Going All Grain On a Budget (w/ real sparging step)

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First off let me introduce myself, I've been a brewing for almost 2 years and did one batch of Mr. Beer, two batches with extract + special grains steep and I immediately wanted to get more control over the beer I made but I am not ready to commit lot of money into an all grain system (welded pots, HLT, mash tun ect.) and have since done over 25 batches using this system or earlier versions of it. Since adding the sparging bucket system I now consistently get 77-80% brewhouse efficiency.

I want to thank deathbrewer for his Easy Stovetop Partial Mash Brewing and his Easy Stovetop All-Grain Brewing write up which was my method to break into all grain.

Here is my 4 Gallon Stovetop All Grain on a Budget setup. Its upgraded from most budget brew system is that it has a real sparge step and it doesn't mash in a bag.

My Equipment:

(1) 5 Gallon Stainless Steel Pot ($30)(Mash Tun and Boil Kettle)
(1) 4 Gallon Aluminum Pot ($12)(HLT)
(1) 6.5 Gallon Bottling Bucket w/ Spigot ($14)(already owned from extract brewing for bottling)
(1) 5 Gallon Walmart Bucket (With holes drilled in bottom)($3)
(1) Large Nylon Bag ($8)
(1) Accurate Thermometer ($15-100) (I happen to have a nice one I bought for cooking but a $15 one should do the trick, just takes longer to get results.)

Plus additional supplies associate with all grain/extract brewing including carboys (I use 5 gallon glass carboys and 5 gallon HDPE buckets), racking cane, bottling wand ect....


For this I'll refer to temps and targets of my recently made Black Rye IPA:

Total Grains 10.25lbs
Target Mash temp of 152F
Target OG - 1.072
Efficiency - 77%
Pre-Boil Volume - 4.5 Gallons
Volume into Fermenter - 4 Gallons

1. Heat water (12 quart or about 1.2qts/lb) in your "HLT" to temp of about 170F
2. Dump or siphon water into your 5 gallon SS mash tun, place lid and let mash tun get warm.
3. Preheat oven to 200F
4. Once water drops to temperatures at your strike temperature (165F) dough in your grains and make sure they're thoroughly mixed. Don't put nylon bag into Mash Tun, this allows grains to more freely be stirred. Only use bag in sparging step.
5. Assuming you hit target temp of 152F, lid and let rest for an hour. Check every 15 minutes and stir thoroughly. If temp is too high add a little cold water or stir with lid off. If temp is too low then turn off pre-heated oven and place pot inside the oven
6. About half water through mash, measure and heat sparge water (2.75 gallons in this recipe) to 180F

7. Place 5 gallon bucket with holes in bottom inside 6.5 gallon bucket with spigot and you have a "mash tun with false bottom"

8. Place nylon bag inside of the 2 buckets and dump in grains. (make sure your spigot is closed)

9. I batch sparge by pouring out 1 gallon of sparge water at a time into a 1 gallon pitcher and then trickling over grain bed. Then directly from HLT once I use gallon pitcher to catch runnings. During sparge I stir a lot and near end I pull bag up to help drain the grains.

10. Dump runnings into pitcher to measure or directly into boil kettle, I filter through an SS screen into boil kettle due to coarse grain mill and start heat. For larger boilings 4 gallons or more I heat past heat break in seperate kettles and then combine.

Going All Grain On a Budget (w/ real sparging step) - Zoidberg - wp-20140131-001-554.jpg

11. Following boil schedule and pitch yeast accordingly, for this recipe I use around 6oz of hops in boil (Warrior, Fuggles, Cascade and Northern Brewer) and pitch us-05. I then dry hop with a total of 3 oz of hops (Cascade, Northern Brewer, and Mosaic)

Additional notes on brewing cheap:

Buy hops in bulk
Don't buy 6.5 gallon bucket carboys, use 5 gallon for $3 and drill your own hole in a lid.
Harvest yeast (Yeast Harvest: A Novel Approach?)

Comments are welcomed

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February 14, 2014  •  01:21 AM
Man this sounds do-able thanks for the share
February 14, 2014  •  01:29 AM
Thanks I'm going to add more pics on my next brew day. If you have any questions let me know.
February 14, 2014  •  03:13 AM
Have you found any issue with adding hot liquid into the plastic bucket?
February 14, 2014  •  03:47 PM
I've added boiling wort into these same buckets with my experiments with the no chill method and carried them down stairs to their final resting place. I don't think he/you would have any issues with mash temps in there.
February 14, 2014  •  03:50 PM
No issues, the HDPE buckets are rated somewhere around 300-500F can't find data on it right now. I use the white ones because I wouldn't trust any dyes to be food safe even when it reads HDPE, especially at high heat.
February 14, 2014  •  08:10 PM
That is sweet!

It combines characteristics of BIAB and 3-vessel brewing, and uses equipment most of us have around. The unusual equipment is only the large mesh bag and the 5 gallon bucket with holes in the bottom, both are very inexpensive.

It is a wonderful transition from extract to all grain, without much risk of extra cost. If you find you don't like AG, you are out the cost of a bag and bucket.
February 14, 2014  •  08:18 PM

Yea that's exactly what I was aiming for. I really wanted to all grain but didn't want to commit that kind of money.

Hopefully this helps others to see how easy all grain can be. Anymore of those "bare minimum to get into all-grain" threads can be redirected here :)
February 15, 2014  •  03:32 PM
Thanks for this article. My questions revolve around the 5 gallon bucket (of which I have been accumulating for grain storage). How many holes? What size? Then you put the grain bag in the 5 gallon bucket or do I see it in between the two buckets (don't have my glasses handy). This sounds doanble for me as I basically have all the same stuff as you and do BIAB on stovetop for now but am looking for any way to improve and be more consistent.
February 15, 2014  •  09:17 PM

I drilled about 30? holes all over the bottom, about 1/4" in diameter I suppose. I don't think it's all that important as long as it lets the water through. It can be bigger than the grains because the nylon bag sits inside the 5gallon bucket with holes in the bottom and then the grains go inside the bag. This is definitely an easy step up from stovetop BIAB as my efficiency improved by about 7% once I got that method down and stays consistent now because the sparge is always the same.

I have thought about putting the bag between the 2 buckets as well but unless it was held tight to the bottom, too much grain would go through the bucket and probably sit on wort and not be as effective. I might still try it eventually because cleaning the bag would be easier.
February 16, 2014  •  10:29 PM
Bazooka screen, 10gallon cooler, and valve can be had for around $60.
February 17, 2014  •  02:57 AM

I've thought about a bazooka but how modification will need to be done to attack to inside of spigot? Btw I still use it for bottling and need to change spigot every few months because I don't wanna risk infection.

I don't think I'll get a cooler to make in a tun when I gt 77% eff in my pot I already own. Plus I might buy a 9gallon one well with bazooka screen and us that as mash tun, sparge in it and boil in, clean as you go keeps me from a big mess.
February 17, 2014  •  03:06 PM
What you have built is called a Zapap Lauter Tun. The Zapap Lauter Tun has been around for at least two and a half decades (the design was first documented by Charlie Papazian in The Complete Joy of Homebrewing). In practice, the bag isn't necessary if the holes in the inner bucket are kept to 3/32nds of an inch when continuous sparging or 1/16th of an inch when using multiple lautering (a.k.a. batch sparging).
February 17, 2014  •  03:18 PM
I did it without the bag and got stuck sparges and lots of grain in wort even after verlaufing.
I've heard of it being used like that but as the mash tun as well which I think was less efficient at maintaining temps
February 17, 2014  •  05:18 PM
A stuck sparge is a mash bed's way of telling you that you are doing something wrong. The bag is alleviating the symptoms, not solving the problem.

If the runoff shown in the photos is not from the vorlauf, then you are crushing your grain too fine. Too fine of a crush results in substantial husk damage, which leads to stuck sparges.

The Zapap design is prone to compaction due to the amount of dead space that is between the bottom of the inner bucket and the bottom of the outer bucket. If one runs off the wort too fast, a vacuum will form between the bottoms of the inner and outer buckets, leading to grain bed compaction, which, in turn, results in stuck sparges.

The two bucket Zapap design is sufficient to get one's feet wet, but there are better performing designs that do not cost a huge amount of money to build. An upgradable 5-gallon beverage cooler-based mash/lauter tun can be built for around $30.00 to $35.00, most of which is the cost of the cooler.
February 18, 2014  •  05:30 AM

I appreciate the concern about the stuck sparges but like I said its only ever really been stuck when not using a bag and then really because grains got lodged in the holes. Not an actual "stuck" sparge like people get with wheat and no hulls.

I know the grain is too fine a crush, it is a crush my lhbs uses for BIAB brewers. This is why I pour it through a ss screen before pouring into the boil kettle. Imitation a bazooka screen to filter husk.

Thanks for the issue to look for compaction issues due to a vacuum, its something I didn't consider to look for.

I have been wanting to get a mash cooler tun and probably will one day like I said my next purchase is pro ably a 1 weld 9gallon pot and bazooka screen which will double as mash tun too until my next purchase which will probably be a mash tun.

I really just wanna show people who don't wanna commit the much if any money how to do all grain the way I did it.
February 20, 2014  •  09:49 PM
I used a zapap lauter tun for several all grain batches and it worked great. I'm not even sure why I switched to the igloo with false bottom, actually. Probably just wanted to get new brewing stuff.

I made two extract batches using LME before switching to all grain. They didn't turn out well. I think if I would have started with DME I probably wouldn't have gone to all grain as soon, I've had some homebrew from DME and its been quite good.
February 21, 2014  •  12:50 AM
Yea I keep considering a cooler tub but I think its just because I like buying new gear. I don't think its necessary.
March 3, 2014  •  02:35 PM
Ill stick to my Cooler for the mash, but I will definitely be trying this out for sparging! thanks for this post! Makes things so much easier and manageable.
March 3, 2014  •  03:54 PM
If your cooler has a false bottom or bazooka screen and an outlet I would just use that, less lifting.
March 4, 2014  •  08:18 PM
This link at the end of your article seems to be broke, All I get is "Page not found"

link***(Yeast Harvest: A Novel Approach?)***link
March 20, 2014  •  10:59 PM
Thanks Zoidberg for the tutorial. I tried this for my first all-grain brew ever and got 75% efficiency! Not to bad for a newbie.

Also your yeast link is broken, it should be:

March 25, 2014  •  07:13 PM

The temperatures you're citing are definitely true, so no worries there. I wouldn't worry too much about the colored buckets either; the plastic is clear in its natural state, and the white ones are dyed white. Good post!
April 3, 2014  •  01:25 PM
Thanks a bunch for these Ideas, I did my first all grain on Monday with out your technique. Brewing another today using this method. The bucket in a bucket Idea is the answer to all my questions so far. Great post
July 24, 2015  •  06:58 PM
I made a huge bag with two layers of sheer curtains, and have been sparging by pulling the bag out of my pot and sitting the bag over the pot in a "holy bucket" on top of a grate. Your method looks even easier.

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