10 tips to better extract brewing

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Corkster

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I came across this online during my research into extract brewing..... I'm not sure who the author is but I felt this worth a read.......


1. Know Thyself (and Thine Brewery)
If an extract brewer wishes to brew consistently quality beer, he (or she) should get to know the details of his system and how they effect his brewing. Brew an extract version of a beer brewed by an all-grain friend or an extract clone of a beer you enjoy. Taste your beer side-by-side with the all-grain or commercial beer and note every difference you can. How do the color, bitterness, malt character and yeast qualities stack up? Once you have this information in hand, use the following information to correct or adjust for any of the problems you may be experiencing.

2. Pump Up the Volume
The biggest improvement most extract brewers can make to their process is to boil their wort in a larger volume. Early homebrewing books instructed brewers to boil the malt extract for a 5-gallon (19-L) batch in as little as 1.5 gallons (5.7 L) of water. Although this is convenient, this convenience comes at a price. Boiling a thick wort is guaranteed to darken it unacceptably and severely limit the amount of hop bitterness. No matter what volume a recipe calls for, always boil your wort at the largest volume you can manage.

These days, most homebrew shops carry relatively inexpensive brewpots. A 16-qt. (4-gallon/15-L) pot will allow you to begin boiling from around 2.75 gallons (10.4 L) down to 2.5 gallons (9.5 L) in an hour, and a little stirring as the wort comes to a boil will prevent boil-overs. At this volume, you will be able to brew light-colored beers with reasonably high levels of hop bitterness — especially if you use the extract late or Texas Two-Step technique. (For more information on these techniques, see the October 2004 issue of BYO).

If your situation permits, the best solution is to get a “turkey fryer” propane cooker and a 7-gallon (26-L) or larger pot. This will allow you to boil 6 gallons
(23 L) of wort down to five gallons (19 L) in a typical 60 minute boil. With this setup, the lower color limit you can achieve is determined by the color of your extract and your beers can be as hoppy as any all-grain beer.
Sometimes your brewpot isn’t the limiting factor. Sometimes your kitchen stove doesn’t kick out enough heat to boil much wort vigorously. Two things can help in this regard. First, close the lid on the pot almost all of the way. You should never boil wort in a completely closed pot. However, you really don’t need the lid cracked very much to provide an escape for the volatile chemicals you want to boil off.

A second potential helper in this regard is a coil immersion heater. Many travel places sell these devices (for around US $15), which are just a small heating coil that plugs into the wall. The coil is meant to be placed in water, tea or soup to heat them up. On their own, these would be useless for wort boiling as they don’t produce enough heat. However, used in conjunction with a stove, they can increase either your boil vigor or the amount of wort you can boil vigorously slightly. Just the movement induced in the wort by having a hot spot inside the kettle can be a good thing. Keep in mind, though, the potential shock hazard of these devices. I wouldn’t use one unless it was plugged into an outlet with an interrupt.

3. Other Dark Forces
Boil volume is not the only factor in wort darkening. Another problem is the potential to caramelize partially dissolved malt extract. When you stir malt extract into hot water, it does not dissolve instantly or evenly. Little “blobs” of extract can remain intact for quite awhile, even when everything looks dissolved. These “blobs” will sink to the bottom of your brewpot and can caramelize there. So, whenever you stir in extract, turn off the heat and stir until you don’t see any undissolved bits of extract — then stir for another minute or so.

Two other factors in wort darkening are heat and time. On a commercial scale, most brewers used to aim to evaporate 10% of their wort in an hour (these days, the target is even lower). When boiling a small amount of wort on a stove, it’s easy to evaporate a much higher percentage. If this is happening, turn down the heat or increase the amount of wort you are boiling.

The longer you boil your wort, the darker it gets. So, boil your wort only as long as the longest hop addition requires. And, keep in mind that some liquid extracts have already been boiled (although others have only been evaporated). Liquid malt extract only needs to boil (or steep at temperatures over 160 °F/71 °C) for 15 minutes to sanitize it.

4. Fresh Extract
This point does not need to be elaborated on, but I can’t leave it out, either — always use fresh malt extract.

5. Got Grains?
In order to get the colors and flavors you want from your specialty grains, without extracting excess tannins, you need to do one of two things — either steep in a small amount of water or in weak wort. A small amount of water means 1–3 qts. of water per pound of grains (2.1–6.3 L/kg). If you steep in a larger volume than that, add malt extract until the specific gravity is over 1.010 before adding the grains. And finally, rinse with a very small amount of water — 0.5–1 qts. of water per pound of grain steeped (1–2 L/kg) works well (see “Steeping,” in the May–June 2005 issue of BYO for more on this topic).

In extract brewing, the extract manufacturer collects the wort and concentrates it. When the wort is concentrated into extract, some volatile compounds are lost. To brew the best extract beer possible, you need a way to replace at least a portion of them. The simplest way to do this is to make some wort yourself by doing a partial mash in your brewpot.

To do this, add some 2-row pale malt to your recipe. For every pound (0.45 kg) of pale malt, subtract 0.53 lbs. (0.24 kg) of dried malt extract or 0.73 lbs. (0.33 kg) liquid malt extract. When making a 5-gallon (19-L) extract beer, I usually shoot for “steeping” a total of around 2–2.5 lbs. (0.91–1.1 kg) of grains, including base malt and specialty grains. Steep this liquid in 1.5–
2 qts. of water per pound of grain (3.2–4.2 L/kg) at 148–158 °F (64–70 °C) for 45–60 minutes. After increasing your boil volume, I feel that doing small partial mashes — which are really just glorified grain steeps — is the technique that will help extract brewers brew better beer. Note that partial mash wort is also typically more fermentable than that of malt extract, which can help if your beers consistently finish at a high final gravity.
 
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6. Sugar is Sweet
Another key difference between all-grain and extract brewing is that an all-malt wort made from grains is almost always more fermentable than an all-malt wort made from extract. Early beer kits solved this problem by combining the malt extract with sugar — which is completely fermentable — to yield reasonably dry beers. (And, because sugar is colorless and many of these kits were no-boil kits, the color could actually be fairly light.)

However, because early US homebrewing was largely a negative reaction to pale American lagers, anything that reminded homebrewers of Bud, Miller or Coors was shunned — and this included adding an adjunct like sugar to their beer. Virtually every homebrewing expert told brewers to replace the sugar — all of it, no matter how much or in what style of beer — with darker and less fermentable malt extract. The result? Homebrew that was darker and sweeter than it should have been.

If high final gravities are a problem for you, swapping some sugar (cane or corn) for a portion of the light malt extract in your recipe can help. Swap sugar and dried malt extract on a one-to-one basis. For liquid malt extract, add 13 oz. (0.37 kg) of sugar for every pound (0.45 kg) of extract deleted from the recipe. If you end up with more than 10% sugar in your recipe, consider adding 1/4 tsp yeast nutrients to the beer. You probably won’t want to have sugar occupy more than 30% of your grain bill. Also, be aware that the color of your beer may decrease slightly when you add sugar.

7. Hops
Boiling at a lower wort density does a lot to improve bitterness in extract brews . However, extract brewers should also do everything else they can to get the most from their hops.

Although boiling your hops in a bag is convenient, this decreases the amount of bitter substances (alpha acids) that are extracted from them. Add the hops loose to your brewpot. If you let the wort sit in your brewpot for a half hour after you cool it, the pellet sludge will settle to the bottom and you can siphon clear wort off it. Also, knock down any hop pellet residue clinging to the side of your brewpot as you boil.

Finally, consider “spiking” your wort with a small amount of neutral high-alpha hops to your beer along with your normal hop charge. Magnum hops usually have around 16% alpha acids and don’t have a real strong varietal character. If your beers are normally a little less bitter than you’d like, add a quarter ounce (7 g) or more of Magnum, or any other “strong” hops, along with the specified bittering charge. This will boost your bitterness without changing the hop character of the beer.

8. Cooling
Hot wort carries a lot more heat than you might realize, and the dilution water you add to bring the volume up to 5 gallons (19 L) isn’t cooling your wort down as much as you might think. For example, pouring 2 gallons (7.6 L) of just-boiled wort into 3 gallons (11 L) of water at refrigerator temperature (40 °F/4.4 °C) still leaves you with wort over 110 °F (43 °C). (How far over depends on the gravity of the wort.) Stovetop brewers should take advantage of their smaller wort volume and always cool their wort in their brewpot before transferring it to their fermenter. Use a reliable cooling method and measure the temperature of your wort before pitching.

Getting a wort chiller is the best solution, but many beginners don’t buy this piece of equipment at first. The next best solution is to cool your wort in your sink or bathtub. By changing the cooling water every 5 minutes, you continually draw heat away from the wort. And, during this time, the hop debris and other sediment can settle to the bottom of your brewpot. Once the brewpot is cool to the touch (i.e. below human body temperature), siphon the wort to your fermenter and add the dilution water. Here, the dilution water can cool your wort down effectively if it is below fermentation temperature. A little “temperature strip” on the outside of your fermenter will let you read the temperature of your wort.

9. Water
Malt extract is condensed wort and it contains everything that wort contains, including dissolved minerals. Any minerals in your dilution water are added to the (unknown) amount of minerals in the extract. Unless you have a good reason not to, always use soft water (or even distilled water) for extract brewing. A little bit of calcium in the boil — under 1/2 tsp of gypsum or calcium chloride — might be a good thing in some circumstances. However, if you’re trying to add salts to your brewing water to make “Burton water,” you are ending up with “Burton plus” water due to the minerals already found in your malt extract. Carbon filtering city water is advised.

10. Yeast
Once you’ve made your wort, the yeast will convert it into beer. To make the best beer possible, you need to give your yeast three things — enough “teammates” to get the job done, a stable and reasonable fermentation temperature and adequate aeration. The first of these is where most extract brewers could improve. Either make a yeast starter or get enough yeast from another source (previous fermentation, brewpub) and pitch with it. You’ll want about 1 cup of yeast solids per 5-gallon (19-L) batch.

Conclusion
Some of the best aspects of extract brewing are its simplicity and the fact that you can do it in a relatively short amount of time on your stovetop without a lot of specialized equipment. Improving your beer does not necessarily mean spending much more time brewing it or buying lots of new gadgets. If you follow the advice in this article, you can brew much better homebrew in about the same time as the old, standard method took.
 

Nurmey

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Four or five years ago BYO magazine had similar tips in an article. The biggest thing I took out of it was the "steep small, boil big" and the "late addition" tips. Those two things alone really helped improve my beers.
 

bmckee56

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Great info. I just completed an American Pale Ale and increased my boil volume. I didn't lower my steep volume though. I will on my next brew, which will be Monday or Tueday.

Thanks for the tips.

Salute! :mug:
 

USM_Eagle

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I've always boiled big but never steeped small, and I also never thought to add more primary grain to replace loss from the extract. It makes sense, great tip.
 

chelero

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I bought a big pot(43L). should i try and do a full 6 gal boil? or just like 4gal and top up with cool water in the fermenter?
 

Obelisk

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Why the obsession with high hop flavor? I hate IPA's because of the hop bitterness. I can't think of a PA that I enjoy unless it's with food. There are so many wonderful beers with low hop content, and yet so many of these tips are suggested with hop treatment as the reason.

My real question is this, If I don't care about having high hop bitterness, can I cut down on the boil time? If the LME only requires 15 minutes to sanitize it, can I increase the hops and reduce the boil time to say, 30 minutes?

The suggestion to step up to "real" or "better" PA/IPA won't help me.

Thanks
 

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I came across this online during my research into extract brewing..... I'm not sure who the author is but I felt this worth a read.......
Where credit is due:

10 Steps to Better Extract Brewing

Author Chris Colby
Issue October 2005
Chris Colby is the editor of Brew Your Own magazine.
 

HenryKDuff

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There's this great thread that explains that.........oh wait.....

WE'RE IN IT.

;)
I have the same question and I'm not sure it's explained all that well in the OP. He advises to steep small to get the color and flavor you want out of your grains, but there is no mention of what the consequences are of steeping too big. I brewed today and steeped 2 pounds of malt in 2.5 gallons of water. Now I know better (I should have steeped in 2-6 quarts), but I'm curious how my mistake may affect my brew.
 

AnthonyD

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I have the same question and I'm not sure it's explained all that well in the OP. He advises to steep small to get the color and flavor you want out of your grains, but there is no mention of what the consequences are of steeping too big. I brewed today and steeped 2 pounds of malt in 2.5 gallons of water. Now I know better (I should have steeped in 2-6 quarts), but I'm curious how my mistake may affect my brew.
I'm hoping for a little clearer explanation on this as well. :mug:
 

Scotty_g

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I think the reason you don't need excess water for steeping/rinsing is because if the pH in your steep is too high, you can extract tannins from the grain. In AG/partial mash/mini mash brewing, the conversion of starch to sugar depends greatly on pH (among other things).

I did one mini-mash (used an equal quantity of 2-row with the specialty grains in the steep, tried to control temperature better, let it sit longer) when I was feeling cocky and ended up getting a lousy 45% efficiency. However, that beer has the biggest, fullest taste of any beer I've made in its gravity range.

Normally I steep and rinse on the high end of the recommended range and the beers come out good. However, I do almost all the other recommended tricks. I heartily support a late extract addition; you will get much lighter beer and more hop utilization if you want it (more bittering or save $ on hops, your choice). You will want brewing software to adjust recipes though.

I also second the notion of pulling your kettle off the heat to dissolve wort and using an immersion or flow-through chiller.
 

RushN24

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Great tips, I'll be brewing extract for a while, I won't be able to do all grain until I get my own place so I want to make the best beers possible with extract as I can. This article definitely helps. For me the best point was to use as much grains as you can and to steep in a smaller amount of water than add more water for the boil, this is an awesome tip. Now instead of formulating my recipes to include only about 1lb of grain I will try and use 2lbs or more, and it won't be that much harder at all. Thanks again!:mug:
 
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Where credit is due:

10 Steps to Better Extract Brewing

Author Chris Colby
Issue October 2005
Chris Colby is the editor of Brew Your Own magazine.


Thanks! I hate not being able to give credit to the appropriate author! I even try to give credit when I "borrow" somebodies one-liners.
 

Edcculus

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I think the reason you don't need excess water for steeping/rinsing is because if the pH in your steep is too high, you can extract tannins from the grain. In AG/partial mash/mini mash brewing, the conversion of starch to sugar depends greatly on pH (among other things).
I think that may be it. Although you aren't converting anything in a steep, optimal mash pH is ~5.2. Water is much higher. Grains have a natural buffering ability, and will usually keep a mash in the 1-2qt/lb ratio in the right pH range. 1-2lbs of grain doesn't have the buffering capacity to get 2 gallons of water down to the 5 range. High pH will extract tannins from grain husks, even in a steep. Not sure if this is completely correct, but its my best answer.
 

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Ok, so I've been doing late addition extract for a while, but have been steeping around 2 lbs. of specialty grains in 2.5 gal (and boiling the same amount) of water for every brew I've done so far. I think I would benefit from steeping smaller and then boiling around 3-3.5 gals (my pot can handle it).

My question is this - Would I benefit from doing a "mini-mash"? I usually use the whole 6 lb bag of extract for a batch, if I cut that in half I would have to use 4 lbs of 2-row. I don't know if that would fit in my kettle!
 

bigandy73

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Talked to the LHBS owner and he helped start doing something akin to partial mash brewing. I've been using steeping grains since I started, but today I substituted some 2-row for a portion of the DME. Came in 0.002 under target but I think that's pretty good for a first try.

Also tried steeping in a much smaller amount of water than usual and boiled in a much larger amount than usual. I made sure to use a kit that I have made recently so that I can compare the product to see if it is any better. Great tips!
 

dpjosuns

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So, if I'm understanding this right, to steep small and boil big, one should steep in 1-2 gallons, then add a gallon or so and boil at 3 or more?

I had been just steeping/boiling in 2 gallons, then topping off to 5 after the wort had been chilled.

Should I go as low as 1 gallon to steep in, then up to 3 or 4 to boil?
 

DrawTap88

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So, if I'm understanding this right, to steep small and boil big, one should steep in 1-2 gallons, then add a gallon or so and boil at 3 or more?

I had been just steeping/boiling in 2 gallons, then topping off to 5 after the wort had been chilled.

Should I go as low as 1 gallon to steep in, then up to 3 or 4 to boil?
I took it to mean that you should steep in at most 1 gallon for 1-2 pounds of grain so that the grain has the ability to lower the PH of the water. Whereas if you steep 1-2 pounds of grain in 2 or more gallons, the grain will not be able to lower the PH to the proper level AND will promote tanins being extracted from the grains.

Then the "boil big" portion is dependent on how many quarts/gallons your brew pot can hold. Basically, max it out with as many gallons as you can.
 

DKershner

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So, if I'm understanding this right, to steep small and boil big, one should steep in 1-2 gallons, then add a gallon or so and boil at 3 or more?

I had been just steeping/boiling in 2 gallons, then topping off to 5 after the wort had been chilled.

Should I go as low as 1 gallon to steep in, then up to 3 or 4 to boil?
A good rule of thumb is to steep or mash at something between 1 and 3 quarts of water per pound of grain. Adjust according to your recipe is always the smartest approach. I use 2qts/lb in my AG brewing.

Then step up to the biggest boil volume possible, up to around 6gal for a 5gal batch.
 

dpjosuns

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Interesting, I understand.

Now, why would recipe makers have you boil in 2 gallons, then add later? Just because they're assuming that you'll have a small stockpot and doing it on the stove? Luckily I got a big **** off stockpot and outdoor burner.
 

DKershner

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Just because they're assuming that you'll have a small stockpot and doing it on the stove?
These are things nearly everyone has. Anything else would require more money and effort for them to write, upping the cost of your kit.
 

pmzjr69

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Question:
I have made "true brew, all malt brown ale" on jan 1st 2012. OG gravity was 1.043. No frementing action since jan 3rd. current gravity reading was 1.022. instructions expecting FG would be 1.010 - 1.012. how much time do i need to wait until start bottling. This inform would be helpful for me to arrange friends for assist with bottle. jan 15th is too soon, I would think.
 

djbradle

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pmzjr69 - What kind of yeast did you use? Dried or liquid? Did you make a starter? I think you probably used dried yeast. Did you rehydrate it properly? For sure you must not bottle at all until your FG is stable and fermentation has indeed stopped. Swirl the primary and bring into a warmer temp zone for that specific yeast and maybe it will kick start again. Sometimes action stops for a couple days.


To the heart of this thread-
I got myself a 7.5 quart brew kettle with thermometer built in, a ss wort chiller, and an extra primary and secondary on top of the deluxe northern brewer brew kit. The wort chiller is unbelievable and gets me down from around 170 to 70 in like 8-10 mins. I have yet to really utilize the brew kettle size properly but now I can due to reading up through this site voraciously. The info in the above 10 points is simply awesome and gave me some great help. I will definitely try steeping in less and do full boils. I usually let the brew kettle rest over two gas burners ( fits just right) and it gives a vigorous boil, not a rolling boil.

I've been good to my yeast but need to further polish the malt understanding. Of course I have barely gotton into my first secondary for my first brew so I'm setting my bar high =)
 

StophJS

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I've read in a number of places that it doesn't particularly matter how much water you steep your grains in.
 

pmzjr69

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djbradle said:
pmzjr69 - What kind of yeast did you use? Dried or liquid? Did you make a starter? I think you probably used dried yeast. Did you rehydrate it properly? For sure you must not bottle at all until your FG is stable and fermentation has indeed stopped. Swirl the primary and bring into a warmer temp zone for that specific yeast and maybe it will kick start again. Sometimes action stops for a couple days.

To the heart of this thread-
I got myself a 7.5 quart brew kettle with thermometer built in, a ss wort chiller, and an extra primary and secondary on top of the deluxe northern brewer brew kit. The wort chiller is unbelievable and gets me down from around 170 to 70 in like 8-10 mins. I have yet to really utilize the brew kettle size properly but now I can due to reading up through this site voraciously. The info in the above 10 points is simply awesome and gave me some great help. I will definitely try steeping in less and do full boils. I usually let the brew kettle rest over two gas burners ( fits just right) and it gives a vigorous boil, not a rolling boil.

I've been good to my yeast but need to further polish the malt understanding. Of course I have barely gotton into my first secondary for my first brew so I'm setting my bar high =)
It was dry yeast and the instruction says spread on top of wort.
 

mblanks2

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Its hard for me to get a rolling boil with my electric flat stove top this is a good read tho.
Turn on your second largest burner and slide between the two as they cycle on and off or better yet, just get a turkey frier and 20# propane tank. The efficiency of the propane burner is worth every penny. $75 or less at Lowes or HD for the burner.
 

unionrdr

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Going back to the original thoughts,it's not globs of LME sinking to the bottom & caramelizing the rest of the wort. Thoat part burns. It's the LME dissolved in the water being boiled a second time for yet another hour that does it. It'd already been processed,& doesn't need to be processed again.
I always save LME for flame out & use half a 3lb bag of plain DME in the partial boil of about 3.5 gallons. Or in partial mash with the grains being 50% of the fermentables,I use that for hop additions & all the extract at flmae out. Works really well.
Late extract aditions make for lighter beers & no twang even in partial boils. The boil volume has little to do with that aspect of it. It's more like how much,when,& for how long. And fermentability of the mash depends on the temp. Lower end of temp range,more fermentabitilty. Higher end,less fermentabitility. And even though those extracts replacing the sugars were darker than the extra light malts used in common lagers,it's misleading to say they told people to replace the sugar with darker malts. That's wrong. It sounds like you've basically got it,but some of the definitions are off.
 

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I've been looking for improvements in my brewing and this has answered many of my questions
 

CrookedTail

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Going back to the original thoughts,it's not globs of LME sinking to the bottom & caramelizing the rest of the wort. Thoat part burns. It's the LME dissolved in the water being boiled a second time for yet another hour that does it. It'd already been processed,& doesn't need to be processed again.
I always save LME for flame out & use half a 3lb bag of plain DME in the partial boil of about 3.5 gallons. Or in partial mash with the grains being 50% of the fermentables,I use that for hop additions & all the extract at flmae out. Works really well.
Late extract aditions make for lighter beers & no twang even in partial boils. The boil volume has little to do with that aspect of it. It's more like how much,when,& for how long. And fermentability of the mash depends on the temp. Lower end of temp range,more fermentabitilty. Higher end,less fermentabitility. And even though those extracts replacing the sugars were darker than the extra light malts used in common lagers,it's misleading to say they told people to replace the sugar with darker malts. That's wrong. It sounds like you've basically got it,but some of the definitions are off.
Good advice if you're looking to brew a light-colored extract beer. Although if you're brewing something like a pilsner, I'd go even further and say to only use extra light DME for the entire brew. Using only DME with late extract additions, you can achieve a very light color, even if you're doing a partial boil.

That said I find that I prefer using LME. I think it is easier to work with, and if fresh, tastes better.
 
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