The holy grail of the homebrewing community is the all-grain batch. From the start, when folks get their first 2-gallon Mr. Beer or 5-gallon beer kit, making it to all-grain brewing is a goal. Plenty of amateur brewers look forward to the day they can ditch the cans of liquid malt extracts (LMEs) or bags of dry malt extracts (DMEs) and go full grain.
Is it necessarily better, though? Sure, the vast majority of professional brewers go all-grain. The big question is why. Today, we’ll look at the major reasons why advanced brewers use all-grain brewing, even though brews of similar quality can result.
For advanced brewers, particularly production breweries, it’s a matter of cost. Malt extract eliminates some time as well as some processes, but it ends up costing a bit more. This cost isn’t huge for the advanced home brewer, but for the brewer with an eye towards production, that cost will be multiplied every time they make a batch. However, if the advanced home brewer is consistently using the same grains, and is making beer on a consistent basis, they can see big savings from buying bulk amounts of that grain. Of course, they also then have to store it.
Any brewer will tell you that the best thing about all grain brewing is the sheer amount of control the brewer has over the final product.
There are an infinite number of styles out there. Unfortunately, using malt extract restricts you from working in some of these style regions. As mentioned previously, there are some things you can’t necessarily control when using LMEs or DMEs. This means that there are certain beer styles that will be difficult or even impossible to attain using the extracts. That being said, there are some beer styles that extracts do work well for – the standard pale, red, and brown ales, as well as porters and stouts, can be achieved with all-extract or partial grain methods.
When it comes down to it, there is little difference in terms of quality between beers that use all-grain versus beers that use extracts. Some folks will tell you they can pick out an extract-brewed beer from an all-grain beer, but that’s highly unlikely. A good brewer can make an award-winning extract beer just as easily as they can make an award-winning all-grain beer. What it comes down to is being close to your brew, being deeply involved in it, and having compete control over the recipe. All-grain allows for this, extract brewing doesn’t, and that’s the core reason why advanced brewers use the all-grain method.