Basic Homebrew Ingredients

Malt Extract

  • Malt ExtractMalt extract is the concentrated sugars extracted from brewing-grade malted barley. Extract allows brewers to skip the mashing process required when brewing with grains.
  • Creating malt extract starts out in the same way a brewhouse would conduct a mash. Crushed malt is soaked in hot water to reactivate and accelerate the enzyme activity, converting the malted barley’s starch reserves into the fermentable sugar solution called wort. The wort is reduced to a liquid concentrate or dried to form malt extract.
  • The sugars provided by the malt extract are consumed by brewer’s yeast, producing alcohol and CO2—a process known as fermentation.
  • Malt extract comes in various forms. Homebrewers can purchase hopped liquid malt extract, unhopped liquid malt extract (LME) and unhopped dry malt extract (DME).
  • Various types of malt extract are available, such as pale, wheat and amber. The specific type to be used in a brew will depend on the style of beer.


  • Homebrewing HopsHops are the green, cone-shaped “flower” of the hop plant that are used to add balance, flavor and aroma to beer.
  • There are more than 100 different hop varieties today, and specific hops are used for each beer style. For example, Cascade hops give American pale ales their distinct citrusy quality, while Fuggle hops have an earthiness, common in English-style ales.
  • Hops contain two substances of primary interest to brewers: alpha and beta acids, which provide bitterness and aromatic oils, respectively.
  • Bittering hops, or kettle hops, are added at the beginning of the boil and used to instill bitterness in beer that will balance the sweetness of malt. The heat of the boil causes a chemical change called isomerization, which allows the formerly non-bitter, insoluble resins of hops to become highly bitter and dissolve into the wort.
  • Flavoring hops are added in the middle of the boil and will instill some bitterness and hop flavor.
  • Aromatic hops, or finishing hops, are added in the final minutes of the boil. Little to no bitterness is added from finishing hops, but the aromas are retained.
  • Dry hopping is a technique where hops are added to the fermentation vessel after fermentation is complete. Because there is no heat involved, no bitterness and little flavor will be added, but a strong hop aroma is instilled.
  • Hops are also a preservative, making them a popular herb in beer throughout history.
  • Hops come in three forms. Whole hops are unaltered after they are removed from the bine (hops grow on bines not vines). Pellet hops are processed and resemble rabbit food. Hop plugs are similar to pellets, but a bit bigger. Each form has its pros and cons in brewing.


  • Homebrewing YeastBrewer’s yeast (genus: Saccharomyces) is a type of fungus that consumes fermentable sugars in the wort and excretes alcohol and CO2, a process known as fermentation.
  • One of the main differences between beer styles comes from the type of yeast used. Pitching two different types of yeast in the same wort can create drastically different beers.
  • In addition to alcohol and CO2, different yeasts can produce other compounds, including esters, fusel alcohols, ketones and various phenolics and fatty acids.
  • Brewer’s yeast comes in liquid or dry form. Liquid yeast usually comes in a vial or smack pack, while dry yeast comes in a small packet. Yeast can also be purchased for propagation, a more advanced method.
  • Ale yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is a top-fermenting yeast that thrives at temperatures ranging from about 60-85°F (15.5-29.4°C), and goes dormant when temperatures dip below about 55°F (12.8°C).
  • Lager yeast (Saccaromyces carlsbergenis) is a bottom-fermenting yeast that can work in environments with temperatures as low as 40°F (4.4°C). Some types of lager yeast can be fermented at ale temperatures, which is used in the California common style.


  • Homebrewing WaterWater makes up most of beer, making it a critical ingredient in brewing.
  • The minerals in water can affect the starch conversion of the mash. Once the sugars have been produced, the impact of water chemistry on the flavor of beer is greatly reduced. When extract brewing, if the water tastes good to begin with, the beer should taste good.
  • There are three main aspects of water that should be considered when extract brewing: pre-treatment for off-odors and flavors, mineral additions to enhance the flavor of the beer and necessary mineral levels for good fermentation.
  • How to Brew by John Palmer and Water: A Comprehensive Guide for Brewers by John Palmer and Colin Kaminski are quality resources for understanding the intricacies of water in brewing.

Priming Sugar

  • Homebrewing Priming SugarWhen bottling, sugar must be added to the fermented wort prior to sealing the bottles for the yeast to consume, and ultimately carbonate the beer.
  • Many types of fermentable sugars can be used, such as turbinado sugar or honey, each with varying effects on the final product. The most common priming sugar is dextrose.
  • Use the Bottle Priming Calculator to determine the ideal amount of dextrose needed for your batch of beer.