How do you transition from 5G extract to 10G A.G. ?
I have completed a dozen extract brews. All have turned out drinkable. Some better than others. I am happy with my progress but cant help wondering if my brews might be better going AG. I'm not afraid to spend some cash on my new favorite hobby, but I'm not sure where to throw my money at. Ill be honest I don't know squat about the AG method. Well, maybe a bit more than squat but not much more. So, its prob smarter to do research than just throw money around randomly.
Ive seen the awesome 3 keg set ups in the DIY forum. Don't fully understand all the lingo (herms, rims, etc) but it seems to be the "ultimate" in the home brew set up. At least to my untrained eyes, they sure look cool.
Ill list my equipment in case this helps.
8G SS brew pot
2 kegs - soon to be converted
Chiller- coiled copper immersion
60K BTU turkey fryer
2 mini fridges that fit one carboy each, with controllers for both
Various carboys, hop spider, stir plate, etc...
I dont mind doing my own research, actually I'm enjoying the learning process, reminds me of college. I am unsure of where to go from here. If anybody could point me in the right direction Id be grateful.
I dont mind taking my time in the transition, Im fairly happy with the extract.
Any thoughts, comments, or advice will be greatly appreciated.
Other than this site. Your lhbs will normally help out with finding supplies. My local shop has slowly been getting supplies for me, as I am doing the same thing as you. Austin home brew has some good equipment, they are fast. I haven't ever brought from other places but Austin is a lot closer to me. Good luck in your endeavors.
First off I wouldn't expect improvements in the beer necessarily by going to all grain.
You can make, and I have made fantastic beer from extract.
If you aren't happy with the way your beer is, you might want to work on your procedures or you're fermentation conditions.
All grain is just an extra step or two in the same process. After the mash is done you pretty much have the same things as the water after the grains have been steeped and the extract is added.
That being said, switching to all grain can be a very good change.
Along with all your reading you might check out some YouTube videos.
Reading about it is great but seeing them do the things they are talking about is helpful.
I know that watching videos of the process help give me the confidence to make the switch.
There isn't anything magical about all grain that will instantly make your beer great. I switched and I've made some pretty bad beer with all grain too. It just gives you a lot more variables but at a lower cost for the ingredients.
Extract beers have won some pretty major awards in competetion with all grain beers so there isn't anything inherently wrong with extract beer. Work on your procedure and technique. Things that may help is "late extract addition" and temperature control during ferment. Also involved is pitching the proper amount of yeast and adequate aeration of the wort before pitching.
In my case I'd have to start by buying a bigger house! :D
Oh boy, I hope we don't start the dead horse argument of extract verse AG on which is better. :D
My defection to the AG side was a wonderful experience. I made good beer with extract and at times I cannot tell the difference but over all I find AG to be better for me.
I like the choices of different malts: munich, victory, maybe adding some smoke flavor on rare occasion, some chocolate, some roasted.... And I can control the maltiness or dry feel depending on how I set it up.
The second biggest aspect for me is I actually feel a part of the process. From grinding my grains to sparging, I feel more attached to the taking of the pre-boil OG to the final dry hopped product. *I* did that. Where as with extract it feels like a quick and dirt method. I feel like someone else did all the work for me. Plus its longer time outside, toss some food on the grill, relax, drink some beers.... Its about double time outside, not necessarily doing harder work, just out of the house and *ahem* away from the kids.
You are going to need a few upgrades by looking at your system and the return on investment is going to take awhile, but cheaper brewing costs of AG help with the wife's wrath when she finds receipts.
I don't see it as the dead horse thing...at least not yet.
The point is quite good that just converting to AG doesn't automatically/inherently mean your beer will miraculously be "at the next level". Certainly there seems to be more process control for AG so that in and of itself seems more prone to error, but with a finer degree of control when kept in process.
Getting back to OP's question (about equipment), it really becomes more about the style of brewing that you prefer and the level of sophistication that you want the setup to have. Do you like to do things by hand? Does your pickup have crank windows or power windows? Do you want to stand in front of a big panel, throwing switches like a mad scientist, or do you want to keep lighting the burner by hand? It gets to be about preference more than anything else.
I tend to fall on the simpler-is-better end of the spectrum, so my setup is pretty simple, if more complex than an extract setup. I have a two-tier sculpture with an HLT and MLT (I use a cooler, although you could get a SS MLT if you prefer it). My BK sits on the floor and after I've drained the wort I put it on the burner, which is easy enough for me since I usually only do 5 gal batches. I'm working on building out a third tier, at which point it'll be much easier to do 10 gal batches.
Others build out a flat rack with march pumps to move liquid from one vessel to another, I'm just not much of an electrician and prefer to minimize my equipment wherever possible. And of course there are the HERMS and RIMS which have several benefits but which require a much more complex (and costly) setup than the traditional three-level AG setup. Again, it's really much more about what kind of brewer you want to be than what is the "best" AG setup. Start with these links if you like:
I think the quickest with what you have is to start with Brew In A Bag (BIAB). Going the traditional way is fine but there's that upfront cost again. With the gear you have, going this route requires a $5 sheet from Wal-Mart. You may not be able to fit the grains to do an 8% beer but you can always add extract to bump the abv. I make excellent beer this way and I think it will help you to get your feet wet and gain experience brewing all grain. Here's a link showing my process. Hopefully it's helpful.
You already have an 8 gallon pot, immersion chiller and carboys. I did my first AG with the exact setup plus a 10 gallon Home Depot cooler with a stainless steel braid. You can find instructions and details on this site. It's really easy. I made extract also for a while and I know you can make good beer. I just like the "hands on" you get with the AG. You can mess up more easily but once you do it a few times you get the hang of it. Also, try 5 gallon batches first before you go to 10 gal batches. Get your process down and then expand.
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