How To Design Your Own Beer Recipe – Step 4 – Malt Extract

If you are at this point hopefully you have a basic understanding of specialty grains and the hops, now time to get the gist of malt extract.  Malt extract comes in dry (dme) and liquid (lme) form.

For ease of this conversation I will be using LME as examples but we do have a conversion chart that might help some if you like the dry.

How Much Malt Extract Do I Need?

This one has a general rule to follow for when you are creating a recipe.  Use 1 lb of LME per gallon or 1.5 lbs per gallon for a richer brew.

For a 5 gallon recipe, that would mean that you will start with about 5 lbs LME or up to 7.5 lbs of LME.

Doing this will get you in the ball park of 5% ABV with consideration of grains used.

When Does That Rule Not Apply?

Depending on the recipe you may want more or less.  When a brew is heavily hopped you will want to add more malt extract and if a brew is not that hopped then you will want add less – in general.   If you want more alcohol go heavier, if you want it lighter add less.  Pretty simple stuff.

How Will I Know What The OG Is Gonna Be?

There are calculators out there like beertools or this free one which help.

Do I Chose Amber, Pilsen, Golden Light, Wheat, or Dark Malt Extract?

When I make my own recipes, I use only Pilsen light or Golden light malt extract (exceptions are wheat beers which I use wheat lme).  The way that I change the color as well as the taste of the beer is by specialty grains.

Now if you weren’t planning on using that many or any specialty grains, the colored types of malt extract (dark or amber) might be a better choice for you.

All malt extracts were made from grains.  Below shows how these different malt extracts were made.

Golden Light is made from – 2 row

Pilsen light is made from – pilsner malt

Amber malt is made from – 90% 2 row and 10% crystal malt (or 95% 2 row 5% crystal malt depending on manufacturer)

Dark malt is made from – 90% 2 row 5% Chocolate 5% Roasted Barley

To go full circle, you don’t want to add to many specialty grains with amber malt extract or dark malt extract because in my opinion it can get carried away pretty fast since they already included specialty grains in the making.

In my opinion, if you wanted to really add complexity with specialty grains I would  advise to  stick with pilsen light or golden light malt extract.


Both have there advantages and disadvantages.

LME is nice to work with in the fact that when you put it in the pot it doesn’t turn into a dust cloud of stickyness when it hits the steam.  The problem with it is sometimes it can burn on the bottom of the pot if you add it without heating it up.

The, “correct” way to work with it is, take a tea kettle of hot water and soak the packaging of the LME so it becomes loose.  That way when you add it to the water it doesn’t sink to the bottom and burn immediately.

DME has an advantage that when you add it, it will not burn to the bottom of the pot because it will float to the top of the water.  The problem with it is that sometimes it is hard to break up once it floats to the top of the pot.

A Quick Shout Out For All-Grain Brewers…

Don’t think I forgot about you guys.  When you are making recipes all-grain you  have a little more wiggle room because of the fact that there are so many base malts.  We have a post about flavor profiles of the base malts.

A general rule of thumb for all-grain brewers is you want to use somewhere around 7.5lbs of base malt up to 10 lbs of base malt.  Using that amount of malts will again get you in a 5% range for beer.

Note: If you use M.O you really don’t need to add too much more victory or biscuit malt because it already carries that flavor with it. 

Is 5% ABV Beer Important?

The only reason is that it is what I consider a, “standard” ABV for beer.  With 5% ABV you follow fermentation as normal.  If you go much higher you might need to do secondary or keep it in bottles longer to condition otherwise it will taste, “hot”.

If you go to much lower it will be light and if you are not going for a session beer then you will probably think that your beer is weak.

At 5% though you can do a lot to the beer and is a fairly easy beer to drink.


See not too bad for this time around.  Next is water treatment, if you chose to go down that road or not it is something that you might consider.

Leave your comments or questions in the space below, and have a happy valentine’s day!


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5 Comments on “How To Design Your Own Beer Recipe – Step 4 – Malt Extract”

  1. Pickaxe PublishingPickaxe Says:

    Thanks for all your posts, this is a really helpful bunch of info for a novice brewer. I make good beer, but this is helping me understand what i’m doing, and why my choices are working/not working. Thanks again.
    Andrew – Australian Brewer.


    • Jay's Brewing Blog Says:

      Awesome! I’m glad its working out for you. That’s the key for sure, understanding why things work and other things don’t so your beer keeps getting better and better. Good luck with it Andrew!


  2. bierhops Says:

    Very cool series, thanks a lot! I’m mainly a partial extract brewer due to time constraints and I usually get my recipes from my favorite home brew forum. I’ve been wanting to venture off on my own and now I know something of what I want to do. Can’t wait to post my own red ale LoL! Thanks again!



  1. How To Design Your Own Beer Recipe – Step 3 – Using Hops | Jay's Brewing Blog - February 14, 2012

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  2. How To Design A Recipe – Step 7 Final Step | Jay's Brewing Blog - March 6, 2012

    […] lbs LME or 6 lbs DME (Malt Extract Post Has Got This Info In […]

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