How Long Should You Boil DME? A Simple Answer
Dried malt extract (DME) can make the brewing process more straightforward and is a great technique to try for those new to home brewing. However, it can be tricky to master at first.
DME should be boiled between 10 and 30 minutes if it is unhopped to sterilize the wort and extract the bitterness. Hopped DME, on the other hand, does not require boiling.
In this article, you can know more about your DME type and whether it has to be boiled from the package. If you’ve never used DME before and want to learn all about how it works, keep reading.
Reasons for Boiling DME
There is conflicting advice on whether DME should be boiled and for how long. That said, if you want to make sure your home-brewed beer is safe and delicious, you need to first understand why you need to boil it in the first place and how boiling must be done.
The main reason for boiling DME is to sterilize the wort. Since the process of DME production often comes with a risk of contamination, the boiling step aims to ensure your beer is safe for consumption.
Also, it’s important to boil DME if it comes unhopped, meaning you have to add hops manually. There are several reasons for that:
- Boiling ensures that the proper amount of tannins makes it into the finished beer, as too much tannin can have a negative impact on the beer’s flavor.
- Boiling extracts the bitterness from hops to achieve the desired taste.
- Boiling obtains pleasant scent notes from the hops for the beverage.
Typically, the boiling time ranges between 10 and 30 minutes. The exact boiling time you need is specified in the instructions on the DME package.
Brewing With DME: A Step-by-Step Guide
Using DME instead of whole grains requires less equipment and makes the brewing process easier.
DME uses extract brewing and allows you to skip the mashing step by using a pre-made wort instead. You can also partially use grains with DME to enrich the flavor of your beer.
While I say this method is simpler, getting it right the first time can be challenging. To help you understand how the process works, I’ve included detailed instructions for brewing with unhopped DME and some extra tips that may be useful in making the process easier.
- Prepare the ingredients. Measure the volume of water and the amount of DME you need according to the instructions on the package.
- Dissolve the DME in water. Sprinkle it slowly while simultaneously mixing in the powder to ensure it doesn’t clump.
- Sterilize. Boil the DME for 10 to 30 minutes. An autoclave can also be used for this step.
- Cool. Leave the wort overnight to cool down to 4°C (39.2°F).
- Centrifuge for 5 min at 1,500-3,000 × g. Doing this step will significantly improve the quality of the beer.
- Dilute. The gravity of wort should be at 12°P. You can use sterile water to adjust the value.
- Add 2.5 ml zinc chloride solution per liter of wort. This solution will promote yeast growth in your beer.
This recipe is one of the most straightforward ones. If you don’t know where to start, consider trying this out first to grasp the basics of the process.
The recipe can be adjusted to your preference or used as a reference for your future experiments.
Pros and Cons of Using DME
While DME can be a great technique in many ways, all-grain brewing is often considered superior to extract brewing. If you’re unsure whether to use the DME, it can be helpful to take a closer look at its pros and cons.
The Pros of Using DME
- Simplicity. Extract brewing allows you to skip the mashing process, saving you time and sparing you the effort of having to learn how mashing should be performed.
- No special equipment. If you choose to brew from DME, you won’t need as much equipment since you can skip the first brewing steps.
- Good for beginners. If you’re new to making beer, brewing from DME is a good starting point for mastering all the skills you need.
- Versatile. Once you know how to use DME, you’ll find that it works great for yeast starters and experimental brews alike.
The Cons of Using DME
- Less control. Since the mashing process is skipped in extract brewing, you have less control over the finished beer.
- More costly. Overall, it’s cheaper to use whole grains for beer brewing. As DME is a pre-made product that undergoes several preparation stages, it comes with a higher price tag.
- Less variety. Although more and more DME options are available, using whole grains provides a greater variety of flavor and allows for more creative freedom.
DME vs. LME
Let me talk about another type of malt extract called LME. As mentioned, DME stands for “dry malt extract,” while LME means “liquid malt extract.” From their names alone, you can already guess the differences between the two.
LME is the result of wort dehydration to about 20% water and is sold in liquid form, while DME undergoes an additional drying stage, resulting in a powder with about 2% water in it.
So, which of the two is better, and how does the difference impact the finished product? Let’s look at the table that compares the key characteristics of LME and DME.
|Gets more clumpy once exposed to the air, has to be sealed tightly
|Easy to store, has a shelf life of up to 2 years under the right conditions
|Easy to measure due to its powder form
|Harder to measure exact quantities if you don’t use the entire package
|More difficult to use, can create clumps that are hard to break up
|Clear and rich
|Usually dark and can go even darker if LME experiences degradation
|Slightly smaller variety
|Slightly wider variety
Of course, whether the flavor of one or the other is “better” depends on your personal preferences, but I can say that LME generally provides a richer and more pleasant taste.
While DME has its benefits, LME is generally easier to use and produces better flavor, which is why many brewers favor it over DME.
Still, I strongly recommend choosing your extract based on what you need and what you’re more comfortable working with.
Brewing with DME is easier than all-grain brewing but can still be relatively challenging to master. An important part of working with DME is boiling it for 10 to 30 minutes to sterilize the wort.