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I brew from extract, boiling on an electric stove (in an apartment). Every beer I've brewed has been darker than I expected, which isn't an issue most of the time as I generally prefer darker beers... However, I'd like my next attempt at a pale ale to come out pale!

I think this is primarily caused by the way I'm boiling, essentially caramelizing on the bottom of my brew pot. Is this correct? Any suggestions on avoiding it, or generally keeping an ale light colored?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

If you are doing partial boils, you are probably getting significant wort darkening and lower hop utilization from the high gravity boil. Extract tends to come out darker regardless, but this can be mitigated somewhat by waiting until the end of your boil to add the majority of your extract. Since your target OG may be something like 1.050, when you're boiling only maybe 2.5 gallons of the 5 gallon batch, you've got a gravity of something like 1.100 if you add all of the extract at the beginning.

Adding perhaps 1/2 or 2/3 of your extract with 10 minutes left in the boil (so that it is sanitized) should reduce this darkening somewhat.

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Good answer. Use 1/3rd of your extract at the beginning, then dump in the last 2/3rds right at the end. Also, make sure you are buying the lightest extract possible. There's "extra light dry extract" which is very, very pale. Or you might even consider using Pilsner extract. – Graham Oct 3 '11 at 12:08
Graham's comment is a good one, but put it into a beer calculator. Changing the amount of boil and malt changes the hop extraction quite a bit and you may miss IBU targets without recipe adjustments that take the new method into account. – TinCoyote Oct 3 '11 at 22:45

What sort of extract are you using? Ideally you'll be using the palest extract you can get, and use speciality grains for color and flavor.

How are you adding your extract to the kettle? If you dump the whole mass of extract the bottom of your kettle with the flame applied, you can easily scorch the extract against the bottom, which … you'd remember. It'd lead more to burned-extract-flakes than a general darkening.

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