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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > All Grain & Partial Mash Brewing > all grain for newbs
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Old 01-24-2005, 04:49 PM   #1
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Default all grain for newbs

i've done four batches of malt extract/grain steep brews. i threw the pail to the side after the first batch tasted like the pail a little too much for me, that or some funk got in it, and bought a 6.5 gal glass fermentor, and two 5 gallon glass carboys to age in. the beer i've racked outta the glass fermentor into the carboys tastes ten times better than the stuff outta the pail and into the bottles, even after the bottles have set for three weeks (agian, i think i funked that plastic pail batch up somehow....)

i'm not too thrilled with the price of malt extract, liquid or dried, i end up spending close to thirty bucks for a five gallon recipe of malt extract and some specialty grains and hopps and yeast. the malt extract being the most expensive and similiar in price, both dried and liquid. and i am not completely sold that the extract is always of the finest quality.

grain seems the cheaper, but the more complicated way to go. i am really interested in making my beer from 'scratch' rather than some hyper-processed extract, even though the results can and have been good. it's too much like makings cookies from a box, rather than getting your flour and sugar and such and combining them yourself. it's the purest in me, i'd grow my own crops if i had the land and didn't really have to have a real job to pay bills etc...

so i need some advice and support to get this venture started. i've read over the all grain method in the 'complete joy' book and pecked around online, but was looking for some hands on accounts by folks here. how much more complicated is it really as opposed to the entry/intermediate level of brewing i've been doing? can you give me a quick run down of the basics that you feel important etc. how do you do it? or point me to a crediable reference that you've found helpful.

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Old 01-24-2005, 06:18 PM   #2
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It's really not more difficult once you get the hang of it. Everyone I teach how to brew learns all-grain right from the start.

It costs us about $30 for a 12 gallon batch, so you're looking at a significant cost savings.

Let's see - downsides. It takes more time to make a batch and it takes more equipment.

Upsides - it's better in every conceivable way

Here's my brew day if it helps:

I have a three-tier setup. My brother/brew-buddy and I built the three tier framework out of wood. It's like a big, rugged staircase, and each step is as tall as a keg and burner. Three rehabed stainless kegs for the kettle/mash/liquor tanks. 2 big propane burners. Obviously, I brew outside, which really is the only way to go.

1) Get the mash water heating in the liquor tank on the top step of the frame. This is often done before we even have a recipe, as it takes some time. We heat the water to about 170-171, as that will make a strike temp of around 150-152. It doesn't matter how much you heat as long as it's enough. It just takes longer to heat too much.

2) Keg the batch from 2 weeks ago if necessary while the water heats.

3) Rack last weeks batch from a 14 gallon demijohn to two 6 gallon carboys. Often, I leave the yeast slurry in the demijohn to use in today's batch. Just shove an airlock in it and keep everything clean.

4) Get the grain together. We usualy have 20-25 pounds of grain. We buy pre-ground 2-row, so we just have to grind the adjuncts. We throw them all in a cooler and wait until the mash water is hot.

5) Mash in - when the water is hot, we open the valve at the bottom of the liquor tank and the water flows down into the mash tun. The mash tun is another stainless keg with a manifold at the bottom (a false bottom if you like). We add some water to the bottom, then start adding grain and water at an even rate so nothing gets too hot. When all the grain is added and the mash is the consistency of runny oatmeal, we cut off the water, make sure the temp is about 150, and put a lid on the mash tun. We also wrap a blanket around it to keep it warm. It doesn't lose too much heat over the hour.

6) Once the mash has been on for about 10 minutes, we start the sparge water heating, again on the top tier of the frame. It takes about 15 gallons, so it takes at least 45 minutes to heat to 170.

7) After an hour of mashing, we start to sprinkle the now heated water from the hot liquor tank onto the top of the grain bed gently through a hose. Once it has an inch or two of liquid on it, we open the valve at the bottom of the mash tun to slowly drain the wort out the bottom. It flows into the third keg (the kettle) which sits on the bottom step on a burner. We match the flow of water in the top and out the bottom so it always has an inch or two of liquid on the grain bed. We usually get about 10 gallons before it stops being sweet, then stop the mash. Often we'll wait a bit then run the sparge again and get quite a bit more sugar out of it. We never muck around with iodine tests or anything. Just taste the runnings. If it's sweet, keep running.

From here on, it's just like extract brewing. Boil. Hops. Chill. Ferment. Drink.

It's really simple once you do it once or twice. I think if everyone had someone to show them how to do it once, you'd all be grain brewers.

Janx

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Old 01-24-2005, 07:13 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Janx
...

It's really simple once you do it once or twice. I think if everyone had someone to show them how to do it once, you'd all be grain brewers.
Janx
That's been my biggest problem through the whole learning process....I'm better at learning if someone shows me once or twice. Eventually after we get settled into a house I intend to expand my brewing skills beyond the realm of the kit. I'm kind of waiting as well to get consitent good results from the kit before I start adding alot more time and energy to it.
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Old 01-24-2005, 07:22 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zprime
That's been my biggest problem through the whole learning process....I'm better at learning if someone shows me once or twice. Eventually after we get settled into a house I intend to expand my brewing skills beyond the realm of the kit. I'm kind of waiting as well to get consitent good results from the kit before I start adding alot more time and energy to it.
Try liquid yeast instead of the yeast they give you. Also, add some whole hops to the recipes they give you. Those are some easy ways to really improve your beer quality.

Frankly, I just don't think you'll ever see the results from kit/extract brewing that you do from all-grain. Many will disagree with me, but in my experience, all-grain tastes like real beer and extract just doesn't.

There's no doubt, especially with all-grain, that seeing it done first hand will really clarify a lot of the steps. Good luck!
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Old 01-24-2005, 09:35 PM   #5
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I think my definition of kit might be a little different, by kit I mean the DME and specialty grains and hop pellets and yeasts that get put together by my local brew shop. The first batch we tried (well....actually two) was a kit in a can and they turned out horrible, we thought we had done something terribly wrong. We almost quit brewing because of them...then we found a different shop.

I'm not saying that an all grain isn't better still, but the kit in a can is a horrible horrible thing.

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Old 01-24-2005, 09:56 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zprime
I think my definition of kit might be a little different, by kit I mean the DME and specialty grains and hop pellets and yeasts that get put together by my local brew shop. The first batch we tried (well....actually two) was a kit in a can and they turned out horrible, we thought we had done something terribly wrong. We almost quit brewing because of them...then we found a different shop.

I'm not saying that an all grain isn't better still, but the kit in a can is a horrible horrible thing.
Agreed. While I still prefer all-grain, using DME, liquid yeast, real grain adjuncts and (my preference) whole hops is a vast improvement over kit-in-a-can. I've never had a beer made from those pre-hopped syrups that tasted good.

I've noticed more shops assembling "kits" the way you describe. It's a good idea, and pretty soon you'll feel confident enought to start making up your own recipes.

Janx
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Old 01-25-2005, 10:43 AM   #7
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Default Grain Brewing with kitchen utensils

I have seen this web site from the UK, where the guy brewed a Gallon of Guiness style beer using nothing but kitchen utensils, and a glass carboy.

http://www.alpha-byte.demon.co.uk/kitchenmash.htm

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Old 01-25-2005, 04:12 PM   #8
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Good info on here again.....

I'd like to go to AG soon too. I'm going to slowly acquire the necessary equipment and do it. I've done 3 extract kits so far and all 3 (very different beer styles: Brown Ale, Hefeweizen and Stout) kind of have the same "taste". Now that I've researched Extract vs. AG I've come to find its a common theme. That just makes me want to do all-grain so much more.

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Old 01-25-2005, 06:32 PM   #9
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thanks for the link to the kitchen mash site - now I have a convenient place to send folks who wanna give it a try withoiut having them get the impression that mashing is some kinda rocket science.

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Old 01-28-2005, 01:17 AM   #10
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so can the mash be a sorta slow meandering bubble or does it have to be this rigid 30 min at 130 then forty at 150 then 15 at 170 scientific recipe?

yer just trying to coax the goodness out right? i am currently working on a partial mash, that's half a mash and half extract right now. it smells good like oatmeal, and is sweet

i'm getting excited

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