It’s time for some fancy footwork, brewing style. Perhaps you are making that step to all-grain and you want to bring your favorite extract recipes with you. Or maybe you don’t have the time to do your normal five hour mash/sparge/boil, and extract is looking very appealing. If you take a methodical approach, virtually any recipe can be converted from extract to all-grain and vice versa.
The most important element to translate is the malt. You’ll need to know how many pounds of each type of malt (grains or extract) went into the recipe you want to convert.
Extract to Grain
To convert your extract recipe to grain, you need to know what specific gravity your extract will supply so you can aim to get the same specific gravity with your grains.
Malt extract is concentrated to a certain density to prevent bacterial spoilage and wild yeast fermentation during storage, and to reduce excess water weight and volume. It is measured in degrees Brix, equivalent to percent sugar per weight. Dry malt is virtually devoid of water (2 percent water, 98 percent solids) by definition and is therefore considered 100 percent sugar. This is the equivalent of 100° Brix. In one gallon of water, one pound of 100° Brix malt would yield a specific gravity of 1.045. Malt extract syrup is 80° to 83° Brix. One pound of an 80 percent mixture of sugar (80° Brix) dissolved in one gallon of water would yield 1.036 specific gravity.
Figuring this specific gravity relies on a simple equation. Just multiply the maximum gravity (that for dry malt, 1.045) by the sugar percentage, which was 80 percent (0.8) in this case of 80° Brix extract. The trick is to translate the specific gravity into “points” before multiplying. Specific gravity can be expressed as points for convenience in calculating. Just subtract 1 and multiply the result by 1,000. Specific gravity 1.045 is the same as 45 points.
1.045 (S.G.) = 45 points
0.8 (80 percent) x 45 points = 36
36 points = 1.036 (S.G.)
After you finish your calculation, remember to convert your “points” back to specific gravity so that a hydrometer can confirm your calculations.
The example above assumed 80° Brix extract. If you know your extract is reduced to a different Brix number, you’ll have to recalculate accordingly.
Now that you know what specific gravity your extract will supply, you can aim to get the same specific gravity with your grains, but you need to take into account that your brewing system will not be able to extract the entire 100 percent of sugar from the grains.
As a simple example, say you are making a Belgian Tripel that calls for nine pounds of domestic light extract. Light extract is generally created with only one pale “base” (enzymatic) malt, usually a two-row variety. To recreate the same effect in your beer, you should use the same pale malted grain. This grain has a maximum extraction of 36 points per pound per gallon.
If you’ve never brewed all-grain before, you won’t know how efficient you are going to be, as brewhouse efficiency is affected by several factors including grain crush, wort viscosity, and lauter tun design. Unless you know otherwise, assume that you will get 75 percent of the maximum quoted above (1.036 specific gravity), which is typical for a homebrew lautering system. This percentage is known as efficiency. Now, to convert your nine pounds of extract to grain, do the following:
- Determine how many points per pound you will get from the extract. In this case it is 36 (1.036).
- Determine how many points per pound (estimated) you will get from one pound of grain. This is 75 percent (your efficiency) of 36 (the maximum yield for pale malt), which
- Multiply the weight of extract (nine pounds) by the ratio of points from extract (36) over points from grain (27).
9 x (36/27) = 12 lbs. of grain.
So 12 pounds of two-row malt provide the same yield as nine pounds of light domestic extract.
Amber, Dark, Wheat Extracts
What if the extract recipe in your hand is made with proprietary blends of malt called “Amber,” “Dark,” or “Wheat”? How do you convert these to all-grain? With the help of some specialty grains, you can closely approximate any 100 percent malt extract on the market.
Almost all extracts start with a healthy dose of base malt, usually a two-row pilsner-type malt from the same country or region as the extract manufacturer. Amber extract is typically 90 percent to 95 percent pale malt, up to 5 percent crystal malt, and/or up to 3 percent chocolate or black malt. Dark extract is typically 90 percent pale, 5 percent roast, 5 percent crystal or chocolate. Every extract producer varies from this, depending on personal tastes, the need to fill a market niche, or the desire to blend an extract for a particular style of beer (as is the case with extract kits).
In general gather as much information on the product as you can, but also trust your senses. Although most producers will not tell you what their exact percentages are, these numbers can sometimes be inferred from the published information. For instance pale malt has a pH of 5.24. If a nut brown extract has a pH of 4.86, you can infer that roasted grain (which has a low pH) was part of the formulation, as opposed to only using crystal malt to give color. Check with your local homebrew shop owner for details on particular extracts. A knowledgeable shop owner may be particularly helpful in determining the components of canned extract kits.
To and From Extract With Grains
For extract recipes that steep specialty grain, the general rule is to use the same amount of grain called for in the extract recipe when converting to all-grain. This assumes the steeping was done correctly; that is, for 30 minutes or more the grain was rested in water ranging from 149° to 168° F, allowing all of the color and flavor to leech out as in grain brewing. It also assumes that the same type and amount of water are used for mashing and steeping. Highly carbonate waters, for example, have been reported to impede extraction and lend astringency and/or haze to the final product. You should be aware of this and try to match water types.
Converting specialty grains pound for pound works for most crystal/caramel malts and all roasted malts/barley, but a special note should be given to toasted grains, light crystal malts, and flaked adjuncts. Unless the extract recipe calls for a partial mash with some enzymatic grains, any toasted malt added as a steeping grain only adds starch to your beer! Toasted malts need the help of enzymes from other base malts to convert their starch to simple sugar. Otherwise, they only contribute haze, complex sugar (starch), toasty flavor, and color. The starch can’t be broken down by brewing yeast, but it may look inviting to bacteria as a food source once the yeast go dormant.
With toasted malt and very light caramel malt (including dextrin malt), you should always employ an enzymatic rest. If you are converting from extract to all-grain, there is no problem, but if you are scaling down an all-grain recipe that includes one of these toasted malts, you’ll have to either delete it or employ a partial mash. There are some extracts on the market that have toasty/bready flavors to them, so hunt around if you don’t like the idea of partial mashing. Another simple solution for dextrin malt is to substitute malto-dextrin powder (0.72 lbs. malto-dextrin for each pound of dextrin malt).
With all of these tidbits and mathematics in mind, here’s a more challenging example. Say you are faced with converting the following extract recipe:
• 5 lbs. domestic amber extract
• 3 lbs. light dry malt extract
• 2 lbs. domestic “Munich” extract
• 1/2 lb. roasted barley
It looks like a mess to convert until you break it down to its constituent parts. Take the five pounds of amber extract. We need to convert the extract to a grain equivalent.
5 lbs. extract syrup yields 1.036 gravity per pound per gallon, so
If you look at the table for amber extract, it tells you that every pound of amber extract uses approximately 0.08 to 0.1 pound of crystal malt in addition to the base malt. Taking the average of this range gives 0.09 pound or 9 percent crystal. To calculate this amount in pounds, simply multiply the total grist, 6.67 pounds, by 0.09 (the decimal equivalent of 9 percent) to reach 0.6 pounds of crystal malt.
This leaves a remainder of 6.07 pounds, which is the amount of pale two-row grain.
Use the same process with the next extract:
3 lbs. Dutch dry malt yields 1.045 gravity per pound per gallon, so
3 lbs. dry malt x (1.00/0.75)(efficiency)
(45 points/lb./gal. from dry malt) / (36 points/lb./gal. from grain)
Domestic Munich extract yields 1.036 gravity per pound per gallon.
= 2.67 lbs. of grain
Since this is Munich extract, which the chart indicates is about 50 percent Munich malt and 50 percent two-row pale malt, the actual numbers will be 1.33 lbs. light Munich malt and 1.33 pounds pale two-row.
And finally, one-half pound of roasted barley remains the same. Combining all of the grains gives:
• 12.4 lbs. pale two-row malt
• 0.6 lbs. crystal malt
• 1.33 lbs. light Munich malt
• 0.5 lbs. roasted barley
When you actually get to the mashing stage, you’ll have to determine at what temperatures to rest for saccharification.
Extract manufacturers commonly rest at 150° to 152° F to create a base extract that is not overly dextrinous and works for a wide range of applications. (Dextrins are unfermentable and thus contribute to body and final gravity.) When substituting grains for extract, use an infusion mash temperature in the range of 150° to 158° F. Lower temperatures produce worts with fewer unfermentables than worts made at temperatures of 156° to 158° F, the recommended range to reproduce a dextrinous extract.
All-Grain to Extract
In terms of calculations, the reverse of the above information is true to convert any all-grain recipe to extract. Pay special attention to toasted malts as noted. Light malt extract is best for conversion since the specialty grains, except toasted, can remain the same. If Munich malt is part of the grain bill, there are sources for 50 percent to 100 percent Munich extract. You may need to blend accordingly.
Keep in mind that you should match country or region when converting. That is, use domestic extract for domestic pale malt, British extract for British pale ale malt, German extract for German pils malt, and so on. If you plan to use domestic light extract to convert British pale ale malt, add a little extra crystal (1 percent to 2 percent) to bump up the color and compensate for the lack of caramel flavor in US pale malt extract.
Here’s a conversion of a real (and tasty!) all-grain recipe to its extract equivalent. This is an amber ale in the tradition of West Coast microbreweries.
- 9 lbs. two-row malt
- 2 lbs. crystal malt, 80° Lovibond
- 0.5 lb. wheat malt
- 2 oz. Mt. Hood hops (5.6% alpha acid), for 60 min.
- 1 oz. Cascade hops, for 10 min.
- 1 oz. Willamette hops, for 5 min.
- Wyeast 1056 (American Ale)
Step by Step:
Mash in at 152° F for 60 min. Sparge and collect 6.5 gal. runoff. Boil for 60 min., adding hops as noted.
Remember, it’s best to use pale extract from the same region of the world as a substitute for enzymatic grain whenever possible. Since this is domestic grain, use domestic extract. The calculation for converting the two-row to pale extract looks like this:
9 lbs. grain x 0.75 efficiency x (36 points/lb./gal. extract) / (36 points/lb./gal. from grain)
= 6.75 lbs. extract (domestic)
Crystal malt can be steeped, so the amount remains the same in the converted recipe. Wheat malt can’t be steeped. It’s a base malt (starch-containing enzymatic malt), so you have two choices: Either perform a partial mash with the wheat and crystal, or convert the wheat malt to wheat extract. If the latter sounds appealing, here’s the conversion:
0.5 lbs. wheat malt x 0.75 efficiency x [(36 points/lb./gal. extract) / (36 points/lb./gal. from grain)]
= 0.375 lbs. wheat extract
Before you think you’re done, chew on this: Wheat malt extract is almost never 100 percent wheat. (Think about the sparging nightmare of 100 percent wheat without the help of husk material and the hindrance of all those beta-glucans!) So divide the result above, 0.375 pounds, by the percentage of wheat expressed as a decimal, 0.5, to get the correct amount of wheat in extract. This results in 0.75 pounds of extract to get 0.375 pounds of wheat. The remaining extract, 0.375 pounds, is from pale malt and needs to be subtracted from the pale extract totals to avoid overshooting the gravity.
For the hops, you need to consider the boiling hop and the amount of water you intend to boil. If you are limited to a 2.5 gallon boil, convert the hopping amount by the ratio of the boil volumes. Conveniently, this equates to doubling the boiling hops. (Use this as an estimate for a test batch and adjust to taste for future brews.) Putting your converted recipe all together, it looks like this:
• 6.375 lbs. pale extract (domestic)
• 0.75 lbs. wheat extract (domestic, 50% wheat)
• 2 lbs. crystal malt, 80° Lovibond (steeped 30 min. at 150° to 170° F)
• 4 oz. Mt. Hood hops, for 60 min.
• 1 oz. Cascade hops, for 10 min.
• 1 oz. Willamette hops, for 5 min.
Armed with some knowledge of the raw materials, a little math, and your senses, you can convert virtually any recipe to suit your homebrewing practices.