Author Topic: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...  (Read 981 times)

Offline jherzjherz

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Help Ask: Newbies and Exract vs. Partial Grain. 1-gallon vs. 3 and 5...

Ok ya all. As somebody literally devoted to growing the hobby of homebrewing (full disclosure I'm the new American Homebrewers Association Executive Director, and a homebrewer since 21 years of age still to this day brewing all grain, paritial and extract batched) I keep bumping up against the age old topic of all extract vs partial grain brewing and volume amounts too. <Also let's not distract the convo with all grain - hang with me please.>

Newbies are more apt to try anything the less overwhelming, right? So adding grain into a first batch of beer, to some, is another step where we may be losing people. Plus 1-gallon vs. 3 or 5 is more mentally and physically aproachable.

The reason I ask all this is I'm truely looking at where, 2022 and beyond, we can take the hobby and art of brewing beer at home. What I've caught is there is a big stigma to extract brewing when I don't get why. Nobody asks me how I grew my tomatoes (from seed vs getting a starter plant at the garden store). As long as we each produce quality isn't the method simply personal choice?

Homebrewing, just like any generational, cultural hobby merits inspiring newbies. So...what are your thoughts and for those mentor homebrewers out there what method have you found best when doing a demonstration for a newbie?

Cheers and good beers to all,
Julia
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Offline Ron756

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2022, 10:34:42 am »
Julia,
Good questions and I will give a relatively new guy perspective (started home brewing later in life).
I started with a 1 gallon kit.  It was relatively simple, could be made in my wife's stock pot, and came out drinkable.  After about three batches this way I got ambitious and went for all grain.  Ended up tossing several batches (life is too short to drink bad beer.)  What I learned.  Small batchs (1 gallon / 5–6-liter range) is not well suited for all grain.  The variability in the ability get the sugars out of the grain make it challenging.  Now I will admit my lack of experience is a likely contributor to my challenges with all grain.
In the end, I have had the best success with partial extract brewing in small batches. 
Size, I bias to smaller batches.  My kids are out of the house and so it is just two of us mostly drinking the beer I brew.  Small batches also allow for more variety given our slow consumption rate.  I like the about 5-liter range because my bar-top dispenser takes 5L mini-kegs. 

BL:  Smaller batches allow greater variety for slow consumers.  Extract appears to be a little more consistent for a relatively new brewer making small batches.
Cheers,
Ron

Offline denny

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2022, 10:56:52 am »
Drew and I have an article in the next BYO about extract brewing. We advocate it as the best way to learn the basics a step at a time. The stigma about extract brewing comes from AG brewers trying to show they're "better" than the newbies. What needs to happen, for one, is to show new brewers the best way to brew extract.
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Offline Megary

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2022, 11:26:14 am »

Nobody asks me how I grew my tomatoes (from seed vs getting a starter plant at the garden store). As long as we each produce quality isn't the method simply personal choice?


I think a better analogy would be making homemade tomato sauce vs. opening a jar of Prego.  Both ways can be good, bad or indifferent.  But one is more personal and probably a little more gratifying, especially if the cook/brewer created the recipe on their own.

That's the only difference I see.

I think a new brewer needs only to understand that brewing can be as simple or as complex as they want to make it.  Neither way guarantees better results.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2022, 12:24:54 pm by Megary »

Offline Steve Ruch

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2022, 12:15:48 pm »
Drew and I have an article in the next BYO about extract brewing. We advocate it as the best way to learn the basics a step at a time. The stigma about extract brewing comes from AG brewers trying to show they're "better" than the newbies. What needs to happen, for one, is to show new brewers the best way to brew extract.
Extract is a great way to make good beer. I now have a mill and will be mostly all-grain brewing, but will still do the occasional extract batch.
And my brewing on a budget article in the May/Jun Zymurgy shows that it can be done without breaking the bank.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2022, 12:18:54 pm by Steve Ruch »
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2022, 12:37:25 pm »
So you want to make homebrewing easier and more approachable, while remaining high enough quality that newbies will stick around.  I have many ideas.

Batch size – A new standard 2.5 to 3 gallon batch size I think is better than either 5 gallons or 1 to 1.5 gallons.  Why?  Any batch size of 3 gallons or less can be done easily on the stovetop using soup kettles that the brewer likely already has in their possession, or is easy to get for cheap.  No real fancy equipment is required.  Brewer can easily upgrade to partial mash to full mash as BIAB.  The thing with 2.5 gallons or greater is that the brewer will get a full case to reward their labors, rather than just the 6 to 12 bottles that a 1-1.5 gallon batch will give.  Also, one pack of any yeast is almost always close to the perfect amount for 2.5-3 gallons without being a severe overpitch (like for 1-1.5 gallons) or underpitch (5+ gallons).  So, not only is this just plain easy, it can also improve yeast performance, and thus, final beer quality.  Speaking of which…

Overall, I think one of the other most important things is to aim to provide generally better quality ingredient kits.  What do I mean, how?  Well…

1)   A lot of the potential issues with newbie beer quality can be narrowed down to over-utilization of one single ingredient: LME.  If there is a stigma against extract brewing -- and I do think there is -- it is rightly so, and I think it often/usually comes from using LME.  From the moment LME is manufactured, it is beginning to oxidize, stale, and darken.  The flavors after a couple weeks on the shelf are not the same as the day it was manufactured.  But freshness within a couple of weeks of manufacture until brew day is rare, if it happens at all.  Several months later, the extract is quite a bit darker and has a consistently stale caramel-like flavor.  Complaints from newbs along the lines of "all my beers taste the same" might today be less common than they were 20 years ago, but undoubtedly are, or in my experience should be, still happening.

If homebrewers could press/demand that kit-makers and extract manufacturers have DME become much more common and less expensive (if feasible), such issues would become more rare, and thus, newbies might think wow this first batch sure came out great, I am going to stick with the hobby.  Not to mention, in some ways, DME is even easier to measure and use than LME anyway.

2)   Similarly, every ingredient kit in existence should contain one Campden tablet, with explicit instructions to pre-treat the water before it touches any malt.  Chlorophenolic problems would no longer exist.  But, what if the brewer is not using municipally chlorinated water?  Oh well, there would be no harm no foul in adding the Campden regardless.  Provision and use of Campden should become habitual, as it would prevent so many common problems with medicinal Band-Aid flavors, and which plague not just newbies, but even intermediate or advanced level brewers on occasion if we forget to keep the chlorine out.

So, there's my 2 cents.  If you don’t need 2 cents, neither do I.  Cheers.  :)
Dave

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Offline dannyjed

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2022, 01:50:02 pm »
So you want to make homebrewing easier and more approachable, while remaining high enough quality that newbies will stick around.  I have many ideas.

Batch size – A new standard 2.5 to 3 gallon batch size I think is better than either 5 gallons or 1 to 1.5 gallons.  Why?  Any batch size of 3 gallons or less can be done easily on the stovetop using soup kettles that the brewer likely already has in their possession, or is easy to get for cheap.  No real fancy equipment is required.  Brewer can easily upgrade to partial mash to full mash as BIAB.  The thing with 2.5 gallons or greater is that the brewer will get a full case to reward their labors, rather than just the 6 to 12 bottles that a 1-1.5 gallon batch will give.  Also, one pack of any yeast is almost always close to the perfect amount for 2.5-3 gallons without being a severe overpitch (like for 1-1.5 gallons) or underpitch (5+ gallons).  So, not only is this just plain easy, it can also improve yeast performance, and thus, final beer quality.  Speaking of which…

Overall, I think one of the other most important things is to aim to provide generally better quality ingredient kits.  What do I mean, how?  Well…

1)   A lot of the potential issues with newbie beer quality can be narrowed down to over-utilization of one single ingredient: LME.  If there is a stigma against extract brewing -- and I do think there is -- it is rightly so, and I think it often/usually comes from using LME.  From the moment LME is manufactured, it is beginning to oxidize, stale, and darken.  The flavors after a couple weeks on the shelf are not the same as the day it was manufactured.  But freshness within a couple of weeks of manufacture until brew day is rare, if it happens at all.  Several months later, the extract is quite a bit darker and has a consistently stale caramel-like flavor.  Complaints from newbs along the lines of "all my beers taste the same" might today be less common than they were 20 years ago, but undoubtedly are, or in my experience should be, still happening.

If homebrewers could press/demand that kit-makers and extract manufacturers have DME become much more common and less expensive (if feasible), such issues would become more rare, and thus, newbies might think wow this first batch sure came out great, I am going to stick with the hobby.  Not to mention, in some ways, DME is even easier to measure and use than LME anyway.

2)   Similarly, every ingredient kit in existence should contain one Campden tablet, with explicit instructions to pre-treat the water before it touches any malt.  Chlorophenolic problems would no longer exist.  But, what if the brewer is not using municipally chlorinated water?  Oh well, there would be no harm no foul in adding the Campden regardless.  Provision and use of Campden should become habitual, as it would prevent so many common problems with medicinal Band-Aid flavors, and which plague not just newbies, but even intermediate or advanced level brewers on occasion if we forget to keep the chlorine out.

So, there's my 2 cents.  If you don’t need 2 cents, neither do I.  Cheers.  :)
What he said ^
Also, I still think starting out with extracts is great way to get into the hobby. I made good extract batches when I first started over 15 years ago which kept me interested enough to move on to all grain. I think the simplicity of BIAB has made it easy for newbies to start out with all grain from the beginning.


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Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2022, 02:00:24 pm »
I agree about the need to interest new participants in the hobby.  (I never seem to have a problem finding beer drinkers - its the makers who don't seem to show up at my garage very often).  What should be stressed is use of ultra-fresh ingredients (mostly the same as what Dave said, but not necessarily as strongly insistent on avoiding LME) and suitable dry yeasts (liquid yeast seems a bit finicky at times for novice handlers and there are now so many good dry alternatives available).

Lastly, drinking beer while it is fresh and keeping it carbonated after bottling (also move to kegging when able to allow for oxygen free transfers); older brewers can consider giving used and unneeded excess equipment to new brewers through club participation.  Just my 2 Lincolns and likely worth much less than Dave's points.
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Offline Drewch

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2022, 02:36:23 pm »
I'm relatively new to the hobby, also.  I'm gonna mostly agree with dmtaylor, with a couple of additions:

I know it's not very 'Murkin, but go metric.  5-10L kits rather than 1, 2, or 3 gallons. Metric makes everything easier as soon as you start trying to measure stuff.

A 5L BIAB (mash in the oven and boil on the stovetop) or DME kit with amber PET bottles would be about the lowest barrier to entry I can imagine.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2022, 02:58:13 pm by Drewch »
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Offline Skeeter686

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2022, 03:51:37 pm »
I do like dmtaylor's thoughts, especially around batch size.  When I started a couple years ago, I started with the simplest kit I could find, just so that I could get the logistics figured out.  A smaller batch size would have probably made that unnecessary and would have had me brewing sooner because of the lower cost of entry.  Also, if you can use household cookware and don't need dedicated equipment, that's less stuff to find storage room for.

I have had some great success with kits, including extract kits.  And now that I've been sucked in, I prefer the 5-gal batch size for most recipes.

I wonder... for kits, which I assume most folks start out with, how hard would it be to design the kits so that you could do either 2 2.5-gal batches or a single 5-gal batch?  Might make it easier for retailers if they don't have to stock two sizes for everything.

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Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2022, 04:05:19 pm »
I do like dmtaylor's thoughts, especially around batch size.  When I started a couple years ago, I started with the simplest kit I could find, just so that I could get the logistics figured out.  A smaller batch size would have probably made that unnecessary and would have had me brewing sooner because of the lower cost of entry.  Also, if you can use household cookware and don't need dedicated equipment, that's less stuff to find storage room for.

I have had some great success with kits, including extract kits.  And now that I've been sucked in, I prefer the 5-gal batch size for most recipes.

I wonder... for kits, which I assume most folks start out with, how hard would it be to design the kits so that you could do either 2 2.5-gal batches or a single 5-gal batch?  Might make it easier for retailers if they don't have to stock two sizes for everything.

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I could see a "double batch" kit for 5 gallons in total, so it could be packaged with two separate halves of the same recipe.  That way if you want to make a "5" you use it all, but you can flex to a "2.5" and use the other half later, if that is all you want at the moment.  I probably shouldn't comment too much, however, as I make 5 and 10 gallon batches (virtually always all grain).  I do care to see the hobby (and AHA and clubs) grow, though.
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Offline Drewch

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2022, 05:13:50 pm »
It would depend on how much you wanted to optimize the kit for the smaller batch --- the size of fermenter & number of bottles wd differ.
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Offline RC

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2022, 07:11:23 pm »

A lot of the potential issues with newbie beer quality can be narrowed down to over-utilization of one single ingredient: LME.  If there is a stigma against extract brewing -- and I do think there is -- it is rightly so, and I think it often/usually comes from using LME.  From the moment LME is manufactured, it is beginning to oxidize, stale, and darken.  The flavors after a couple weeks on the shelf are not the same as the day it was manufactured.  But freshness within a couple of weeks of manufacture until brew day is rare, if it happens at all.  Several months later, the extract is quite a bit darker and has a consistently stale caramel-like flavor.  Complaints from newbs along the lines of "all my beers taste the same" might today be less common than they were 20 years ago, but undoubtedly are, or in my experience should be, still happening.


Spot on about LME. My advice to new homebrewers is to start with extract but avoid LME at all costs. Always use DME. Every once in a great while I do an LME brew, to see if the situation has improved, and it always turns out to be a dumper. The same recipe with DME, and all else being equal, wins awards.

The stigma against extract brewing may be because old farts like me started out brewing with LME and made terrible beer (I don't recall if DME was available in the mid-90s). To be fair, this could very well have been because dry yeast at the time was also bad. Nonetheless, LME + age+ warm storage = bad beer. The high water content of LME = poor shelf life.

But if you ask me the biggest reason newbies tend to make bad beer, regardless of extract type, is because they do not have good temp control for the fermentation. They are just starting out in the hobby and don't necessarily have a fermentation chamber plugged into a temp controller. This is a HUGE hurdle. Sure, newbies could be advised to use kweik yeast so they don't have to worry all that much about temp control, but I'll pass on drinking an IPA that was fermented in a 78-degree closet, especially if it was a kweik yeast. Granted, temp control is less of a concern for a 1-gal batch than a 5-gal batch because of SA:vol ratio, but it's still a concern.

The temp issue is somewhat the fault of yeast mfrs. When Wyeast says you can ferment a 1056 beer up at up to 72 degrees, for example, they don't clarify that this refers to the max temp of the fermenting wort inside the fermenter, not the max temp of ambient air temp inside the closet. Cue the extreme attenuation and ethyl acetate and fusel alcohols.

And so newbies make marginal or bad beer and ask themselves, why would I want to keep doing this? It's a very logical question to ask. It doesn't help if they read "it's so easy to make good beer at home!" Actually no, it's not. It takes a lot of time and care and at least some specialized equipment, and if the product sucks, I don't blame newbies for not sticking with it after a few attempts. If I'm told over and over that I can make a canoe from a log using just a chainsaw, but then the canoe doesn't float or tips over, then forget it, I'll just buy a canoe.

To get good at something, you have to practice it. Millenials don't have the patience--and, to be fair, perhaps not the time--to actually learn, over time, how to do something well. And it doesn't help that the homebrewing industry misrepresents how challenging it is to make really good beer at home, beer that one would actually pay for.

To you Julia, a philosophical question: What if the hobby has grown all it is going to grow, and it is at a more or less permanent plateau? Old guys like me ascend to the hop fields in the sky, someone replaces us, and the number of homebrewers stays more or less constant. Would this be a bad thing? Why is "growth" an imperative? Is there anything wrong with staying the same size and simply "maintaining"?

Offline Skeeter686

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2022, 07:46:41 pm »


And so newbies make marginal or bad beer and ask themselves, why would I want to keep doing this? It's a very logical question to ask. It doesn't help if they read "it's so easy to make good beer at home!" Actually no, it's not. It takes a lot of time and care and at least some specialized equipment, and if the product sucks, I don't blame newbies for not sticking with it after a few attempts.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but why did you originally get into home brewing? 

I was looking for a hobby and this fit the bill: cooking, science and beer. 

Also, I felt that it would be a great way for me to build my appreciation of beer and to become better acquainted with the different styles.  I was hoping that it would help me to be better at evaluating beer and picking out different flavors and attributes.

But I wasn't expecting to be brewing, on my first batch, a beer that I would gladly pay a premium for at a bar.   I expected it to be a journey where I would learn and improve my skills. 

Then again, when I got into it, I basically "knew what I liked" but I certainly don't pretend to be a qualified beer judge or anything.  You may have started from a much different position than I. 

You sound like someone who has been brewing for a long time, so I'm wondering if you've been doing it so long that you don't remember how exciting it was to brew something that tasted only "OK" but was a beer that you actually made, yourself.  My first kit wasn't spectacular by any means, but it was certainly good enough to keep me interested in learning more. 

I guess I'm far from a millennial at this point, but I'm really enjoying this hobby and if it seemed too intimidating at the beginning, I might not have started.  And I would really regret that now.

I'd also like to go on the record and state that my LME kits were the least spectacular, but they weren't undrinkable.  (For me, anyway.)

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Offline fredthecat

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Re: Need your input: Extract vs partial grain/1-gallon vs 3 and 5...
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2022, 08:33:43 pm »
re: julia's original comments on "stigma around extract and don't know why" - an experienced homebrewer can make a good beer with LME or DME (selected carefully through experience and knowledge of product data as well). a complete newbie may end up with a first beer from LME that has a painfully high FG, extract burnt on the bottom of pot, easier to incorrectly measure extract and end up with a much higher or lower SG. even barring these problems, it can end up bland, flat, stale or with mineral issues (i stand by my experience with and explanation of of a certain major brand's DME mineral content issues).

I know people use DME and have no problems, but the brand I have access to for a decent price is unusable, and so I only use it for starters now, not even adding gravity points to a bigger beer anymore. I wouldn't just be so pro-DME. as well I find i can be very, very bland when its a super pale/pilsner grade.

I don't see the need to push for extract when IMHO if i saw that someone wasn't super broke and had a legitimate interest in homebrewing i would tell them to try an all-in-one system designed for grain. i feel like it's never been easier for a newbie to break into using all or mostly grain for a beer and hit their metrics. i know who will disagree and how, but imho beers made with more or all-grain end up better than the extract beers i make.

re: dmtaylor and campden tablet - absolutely. very big.


I could see a "double batch" kit for 5 gallons in total, so it could be packaged with two separate halves of the same recipe.  That way if you want to make a "5" you use it all, but you can flex to a "2.5" and use the other half later, if that is all you want at the moment.  I probably shouldn't comment too much, however, as I make 5 and 10 gallon batches (virtually always all grain).  I do care to see the hobby (and AHA and clubs) grow, though.

the first kits i used were boxes full of concentrated wort (something like 12 litres in a plastic bag you were supposed to add 10 litres of water to), then boil with hops and stuff. but most were designed with that option of just adding ~4 litres (i cant remember exactly) of water to make a stronger beer of smaller batch size or the full volume at a lower gravity (which was still ~1.05 i believe). i did 3 of those kits i think and they were even easier than measuring LME because they werent super sticky/syrupy and difficult to deal with and even less measuring involved. it got me started and excited about beer for sure.

re: RC - i know what you mean, a lot of young people (people who are CURRENTLY young - i believe people under age 40 could easily change their behaviour as they age) just don't get the whole concept of making something of your own/"from scratch" even though they have more "choices" to purchase than ever before. its just a very small percentage of people, not to mention the vast majority of people have pretty poor palates in terms of food and drink.
i feel like the biggest "wow" factor that impresses people i give a beer to is that i can see it is something better and very different from what is available at the store (our craft here is really limited and lame). so while it would take them a long time to get to any level like that i do enjoy planting the seed that you can make much better beer than commercially available even if likely they do not get actively into it. kind of slowly spreading the info that homebrew can be VERY good.

i actually do it for thrift and quality. i enjoy the money i save in making a good beer, that i don't have to pay crazy and unreasonable set store prices for. most people are very bad with money and simply don't ever think of true cost/value.