Many home brewers start with beer kits, then a proportion of those who enjoy the process of making beer enough usually progress to extract and then a portion of those will progress further to all grain. Some brewers though are content enough with beer kits or extract brewing but I think they may be missing out.
If you have never brewed all grain before but have used beer kits or extract then the above is a good question. I brew all grain myself, pretty much every batch is made this way in my house but at first glance there seems to be more disadvantages to brewing all grain than there is advantages. Let’s take a look at why people would (quite justifiably) say to themselves brewing with just grain just isn’t worth it.
Extract Brewed Beers Can Be Just As Good As All-Grain and Commercial Beers
Yep, the quality of extract beers in a lot of cases is up there with the best. Obviously it takes practice and craft to brew any beer to a high standard and the same goes for extract. Using extract isn’t a quick fix to improve a beer however, you still need to work on your craft and put in the hours.
It’s A Lot Quicker
When you brew with extract a large part of the process (the mash) has been done already meaning you don’t have to do it for yourself saving at least an hour to mash and 30 minutes to sparge. This is one of the primary reasons people like extract, whilst all grain brewing can take up a large part of your day and extract brew can be done relatively quickly.
Still A Lot Of Creative Options
Even though you may be using extract to cut out a portion of the brewing process you can still be very creative. There are a number of different extracts available such as ordinary barley extract as well as wheat, rye and even sorghum available. Along with this there are plenty of grains that can be steeped to add layers of character to a brew so although you aren’t mashing all your grains pretty much all styles of beer are accessible to the extract brewer.
Less Equipment is Needed
If you want to brew all grain then you’ll need the various paraphernalia to be able to mash the grain, filter the grain bed and the extra capacity to heat sparge liquor. Collecting all this extra equipment together involves an outlay that many brews can easily do without if they just stick to extract. After all if you look at the other points above it can seem hard to justify such an outlay.
Reading the above few points it’s a pretty convincing argument to just stick to brewing with extract but as we know there are plenty of people that brew all grain so how can we justify it. It’s more time consuming, involves more equipment and will arguably make a beer that is comparable to an extract beer so why bother?
Brewing Is Not All About Economy Or Time
For hundred and hundreds of years people have been brewing the same way, taking malted barley mashing it, filtering out the grain and adding hops. If you have never brewed like this in my opinion you are missing out.
If we all wanted beer quickly we would buy all the beer we drink rather than brewing or use pasteurised extracts and hop extract. If you brew purely to save money and not have to buy beer at the store then you’re best of brewing all grain because it’s cheaper than extract in the long term.
It may just be me but every all grain beer I have ever brewed I have been more proud of than any extract beer. Were they better? In my mind they were, I felt more connected and invested in each all grain beer I brewed because I had laboured over them and sat for many hours crafting not only the beer but the recipe.
There seems to be a misconception that brewing with extract is easier than with grain which I think is completely unfounded. In an ideal world all grain brewing would be portrayed as just as accessible as extract brewing because after all people have brewed beers for hundreds if not thousands of years without extract.
If you are serious about brewing then I challenge you to have more fun, anticipation and excitement for an extract beer than an all grain one you brew. It’s just not possible. Take a look at the All Grain Guide and start planning your new brewery!