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All grain curious?

I am fairly new to brewing, have brewed 5 extract kits in the past year. A co-worker is just starting to get in to brewing and is going straight to all grain. During a conversation, about the pros and cons to each, I was still left with the following questions:
I realize the ingredients are cheaper than buying extract kits and there is more opportunity to create your own recipes, but at the end of the brew cycle is there a difference in quality/ taste of the final product?

If we were to both brew the same kits (one extract and one all grain) could you tell the difference between the two?

Am I missing something by brewing with extracts? Inspire me to want to be an all grain brewer.

thanks.

It’s the journey that makes the destination so much sweeter

I can’t really attest to the potential difference between extract and AG when it comes to kit beers, as I’ve never made a kit beer. What I can tell you for sure, though, is that taking the step up to AG brewing is really all about taking total control of the processes of mashing and recipe formulation. With extract or partial-mash brewing, you can brew some very good beers, maybe even good enough to rival the quality of an AG brew. But the problem is that you’re severely limited on what kinds of grains you can work with, which means that there are some styles of beer that you’ll never really be able to make; and you never really know exactly what’s in any malt extract. When you brew from scratch, you can be a total control freak. By that I mean that you can work with whatever kind of grain you want, design any kind of recipe you want, and always know exactly what’s in every beer you ever make. So if you have a creative side and you really want to come up with your own recipes or even get experimental with some non-traditional grains in your brewing, AG is the only way to go.
But if you’re happy with the beers you’re making, and you’re content to use other peoples’ recipes, then there’s not necessarily a real need to move on to AG brewing if you aren’t really convinced that it’s important for you to do. Only you can decide how you want to brew, and nobody has any right to judge you if you stick with extract brewing. After all, AG brewing is definitely a more involved process, in terms of both time and energy. There’s a lot more equipment to clean and brew days are definitely longer. It’s your call.

You have to find your own inspiration … nobody can give it to you. If you’re having fun and feel satisfaction, who cares if you brew extract or AG?

I’ve never used extract or kits. But it has nothing to do with any notion of superior quality. I’m quite sure that there are many, many extract brewers that produce beers that would make my beer seem like a joke. But honestly, I could care less. I just really enjoy the process and find it fascinating. If I succeed, great! If I don’t, I enjoy figuring out where I went wrong and trying to correct problems. That’s what gets me charged up. So I always consider my “hobby time” as time well spent regardless of the quality/taste. My mediocre batches are great batches that haven’t been brewed yet. :wink:

In any case, you have the advantage of a co-worker that’s getting into all grain. Offer to assist on a few brewdays and see if that gets you charged up. If it does, then maybe you’ve found your inspiration.

Extract can make very good beer, but it does limit you in some respects. If you want to do a very dry beer, or a very light-colored beer, you will find it hard to achieve using extract. So if you are really set on cloning a Coors Lite, you won’t be able to do that using extract, but you can with AG.

On the other hand, it is easier to make bad beer using AG. The process is more complicated, and there are more opportunities for things to go wrong. It is also more work and takes more time, which depending on your view point could be a good or a bad thing.

Take the opportunity to brew with someone else who is doing AG and see what you think.

More ways to screw up in all grain so that’s what make people want or not to try it. It depends on your personality. So find your own comfort level and brew on. Since your friend is getting the equipment borrow it or brew together and see what you think.

thanks for the information, however, I might have mis-lead about wanting to be inspired. I didn’t really need inspiration to brew AG, I was really interested if I was missing out on a better quality beer vs. the extract that I have been brewing. If that were the case, I might explore more and try it.

As of now, I am content with the brews that I have made with extract kits. Right now, I do not have an interest in tweaking recipes or creating my own, there is enough variety with the kits to keep me busy for now. I also do not have an interest in a longer brew day or more possible ways to screw things up and or spending more $ on needed equipment to get to the all grain level.

I guess the moral of the thread is do what makes you happy and works for you. Right now for me, that is extracts, maybe I will get more adventurous some day and try an all grain.

Exactly. If you’re happy and making good beer, there’s no reason to be in any hurry to start brewing AG.

What got me really rushing to start AG was the ability to control the fermentability of the wort without adding a bunch of sugar. I probably would have made much better beers when I started with extract if I would have just tried to brew simple low to mid ABV beers. Any beer over 7% I couldn’t get down below 1.030ish without adding sugar. So I was stuck with a lot of sweet beers which I’m not a huge fan of.

So if more control over the fermentability of your wort is something you are seeking, I suggest maybe starting to look at moving to AG.

Exactly. If you’re happy and making good beer, there’s no reason to be in any hurry to start brewing AG.

What got me really rushing to start AG was the ability to control the fermentability of the wort without adding a bunch of sugar. I probably would have made much better beers when I started with extract if I would have just tried to brew simple low to mid ABV beers. Any beer over 7% I couldn’t get down below 1.030ish without adding sugar. So I was stuck with a lot of sweet beers which I’m not a huge fan of.

So if more control over the fermentability of your wort is something you are seeking, I suggest maybe starting to look at moving to AG.[/quote]
Couldn’t you just add more extract?

Extract contains a certain amount of unfermentable sugar. Adding more extract will just compound the issue.

That would just raise your OG. Fermentability relates to lowering your FG. Adding more extract would not change that.

Just when I thought I was understanding the process. I assumed extract was just concentrated wort

It is, but the issue is you have no idea how that wort was made. What temp was it mashed at? Many manufacturers use crystal or dark malts in their extract, which reduce fermentability. And then there’s the water. Martin Brungard has documented that the water that Briess uses to make their extracts is high in sodium.

If you are happy with extract, go with it. The big difference I noticed in the change to AG was my extracts always caramelized slightly during boil, resulting in a very distinct flavor common to every beer I brewed. It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t a taste I wanted every time. Since switching, it has gone.

And of course, as has already been mentioned, greater control of fermentability and body as a result.

My .02:

I brewed 4 extract batches before I went all grain. Thought the kits I made were good but I found the process easy enough and wanted the challenge of all grain. Have made many batches all grain since, some good and some not , but it has definitely been a neat learning experience and creative outlet. After I moved into my current house I wanted to brew a couple of “quick batches” so I just bought a couple of extract kits. Beers were good, but they did have a very subtle “extract twang” to them that I have never had in an all grain batch.

Plus I have had the blessing of seeing people in the neighborhood’s reactions when I have the brewing rig out. Sometimes they are curious, come over and are ultimately excited and receptive to what I’m doing. Sometimes they just call the police and report “my drug lab” (has happened to me twice). Can’t really get those experiences brewing extract inside.

YMMV

I’ve brewed some really excellent beer using extract. So if your doing well with it and only making 5 batches a year it makes no sense to spend the cash on all grain equipment. I made the switch when I decided to start making 10 gallon batches. The cost of the extracts was just too much per batch and I noticed minor differences in the flavor of the extracts even when I ordered from the same place every time.
I make at least one batch a month and sometimes 2. The cost of going all grain is fairly high and makes little sense if you’re not doing larger batches. And the space needed to store all those kettles and mash tuns and kegs and extra carboys is another major factor.
As far as beer quality…I think all grain is a little better because you can tweak it to be better more easily. But if your making beer from kits you might just consider smaller steps to make better beer. Try a bigger kettle so you can do full volume boils. Or upgrade your burner for a better boil. Buy your own reverse osmosis water filter. Makes better coffee too! And it keeps all the garbage out of your kidneys. All these will make better beer no matter how you brew.

You don’t need to spend much cash to go all grain. See www.dennybrew.com

The cost of going to all grain… $7.49!

http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/brew ... -x-32.html

Seriously though. You can move from extract to all grain for well under $100.

[quote=“dobe12”]The cost of going to all grain… $7.49!

http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/brew ... -x-32.html

Seriously though. You can move from extract to all grain for well under $100.[/quote]

Sure, make a 5 gallon batch of stout in that bag. Have fun with that. I’ll use a mash tun.
By the way…Walmart.com has 10 gallon round coolers for $48 and I think I paid $3 for shipping.

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Rubbermaid-10 ... e/21633485

And yes you can do all grain on the cheap. I just like having enough to share so I started making bigger batches. If you’re gonna upgrade, go BIG! You’ll thank yourself later when your brew day gets shorter and your equipment more versatile.
Just my two cents.

[quote=“Valentines12”][quote=“dobe12”]The cost of going to all grain… $7.49!

http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/brew ... -x-32.html

Seriously though. You can move from extract to all grain for well under $100.[/quote]

Sure, make a 5 gallon batch of stout in that bag. Have fun with that. [/quote]

I’m not sure what this means? You ever hear of BIAB (Brew In A Bag)? I brew all kinds of beer. All 5 gallons (or more). All all grain. All full volume boils. I have an 11.4% Belgian Strong Ale aging, a Barleywine in primary, and will be making a Russian Imperial Stout on big brew day this year.

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