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Old 09-18-2012, 01:25 PM   #1
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Default Noob question - why can't I brew JUST with pale malt extract, at least for starters?

OK, where I live (a country in the depths of Eastern Europe) there are no:

- beer kits
- speciality malts/grains of any kind

All we have readily available (apart from as much unmalted barley as you could ever wish for) is a kind of basic liquid pale malt extract sold in jars as a health food. I am almost certain that it is directly analogous to your basic pale malt extract as it is sold by a local brewery as a sideline.

But I've got to start somewhere, I thought I would try brewing that up to see what happens, for starters. Why does nobody brew JUST with basic PM extract? Is is just a taste thing? Will I just get a rather boring beer or is there some other consequence? Would it make sense to add ANYTHING, even say steeping some unmalted toasted barley or something, for taste, rather than just brewing with this on its own?

I understand this type of extract has a relatively high degree of unfermentable sugars - is that another problem? Does sugar actually need to be added too?

And can anyone give me a rough proportion of this extract I would need to make up a 1 gallon batch, or let's say 5 litres? I can't seem to work out the requirements because there are always other grains added. I am guessing something like 900g/2lb, or am I way off the mark there..?

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Old 09-18-2012, 01:26 PM   #2
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I made a beer with just pale malt extract and I believe Centennial hops. It's still in the keg. If you get the balance right and ferment it well, it makes beer. There's nothing particularly special about it, but it doesn't taste bad.

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Old 09-18-2012, 01:42 PM   #3
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there is certainly nothing wrong with just using extract. if that's what you have to work with, then work with it biggest problem that i see is in the long run, all your beers will be somewhat similar since they are all made with the same base. but you can deal with that later, for now i would try brewing with it and figuring out how good of a base it is.

toasting some barley and/or some wheat would be one way of getting some different flavors with that. personally i'd save that for my second or third brew, once you've determined what the extract tastes like alone.

you can also try adding spices like coriander, pepper, ginger, etc and/or fruit in secondary (berries, apricots, lemon or orange peel/zest, etc). there are many options for flavoring your beer.

having access to specialty grains will certainly make the beer more interesting. maybe you could get someone to buy some for you the next time they travel abroad?

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Old 09-18-2012, 01:43 PM   #4
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People do often...They're called cooper's or mr beer kits. Just a tin of malt extract either hopped or unhopped and maybe some hops for aroma and flavor. I don't know why you're asking this.

That's basic old brewing.

The trouble is, depending on the kit, or the recipe it can be a pretty one dimensional beer. Not a lot of complexity on the palate. And you're kind of limited to whatever the maltser who created the extract wants it to be. However by including some specialty grains, even something as simple as buying some basic two-row and home roasting it to different grades of darkness and steeping some of that, you've added another layer of flavor to the beer.

When I am formulating any extract recipes I ALWAYS base it around Extralight DME, then I get all my flavor and color complexity from my steeping (or partial mashing) grains. That way you get to use more and varied grains.

For example, let's say you are making an amber ale....If you based it simply around amber extract, you have no complexity from roasted or crystalized grains.....

Staying with my Amber example...The Srm range for that style is SRM: 10 – 17 so if your base extract already puts you into 14 srms, that's your entire beer.

But if your Extralight DME has a color of 5 SRMs, you can really get into the recipe and play around with different combinations of grains until you get into the right color and Og range for the style.

And that will also get you a deeper, more complex flavor.

It's kind of like making model airplanes....remember the "snap together" types that you started out with? You had maybe 8 pieces; 2 body halves two front wings, 2 rear wings and maybe 2 pieces for a cockpit, or two pieces for landing gear...

But if you got one of those 500 piece b52 bomber kits....you had a much more complex final product.

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Old 09-18-2012, 02:17 PM   #5
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Thanks for the pointers. Yeah, I realise I will get SOME sort of beer out of it - the reason I ask though is because looking around you will be very hard-pushed to find a simple recipe using JUST pale LME. There are ALWAYS some speciality grains involved. I will certainly look into getting some more interesting grains brought over. Also, I know of a factory that produces regular malted 2-row for the brewing industry where I can get a huge great sack for a pittance. Then I can use that to roast some smaller batches of my own malts - I believe you can get a lot of different variation this way, there are plenty of recipes floating around.

But for now, I just figured to brew this up and get a basic feel for the process (I have only done a kit or two up till now, following the instructions blindly) - so what sort of extract:water proportions should I be looking at? Is the 2lb or so per gallon about right?

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Old 09-18-2012, 02:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revvy View Post
People do often...They're called cooper's or mr beer kits. Just a tin of malt extract either hopped or unhopped and maybe some hops for aroma and flavor. I don't know why you're asking this.
i assume he's asking this because no one ever write here on the forum about brewing with extract only. if you were to read the recipes posted here, you would be forgiven for thinking that beer can't be brewed with extract only. markowe, let us know if this is wrong.

regarding adding sugar: depending on your final gravity and the taste of the resulting beer, adding some sugar might be a good idea. but again i'd try to make a batch without any and see how that ends up. you can add sugar to your second batch, if needed.

do you have a hydrometer? that is probably the most important piece of equipment you can acquire. it will answer your question "how much extract should i use?" (answer: use as much as needed to achieve your desired Original Gravity, say 1.045).
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Old 09-18-2012, 02:33 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markowe View Post
Also, I know of a factory that produces regular malted 2-row for the brewing industry where I can get a huge great sack for a pittance. Then I can use that to roast some smaller batches of my own malts - I believe you can get a lot of different variation this way, there are plenty of recipes floating around.
if you can get a sack of 2-row then i'd look into all-grain brewing - much more interesting than extracts (or at least you could do a combo, some AG and some extract). this forum also has lot of info about roasting your own grain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by markowe View Post
But for now, I just figured to brew this up and get a basic feel for the process
excellent plan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by markowe View Post
so what sort of extract:water proportions should I be looking at? Is the 2lb or so per gallon about right?
depends on the extract. if it is indeed similar to "standard" liquid extract, 8 pounds for a 5 gallon batch should is about what you're aiming form. that should give you an OG of 1.058, and depending what yeast you use and how well the fermentation goes you would end up with a beer with 5.5 - 6% alcohol. use less if you don't want a beer that strong, but i wouldn't go much higher than 8 for a first batch. and if your extract is different from "standard" brewing extract (more or less fermentables), then where your beer will end up is anyone's guess.

BTW, are you Serbian, or an expat?
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What hops should I grow? Hop grower's comparison table. Looking for cheap honey?

Drinking: a farmhouse with ECY08 & brett blend, wet-hopped harvest ale x 2, second runnings dark ale with vanilla
Fermenting: (nothing active)
Aging: imperial chocolate stout, sour cherry mead, oud bruin & a few other sours, acerglyn, a BDSA
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Old 09-18-2012, 02:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markowe View Post
I know of a factory that produces regular malted 2-row for the brewing industry where I can get a huge great sack for a pittance. Then I can use that to roast some smaller batches of my own malts - I believe you can get a lot of different variation this way, there are plenty of recipes floating around.
If that's the case you'll be alright.

I just started roasting my own malts last year using THIS guide. He even shows how to make crystals and special b, by partially starting the conversion process and then roasting the grain with the sugars present.

This was medium amber roasted iirc 30 minutes at 350 degrees.



That guide also shows you how to make sweetmalts too, not just malts that add color.
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Old 09-18-2012, 02:44 PM   #9
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Many people make SMaSH beer. Single Malt, Single Hop. Nothing wrong with a base malt only beer. It will still be beer and there is a great chance that it will still turn out very tasty, even without crystal malt or roasted malts. Just depends on what YOU like.

BrewerinBR and I made up a SMaSH IPA once with wort from Bells that they said was "only 2-row" and Chinook. Tasted great.

Sometimes simple is better.

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Old 09-18-2012, 02:52 PM   #10
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You can also try making your own specialty malts with the 2-row.
Roasting them for X amount of time for X long will produce different degrees of brown malt that can be used to get new flavors.
You can also try to make your own crystal malt in a similar manner.
Several threads on this.

Also, Do you have a source for hops and yeast?
These are as essential to make beer as grain is.

Edit: looks like I am late to the party with the roasting grain thing

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