Extract Vs. All Grain – An Unbiased Look

Methods for homebrewing beer typically fall underneath one of two styles, Extract or All-Grain. Whether you are a new brewer choosing the path you’ll take, or an experienced one entertaining a change of pace, we’ll look at both methods with an unbiased approach to help you determine which format fits you best. We\’ll look at three wort preparation setups. Brew-in-a-Bag (BIAB), which is a single vessel all grain approach. The other two methods are extract brewing and a full-sized (3 vessel) all grain system.There’s a lot of debate between the two formats of brewing and the advantages or disadvantages of each, but keep in mind both methods have produced award winning beer and there’s no right answer, just what’s right for you. Now let’s begin.Start-up Cost of Extract and All Grain Brewing (Hot Side)Assuming you have no equipment and want to make 3-5 gallon full boil batches, let’s look at the minimum startup cost for both. We’ll only look at hot side equipment for this, which is the equipment needed before it goes into the fermenter (cold side).All Grain BIABAll Grain 3 VesselExtract7.5 Gallon Kettle $70Ported 7.5 gallon kettle to serve as an HLT $2007.5 Gallon Kettle $7050,000 BTU Burner $55Mash Tun with a BIAB bag or false bottom $14050,000 BTU Burner $55Large BIAB Bag $97.5 Gallon Boil Kettle 70$Large Spoon (For stirring in extract) $8Large Spoon (For stirring mash) $82X 50,000 BTU Burner(one for HLT, one for Kettle) $110Large Spoon (For stirring mash) $83 Tier Brew Stand (price will vary widely)Total: $142Total: $528 + Cost of Brew StandTotal: $133The bottom line prices show that the hot-side startup costs for BIAB all grain brewing and extract brewing are very similar, with a 3 tier all grain setup costing significantly more. Cold side equipment will cost the same for all three setups. Now let’s look at the cost of a batch. A standard 3 vessel brewstand for all grain brewing. Brew in a Bag (BIAB) only uses one vessel.The Per Batch Cost of All Grain and Extract BrewingExtract is the most expensive malt ingredient available to a brewer. Let’s compare the cost between liquid extract, dry extract, and an all grain batch. For this comparison, we’ll use a simple base recipe to reach 1.060 gravity points. For all grain we’ll assume 75% efficiency Note: It’s very possible to have efficiencies into the mid eighties, but 75 serves as a nice middle ground). I won’t include the hops, as those will be the same throughout.All GrainLiquid ExtractDry Extract10 Pounds Pale Ale Malt at $1.45 per pound8 Pounds Light Liquid Extract at $11.95 per 3.3 pounds (must buy 3 cans)6.6 Pounds of Dry Malt Extract at $4.95 per pound (must buy 7 pounds)0.8 Pounds of crystal 20 at $1.65 per pound (must buy 1 pound)……$16.15 grain cost / 5 gallons$37.50 cost / 5 gallons$36.30 cost / 5 gallonsA big win for the all grain format is the ingredient cost. Many established homebrewers are well familiar with the cost of dry and liquid extracts being significantly more expensive for than a comparable amounts of grain. With the extract formats, you may be able to save some small leftover extract not required for the current batch for another recipe in the future, but this is a difficult and messy task. Don’t forget that you must add hops and yeast to that price, so an IPA even with dry yeast can end up costing an extract brewer 50$, and an all grain brewer just 30$.Using these numbers, It would take one batch to cover the cost difference of BIAB equipment over extract (8$). However, if you were to use a small 3 vessel system, it would take 20 batches to cover the cost difference between an extract system (not including the cost of a brewstand, which could require 10+ more batches).So if you’d like to “save money” by homebrewing, a modest BIAB system off the bat is the ideal option. The next consideration is the length your brewday.The Length of Your Brew Day (To the End of the Boil)An extract batch takes much less time than an all-grain batch. So if you have a newborn in the family, a shorter brew day could be the difference between brewing and not brewing at all, so time is always something to consider with your situation. Let’s look at the times for each.All Grain BIABAll Grain 3 VesselExtractHeat Mash Water – 20 minutesHeat Mash Water – 20 minutesHeat Water -30 MinutesMash in – 60 MinutesMash in – 60 MinutesDissolve portion of extract with steeping grains – 15 MinutesMashout – 10 MinutesBatch Sparge – 30 MinutesBring to boil – 10 MinutesRaise wort to boil while grain bag drains – 10 MinutesRaise Wort to Boil – 10 MinutesBoil 60 MinutesBoil 60 MinutesBoil 60 MinutesDissolve Rest of extract – 5 Minutes~2 Hours 45 Minutes~3 Hours 15 Minutes~2 HoursThese times are of course estimates, but the fact that there is no mash or sparge of any kind with extract brewing saves you at least an hour. Once all said and done, on a good day, an extract batch can be finished and cleaned up in just a few hours. All grain batches will take around four to four-and

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