Author Topic: Extract to All Grain???  (Read 2076 times)

Offline cycleak

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Extract to All Grain???
« on: September 10, 2011, 09:37:26 PM »
Aloha from Hawaii fellow beer enthusiasts!  I am possibly considering going from extract to all-grain but just wanted to post a question.  Is there really a difference in quality of beer from brewing extract versus all grain?  I just brewed my 31st batch of beer, German Kolsch (extract with steeping grains) and it came out exceptional.  I have also had two beers that have won a Gold and Bronze medal in a Homebrew Competiton that were placed up against beer brewed with the all-grain method. I look forward to your hearing your comments.  And, all comments are welcome!!!   Mahalo!

Offline jamminbrew

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2011, 10:05:15 PM »
I think it is a close call. I've made, and have drank some exceptional brews from extract. Over all, I think all grain ferments more fully, and more clear, than extracts. But for me, it's really more about the love of the process than any added benefit. If you make beer that you're happy with using extracts, then keep brewing that way.  Or do both. Homebrewing is ultimately about making beer your way. As long as you're happy with the results...
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2011, 11:07:21 PM »
I think you'll have to try it and judge for yourself.  It gives you more flexibility and more control over your recipes, but it is not automatically better to brew all-grain.  Since I switched I won't go back, but some people do.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline The Professor

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2011, 11:11:59 PM »
Nowadays I think it is safe to say that you can consistently make equally good beer from extract as from grain (believe me, that wasn't always the case).  The quality of the extract brew hinges mainly on using very fresh extract and good yeast...both of which are now far more readily available than anytime in the past.

That said, I switched to exclusively all grain many years ago (more than 20) when I sat down and did the math regarding costs per batch.   An extract batch that today costs $30+ to make can certailnly be made from all grain for 1/2 to 1/3 of that amount (and really,  even less for certain beers). 
My initial investment in equipment for all grain was well less than  $200 (home made electric keggle, Gott cooler mash tun, a counterflow wort chiller, and a Rube Goldberg assortment of quick connects to make it all easier)...and it is the same system I've been brewing on since the late 1980s.  I've only replaced the 220V/3000W heating element once since that time.  I'll replace my original cooler mash tun later this month.  So I'll sink only another $50 into the existing system.  Not bad after 20+years!
Even in the first year (factoring in the cost of initially setting up) I came out significantly ahead dollar-wise over my previous extract brews.

Basically, if cost is no object and you can consistently get fresh extract, you'll probably be perfectly happy with the results.
But if you brew a lot and  like the idea of saving a significant amount of money per brew,  and also  like the idea of having more control over the result, then extract is definitely the way to go.

For whatever it's worth, I've been homebrewing for 40 years...and the first 15 years of that was pretty much extract brewing.  I was happy with the beer.  I switched because I wanted to get more 'hands on' with the process and also save a good deal of money at the same time.
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Offline euge

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2011, 11:49:57 PM »
Fresh extract makes excellent beer-especially with experience under the belt. My opinion: it's ok to just brew with extract. All grain brewing is not for everyone. Do not feel that one must transition to this level of brewing. I'd advise learning how to keg and balance a system before making a move into the all grain process.

However, it is brewing in the truest sense. You can call yourself a Brewer with pride! The individual is responsible for taking care of all the many variables that affect the finished. This is where the science, art, technique, equipment, technology and ingredients all come into play. Simply having the wrong sort of water can complicate things greatly, whereas with extract the beer would be fine.

We're here should you decide to take the plunge.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline kgs

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2011, 05:46:49 AM »
It sounds as if you have already conquered some key process challenges with brewing--sanitation, fermentation control, organization, etc. My guess is all-grain will not be hugely challenging to you, and it's likely you will enjoy it.

If you're tight with other brewers, perhaps you can brew with someone first or borrow key equipment  (mash tun, kettle, burner) for a trial all-grain brew. The setup isn't hugely expensive, but you could get an idea if you really care about the difference before you invest.

I'm experimenting with extract brewing after a couple of years of all-grain brewing, and I agree that extract brewing is more expensive recipe-per-recipe, and it's less flexible than all-grain. Plus it is very satisfying to pour a glass of beer that you brewed yourself from the grain up. Then again, so much of brewing has to do with processes other than the point where malted barley yields up its sugars.
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Offline bonjour

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2011, 06:19:54 AM »
I think you'll have to try it and judge for yourself.  It gives you more flexibility and more control over your recipes, but it is not automatically better to brew all-grain.  Since I switched I won't go back, but some people do.
+1
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Offline hokerer

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2011, 07:45:26 AM »
You can make perfectly good beer using extract.  The biggest benefit I see in all-grain is the control that it gives you.  You and only you decide what malts go into your beer.
Joe

Offline firedog23

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2011, 12:19:34 AM »
I find more enjoyment from all grain but that is from my desire to be creative and have complete ownership of my beer. The idea of taking it from grain to beer and all the steps in-between appeals to me and the smell of the mash works for me.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2011, 07:14:45 AM »
There are some really nice LMEs available these days, stuff that includes your crystal and some specialty malt.  There are Munich and rye LMEs now to go along with the standard offerings so a greater range of styles is possible.  Throw in a mini-mash and I think you can produce a fine example of almost all styles using an extract base.

AG is more fun to mess with though.  I do this for a hobby so the time spent researching and executing a recipe is actually the reason for me doing it, rather than a means to an end.  The beer is just a bonus to some degree.
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Offline jvr1010

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2011, 10:41:03 AM »
Just remember that it's a fun hobby.  I think my all-grain come out better, however, my issue is finding the time due to having children.  If you've won a few medals already, you won't have any issues going all-grain.
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Offline evbeer

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2011, 05:40:50 AM »
I have been brewing happily with extract for 3 years or so, but 2 weeks ago I made the jump to all grain. I've made two batches the last 2 weekends so although I haven't tried the finished product I can give a few points to consider. The main one is it takes a lot more time with mashing and just the clean up of my mash tun and keggle takes considerably longer. Also I'm bending over a lot more than just standing in front of a stove top, so my back hurt a bit from all the bending. My wife thinks its more effort than its worth, but I really have enjoyed it. Despite the little bit of back pain and the added time for mashing & cleaning I'm so glad I made the switch. It almost feels a little more rewarding, to start with a bag of grains and end up with a full carboy of beautiful wort. This isn't to say that I'll never brew extract again; I still find it rewarding and can see myself doing it still on a day when I don't have the time to do all grain but I still want to brew. It is an extra investment in time and equipment but I think you'll find it worth the time and effort.
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Offline rjharper

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2011, 07:37:43 AM »
I have been brewing happily with extract for 3 years or so, but 2 weeks ago I made the jump to all grain. I've made two batches the last 2 weekends so although I haven't tried the finished product I can give a few points to consider. The main one is it takes a lot more time with mashing and just the clean up of my mash tun and keggle takes considerably longer. Also I'm bending over a lot more than just standing in front of a stove top, so my back hurt a bit from all the bending. My wife thinks its more effort than its worth, but I really have enjoyed it. Despite the little bit of back pain and the added time for mashing & cleaning I'm so glad I made the switch. It almost feels a little more rewarding, to start with a bag of grains and end up with a full carboy of beautiful wort. This isn't to say that I'll never brew extract again; I still find it rewarding and can see myself doing it still on a day when I don't have the time to do all grain but I still want to brew. It is an extra investment in time and equipment but I think you'll find it worth the time and effort.

+1
After 6 years of extract I switched to AG.  I really enjoy the process, I like the total control I have on recipes, and my first few batches have tasted really good, but its a long day, lots of cleaning, and its a little more physically demanding than just stirring a pot on the turkey fryer.  That said, no regrets.  I'll still do extract for a couple of my favorite recipes, and when I don't have time for a full brew day.

Offline wingnut

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2011, 01:18:57 PM »
Similar to everyone else...I love the extra control.  However, with more control comes more variables to keep track of and compensate for.  The good news is that all grain brewing is a very forgiving process, so as long as you are close, you will not notice any difference between batches.  I switched about four or five years ago, and I love it.  However, I have converted some of my recipes back to extract so that I can brew them up in a shorter brew day.

I would advise you to jump in and enjoy doing a few batches and then see for yourself which makes sense to you.
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Offline malzig

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Re: Extract to All Grain???
« Reply #14 on: September 17, 2011, 07:46:11 AM »
It sounds like you are making pretty good extract beer.  I never had much luck with extract, maybe I never got the good stuff.  I never made better than okay extract beers, but think I make decent all-grain beer and get good scores in competition, when I stick to style.  For me, the choice is obvious.

Recently, when a friend said that he was interested in starting to brew but wanted to go with extract, I tried converting a couple of my Lager recipes that he likes to extract, using Breiss Pilsner DME and Munich LME.  All those batches had the same under-fermented and over-caramelized flavors that I remembered.  I know that my friend doesn't like residual sweetness in beer, so I gave up.  If he was interested in making Pale Ales, the flavors would probably be passable.

I probably should have known that I wouldn't like the Munich Extract, because I don't like Breiss Munich Malt.  I was surprised at the Pilsner extract, though.  I wish they had left the Carapils out of that.

I have had good experiences with Wheat Malt Extract, though.  I just don't make Wheat Beer, very often.