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Old 02-10-2012, 04:09 AM   #1
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Default Making the transition from extract to grain with limited equipment

I've been brewing with extract + specialty grains for many years, and want to make the jump to all-grain - or at least to mostly-grain partial mash if the equipment I have is going to be a limiting factor.

After reading up on the various processes, particularly DeathBrewer's Easy Partial Mash and Easy Stovetop All-Grain and BIAB, I'm thinking the process is demystified in my mind enough to take a stab at at.

In a perfect world, I'd go out and procure some new equipment. Unfortunately, money's tight for a while, so any major equipment purchases (or multiple minor purchases) are going to have to be put off. Dropping a couple hundred on equipment isn't an option for the moment, so I'm going to make do with what I have.

Which brings us to the question - given what I do have available and the financial limitations, what process would you recommend? I will be doing 5 gallon batches, as that's what all of my brewing, storing, and serving equipment is intended for.

Here's what I have at my disposal -

* All the standard equipment the average extract home brewer has.
* A 5 gallon stainless brewpot w/lid.
* A 9 gallon stainless brewpot w/lid. I plan to add a ball valve.
* A propane 2-burner outdoor cooker. Not sure of the BTU rating, but I know it's good for a 5-gallon boil, and probably good for a 7.5 gallon boil.
* Immersion wort chiller.
* Typically equipped kitchen with an electric range.

What I specifically don't have is a mash/lauter tun, nor do I have something I can repurpose at the moment.

Given these constraints, what process would YOU use?



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Old 02-10-2012, 04:30 AM   #2
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Mash in the 9 gallon pot with a voile bag. You'll have to buy that, but everything you need is in the <$10 range there. To hold temperature, set your oven to "warm" for a bit before you strike, then turn it off, mix like crazy, and stick your pot in there for the full sixty minutes. You might want to do a dry run or two with a thermometer to make sure you aren't shooting the temperature up or down dramatically ("warm" can mean very different things on some ovens). This is all you really need, though. Grain brewing isn't really all that complicated.



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Old 02-10-2012, 04:49 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by MalFet View Post
Mash in the 9 gallon pot with a voile bag. You'll have to buy that, but everything you need is in the <$10 range there. To hold temperature, set your oven to "warm" for a bit before you strike, then turn it off, mix like crazy, and stick your pot in there for the full sixty minutes. You might want to do a dry run or two with a thermometer to make sure you aren't shooting the temperature up or down dramatically ("warm" can mean very different things on some ovens). This is all you really need, though. Grain brewing isn't really all that complicated.
Yeah, I gathered that it's not as complicated as it seems at first.

One issue with the "stick the pot in the oven" part - there's NO way a 9 gallon pot is gonna fit in my oven. The 5 gallon is even a bit too tall on the bottom rack. I can't even use the 9 gallon in the kitchen - not enough clearance on top of the range. I'll have to use the outdoor cooker on that one.

I've been thinking that to mash in the 9 gallon pot, I'll either need to wrap it in a blanket and add warm water periodically, or occasionally apply heat. I've used both methods for steeping grains and am pretty good at holding a stable temp (+/1 2 degrees F from my target), at least for 30-40 minutes - but that's only been with 2 gallons of water and 2-3 lbs of grain so far.

Doing dry runs is a good suggestion, that's what I usually do when I'm trying out a new process, that way I run into fewer surprises during the brewing day. I hate risking precious ingredients with an unfamiliar, unpracticed process.

It seems like BIAB is the way to go though. Probably the only way until I get my hands on a MLT.
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Old 02-10-2012, 05:28 AM   #4
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get some insulation and insulate your 9 gallon pot and use that as your mash tun. You can use that 5 gallon pot to heat up your water. Just sparge into your mash tun while that drains into a fermentation bucket. Once you have you 6 gallon preboil volume your 5 gallon pot should be empty so just transfer the wort into that and start your boil for the hop additions.

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Old 02-10-2012, 05:35 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dhruv6911 View Post
get some insulation and insulate your 9 gallon pot and use that as your mash tun. You can use that 5 gallon pot to heat up your water. Just sparge into your mash tun while that drains into a fermentation bucket. Once you have you 6 gallon preboil volume your 5 gallon pot should be empty so just transfer the wort into that and start your boil for the hop additions.
^^^
This.

One more piece of advice...see if you can find some scrap water heater insulating blanket. It has a foil surface on the outside. You can use METAL duct tape to hold it together around the 9 gal pot, like a removable sleeve, but leave the bottom 4" or so of the side walls un-insulated, so you don't catch your insulation on fire. Also, get a piece of polystyrene foam board and cut yourself a lid that will sit on top of your mash inside the pot. This will eliminate head space in the MT and prevent heat loss.

Oh, and get a refractometer.
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Old 02-10-2012, 05:53 AM   #6
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Try to find a "used" turkey fryer setup on Craigslist. If you already have a 9 gallon pot ready to go, stick with that as your brewing vessel if you are going to do BIAB. You can typically find a Turkey Fryer setup for less than $100. Grab yourself a Voile bag from a LHBS or even a paint strainer bag from Home Depot or Lowes and some Binder clips like these:

http://www.staples.com/Staples-Mini-Metal-Binder-Clips-3-5-size-with-1-4-Capacity/product_521062

These will keep your bag from slipping into the wort.

Also, a metal colander from Walmart will run you about $3. Its important to place one of these on the bottom of a BIAB setup so that if you have to Direct-Fire to raise your temp, you don't end up melting the bag, I learned this the hard way. Once the bag is full of grain, you are committed to your brew. Ruin the bag, and you pretty much have ruined your brew, or will have to put in a LOT of work to save it.

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Old 02-10-2012, 10:03 AM   #7
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Just do BIAB. Freakin awesome IMO. I still do it sometimes when it's a simple brew. Knocks an hour off my brew day easy. There really isn't much reason not to do it.

I usually just keep an eye in the temp and fire up the burner for a bit if it's dropping too much. Keeping the lid on during mash does a pretty good job of keeping the temps up though.

I suggest something with a smaller grain bill for the first one. Just to get your process down. It's dead simple though

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Old 02-10-2012, 10:20 AM   #8
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You could do BIAB and just wrap the 9 gallon pot with whatever blankets, sleeping bags, fleece jackets you have. The only problem with this method is that you have to take it all off if you need to raise the heat, but no big deal really. If you set your strike water to the right temp you can hold at 154 down to 150 for an hour that way. All I have is one 10gal pot and it worked for me.

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Old 02-10-2012, 03:45 PM   #9
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You can get a 48qt. marine cooler with spigot from walmart.com shipped free site-to-store for $29. That's enough to mash a 10gallon batch in.

Or get a smaller cooler like a 22qt or larger for even less. Fittings would be about $20-$30 for a ball valve/bulkhead with stainless braid "manifold".

I'd say $50 for a mash tun setup and you can use the 5g. pot for sparge water.

Otherwise do BIAB, mash in the 5g. (for most grain bills) and dunk-sparge in larger pot.



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