Easy Stovetop All-Grain Brewing (with pics)
For some of you beginners out there, i thought i would show you how easy it is to make ANY type of beer you want using NO EXTRACTS in the comfort of your kitchen. I also hope to simplify things and provide some followup to my previous thread on Easy Partial Mash Brewing.
This method will work with any decent size beer (generally up to about 1.055 OG or about 12 lbs of grain)
I'll be using pictures from the SMaSH APA i made a few weeks ago and the Banana Bread Ale I brewed up today. You can reference those pages for the recipes and exact quantities.
So, here's the equipment you will need:
1 - 6+ gallon pot
1 - 5+ gallon pot with lid
1 - stirring rod (wooden spoon works, but a mash paddle is worth the extra $$$
1 - floating (milk) thermometer
1 - 24" x 24" grain bag
1 - additional container for the spent grains. i use another 5 gallon pot, you can use a garbage can or anything, really.
and, of course, you will need all of your regular fermentation equipment and sanitizers, etc.
Let's get started!
first things first...clean your kitchen and get everything laid out. the more organized you are the smoother things will go and the easier the final clean-up is:
the next thing to do is heat up your strike water for your mash in the 5 gallon pot. my mash temperatures generally fall in the range of 146-158°F, depending on the style i'm brewing. this means you will want your water above that temperature so it falls to the right amount when you add your grain.
you also need to know the correct amount of water. this is especially important with this setup because it easy to overfill (you'll see what i mean in a minute.) you want somewhere between 1-2 quarts per pound of grain. generally, i try to shoot for 1.25qt/lb.
for this example, i have about 12 lbs of grain and i will use just over 3 gallons of water:
i want my mash temperature to be about 154°F for this beer and i generally see a drop of about 12-14°F when adding grains (it always varies based on equipment, climate, etc.) so i will heat the water to 166°F.
Leaving the lid on for a little while helps speed things up:
Once your strike water reaches temp, throw the bag in and turn it out along the sides of the pot. add your grains, a little at a time while stirring:
now, it can get pretty close to the brim in a 5 gallon pot. this is greatly beneficial because you will see very little loss in mash temperature when you minimize the headspace. however, be careful to give yourself enough room for the bag and for stirring or you could have a mess on your hands.
i use promash to calculate. the banana bread ale recipe had 11.75 lbs and i used 3.25 gallons of water, which is about 1.1qt/lb. this gives me a total volume of 4.19 gallons when i add the grains.
even with an estimated 0.8 gallons of headspace, once you add the bag it can get kind of crowded in there...plus you'll need to stir:
until you get comfortable with this method, you may want to use less grain and/or do partial mashes. that being said, i didn't spill a drop tonight. in fact, i find brewing with this method has the least amount of cleanup than any other i've tried.
so, now you're doughed in. hopefully you hit your temp. if its off by only a degree or two, don't worry about it. if its far too hot, you can add cold water (if you have space) or stir for a few minutes. if it's far too cold, you can add heat and stir. just be careful and keep a close eye. especially on an electric burner, it really sneaks up on you and readings take time.
i hit 153°F (was shooting for 154) and left it at that. then cover and wait:
once you've mashed in, you have a while to wait. you can relax and have a beer or finish cleaning up your kitchen, whatever. just don't mess with your mash...let it sit, covered. i usually mash for at least 60 minutes, and i've gone up to two hours in one of these pots without losing a single degree on my temp.
once you're about 30 minutes in, start heating up your sparge water in your big pot. this is where you have options depending on your burner. on my electric burners, it's difficult to get anything above 5 gallons boiling, so i don't do my usual 6.5-7 gallon boil...i shoot for 5 gallons total volume. your grains will absorb a lot of liquid...i usually account for a gallon to be lost.
i started with 3 gallons and i lose a gallon to absorption, so i want my sparge water to total 3 gallons...this will give me 5 to start:
if you can boil more water, use more. you'll get higher efficiency from your grains.
and now we have the sparge water heating while the mash is still doing its magic. again, if you cover the pot, it helps to heat up faster:
you want your sparge to be about 170°F with the grains in it, but NOT OVER. this means i usually heat my sparge water to 185°F. once it gets to 185°F, i shut of the heat and drain the bag from the mash. it can be difficult lifting ~15 lbs of soaked grains and holding them for several minutes. a colander works really well but can get messy if you're not careful.
i use the help of my mash paddle to start things off:
look, it's plumbers grain!
then you add the grain bag to your sparge water and stir it up. the bags work great around the handles of my pot. you can use clamps or something if you'd like, but i just hold one side tight while i stir and then spread it across the handles like so:
let that sit 10 minutes, remove your grains and drain them again.
then set them aside to be disposed of. this is where you will need another container:
i usually throw mine away but they make fantastic compost.
lastly, you'll want to add the wort from the original mash into your large stockpot. just pour it right in:
and you're done! now you can add your hops and brew as normal:
cleaning out your grain bag is easy. just turn it inside out and spray the grains out:
if there are still a few grains on there, don't worry about it, when it dries, you can blow or brush them off like dust.
let's see...more pics...here's a fun trick i learned for draining my hops while i'm cooling:
i generally top off these batches with cold bottled water, which helps to cool the wort faster. because i use a smaller amount of water during the actual process, however, i don't get the best efficiency. as low as 60%, sometimes. but that's a small price to pay for the convenience of my kitchen. i use this method with my burner and can get up to 80% efficiency, if i'm on top of my game.
here are the ales i made using this method over the last month. Banana Bread Ale, ready to ferment:
SMaSH APA, ready to rack:
well, that's it. i hope this helps some of you move forward faster with your brewing. it takes a little longer than extract with the mashing, but the rewards are great.
enjoy the madness of brewing and please let me know if you have any questions.
I did this ( or similar anyway) yesterday with 7 pounds of grain and it was hard.
A couple questions:
1)Do you serriously get your temp to stay consistent for 60 minutes by just putting the lid on it? Without using the burner to maintain temp?
2)What do you use to keep the grain bag from burning on the bottom of the pot? I used a metal colander that I broke the handles off to fit down into the pot. You had to have used something right?
3)Couldn't using an MLT instead of mashing on the stove give me higher efficiency and still keep me brewing in the kitchen on the stovetop?
Thanks for such a detailed post and good pics by the way.
Awesome tutorial man. Just one thing... you want to stir during the mash to get better conversion. At least every 5 minutes.
it's about convenience, too. the bag just makes things easy, because you don't have to lift heavy objects and you don't have to deal with coolers, coils, or false bottoms. basically, the bag replaces the need for any extra equipment. many people could start using this method simply by purchasing a pot. and the cleanup is a breeze.
i know it's continuously stirred in breweries (and i'm sure it helps) but stirring every 5 minutes on this scale would cause you to lose temp rather quickly.
what kind of efficiency are you getting?
this is a great explanation death brewer... I was thinking I would really like to get into the partial mash and all grain so I can really experiment with some different brews... one thing I was wondering though, how hard is it to formulate your own recipes? I know I can think of something I would like to brew and know what types of grain and hops I might use, but as far as the amounts... I have no idea. Also, I wanted to know, is the batch you described above a 5 gal batch? Whats the use of the larger pot for if you can top off when you put it in the primary? And you don't need stainless pot just for the mash right? the stainless is only for something that comes out of hops?
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