Have you been brewing extract beers or extract beer kits and are wanting to take your home brewing journey to the next level? Are you ready to start brewing somebetter tasting and more complex brews but have been holding off moving onto to all grain brewing out of concern it may be too costly and difficult.
Well if so in today’s post I am going to provide you with somewhat of an all grain brewing beginners guide and show you just how simple and inexpensive moving to all grain homebrewing can actually be.
If you have never made a beer before I do recommend that you check out the how to home brew guide first. However if you have been making brews from extract kits and are ready to move to the next level this simple guide is for you.
Before we get going I should point out that I am a huge fan of Brew in a Bag and the All In One Brewing systems… both of those methods are great for all types of brewers, novice and experienced.
But in today’s post I am going to be covering a different method of homebrewing, it involves a 2 vessel set up as opposed to the 1 vessel you would use in the BIAB systems.
There is also a 3 vessel set up you could start with, but that includes a bit more equipment for sparging and adds an extra level of complexity and cost due to the extra equipment needed for sparging.
To start with you will be pleasantly surprised at how easy it will be to switch from extract kits to all grain brewing. To begin with you will already have most of the equipment you require. Actually you will most likely have everything except two – three pieces of the equipment required.
The extra equipment you will need is called a Mash (lauter) Tun for mashing of the grains and a larger kettle for boiling as well as a burner to heat the kettle (turkey fryer with propane tank).
After that you are basically brewing the same way and with all of your existing equipment from your extract beer kit brew days.
So a mash tun. It is basically used to remove all of the fermentable sugars from the grains. You soak the grains in hot water in the mash tun; which has what is called a false bottom. This is basically a screen of sorts which keeps the grains separate from the wort (unfermented beer). So the purpose of this false bottom is when you drain the Mash tun the wort flows into the boil kettle, leaving the grains behind.
You can check out the Mash Tun we recommend you use by Clicking Here
As for the kettle a 10 – 15 gallon kettle is what I recommend.
You can check out the kettle I recommend by Clicking Here
As well you will need a heat source to heat the kettle, a Turkey Fryer works great. You can check out the Turkey Fryer I recommend by Clicking Here
OK now that you’ve got your equipment all sorted, let’s look at the steps involved with brewing up a batch using this 2 vessel method:
Steps to Brewing All Grain Beer
Step #1: Heat Up the Strike Water
Your strike water is the water you are going to pour into your Mash Tun and than mix your grains into. Once the grains have been mixed and stirred the water is now your mash water.
So you will want your strike water to be hotter than what you want your mash water (temperature) to be. This is because as you stir the grains into the water will lose some of its temperature.
Typically, you will want to heat your water 10 – 15 degrees F (5 to 8 degrees Celsius) higher than your target mash temperature. So if your recipe calls for a mash temperature of 150 degrees F, you should heat your strike water up to at least 160 degrees F.
When it comes to deciding how much strike water you are going to need a good rule of thumb to use is 1.5 to 2 quarts of water per lb of grain. (That’s 3 to 4 liters per kilogram of grain).
I typically lean towards the higher end of this ratio, meaning I tend to use at least 2 quarts of water per lb of grain.
So as an example, if you had an all grain homebrew recipe that had 8lbs of grain you would heat up 16 quarts or 4 gallons of strike water. 8 lbs grain x’s 2 quarts of water = 16 quarts (4 gallons).
Step #2: Pour Strike Water into Mash Tun
Now that the strike water is heated up, pour it into your Mash Tun.
I than put the lid on the mash tun for a couple of minutes to heat up the mash tun. This allows most of the heat to go the grains (grist) instead of the cooler when you add the grains.
Step #3: Add Grains
Now you will add your crushed grains to the mash tun. Pour them slowly and stir them very well in order to ensure they do not clump together and you are getting even temperature across the whole grain bed.
Step #4: Mash
Now you simply put your cover on your mash tun and let it sit for at least an hour.
This is called mashing. The temperature should stay pretty constant throughout the hour long mash. Ideally losing no more than 2-3 degrees in the hour.
If you use the mash tun we recommend here you should have no problems.
A couple of things you can do to ensure that the temperature stays constant is wrap the mash tun in a sleeping bag or blanket.
And if you are still finding your temperature is dropping too much simply add a little bit of boiling water to it slowly to bring the temperature back up to your target mash temperature.
Don’t spend too much time worrying about this. Most of the conversion of starches to fermentable sugars takes place in the first 20 – 30 minutes of the mash.
But again if you use this mash tun you should have no problems.
And lastly most mash temperatures are between 148 – 160 Degrees F do not go over 168 F or the conversion will be inadequate.
Step #5) Get Sparge Water Ready
OK with this 2 vessel system we are doing what is called a Batch Sparge. This is where you add the sparge water to the mash all at once.
In order to calculate how much sparge water you need you will need to understand that your grain is going to absorb some of the water you originally mashed with.
Your grain absorbs .1 gallons per lb of grain.
So in the above example where we used 8lbs, the grain would absorb .8 gallons of mash water.
So when you drain the wort from the mash tun into the boil kettle you would have approximately 3.2 gallons of water left, remember we started with 4 gallons.
So 4 gallons minus .8 that was absorbed by grain equals 3.2 gallons into the boil kettle.
Before you start your boil you will want to collect 1 to 1.5 gallons of wort more than your final recipe volume because you are going to boil that extra amount off during the boil.
Note: What I just described is your boil off rate. I.e the amount of liquid (wort) your kettle will boil off during the boil (evaporation). Every system is a little different.
Boil off rates are typically 1 – 1.5 gallons per hour. You will get use to your system the more you brew and will know exactly what your boil off rate is. You can always do a test run with water. Boil it for an hour and see how much boils off. The amount it boils off is your boil of rate and that is the amount of extra wort you will start your boil with.
OK back to sparge water….
So let’s say we want 6.5 gallons of pre boil wort (to end up with 5.5 gallons after the boil). We have 3.2 gallons in the kettle now from the mash. This means we need another 3.3 gallons to make it into the boil kettle. (3.2 + 3.3 = 6.5 gallons)
So we simply take that extra 3.3 gallons needed and add to it the .8 gallons that will be absorbed from the grains, for a total of 4.1 gallons (call it 4) of sparge water.
Heat the Sparge Water up to 175 Degree F.
Step #6) Recirculate
After the mash is completed, drain some of the wort out into a pot or pitcher. When you first start draining the wort it will look cloudy, continue to drain it until it runs clear.
Pour the wort you have drained out gently back on top of the grain bed in the mash. Do not let it tunnel a hole through the grains.
Step #7) Drain Mash Tun
Drain the wort from the mash tun into your boil kettle.
Step #8) Sparge Time
Now take your sparge water and pour it into the Mash tun on top of your grains.
Stir the grains.
Put the cover back on the mash tun and let it rest/sit for 10 -15 minutes. Recirculate like we did in step #6 and than drain the mash tun into your kettle.
That is All Folks
And that my friend is how you make all grain beer.
As you can see there a couple of more steps involved as compared to brewing beer from extract kits. But you will get the hang of it very quickly and the results will be very rewarding to you.
From here all you do is continue on as you did with Extract Brewing. Boil the wort, add the hops as recipe calls for, ferment and package!
Again you can see the list of equipment we recommend you pick up for this style of brewing by Clicking Here
I trust you found this all grain brewing beginners guide helpful.
If I can help you in anyway feel free to ask me, I am always happy to help. Drop a comment in the comment section below and I will be sure to reply.
Cheers, Big Robb is ouuttt!