I remember very fondly my first partial mash brew day. I was pretty excited as I had been making beer using the malt extract kits for many years and had gotten pretty good at it; but I was ready to start upping my brewing game. So off I went learning all the partial mash brewing instructions I would need to get good at this next level of my beer making adventure…
Now if you have followed my blog at all you will know that I teach there are really 3 levels of brewing…
A beginner level (beer kits), an intermediate level (partial mash) and an advanced level (all grain). Each feeds off the other. As you learn and master how to brew at one of the levels you are learning steps involved in all of the levels. You are also acquiring the equipment you will use at the next level as well.
I talk about this transition between the levels and a whole host of more home brewing tips on my How to Home Brew post.
So after having mastered making good beer from the malt extract pre-hopped beer kits; for me partial mash was the next step.
My end goal was always all grain brewing but I very much enjoyed (and still do) not only making the beer at this level but also the quality and taste of the beer at this level. It is very tasty; and a significant step up from the beer you make from beer kits, and not that far off in taste from the beer you make as an all grain brewer.
So in this post I am going to share with you everything you need to do to become a top-notch partial mash brewer and make good beer you will be proud to share with your friends… in fact if you do what I teach you, your friends will think they are drinking a craft beer from a brew pub…
So to get you there, we are going to look at:
- The equipment you need (very minimal if you have brewed from kits before)
- Where to get your ingredients & recipes
- And I will walk you through a step by step brew day.
So What Is It All About?
First what the heck is partial mash brewing (PMB) anyway?
And it is not quite all grain brewing either; although you use raw ingredients such as specialty grains and hops.
When you get into all grain brewing (AGB), you will discover that there are two categories of grains:
- Base grains which make up most of the grain bill and basically provide the alcohol in your beer and
- Specialty grains which provide the color, taste, mouth feel, head retention, etc… all the extra good stuff in a beer for the most part.
So with partial mash you are basically combining beer kit brewing with all grain.
You are using malt extract as your base grain, basically using it to provide the base of your beer. And to add color, taste, mouth feel, etc., you are adding specialty grains to the mix.
Trust me it’s not. It’s a very straight forward, simple and quite fast method of brewing. And surprisingly produces some very good beer. I have had some beer made this way that has been much better than some all grain craft beer I have tried.
Equipment You Need
At this stage the equipment you require is very minimal. Moving from Malt extract kits to PMB the only additional equipment that is required is pot and a spoon to stir. That is it.
Now notice I said if you are moving from malt extract kits. Because if you have already been making beer from the beer kits you already have all of the other equipment you will need, to include:
- A fermenter
- Beer bottles or Kegs
- Transfer hose and bottling wand.
All the basic brewing stuff…
If you are completely new to brewing and do not have any of the equipment or want a refresher on what equipment you require here is a good post for you: What Do I Need to Brew a Beer?
As for the pot you require for PMB all you need is your mother or wife’s big stew pot. Just a simple pot that sits on your stove capable of holding 2-3 gallons of water.
That’s it my friend… very basic set up. And a whole lot simpler set up then all grain brewing.
Partial Mash Brewing Instructions
Alright so now you have your equipment and are ready for brew day…
Step #1 is to sanitize everything that will not be going into the boil. If it is going to be boiled it does not need to be sanitized. If it is not going to be boiled you need to sanitize it big time.
Beer is very susceptible to bacteria and things can go bad very quickly if you are not careful.
Sanitizing is very easy if you know what you are doing. Here is a post to show you how to do it right: How to Sanitize Beer Making Equipment
Step #2… heat 2 gallons of water up to 150 – 160 F. Take the specialty grains and put them in a small grain bag or Muslin bag. Then soak them in the water you just heated up.
This is very much like making tea. Instead of soaking the tea bag in warm water you are soaking the grain bag. But you are basically trying to accomplish the same thing. Instead of getting all the tea out of the tea bag, you are getting all of the goodness out of the grains.
Soak the grain bag for at least 20 minutes. Going over 20 minutes will not hurt it. Once the time is up remove the bag from the water.
Now some “gurus” will tell you not to squeeze the bag. I have had no problem squeezing the bag and do so every time. I want to get every bit of that goodness out of the bag.
Step #3… turn the heat up baby! You want to now get that mixture to a boil.
Go for a slow rolling boil, not a violent vigorous one. Once you have reached boil you can add the malt extract that the recipe calls for into the boil. Stir the mixture to dissolve the malt extract. Make sure that you do not scorch it on the bottom of the pot.
Your recipe will tell you how long to boil for.
(We will discuss the recipe and where to get ingredients further in this post)
Step #4… time to get hoppy. So follow your recipe here. It will tell you when during the boil to add your hops.
I recommend getting another muslin bag or cleaning the one you used. Put the hops in the bag and drape the bag over the pot into the liquid. Do not let the bag touch the bottom as it will burn the hops.
Some people will toss the hops into the pot and not use a bag. I prefer the bag as it makes for a clearer beer.
Putting the hops directly into the pot would leave hop debris/residue behind and it makes for a cloudier beer. Doing so would be good if you were brewing a New England Pale Ale (NEIPA), as the cloudier the better for that style of beer.
Step #5… once the boil is over it is time to chill that wort. You want to get the wort down to pitching temperature as soon as possible.
Wort is what you call unfermented beer. So beer that is not quite beer yet!)
Pitching temperature is the temperature at which it is safe to add the yeast to the wort.
I like to get my wort between 60-70 degrees F before I add the yeast. Every yeast is a little different. The correct temperature range will be on the package of yeast itself.
In order to chill the wort there are different things you can do:
Option 1… A good old-fashioned ice bath.
This is the least expensive but time intensive method. You fill up a sink with ice water and you put the pot with the wort into the sink and let it sit there until the temperature is reached.
If you spin the pot around in circles it tends to chill the wort faster.
Option 2… is to pick up an Immersion Chiller.
This is what most home brewers would use. It is an inexpensive method and works very well and gets the wort chilled quickly.
Basically it is a roll of coiled cooper tubing. It has a “water in” end and a “water out” end. You connect the “water in” end to your tap and you place the “water out” end down your drain.
You place the immersion chiller into the wort and turn the cold water on your tap. The cold water running through the cooper lines while it is immersed in the pot chills the wort quickly.
You will want to place the immersion chiller into the pot while the wort is boiling so that you sanitize the chiller itself.
Option 3… No Chill.
The third option for chilling your wort is called the “No Chill” Method. Yup no chill. It is a fun little method of chilling your wort that the Australians invented.
You would need a spigot on your pot or kettle to use this method.
This method consists of getting yourself a BPA free plastic water container. Pour the hot wort into the container.
Then with some oven mitts on, put the cover back on the container, remove the cover from the little back air valve. Then squeeze all of the air out of the container and put the cover back on the air valve.
Now you simply leave the wort to chill on its own overnight. By morning you will have room temperature wort and it will
be ready for the yeast.
Step #6… pour the wort into the sanitized fermenter. Now you will need to add water to bring the level of the fermenter up to whatever level the recipe is calling for. Typically 5 – 6 gallons.
Make sure the water temperature is also around 60 – 70 degrees F. You may wish to add the water increments so you can test the temperature of the wort. If the temperature is too high (over 7o degrees F) then add colder water and if the wort is too cold (under 60 degrees F) add warmer water, etc!
Once the water is added to the wort stir the mixture up good with a sanitized mash paddle (big spoon).
Step #7… add the yeast. Do this buy first giving the outside of your yeast pack a little spray with sanitizer. Open the yeast pack up with sterilized scissors or knife. And sprinkle the yeast on top of the wort.
Now is the only time you want any oxygen to get into the wort. The yeast like the oxygen. So give the wort a good stir with your sanitized spoon.
Step #8… put the fermenter away in a room in your home and let it ferment for around 2 weeks. You can of course check the gravity as it is fermenting and once the final gravity has been reached or the gravity has stopped moving after 2-3 days then the beer would be done fermenting.
I prefer to set it and leave it. After 2 weeks the fermentation will be completed. And you will have allowed the beer to age and condition some; which always makes for a better tasting beer.
Step #9… now you can bottle or keg your beer.
If you are bottling I always recommend using Coopers Carbonation drops.
They are so much easier and do a better job than batch priming or adding sugar to the wort in a bottling bucket. Using the drops gives you a great carbonation, and is a heck of a lot less work and also reduces the chance of oxygen getting into your beer, which is now a bad thing at this point.
If you wish to keg your beer you can learn all about doing so here on the following post: Kegging Beer – All You Need to Know.
Step #10… let the beer age. If you are using bottles it will take 7-14 days before you have perfect carbonation of your beer.
But regardless of whether you are kegging or bottling the longer you can wait before pouring yourself a glass of beer the better. Beer tastes better with age.
That rule applies for most brews unless it is a very hoppy beer. You will want to drink the hoppy beers sooner as they are better fresh. This is because the hop taste and aroma tends to dissipate with time.
And there you go easy to follow step by step brew day… next we will talk about the recipe and the ingredients.
Partial Mash Brewing Kits
The simplest and in my opinion the best way to get a recipe and ingredients it to pick up a kit…
Yup a kit!
They make kits for this style of brewing also… and they are very good kits.
They come with everything you need:
- Malt extract (liquid or dry)
- Base grains already milled up and ready to go
- All of the hops, bittering, taste, aroma
- The yeast. And typically it is a good yeast where the malt extract kits is not. At lease it you get the kit I am about to recommend the yeast is good.
- Priming sugar for bottling. Although I still recommend you use the coopers carbonation drops instead. But give the priming sugar a try and you might like it just fine.
- Bottle caps for your bottles.
- Grain bags for soaking the grains in the water (step #2 we covered this).
- And the recipe with detailed step by step instructions.
Pretty much everything you need to get the beer all brewed up.
And what is cool is that some of the best recipes I have every used have come from these kits. So you can keep the recipe if you end up loving it and then instead of picking up a kit next time you can just source out the ingredients on your own and make the beer again.
Having said that I see no reason not to just buy the kit again, it is about the same price as picking up the ingredients on your own, and everything is ready to go, all packaged up in a nice box for you.
And another cool thing about using these kits is you can read the reviews on the recipe before buying it. You can see what other people think of the beer it makes prior to putting the time, money, and energy into making it yourself.
No brainer to this guy…
Anyhow the kit I recommend is a Brewers Best Beer Kit. By far the best I have tried out there. I did a complete review of them, and included instructions on how to make one. You can check that out here: Brewers Best Beer Kit – Are They Any Good
Time to Homebrew
Well I trust you found these Partial Mash Brewing Instructions helpful.
If I can answer any questions or help you out drop me a message below in the comments and I will be more than happy to help.
Enjoy the brew! Big Robb is out.