Answering The Question, “Which Is Better Dry Malt Extract Or Liquid Malt Extract?”

“What malt extract is better, dry or liquid?”  This is a pretty common question that homebrewers ask when deciding which one to use.  I unfortunately don’t have an answer in this post about which one is, “better” only because I don’t believe that there is one which is better.  At the end its preference.  I’ll break the two down though and hopefully at the end you’ll be able to figure out which one works best for your situation.

First Thing First, What Is Malt Extract?

For this whole time you have been adding malt extract to your beer and you didn’t know what you were adding?  This will no longer be the case.  Malt extracts are the fermentable sugars in your beer.  Essentially what you are doing is skipping a step, a shortcut if you will.  All-grain brewers make the fermentable sugars by mashing grains then rinsing the grains with water extracting all of the sugars.  This technique is called, “mashing”.  If you were to take that mash at its simplest form of base malts then boil it down, that is malt extract.  We have a conversion chart to kinda show that.

Dry malt extract is more concentrated than the liquid.  So for a recipe, if you were going to substitute 6 lbs of dry malt extract for liquid you can’t really use 6 lbs of liquid.  It would be more on the lines of 7.5lbs of liquid.

About Liquid Malt Extract

Liquid malt extract has its upsides, one is that it is generally cheaper when comparing pound to pound.   At the end you are not going to cut your recipe price in half but it is a way to shave some dollars off your brew day.  Another thing that is nice about malt extract is when you buy it from a homebrew shop that sells in bulk (we do) generally they can break it down to fractional pounds.  An example is at our shop we can break it down to .25 lbs.  This is a nice feature because you can buy for the recipe.  You find sometimes for recipes that it might say, 4.25 lbs LME.  What’s nice is you can buy exactly what you need for that recipe.

What I see as one of biggest downsides to liquid malt extract is it sinks to the bottom.   Now the reason why I say that this is disadvantage is, unless you have an extra set of hands normally you have a pretty high chance of burning the malt extract.  If you burn it bad enough, it can be the only thing you taste.   Now the ways to prevent this is 1) Have an extra set of hands 2)Take it off the burner and stir like crazy when adding it in 3) Don’t add all of your malt extract in the beginning of the boil.  By not adding all of your extract in the beginning of the boil you will also lighten your beer.  So problem solved.

(A Burning Sensation Usually  A Bad Thing)

About Dry Malt Extract

While a bit more expensive, you don’t have to buy as much.  The biggest upside to the dry malt extract is one thing, when you add the dry malt extract it ends up floating to the top.  I personally like this because your chances of burning it go down significantly.  There is a problem though, when you add the dry malt extract you end up having to stir like crazy still.  A lot of times also it will clump up into these dough ball looking things of malt.  Matza balls of malt extract is really what they look like.

I’ve also heard that people don’t like that it doesn’t sink to the bottom.  I can oddly understand their point as well.  The problem with dry malt extract is that when adding it to a boil, or even a steamy pot for that matter – steam will rush up into the bag and harden the malt extract to the bag.  Kinda a pain.  Honestly I’m not to sure of a way to prevent it either.

Wrapping It Up

I guess you can look at it a dozen different ways but at the end malt extract is definitely two different things, sticky and messy.  It’s really preference which one you prefer to work with.  I personally use both, I think that they both have their place in the homebrewing world.  If you have different or interesting insights into the extract world, please leave it in the space provided below.


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