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Extract or Partial Mash???


Master Brewer
Feb 15, 2013
Reaction score
Durham, NC
I am a new brewer (started in Dec '12) and have noticed several websites use differing labels for how I brew.
Currently i use Brew In A Box kits that one of my local stores makes regularly. They are largely dependent on LME/DME but also have steeping grains. The lowest amount of steeping grains I have used from a kit yet is 12 oz (3/4lb) and the most was 3.5lbs (and required sparging using water at a different temp).

According to some sites i am an 'Extract w/Specialty Grains' brewer. On others I am an 'Extract' brewer.

Does this website (and therefore all the recipes I need) count me as 'Partial Mash'?

I only ask because I really want to be able to more easily find recipes that fit my style/equipment to look at.

Thanks in advance,
KipDM aka BrewN00b
The short answer is it sounds like you are an Extract Brewer.

Independent of the amount of "specialty" grains one uses in an extract batch, if the grains are primarily for color and flavor and not for fermentables (I'll explain in a minute...) then it's Extract, not Partial Mash. Any recipes you find on this site and others that say "Extract" may have specialty grains that will not require mashing.

A partial mash brew will have some of the fermentable sugars being extracted from grain during mashing and the rest will be LME or DME or some combination thereof.  The difference between grains that CAN be mashed and those that MUST be mashed is a bit more of an advanced topic and is covered in John Palmer's book "How to Brew" - in it you will find good information on this topic and more.
thanks, i actually understand the textbook difference (and even know a little, very little, about the difference between steepable grains and mash-only grains). my question is more of the "how come i don't see ANY recipes so far marked 'extract' on this site that have ANY steeping grains?" i also noticed that a lot of partial mash recipes ican do do (they use steepable grains and don't require anything more than a 5 gallon brewpot).

and that was why i was asking what type of brewer i am. i should have posted more clearly "for the recipes commonly listed on the cloud am i an extract or partial grain brewer?"

if you go to Hopville they have an insane amount of recipes but divide them into extract, extract w/specialty grains, partial mash, and all grain areas. sadly there too i notice that most of the partial mash recipes *seem* to be what i do. i just don't have the room or money to go all grain yet (or even real partial mash).
Not sure why there is a lack of extract recipes with specialty grains on this site or any other - when I started brewing (8 months ago), the extract kits I saw all had specialty grains. I'll admit I also wasn't looking on this site or any other for recipes as I was not that advanced yet.

If you can mash some of your grains (proper temperature over a specified time, proper amount of water, etc.) then you can go right to the Partial Mash recipes. A 5-gallon paint-strainer bag with some crushed 2-row and specialty grains (for example) would work in your 5-gallon pot, no problem. Do your mini-mash first, drain, sparge, top-up to volume, add LME or DME and start the boil.

Doing a partial mash adds a complexity to your brews that extract with specialty grains just can't match. Plus; it's a good way to learn the ropes of mashing which you'll need if/when you make the jump to all-grain.
If you can steep grains, you can do a partial mash.  You need to pay more attention to the water/grain ratio and the temperatures, but it's not much different. 

Partial mash, as already stated, extracts some sugars from the grains used in the "mash" portion of the brew, and the rest from the extract.  I've done a partial mash that had about 30 points from the grains and another 30 from the extract.  Came out great.  It's not that hard.  Go for it!

The paint bag advice already given is good.  Try it that way.

Beware! These guys are leading you down the slippery slope to brew in a bag all grain brewing. Once you do a partial mash in a paint strainer, you'll find yourself thinking, "Hey, if I can mash two pounds of grain, why can't I mash three? And, If I can mash three, why not five? And...."

You've been warned!
thanks for the info guys!

the paint strainer bag sounds interesting.
i have brewed and extract Rye IPA kit that steeped 3.5 lbs of grains.

i can't do 'true' partial mash because for that you need to be able to boil 5-6 gallons (so that cooled size is 5 gallons) and since my brewpot is 5 gallons i am not going to risk larger than a 4 gallon boil (and i usually cap it @3.5 gallons).

i had 'planned' on trying to find a way to use a bag when i step up to partial mash.

sadly for me to get a bigger brewpot i have to get a bigger sink to put it in (my hoses for my immersion chiller aren't long enough to just let it sit on the counter). and no matter how much i lover brewing beer i cannot justify buying a new sink, brewpot, false bottom, and 6.5 gallon carboy before i replace my busted sofa (been broken for over a year). [sidenote: yes my ghetto butt has kept a broken sofa while investing in homebrew equipment. is that genuis or stupid i will let you decide.]
Ok, so knowing you have a 5-Gallon brew pot, and you’ve already steeped 3.5 Lbs of grain, you can in fact do a partial-mash brew somewhat like an extract in that you are only doing a partial boil.

A full boil has several advantages but I'm not going to go into those here - you're not buying a new brew pot yet. I AM, however, going to take a stab at shedding some light on a method that will enable you to do your partial mash brews with the pot you have now. You're still going to boil a smaller amount and then top-up in the fermenter, it's just that you're going to be making some of your own extract here, and then adding some DME and water to get your 4 or so gallons for the boil.

If you started with a partial mash recipe for a 5.5-gallon batch of American Pale Ale, for instance, and plugged into BeerSmith2 an equipment profile containing a 5-gallon pot and configured it for Partial Mash, it might look something like this: 3 Lbs US 2-row malt, 8 oz 20L crystal malt, 6 Lbs Extra-Light DME, 1 oz Columbus pellets (17%AA) at 60 Minutes, 1 oz Centennial (11.6%AA) at 10 minutes, and 1 oz Cascade (6.8%AA) at 5 minutes. This should give you around a 1.060 – 1.065 OG with around 45 – 50 IBUs and a BU/GU between 750 and 800. With a good ounce or so of Cascade for 4 or 5 days at the end of fermentation, this should give you a tasty pale ale.

Disclaimer: This is NOT an exact recipe – your mileage may vary – only a very rough estimate for example’s sake.

Ok, now assuming we’re going to build this beer in your 5-gallon pot – BS2 tells me we’d need 4.2 gallons come boil time meaning once the grains are mashed and sparging is complete and the 6 Lbs of DME are in the pot (this part can go several ways – some may say to hold some of the DME back to avoid darkening too much – we’re starting very light already (about 5 SRM), and an APA can go to 14 SRM – besides, this gets into hop utilization issues, and I’ll choose to avoid that topic for now).

You’d follow the mash schedule and add 1.3 – 1.5 quarts of water per pound of grain (about 5 quarts in this case) to your pot, heat to about 160 – 165 F, drop the bag of crushed grains in and stir well to wet, cover and hold at 150-154 F for an hour or so, pull the bag and drain over the pot, rinse with 170 F water a few times and discard the grain bag. I used to place the bag in a large strainer that I could rest on top of the pot – made rinsing easy.

Now you’ve got somewhere between 3 and 4 quarts of sweet wort in the pot. Add the DME and some more water and mix until all the DME is dissolved - be sure you've added enough water to get your 4.2 gallons in the pot and bring it to a boil (carefully!) Once it comes to a boil, add your 60-minute hops and start your timer, and have a homebrew! Finish hopping, chill, transfer to the fermenter, top-up to 5.5 gallons, check and record the OG, pitch the yeast and let it rock!

Very rough example, sure; but I hope I've illustrated how you can use your current set-up to do a real partial mash if you want to. Remember to keep an eye on hop utilization when doing partial vs. full boils - volume and water-to-sugar ratios change everything!
philm63 said:
...good advice on partial mashes...

What you wrote is almost exactly how I used to do it.  And yes, I was up to as much as 5 lbs of base malts/specialty grains, at which point I built a mash tun and went all-grain.  ::)

I was doing less than 5 gallon batches when I had a five gallon pot.  This allowed me to full boil (albeit less than 5 gallons).  That didn't last either, till I got a turkey fryer with 7.5 gallon pot, now I can do full boils of all-grain.
For the sake of finding nice recipes, I'd look for Partial Mash recipes.  You're capable of doing that with the equipment you have now. 

If you add the nylon mesh bag, or some other way to strain the wort from the grains, you could use a warm oven (~170F) to maintain the 155F temps for mashing some base grains, which will add that fresh malt flavor to your extract kits.  Mashing is steeping, with temperature control.  Once you get practiced at maintaining the temp you want, you could mash those base grains at 149F for a drier beer style, or 158F for a fuller-bodied style.  So your "partial" mash would make up for some of the generic mash profile used to make the DME at the factory.  I did just that while I was deciding what type AG system I wanted to build and use.  Enjoy the slippery slope.
durrettd said:
Beware! These guys are leading you down the slippery slope to brew in a bag all grain brewing. Once you do a partial mash in a paint strainer, you'll find yourself thinking, "Hey, if I can mash two pounds of grain, why can't I mash three? And, If I can mash three, why not five? And...."
You've been warned!
See? They keep tellin' ya how eeeaasssy it is...(it really is.. ::))Yep....I fell down that slope! They get ya hooked, talkin' like that, next thing ya know.....the couch is still broken, and you have invested in a propane burner, a larger pot, a carboy, mash tun,....... and your wife banishes you and your new found addiction to the garage forevermore.  ;D

But, seriously Kip, you can do with what you have, and you'll enjoy it immensely, just follow these guys, they'll teach you more than you ever thought you'd wanna know about beer. Welcome to the addiction 8)
the wife is gone.
i have no garage.

WIN! wait, my refrigerator broke last weekend, my dishwasher is busted and my dryer is on its last legs.

looks like the sofa is going to wait a bit longer.

i really do plan on moving to a house with a garage or basement (or at least a storage shed) before i go all grain. but i fully plan on going all grain.

i actually have only used DME for 2 batches.
i have used several different types of LME though.

have you guys found a REAL difference in complexity between LME and DME?
have you guys found a REAL difference in complexity between LME and DME?


LME is a little cheaper, and CAN be better if it is absolutely fresh.  But, if you aren't sure of the freshness of the LME, DME is more reliable (just more $$$).