What's the difference between dry malt and liquid malt (extract)?

Is there any difference between liquid malt extract and dry malt?


The short version is there is no massive difference but a key difference is perhaps obviously the water content.


The effect of the difference between LME (syrup) and Dry Malt (sometimes referred to as spray malt) is that due to the different water content, they differ in sugar content.


So, if you are following a beer recipie to the letter, you cannot subsititue LME for Dry Malt if you want to stay true to that recipie.


Unless you apply some maths. 



The keenest beer brewers can use a simple formula to determining the conversion rate from one to the other.


The general ratio for use between the dry and liquid forms of 'malt extract' is thus:


1 pound of dry malt extract equals roughly 1.2 pounds of liquid malt extract. Likewise, 1 pound of liquid malt extract would roughly equal 0.8 pounds of dry malt extract.


However, it is not a case of never the twain shall meet.


If you are happy enough with good enough, you and use LME for DME and Dry Malt Extract for Liquid Malt Extract. 


Your results may vary but if you dose your beer in hops, the average punter will not even notice. 


If you are a new brew, say using extract kits rather than a boil, then you probably don't need to worry too much about what you use. 


It's my view that adding a little something extra to a malt kit will make a better beer and the most common thing to add is a 'beer enhancer' which is usually based on... now wait for it:


Dry Malt Extract.


Here's some pros and cons and tips for using DME or LME:

  • As soon as the DME is exposed to air it begins taking in moisture which in turn causes the powder to clump and become a hassle to work with.
  • This is why some brewers use a whisk to whip the DME into warm water before adding it to the wort.
  • LME is said to have a shelf life of up to two years under ideal conditions (cool, dark and dry)
  • Rember you ratios: 1 kilo or pound of DME will raise your original gravity more than 1 pound or kilo of LME.
  • A handy way to remember the ratio: 4 pounds of dry is 5 pounds of liquid.
  • Some brewers have reported that LME will produce a boilover but DME produces a hell of a boilover...
  • LME tends to wind up darker than DME. For this reason, it's hard to produce a true pale ale using LME alone.
  • DME tends to have a better shelf life without the darkening issues of light malt extract as it has less water.

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