I’ve brewed roughly 10 extract kits in the past year. While I’ve had some decent results, almost all have a really strong malt flavor. Kits range from apa’s and hefeweizen up to my most recent which was the brickwarmer holiday ale. My question: is the strong malt flavor a characteristic of extract kits or is this something else? Does all grain help with a more balanced malt profile?
I’ve had the same experience. After about 50 extract brews, I was disappointed that I just kept getting beers that were a little too sweet and malty and had what I assume is “extract twang” that many folks talk about. Some will argue that with fresh extract and good process, extract can be as good as all grain for many styles–and I can’t disprove that–I’ve heard many an award has been won with extract. And I know there are some very experienced brewers on this forum (Flars comes to mind) who brew only or mainly extract.
But for me, whether it was my process, freshness of ingredients, etc, I just couldn’t get what I was looking for out of extract, so I moved to BIAB, and with my first batch, the difference was amazing. No more twang or watery finish, flavor was deeper, the beer was crisp. Same for my second batch.
It’s pretty cheap to switch to BIAB, only the cost of a bag if you already have a large enough kettle, and I won’t be going back to extract. The only extract brew that I feel happy enough with to maybe enter in competition is a Kriek that I brewed last year. Other than that, they were good enough, but not great.
Just my two cents and more importantly, MY experience. Remember there’s really no one method that’s definitively right for a homebrewer, other than the one that works for them. Have fun experimenting and good luck.
Your problem is very common and also very fixable. Some or all grain would be helpful and BIAB is an excellent way to do it but not absolutely required. In any case you can make better beer using the following guidance:
Thank you for all of the great insight into this. I’ve been wanting to make a move to all grain so this gives me the nudge I need. I will try biab first. I just watched a video here: http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/biab … r-kit.html
At 3:22, the person says “at the end of your hour mash and your 10 minute mash out” right before the grains are to be drained. I don’t understand what the “10 minute mash out” is.
Mash out is when you bring the mash to 168° for 10 minutes to denature the enzymes. With BIAB you’ll want to keep the bag off the bottom of the pot so it doesn’t scorch the grain or melt the bag. A simple SS colander flipped over works well as a pseudo false bottom to keep the bag off the bottom.
After a dozen extract batches, I also noted the strong syrupy malty thing. Underattenuated.
I switched to all grain and have made what are in my opinion much better beer that I’ve felt much more satisfied with.
I’m sure many a great beer has been made with extract so I’m not knocking it. But I am sharing here from my personal experience.
And I was surprised by how much cheaper, not daunting and fun it was to go all grain.
Mashout is a waste of time and effort for homebrewers, who typically kill the enzymes just by bringing the wort to a boil within ~30 minutes anyway. Mashout is for commercial brewers. You can and should skip the mashout step. Totally unnecessary.
Causes of under attenuation?
I can try to sum up all the pointers for attenuation quickly:
Don’t ever rack your beer to “secondary”. Premature racking (as well as general lack of patience) might be the number one cause of attenuation problems for novice homebrewers. If the instructions say “primary for 7 days, secondary for 2 weeks” or whatever, IGNORE. Keep the beer in primary the entire time, and let the yeast tell you when they’re finished. The krausen will fall and the beer will begin to clear when the yeast is finished. Using a bucket? No problem. Open the lid and peek inside. If fermentation is still happening, you’ll see a ton of yeast on top. If done, the top will be mostly clear with just a few little dots of crusties or bubbles but no major yeast.
You should also check specific gravity when you think the yeast might be finished. Then wait 3-4 days. Then check gravity again. It’s only done fermenting if the gravity doesn’t change at all over the course of several days. If it does change, then fermentation is not yet finished and you need to be more patient.
Don’t rush things. Patience. When in doubt, it is always better to leave the beer alone and let it finish up on its own than for a human to interfere.
Use plenty of strong healthy yeast, and be kind to them. If using liquid yeast, make a good size starter. 2 quarts or liters per 5 gallons for ales, and 3-4 quarts or liters per 5 gallons of lager, are good rough guidelines for the right amounts. Stronger beers need even more. If using dry yeast, you are less likely to have attenuation problems, but you still want to make sure it was stored cold because it can die from heat.
In any case, you need to aerate or oxygenate the wort really well when you pitch in the yeast. Shake or stir vigorously for a long long time (like 5 whole minutes!), or use an aquarium stone and pump.
It is always better to pitch the yeast on the cool side, and allow the temperature to rise a few degrees during fermentation, rather than pitching warm and then cooling things down to the appropriate fermentation temperature. It is also always best near the tail end of fermentation when things are slowing down to bring up the temperature by a few degrees to help the yeast finish and clean up any off-flavors.
Ensure your extract is as fresh as possible, and if it’s not attenuating well, then try a different brand. Substitution of some extract for simpler sugars (like cane sugar) will also help attenuation.
Those are all the big pointers that I can think of. I might have missed one or two but those are the real big ones.
A full wort boil is the best thing an extract brewer can do.
Get a turkey fryer and make a wort chiller.
I disagree. I believe it is more process driven rather than a “waste of time and effort”. I fly sparge so a mash out is very necessary.
Thank you so much, I respond very well to that sort of clear instruction. In the case of my holiday ale, i’m fairly certain the maltiness is due to poor planning on my part. I’m thinking about taking a FG to check the attenuation of my holiday ale. Issue is that the ale is kegged, carbed, and chilled. Question: will I get an accurate FG if I bring a sample of the holiday ale to room temp and let it get flat? Also, should I find that it is unattenuated, can I bring the remaining ale back to room temp, bleed off the carb, and try to restart fermentation?
As for secondary, I have almost given up on secondary fermentation for most of my brews. On the other hand, what about long term bulk conditioning of a brew? I have an imperial stout that I plan on bulk conditioning for a few months. For this, I plan on racking to a secondary with less head space once my FG goes stable for a few days in a row. Is this a mistake?
I think if you let the sample go flat then yes the reading should be accurate. If you were in a rush then this could explain the lack of attenuation. You can pitch in more yeast to get fermentation going again but you might want to consider a highly attenuative yeast. Also it will need to be a very active yeast starter with a big rolling krausen or else it won’t work – simple pitching in a couple packs of non-started yeast won’t help, it needs to be a big active starter. What yeast did you use the first time around? What’s the recipe?
For long-term bulk aging, you are correct that you might need to rack to secondary for that. In my extensive laziness – ahem, I mean, experience – I know that the upper limit for leaving a beer in primary is about 2.5 months before you’ll start to get off-flavors like autolysis. So if you want to age longer than that, then yeah, you’ll need to rack. But if you can keep the time down less than that (which would be my advice), then you can still skip the secondary. I really don’t see a need for really long term aging longer than that, other than laziness. Personally I won’t be that lazy – I mean patient – anymore, as there’s really no advantage and could be disadvantages if you let it go for too long and a fruit fly gets in there or who knows what else.
If you’re kegging, rack from primary to CO2-purged keg, pressurize to seat the lid, take a sharpie and write “secondary” on the keg. Age as long as you wish.