Return to main page. Guide to Grain and Malt Extracts

Grain and malt extracts are the ingredients that add fermentable sugars to your wort. Grain does not naturally contain sugars, only starches. These starches, however, can be converted into fermentable sugars through a process known as mashing. Once the mashing process is complete, the sugars must be washed away from the grain through a process known as lautering. In malt extracts, this process is already done for you by the manufacturer. This is the main difference between grain and malt extracts.

Light Dry Malt ExtractMalt Extract

To begin with malt extracts, they can be purchased in two forms, dried and liquid extracts. There is little difference between the two other than the dried extract has had its water removed. The far right photo shows an example of both dried malt extract as well as dried rice extract. The near right photo shows a "bag in the box" variety of liquid malt extract. Not shown but also available is liquid malt extract sold in large cans. Dried and liquid malt extracts are used by simply adding them to the brew pot once the brewing water has been brought to a boil. Either can be used effectively. Light dried malt has the advantage of being easier to measure in small quantities. This is especially useful when making a yeast starters as well as priming the beer before bottling.

Using grains to make your beer is much more difficult and time consuming than using malt extracts. The reward of the hard labor is a fresher and more complex beer. The first step in using grain in your beers is to crush the grain using a grain mill. In reality what you need to do is crack the grain's husk or shell in order to allow access to the starches contained within. These starches will need to be converted into sugars later on in the mashing process. The two photos below illustrate uncrushed grain on the left and crushed grain on the right. Note that the crushed grain has not been pulverized, all that is needed is the crack the grain's husk.

Uncrushed GrainCrushed Grain

grain/hop bag

If you are using malt extract for the bulk of your fermentable sugars and the recipe calls for the addition of specialty grains, place the crushed grain in a nylon grain bag like the one shown on the right. Add the bagged grain to the brew pot filled with warm water. Heat the water, swirling the bag in the water now and then, until the water reaches 170F. (Heating the grain above 170F will impart off flavors to your beer.) Take the bag out and continue heating the water to boiling. Add the malt extract to the boiling water and continue as called for in the recipe.
If you are using grain as your main source of fermentable sugars then your next step after crushing the grain is to begin the mashing process. Place the grain in your mash tun and fill it with 1 to 1 quarts of water per pound of grain. Stir the mixture well and let it rest for 30 minutes. Then slowly heat the mash to 155F. Note: You must be careful not to scorch the grain, so heat slowly and stir regularly. After the mash has reached 155F, turn off the heat and let stand for 60 minutes. Check the temperature every 10 minutes or so and add heat as necessary to keep the temperature of the mash at 155F. After the 60 minutes are up, slowly heat the mash to 175F. (Being careful not to scorch the grain.) When the mixture has reached 175F, turn off the heat. The mashing process is complete.

After mashing, you'll need to lauter, or rinse the sugars away from the grains and collect the resulting sweet wort. You will need an equivalent amount of water at 175F or higher in the hot water tank as the desired batch size. (For instance, if your making a 5 gallon batch of beer, heat 5 gallons of water in the hot water tank) This water should be heated and ready to use by the end of the mashing process. See the 3 vessel brewing set up and lautering arm pages for a visual reference of the physical layout of a lautering set up. The lautering process is begun by drawing off a pint of so of run off from the mash tun until the runoff is relatively clear. (Note: the runoff should be flowing at rate slightly faster than a trickle.) Pour this initial runoff back into the mash tun and let the run off continue into the wort collection vessel. Start the flow of water from the hot water tank though the lautering arm into the mash tun. When you have collected 6 gallons of wort for a 5 gallon batch of beer, or 12 gallons of wort for a 10 gallon batch of beer, the process is complete.

After collecting the desired amount of wort you can begin heating it to boiling and continue the brewing process as called for in the recipe.

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Revised: Sunday, December 21, 1997 22:18:59
Copyright 1996 by [Lee's Brewery].
All trademarks or product names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.