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I'm brand new to brewing and am trying to make sense of the instructions from my extract kit (Brewer's Best Amber Ale). During the instructions for the boil, they say that it's important to make sure that the LME/DME extract doesn't accumulate and caramelize on the bottom of my brewpot (stainless steel stock pot).

My question is: How do I accomplish this? What tricks/techniques/etc. exist to make sure that the extract doesn't bind up, fall to the bottom of the brewpot, and essentially char/burn itself onto the brewpot?** Is it simply a matter of stirring continuously? If so, how often, etc.?

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'Is it simply a matter of stirring continuously?'

Pretty much, especially with DME. Once it's dissolved fully, though, there should be no further need to stir. So really 'continuously-until-it's-dissolved'.

I find it helps to add DME slowly while stirring or whisking continuously, until it has all been added, and then continue to stir until visible signs (powder, floating solid bits) are gone, then scrape the bottom and all the corners to check there, then stir until you can't fish any more noticeable chunks out with a bit spoon. It's kind of like making a sauce with a roux. You just have to stir until it's dissolved.

LME is a bit easier, especially if you warm it up before opening to decrease its viscosity, making it much easier to pour and dissolve. Just stick the can in a bowl of warm-to-hot water for 10 or so minutes (shaking the can can give you a good sense of how much it will have liquefied), open and stir well while adding. Adding cool/cold LME increases your chance of chunks that will have to dissolve, and will require more stirring.

I would also say make sure to always add extract to water, as opposed to the other way around. Water being at least warm is best, too (why not add it while you're heating your water up to either steeping temperature or to a boil; just wait until the water's warm, add extract, and stir until dissolved), though waiting until it's boiling, to me, just risks caked-up soggy DME and burnt knuckles, needlessly.

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Couple tips for DME

You just want the water warm when adding it. 100°F is fine. What you don't want is boiling or any steam, or it will clump before even touching the water making mixing a pain.

Once the "warm" wort is clump free from manual mixing then start your heat.

Carmelizing will only happen if you get clumps of DME or LME sitting on the direct heat area of your pot.

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Along with the stirring it helps to turn off the heat before adding the extracts. Preheating the water helps get extract to dissolve faster. If you are using a gas stove top just turn it off. If you are using an electric stove top move the pot off the element as it will still be hot.

Get the water moving and add the extract a little at a time. A good whirlpool with a spoon works well for liquid extract. Using a wire whisk works best with DME.

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