Damn it Jim, we’re trying
to make beer, not caramel candy!
The “Bible” is wrong.
If homebrewing is a religion, then Charlie Papazian is the Patron
Saint. He wrote the book The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. This book,
originally published in 1984 and now in its third edition, was described
by the Associated Press as “The Homebrewer’s Bible”.
Charlie is properly credited for raising public consciousness about
amateur beermaking through television appearances, public speaking
and as the founder and guiding force of the American Homebrewers
And the advice he gives in his book on how to make beer with malt
concentrates and beer kits is completely wrong.
In fact, he’s wrong right from the beginning. His very first
instruction in the “Especially for the Beginner” chapter
reads, “Combine and dissolve your malt extracts (and sugar
if used) in 1.5 gallons of water and bring to a boil for 45 minutes.”
This advice is just fine if you want every beer you make to come
out dark amber in color and sickly sweet in flavor.
Let’s try a little experiment. Take a cup of regular table
sugar, pour it on a cookie sheet and bake it at 400’F for
five minutes. It started melting and turning dark brown didn’t
it? It is caramelizing. And it is a lot less fermentable than it
was before you baked it. This is the exact same thing that happens
when you add all the malt concentrate ingredients for 5 gallons
of beer to 1.5 gallons of water and boil it for 45 minutes.
I will concede that Charlie finds himself in a bit of a Catch-22.
Most malt concentrates really aren’t made or packaged with
beermaking in mind, never mind what the package says, or what someone
tells you. And given that some of these products come out of non-pasteurized
55 gallon industrial drums, and are stored in plastic buckets for
who knows how long, I’d probably be inclined to boil the heck
out of it too. Fortunately, there is an alternative. The Coopers
Brewery produces malt concentrates specifically for beer making.
The processes used are the same as we use in beer production, ensuring
product stability, and eliminating the need to boil the concentrate
Ok, I know what you are thinking…”but, wait a minute.
Virtually every book I read refers to boiling the malt concentrate”.
The “bible” exerts a powerful pull. Many of the books
available on amateur beermaking are authored by highly-skilled advanced
brewers who haven’t actually made beer (or good beer anyway)
with malt concentrates in a long time, if ever. In all likelihood,
they are simply repeating the conventional wisdom. There is, however,
an independent voice declaring that the bible is wrong. In 2002
Steve Bader, the proprietor of Bader Brewing Supply in Vancouver,
Washington wrote “ Boil the Hops, Not the Extract”,
in Brew Your Own Magazine (Vol. 8, no. 6, pg 40). In this article
he detailed not just the whys and why nots of boiling malt concentrate,
he offers an alternate methodology, much of which coincidentally
corresponds with the instructions we provide in our Directions for
The Complete Joy of Homebrewing helped teach millions of hobbyists
to “Relax, Don’t Worry”. Follow our advice and
we’ll help you make good beer from malt concentrates.