DME, or dried malt extract, is a concentrated form of malt that is commonly used in the brewing of beer.
It is made by taking liquid malt extract, which is a syrup made from malted barley, and removing the water content through a process of evaporation.
DME is often used by homebrewers as an alternative to using grains in the brewing process, as it is more convenient and can result in a more consistent final product.
It can also be used to boost the alcohol content of a beer without adding additional sweetness.
Types Of DME Used In Brewing Beer
There are several types of DME that can be used in the brewing of beer, each with its own unique characteristics.
Pale DME: This is the most common type of DME and is used to make a wide variety of beer styles. It is made from pale malted barley and has a light color and neutral flavor.
Wheat DME: This type of DME is made from wheat and is used to make wheat beers, such as hefeweizens and witbiers. It imparts a light, bready flavor to the beer.
Munich DME: This type of DME is made from Munich malt and is used to make beers with a rich, malty flavor and a reddish-brown color. It is often used in Oktoberfest and amber beers.
Pilsen DME: This type of DME is made from Pilsner malt and is used to make Pilsners and other light-colored lagers. It has a light color and a clean, crisp flavor.
Dark DME: This type of DME is made from dark malted barley and is used to make beers with a dark color and a rich, roasty flavor. It is often used in stouts, porters, and other dark beers.
DME is a versatile ingredient that can be blended with other malts to create a variety of beer styles and flavors.
Why DME Is Used In The Yeast Starter
DME is used in yeast starters because it is a convenient and reliable source of fermentable sugars for the yeast.
A yeast starter is a small batch of wort (unfermented beer) that is used to grow and activate yeast before it is added to the main batch of wort.
When making a yeast starter, DME is an easy way to provide the yeast with the sugars it needs to grow and multiply.
DME can also be used to adjust the gravity of the starter wort, which can help to ensure that the yeast will be healthy and active when added to the main batch of wort.
Additionally, using DME in the starter allows for more precise control of the wort’s specific gravity, which in turn can help to predict the final alcohol content of the beer.
Overall, using DME in a yeast starter helps to ensure a strong and healthy yeast population, which leads to better fermentation and ultimately better beer.
How To Make A Yeast Starter Without DME
A yeast starter can be made without DME by using other sources of fermentable sugars. Here is one method for making a yeast starter without DME:
- Obtain some wort from a previous batch of beer or purchase wort from a homebrew supply store. The wort should have a gravity of around 1.040.
- Sanitize a flask or jar that will be used for the starter.
- Pour the wort into the flask or jar and add the yeast.
- Cover the flask or jar with a sanitized foil or airlock.
- Allow the starter to ferment at the appropriate temperature for the yeast being used. This will usually take around 12-24 hours.
- Once the starter has fermented, it can be used to inoculate the main batch of wort.
When using this method, the yeast will have fewer nutrients available, so it may take longer for the yeast to multiply.
Additionally, the yeast may not be as healthy as if it was grown with DME, which can lead to less efficient fermentation.
Malt Extract Syrup
Another alternative is to use malt extract syrup instead of DME, as it is also a concentrated form of malt and can be used in the same way as DME.
But it’s important to check the extract’s gravity and adjust accordingly to match the desired gravity of the starter.
How To Use The Starter
Once the yeast starter has been made, it can be used to inoculate the main batch of wort. Here’s how to use the starter:
Sanitize all equipment that will come in contact with the starter, including the fermenter, thermometer, spoon, and anything else. Prepare the main batch of wort by following your recipe and bringing it to the appropriate temperature for the yeast you are using.
Pitch the yeast: Once the main batch of wort is at the correct temperature, pour the yeast starter into the fermenter.
Aerate the wort: You can aerate the wort by shaking or stirring the fermenter vigorously for a few minutes. This will help to ensure that the yeast will have enough oxygen to grow and multiply.
Seal the fermenter: Once the yeast has been pitched, seal the fermenter with an airlock or stopper and allow the fermentation to proceed.
The timing of when you pitch your yeast starter can impact the final beer. Pitching the yeast when the wort is too hot or too cold can cause off flavors or slow fermentation.
Additionally, the amount of yeast you pitch can also impact the final beer, overpitching can lead to a lack of character, and underpitching can lead to a slow or stuck fermentation.
It’s recommended to check your yeast starter’s gravity and volume before pitching it into the main batch, to make sure that the yeast is healthy and active, and to adjust the volume of the starter accordingly to match the desired pitching rate for your beer.
Pros And Cons Of Using DME In A Yeast Starter
Convenience: DME is easy to use and store, and it eliminates the need to create wort from scratch.
Consistency: DME can result in a more consistent final product compared to using wort from a previous batch.
Control: DME allows for more precise control of the wort’s specific gravity, which can help to predict the final alcohol content of the beer.
Yeast health: DME provides the yeast with the necessary sugars and nutrients to grow and multiply, which can lead to a stronger and healthier yeast population.
Nutrient deficiencies: DME may not provide all the necessary nutrients that yeast needs, which can lead to less efficient fermentation or other problems.
Cost: DME can be more expensive than using wort from a previous batch, especially if you purchase small quantities.
Limited options: DME is limited in the types of malts it can produce and therefore the variety of yeast starters that can be made.
Lack of control: DME is a pre-made product, so brewers have less control over the final yeast starter’s flavor and color.
In conclusion, it is possible to make a yeast starter without DME by using other sources of fermentable sugars such as wort from a previous batch or malt extract syrup.
However, using a DME can provide convenience and consistency in the brewing process, as allow for more precise control of the wort’s specific gravity.
Additionally, DME can provide the yeast with the necessary sugars and nutrients to grow and multiply, which can lead to a stronger and healthier yeast population.
DME can be a useful tool for making yeast starters, but it’s important to consider the trade-offs and how they align with your goals as a brewer and to understand that DME can be a good option in some situations but not all, and that is a good balance between using DME and other alternatives can provide the best results.
The most important thing is to sanitize all equipment thoroughly, control the temperature, be mindful of the wort gravity, and aerate the wort.