How to Convert All Grain Beer Recipes to Extract

Learn how to convert all grain recipes to extract recipes, opening up countless beer styles to those not ready for all grain.

HOW-TO

Mat Stuckey

10/10/20234 min read

A demijohn of beer next two 4 beer bottles
A demijohn of beer next two 4 beer bottles

Many of the best homebrew recipes are formulated for all grain brewing. While advanced brewers may prefer the control of an all grain setup, extract brewing remains a great option for beginning and intermediate brewers. The good news is, with some simple techniques, extract brewers can easily convert all grain recipes to work with malt extract.

This guide will teach you how to take any all grain beer recipe and tailor it for extract brewing. By swapping base malts for extract and steeping specialty grains, you can unlock countless new homebrewing options while matching the original recipe style. Let's dive in and cover the full process for seamless all grain to extract recipe conversions.

Why Convert Recipes to Extract?

Being able to convert recipes opens up more possibilities for extract brewers:

  • Access countless all grain recipes to expand your options

  • Brew sought-after beer styles dependent on specific malts

  • Learn more about recipe formulation for all grain transition later

  • Tweak and personalise recipes to your own tastes

  • Experiment more with hops, yeasts, fruits, spices etc.

  • Gain confidence modifying and developing recipes yourself

While many quality extract recipes exist, you don't need to be limited by grain availability. Follow the steps below to convert almost any all grain recipe to extract.

A jug of beer surrounded by beer bottles and glasses
A jug of beer surrounded by beer bottles and glasses

With an understanding of the key differences between all grain and extract brewing, converting a recipe is straightforward:

1. Identify the Base Malts

The first step is to look for the main base malt(s) in the grain bill that make up the majority of the fermentables. Common base grains are:

  • Pale malt

  • Pilsner malt

  • Maris Otter

  • Vienna malt

  • Munich malt

  • Wheat malt

These base malts need mashing to convert their starches and are typically 60-100% of the total grain bill.

2. Select Suitable Extracts

Once the base malts are identified, choose a malt extract variety to substitute them. Options include:

  • Pale liquid malt extract (LME)

  • Pale dried malt extract (DME)

  • Wheat LME or DME

  • Pilsner LME or DME

  • Munich LME or DME

Select extracts that closest match the character of the base malt. Pale LME or DME works for most bases.

3. Calculate Extract Quantities

To determine how much extract is needed, consider the all grain recipe's mash efficiency. This indicates how much sugar was expected to be extracted from the base malts.

Use this handy reference table to find the correct weighting based on the listed efficiency:

Mash Efficiency - LME Factor - DME Factor

65% - 0.63 - 0.52

70% - 0.68 - 0.56

75% - 0.73 - 0.6

80% - 0.78 - 0.64

Then multiply the weight of each base malt by the factor for the relevant efficiency and extract type.

For example, for a recipe with 6 lbs of pale malt at 70% efficiency, using DME:

6 lbs pale malt x 0.56 DME factor = 3.36 lbs pale DME

This determines the right amount of malt extract needed to match the base malt sugar content.

4. Steep Speciality Grains as Normal

The remaining speciality malts like crystal, roasted barley, chocolate malt etc. can be steeped per the original recipe amounts, just like normal extract brewing.

These grains don't need mashing and provide colour, flavour and body when steeped.

5. Brew with Extract as Usual

Once the malts are converted to extract or steeped specialty grains, the remaining recipe stays the same. Follow your standard extract brewing process, utilising the hops, yeast, water treatments and more just like the original.

And that's it - you now have an all grain recipe seamlessly tweaked for extract brewing! Let's look at some example conversions.

All Grain to Extract Recipe Conversion Examples

To reinforce the process, let's step through some all grain to extract recipe conversions:

All Grain Recipe

8 lbs Pale Malt (70% efficiency)

0.5 lbs Crystal 60L

1 oz Cascade @ 60 min

1 oz Cascade @ 5 min

WLP001 California Ale Yeast

Extract Version

8 lbs Pale Malt x 0.56 DME factor = 4.48 lbs Pale DME

0.5 lbs Crystal 60L (Steep as normal)

1 oz Cascade @ 60 min

1 oz Cascade @ 5 min

WLP001 California Ale Yeast

The base pale malt was swapped for pale DME based on the 70% efficiency, while the crystal malt amount remained the same for steeping. Very easy!

Let's try another:

All Grain Recipe

6 lbs Pilsner Malt (75% Efficiency)

0.5 lbs Carapils

0.5 lbs Caramunich

1 oz Tettnang @ 60 min

Wyeast Czech Pilsner 2124

Extract Version

6 lbs Pilsner Malt x 0.6 LME factor = 3.6 lbs Pilsner LME

0.5 lbs Carapils (Steep)

0.5 lbs Caramunich (Steep)

1 oz Tettnang @ 60 min

Wyeast Czech Pilsner 2124

Again, a simple substitution using the efficiency to determine the Pilsner LME amount, while steeping the specialty malts as usual.

With these examples, you can see how easy converting most recipes can be.

Partial Mashing Options for Tricky Recipes

Some all grain recipes rely on base malts not commonly available in extract form. In these cases, a partial mash of the base grains can be performed to convert their starches to fermentable sugars.

While more involved than normal extract brewing, partial mashing can allow you to brew virtually any recipe. This advanced technique does require some additional equipment and process steps, but expands your possibilities.

The basics involve mashing a portion of the overall recipe's grains separately, then combining the sugars extracted with malt extract for the full wort production.

Be on the lookout for an upcoming in-depth guide to partial mashing for extract brewing to cover this method fully.

Key Takeaways for Converting Recipes

  • Identify base malts and select suitable extracts

  • Use the efficiency and reference table to calculate extract amounts

  • Steep specialty grains per the original recipe

  • Follow your normal extract brew process

  • Partial mashing can help adapt tricky recipes

  • You can brew nearly any beer style with extract!

Don't be limited to recipes labelled as "extract". With the simple techniques covered here for converting all grain recipes, an entire world of homebrewing possibilities is opened up to extract brewers.

Try your hand at converting some recipes and brewing sought-after styles. The ability to tweak and personalise recipes to your own tastes is one of the great joys of homebrewing!

Want more homebrewing tips? Head over to the Brewpedia blog for loads more!