Extract vs. Mini Mash vs. All-grain

There is a typical progression when learning to home brew beer.  Extract brewing is generally the gate way that gets people in to the hobby.  Mini mash, the natural middle ground between extract and all-grain, allows the brewer to add variation to the beer they make.  All-Grain brewing is the ultimate DIY way to brew, allowing the brewer to manage the flavors and colors at every step of the process.  The evolution of a home brewer happens at different rates, but there is a place for everybody on the spectrum of styles.  For those who geek out on the science and minutiae of brewing, they may do just a handful of batches before moving to all grain brewing.  This article will briefly describe each of the types of brewing.

Extract

This is the place where most home brewers start their journey in this wonderfully addictive hobby.  Some never leave this way of brewing because it may fit their busy life style or they like the convenience that extract brewing offers.  Extract is syrup made up of sugars from barley or other brewing grains.  The manufacturer has already converted the starches in the grain to sugars through a process called mashing.  The resulting sugar rich liquid is then dehydrated down to a thick syrup called liquid malt extract (LME) or further dehydrated to a powder called dry malt extract (DME).  After boiling the extract in water and adding hops, yeast are added which then eats the sugar in the extract and leaves behind alcohol and carbon dioxide.   Extract brewing is the equivalent of getting a frozen pizza, it’s all there you just have to cook it.

Mini-Mash / Partial Mash

Often the second step a homebrewer takes; this is a middle ground between the extract and all-grain styles of brewing.  Here, the base part of the beer is created using extracts and the color and flavoring is added by soaking or mashing grains in hot water that the brewer would later add extract to.  This allows for a greater variation in the brewers creations.  The extracts are the same as what was used in the last step, and the grains are the same ones that all grain brewers use albeit in smaller amounts.  Mini-mash brewing is the equivalent to making pizza at home with pre-made dough from the store.  The base is made for you all you have to do is top it off with some flavorings.

All-Grain Brewing

Typically the holy grail of home brewers, all grain brewing is the DIY version of making beer.  Grains are crushed and soaked in a vessel called a mash tun, which will hold heat.  The warm water activates enzymes in the grain which work to change the starches stored in the grains to sugar. All-grain allows for the widest variation and highest level of control over the brewing process.  It also takes the most time, equipment and knowledge to make good beer.  This would be the equivalent to making the dough and sauce for the pizza from scratch.

The major difference in these three brewing styles is the amount of control and individuality,  as well as, time and equipment required at each level. In the end though it is what you want to get out of the hobby and your comfort level with the process that will determine how far you will go. Good luck and happy brewing.

Making A Yeast Starter

Yeast starters are an easy way to take your brewing to the next step.  In my experience, most advanced brewers either build a yeast starter or pitch multiple packages of yeast to obtain the proper cell counts per milliliter of wort.  So why do we make yeast starters?

1. A reduction of lag time between pitching and the start of fermentation.  

 2. The flavor impact that the yeast add to the beer is affected by number of cells and the their health

For more on the science of yeast starters, Kettle to Keg carries a number of books on the subject as well as all the equipment you will need to make your own.

How To Make A Starter

Needed Equipment: Erlenmeyer flask (or other vessel that can be washed and sanitized), 4 oz (113 grams) DME, Yeast nutrient, Sanitizer, Non-reactive pot, Measuring cup, Funnel

There are two paths to take in one you mix and boil the dry malt extract and water in the Erlenmeyer flask on the stove.  The flask must be borosilicate glass, which is able to handle rapid shifts in tempreature with out shattering (this is the only type kettle to keg sells).  The other path is to boil and cool in a separate pot and then transfer to the vessel that you will ferment your starter in.  The pictures included in this post show a hybridization of both paths.

After you have cleaned and sanitized anything that will touch the wort once it has been cooled, measure out:

4 oz (113 grams) of dry malt extract.

800 ml’s of water

yeast nutrient

If you will be using the flask, put the water, DME and Yeast nutrient in it and put it on the stove and heat slowly to boiling.

 

If you are using the pot method add all the ingredients  and boil, partially covering the pot for the last 5 minutes to sanitize the cover and protect the wort during the cooling stage.

The DME can take sometime to dissolve, you can help it along with a wisk and some stirring.

The boiling wort will look just like the boil when making a batch of beer (minus the hops) there will be hot break and you still risk boil overs and the subsequent mess.  Have a small bowl of ice cubes to toss to stop the boil over before it happens.

Partially cover the pot to sanitize the lid which will help protect the wort while cooling in an ice bath (If you are using a flask cover the opening with a piece of sanitized aluminium foil).  Cool the wort untill you get to pitching temp.  If you pitch to high or to low you shock the yeast.

After the wort has reached the temperature that you want, pour the wort from your pot into the fermenting vessel and add a sanitized stir bar if using a stir plate.  If not swirl the fermentor every few hours to keep the yeast in suspension.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These picture show the saved yeast (note the nice cream color on the left) Most of the clear beer was decanted and the sample was mixed and allowed to sit for ten minutes or so to allow for dead cells and any other trub to precipitate out and settle to the bottom of the jar.  The slurry in suspension is then added to the fermentor to begin building the starter.  In most cases you will pour a new package of liquid yeast into the fermenting vessel.