Extract vs. Partial Mash vs. All Grain

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BrewinUpNorth

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I brewed actively in the late 80's and 90's but got out of it. I was strictly an extract guy then....just getting back in and dusted off the old pots, grolsch bottles and carboys. Have been experimenting with partial mash + extract as I dont have all the AG equipment. My questions for all who care are as follows:

1) What is the advantage of AG over Extract (other than cost which is less here)?
2) Does partial mash provide any changes in flavor....why do it?
3) Is there a huge difference between PM and AG...if so, what?

I am currently taking AG recipes for Whit beers and cutting the grains in half....mashing at 150 for an hour or so, sparging, and then adding 3-4 lbs of wheat DME and bringing to a boil....

Any and all thoughts are appreciated!
 
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BrewinUpNorth

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Also, I cannot believe how helpful the internet and this forum is now....you guys should have tried brewing in the early 90s when all you had for info was books and LHBS! This is GREAT!!!
 

McGarnigle

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1) You have more choices of what you can do recipe wise. There are more options for grains than there are for extract. Some would say all grain tastes better, especially if the extract isn't fresh.

2) Partial mash splits the difference between AG and extract. The main reason people do it is they want the advantages of all grain but don't have the capacity, either in terms of equipment, boil size, etc. Another option is to do half batches of all grain (which is what I do a lot of).

3) I would say, no, not a huge difference. If you make mistakes as a brewer - due to sanitation, temp controls, etc. - then that is a bigger deal than what method you're using.

You sound like you're making a PM wit.
 

TheMan

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1) What is the advantage of AG over Extract (other than cost which is less here)? AG ingredients are cheaper, significantly for myself. You have more control of the beer. Extract with steeping grains can only provide so much additional flavor considering certain grains cannot be steeped. AG just opens up the recipe book to allow more combinations and control.

2) Does partial mash provide any changes in flavor....why do it?
Partial mash does help get additional flavor. It opens up the recipe book further from extract just like AG does.

3) Is there a huge difference between PM and AG...if so, what?
I don't know that there is a huge difference. I've never done partial mash, skipped straight from extract to AG. I would say as before, you have more control and more combinations that can be made with AG.

You can make fine beer with any method. So whichever you think suits you should be what you like. I went AG and I wouldn't turn back for anything.
 

Shooter

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Good responses, one thing not addressed yet is the time factor. Whenever I pull out my all-grain equipment I'm anticipating a longer day. If I do a stovetop PM, like Deathbrewer's method, I can cut that down a little and, if I do an extract brew, I can cut it down a little more. Personally, I enjoy all three methods and am glad I can still fit in brew days. If I only did AG I wouldn't be brewing nearly as often.

If you REALLY want to save some time do a canned kit like Coopers! Talk about a quick brew day, wow!! :D
 

Brocster

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I brewed actively in the late 80's and 90's but got out of it. I was strictly an extract guy then....just getting back in and dusted off the old pots, grolsch bottles and carboys. Have been experimenting with partial mash + extract as I dont have all the AG equipment. My questions for all who care are as follows:

1) What is the advantage of AG over Extract (other than cost which is less here)?
2) Does partial mash provide any changes in flavor....why do it?
3) Is there a huge difference between PM and AG...if so, what?

I am currently taking AG recipes for Whit beers and cutting the grains in half....mashing at 150 for an hour or so, sparging, and then adding 3-4 lbs of wheat DME and bringing to a boil....

Any and all thoughts are appreciated!

Welcome back to the addiction! You'll get lots of different answers to your questions, and there really is no right or wrong answer. Things like time (whcih someone already mentioned), cost, number of times you will brew, your likes in terms of "creating" things, etc... all factor in.

I would say this: The difference between Extract and PM is night and day. You get a huge change in your ability to modify recipes and tweak all types of things that influence the taste and quality of your beer. For most people, PM offers everything you would need in terms of the eventual finished product.

The difference between AG and PM is not as great, at least not when comparing the difference betwen PM and Extract. You do get unlimited control over all apsects of beer from a recipe and mashing standpoint, and, especially if you brew pale, dry or pilsner/laget type beers, you are able to get closer to the "ideal" product.

What you also get with AG is an engineering aspect to the process (or mad scientist!) that you just can't replicate. Step mashes, decoction, double infusions, mash times and on and on. For some, AG allows the brewer to scratch that itch. For others, this may not be as important and PM offers pretty much 95% of what you are looking for in the brew process.

I am an AG brewer and love it. I experiment quite a bit with different recipes, or, I take one recipe and continously tweak and change certain things that AG allows.

Time is probably the biggest factor (downer) from PM, but it pales in comparison to what I like. Still, my PM beers were almost if not every bit as good for 99% of the beers I produced taste wise.

I hope that helps somewhat! If not, just another ramble by me!

Cheers!
:mug:
 

Shooter

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It is somewhat interesting that PM isn't more popular or at least talked about a little more. It opens up a whole world of beers that can't be done or would be VERY difficult to do with extract. I use a standard method employing a total of five pounds of grain on the stovetop and the only piece of equipment I needed was a big grain bag. It does help to have a second kettle to sparge the grains.
 

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I think the reason PM isn't so popular, has more to do with methods available to us these days. Such as BIAB... I did one PM batch, then went all grain. With BIAB, you're really just limited by your pot sizes. Besides, malt extract is pretty expensive compared with grain. You just pay with more of your own time (which when you're making beer, as a hobby, is dirt cheap)...

You can go all grain without spending a lot of money (and not use the BIAB method). Get a large enough cooler (or dig out that big one you haven't used in X years), install a ball valve and some kind of system to separate the grain from the wort when you drain it (anything from cheap braided stainless hoses, ripped apart and attached, to pre-made items running <$25) and you're pretty much in business. Just need a way to heat up your mash and sparge water volumes (half batches can be done if you can't heat up enough for a full 5 gallon batch).

I've gotten my 70 Coleman Xtreme cooler fully converted into a MLT now (leak free too). Hardware cost me about $50-$60 to do it up. But, I can now mash up to ~45# of grain at a time. :D That means, I'll be set for my BIG beers, as well as 10 gallon batches when I'm ready.

I have a 32 quart aluminum kettle now (stock pot with a ball valve installed) as well as a 60 quart aluminum kettle, to use. Couple that with a couple of cheap 20 quart pots, and I can brew pretty much any 5 or 10 gallon recipe I wish to.

I see the difference between extract brewing and all grain similar to making a cake. Sure, you can get some solid results with the pre-packaged stuff (just as you can getting it from the bakery already made). But, if you start from scratch, you can make something really great. Plus, you can adjust the recipe to fit YOUR tastes. Not accept what someone else decided to put into the recipe.

Time difference between extract and all grain brewing comes down to mash/sparge times. Even then, chances are it's just the mash time (usually 60-90 minutes) since sparge time is usually similar to what you would steep specialty grains for. Have a way to get 6-7 gallons of wort up to a boil (for 5 gallon batches) and you're done... Boil times are the same between extract, PM and all grain batches.

Personally, I love the freedom all grain gives me, for what I brew. I can look at someone else's recipe, and tweak it to how I want to make it. If I want to make it a bit stronger, I can add more base malt. Adding more extract to a recipe usually costs significantly more. Get your grain in bulk, like with one of the area group grain buys, and your cost for grain goes through the floor. Get your own grain mill/crusher, and you can now keep whole grain on hand, milling it just before you go to mash. I did that for the first time this past weekend... Looking forward to seeing how that batch comes out.

Brew with the method you're comfortable with... But, if you want true freedom to brew anything you like, I see partial mash and all grain being the only real option. With all grain beating out partial mash for real freedom...
 

Shooter

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My AG days are significantly longer, but I have to move everything from the second floor do a complete setup and then move it all back upstairs at the end of the day. Plus there are a few additional items to clean. Each little thing on its own isn't much more time, but add them all together and it can be a couple of extra hours.
 

ChickenHops

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I would say this: The difference between Extract and PM is night and day...

...The difference between AG and PM is not as great, at least not when comparing the difference betwen PM and Extract.
+1 on both counts.

However, not all AG brewing is the same. Mashing techniques vary quite a bit. The person who taught me to brew often spends over 8 hours on an AG batch. I spend half that time. I tend to keep my mashing pretty simple. AG brewing encompasses a lot of variation, IOW.

I did 3 extract recipes before my first PM. All three were kits that turned out well considering how simple they were to brew. The last one was a 90 min IPA clone. It had very complex flavors and it may still rank as one of my best brews. The kit was expensive and I've since made a similar AG at about half the cost (but it also took 3 times the effort).

PM brewing is great for learning. I can't imagine going from extract to AG. I made errors in PM that I would have been much extremely difficult to recover from with AG. AG is pretty unforgiving is you mess up. Thanks to PM experience I had good conversion efficiency starting with my first AG batch.

AG requires equipment that PM doesn't (a chiller a larger pot, a grain mill, a bigger scale, a mashing tun, etc., aren't essential, but I can't imagine doing AG without.). If I had to downsize for some reason I'd rather brew PM than not brew at all. Also, if I had to go months without brewing, I'd probably do a PM batch or two before tackling AG.

You can make great tasting beers with any brewing method. But taste is subjective. Not so with appearance. I can brew beers that are more pale with AG. It's difficult to get really light colored beer when using extract. Of course, there might be some ultra-ultra-light DME available that I never tried.
 
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BrewinUpNorth

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Man I love this forum....you all have great input and have verified what I have pretty much thought. After my second PM, I noticed that I had a TON more sediment. I am assuming that is the "trug" that I just poured into my primary fermented along with my PM wort. I am probably doing PM wrong. I am bringing 2-3 gallons of water to 160 and adding 5 lbs of grains (in a grain bag), then maintaining 155 or so for 60-90 minutes. I am then pulling the grain bag and putting the whole bag in a funnel and sparging into another pot. Then I add the sparge water to my wort, add my DME and hops and boil away.

Does this sound right?

Thanks for helping out during amature hour!
 
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BrewinUpNorth

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I forgot to say that I am not syphoning off or cooling my wort in general....other than adding it to water that is in a carboy outside in 20 degree Michigan winters! In summer this will be harder....maybe add over ice, but my question is that is this increased sediment the Trug and how do I get rid of it before transfer to the fermenter?
 

Golddiggie

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Are you using a nylon grain bag or one of the muslin ones? If not nylon, try that. I would also refer you to the sticky from DeathBrewer on stove-top PM brewing... It's what got me through that batch... He also has an all grain version, which I've used for 4 batches to date. I'm going to use a cooler MLT next time since I have it working, and I want to see how things go there. I know more people use MLT coolers with great success, so I'm not concerned.

I wouldn't use the funnel method for sparging. Better to put the grain bag into the sparge water pot, let it rest for ~10 minutes, then removed the bag (tea bag it first) and then combine.

I would also adjust your mash temp according to the amount of body you want in the brew. You're on the upper end of medium body at 155F. Higher mash temps will give you a higher FG...

Tons of info on this site about adjusting the mash, and building your own hardware. Plus, as you're already finding out, we do enjoy helping people make GREAT beer. :D We can be a bit harsh at times, but it's all in the interest of getting great beer...
 

Brocster

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Man I love this forum....you all have great input and have verified what I have pretty much thought. After my second PM, I noticed that I had a TON more sediment. I am assuming that is the "trug" that I just poured into my primary fermented along with my PM wort. I am probably doing PM wrong. I am bringing 2-3 gallons of water to 160 and adding 5 lbs of grains (in a grain bag), then maintaining 155 or so for 60-90 minutes. I am then pulling the grain bag and putting the whole bag in a funnel and sparging into another pot. Then I add the sparge water to my wort, add my DME and hops and boil away.

Does this sound right?

Thanks for helping out during amature hour!
It is a great site, and you will learn more here than in most books. Best site I have seen, and everybody is extremely helpfull, and, we all have started at some point!

PM is kinda hard to mess up, and you sound good for the most part. What I may need some clarity from you is around the "putting the whole bag in a funnel" comment.

Given what I see from your posts, here are some comments and quetions:

- what size pot do you use?
- use 1.5 quarts of water per pound of grain for PM. You could go up or down from this amount, but 1.5 is a good, hard to forget number. So for 5 pounds of grain, you woul need a little less than 2 gallons. 2 gallons will work though.
- are you heating up your sparge water to 170 - 175 then slowly pouring over the grain?
- Are you cooling the wort prior to pitching the yeast?
- One thing that will help beer quality is getting the cold break, or trub that settles if you let cool naturally, stay out of the ferment through a siphon, strainer or other methods.

Broc
 

ChickenHops

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I am bringing 2-3 gallons of water to 160 and adding 5 lbs of grains (in a grain bag), then maintaining 155 or so for 60-90 minutes. I am then pulling the grain bag and putting the whole bag in a funnel and sparging into another pot. Then I add the sparge water to my wort, add my DME and hops and boil away.

Does this sound right?
The temps sounds reasonable. I don't see the need to go longer than 60 min. My target mash temp is 150-152, but that's just me. My only concern would be that I had enough base malt to convert any specialty malts or flaked grains in the PM. Also, make sure things like pH acceptable. Test strips are relatively inexpensive. Water sources can make a difference. That's just one of the things I learned when doing PM recipes.

I never sparged my partial mashes but just took first runnings. I wasn't too worried about conversion. The key to partial mashing for me was to get the specialty grain flavors and characteristics, not so much to extract as much fermentable sugars as possible. After all, I could just add a little more or less extract to the boil to reach target gravity. There's always the issue of extracting unwanted tannins. It might be low, but why even risk it?

Somewhere there's a paper that was presented at a conference that explains how to convert AG recipes to PM recipes. I have a hard copy somewhere. I've read it many times. It has a lot of great info that explains how -- and just as important why -- to mash different types of specialty grains. Some grains only need steeping. If those are your only specialty grains you don't even need a PM.

I used 6-row in my PM recipes because it's more diastatic (i.e has more enzymes). With AG I only use 2-row (slightly lower diastatic power) since it makes up a much higher percentage of the mash.

If I can find it I'll post the link to the paper, unless someone else already knows what I'm talking about and has the link.

RDWHAHB Fortunately, beer is much easier to make that it sounds like at times.
 

brewit2it

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My first few brews were extract with steaped grains, LME to be specific. My last 2 batches we partial mashes:

-Kolsch with 3 lbs 2 row and 4 lbs LME
-IPA with 3 lbs 2 row plus 1.5 lbs specialty grains and 6 lbs LME

Yesterday I bought a 50 lb bag of 2 row and 3 3lb bags of light DME.

I haven't tried any of the partial mash brews yet but my main motivations for switching to partial mash is to hopefully improve the quality of my beer. Since I am mainly interested in making Pale Ales the ability to make different styles isn't as big of a deal.

My new basic Ale recipe will be 5 lbs 2 row plus some specialty malts plus 3 lbs DME. Hopefully this will get rid of the possible off flavors from the LME, and I will be able to easily do the batches just using the 2 brew kettles and large grain bag I already have.
 
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BrewinUpNorth

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Brocster, the pot is 16 quarts.
The grain is in a grain bag, not nylon.
I am taking the grain bag out of the mash pot and then placing it into a large funnel. Then sparging with 2 gallons or so of 170 degree water. Moving that sparge water into the main wort pot for the boil (about 3 gallons +/- due to evaporation and grains holding water) and adding DME and hops for a 60 minute boil.
I have been playing with batches of whit beers for the last 3 times. Some with a belgian whit and one with a Safale 05 to try to get a blue moon clone. Adding corriander and orange zest at the end of the boil and steeping. Most of the time I will add the wort to primary with some cold water already in....getting it up to 5.5 gallons with more water, then adding yeast at 70 degrees =/-.

I have yet to sample a PM, but the first batches (after my 13 year hiatus from the "sport") of LME is still as tasty as I remember it....just cant remember why I gave it up.....Oh yeah, a nasty boil over and three children in 5 years....

Good to be back!
 

brewit2it

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Brocster, the pot is 16 quarts.
The grain is in a grain bag, not nylon.
I am taking the grain bag out of the mash pot and then placing it into a large funnel. Then sparging with 2 gallons or so of 170 degree water. Moving that sparge water into the main wort pot for the boil (about 3 gallons +/- due to evaporation and grains holding water) and adding DME and hops for a 60 minute boil.
I have been playing with batches of whit beers for the last 3 times. Some with a belgian whit and one with a Safale 05 to try to get a blue moon clone. Adding corriander and orange zest at the end of the boil and steeping. Most of the time I will add the wort to primary with some cold water already in....getting it up to 5.5 gallons with more water, then adding yeast at 70 degrees =/-.

I have yet to sample a PM, but the first batches (after my 13 year hiatus from the "sport") of LME is still as tasty as I remember it....just cant remember why I gave it up.....Oh yeah, a nasty boil over and three children in 5 years....

Good to be back!

Everything sounds good except you mentioned above you aren't cooling your wort, just addining it to your carboy that has cooled water in it. If this is the case you are risking breaking your carboy. I have noticed some brewers mistake the term carboy as being synonomous with pimary fermenter so use the term for buckets or better bottles. But if you really mean a glass carboy you need to cool the wort before pouring it in.
 

MW66

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For me it's like this:

AG vs. Extract

Fresh squeezed OJ vs. Concentrate


Both are good, but I like one of them much better and can taste the difference.
 

Golddiggie

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Brocster, the pot is 16 quarts.
The grain is in a grain bag, not nylon.
I am taking the grain bag out of the mash pot and then placing it into a large funnel. Then sparging with 2 gallons or so of 170 degree water. Moving that sparge water into the main wort pot for the boil (about 3 gallons +/- due to evaporation and grains holding water) and adding DME and hops for a 60 minute boil.
I have been playing with batches of whit beers for the last 3 times. Some with a belgian whit and one with a Safale 05 to try to get a blue moon clone. Adding corriander and orange zest at the end of the boil and steeping. Most of the time I will add the wort to primary with some cold water already in....getting it up to 5.5 gallons with more water, then adding yeast at 70 degrees =/-.

I have yet to sample a PM, but the first batches (after my 13 year hiatus from the "sport") of LME is still as tasty as I remember it....just cant remember why I gave it up.....Oh yeah, a nasty boil over and three children in 5 years....

Good to be back!
I would suggest using this all grain BIAB method.
Or this partial mash BIAB method.

I've used both with great results... Basically, the only real difference is the size pots you use, and if you plan to use an DME from the start, or not.
 

tknice

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I would suggest using this all grain BIAB method.
Or this partial mash BIAB method.

I've used both with great results... Basically, the only real difference is the size pots you use, and if you plan to use an DME from the start, or not.
After a few partial mashes, I did my first all grain last weekend (a Black IPA) and it went fairly well. I mashed in a 36q pot which held the heat very well--I just wrapped the top with a towel. The messy part was when I tried to sparge the 13lbs of grain in my other 5.5 gal pot. I realized too late that 3.8 gallons of sparge water was not going work so I had to dump some in my mash pot and sparge with less. I was a few points low but I'm sure the beer will still turn out great!

If anyone is interested, I ordered a second kettle from this place online which has them for $79 shipped!
http://www.barbecueoutdoorgrills.com/stock-pots/stainless-steel-stock-pot-lid-36-qt-1194.html

Incidentally, any guesses on the maximum amount of grain I can mash/sparge with two 9 gal pots?
 

Golddiggie

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I would use this site to figure out if you can mash the amount of grain in your 9 gallon pots... I would also use Beer Smith to figure out the mash/sparge water amounts... If you adjust the mash qt/# amount, you can see how much sparge water you'll need... I've used that with good results too.

BTW, larger grain bills is why I'm going to the cooler MLT... Otherwise, I'd keep using the BIAB in pots method.
 

tknice

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I would use this site to figure out if you can mash the amount of grain in your 9 gallon pots... I would also use Beer Smith to figure out the mash/sparge water amounts... If you adjust the mash qt/# amount, you can see how much sparge water you'll need... I've used that with good results too.

BTW, larger grain bills is why I'm going to the cooler MLT... Otherwise, I'd keep using the BIAB in pots method.
Thanks golddiggie. The part I still can't wrap my head around is what happens to all this extra water when doing higher gravity beers? If I am mashing 16lbs of grain at 1.25, it comes out to 6.28gals and I think I'd only lose about a gallon to absorbtion, so that means sparging with 3 or 4 gallons would put my boil volume at around 9.

I guess you have to dump in some DME when doing higher gravity beers on the stovetop?

Thanks!
 

Golddiggie

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Grain, typically, will absorb .1 gallons of water per pound (I believe)...

For a really BIG brew, people start off with more volume and use longer boils to get to their target volume. OR you can go with a full mash, no sparge (but your efficiency can suffer)...

I see really big beers as something you either need to watch/help someone else with first, or step up to with a few brews between... I'll probably end up going the second route myself. I'm thinking of making a brew with an OG of ~1.100 first (all grain) then step up to 1.120, before getting to my MOAB recipe... :D

I don't see if as something I could do on the stove top... At least not where I am now. When I get a house, maybe. Then again, when I'm in a house, I'll have an outdoor rig to use, so it won't matter. :rockin:
 

gio

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I recommned all grain with BIAB. You need no new equipment. I can do up to 10lbs grain with a 24qt pot which lets me do beers up to about 1.050. When I want to do higher gravity beers I just do a smaller 3.3 gallon batch and I've done up to 1.098 beers that way.
 
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