An option for beginning all-grainers is to take the transition half-way. Use a small mash to provide wort complexity and freshness, but use malt extract to provide the bulk of the fermentables. This option is particularly attractive for brewers living in small apartments with limited room in the kitchen for large pieces of equipment.
A partial mash is carried out just like a full scale mash, but the volume of wort collected is only the 3 - 4 gallons that you would normally boil when brewing with extract. The procedure is also similar to using extract & steeped specialty grain, the extract is added to the grain-based wort and the boil proceeds as usual.
What are the benefits of partial mash brewing?
Ingredients are cheaper than when brewing with extract, because of the lower-cost of bulk, whole grains. The cost savings are offset by the extended brew-day that the technique requires.
Ingredient flexibility and freedom by incorporating the mash brewers are able to customize their recipes by utilizing grains that must be mashed, for which there is no extract available.
Familiarization with Mashing, Sparging, & Lautering brings brewers closer to exploring the world of full-scale all-grain techniques.
Why would one make the switch from extract to partial mash?
To add a "fresher" malt flavor to their beer (this could be debated).
To use grains that must be mashed, for which there is no extract available.
To feel a bit more connected to the brewing chemical processes, in that it requires steps that are not employed using only LME.
It is a bit more work and lengthens the brew day compared to extract brewing, but this factor can be balanced out by the paired cost savings, base malts are much less expensive than extract. (Plus, if you enjoy brewing, you get to spend more time brewing!)
Grain insight into the different characteristics given by similar malts from different maltsters or countries. There are wide varieties of malts to play with. Part of the fun is to try them out to find your favorites for use in your own recipes.
What equipment will I need to add to my extract brewing set up in order to shift to partial mash brewing?