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Ag Vs Extract Vs Kit

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Jase

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Hi There,

I know that AG brewing is said to be so much better than extract and kit brewing, and that I may be comparing apples and oranges, but how much better is it?

I have never have an AG brew before, or extract, for that matter.

I would like to eventually progress to AG, but have no idea how much better it is.


Cheers,
Jase
 

MAH

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Hi Jase

All-Grainers will say it's the best, extract brewers will tell you their beers can be just as good or very close as AG without the time/effort of AG. Kit brewers will tell you they can make good beer with minimal effort.

No-one is going to say their beer sucks.

Your only real option is to try some beers made with kit/extract/AG and make up your own mind. No-one can just tell you which is better, only you can decide.

Plus you need to remember that there are good and bad brewers of kit/extract/AG, so just because it's made in a certain way it doesn't neccessarily mean it's going to be better or worse. It's method plus brewer skill.

Cheers
MAH
 

Asher

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I think the essential part of making good beer is fermentration controll. Spend your first dollars here and once mastered, move on to AG gear. with good fermentation techniques, extract beers can be as good as AG beers IMO. you are just limmited to the type ;)

Asher for now.
 

PostModern

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Certain styles lend themselves to different methods too.

I think Porter and Stout are idea candidates for part mashing, as the majority of the flavour is from roasted grains, hence you can cover up some of the flaws of extract's flavour profile. Really pale and /or subtly flavoured beers with additions of hops and yeast profiles definately taste better AG.

If you want to start down the path from kit to AG, try an extract, hops and specialty grain brew first. The 1 hour boil and understanding hop utilisation is a good start to brewing. Never mind the maths, just grab a recipe from somewhere and make a brew. You'll find it much more satisfying than a dump and stir brew.

I've gone from kits to extract and hops to part mash and am in the process of acquiring the equipment for AG. Each step along the way prepares you (somewhat) for the next step. For instance as a kit brewer, you'll already have sanitation and bottling process in place. From there you get to extract + specialty grain + hops brews where you'll pick up on some of the maths and the boiling, chilling processes. From there you move to part mashing, where say 1/2 of the fermentables come from a small mash... the next step is just about handling volumes - 5+ kilos of grain and 30 litre boils and immersion chillers (you can't fit a keg in the kitchen sink).

In the end, it's all good. Excellent beer can be made from kits, partials and AG. As MAH has said, the skill of the brewer and the quality of the ingredients plays a big part. You can't argue with the flexibility afforded by leaving the kits behind.
 

RobW

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Hi Jase

If you understand the process, use good yeast with good temperature control & avoid cane sugar you can make fine beer by all those methods. The thing with all grain is you have a lot more control over what happens. Plus you get to play with all the toys instead of just the can opener & the spoon :D
 

Stratis

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I've made good beers with kit, extract and all grain.

The main advantage of extract and all grain as opposed to kit is the amount of control you have. The main reason I moved to all grain was so I could have more control over the wort. The downside is that it takes me all day to make a batch. I'm thinking of going back to kit/extract for when I'm busy and all grain when I've got the time.
 

Rubes

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I like to think of it like this

KITS
With a kit you make a beer that someone else designed. It is easy to do and takes the minimum amount of work and time. Coopers Pale Ale is a good example. Tastes good. The point being that the main flavour choice you have is what kit you buy. You need the minimum of equipment. Dump and stir in 20 mins. All done. If you are happy with the results then fantastic!

KITS Plus
You take a basic kit and jaz it up. Maybe you add a little extra hops, replace the dextrose with DME, or a handful of Crystal grain or whatever. You still are pretty much bound by the kit. You can alter the flavour somewhat but you still can't have free reign - buy Coopers PA and it wont ever taste like a Pilsner no matter what you do to it!. Dump and stir again in under 30 mins. If you are happy with the results then fantastic!

EXTRACT
No kit. You start with Dried or Liquid Malt Extract and hop it yourself. You have a lot more choice in what you make but you still have some limitations - the profile of the extract has been set by someone else so if you want a really dry beer you might be in trouble. You need to boil the extract for up to 60 minutes to get your hops bittering/aroma. You need to cool the boil afterwards. Because you probably haven't boiled the full volume you can do it with existing kitchen equipment. Boil and cool will now be taking about 2 hours. If you are happy with the results then fantastic!

Hard core AG
You start from scratch. You get the maximum control over what you produce. You decide what it tastes like. I choose to start AG because I wanted to make a Scottish style beer I used to drink as a young lad. If I didn't use AG I would have buckleys chance of making anything close - I know I tried ;-) You need extra kit to do AG - not as much as you might think though. Downside is that this eats up a lot more of your time. If you have to do all steps by hand then you can be looking at the guts of a day to get out a single brew. If you are NOT happy with the results then bad luck!

I have tried all sorts of beer. Most AG ones were much better. That might be because AG brewers tend to be the most experienced and the most committed (mental?) brewers. It might also be that AGers just make more interesting beer? Bottom line is that in the right hands each type can create good beers. AG gives you the greatest choices and will make the biggest range of great beer. It won't guarantee a great beer though - don't forget that Carlton Cold is made with grain!
 

JasonY

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Definately play about with yeasts, especially liquid yeasts if you can as these can make a huge difference on the finished beer. Personally, I can't go back to dried yeast now as they always seem to have that flavour I don't like ....

Just make sure you ferment and the correct temperatures as Asher said.

At the end of the day make it as complicated as you like it as long as you make beer that you enjoy drinking. :)
 

Justin

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Well, in my opinion all grain is much better, however I will now explain this opinion.

I brewed with kits (never sugar though, always malt) for probably 18 months and I made some pretty alright beer. It tasted good to both me and the people that tried my brews and I got heaps of great comments, but it did always taste a bit like a homebrew and never really as clean and crisp as I wanted, the odd funky flavour in there. It had a certain metallic kind of tang to it too. I got on to using specialty grains, mostly crystal and saw some mild improvement (I used to use far too much crystal in most of my early brews). No liquid yeasts at this time, only ever the coopers/morgans or Safale S04 dry yeasts.

I then met another bloke in my region that had been doing all grain brews for a couple of years, so plenty of experience, and had a try of some of his lagers, stouts and ales and I was blown away when they were compared to mine. He also introduced me to a group of other all grain brewers who are now all good mates of mine and we kind of all function like a club to split bags of malt and hops etc. That was the point where I immediatelty went to all grain. I guess if I had to describe all grain beers it would be the most wonderful malt taste and a sort of freshness that that comes through in these beers. Plus the ability to tweak recipes a bit more to your liking. I have tasted all grain beers that demolish commercial examples, but I'm yet to taste any really good extract beers, BUT I really only know fairly experienced all grain brewers and very very few extract brewers so I haven't had the opportunity to try any really good extract brews.

Now, at the same point as I went to all grain I also switched to using liquid yeasts and I have only done one kit with liquid yeasts prior to this, and it was pretty good bar the use of too much crystal with was an error in the recipe I used and not a kit issue. I'd be keen to actually go back to doing a couple of kits with liquid yeasts to see what comes out.

So I think in my opinion, yeast makes a huge difference to your beers and I think perhaps if I was to go back and start brewing kit beers with liquid yeasts I might see a huge improvement in what I was initially blaming on the kits themselves. I think I also blame all these homebrew flavours on the dried yeasts that come with the kits, I really do think they are quite inferior to what you can get out of a well cultured liquid yeast.

So I guess that's my thoughts. I'm going to do a couple of these new cascade kits because I can get them for free and try them with some liquid yeasts and see what comes out. I mean people win homebrew competitions with extract beers against all grains, but you will note they use liquid yeasts. Try and meet up with some all grain brewers so you can have a taste, maybe even go halves in a batch with someone and then you can form your own opinions. Worst case scenario you might make some brewing mates.

That's my story.
Cheers, Justin
 

Trough Lolly

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Jase said:
I would like to eventually progress to AG, but have no idea how much better it is.
Jase,
Get yourself along to the local brewers club and try an all-grain beer. For years I made kit and kilo recipes and thought that I was doing ok with teabag hops and bags of brewiser combo sugars etc. As stated on earlier responses, the results were ok and the labour was minimal - I was happy at that.

Then, I was at a barbie and I tried a mates Guinness clone and freaked - he used steeped crystals and some adjuncts and it dragged me into steeped grains and part mash brewing. It looked, smelled and tasted just like the real deal and it was based on a kit that I could pick up at the supermarket!!

I have recently joined the local brewers club and proudly took my Trough Lolly Porter along to get some feedback. I only had a few tallies and they were sampled by quite a few brewers who gave me encouraging but reserved comments on what was basically a kit brew with steeped grains and some other adjuncts (the recipe is on this forum under the Robust Porters section). I thought I was doing fine and it was the best beer that I had made from my own recipe - I was proud of my efforts, but the members were polite rather than encouraging! Sure, nobody was spewing but I wanted to know why they were a bit reserved in their encouragement!! :blink:

I met the club member who is known as their main man when it comes to brewing brown ales - he's won comps etc. I had half a glass of his all grain porter and it blew me away - I never knew beer could taste so good! No kidding - it was outstanding. So, my education continues - and I am building an all grain system.
This is a great hobby; you are always learning and the people who are "ahead of you" in the game are happy to share their knowledge with you to make your hobby that much more enjoyable.

Try an all grain beer - it will give you something to aim for - or maybe not if you couldn't be bothered with all the extra effort. There's nothing wrong with any beer, because you are always learning - even if you make a crap batch.

Good Luck! ;)
TL
 

wee stu

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Trough Lolly said:
I have recently joined the local brewers club and proudly took my Trough Lolly Porter along to get some feedback. I only had a few tallies and they were sampled by quite a few brewers who gave me encouraging but reserved comments on what was basically a kit brew with steeped grains and some other adjuncts (the recipe is on this forum under the Robust Porters section). I thought I was doing fine and it was the best beer that I had made from my own recipe - I was proud of my efforts, but the members were polite rather than encouraging! Sure, nobody was spewing but I wanted to know why they were a bit reserved in their encouragement!! :blink:

I met the club member who is known as their main man when it comes to brewing brown ales - he's won comps etc. I had half a glass of his all grain porter and it blew me away - I never knew beer could taste so good! No kidding - it was outstanding. So, my education continues - and I am building an all grain system.
Holy deja vu, TL!!

You've just described my recent experiences to a T. Except in my case it was a kits and bits stout which paled into insignificance next to an all grain effort.

Now I'm s-l-o-w-l-y moving towards my own AG efforts, and getting lots of help and encouragment from AHB forum members in the process. Time is an enemy, as is being technically and hand tool challenged!! But I will get there.

As Rubes says, there are some beer styles that you are probably only going to get close to in an all grain craft brew.

If you are happy with kit brews, good luck to you, be happy and enjoy the process and the fruits of your labour. If you are looking for something different, beware - 'cos this hobby can pull you into some very deep depths.
 

GMK

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I have been a Kits & Bits brewer ( some may say a Kits & Pantry Brewer) for the last 3 years. I have also won awards and places in state and National Comps.

I have noted that over 90% of placings goto All Grain Beers.
Whilst a member of the Canberra Brewers i have tasted some sensational Beers - Notably, they were nearly all All Grain.
AG Beers tend have a freshness, zest and much more body and mouthfeel than kits and bits.

Once the equipment is bought for AG Brewing - can go as high tech/ high budget or low tech/low budget as you like - the actual cost in dollars of each brew is cheaper than with kits and bits - partials.

Plus the ability to control and tweak - i find it alot more satisfying and alot more time consuming.

I will still do kits and bits in between AG brews due to time constraints - but there is really something about creating a beer from scratch.

I feel that it takes a really very good kits & bits brew to go past just an average AG Brew. If you find some local AG brewers they may let you brew on there gear with you so that you can try it all out first.

The Canberra brewers club had its own AG equipment taht members donated to the club for members to use for a small fee of $5.00.

Hope this helps.
 
J

Jovial_Monk

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While AG requires a certain capital investment, an AG brew will always be cheaper than an extract brew. Kits are the most expensive form of extract.

I did 3 k+k brews and nearly gave up brewing. . .eventually learned about other things I could do, found Grumpy's and moved to AG after a year part mashing.

To any kit brewer out there, consider how much you are paying for 1.7Kg hopped extract, then consider bulk liquid extract (Coopers) costs $3 per kilo! So look around for a cheap big pan and start doing bulk extract + specialty grains + hops beers. Look for an old beer keg or any other 40-50L ss brewpot, buy burner and propane bottle and start doing full wort boils. A chiller is next--then suddenly AG is only an esky and some copper plumbing away!

AG makes better beers, given any half competent and at least partly sober brewer :)

Why? Consider a glass of milk straight out the cow, next to a glass of milk made with evaporated milk powder next to a glass made from condensed milk. Which glass tastes best? The same analogy applies to malt and lme/dme

And yes I do make a batch of extract beer, to the best of my ability, when time is really short


Jovial Monk
 

johnno

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What about when entering comps?
Do you have to specify wether its an extract or an AG?
Whats the go with this?

cheers
 

Gulf Brewery

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johnno said:
What about when entering comps?
Do you have to specify wether its an extract or an AG?
Johnno

No, you don't normally have to specify this, but some comps give prizes based for kit, extract and all-grain.

There are comps like the Mash Paddle that are restricted to all grain brewers, as this is a skills based comp and everyone is on a level playing field. Its a free land and there is nothing stopping someone having a kits only comp if they wanted to. You just have to rely on the honesty of the brewer.

Cheers
Pedro
 

Asher

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In most comps there's no restriction on how you make beer. they are judging your beer against a style only. Judges have no background to the beer given to them.

You could even enter a wort kit if you like, although wether you forward on any prizes to ESB would be up to you........ ;)

Asher for now
 

Snow

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This is a great thread, with some honest discussion on the topic. Great to see no blinkered postings to the theme of "this way is best, bar none".

In my experience, none of the kit beers I have made (using dry and liquid yeast, steep grains, extra hops, etc) have been impressive. They have always been passable as a good quaffing beer and always better than VB! Having said that, 1st and 2nd place in the Pale Australian Lager category of the National Homebrewing Championships last year were taken out by Kit beers (1st place was a Coopers Draught, bag of brew booster and a packet of finishing hops, with the kit yeast, and it scored 121 points!!).

With regard to extract brewing, you can make very good "big" beers that will win comps (I made a full extract Belgian tripel which won the Belgian category at the nationals last year). However, I made my first ever all-grain beer a couple of months ago specifically to enter in the Mash Paddle comp. I only had a small esky to mash in and a small pot to boil in, so it was only a 10L batch, which I watered down to meet the OG specification for the comp. I consider this the best beer I have made in my short 2 years of brewing. It had a complexity and freshness in the malt flavours that I hadn't experienced in all my other beers and it allowed the hops and yeast flavours to really shine, making it a superb beer that has made my non-beer drinking friends go "WOW!!". It has definitely convinced me that AG makes better beer in most circumstances...... but not all. However, I can't afford the time and don't have the money to invest in the equipment needed to do full batches of AG beers, so I'll be sticking to Partial mashes and extract beers, with the occasional scaled-down AG in my little esky!

Cheers - Snow.
 

MAH

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A number of people have said they can't afford the equipment for AG, but when you look into it, you can make a pretty cool AG brewery on the cheap. I've decided to upgrade my system and will be going electric, and can you do this very cheaply (although I'm going completely OTT).

Buy:
2 x 25ltr plasic pail fermenters for your HLT and Boiler (some guy on this list sells them for $15 each)
2 x electric kettles for the 2400w elements which go in the HLT and Boiler (about $15 from Cheap as Chips etc)
1 X esky for about $40
1 x Marga Mulino Mill $50
1 x CFC $80 at Goliaths (just to be extravagant)
Plus a few plumbing bits and pieces, approximately $50

Grand total $280

This size system is perfect for starting out on, particularly if all you need is 18ltrs for a keg (complete keg system from LHBS $320).

So for $600 you could have a complete AG system and Keg system!

So if you're considering AG don't let the cost deter you. $5 per day for your lunch is $600 in 6 months. Eat sandwiches from home for half a year and make the leap to AG!

Cheers
MAH
 

Justin

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Don't forget the homebrewers ability to scrounge, scrimp, swipe, swindle any and all things that could be put to good use in the home brewery.

We all seem to be really good at sourcing various bits and pieces to add to the brewery for next to nothing and we also produce a fantastic universal currency bartering tool- "Beer". Snow, has a point though, it doesn't have to cost that much and I believe most people could put together the above items for even less if they really scrounged and were resourceful. Worth thinking about if you want to get into it on the cheap. Not everything has to be stainless but it is damn sexy when it is.

Cheers, Justin
 

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