Homebrewing with the use of a late extract addition is becoming an increasingly popular technique. This is because the process has been found to produce greater control over the color of the final beer and improved hops utilization. The end result is a potentially lighter beer without the unwanted flavors that can come from scorching the malt.
This approach involves adding only a small amount of extract at the start of the boil. This is to bring the wort up to a similar SG to the one that will be found at the start of fermentation. The remaining extract is then saved for a ‘late addition’ at the end of the boil.
The sugar in the extract helps with the transfer of oils from the hops so it is beneficial to add some extract to your wort before boiling them.
Historically the more popular process was to add all of the extract at the start of the boil. It has been discovered though that this can result in a darker beer which requires more hops.
The benefits of late extract addition
There are a number of benefits in adding most of your extract later in your brewing process. One of the main benefits is that you will be able to produce a lighter beer than would otherwise be possible. There is a known reaction between amino acids and sugars as they boil in the wort called a Maillard reaction. This reaction accounts for the majority of the darkening colour of a concentrated extract boil. Additionally, a level of carmelization occurs when the sugars in your wort settle to the bottom of the pot and harden.
Adding less extract can also help to reduce the scorched malt flavours that can result from boiling wort in a smaller pot. This is because the sugars are less concentrated and exposed to scorching.
You will also get better hops utilisation than if you were to add all of the extract in at the start. There is a long mathematical formula to calculate just how much but reducing your hops by about 20% (or using a homebrew calculator) is a good rough guide.
What is a late extract addition?
Depending on the amount of wort being boiled, you will require a different amount of extract in order to bring your wort to the right specific gravity. As a general rule though, if you are boiling about half the amount of water as your final fermentation, you only need to boil about half of the extract.
The rest of your extract then gets added at the end of the boil. There are different schools of thought about when this late addition should be made but I personally add it as the timer finishes. The extract is sterile as it leaves the factory and the 10 minutes or so that your wort is sitting there for the hop stand is enough to pasteurise the extract. It is also takes a little while to get your wort back to a rolling boil once the extract has been added so I prefer to just avoid it.
It is important to be aware that the late addition of extract to the hot wort is really just to help to dissolve it. There are some that tout that this also serves to sanitize the extract however as it is essentially a food product I am not convinced that is necessary.
When should you brew with a late addition?
The simple answer is… always. There is really no reason why this can’t or shouldn’t be added to your standard homebrewing routine. Provided that you remember to reduce the amount of hops used there really aren’t any reasons not to.
You will get less carmelization and you will have the potential for lighter beers. Even if it this is not a consideration for the style of beer that you are brewing, the additional control over the flavour is also worth the small additional effort.