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Old 11-29-2012, 12:55 PM   #1
Enoch52
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Default Extract w/ Specialty vs. Partial-Mash

I'm wondering what the dividing line is considered to be between extract brewing with specialty grains and partial-mash brewing--and how best to handle crossing that line.

I ordered the ingredients for an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Brown Ale, inspired by the book Radical Brewing and Northern Brewer's small-batch beer of the same name. The thing is, I've only brewed two beers before, and they were both extract/specialty, and I didn't really realize that partial-mashing was different from extract/specialty.

At what point is a recipe considered partial-mash? I'm assuming it's based on the quantity of non-extract grains. The recipe I created has 4 lbs. of DME and 4 lbs. of grain--and the stuff is on its way (darn Northern Brewer for their efficiency!).

Assuming that this recipe would be best handled through a partial mash, what's the best way of handling it? I was thinking of running to Home Depot and grabbing a 2-gallon round cooler. Is that the best solution, and if so, what should I do about a filter? Put a wire mesh over the inside of the spout? Create some sort of filter bag to hold the grains? Something else?

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Old 11-29-2012, 01:25 PM   #2
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Seems you are at about the point I am.

Partial mashing is just that. Rather than steeping your grains at an approximate temperature for 30-45 minutes or so, you are mashing them which is just steeping them at an exact temperature for a specific amount of time to maximize the conversion of starches to sugars.

I have been planning an Imperial IPA that was going to be partial mash to save myself the trouble of spending more on extracts but the more I look into partial mashing, the more I convince myself to just go all-grain. If you are going to spend the money to buy a cooler and make a mash tun to mash correctly, why not buy a 10 gallon cooler, convert it correctly into a mash tun with a proper false bottom or SS braid, so you have it for future batches if you want to go all grain.

But if you wish to just do a partial mash on the fly then you could probably get a smaller 4-5 gallon cooler, a larger fine mesh bag and have yourself something for partial mashes. I just figured if I am going to go through the trouble to partial mash, why not set myself up for all-grain!

Just remember to sparge the grains after your mash so as to get the most out of them. I made the mistake of steeping a partial mash recipe once and although it tasted fine and came out okay, its OG was significantly lower than what it should have been and it was sadly, more of a session beer than a "2 beers to paradise" sort of thing.

So the long and short of it... you can get a smaller cooler and a grain bag and do a partial mash, but for a little more money you could invest in your future and make the move towards all-grain. I am going with the latter option as I don't like wasting money on trivial middle steps to get to where I want to be.

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Old 11-29-2012, 01:32 PM   #3
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I'm starting to lean toward setting up a full-on all-grain setup as well. Is the 10-gallon cooler you mention the size I'd want for a 5-gallon batch? Also, what's the SS braid you mention?

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Old 11-29-2012, 01:35 PM   #4
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I will also add that I was extremely hesitant to enter the All-Grain world as I thought the initial costs would cripple me and my whole brewing world would be turned upside down. I also live in an apartment so space is an issue, but then I stumbled upon this...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CRI1veziKI

After watching that guy AG brew in his kitchen I decided it was more approachable than I first thought. I figure I don't even need the 2 kettles for strike/sparge water and the boil. I can just use one kettle to heat the strike water, mash, use the same one to heat sparge water during the mash, then I can fly sparge into a bottling bucket and transfer that back to the kettle once the sparge is done... not ideal but saves me having to buy a mash tun and a HLT or 2nd kettle.

Sorry if I have migrated off topic.

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Old 11-29-2012, 01:40 PM   #5
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From everything I have read, a 10 gallon cooler is ideal for 5 gallon batches. I originally was looking at 7 or 8 gallon coolers but that limits the beer you can make. If you want to do big beers like 2xIPAs, Imperial Stouts and Barleywine type styles, you need a large tun to accommodate the bigger grain bill.

10 gallons works well for pretty much any 5 gallon batch you will do, as with the water and grain your volumes will fall between 6-9 gallons.

The SS braid (stainless steel braid) is just another option instead of dropping more money on a false bottom. I have heard good and bad reviews for each style and figured since an SS braid is cheaper I would go that route. It also seems easier to clear if you have a stuck sparge.

10 gallon cooler conversion:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/cheap-easy-10-gallon-rubbermaid-mlt-conversion-23008/

I plan on doing that with a 10 gallon Igloo Industrial Cooler... $47 on amazon

SS braid vs. False Bottom:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f36/ss-false-bottom-ss-braid-289971/

further info on the SS braid:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Stainless_steel_braid

When I started I thought getting in to all grain would cost hundred of dollars, when in reality it can be done relatively well on the cheap. No need for those expensive 3-tier brewing sculptures and all the bells and whistles. 1 mash tun, 1 kettle, and an extra bucket seem to be the most economical route.

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Old 11-29-2012, 01:41 PM   #6
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Nope, I was in the middle of reading an article and I was going to ask if I'd really need two pots if I was using a plastic cooler as a lauter tun--my brew kettle is plenty big enough (7 gal.) and I figured I'd have time to heat up the sparge water during the rests. I was careful when I bought my extract equipment to make it compatible with all-grain! Like you suggest, I can use my bottling bucket for recirculation.

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Old 11-29-2012, 01:48 PM   #7
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I can simplify this. You don't need a cooler to do BIAB. Early last year,I bought a set of 4 polished,nested SS stock pots with lids & steamer trays for 25 bucks at Giant Eagle. I use the 5G for a BK,& the 3G to heat sparge water.
Now,I put a clean/sanitized cake cooling rack in the bottom of the BK so grain sacks don't burn on the bottom under heat. My partial mash kit came with 5lbs of gerains & a muslin grain sack. I've found that steeping bags (muslin) are shorter than BIAB sacks. Anyway,I get the water up to 156F,then put the tied off sack in it with a floating thermometer lashed to the BK handle with a few twist ties made into a noose. Water volume is 1-1.5QT water per pound of grain. About equal for sparge water.
Set the stove timer to 1 hour,using a plastic paddle to kinda move the sack around a little to be sure it's getting water flow evenly as possible. When the hour is up,I get out my SS collander (B,B,& B,8-9 bucks),take out the grain sack,set the collander over top of the kettle,& drop the sack in it to drain into the BK. Slowly pour sparge water over grain sack to rinse out more sugars,which raises efficiency%.
So this way,you're making your BK double as a MLT by way of BIAB.
Steeping is simpler. Steeping can be done with more water volume than mashing. Not to mention,steeping is specialty grains only that are already converted. Mashing uses 2 or 6 row base grains to get starch to sugar conversion. Specialty grains are typically mixed with the base grains when mashing. Steeping can be done at higher temps too. like 165F or so for 20-30 minutes. 45 minute steeps are not very common,since tannin leaching from the husks is possible.
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Old 11-29-2012, 01:59 PM   #8
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with a partial mash you get fermentable sugars from grains. with extract with grains you are just there for the color and or toastiness and other flavor characteristics. any sugars are just incidental.

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Old 11-29-2012, 02:01 PM   #9
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One thing to note is that with a 5 gallon kettle, you are never going to be able to do a full volume boil which effects your hop utilization and sometimes flavor as you are watering down your wort when you go to the fermenter by topping it off to 5 gallons if that is your batch size.

BIAB is an option for some but I find going with a MLT, although maybe slightly more expensive at first is more along the lines of where I want my home brew operation to move. Different strokes for different folks.

My logic was just that if I am going to be mashing anything, why not mash it all. Extracts are expensive.

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Old 11-29-2012, 02:05 PM   #10
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Right now I'm going to be a partial-volume, simply because I don't have a burner yet that will allow me to boil 5 gallons all at once (still using an electric stovetop).

The only reason I'm considering a 5-gallon lautering tun right now (I can see you might need larger for a high-gravity beer) is that with only 4 lbs. of specialty grains, I think I'd be running the chance of the grain bed being too shallow and getting my sparge stuck with a 10-gallon. I'm also worried about whether the temperature would be stable if it was only half-full (for a standard 5-gallon batch).

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