Sunday, March 23, 2008

This isn't what it looks like...

Dry malt extract (DME) is the foundation upon which extract brews are built. I do partial mashes which means some of my fermentable sugars come directly from grains and others come from DME. In a future post, I will explain how DME is made and what it is made of. Until then, let me tell you about saving money.

DME is expensive (as brewing ingredients go). Each pound is about 4-5$US. Each batch of extract beer requires about 6 pounds of DME. That is about 30$US and the major cost of a batch.

To reduce costs (and improve the beer quality) I do partial mashes. The other way to cut costs is to buy DME in bulk. I recently purchased 55 pounds of DME from my supplier. The cost is 140$US for 55 pounds. That will save me around 100$US when it is used up ($2 a pound!!).

I did this once before. It comes double bagged in a box. The first time, I just left it as it. I would open the box, take what I needed and seal the bags up again. Since the sugar is highly hygroscopic, the absorption of water is a potential problem. This could lead to degradation (i.e. rotting) of the DME. I put a nylon bag full of Drierite to keep it dry. It seemed to work.

This time, I decided to repackage the DME into 3 pound bags. This will make it more convenient to use when I need it. A batch of beer often requires 3 pounds of DME. To do this, I did the following:

Here is the box. The picture is a bit "cloudy" because the camera was in the van and still cold when I brought it into the humid house. I bought 55 pounds of Muntons extra light dry malt extract.
One bag has been opened. Notice the dishtowels covering the floor. DME is a fine powder and will fly everywhere. It is sticky and makes a good mess. The towels are meant to minimize the mess.
Here the inner bag has been opened to expose the future beer.
I scoop out DME into a tared picture and weigh out 3 pounds.
To get the DME into a bag I do the following. I place a 1 gallon freezer bag over the pitcher and invert it. Slowly (to avoid a plume of DME) I pull the pitcher out, leaving the DME in the bag. I push out as much air as I can from the bag and seal it.
This is the finished product. Only 17 more to go. Yes, this looks like a bag of something from Columbia. I can assure you, it is not.
Here are the filled bags. One of them leaked and had to be replaced.
During the process, the DME does absorb moisture and stick to anything. This makes things a bit messy.
Here are the containers I used.
The good news is that I was brewing beer and had a place to rinse them off. I dipped them into the brew kettle. The stuck DME was added to a certain Kölsch I was brewing.
The gallon bags were placed back into the box and bags and sealed up. There will wait in my cool basement until needed.
I don't know if this is the best way to store DME. A vacuum sealer would be great, but I don't have one. I'll let you know if it doesn't work.

While it may look like you are dividing something up with the intent to distribute, buying DME in bulk is a great way to save money. Unless of course you have to pay the shipping.

After dividing up the DME, I had to mop the floor to remove any sticky residue. I consulted my wife for directions on how to use a mop. Apparently, the motion used to operate a mop is the same as that used to operate a vacuum cleaner. Hmm, I learned something.


Ψ*Ψ said...

Let's hope no one decides to search your house anytime soon... :)

mjenks said...

What do you mean by 'something from Columbia'? That looks nothing like coffee.

markmier said...

I also enjoy measuring out salts for water adjustment. There's nothing quite like weighing sub-gram quantities of several different white powders. I always feel like I'm in New Jack City or something.

DME is so hard to deal with -- mine ALWAYS gets sticky and clumpy and gross. I just use it to make starters, but that's bad enough.

Chemgeek said...

Ψ*Ψ, I'd love to see them do the old "dip the pinky in the white powder and taste it" to ID it as drugs just like on TV. The sweet taste may not be what they expect.

Matt, I know what you mean. All I know is I can't start my day until I've snorted a few lines of good Columbian coffee.

Mark, DME is hard to deal with, which is why I went through this trouble. I was sick of dealing with digging into a big sticky bag to measure out 3 pounds of DME for a batch. I hope doing it all at once makes it easier. We'll see.

SavageSteve said...

I would recommend staying with the ziplock bags.

DME + Vacuum Sealer = Endless Frustration

I tried packaging some extra DME in a FoodSaver vacuum sealer, and it sucked. Well, it *sucked*, but it also sucked. Some of the DME was sucked towards the opening of the bag as the vacuum was being pulled on it, so when the heater kicked on to make the seal, the DME got in the way and didn't make a perfect seal. After a few minutes, air had gotten back into the bag.

I tried it a few more times, but to no avail. Perhaps putting more distance between the DME and the opening of the bag might help, but then I'd be wasting a lot of bag material.

The vacuum sealer absolutely rocks for grains and hops, which is why I bought it in the first place.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

Chemgeek said...

That makes a lot of sense and I am going to learn from your misfortune.

milkshake said...

I wonder if there is a way to improvise or buy a measuring funnel for solids with a trapdoor on the bottom. Just like when they package stuff in factories - you load up the funnel from top, put the bag onto the bottom, release the latch, stuff gets dumped into bag and any dust that flies remains in the funeel. The main redeeming feature is that the outside surface of the funnel does not get covered with the stuff as much.

Anonymous said...

Do you notice a big difference between DME and LME?

I've been using LME because of the cost factor, but for $2/pound I might switch over to DME.

Chemgeek said...

I use the DME because it has a longer shelf life and is easier to use.

I recently did a recipe that called for 2lb 13 oz of LME. The LME came in a 3.3 lb container. I used all of it because I didn't want to store a few ounces of syrup or try to even weigh out the correct amount.

Lab Cat said...

It is post like this and all your other posts that made me give your blog an E rating.

Thanks another post to throw at the students.