Please, what are the major differences between brewing with all grain versus brewing with dry malt extract, besides the amount of time?
The bottom line difference is control over what sugars and protiens you have in your wort.
All tricky beer styles can be produced using DME/LME but will require other steps, adjuncts or enzymes to do it right.
Problem with extracts is they are all usually mashed at 154-156 to make the most versatile wort possible. Giving it a good balance or fermentables, unfermentables and body protiens.
But this baseline average wort falls short for many recipes.
A couple examples: Brut or dry beers. Extracts have too much unfermentable sugars make these styles without adding enzymes to the wort in fermentation. Where a simple beta-a mash does very well.
Many extracts lack good proteins for head retention and body. Requiring adjunct malts for steeping. Step mashing base grains gives you control over this with out using specialty grains for proteins.
And then there's the issue of freshness. Its basically the difference between fresh mashed potatoes or instant (DME). Pasta sauce from the produce isle and made from scratch or a can (LME)
Control over color is the first thing and the biggest. Even the lightest DME will make beer darker than an all grain made with pilsner to the same gravity.
Control over body. All extract, DME included, tends to finish a little higher in gravity points post fermentation than when brewing with all grain. There are ways to help improve the difference in fermentability of DME but straight up gravity for gravity in a fair comparison all-grain wins here too.
Control over the ingredients. DME isn't always just one malt. Some of them have a little crystal or dextrine malt added. Who knows why really? It's not every brand, but it's hard to find out sometimes.
This isn't to say you can make great beers with DME. I did it for years before going all-grain. Using specialty grains for the flavor. And doing some other tricks to improve fermentability when I wanted the beer to be dry. (IPAs and Belgians for instance) The thing all-grain gets to over any extract is flexibility. It comes at the cost of time and complexity. When time is tight I wonder why not just go to an all DME base method of brewing.
Interestingly, myself and a friend just wrote a book on all extract brewing. It mostly focuses on making beer with the lightest DME possible. There are 30 recipes in the book.
- Cost - It costs much less per batch (in the long run) to make beer from grain
- Control - You have much more control over the brewing process.
- Time - I know you said you know this, but this is the main reason people go extract. The mash time adds over an hour to your brewing day from getting the water up to temperature to mashing to running off the wort. Add 1-2 hours to your brewing day. Although, if you read some of Brulosphy's Short and Shoddy series, you'll see you can brew all grain beers that are fairly good in about 2 hours from start to finish.
People mention that it's much easier to make an extract beer, but in today's homebrewing world, I would disagree. If you keep it simple and do a BIAB or mash in a cooler, it couldn't be simpler. It just takes up more room and cost more for equipment, but not that much more. Maybe less than $100 for a cooler and false bottom and valve for the cooler. On the other side, with all grain I can brew a 5% alcohol pale ale for about $10 in ingredients (bulk grain purchases and bulk hops).
If you are living in an apartment and just don't have the room, then I would do extract, otherwise, all grain is the way to go.