Dear Mr. Wizard,
For an all extract brew, is it ok to only use dried malt extract without liquid malt syrups?
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Mr. Wizard replies:
There is absolutely no reason not to use dried malt extract (DME) exclusively for your recipes, although there are fewer choices in color with dried extracts than there are with liquid extracts. One thing to keep in mind is that special malts are required to provide various colors and flavors. The exclusive use of dried malt extract requires the extract brewer to add hops to the wort, as there are no pre-hopped DMEs on the market.
The way I view this scenario is much like all-grain brewing where the pale malt is used as the backbone of the beer and various special malts are selected to build upon the base. Hopping techniques further build upon the base and the brewer selects the variety used for bittering and aroma, the time of addition and the amount added. I see nothing wrong or problematic with exclusively using DME as the base extract for brewing and have made many, many brews this way.
The one thing to bear in mind with extract brewing in general is that any grain added to a steeping bag should be compatible with the method. These ingredients include crystal or caramel malts and roasted grains. Grains requiring mashing, such as pale malts, Munich malt, rye malt, wheat malt and adjuncts like rice and corn must be mashed to convert their starch to fermentable sugars.
If you choose to use this method, you can easily convert an all-grain recipe to a DME-based recipe by multiplying the weight of pale malt by 0.7 and substituting the pale malt with DME. This only works for beers that do not use other malts — such as wheat or Munich malt — in the formulation. I think your understanding of this subject is fine. Go for it, Tom!