Author Topic: Quality of All grain vs. Extract  (Read 1310 times)

Offline flbrewer

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Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« on: March 20, 2014, 05:05:57 PM »
Surely this hasn't been discussed here before, but I'm curious to know your thoughts on this...given two brewers with the same skill level who do the same recipe (one all grain, the other extract) how much different will the quality of the final product be?
I know there are variables, but can an excellent extract brewer make a beer taste as good as an excellent all grain brewer? I'm guessing the problem for the extract brewer is the limitation on recipes.

« Last Edit: March 20, 2014, 06:58:52 PM by FLbrewer »

Offline Steve in TX

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2014, 05:09:12 PM »
You just opened Pandora's box.

All I will say, plenty of people have won ribbons with extract.

Offline flbrewer

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2014, 05:10:10 PM »
yeah, I figured this would get a few responses.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2014, 05:23:06 PM »
I made some pretty good beers with extract/steeping grains. But you have so much more freedom and control with AG. Most extracts aren't as fermentable and even the palest have varying amounts of crystal/dextrin present, which can be difficult to judge as you add your own specialty malts. The control you have by choosing your own malts and mashing them at the temp you want just can't be duplicated with extract for many styles. You can control your own water chemistry with AG as opposed to extract, where the manufacturer has decided that for you.
Jon H.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2014, 07:00:41 PM »
You can make great beer with extract.  However you also need to use a good proportion of grains to make it taste grainy at all, otherwise it just tastes kind of bland and lacking oomph.  It's like making "milk" out of powdered milk.  Might have all the same vitamins and minerals as real milk, but it sure as heck doesn't taste like real milk, because something is lost in all the processing.

I do think it's possible to make great extract beers.  However, it requires real skill.  I think the best extract brewer in the world might be about as good as a novice all-grain brewer.  In other words, it's easier to make great all-grain beer than with extract.  Great extract brewing requires some skill and know-how.  All-grain, well, yeah, you need to know the basics, but if you know how to steep grains at all, any schmuck can make great beer with the BIAB method, if not a mash and sparge.

Okay, I think I've made my points 5 different ways now = enough.  :)
Dave

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Offline deathlylost

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2014, 10:53:31 PM »
I don't know if I should be insulted for being called a novice all-grain brewer or complimented on being the best extract brewer. :P

Really though, I've made some decent extract brews, but I like having control, and you can get way more of that with all grain. I also like a good challenge. My equipment doesn't allow for too big of an all-grain batch, so if I want to make big beers, I have to use extract anyway. I guess I really use extract as a filler. I try not to use it for more than 25% of my bill.


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Offline erockrph

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2014, 05:07:13 AM »
For styles that are heavy on specialty grain and/or hops, a well-made extract beer would be very hard to distinguish from an all-grain version in a blind tasting, IMO. From a quality standpoint, if you pay close attention to fermentation and sanitation, and use the freshest extract you can get your hands on (for LME especially), then your extract beers will be damn good.

There are some styles that you would have a real difficult time brewing with extract. Dunkel is the first example that comes to mind, since I know of no Dark Munich extracts out there. Any base-malt forward style is going to be tough to brew using extract. But IPA's, APA's, Stouts, Porters and so on will come pretty close to all-grain versions if handled correctly. I still brew almost half of my IPA's using extract, and all of my 1-gallon test batches of APA for sampling new hops.
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Offline bigchicken

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2014, 07:59:30 AM »


In other words, it's easier to make great all-grain beer than with extract.  Great extract brewing requires some skill and know-how.  All-grain, well, yeah, you need to know the basics, but if you know how to steep grains at all, any schmuck can make great beer with the BIAB method, if not a mash and sparge.


These are my thoughts exactly. Most of us start out in extract brewing, but jump to all grain for more freedom and control. My first all grain BIAB was as good as my best extract beer. If I hadn't made the jump, I probably would have given up. I had great difficulty in finding consistency with extract brews. LME age and ingredient breakdown always had me guessing. I really respect extract brewers that can consistently make great beers.
TJ Cook
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2014, 08:13:49 AM »
It's all extract brewing,  just a question of who's doing the extracting

Offline restlesnativ

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2014, 09:26:56 AM »
It's all extract brewing,  just a question of who's doing the extracting

Ha!! That's what I tell anyone who asks. I usually get blanks stares or furious words hurled my way.

Offline flbrewer

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2014, 09:33:10 AM »


In other words, it's easier to make great all-grain beer than with extract.  Great extract brewing requires some skill and know-how.  All-grain, well, yeah, you need to know the basics, but if you know how to steep grains at all, any schmuck can make great beer with the BIAB method, if not a mash and sparge.


These are my thoughts exactly. Most of us start out in extract brewing, but jump to all grain for more freedom and control. My first all grain BIAB was as good as my best extract beer. If I hadn't made the jump, I probably would have given up. I had great difficulty in finding consistency with extract brews. LME age and ingredient breakdown always had me guessing. I really respect extract brewers that can consistently make great beers.

This is what I was looking for, thank you!

Offline jeffy

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2014, 01:38:45 PM »


In other words, it's easier to make great all-grain beer than with extract.  Great extract brewing requires some skill and know-how.  All-grain, well, yeah, you need to know the basics, but if you know how to steep grains at all, any schmuck can make great beer with the BIAB method, if not a mash and sparge.


These are my thoughts exactly. Most of us start out in extract brewing, but jump to all grain for more freedom and control. My first all grain BIAB was as good as my best extract beer. If I hadn't made the jump, I probably would have given up. I had great difficulty in finding consistency with extract brews. LME age and ingredient breakdown always had me guessing. I really respect extract brewers that can consistently make great beers.

This is what I was looking for, thank you!

I had the opportunity to judge best of show at the NHC in Oakland several years ago and we picked a smoke beer as the Ninkasi winner.  Turns out it was an extract beer.  So there you have it.
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
Homebrewing since 1990
AHA member since 1991, now a lifetime member
BJCP judge since 1995

Offline denny

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2014, 02:01:27 PM »
Several years ago I was on a BOS panel that picked an extract dopplebock.
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Offline alestateyall

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2014, 04:59:29 PM »

Most of us start out in extract brewing, but jump to all grain for more freedom and control.

Honestly, I think I switched to all grain because that's the path everyone else takes. I read all about all grain on threads like this one before switching, but, I didn't completely understand the arguments for all grain until I had 6 months of all grain batches under my belt.

After you've been an all grain brewer for a while go back and brew an extract. It will be great. It's a natural progression. You are a better brewer from all your experience and the thing that experience has taught you (full boils, temp control, yeast starters, mash PH control, aeration, etc). All those things you learn a long the way will make your extract beer great too (with the exception of mash ph control which Briess does for you with extract).


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Offline wsoublo

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Re: Quality of All grain vs. Extract
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2014, 05:44:05 PM »
I'd argue some people will make worse beer when switching to all grain.  If you have moderate akalinity in your brewing water, you will undoubtedly make worse beer if you do not control your mash and sparge pH.  I've tasted several all grain homebrews that have a noticeable astringent after taste.