Originally Posted by haighter
OK, to that end, is the amount of water in which you steep very important?
I read on the forums that if you use a high volume boil, you'll get a lighter colored beer (using extract). So for my last brew I took this into account and steeped about 3 lbs in about 3 gallons of water.
Yes, amount of water for partial mashing is important. The primary difference between the use of "steeping grains" vs partial mashing is the extraction of sugars, and for that you need enzymatic activity. For that, it requires a "stiff" enough mash that the enzymes operate properly.
You were at 12 qts / 3 pounds, or 4 qt/lb. As stated above, you typically want somewhere between 1-3 qt/lb. Traditional for *most* homebrewers is somewhere in the 1.5 qt/lb range, which would have only been a little over a gallon of mash water for your partial mash.
It sounds like you're steeping, not partial mashing. So here's my recommendation:
1) Start with 1.5 gallons water in a pot, steeping the grains at 150 degrees for ~1 hour in your grain bag.
2) Have a second pot with another 1.5 gallons ~170 degrees. After you pull the grain bag out of the first pot, put it in this pot, and move the grain bag around enough to "rinse" as much sugar out of the grain as possible.
3) Pour the second pot into the first, then boil as normal.