Making beer from malt extract sounds pretty appealing to newbies because it allows making real homemade beer without any malt (grains) and special brewing equipment. All you need is a cooking pot and fermentation vessel. Doing everything in accordance with this method will let you produce a beer that’s much better than most store-bought brands.
Is there any sense in using this method? Putting it bluntly, using a beer malt extract is a simplified classic brewing technology which lets you try your hand at this, gain experience, and understand if brewing beer is for you. You’ll be able to understand whether it is necessary for you to spend money (large enough sums) on malt, hops, yeast, various tools, and mini-breweries.
Most people prefer buying bottled beer in a store instead of brewing their own batch. In fact, brewing is quite a difficult craft, which takes a lot of time. Unfortunately, you only realize that after buying expensive equipment.
Theory. Beer concentrate (extract) is a dark-colored hopped or not hopped beer wort with a thick consistency (like gel or condensed milk). It’s prepared at factories in accordance with classic brewing technology. During the preparation process, as much liquid is evaporated from the wort as possible to increase shelf life and simplify transportation.
The real concentrate is made from barley and wheat malt (or a mixture) by cooking and saccharifying grain, following all standards and maintaining temperature pause. If hops are added during the preparation process the extract is considered hopped.
All extracts look almost identical
Usually, manufacturers deliver the brewing set required along with the concentrate, which includes: hops (for not hopped wort), brewer’s yeast, and instructions for proper cooking, which explain the method, correct temperature ranges, and amounts of water. This is very convenient for beginners as you don’t have to choose the specific yeast (top or bottom fermentation), alpha acidity, hops, and there’s no need to calculate the proportions.
Universal Recipe of Beer from Malt Extract
- Beer concentrate – 1.7-1.8 kilos
- Water – 22 liters
- Sugar (dextrose or fructose) – 1 kilo
- Hops and yeast – (Check if it’s included in Malt extract)
The necessary equipment includes the following: a fermentation vessel for 32 liters, two cooking pots for at least 3 and 5 liters, an airlock, a 1-liter jar with metallic lid, a tube for decanting and bottles (plastic or glass).
Warning! The following guide is exemplary. Its only purpose is to specify some points that are poorly explained by most concentrate manufacturers. Much depends on the particular extract and style of the beer of your choice. Use the proportions of the ingredients and recommendations given by the manufacturer.
Only use clean water (filtered or at least settled) as the taste of beer depends on it. The best option is bottled water.
Experienced brewers don’t use beet sugar because it gives nasty kvass flavor. It’s best to add dextrose—glucose in powder form. The second option is to add fructose. Regardless of the sweetener used, the optimum density of beer wort is 15% (you can measure it with a densimeter).
- Disinfection. Prevents beer from getting infected with pathogenic microorganisms which may spoil the taste and cause the beer to go sour. You can use iodine solutions (10 ml of iodine per 25 liters of water) or specialized cleaning and sanitizing additives. Pour the solution into a fermentation tank and shake it every 2-3 minutes to moisten all of its walls and lid. During their first cooking of beer from a concentrate beginners usually use detergents. It’s essential to thoroughly rinse the container with running water to get rid of the foam residues.
- Preparation (rehydration) of yeast. During this stage, dry beer yeast is converted into a liquid active state. This allows the fermentation process to start 8-24 hours faster than if you just sprinkle dry yeast on the surface of the wort. The cooking method: boil 300-500 ml of water (in addition to the total volume signified in the recipe), lower the metal lid of the 1-liter jar into boiling water. Disinfect the jar itself with steam for 5-10 minutes. Cover the hot jar with the boiled lid and let it cool down for 5-6 minutes. Then open it and pour 200 ml of unboiled water of room temperature. Now sprinkle beer yeast over its surface and cover the jar with the lid again. Leave it for 10 minutes, no stirring required.
- Wort cooking. Now bring 3 liters of water to a boil in a large cooking pot (at least for 5 liters). In another small cooking pot for at least 3 liters bring 2 liters of water to a boil. Add the malt extract to the large cooking pot. Stir till it becomes homogenous. Add hops if necessary. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. To soften the substances you can put the closed jar with the malt extract in hot water. This will simplify pouring the concentrate into boiling water.
Put sugar (fructose or dextrose) in the small cooking pot and stir. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5-6 minutes. Skim off any white foam with a sterilized and disinfected skimmer.
Warning! Some extract manufacturers recommend adding yeast right away and set the wort for fermentation without boiling it. But in this case there’s a great risk of infecting the beer with bacteria (especially if poorly purified water is used), so it’s better to at least bring it to a boil and then cool to the manufacturer’s recommended temperature.
- Preparations before fermentation. The correct way of adding brewer’s yeast to the wort. Trickle 5 liters of water into a fermentation tank from approximately 1 meter above it. In this way you’ll saturate the water with oxygen (aerate it). And this, in turn, will make fermentation go faster. Add the diluted beer extract (preferably also from a height) and sweet syrup from the small pot and stir. Shake the yeast jar well for 2-3 minutes to speed up rehydration. Pour 12 liters of cold water into the fermentation vessel from a height of 1 meter. If possible, check the density with a densimeter(aerometer), the optimum value is about 15%. Cool the wort to the temperature required for adding yeast addition (it’s specified in the instructions, but it shouldn’t exceed 30°C). Shake the yeast jar again and evenly trickle yeast over the entire surface of the wort. Now install an airlock.
- Fermentation. Yeast converts sugar into alcohol. Place the beer wort in a dark room for fermentation and leave it at the temperature recommended by the manufacturer of malt concentrate. If you do everything right the fermentation process should start in 4-12 hours.
A standard plastic fermentation vessel with an airlock
On average, the fermentation of beer from the concentrate lasts 10-12 days, and after that, the airlock ceases to emit gas, and it becomes much less sweet.
- Carbonization and conditioning. At this step, the beer is saturated with carbon dioxide (gets aerated) and left for conditioning to improve the taste. Sterilize with steam or disinfect well-washed bottles. Add 1 heaping teaspoon of dextrose (fructose or sugar). This will cause quick re-fermentation, which will result in carbon dioxide. Or use carbonation drops.
Decant the fermented beer and pour it through a tube into bottles. Leave 2-3 cm of space near the neck free. Seal the bottles with corks.
Leave the filled bottles in a dark place with the recommended temperature specified in the instruction (usually it’s 20-24°C). Leave them for 7-60 days for gas saturation and conditioning (this term depends on the type of beer; wheat beers condition faster than other types). Manufacturers of beer concentrates indicate the conditioning time.
Beer from wheat malt extract
Now, the last step is to cool the beer in s refrigerator. Its shelf life is 6-8 months. 4.5-5% ABV.