Malt Extract

If you have ever visited a brewery the first thing that will hit you is the smell- A thick, sweet, malty smell that will have you salivating instantly. Well that same smell is what will be filling your nostrils when you start brewing your beer.

When we looked at the brewing process we covered the steeping of the grains in the mash tun, this period, called mashing, is one you can bypass by using malt extract.

Mashing is a process which takes time and extra equipment so removing this process by using malt extract instead is often desirable. There are many commercial breweries and brewpubs that use malt extract, rather than choosing to mash grain in a mash tun themselves, for the very fact it saves time and provides consistent results every time.

Malt extract is made by soaking and rinsing malted barley, a process called mashing, that can take a couple of hours, to create a concentrated sweet liquid. Using malt extract saves you the time and expense of doing this yourself and will make the brewing process easier with less technical difficulties. Perhaps preferable for a first time brewer!

When buying malt extract for creating your own recipes it is a good idea to ensure you are purchasing unhopped malt extract because we will be adding our own hops during the brewing process. It also comes in two forms:

Dry Malt Extract (DME)

or

Liquid Malt Extract (LME)

Either variety are fine for our purposes and can be used interchangeably simply by following the guidlines below:

How can I convert liquid malt extract (LME) to dry malt extract (DME)?

Liquid malt extracts are roughly 20% water so 1kg of liquid is the same as 800g of dry malt extract. If you want to convert a recipe that list LME then multiply the amount by 0.8 to achieve the amount of DME required. If your recipe list dry then divide the amount by 0.8 to reach the amount of liquid extract needed. For example

3kg of LME = 3 x 0.8 = 2.4kg of DME

3kg of DME = 3 / 0.8 = 3.75kg of LME

Hops

hops

Hops are the next ingredient you need for your beer. They are in fact small flowers that grow on hop vines. Hops balance out the sweet maltiness from the grain with bitterness.Without hops your brew will taste more like ovaltine than beer.

Boiling hops during the brewing process causes them to release bitter compounds called alpha acids. These alpha acids provide bitterness to balance the beer and stop it from being way too sweet and cloying. There are also other compounds present in the hops, these compounds provide aroma and flavour to beer  and can range from piney, earthy, spicey to citrusy and floral.

Even though they provide so much of the taste we associate with beer all of the hops actually get filtered out. In essence using hops is a bit like making tea.

Some beers use small amounts of hops just to balance the sweet and bitter, other beers use a lot to add a whole new flavour in itself. There are quite a few hop varieties with each having their own unique aromas and characters.

Right now hoppy beers are riding a wave of popularity, people can’t get enough of them in their beer and on this website you can find a recipe to brew a beer that showcases some of the wonderful flavours you can achieve with them.

Yeast

Without yeast there is no beer, it makes alcohol and produces the carbon dioxide that carbonates the beer after brewing, you owe it to yourself and your beer to know how it works and how to look after it.

The yeast used for making beer is brewers yeast and there are many strains available. Yeast is not an ingredient to skimp on, bakers yeast whilst it would technically ferment some of the sugars, won’t make a good beer.

Fermentation is a process that takes time and, most of all, your patience. If you set up the ideal conditions for your yeast, a sweet delicious wort with plenty of nutrients, the yeast thrive. They reproduce and eat their way through the sugars and during the process produce alcohol. It’s just not beer without yeast. Yeast are also used in many other applications of food production as well. Different yeast strains specialise according to their environment.

A sugar filled wort with nutrients that come from the malted grains combined with the correct temperature is the perfect environment for yeast, the better quality conditions and ingredients will mean the yeast is a lot more effective at converting sugars to alcohol and produces desirable flavours too.

Generally there are two main strains of yeast; ale yeast and lager yeast. Ale yeast are what’s called a top fermenting yeast and work well in warm temperatures between roughly 16°C – 22°C, lager yeasts are bottom fermenting yeasts and work best in cool temperatures 7°C – 13°C.

Water

Water is one of the most important ingredients in beer and has a major impact on the final batch. It is also one of the more complex aspects of brewing, so much so that a whole book could be written on the subject so what I want to do here is give you an introduction without being too technical and give you a few tips that will make you better beer without much extra work.

I could start by saying about breweries like Burton are famous because of their water or that Pilsner being made from soft water is why you get crisp, pale lager but we know this already. What most people don’t consider is the water they home brew their beer with.

I am not going to go deep into the chemistry of water and talk about the different elements here but I will do in the future. All I want to do here is give you one or two things you can do straight away and end up brewing better beer.

Tip 1: If you don’t drink your tap water, don’t brew beer with it. This goes without saying to be honest. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water on it’s own then it’s going to make your beer worse. I have, on many occasions bought bottled water and I’m not advising you go an buy 25 litres of Evian here, I mean the super saver supermarket own brand stuff. Just try it once and see if it works for you.

Tip 2: If you are using tap water then make sure you get rid of the chlorine. The thing with chlorine is it makes your tap water safe to drink because bacteria cannot survive alongside it. However your bacteria won’t survive in your beer either, one because everything is sanitized and boiled and two because of the alcohol. The chlorine in tap water will react with phenols (aromatic compounds) in the malt to make chlorophenols and give you a taste reminiscent of band-aids or plasters.

To get rid of chlorine in your tap water there are a couple of easy solutions. The easiest is to use a carbon block water filter that filters water through the tap (rather than by the jug). This will remove any chlorine present in the water. The other thing you could do is  to add a campden tablet. 1 tablet will remove any chlorine in 20 gallons of water so is a fairly cost effective way to go about it. Lastly you can boil water to remove chlorine which is simple, but in my eyes the most effort.