One of the more common problems brewers face is finding a good recipe to brew, but being the wrong version… it can be annoying as an extract brewer to find a good recipe, but have only the all-grain version… or for an all-grain brewer to find only the extract version of a recipe.

So in today’s issue, I’m going to cover how to convert an all-grain recipe into extract and how to convert an extract recipe into the all-grain version.

To illustrate I’m going to use my California Common beer recipe…

Steam Beer (California Common) All-Grain Recipe
9 lbs Pilsner malt
8 oz Caramel 60°L
4 oz Victory Malt
4 oz CaraPils
1/4 oz Northern Brewer Hops 8.5% AA (First Wort Hop)
1/2 oz Simcoe 1.3% AA (60 min)
1/2 oz Simcoe 1.3% AA (Flameout)
Wyeast 2112 – California Lager

The only thing we are concerned with in this recipe is the grains… we need to figure out which grains need to be mashed and which need to be steeped. In the malts chapter of Better Home Brew Formula you learned how to tell them apart and so what we get is the following classification of grains:

Pilsner malt – Base malt
Caramel 60 °L – Stewed & Roasted
Victory malt – Kilned & Roasted
CaraPils – Dextrine-style

Caramel 60 °L, Victory malt and Carapils can therefore be used in an extract recipe. That means that the only grain we can’t use in an extract recipe is Pilsner malt.

The extract equivalent of Pilsner malt is Extra Light DME/LME (or Pilsen DME/LME)

As a general rule of thumb, from all grain to extract I calculate about 2/3 the pound of grains will be the amount of extract I need… so 9 pounds of grain will be roughly 6 pounds of DME… but that’s no always easy to calculate…

I put together an excel spreadsheet if you want to avoid all the math, but here’s the explanation of the calculator.

The first thing you want to do is calculate how much sugar you are getting from the Pilsner Malt so you can figure out how much DME or LME you need…

Pilsner-Malt-Extract-FGTo do that you need to figure out the Extract FG% of the malt found in the malt analysis sheet.

The formula then becomes:

Extract FG% x 46 points of sugar x pounds of grain x Efficiency

Efficiency, unless stated otherwise, it is usually 75%… that’s the average efficiency most brewers get… (BYO magazine uses 65%)

So if we have 9 lbs of Pilsner malt this formula gives us

9 x 80.5% x 46 x 75% = ~250 points of sugar…

That’s how much sugar total you get from that grain… if you divide it by your batch size (5 gallons) then you know that grain alone will give you a wort of 250/5 = 50 or 1.050

What that tells you is that the amount of malt extract you need for your extract recipe needs to give you a wort of the same size… malt extract needs to give you 250 points of sugar…

LME-Solids-PercentageTo figure that out, what you need to find out is the percentage of solids of the malt extract…

As you know Dry malt extract is ‘dry’ because it has less water or moisture… liquid malt extract on the other hand is ‘liquid’ because only 79% of it is actual sugar and the rest is water or moisture…

The formula then is

Points of sugar needed / (46 * Solids)

So in our case we need 250 points of sugar total. If we want to use Liquid Malt Extract with 79% solids then we get 46 x 79% = 36.34

250/36.34 = 6.88 lbs of LME

If we want to use DME with 91% solids then we get 46 x 91% = 41.86

250/41.86 = 5.97 or ~6 lbs

So my recipe would now be:

Steam Beer (California Common) Extract Recipe
6 lbs Extra Light DME (or 6.88 lbs Extra Light LME)
8 oz Caramel 60°L
4 oz Victory Malt
4 oz CaraPils
1/4 oz Northern Brewer Hops 8.5% AA (First Wort Hop)
1/2 oz Simcoe 1.3% AA (60 min)
1/2 oz Simcoe 1.3% AA (Flameout)
Wyeast 2112 – California Lager

So what if I started with the extract version?

The math is just backwards…

You have to figure out how much sugar you get from the extract… To do that you need to know the amount of solids of the extract… DME is usually about 89 to 93% (the malt analysis sheet will state about 97%, but keep in mind that it picks up moisture during handling and storage)…

The formula is: Lbs of Extract x Solids% x 46

In our case we have: 6 lbs DME x 91% x 46 = ~250 points of sugar

That’s how much sugar we need… and now we have to figure out how much grain will give us that same amount…

Extra light DME is made with Pilsner malt and the formula to determine how much sugar you get need:

Points of sugar needed/(46*Extract FG%*Efficiency%) = Lbs of grain needed

Assuming 75% efficiency, then we get: 250/(46*80.5%*75%) = 9 lbs of grain

This really is a simple conversion if you just substitute base malts for their extract equivalents… but this can get a bit tough when you have something like amber DME or Porter DME…

The problem is that maltsters don’t list how much malt they are using…

CBW Sparkling Amber DME for example is made with 2-row pale malt and caramel 60 °L… but we don’t know how much caramel malt is in it… an estimate is about 10 to 15%… so in 6 lbs of Amber DME you have roughly 0.5 lbs of caramel to 1 lb of caramel…

The way I would go about converting this malt extract into all grain would be…

If I have 6 lbs of Amber DME… 91% solids means I need 251 points of sugar… but remember that this malt includes 2-row pale and caramel 60 °L…

If we want to use .75 lbs of caramel 60 °L then you can do math using the formulas above to figure out how much sugar that will give you. With 76% Extract FG, you get 20 points of sugar, which means your pale malt needs to give you the remainder 251 – 20 = 230 points of sugar

Using the formula above you can find that you’ll need roughly 8.3 lbs of Pale malt to give you 230 points of sugar.

230/(46 x 80.5% Extract FG x 75% Efficiency) = 8.3 lbs

To make the math easier I’ve put together an excel spreadsheet that does this math for you.


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