean? Bitterness, Flavor, or Aroma? Or all three? Bitterness is obviously easy to rectify - Just add more hops or higher AA% hops. Though you might not want to go too crazy on that until after you see how the current hop schedule takes to the less dense boil. If you are referencing more flavor and aroma, then there are 3 things you can do. First off, your 30 minute addition is giving you almost no aroma at all and very little flavor, mostly bitterness, move that to 20 minutes or 15 minutes or so. Second, make sure you cool your wort as quickly as possible. This is one of my weaknesses right now with my current setup too. But figure, if you put in a 5 minute addition and it takes you a while to cool your wort, you are not locking in your flavor or aroma, the heat is still extracting resins and causing more bitterness. I dont know the exact temperature when this stops, but the cooler the faster the better, for numerous reasons. Lastly, if you really want more flavor and aroma, dry hop. I don't think that would be entirely appropriate or to style for a Porter, but it certainly is for other brews. I have heard of different ways of doing this, most people wait until their fermentation is done, throw some hop pellets in a bag and put them in their secondary and rack on top of them. Others just wait until fermentation is done and throw the bag right in the primary. If you want to save your yeast cake this is probably not a great idea, but otherwise it isnt that big of a deal. Obviously you dont need to use the bag, it just makes cleanup easier. If it is floating around and not all hops are submerged go ahead and sterilize a stainless steel nut in boiling water and put it in the bag as a weight. You can dry hop for up to 7 - 10 days, if you want. Anything after that and you might get a grassy/vegetation flavor. Dry hopping has a HUGE impact on up front hop aroma and flavor. The AA does not matter, as no bitterness will be extracted at all, only flavor and aroma.

And you are essentially doing a PM with those steeping grains, you know. For steeping grains it is not actually quite as important at what temp you hold them at, or even if you hold them or let them ride through (put them in at cold and keep them until the boil) , because steeping grains, for the most part, are giving you color and flavor but little else. Crystals provide a lot of unfermentable sugars, giving you residual sweetness, but they do not affect your gravity in any significant way. Roasted grains affect your gravity more, but not in a huge way. However, keep doing it the way you are, because it si the best. But realize that to go from that to PM is a miniscule step. The only extra step is to sparge (rinse) your grains in 170 degrees after steeping them and holding them at steeping temperatures, to stop the enzymatic action and to rinse off a lot of the sugars. The quick and dirty way to sparge is to put your grains (presumably in a grain bag) in a strainer over your brew pot and pour the 170 through them. The other way is to put them in a separate brew pot, and it can be a smaller one, in 170 degree water, for about 10 minutes. You can do this while you are bringing your wort to a boil, so it shouldnt add a lot of extra time. Once they have been in there a while let them drain out and add that liquid to your main boil, and voila, partial mashing. You should be adding about 1.25 - 1.5 quarts of water per pound of grain for your mashing, and .5 - 1 qt. of water for your sparge. Now, if space is an issue then you obviously are not ready to start putting any significant portion of your grain bill into PM, which makes sense. Butmashing is important for some grains, such as munich, flaked barley, etc., and you can totally do that, which just expands your recipe possibilities!

The other thing I have come to learn recently is the vast importance of just what the yeast does and what the conditions are like when it does it.
Make a yeast starter. Not necessarily a big one, but even just one big enough to get all of your yeast awake and active before pitching. If using dry yeast, rehydrate in tap water before pitching. DO NOT rehydrate in wort. Pitching and fermentation temperature are incredibly important to ensure correct flavors and no off flavors. Really do your best to control these. If your biggest issue was with hop character then you are most likely doing this OK, but it really is important to get a system down that really tightly regulates this part of the process.

Hoe this was somewhat helpful! If any of the info looks off, please someone feel free to correct me, but I think it should be pretty good...

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Old 07-26-2008, 01:29 PM   #3
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I do not believe it is a settled case that DME is better than LME. I would avoid bulk LME, but fresh LME in a can seems to me to present no issues and a lot of convenience, and using DME is (for me) a bit of a headaches to handle.

I think you have the steeping grains right but 45 minutes for steeping is not "carved in granite." I've used them for as little as ten or fifteen minutes to achieve certain things. In addition to color and flavor, steeping grains will add proteins that will aid in head retention. I can't say why it is so, but every authority I've read (and I put a lot of stock in Papazian in particular) says that steeping grains should not go above about 160F.

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Old 07-26-2008, 02:48 PM   #4
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I've been on a constant quest to improve my extract-based beers for a long time, so here's my two cents:

I rarely use DME because it is a pain to deal with. I use the freshest LME possible and store it in the refrigerator before using. As a general rule, I use the freshest ingredients I can get (which means getting them from the larger Internet retailers) and put them in cold storage (LME, yeast, grains in the refrigerator, hops in the freezer).

Boil as much as you can. For me, this means boiling 5 gallons for a 5.5 gallon batch. A larger boil means better hop utilization and less caramelization of the sugars. I have a 24 qt. stainless steel stock pot that I use with an aluminum clad bottom to spread the heat better (I boil on an electric stove).

Control the fermentation-- this is critical. Use a fresh, quality yeast, pitch in a large enough quantity (either make a starter, use the Activator Wyeast packs, or use two of other packages), and make sure your fermentation temperature is correct for the yeast strain you are using. Higher fermentation temperatures will not produce as smooth of a flavor profile as lower temperatures will.

I've never used the "extract late" method, so I can't speak to that. I'm currently planning an experiment with adding extract to the boil at various times to characterize the effect it has on the wort.

I've only used maltodextrin once, and that was for a cream stout. I generally wouldn't use it in a beer unless I wanted a lot of body and some sweetness-- I find that crystal malt gives enough body to a beer for me.

Hope some of this helps.

-Steve

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Old 07-26-2008, 03:35 PM   #5
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Thanks guys. To summarize:

  • LME vs. DME still open: Since I'm not having the purported "problems" here, maybe I will stick with LME for this batch. (The last batch was good with this recipe... I'm just going for better.)
  • Late Extract: So .89 x 6.6 = 5.8lbs of DME. Call is 6 since I usually spill some. Add one more per recipe for a total of 7. Late extract would put 2 lbs DME in at beginning and 5lbs at 15 minutes left... along with flavoring hops. Also, the maltodextrin question was as to whether it should be added at beginning or late in a 'late extract' boil. I actually liked the effect on this recipe.
  • Wort Chilling - This makes sense and IS a weakness is my process. I'm cooling with ice/submersion. Maybe time for a proper wort chiller. Other suggestions?

My hop problems have been lack of everything - bitterness, flavor, and aroma. I do dry hop all ales and that helps. I have used higher alpha for bittering hops. Moreover, I have tried more hops... including an IPA that I managed to make too bitter... which I considered a success given my hop problems. (Going too far is on the road to just right.)

As for yeast, I have used liquid yeast from White Labs. Basically shake-and-bake... haven't had any issues, I always see good fermentation activity. Is a starter 100% necessary? If so, what's the ultimate goal?

Finally - I thought PM had more too it. Steeping = Color and Flavor. PM = Color, Flavor, Body, Sugars. Rinsing (sparging) with 170 water is the secret step between steeping and PM? I'm never tried that route, but it seems almost too easy.

Again, thanks so much. Raise a pint to the quest for better-brew.
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Old 07-26-2008, 03:53 PM   #6
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An immersion chiller is a great way to chill your wort quickly, and it's easy to build one. I would definitely recommend getting/making one. The wort will chill faster and you'll get a clearer beer as a result.

What form of hops are you using? Using whole/plug hops may give you the flavor/aroma you are looking for. Also, larger additions later in the boil will increase the flavor/aroma you get from them.

A starter is not 100% necessary (I rarely do one), but pitching enough yeast is (I admit to not always following my own advice). There's a yeast pitching rate calculator somewhere on the Interweb which will tell you the optimum amount of yeast to pitch for a given recipe. The ultimate goal is to get a healthy fermentation and to hit your final gravity. Healthy yeast and a strong fermentation can give a cleaner flavor profile to the beer.

Partial mashing is easy, and very similar to just steeping grains. There's a thread going on right now talking about it: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=73736. I've done a few partial mashes and I just upgraded some of my equipment to make it easier and to get my technique down before I step up to all-grain.

I'll raise a pint for better brew!

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Old 07-26-2008, 04:50 PM   #7
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Well, it seems like everything has already been addressed, but I do the steep and late addition method a little differently.

I am mostly a DME brewer and will steep up to 2 lbs of grain on rare occasions, but I've never boiled more than 2 gals of water.

What I do try to maintain is a 1:1 ratio for water and malt. For steeping, 2 lbs of grain = 1.2 lbs of DME so I would boil about 1.5 gals of water. Slightly more than the 1:1, but there will be evaporation.

I base my boil size and hop utilization on Papazian's The Complete Joy of Home Brewing. There's a "Hop Utilization Chart Based on Density of Boiled Wort and Boiling Times", pg 268 (1st ed), or pg 258 (3rd ed).

I've done some experimenting with this chart also back when hops were cheaper. Starting with a presumed 1.040 gravity I boiled 2 gals water with 2 lbs DME and doubled up on the hops, but reduced the boil by 1/2 (30 mins). The results were as expected. I got both bittering and flavoring from the hops.

I use the 1.040 numbers from the 1st column because I'm not a hop head even though my density is above 1.040 I know it's below 1.070. The results are my brews are always pretty well balanced with both attributes of sweet and bitter. If you prefer the hoppier bite then you can always up the amount of hops.

The only reason one really needs to boil DME is for hops utilization.

I boil for 45 mins then remove the pot from the heat (and the heating element underneath). Then I add the remaining DME 1 lb at a time and dissolve it before adding the next lb. (This eliminates the PITA factor when using DME that I've read about). When all the DME is added to the pot I will let it steep for 15 mins before pouring into the primary bucket.

My usual practice is to place 4-1 gal jugs of PUR filtered tap water in the freezer for 4-5 hours prior to brewing and use it for top off water.

I'll pour 2 gal of water into the primary. I have a nylon net I put on the bucket, but I reinforce the stength of the net with 6 clothes pins because the weight of the wort and hops will pull it into the bucket. Then I sparge the hops in the net with some more water. Remove the net, squeeze the water from the hops and discard the hops.

I will top off to 5.25 gals, stir and take my measurements. If the gravity is a bit higher than expected I'll add another 1/2 gal of water which will reduce the gravity about .002.

I've been doing this for years without any problems.

As for making a starter goes, it's really a matter of choice, but if you don't make one you will experience a greater lag time of activity in the primary. This leads to questions like, is my yeast dead?, should I add more?, and such.

By making a starter a day or two ahead of your brewing schedule and pitching an active starter your lag time is reduced to just hours instead of days.

In the case of the occasional slightly too sweet or slightly too bitter beer then the answer is to blend one with the other to balance both batches out. I always recommend this, but rarely have ever needed to do it. I will occasionally add a splash of whatever's in the other tap, but that's more out of curiosity.

That's my $.02 this morning...now go forth and brew something...
Incidently, this is a pic of one of my all DME Late Addition brews:

pa190576-00.jpg  
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Old 07-27-2008, 06:02 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by homebrewer_99 View Post
Incidently, this is a pic of one of my all DME Late Addition brews:
A thing of beauty, and an inspiration to extract brewers everywhere. Thanks for this!
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Old 07-27-2008, 05:50 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oberon567 View Post
Use only Light or Extra Light extract. The color in the others is due to the manufacturers mixing in adjuncts (Mostly Crytal but others as well). The problem is, you have no idea what they added or in what quantities. Any color you need you can get from your steeping grains. Go with the light extracts only, for better, more con ssistent beer and better control of your flavor profiles. (The exception to this is when you need some fo the specialty extracts, like Wheat extract, Pilsner Extract, Munich Extract, etc. Those you shouls use when your recipe calls for them. Just don't use "Amber," "Dark," or "Extra Dark" extract. I seriously wish I had realized the importance of this advice about 2 weeks ago, when I bought ingredients for an IMperial Stout... alas, this is how we get better, right?)
Really? I've never seen or heard this before.

I would hope that buying from a good seller (NB, AHS etc) wouldn't mean you are getting junk just for getting dark extract.
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Old 07-27-2008, 07:01 PM   #10
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You aren't getting junk, all of the ingredients will be high quality and decent.

The only thing is, you don't know they are. Does the Dark DME use Crystal 60 to get the color? Or does it use Crystal 120? Or does it throw in a bit of Caraffa Special? Or does it use some Roasted Barley? Or is it some weird combination? Most likely it is Crystal Malt. But the different Lovibond varieties of Crystal all impart different flavors, some of which you very well may not want in your beer.

And then, on top of it, there is no sort of standard, so every manufacturer will have different adjuncts in different quantities in order to darken their malt.

When you use only Pale or Extra Pale, you get full control of all adjuncts and hence all flavors. that's all. If you have used a Dark Extract for a recipe and loved it, then obviously that manufacturer's additions worked well for your palate and recipe, keep using it. But if you want to control all of the flavor profiles in your brew, you are going to need to switch to Pale and change your adjuncts.

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