How to use dry malt extract

Written by robyn broyles
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How to use dry malt extract
Dry malt extract can replace barley malt in any beer recipe. (gerste image by Daniel Fuhr from

For beer-making, professional brewers always start with malted barley grain because it allows the most control and has the lowest cost, but brewing with grain (mashing) requires special equipment as well as expertise, and the whole process takes longer. Home brewers often use commercially prepared malt extract instead. In its dry form, malt extract resembles sugar, but with a creamy colour and characteristic malty aroma. All-grain and liquid malt extract home brew recipes can be converted to use dry malt extract (DME) instead, cutting down on the time, equipment, and knowledge necessary to make beer at home.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Home brew beer recipe for 5 gallons
  • Yeast, hops and speciality ingredients according to the recipe
  • Mesh bags for speciality ingredients
  • Plain light dry malt extract
  • Calculator
  • Kitchen scale
  • Brew kettle (min. 3.5 gallon capacity)
  • Racking and fermenting equipment

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  1. 1

    Calculate how much DME will be needed, if it's not already given in the recipe. For a liquid extract recipe, multiply the number of pounds called for by 0.84. For an all-grain recipe, multiply the number of pounds of pale malt by 0.038.

  2. 2

    Weigh out the appropriate amount of DME using the kitchen scale.

  3. 3

    Fill the kettle with about 3 gallons of plain water. Add the bittering hops and speciality grains, if any, each in a mesh bag. Follow the recipe's instructions for any other speciality ingredients such as honey or fruit.

  4. 4

    Turn the heat as high as possible. As the water heats, stir to dissolve all the DME and prevent it from burning. When the water reaches a boil, remove the bag of speciality grains, if you are using one.

  5. 5

    Watch the pot for boil-overs. The wort (unfermented beer) will rise up in a foam around the time it starts boiling; this point is called the "hot break." Monitor to keep this foam from spilling over, spritzing it with a water bottle or reducing the heat if necessary. After a few minutes, the foam will go down again.

  6. 6

    Fill the clean, sanitised fermenter with about 3 gallons of clean water while the wort is boiling.

  7. 7

    Maintain a rolling boil for one hour. Cool the wort, ideally using a chiller, and rack (siphon) it into the fermenter. From this point on, DME, liquid malt extract, and all-grain recipes can be treated the same.

Tips and warnings

  • For the brew kettle, use the largest kettle you can find. Fill it as full as possible during the boil for a better-quality beer. If you have a larger kettle than the minimum size, take the amount of water over 3 gallons that you use and subtract that amount from amount used to pre-fill the fermenter. For example, if you start with 4 gallons for the boil, use only 2 gallons in the fermenter.
  • Light DME replaces the liquid produced by mashing malted barley. For an all-grain recipe, avoid dark malt extract. If the recipe calls for hopped liquid malt extract, you will need to consult an experienced brewer to find out what hops to add to replace the bitterness.

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