My extract beers are good, I think better than most commercial beers that I buy. Extract takes less time, less equipment and seems to produce great quality beers. Why do people do full grain?
All grain is cheaper (in the not-so-long run), you get way more flexibility on your grain bill and mash, I'd argue it's more fun, and it's really easy to do.
5But it takes a lot more time, right?– CLJNov 10, 2010 at 0:09
7My all grain days take 4 hours from start to cleanup. My extract days usually take 2 hours. So yes, it's double the time. But it's worth it to me.– sgwillNov 10, 2010 at 0:48
6It's definitely for the fun and satisfaction of it. There is something very rewarding about taking grain, hops and yeast and turning it into a great beer. If I just wanted beer as quickly as possible I'd go to the pub.– SimonNov 10, 2010 at 0:50
3Yeah, it takes more time, but we don't brew for the sake of conveniece, right? :)– pkaedingNov 10, 2010 at 0:51
5There's a giant misconception that all-grain brewing is somehow complicated and takes way more time. The only major extra time comes from mashing; the rest is pretty much the same.– Jeff LNov 11, 2010 at 22:36
After ten years of kits and extracts, I finally went all-grain 6 weeks ago. It is so much fun! If you enjoy what you're doing now, I'd say give it a try because there is so much more to enjoy. I've brewed on 5 of the last 6 Saturdays, and had a great time each time.
I only spent about $150 on extra equipment, and that includes a grain mill. I can buy my grain uncrushed in bulk and save a lot. I can now brew a batch of beer for about $14 of ingredients.
It doesn't get much better than this.
1Can you explain more about what you're brewing at $14/batch? Granted I live in a place where things are marked up more than average, but even my extremely small and simple beers come out around $25 (at 5.5 gallons or so on average). Nov 22, 2010 at 5:36
5The bulk grain I get costs about 80 cents a pound. So ten pounds of that is $8. The hops I get are about $2 per ounce. With a dry yeast or a re-used liquid yeast, it ends up about $14.– Jeff RoeNov 22, 2010 at 16:52
Personally I think our all-grain batches taste better. This might be due to the better grains we are using, or the fact that we are better brewers now.
4Mike is right. All grain brewing will make you a 'better' brewer. You stop making other peoples' recipes and start thinking about making your own beer. The number of variables you can control during mash is incredible and forces you to really think about what you are trying to make. Nov 20, 2010 at 0:08
I've had some tremendous partial mash beers. If you have good quality extract and supplement with some specialty grains, I think you can get very high quality results.
I think the biggest downside is that you have less control over the final beer and thus are more limited in what you make.
So I would say stick with extract until the idea of doing a full mash sounds appealing.
I agree with PVM and Jeff about the costs and time issues. I also agree about the fun factor. I find it to be a very relaxing and enjoyable morning when I brew. I brew outside on the patio under my deck. So I tend to do most of my brewing in the spring and fall. I work around the weather as needed. A morning spent brewing reminds me a lot of a morning at a tailgate. There's a moderate amount of activity to hold your attention and when you have free moments you can kick back with a beer and enjoy the fresh air (and smell of beer brewing).
I agree with mike. I think all grain is even a step up from extract.
And Tim's right - it's for the person who wants more control of the process/outcome. I have the choice of Munich or Vienna or biscuit or any other mashed grain in any proportion I like. It's hard to impossible to do with extract + specialty grains.
My advice: Try partial mash recipes to get the feel for it. The rest is pretty easy: just scale up. Or don't. You'll at least have a great feel for what the process is.
On the other hand, what's simpler than extract to get a really tasty beer? You're right, it's better than many store-bought beers.
My primary motivation was to have more choices in what contributes to the flavor of my beer. I only brewed two extract beers before I started all-grain, because I found the extract choices extremely limiting. I've taught several friends to brew since, and have never started with extract. None of them regret it, and none have had any interest in reducing the brew time for its own sake.
My secondary motivation (related to the first) was to be "closer" to the process of brewing. I took an interest in home brewing because I wanted to produce the kinds of beer that I want to drink. I have more involvement in what I'm brewing when I use "raw" ingredients. (Yes, I realize that I'll have even more control in this respect when I begin making my own malts, or even growing my own ingredients.)
As someone who's also made very good extract beers, I've experienced a notably better taste, quality and freshness with all-grain. But even more than that, it's given me a whole lot more freedom to experiment. Of course you can experiment with extract, but you can only go so far. I was nervous, too, but as you can read on this list, it's WAY more fun...