The simplest way to brew your own beer is through the use of pre-hopped malt extract. These are the tins of flavored extract found in all homebrew stores and many other locations. This is often the first method used by new brewers and continues to be a very common method for many. The main advantage of making homebrew this way is that the work of soaking the malted barley to extract the fermentable sugars has already been done for you.
This method is often referred to (at least in metric countries) as ‘kit and kilo’ brewing because the only required ingredients are the pre-hopped extract ‘kit’ and around a kilo of fermentable sugar.
One of the largest criticisms of this method is that the beer produced tends to have a distinct homebrew ‘twang’ to the flavor. This is mainly due to the use of sugar to ferment into beer with the extract as this produces alcohol through the fermentation process but does little else to improve the flavor. The use of fermentable sugar leads to a relatively ‘thin’ mouthfeel as the sugar does little to improve the ‘body’ of the beer.
The simplicity of this method of brewing beer at home is also part of its largest problem. Before putting the flavored extract into the can, the company has done all of the hard work to extract the fermentable sugar from the grain and to add in hops for flavor. This also means though that you don’t get to influence these things which are really what controls the flavor of the beer.
The main attraction to this method of brewing is the utter simplicity. It is easy and doesn’t take a large amount of time to heat a kettle, throw all of the ingredients into the fermenter and top up with water.
The complete steps for this process really are just:
- Fill and boil your (tea/coffee) kettle
- Put the whole tin of extract kit into some hot water so that the heat makes it a bit more gooey
- Open the tin and pour into your (sanitized) fermenter
- Fill up with water
- Pour in your packet of fermentable sugar
- Put in your yeast and seal it up
Because the malt extract comes pre-hopped, it is also hard to influence anything in the process and the flavor is often in need of some improvement. These improvements are able to be reached by adding a few steps and some more ingredients through the ‘Extract with specialty grain’ process.
Extract with specialty grain
Once they have mastered the critical steps of sanitization, fermentation and bottling, many brewers decide take measures to improve on various aspects of their brews. Unfortunately this is not possible when using the directions included with the pre-flavored cans of malt extract as these are targeted at entry level brewing and seek to make the process as simple as possible.
With a small amount of additional time, effort and ingredients it is possible to strike a healthy balance and produce some truly unique and awesome beer. Although this process still uses cans of malt extract, the addition of hops and other grains to influence the flavor gives much more control over the final product.
Because we are effectively coming in part of the way through the process and using malt extract, this process will still not allow for as much control as all-grain brewing. Many homebrewers find this an acceptable trade off though as it greatly reduces the amount of brewing time and allows for the brewing of truly great beer while still doing it in a household kitchen.
There are two general options in available malt extract products. These are the pre-hopped malt extract kits used in extract kit brewing or cans of unhopped malt extract. Most intermediate level brewers go for the unhopped extract because it allows for more control and flexibility in adding hops themselves. The hops flavoring used in the kits is actually ‘hop oil’ and not the fresh hops that you would be adding to give the more distinct flavor that we are seeking and so the flavor would be further restricted.
We are currently in the process of creating an ebook that will step you through the process of creating homebrew by using this technique. If you would like us to let you know when it is released as well as receive some other great homebrewing related information, please sign up to our email list here.
This guide covered the basic activities on how to brew your own beer at home. Once you have finished with the kitchen based activities on brew day though, there are still a number of important activities to complete before your homebrew beer is ready to drink. Click here for a guide to the fermentation process.