A natural progression for most homebrewers is to start making beer using the malt extra beer kits and very quickly transition into partial mashing before finally moving to all-grain brewing.
Like most brewers, I can remember very fondly when I first started doing partial mash brewing. I had been making beer using the malt extract kits for many years and had gotten pretty good at it, however, the time had come to start making better-tasting beer.
As you will see on this blog we teach that there are 3 levels of brewing as you learn this hobby.
A beginner level (beer kits), an intermediate level (partial mashing), 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.
In this post, you are going to learn everything you need to know to get good at partial mash brewing, including the equipment you require, the steps you take during brew day and we will also provide you with some partial mash recipes you can use to get started making a few batches of beer.
Table of Contents
What is Partial Mashing?
It’s similar to making beer using the malt extract beer kits, but with a few extra steps. You continue to use either dry malt extract (DME) or liquid malt extract (LME). However extract you use is not pre-hopped like the stuff you get with the standard beer kits such as Mr. Beer, Coopers, and Muntons. With the style of brewing, you will be adding the hops to the mixture yourself.
It is also not quite all-grain brewing either; although you use raw ingredients such as specialty grains and hops.
As you progress into all-grain brewing, you will learn 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, mouthfeel, head retention, etc… all the extra good stuff in a beer for the most part.
With partial mash brewing, you are basically combining beer kit brewing with all-grain.
Instead of using base grains, you will continue to use the malt extract as your base grain to create the majority of your beer to include the alcohol content. However to add color, taste, mouthfeel, and aroma you will be adding the specialty grains to the recipe.
It may sound complicated at this point, but it is actually a very straightforward, simple, and fast method of brewing that produces some very good-tasting beer. I have tasted many partial mashing beers that have been much better than some all-grain craft beer I have tried.
Partial Mash Brewing Equipment
At this stage, the equipment you require is very minimal. Moving from malt extract kits to partial mash brewing the only additional equipment that is required is a pot and a spoon to stir.
Do take note that I said if you are moving from malt extract kits. This is because if you have already been making beer from the malt kits you already have all of the other equipment you will need, including:
- A fermenter
- Beer bottles or Kegs
- Transfer hose and bottling wand.
All the basic brewing equipment…
If you are completely new to brewing and do not have any of the equipment or want a refresher on what equipment you require this post will help: What do I need to brew beer?
For the pot, all you need is a big stew pot. A standard kitchen pot that sits on your stove and is capable of holding 2-3 gallons of water.
Partial Mash Brewing Instructions
Once you have sourced your equipment the following are the steps involved in making beer with this method…
Step 1: Sanitize
It is important that you 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 well.
Beer is very susceptible to bacteria and it can easily become infected if you are not careful. Sanitizing your equipment is a simple process, the following post will show you how to do it properly: How to sanitize beer-making equipment.
Step 2: Steeping Your Grains
Now 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. By doing so you are getting the fermentable sugars and other attributes out of the grains that will contribute to the taste, appearance, and aroma of your beer.
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 and let it drain into the pot.
When it comes to squeezing the bag there are two opposing views on this. Some will tell you not to squeeze the bag and others recommend it. I can tell you that I have never had a problem squeezing the bag and do so every time in order to get as much out of the specialty grains as possible.
Step 3: Boiling
Turn up the heat on your stove and bring the liquid now called wort to a slow rolling boil.
The key here is to achieve a slow rolling boil, not a violent or vigorous one. Once you have reached a boil you can add the malt extract that the recipe calls for into the boil. Stir the mixture to dissolve the malt extract, continue stirring throughout the boil making sure not to allow the mixture to scorch on the bottom of the pot.
Your recipe will tell you how long to boil for.
Step 4: Hop Additions
Your recipe will tell you when to add the hops during the boil.
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 put the hops directly 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 leaves 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: Cooling Your Wort
Once the boil is over it is time to cool the wort (unfermented beer) and get it down to pitching temperature as soon as possible.
Pitching temperature is the temperature at which it is safe to add yeast to the wort.
Strive to reach a temperature of between 60-70 degrees F before adding the yeast. Every yeast has a different recommended temperature range. which you will find on the package of yeast itself.
The following are 3 options to cool your wort:
This is the least expensive but time-intensive method. You fill up a sink with cold water and ice and put the pot with the wort into the sink and let it sit there until the temperature is reached. Spinning the pot around in a circle tends to chill the wort faster.
As you get more experience homebrewing it would be recommended to pick up an immersion chiller and is the tool most homebrewers would use. It is an inexpensive method and works very well to chill the wort quickly.
Basically, it is a roll of coiled copper tubing which has a “water in” end and a “water out” end. You connect the “water in” end to your kitchen faucet or garden hose and you place the “water out” end down your drain.
You place the immersion chiller into the wort and turn the cold water on. The cold water running through the cooper lines while it is immersed in the pot chills the wort quickly.
In order to sanitize the immersion chiller, it is important to place it in the pot while the wort is still boiling for at least 5 minutes.
No Chill Method
The third option for chilling your wort is called the “No Chill” Method. It is an innovative, inexpensive, and time-saving method that the Australians invented.
You will need to pick up a BPA-free plastic water container. Which you pour the hot wort directly into. It is recommended that the pot or kettle you are using has a spigot at the bottom to easily let the wort flow into the container. If not you will have to pick the hot pot up and carefully pour the wort into the container without burning yourself, a metal funnel would be helpful.
Next, put the cover back on the container and remove the cover from the little back air valve. Wearing a pair of oven mitts carefully squeeze as much of the air out of the container as you can and put the cover back on the air valve.
Next, 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: Add to Fermenter
Once the wort is chilled to the appropriate level pour it into your sanitized fermenter. Next, add enough water to bring the level of the fermenter up to the level the recipe is calling for. Typically 5 – 6 gallons.
The temperature of the water should be between 60 – 70 degrees F. You may wish to add the water in increments so you can test the temperature of the wort as you do. 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 well with a sanitized mash paddle (big spoon).
Step 7: Pitch The Yeast
First, it is important to spray or dip the yeast pack in sanitizer. Next, open the yeast pack with sterilized scissors or knife. Then sprinkle the yeast on top of the wort and using your mash paddle give the wort a good stir. This is the only time you want any oxygen to get into the wort. The yeast needs oxygen at this point so stirring is important to achieve this.
Step 8: Ferment
Place the fermenter in a room temperate space in your home and let it ferment for around 2 weeks. Using a hydrometer you can 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 yeast will have had time to clean itself up and the full 2 weeks allows the beer to age and condition some; which results in a better quality beer.
Step 9: Packaging
When your beer has finished fermenting you can now either bottle or keg it. Most people who do partial mashing are still bottling beer and have not upgraded to a keg set up as of yet.
If you are bottling I recommend that for priming sugar you use the 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 great carbonation, is 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 have moved to the point that you want to start kegging your beer, the following guide will walk you through the steps involved: Kegging homebrew.
Step 10: Condition
A secret to great tasting homebrewed beer is to let it 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.
Most beer tastes better with age, the exception to the rule is hoppy beers. You will want to drink hoppy beers such as IPAs sooner as they are better fresh. This is because the hop taste and aroma tends to dissipate with time.
Partial Mash Brewing Kits
One of the best ways to find good partial mash recipes is to order a partial mash brewing kit…
The Kits come with everything you need:
- Malt extract (liquid or dry)
- Specialty grains; milled up and ready to go
- Hops (bittering, taste, and aroma)
- Yeast, which is typically a good quality yeast whereas the malt extract kits are not.
- Priming sugar for bottling.
- Bottle caps for your bottles.
- Grain bags for soaking the grains in the water
- Recipe with detailed step-by-step instructions.
Besides your equipment, they provide you with everything you need to make a batch of beer. The best part of these kits are the recipes included and you can use them as many times as you like. If you like the recipe simply hold onto it and next time instead of ordering the full kit you can simply order the ingredients directly.
Having said that the kit itself is not much different in price as buying the ingredients on your own and since everything is conveniently packaged and ready for brew day, you may find you will simply order the kit again.
The other advantage of these kits is you can read the reviews of the recipe before buying it. You can see what other people think of the beer prior to putting the time, money, and energy into making it yourself.
The kits I recommend are made by Brewers Best. In my experience, they are far superior to the other kits on the market that I have tried. If you want to learn more about them you can check out my review of them here: Brewers Best Beer Kit Review.
Partial Mash Recipes
The following are 2 partial mash recipes you can try. Follow the instructions provided previously. Each batch makes 5 gallons of beer. Steep your grains in 2.5 gallons of water. Boil your mixture for 60 minutes. When done brewing add enough water to your fermenter to bring the level up to approximately 5 gallons.
Here are 3 partial mash recipes you can try:
American Pale Ale
6.6 lb light LME (liquid malt extract)
1 lb Crystal 20L
2 oz Columbus
1 oz Centennial
1 packet Safale US-05
Additional Instructions: Add Centennial hops at the start of the boil, add 1 oz Columbus with 10 minutes left in the boil and add the remaining 1 oz Columbus with 5 minutes left in the boil.
American Cream Ale
2.0 lbs light DME (dry malt extract)
3.3 lbs Light LME (liquid malt extract)
1 lb Corn Sugar
1 oz Tettnanger
1 oz Fuggle
1 packet Safle S-04 English Ale Yeast
Additional Instructions: Add Fuggle hops at the start of the boil, add Tettnanger hops with 20 minutes left in the boil.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much water do you use for partial mash?
It depends on your batch size. The recipes provided above are 5-gallon batches. Typically start with 2.5 gallons to steep your grains in and once you are finished boiling the mixture and pour it into your fermenter you will want to top the fermenter up to the 5-gallon mark.
Is BIAB partial mash?
No BIAB or brew in a bag is a form of all-grain brewing where the majority of your fermentables come from the base grains used instead of malt extract.
Do you mill steeping grains?
Yes, you need to use milled or crushed grains in order to get the enzymes within them activated to affect the color, flavor, and aroma.
What temperature do you steep specialty grains?
Specialty grains can be steeped at a wide range of temperatures. Most brewers will steep their specialty grains between 150 – 170 degrees F. At lower temperatures, you might not get all of the good stuff out and at higher temperatures, you can start to extract unwanted tannins into your wort.
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.
Cheers, Big Robb is Out!
P.S. When you are ready to move from partial mash brewing to all-grain be sure to pick up the recipes to my top 5 best-selling beers from my brewpub. Sign up to get them is on the side of the blog or at the bottom if you are on your smart device. Enjoy!