Malt extract is sugar extracted from malted grain. This concentrated and condensed extract is used to create wort by homebrewers.
LME vs. DME
Malt extract comes in two forms: liquid or dry malt extract (LME and DME, respectively). LME is a thick, sugary syrup, and DME is a dry powder.
The primary difference between liquid and dry malt extract is the amount of water in each. Because the two types of malt are different in water content, a pound of liquid extract and a pound of dry extract differ in sugar content as well. Therefore, liquid and dry extract are not interchangeable in a recipe. However, there is a simple formula to convert between types of extract.
- Liquid Malt Syrup: If the final product is syrup, the water content is usually around 20%, with the other remaining 80% composed of sugar and unfermentable solids that are important to brewers.
- Dried Malt Powder: If the final product is a dried powder, the malt extract has undergone a complete evaporation process by way of ""spray drying"", thus removing virtually all of the water.
- Conversion: The ratio for use between the dry and syrup forms of malt extract can be approximated as follows: 1 pound of dry malt extract would roughly equal 1.2 pounds of syrup malt extract. Likewise, 1 pound of syrup malt extract would roughly equal 0.8 pounds of dry malt extract.
Varieties of Malt ExtractThe primary difference between the varieties of malt extract is color. Differences in color can be achieved through various means, including altering the kilning time and temperature, the mashing method, and the variety of barley used. However, manufacturers rarely disclose the exact ingredients or methods used to produce extract. Despite this, there are some generalizations that we can make regarding the use of each variety of malt extract:
- Pilsen or Extra Light are used for pilsners or other straw-colored beers.
- Light, Gold, or Pale are three names for very similar products. They are great as a fermentable base for most pale ales and some lagers, or used in conjunction with the amber or dark extracts and/or with specialty grains.
- Amber is darker and with more residual sweetness than the Extra Light or Light.
- Dark is used in Porters and Stouts but needs to be infused with portions of chocolate and/or roasted barley to achieve varying degrees of those flavors, which are desirable for the style. This is because dark malt extract does not contain appreciable levels of these types of grain.
How is Malt Extract made?
Manufacturers use sophisticated equipment to condense malt extract by carefully evaporating much of the water. The evaporation of water from malt extract is carried out in a vacuum. The low air pressure environment created by the vacuum allows the liquid to boil at a lower temperature. This procedure is economical as well as being less pernicious to the integrity of the end product. Basically, it is sweet wort reduced to a syrup or powder. Since malt extract provides the raw materials yeast use to produce alcohol, recipes that include more DME or LME will typically have greater alcohol content and body.
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