Quantcast

To The New Brewer - Extract Or All Grain

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

To the New Brewer - Should I Start with Extract Kits, or Turn it up to 11 with All-Grain Brewing?
"Nick, I know you're pretty new to brewing. It looks like fun, it's something I'm looking to get into - and I'm wondering: should I start with extract kits, or jump right into purchasing the equipment and tools needed for an all-grain setup?"
As the writer of the new "To the New Brewer" series (this is my second article with the same title, so it's officially a series), I can't tell you how many times I've been asked this question. (Actually, I can: I've been asked this about three times, ever since I've started brewing. I just thought I'd try to establish some credibility with my readers. Nailed it.) Before I add my two cents on the matter, I think it's important to discuss the difference between extract brewing and all-grain brewing. If you're thinking about getting into brewing and you know nearly nothing about it, it's important to start at the very, very beginning.
The beginner brewer usually purchases prepackaged kits that will include every ingredient needed from beginning to end. New brewers will likely need a brewing pot known as a "kettle," a fermentor, and a few other important tools. These kits can include liquid malt extracts (or LME, which usually comes in a small tub that looks similar to a plastic peanut butter jar or a large metal can), dry malt extracts (or DME, which usually looks a lot like an off-color flour that comes in clear, plastic packaging), grains, a steeping bag (which looks a lot like off-white pantyhose), hops (usually pellets), dry yeast packets, and other fermentables/boil additions like spices, additional sugars, vanilla beans, oak chips, etc... the sky is the limit. In my experience, extract kits are usually tasty recipes that have been created by a local brewing supply store, or by a reputable company like Brewer's Best. Either way, the extract kit will provide you with all of the necessary ingredients for your brew, clear directions that will guide you step-by-step, and have you feeling more accomplished than Sam Adams once you pitch that yeast and begin converting that wort into beer (also, Sam Adams is probably a poor example to use here, as he was likely more focused on what is now known as the American Revolution, opposed to whether or not he should have added an extra few ounces of dried orange peel to his summer ale... but hopefully you get the idea).

Extract Or All Grain Needs A Way To Chill Your Wort
Using DME or LME is nice for beginners for a variety of reasons. If you decide to use an extract kit, the extract has been thoughtfully prepared and nicely packaged by people that actually know what they are doing, and have done most of the hard work for you. You don't need to worry about extracting the sugar from your base malts and specialty grains because it's already been done for you. Sure, you might purchase a kit that has some actual grains that you will need to "steep" (put the grains into the panty-hose like cloth-bag, and let them soak in your kettle for a pre-determined amount of time and at a certain temperature before adding your extract), but even this is quite elementary compared to what you would need to do for an all-grain batch. Once you have steeped the specialty malts and got the water boiling, add your extract. Then, follow the boil schedule; add your additional fermentables and hops as stated in the brewing directions, cool it down, transfer to your fermentor, pitch the yeast, and play the waiting game. Depending on the beer you've chosen to make, you can probably give it a try after only a few weeks!
Based on my one year of brewing experience, I would argue that brewing with an extract kit eliminates about 30-50% of the time it takes to brew when compared to a similar all-grain recipe. The best part is, if you're able to find a great extract kit and brew it with plenty of TLC (awww...), your beer can often come out as tasty, unique, and impressive as its all-grain counterpart. Some of my favorite beers that I've made since getting into the hobby (and beers that some beer-snob friends of mine told me are some of the best they've had in recent months) were hand-crafted extract kits developed by a friend at my favorite local homebrew store in Michigan: Hopman's (shameless plug time, only because this particular beer helped me convince random people that I've been brewing for decades. Hahah, suckers!!!). For about $35 per kit, I was crafting beers good enough to trick all of those that sampled a pint (or four) into thinking I was ready to quit my day-job in higher education to pursue a life of brewing 12 hours a day, and sleeping/gaming the other 12 (carry the one.... Yup, I did that math correctly). My point: never discount a well-made, expertly-crafted extract kit recipe.
But all-grain brewing... sweet, sweet all-grain brewing. Sure, you need to purchase a bunch of additional equipment to get yourself up and running, but for me, the expense was worth it. Consider this analogy: extract brewing is like buying a Boboli pizza crust, your favorite pizza sauce, some mozzarella cheese, adding your favorite toppings, and baking that sucker at 425F for 20-23 minutes. Yeah, you definitely "made" most of it yourself, and although you had to buy many of the ingredients separately, you put together a masterpiece that had you considering the purchase of an $11,000 pizza oven to start your new competitive pizza franchise. That definitely escalated quickly.
On the flip side, all-grain brewing starts with YOU, and not so much the ready made, ready to go components of extract brewing. Back to the pizza analogy: Boboli crust? Nope, I'm going online and finding a recipe for the best "made from scratch" crust ever. If the crust recipe doesn't have more than 4-stars from at least 33 reviewers, consider it dead to me. Buying canned pizza sauce? Bump that, bro. I'm growing my own tomatoes, I'm crushing those bad boys with the potato masher my grandmother gave me for my 24th birthday, and I'm adding my favorite spices and seasonings so it tastes exactly how I want it to taste. I'm going to go out and buy some rennet, citric acid, and a gallon of milk to make my own mozzarella cheese, baby, because the cheese I make is 2-legit-2-quit. Essentially, I'm going to (for the most part) start from the very beginning of every part of that pizza, and I'm going to make it MINE.
The same can be said for the all-grain brewing process. When I brew all grain, I control every aspect of the creation of my beer, from water to wort. I choose the grain bill (the types of grains and amounts of each) for my recipe, a process that takes time, effort, research, and experimentation. I'm the one that ensures every one of those individual grain husks are crushed to my liking so my mash water can coax out those lovely, lovely sugars. I control the temperature of the mash water, which is WAY more important than you would think. Temperature directly affects wort viscosity, fermentability, etc., all of which can alter the end characteristics of your beer. Which mashing technique(s) should I use? Should I fly-sparge or batch sparge? All of these things need to be considered prior to the boil, which is essentially where most extract-kit brewing begins. Many brewers say that the true creation of a beer begins before the boil, and after a year of brewing, I'd have to say that I agree.
So back to the original reason this article exists in the first place: does it make more sense to start with extract brewing kits and ease your way into the hobby, or hop right in with the more intricate, but more self fulfilling all-grain approach?
Well, I'm very excited to share my ambiguous answer with you. Ready?
My answer to this question is....
IT DEPENDS!
Let's approach the potential answers using the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Good Beer Can Be Brewed With All Grain Or Extract
Extract Pros:
- Pre-made extracts (LME, DME) have already been made for you, which shaves the total time needed for the brewing process, and eliminates additional things that could go wrong leading up to the boil.
- You can focus on understanding the boil prep, boil, and post-boil as an initial introduction to brewing, which is a lot less information to process than starting with all-grain. Basically, you only need to understand half the steps in extract brewing when compared to all-grain brewing.
- Ready made recipes will usually lead to a great end product, as long as you follow the directions closely. Usually.
- No need for a mash tun, a hot liquor tank, or a larger boil kettle (anything larger than 6 gallons).
- No need to crush your own grain. Joseph and Maria at Brewer's Best already did this for you.
- No need to vorlauf (clarifying the wort when you drain it from the grain post-mash).
Extract Cons:
- You don't get to experience the brewing process from cradle to grave, as you're starting off with ready made extracts that have been prepared for you. In essence, you're starting more at the adolescent phase, and generally after all of the bickering, yelling, and coming-of age "growing pains" that happen between a mother and daughter prior to the daughter going away to college. Now that I think of it, this actually sounds more like a pro than a con....
- Despite adhering to different recipes, beers using DME and LME can end up tasting... well... "extract-y." Some people call this "extract twang," and is generally considered to be an off flavor.
-You get a much broader flavor profile when using grain either instead of or with extract, as the base malts for many extract kits/recipes are going to be the same.
- This is more of a subjective statement, but I believe extract brewing to be less fun than all-grain brewing, simply because there are fewer steps and a lot of the hard work has already been done for you.
But what about the pros and cons of all-grain brewing?

All Grain Brewing Requires More Gear Than Extract Brewing
All-Grain Pros:
- You're turning water into beer. That's pretty badass.
- You control EVERYTHING: mash temperatures, grain crush, grains types, grain amounts, mash length, sparging techniques, etc. These are just a few of the many ways you get to customize your beer. You nurture your beer how you see fit.
- You have a better understanding of the ENTIRE beer-making process when you experience all-grain brewing. This will lead to you becoming a better brewer the more that you do it. (Note: You will become a better brewer if you consistently stick to extract kits too, but you are still missing out on some of the most crucial aspects of beer-creation, and therefore, will be less experienced and less informed).
- You have more opportunities to mess up , and to therefore learn from your mistakes. What's that? Your mash tun seems to be clogged and you aren't getting any flow while vorlaufing? Time to get creative, and improvise you dingleberry! Oh no! Your sparge water was way too cool and your efficiency suffered as a result? Better get that water on the burner sooner next time, genius.
All-Grain Cons:
- You need extra equipment (and therefore extra $$), which can include: a larger boil kettle, a mash tun, a hot liquor tank, a grain mill, a stainless steel false bottom, additional hoses, etc. Some of this can be cheaply made at home, but usually it can be a bit costly.
- Some items, like a mash tun and hot liquor tank, can take up a larger amount of space. Consider this before you turn your one-bedroom apartment into a brewing space: your mash tun won't fit next to your stolen Red Robin Coca-Cola glasses in the cupboard above your stove.
- You must set aside more time for all-grain brewing. It takes longer to do from start to finish and there's more to clean up. Spotify can make this more enjoyable.
- All grain can be really hard to do if you can't follow detailed instructions when working with volume and temperature measurements. If you suck at following recipe instructions in general your beer might suck, but that's all part of the learning process!
- With additional equipment comes additional cleaning and maintenance. This may be really rough for you if you've ever brought your dad a hammer when he originally asked you to grab him his Phillips screwdriver.
- Recipes can be harder to replicate due to additional steps/variables over the course of the entire brewing process.
In summary, you may have just wasted your time reading this (but hopefully not), because there is no correct answer when it comes to starting off with extract kits or all-grain brewing. I started with extract kits, but wish that I had started with all-grain because I had a mentor to teach me everything from day one. Other people who are new to brewing might feel confident that they can conquer the brewing process with an all-grain set-up because they 1) have more brain cells than me, and 2) have researched the process by reading books, scanning online articles, or found a mentor to help them along the way. Having a mentor is priceless, and if you know an all-grain brewer that can help you along your journey, DO IT (See my first article: Mentorship In Brewing ). Others might want to take their time, perfect the boil and fermentation processes, and make some great brews from ready made kits that still taste pretty damn good. If you are one of these types of new brewers, then high-five. You can still enjoy the hobby and make yourself and your mother proud with a 9% beer that'll have your uncle tripping over himself at the family Christmas party. Blackmail photos!
Now that I've shared my two cents, I have to ask anyone reading this garbage-heap of an article to weigh in: Did you start with extract kits or all-grain brewing, and if you could do it all over again, would you switch to the other?
Sound off below.
 
Nice writeup. It gave me the idea to have a t-shirt made which says:
I don't walk on water but I do turn it into beer.
 
Extract brewing tests your "likeness" to the hobby, so it's an important step. You have to learn to walk before you run. Eventually, if you like to walk, you will run. Same for all-grain :)
 
I started with extract recipes, and after 3 brews discovered (on HBT) and moved to BIAB, which I love. In hindsight, I would have started with BIAB.
 
First: A nice comparison piece. You hit (in my opinion) all the pros and cons. In your own words: Nailed it.
Second: I love your writing style. Self-deprecating humor as well as your little "meta" asides make reading enjoyable.
Thanks.
 
I started brewing in May, and my 6th beer is currently fermenting. As Stranman said, I began with extract to test my likeness to brewing. I'm trying to brew as many different styles as I can during my first year or so and really learn the basics. I just wired up a chest freezer with a stc-1000 to further control the process (I'm a chemical engineer so process control is in my blood), and I plan on doing incremental upgrades next year - making the jump to all grain (probably BIAB), building a stand, and kegging.
Thanks for the article, good read.
 
I think this is where having a homebrewing friend or mentor would greatly help a new brewer. Lending a little time, experience, and equipment to a new brewer can aid them in deciding which path to take without facing the initial cost barrier to entry.
 
Best quote ever: "You're turning water into beer. That's pretty badass."
Seriously though, I don't understand the hate toward extract. It's the "I'm better than you" syndrome. The pizza analogy is great and makes total sense. All-grain gives you much more fine-tuned control over the process and recipe, however, it brings a whole bunch of things that a new brewer can screw up too like mash temp, PH, stuck sparge, etc, that they could possibly get discouraged about.
I think it's a good idea for a new brewer to start off with extract and get their process and system down. You need to learn the basics first. Many people take that experience for granted after doing it for so many years. Once you've cut your teeth on a few batches of extract, then think about what you might do for all-grain and the equipment needed. Also, don't be afraid to make smaller all-grain batches with the existing equipment you have with something like BIAB. Little extra equipment needed and if you screw up, there isn't 5 gals of something less than great to drink.
I've combined extract and all-grain together in the same brew day a number of times. My wife likes Belgian Golden Strong, which is an easy extract brew, so while I'm mashing the all-grain batch, I can do a short extract boil and get 2 different batches in 1 brew day.
 
With the help of HBT, youtube and Palmer's how to brew, I jumped right into all grain and I'm happy I did. First brew day was rough but I learned so much. By my third batch I was making darn good beer. I have my 10th batch in the fermenter now and like so many on HBT its become an obsession. If you are on the fence between the two, go big or go home. All grain is cheaper once you have the equipment anyway.
 
It would be one thing to jump right into whole grain if you had an experienced brewing buddy to help you get started. Or, somebody who has read a couple of brewing books front to back and followed this site for a month or so before even ordering your equipment, then go for it. But if you are the type who reads the instructions on your IKEA furniture after noticing it doesn't look right, you had better start with extract. (Or the type who takes a guess on 20-23 minutes for a Boboli pizza when their website says 8-10 http://www.boboli.com/BoboliRecipeDetail.aspx?id=4615)
There are some details that are easy for a new brewer learning on their own to miss even with extract brewing. For example, most kits say nothing about fermentation temperature. So, if the Fermentis website tell you that the pack of US-05 that came with your Kolsch kit has a temperature range of 50-77 degrees, you might be disappointed that you didn't get quite what you hoped for fermenting at room temp.
Also, if you don't understand what's happening in the mash and you're only following instructions on temperature and time, how is that more custom. Isn't that merely like going from the Boboli, to a boxed crust mix?
 
Nice article.
About the pizza analogy, why buy the $11,000.00 pizza oven to make everything from scratch? You can make great pizza in your home oven or on your grill.
The same goes for brewing. Why try to duplicate a commercial process in your garage? BIAB lets you make everything from scratch with a reasonable outlay of equipment. You still get full control of the process.
As to the original question, if the new brewer has someone to work with for the first brew, then all-grain is the way to go. Otherwise baby steps with extract will be less likely to turn them off from progressing.
 
Being new to brewing, i find this article right up my alley. I don't have a brewing mentor, and am left to divulge in articles like this one and forum threads and books. LOTS OF BOOKS. I started with extract kits, 2 of them actually, and will probably do a few more before I get the nerve to do my first All-Grain... although, i'm staring at this SS Brewtech Mash Tun that just got dropped off by FEDEX and i'm not sure how long i can go without using it... good article. Cheers!!
 
@thorHB
Glad it worked your you. But, "go big or go home"? Please don't tell people to go home. I would rather somebody use a Mr. Beer kit than not try this hobby at all.
 
@QuadConPana
Figure of speech. How about this: Go big or go to home brew shop and buy extract kit. I am only trying to convey that with minimal research, beginning with all-grain is totally doable.
 
I tell people to start with all grain due to the fact that it really isn't THAT much more expense and effort. It's one hose, a crappy cooler, and a washing machine hose away.
I have personally never met someone satisfied with their extract brew, whereas everyone I know who makes their first all grain beer is super excited about it.
 
Nice article.
FWIW, I've had great luck turning newbies on to brewing with a simple 2 - 3 gallon stovetop BIAB process. Nothing against extract at all but, at the risk of making a generalization, most folks end up doing all-grain anyway. A simple stovetop BIAB brew doesn't require much more in equipment than an extract batch and the ingredients are less expensive. It also gets folks learning about the mash, etc. right from the get go. I've had nothing but positive feedback from first-time brewers using this approach.
Just my two cents. Cheers and enjoy the brew.
 
@thorHB
Thanks for the clarification. I guess I'm over sensitive.
But, we've all seen people on the boards who act like extract brewers are just mixing batches of kool-aid. I just want to make sure everyone remembers that over 99% of beer drinkers have never, and will never brew a drop of beer. That puts even extract brewers into the top 1% of beer drinkers. I think you'll agree that is a much more exclusive club than the percentage of pizza eaters who've baked a frozen pizza.
If even one extract brewer quit the hobby because they were made to feel they weren't a "real homebrewer" it would be sad. Remember, they're much more of a real homebrewer than the other 99%. I know you, @thorHB, aren't trying to do that, but others have. And, I guess I just have a chip on my shoulder for those that act that way. As good as the beer is, the best part of this hobby is the sense of community that 99.9% of homebrewers represent. That's why I get sensitive when I see even a hint of exclusivity.
 
I agree that extract brewing offers a very low investment and allows a new brewer to get their feet wet with brewing before going whole hog into the hobby and getting all-grain gear.
Extract beers are also very good beers and have won awards so its not like extract batches make less stellar beer than all-grain.
The common complaint with extract is the "twang" some can taste in the extract batches. I am betting as a new brewer, you would not be able to pick the extract batch from the all-grain unless you have been making beer for quite some time.
I still to this day do an occasional extract batch from time to time between my all-grain batches when time is short or a great extract kit is on sale at the LHBS and would certainly say extracts are a great way for the new brewer to get into the hobby quickly and without alot of cash investment initially.
 
I would differently recommend extract to a starting brewer who wants to just give it a try with a marginal investment.
However, if you are like me, ie want to know everything about everything and had wanted to brew for 10 years before finally diving in, All-Grain is fine to jump right into. To date, I have not brewed a single extract batch.
If starting out all-grain, be sure to put the time in to do your research and determine what setup will work best for you prior to purchasing anything. Do you want to BIAB or use Fly/Batch sparge? Are you using burner(s)? What about your HLT and MLT? I personally spent over 40 hours doing research to settle on my initial setup. It worked great from the start.
So if you are very detail oriented and committed, I recommend at least looking into diving right in to the All-Grain scene.
Just remember, everyone is different! Happy brewing
 
Nice article...
I never get into the debate of all grain VS extract...
I think of it as a hobby we all share.
As in any hobby there are various levels to enjoy it from.
The key is to enjoy and have fun!!
 
really enjoyed this article. A friend and I have been talking about brewing for a couple weeks now.
as a seasoned craft beer drinker I felt its time and several things have come together that i'm in a place where I can brew. The question you posed has been lingering.
I'm going to go with an extract kit. Thanks for the info.
 
@QuadConPana
By todays standards we could call it 'extract shaming' and get it labeled a hate crime.
I'm going to step on a bunch of toes here, but if you can't make great beer with todays fresh and awesome array of malt extracts, then your not as good of brewer as you think you are.
Will an experienced brewer make a better all grain beer than extract? Most Likely
Will a 3 batch all grain newb out brew a 71 batch 10th level extract nerd? No
Great episode of brew strong '11-29-10 Brewing Kit Beer'
Listen to it, take the challenge, brew a great extract beer and enjoy it.
 
I go with the BIAB crowd. You can start with BIAB with only an extra outlay for a larger kettle and a bag. I did extract for many years and was usually satisfied, a few bad batches notwithstanding. When I switched to BIAB I found I had total control and could tweak to my liking. I also found that the beer was clearer and didn't have that extract twang. As for time commitment, it still takes the same 6 hours beginning to end somehow. I must have been inefficient doing extract because between the mash and the full boil it should take two hours longer doing BIAB, but it doesn't. Go figure.
Is it harder to brew this way? The only new variable is that mash temp, and holding it there. You need a beer calculator to get the right temp, and something to hold it there. Towels and a fleece jacket that fits over the kettle work for me, and I use Beersmith.
 
To me, the best argument for starting with partial extract brewing (and the reason I chose that option myself) is that it permits one to evaluate whether homebrewing is as enjoyable as it looks. If it doesn't turn out to be the right hobby for someone, it is nice to find that out before making a substantial investment. Another is that, as stated in the article, it does pretty much ensure a drinkable first brew, with the encouragement that brings to a new brewer.
It's not all black and white or "either/or" anyway. I brew all-grain (three vessel) when time permits. I brew partial extract whan it doesn't. Both result in beer and enjoyment. I plan to get around to doing a BIAB session at some point. It's a hobby; why not experience all of it?
 
Good piece, Nick. I started with extract kits, and I'm glad I did. They were easier. I did my first AG batch when it seemed to me that it would be fun. And I'm glad I did. I still do some extract recipes, and some AG. Basically, I do whatever keeps homebrewing fun.
 
i jumped in with both feet with all grain almost 1 year ago. I had no mentor, aside from HBT and John Palmer's How to Brew! about 120 hours of reading and research before i purchased a single component. 16 batches later, and an apprentice under my wing with 8 batches under his belt - i would never have gone a different route! All grain All the way.
 
Well, I guess I am just wading into the water, because I still like extract brewing. Faster, easier, less clean-up time and makes a tasty product. But, I do have other hobbies that eat my time. Standing around watching grain swell up and get warm, does not do a whole lot for me. My ego is not tied to all grain, made from scratch, total control. I like easy!
There is wine to make, fish to catch, deer to hunt, and shotguns to shoot...if I can save 8 hours, I'm gonna....just so I can waste it else where!
 
I started brewing back in February; using extract kits. Since then, I've brewed about 14 different batches, started making my own recipes, and gotten into kegging. Recently, I started working with Partial Mash techniques, and I plan to move into full-blown All-Grain brewing in the future (likely next year).
I think this article captures a lot of the reasons I started with extract kits and a lot of why I've decided to begin moving to All-Grain.
 
Nice article. I started with extract and moved to BIAB. There are still some extract recipes out there I want to try, but I like the increased creativity that BIAB allows. Even when a batch didn't come out perfect, I still made beer, and that's pretty awesome!!
 
My first few AG batches were done with a Zapap lauter tun (cost is the cost of a bucket, look it up) and no other extra equipment. Among those was the best beer I've ever made.
The only reason I switched to an igloo mash tun is because I thought it would be easier to maintain mash temps than keeping my mash in a kettle on and off the heat and constantly checking it (the igloo was tun is easier!!)
Nice writeup. THanks.
 
I started out with extract, and on the stove with five gallons kits, they said you couldn't boil g gallons on an electric stove buy I wrapped my turkey fryer pot in a silver window car shade, to help insulate the kettle and got a fine boil, I went to all grain via the aussie brew in a bag with the addition of a got 5 gallon water cooler, I have learned over time that typically for 3 gallons of water to mash my grains I nned to start with mytenperature 10 degress mor than my mash temperature, my grin bag fits nicly in my cooler held open by an elastic band, add grains and mash water and put lid on and monitor temp, I usually only loose about 2 degress over a 90 minute mash, leess on a 60 minute mash, I have a big colander I use when I lift my grain bag out and letit sit there and drain back into the cooler. then I did the aussies one better and heated up a couple more gallons on the stove to a rinse the grins in 170 degree water for 10 to 20 minutes and once again use my colander over ny brewwpot (insulated turkey fryer pot) and finish draining my grain bag, squezzing every las once of thatsweet wort out of the grains, and discard grains to my garden. I then pour in my wort from the gott cooler into my pot top off to my start boil volume and boil, on my electric stove top. when I'm done boiling I stir the pot and throw a clean towel over the pot and let it cool over night, the heat from the hot liquid kills any germs that might be present on the towel, next morning I syphon into my carboy and add yeast. I like the simplicity of this approach to allgrain and the cost as stated moving from extract to all grain was the purchase off the gott cooler, grain bag and colander
 
I'm the type to make my own sauce from tomatoes, so for me, it's all grain, all day. It's not about elitism, it's about total control being a crucial element in my personal enjoyment of the hobby.
When I was initially inspired to attempt brewing, I immediately resolved to not waste any time unnecessarily. I wasn't interested in having a few "disappointing batches" to start; I wanted to leap-frog those exercises and fast-track right to the goal of tasty homebrew beer that I could be proud of. To that end, I knew I had to be patient and front-load as much as possible in learning the fundamentals and getting the most crucial pieces of gear before attempting to brew anything. Over the course of several weeks, I read "How to Brew" cover to cover while traveling for work, lurked this forum for hours, watched Youtube videos, and ordered equipment piece by piece--including a STC-1000 controller and a beat up old fridge from a pawn shop--all before buying a single grain.
All in all, the wait time between deciding I wanted to make my own beer and pouring my very first bottle-conditioned homebrew into a glass was less than 4 months. That wait was admittedly a bit painful--especially the last few weeks while the bottles conditioned--but it was worth every last second. Would my first beer--a stout--win any competitions or get praise from a judge? The answer is, who cares! All I know is that I loved it, it was a smash hit with friends and family, and I'd put it up against anything on sale at the local liquor store. Sure, I've still lots to learn, but I accomplished my goal of great beer on the first try.
The dirty little secret is true: namely, that it's just not all that difficult to make good beer at home. In getting started, patience is a virtue, and goes a very long way. If you're the type of person that decides today they want to brew and insists on getting started a week from now, then just buy a starter kit and tub of extract from the local brew shop and follow the directions. If, on the other hand, you've got your sights set on all grain and you have the patience, space, and budget to properly prepare for success, I'd strongly urge undecided newcomers to jump right to all grain.
 
I also think its important for newbies to know the difference between extract brewing and kit brewing. They are not the same thing (like how I thought it was when I first started reading about homebrewing). Kits do contain extract malts, and the recipe, additions, and times are set for you. Extract brewing is using the extract malts, but you can still be creative! You don't need to go to all grain or even BIAB to make up your own recipes, you can do that with extract. Now you may be limited in the type of beers you can make, but you can still play with the amounts of extract, the types of extract, the hops you use, your hop addition times, dry hopping, etc.
 
suggest start with kit's understand the basic's of brewing/bottling and cleaning,when confident enough go all grain..the method you use is your choice(BIAB,3V,Grainfather).All grain might take longer but you control the process.
 
I started with extract kits, then moved to extract w/o kits, then moved to all-grain. I would do it all the same again, if I had to. Starting with extract allowed me to dial in a few key parts of the process (essentially reducing the number of variables), so I think it significantly reduced the frustration factor for me. I also was in a situation of limited space and an electric stove at the start, so it didn't make sense to assemble everything at once. I suppose I might have switched to all-grain sooner if I knew about BIAB.
Finally, my dad makes some of the best homebrew lagers and pilsners I've ever tasted--and they're all extract brews. He has spent nearly 20 years dialing in his technique, and that experience pays off!
 
I started brewing in all grain, with a one gallon equipment kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop. Not much to it - a one gallon jug for fermenting, a short racking cane and some tubing, airlock, thermometer, some other bits. I had to supply a pot and a large kitchen strainer. I've made some GREAT all grain one gallon batches in our kitchen. Check out their process, it's about the simplest method out there. Very minimal equipment. And starting out like this was much less intimidating and less commitment than 5 gallon equipment - false bottoms (what's that?), large carboys, kettles, etc. I could piece together a one gallon kit rather easily now, but when I started I bought theirs since I didn't know what I was getting into. Along with the equipment came the first bag of crushed malt I had ever seen. It really puts you in touch with beer making from scratch, right off the bat. I have since gotten the equipment and make 5+ gallon batches now, and I absolutely LOVE the process of the mash. But it was that first time I saw the bubbles during active fermentation in that gallon jug when I got hooked. I can crank out a one gallon all grain batch like nothing now, I can even get one done in the time I have after work, and will be doing them as a source of top crop fresh bottling yeast for my current 5 gal batches(and get 9-10 bonus bottles as a bonus). My next door neighbor's lady just got him a one gallon setup for his b-day. I showed him how to do a one gallon batch a little while back, my own recipe, and it turned out the best stout I have ever made. Too bad only 8 bottles.
PS - I've been reading Homebrewtalk for a while now, just joined today.
 
I'm new to home brewing, I've made hard cider in the past but that was many years ago, I was 21 and I had mixed results. I very luckily have an extremely talented mentor so I'm going to be going from 0 to all grain immediately (actually waiting for FedEx to deliver my fermenter as I type this). I do have to say that to do the entire process from "scratch" requires far more equipment than I had expected. I never considered the kegging equipment (I hate bottling), the propane equipment, the CO2 equipment, water filter, stir plate, pumps, grain mills, etc. But despite all of this I'm still super excited about finally having my first brew day. As stated in this article having a guide or mentor truly helps. Great article!
 
All-Grain doesn't have to be expensive; two 5 gallon buckets and one spigot make a Zapap tun. Buying a turkey fryer setup on clearance after Thanksgiving will give you a 30 quart pot and a 50K BTU burner, mine cost me $20.00. Want to try BIAB, go to your local HD or Lowes and buy a two pack of paint strainers for less than $5.00. I have won a Best of Category award using my Zapap and my re-purposed turkey fryer, so it isn't all about money to make great beer.I started making partial mash batches with extracts, and when I compared the cost of extract vs. All-Grain, and being on a limited budget, A-G was around 30% less expensive. I already had a 22 quart pasta pot so I jumped in and never looked back. If you missed the earlier post regarding extract "twang" please read this: John Palmer has won national competitions using all extract recipes, so no more extract trashing, okay?
 
Top