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Old 04-26-2006, 11:01 PM   #1
Jens-Kristian
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Default What makes AG so difficult?

I first wrote this post as a reply to the "Is it against the rules" thread, but figured it might draw the thread off its topic a bit.

This is quoted from that thread:

Quote:
First, I'm in awe of you brewing AG since starting brewing in January. 2 Extract batches then into AG? RIGHTEOUS!!

Not to take away from your hard work on this, Twabe - I think it's great that you took the leap to AG as quickly as that.

However, it just makes me wonder when everyone keeps talking about AG brewing as some form of near-impossible step to take and that it is supposedly incredibly difficult/expensive etc.

I started brewing AG (also in January) and had done no brewing whatsoever before then and while I agree there's a fair bit of work involved, I have to admit I've found it . . . surprisingly easy!

Yes. More things can go wrong in the process, but if you are meticulous about the process, there isn't really that much in it which is difficult. A lot of work, yes, but not really difficult.

I can easily understand reasons to stay with extract when these are based on thing like how much time you have on your hands for brewing or space issues etc. I can't really understand it if it's a matter of not wanting to go through the complications of brewing AG as such.

Please don't think I'm bashing either AG or extract brewers. As I see it, whatever suits you best is what you should be doing, and if the outcome of your labour is good beer, then you're achieving what you're supposed to, right?

In this, I suppose, there's a question and that is:

Who put into people's heads that AG is so difficult? And why?

Cheers,

Jens-Kristian


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Old 04-26-2006, 11:13 PM   #2
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I think people get frightened by the term 'complicated' and replace it with 'difficult.' You're right, AG is not that difficult, but it is fairly complicated.



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Old 04-26-2006, 11:24 PM   #3
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After just brewing my first AG batch recently, I whole-heartedly agree. Definitely nothing difficult about it.

I actually kind of liked the extra "complication" of mashing, and it really did not take that much longer.

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Old 04-27-2006, 12:24 AM   #4
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I started AG June 05 and was in the same thought on not sure if I wanted to go there. I went to an AG class at my HBS that really helped me to understand how simple it really is. I would recommend however not going to AG straight away just because this is a hobby and AG requires more equipment/$ and if you end up not liking the process you just wasted more cash. Stumbling through an AG session; your still going to make beer. It's the fine tuning that enables you to control and create better (or maybe great) beer more consistently by tweaking mash rest temps, grain combos etc. Brewers who use DME/LME start reading all the jargon going on in AG and that is what makes them nervous to jump IMO.

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Originally Posted by pokey
...and it really did not take that much longer.
You have hidden secrets you want to share . I added at least 2:30 more to my brew schedule from DME.

1/2 hour prep; water heating (more water)
60 minute sac rest.
45 minute sparge.

Not to mention full wort boils and cooling. I like the time though spent. SWMBO must leave me alone for 6 hours or so.
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Old 04-27-2006, 12:49 AM   #5
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What makes it difficult? Fear. That's it. People are afraid they'll screw something up. Then they do it, it works, and they say " Well that wasn't so damned hard!" And they wonder what took so long. I have a friend that has never even brewed a single batch, yet he is building a 3-tier system that'll outclass mine by a mile and his first batch is going to be AG (although I've been recruited to help him brew/drink all day). He's jumping in with both feet right off the bat.

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Old 04-27-2006, 12:50 AM   #6
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I equate it to the first time you got up the courage to ride a roller coaster when you were a child. You contemplate it, worry over it, imagine the worst scenario and finally, get flat-out scared. But you screw up the courage to finally strap yourself into the coaster car, cross your fingers, close your eyes and pray - all the time trying your best to hide your fear.

Then, after it's all over, you have a big smile on your face, a sense of accomplishment, a rush of relief over conquering your initial fears and you realize it wasn't that bad at all! And now, you can't wait to get back in line and do it again!

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Old 04-27-2006, 12:57 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhoobarb
I equate it to the first time you got up the courage to ride a roller coaster when you were a child. You contemplate it, worry over it, imagine the worst scenario and finally, get flat-out scared. But you screw up the courage to finally strap yourself into the coaster car, cross your fingers, close your eyes and pray - all the time trying your best to hide your fear.

Then, after it's all over, you have a big smile on your face, a sense of accomplishment, a rush of relief over conquering your initial fears and you realize it wasn't that bad at all! And now, you can't wait to get back in line and do it again!
I like it. Good analogy.
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Old 04-27-2006, 01:06 AM   #8
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I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that it's not more difficult, just more complicated.

AG brewing is surprisingly intuitive for the most part. There's a fair bit more equipment involved, it takes longer, and there are more factors to toy with (i.e. mash temp, sparge temp, mash out, strike temp, PH & water chemistry, mash thickness, sparge rate, etc.). However, the process itself is really intuitive - you soak the grains in hot water for an hour and then slowly rinse them with more hot water, it can't get much easier than that.

Obviously, there are additional problems that you can run into with ag - efficiency problems in particular seem to be an issue for a lot of brewers. There are also some aspects of ag brewing that are not as intuitive, things like a full understanding of how mash temp, mash thickness, and PH all work together to affect enzymatic activity... water chemistry and fermentability are, I think, other good examples.

Overall though, AG brewing isn't that hard. When I meet other brewers locally they do sometimes think I'm some sort of a rocket scientist for brewing all grain batches - there is a bit of mythology surrounding it I suppose.

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Old 04-27-2006, 01:31 AM   #9
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Actually, I've never brewed w/ extract. I had a buddy show me how to brew and he'd been doing AG for 10+ years. It seemed easy enough and very "authentic" to what I imagined brewing would be like, so that's all I've ever done.

I'm sure I could do an extract brew if I wanted to, but why would I? Every beer I've brewed so far (~10) has been great!

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Old 04-27-2006, 01:49 AM   #10
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Being the one who was so impressed by the jump from extract to AG I figured I'd throw my .02 in...

10 years ago when I first read Charlie's book, the concept of going all grain was totally foreign to me, and a mystery to me seeing as I was just getting started. Now after being stalled for 9 years, it was still pretty intimidating to me, but not as much so now for one good reason. This board. But everyone has raised excellent excellent points...

Desert Brew said:

Quote:
I started AG June 05 and was in the same thought on not sure if I wanted to go there. I went to an AG class at my HBS that really helped me to understand how simple it really is. I would recommend however not going to AG straight away just because this is a hobby and AG requires more equipment/$ and if you end up not liking the process you just wasted more cash. Stumbling through an AG session; your still going to make beer. It's the fine tuning that enables you to control and create better (or maybe great) beer more consistently by tweaking mash rest temps, grain combos etc. Brewers who use DME/LME start reading all the jargon going on in AG and that is what makes them nervous to jump IMO.

ABL, Rhoobarb and Lost, all of you guys touched on things that I have always thought of when it comes to all grain. But once again, this board and everyone here has helped demystify it... And like Jens said, it's just complicated, not really difficult.

And the beauty of it all is at the end... You get BEER


A tip of the mug to all you guys...

Ize


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