Extract to All-Grain

If you’re ready to try all-grain brewing, what better way to start than with your own favorite extract recipes? With a little math you can make your extract recipe work for your all-grain system. With a little number manipulation and some understanding of the nature of various malts these conversions are straightforward.

A Simple Start

The first problem with converting homebrew recipes is that of “extract equivalency.” In other words, how do you ensure that a converted recipe will match the original gravity of the starting recipe. Start by looking at BYO’s recipe standardization insert (see page 2), and use the numbers given there. Let’s take a simple example first, say an all-grain 5-gallon (19 L) brew using 9.5 pounds (4 kg) of 2-row pale malt. BYO gives this as yielding an original gravity (OG) of 1.024 (or 24 “gravity points”) when 1 pound is extracted into 1 gallon of water. So how much pale malt extract do we need to replace this grain? BYO says 1 pound of liquid malt extract (LME) in 1 gallon of water will give a gravity of 1.033–1.037; you probably won’t know the exact figure, so let’s assume it is 1.035 (or 35 gravity points) to minimize error, and then, doing the gravity point calculation:

9.5 x 24 = W x 35…(i)

Where W is the weight of LME in pounds, then W= (9.5 x 24) ÷ 35 = 6.5 lbs. of LME.

But often it is more convenient to take the whole number weight of LME, and make the rest up with dried malt extract (DME). BYO tells us that 1 pound of DME in 1 gallon of water gives a gravity of 1.045, so if in the above we assume we have only 6 pounds of LME, equation (i) is now written as follows:

9.5 x 24 = (6 x 35) + (WD x 45)…(ii)

Where WD is the weight of DME required.

Then ((9.5 x 24) – (6 x 35)) ÷ 45 = 0.4 lb = 6.4 oz. DME

If you had a recipe requiring 6 pounds of pale liquid malt extract, and 6 ounces (0.375 lb.) DME, the equivalent amount of 2-row pale malt (WM) would be given by:

WM = ((6 x 35) + (0.375 x 45)) ÷ 24 = 9.45 lbs. pale malt.

The real world (I)

That example was a simple recipe, and often we want to convert more complicated recipes. So I am going to take such a recipe and go through the approach, starting with all-grain to extract. The first point to consider is what you can and can’t do with specialty malts and adjuncts (other than base malts). In other words, you need to decide whether you can get what you want by a simple steeping procedure, or whether a partial-mash will be required.

Anything containing starch will require mashing, usually along with a proportion of pale malt to ensure the presence of sufficient enzymes to convert the starch into fermentables. These include amber, brown, special roast, Victory® and peat-smoked

malts, as well as Munich, Vienna and rye malts (the last three can be mashed directly without added pale malt). Flaked cereals such as barley, oats, rice and so on also need to be utilized in a partial-mash, but I’ll leave them out of this discussion since they are used for fairly specific purposes, and I don’t want to complicate things too much.

More highly-roasted malts and grains that do not contain starch (or enzymes) can be treated by steeping in hot water to obtain both flavor and extract. Consider the malt bill for this all-grain recipe for a dry stout:

Portly Stout

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.063 FG = 1.015
ABV = 6.3% IBU = 50 SRM = 100

11.5 lbs. (5.2 kg) 2-row pale malt (2 °L)
0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) crystal malt (60 °L)”
0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) chocolate malt (400 °L)
0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) brown malt (65 °L)
0.25 lb. (0.11 kg) black malt (550 °L)

The first thing to notice here is that we have four specialty malts, three of which can be steeped, but brown malt needs to be mashed. None of the specialty malts contain enzymes, so we have to add in some pale malt to the partial mash; an amount equivalent to the brown malt, 0.5 lb. will do the job. So, using the BYO recipe standardization numbers, the gravity points we shall get from the partial mash are as follows:

2-row Pale malt = 0.5 x 24 = 12
Crystal malt = 0.5 x (34 x 0.65) = 11
Chocolate malt = 0.5 x (34 x 0.65) = 11
Brown malt = 0.5 x (35 x 0.65) = 11
Black malt = 0.25 x (25 x 0.65) = 4
Total points = 49

So, the total gravity points required are 5 x 63 = 315, so points required from extract = 315 – 49 = 266. If we use only LME, then we need 266 ÷ 34 = 7.6 lbs. But let’s assume we want to use just 7 lbs. of LME, which gives us in points 7 x 34 = 238. Then points from DME = 266 – 238 = 28 and the weight of DME required = 28 ÷ 45 = 0.62 lb. = 10 oz. Summing all this up we have our new recipe, which I have given in complete form:

Converted Portly Stout

(5 gallons/19 L, extract plus partial mash)
OG = 1.063 FG = 1.015
ABV = 6.3% IBU = 50 SRM = 100

7 lbs. (3.2 kg) pale LME
10 oz. (0.3 kg) pale DME
0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) 2-row pale malt (2 °L)
0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) crystal malt (60 °L)
0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) chocolate malt (400 °L)
0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) brown malt (65 °L)
0.25 lb. (0.11 kg) black malt (550 °L)”
13.6 AAU Northern Brewer pellet hops (1.7 oz./47 g) at 8% alpha-acid (at start)
Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale yeast or White Labs WLP004 Irish Stout yeast

Step by Step
Add pale and specialty malts to 3 quarts (2.8 L) water at 160 °F (71 °C), stir well, and heat if necessary to bring to 150–152 °F (65.6–66.7 °C). Let stand 30-45 minutes and strain liquid into boiling pot, wash the grains with 1 gallon (3.8 L) hot water, and strain again into pot. Stir in liquid extract, making sure it is fully dissolved, then do the same with the DME. Make up to 5 gallons (19 L) with hot water, bring to a boil and add the hops. Boil 60 minutes, cool, add yeast and allow the wort to ferment. When secondary fermentation is complete (one to two weeks) bottle or keg, conditioning in the normal way. Note that this assumes an extract efficiency of 65% in the partial mash.

The Real World (II)

It should be obvious that if you had started with the converted version of Portly Stout, you could simply backtrack on the above calculations to produce an all-grain recipe for this beer. One of the reasons why this is easy is that you are swapping pale malt for pale LME and DME. With darker extracts you have to allow for whatever specialty malts may be present in the extract. This presents a great difficulty, since we do not often know exactly what has been used to make the extract, and even when we do, we seldom know in what proportion the specialty malt has been employed. And I am talking about straight extracts here; hopped extracts present a further problem if we don’t know what level of bitterness they may contain.

We do have some help here, because the BYO October 2006 issue offers the “Ultimate Extract Chart” (see it at Using this and our experience of the parameters expected for the style of beer being brewed, it is possible to make a shot at such conversions. From the chart, amber, unhopped malt extracts generally have a similar color level which comes from incorporation of crystal malt in the original extract mash. It’s a reasonable guess that they will contain around 10–15% of crystal, which will probably have a color level of 60 °L. So assume your recipe uses only extract, with no steep or partial mash, and you’ve used 6 lbs. of amber extract to make 5 gallons (19 L) of an English bitter at OG 1.042. Then total points = 5 x 42 = 210. If we replace this with 90% pale malt and 10% 600 °L crystal malt then: (0.9W x 24) + (0.1W x 22) = 210, where W is the total weight of replacement grain or 23.8W= 210, so W = 8.8 lb (4.0 kg). Then weight of pale malt = 8.8 x 0.9 = 7.9 lb (3.6 kg), and of crystal = 8.8 x 0.1 = 0.88 lb. (0.4 kg), which can be usefully rounded to 8 lbs. (3.6 kg) of pale, and 1 lb. (0.45 kg) of crystal, and these will be mashed at 150–152 °F (65.6–66.7 °C).

You can do a similar thing for dark amber extracts, except that there is more guesswork. Most of these again contain crystal/caramel (60 °L) probably at 10–15%, along with chocolate malt or black malt or roasted barley, these latter probably being at a maximum of 5% of the total original grist. Your choice of the high-roasted malts will depend on the style of beer (and its taste!); use only chocolate for a brown porter, black for a robust porter, and black and roast barley for a dry stout, for instance. Some of these are also made using Munich malt in the mash, and if you want a rather fuller flavor in your beer, instead of just pale malt use a 60:40 mixture of Munich and pale malts along with the roasted malts.

Start Converting!

So now that you know the numbers, put your math where your mouth is and try converting your favorite extract recipe!

Issue: Special Issue: Guide to All-Grain Brewing