Yesterday I ventured into the new world of all-grain brewing. The one good thing I did was set aside a lot of time, which I wound up needing the first time through.
My set up was a 40 quart kettle as my mash tun then I had a 10-gallon Rubbermaid cooler with a stainless steel false bottom. I used continuous sparging. The whole process was complicated by the fact that it was snowy and cold, so I did my boils in my garage with the door halfway open.
Everything was going fine until I realized I had to get hot sparge water into the cooler and I would need three levels, and I had no way to do this in the garage, so everything went back into the house and I set the cooler on a chair close to the stove. I also was using the kettle for the boil and for sparging and found out that doesnt work too well. So I had to make some changes midway through the sparge to get the boiling kettle on the floor and another pot on the burner.
I had no idea how much water to collect for the boil, and then realized I had no way to measure the volume of the boil, so I set the kettle on a bathroom scale and kept sparging until I got 6 gallons. I also did not realize how much water I would need for the sparge, and had to keep heating up more. I guess with continuous sparging you use more water than with batch sparging.
Now looking back I wish I had another gallon since the final amount in the fermenter was definitely less than 5 gallons, maybe four. I think next time I will go for 7 gallons, but I have no idea if I need to sparge more or call it quits after some time and just add water.
I was also not sure if I should have kept the water level 1 to 2 inches above the grain bed the entire time or let it drain out toward the end. My gut told me there was a reason to keep 1 to 2 inches the entire time even if I did not use it all.
It was a lot of work but should get easier as I get the method down. All in all it was not a bad experience, but I need to make a few adjustments.