Malt Extract Explained
What is Malt Extract?
Malt extract is created when malted grains are crushed and mashed, then wort is separated from the spent grains, concentrated, and dehydrated. Clearly, the benefit here is that you, the brewer, are avoiding the careful work of mashing grains yourself. No need to constantly control the right mash temperatures and volumes.
Though malt extract does simplify the brewing process, it in no way diminishes the quality of the finished beer. Malt extracts for brewing are produced with high-quality brewing malts. Their color and flavor are derived from specialty malts. For example, Mr. Beer malt extracts are produced by Coopers Brewery, the largest Australian-owned brewery. The malts going into that extract are the same that make their world-class beer, so clearly the extract derived from them won't be of poor quality. Don't let anyone tell you that award-winning beers cannot be brewed with malt extract, it's simply not true. The keys to successfully brewing flavorful beer with malt extracts are which you use, and if you use them properly. The most common mistake made by extract brewers is that they brew with extract that is old or has been improperly stored. The simplest fix is to read the extract's label carefully – in what conditions does it need to be stored, what is its best-by date?
Types of Malt Extract
You will find malt extract for brewing in both liquid and dry forms. The liquid malt extract, or LME, has a consistency like molasses, while dry malt extract, or DME, is a fine powder. Malt extract does come in a pre-hopped variety if you'd like to streamline your brewing even further, and is then referred to as hopped malt extract, or HME.
Liquid Malt Extract (LME)
How do they make LME? 1. Complete a typical mash 2. Dehydrate wort down to roughly 20% water.
LME frequently has a shelf life of 2 years in a cool, dark and dry environment, after which point it will begin to degrade. Color becomes much darker over long periods of time.
Dry Malt Extract (DME)
How do they make DME? 1. [Steps 1 & 2 from LME] 2. Reduce water content down to roughly 2% water
With its lower water content, DME often has a better shelf life than LME, meaning less risk of darkening issues. The negative to DME is that once exposed to air, it will take on moisture, which can cause it to clump and be more difficult to work with.
Hopped Malt Extract (HME)
As mentioned earlier, HME is malt extract with hops added in as well to eliminate variables for brewers who want to keep brewing simple. Hops are chosen for the aromatic and bittering properties they can bring to the finished beer. Hopped malt extract is occasionally referred to as "pre-hopped," versus "unhopped" malt extract.