Extract Homebrewing


The simplest way to brew beer is by the method known as extract brewing. This page gives instructions on how to brew a basic American-style pale ale by extract brewing from start to finish. The four basic ingredients of beer are water, grains, hops and yeast. (A thorough explanation of brewing ingredients can be found on the ingredients page.) To sum brewing up in one sentence, grains are mixed with hot water for a certain amount of time and at certain temperatures, then the resulting liquid is boiled with hops before being cooled in order to add yeast and ferment the beer. In extract brewing, instead of manipulating whole grains to achieve optimum brewing conditions (which is a complex biochemical process and takes a good deal of time to fully learn and perfect), the key elements of the grains necessary for brewing are already extracted from the grains and boiled down to a thick syrup, thereby making homebrewing much simpler. As the toughest part is already done, all that is left to do is to boil the extract in water, add some hops and yeast, allow the beer to ferment, bottle and condition the beer for a few weeks, then enjoy.

Instead of belaboring a definition for each ingredient, piece of equipment and concept here, all brewing equipment and terms on this page are linked to the equipment or glossary pages for quick reference. Simply move your cursor over the word you do not understand and you will find a link. If you are new to homebrewing, we strongly suggest you take advantage of those links so that you can learn as you go. For intermediate brewing techniques, see the steeped grain brewing page. For advanced homebrewing, check out the all-grain brewing page.

In extract brewing, the process is basically the same whether you're brewing a pale ale, a porter, a stout or any other simple ale, so you can use the above instructions to brew any extract-only beer - only the ingredients change. For example, a simple English brown or mild ale could be brewed by substituting amber malt extract for the light and using traditional English hops, such as Fuggles or East Kent Goldings, instead of Cascade hops. Lagers are slightly more difficult to brew and, given the equipment and processes necessary to make a proper lager, I recommend getting comfortable with brewing ales before jumping into lagers. Although it may seem like a lot to worry about at first, it really is a very simple process. If you can boil water and read, you can brew beer. Just follow the instructions, keep your brewing equipment and environment as clean as possible and use common sense.

If you want to read more about home brewing (and we strongly suggest that you do), Charlie Papazian's "The New Joy of Homebrewing," John Palmer's "How to Brew" and Stephen Snyder's "The Brew-Master's Bible" are considered required reading. These books are indispensable when learning about homebrewing.  Enjoy!                                                                                                                                    

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