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Old 12-19-2011, 03:02 PM   #1
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Default Difference between all-grain brewing and extract brewing

Hi! I'm a beginner, never brewed before. I'm going to start brewing with extracts because that seems to be the usual advice, but I'm already thinking to the future and all-grain brewing. I was wondering: what are the differences (in process) between all grain and extract, and what is the special equipment that I hear people talking about that I would need to purchase in order to go all-grain? Is it really that expensive?

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Old 12-19-2011, 03:07 PM   #2
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The biggest difference is making your own wort. Basically this is done by heating malted grains up to a specific temp with water. You would do this in what's called a mash tun. If you do a simple batch sparge or no sparge it will be fairly inexpensive. Doing a "Fly" sparge requires more parts and more attention. I built a mash tun for around $60 that I use for 5 gallon batches. You could also do a brew in a bag or BIAB. I haven;t done that but I don't think you need much more than a bag.

Another difference might be that you use a propane burner to heat the strike water and 6 or 7 gallons of wort.

Don't be afraid to start with all-grain it can appear to be more complicated or more expensive but it's not really. I started with AG but a few brewers I know that have been brewing for many years started with extract. With all the info that is available today, it's very easy to learn to brew either way. GL and welcome to brewing.

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Revvy>>You shouldn't worry about ANYTHING, you didn't hurt the yeast, they know what they need to do, they want to eat all that sugar they are swimming around in. They want to pee alcohol and fart co2, it's their nature.

Bobby_M>>I flood the keg with CO2 for one minute with the lid off, rack the beer in to the bottom gently, seal it, flood it, vent it. If there's still O2 in there after that, F it.

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Old 12-19-2011, 03:10 PM   #3
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Buy a book. You'll get a huge amount of feedback from the net. Some of the suggested techniques can be questionable. I would advise you to try mini mashes and steeping before jumping staight to all grain.

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Old 12-19-2011, 03:14 PM   #4
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Once you start the boil, the processes are the same. For all grain, you have the additional steps of mashing, lautering, and sparging the grains.

1) If your grain wasn't pre-crushed, you need to crush it. Most people own their own mill (corona or roller style $30-100). This way you can buy a large bag of pilsner or 2 row malt and crush only what you need right before you brew. Uncrushed grain keeps pretty well. Also having a crusher allows you to dial in your size, which can have an impact on efficiency and free flowing sparges.

2) Mash your grain between 148 and 160F for an hour. This can be done using Brew in a Bag (BIAB) or in a dedicated mash tun with a false bottom. This where you are gaining access to the sugars found in the malt. You can also control to some aspect the finished gravity of your beer (mash high temp for sweeter higher FG, mash lower temp for drier lower FG).

3) The wort is separated from the grain at this point. With BIAB, you simply lift the grain bag out of the wort. With the more traditional method, you drain it through the false bottom screen.

4) Usually you sparge the grain again to extract a little more sugar. With BIAB you can dunk the bag into another vessel at proper temp. A few different options for sparging using the traditional method.

5) Grab a sample, measure your OG, and calculate your efficiency. Usually it's between 65 and 85% efficiency. Get your wort up and boiling!

With BIAB, you can try out the process for $5-25, depending on what you have. See the sticky in the all grain forum for more deets. If you will be mashing in a tun, you will have a couple of additional purchases to make. Both methods work great and have advantages/disadvantages. I also echo the comment above about doing 1 or 2 partial mash batches. You still use some extract in case you have low efficiencies while dialing it all in.

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Old 12-19-2011, 03:16 PM   #5
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The only two pieces of equipment you genuinely need to go AG are a cooler style mash tun (about $80 DYI, very easy) and a 10 gallon boil kettle. And a food grade bucket to catch you wort, you will be heating strike and sparge water in your boil kettle. Everything else is just a nicety

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Old 12-19-2011, 03:20 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by bottlebomber View Post
And a food grade bucket to catch you wort, you will be heating strike and sparge water in your boil kettle.

Wouldn't you just drain into the boil kettle? That's what I do. You would need a pitcher to vorlauf.
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Revvy>>You shouldn't worry about ANYTHING, you didn't hurt the yeast, they know what they need to do, they want to eat all that sugar they are swimming around in. They want to pee alcohol and fart co2, it's their nature.

Bobby_M>>I flood the keg with CO2 for one minute with the lid off, rack the beer in to the bottom gently, seal it, flood it, vent it. If there's still O2 in there after that, F it.

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Old 12-19-2011, 03:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jetmac

Wouldn't you just drain into the boil kettle? That's what I do. You would need a pitcher to vorlauf.
You could, but with my setup my burner and BK are up at about chest level and that's where they stay. I heat my strike water and gravity feed it down to the MT, heat up my sparge water while I'm mashing, drain my first runnings, and then batch sparge. Dump the first runnings into the BK and start boiling.
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Old 12-19-2011, 03:25 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by bottlebomber View Post
You could, but with my setup my burner and BK are up at about chest level and that's where they stay. I heat my strike water and gravity feed it down to the MT, heat up my sparge water while I'm mashing, drain my first runnings, and then batch sparge. Dump the first runnings into the BK and start boiling.

Okay, cool.
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Revvy>>You shouldn't worry about ANYTHING, you didn't hurt the yeast, they know what they need to do, they want to eat all that sugar they are swimming around in. They want to pee alcohol and fart co2, it's their nature.

Bobby_M>>I flood the keg with CO2 for one minute with the lid off, rack the beer in to the bottom gently, seal it, flood it, vent it. If there's still O2 in there after that, F it.

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Old 12-19-2011, 03:39 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MissionBrewer View Post
Hi! I'm a beginner, never brewed before. I'm going to start brewing with extracts because that seems to be the usual advice, but I'm already thinking to the future and all-grain brewing. I was wondering: what are the differences (in process) between all grain and extract, and what is the special equipment that I hear people talking about that I would need to purchase in order to go all-grain? Is it really that expensive?
It's somewhat like the difference between "scratch" baking and buying a mix. With extract, the step of preparing the wort has been done for you. With all-grain, you need to do a "mash" step to convert the starches in the grains to sugars, which you drain off. You can take it one step further with all-grain if you crush the grain prior to brewing. This is akin to grinding flour in baking, but with the advantage that most LHBS's will crush grain for you if you buy it there. (But if you brew often you will soon find yourself wanting a crusher/mill of your own.)

There is nothing wrong with extract brewing, and I'd advise you to try it at least a couple/few times before going with an all-grain method. I'm doing all-grain for a few reasons:
1) I've been a "scratch" kind of baker for a long time, and don't use mixes. This isn't because you can't find a good mix, rather I am cheap and I can get various flour types a lot cheaper than anything mixed up. I'm this way with other food prep also. I like to make soups, etc from scratch rather than buying them and heating them up.
2) I think there is more control on the process. With mashing/sparging, you can control the mash temperature, the liquid/grain ratio, the fineness of the grain crush, etc. With this, you can vary the resulting wort. You can also f it up big time!
3) I'm cheap. While there isn't a big difference in price buying all-grain materials vs. extract at the LHBS, with all-grain I can participate in group grain buys. Doing this plus things like re-using yeast (which you certainly can do with extract), I've been able to get my average batch cost for 5 gallons of great beer well under $20. (This is somewhat misleading as I've bought a lot of equipment and other toys which totally offsets this.)
4) It's easier to get lighter colored beers with all-grain, as extract typically has higher SRM (color) values. There are tricks you can do to offset this, and there are lighter LME/DME's available, such as Briess LME Pilsen Light (SRM 2.3).

There are disadvantages to all-grain. Here's some:
1) Takes longer, as you need to do mash/sparge steps. I figure on average it adds 2 hours to my brew day.
2) You will soon find yourself needing a grain storage room with all the grains you will want to buy.
3) You will need more pots. I do a in-the-bag method for mashing and sparging, and end up with pots all over the place. You will find yourself buying more stuff: Pots, mash tuns, then the next thing you know you will be building a 3-tiered brew stand or buying pumps to move liquid around. I've managed to stick with just pots by using a brew-in-the-bag (really mash/sparge in the bag) method, but I can see it coming.
4) As with scratch baking, your "more control" means that you can do more things to screw up.
5) I get to carry hot liquids around the house as I have been doing my mash in the house (on the stove) and then doing the sparge and boil outside via propane (my house stove can't handle 6.5 gallons). I dropped the grain bag once in my 180 degree sparge water and got it all over the floor, ceiling, walls, and myself. Fortunately, none hit exposed skin so no burns...just a mess.
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Old 12-19-2011, 04:02 PM   #10
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You have plenty to learn with extracts. Try out the process, learn the fundamentals and have fun. Leave the all grain part for later. Test out recipes to find what you like. Not trying to scare you, but you may not be into this after doing it for a while. It requires work and procedures that may or may not be fun to you. The fun part for me is discovering the reasons why I used to make bad batches. Home brewing is all science that is rewarded when you do it right.

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