One of the best resources for homebrewers, especially newbies is the website and message boards on HomebrewTalk.com. You can find me on there under the name of our brewery BleacherBrewing. They have a massive database of recipes, boards dedicated to any beer or brewing topic imaginable, and lots of users who are experienced brewers willing to offer their advice. Chances are if you were to look at the most recent threads a good portion are newbies introducing themselves or asking questions.
When we started and were either brewing all extract batches, or extract with some specialty grains, our beers were good, but seemed darker, sweeter, and not as hoppy as I had hoped. One thread I found in particular on HomebrewTalk solved a lot of those problems by offering 10 tips on making better extract beers. Some of the steps we were doing already, and in a post for another day I’ll touch on number ten. The big changes I made were larger boils and late extract additions.
If you’re brewing on your stove top a full volume boil for a standard 5 gallon batch probably isn’t practical. You still want to boil as much of the wort as possible. On my electric range I can boil around 3.5 gallons. Before starting the boil I’ll add 1/3 to 1/2 of the extract, and add the rest with about 10 minutes left in the boil. If I’m doing a partial mash batch, I’ll use the wort from the mash for the boil and add the extract at the end. The combination of the larger boil volume and thinner wort will lessen kettle caramelization that extracts can be prone to. It will also enable you to get more flavor and bitterness from your hops.
Try some or all of these tips in your next extract batch. Let me know how it works out or if you have any other tips in the comments.