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Old 03-03-2009, 07:21 PM   #1
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Homercidal's Avatar
Feb 2008
Reed City, MI
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Well, I'm planning my first AG brewing this weekend. My MLT should be complete tonight, and my crusher, although binding and not working now, ought to be finished by the weekend. God help me if it ain't!

Anyway, I used to feel pretty confident about brewing, and thought AG shold be no problem, but now that it's approaching, I'm starting to get nervous. I got a friend or two coming over to help and learn. One of them has brewed extract with me before, and the other has brewed several batches of extract himself. Neither of them I feel I could count on for real experience in the AG aspect of the process. That makes me the resident expert!

Good news is... Ok, I need help coming up with some good news!

I'm still debating in my head what kind of sparging etc. I should do. On top of that, I forgot to pick up a couple of pounds of DME in case my efficiency sucks. I think I'm screwed.

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Old 03-03-2009, 07:26 PM   #2
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Nov 2007
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Yes you are going to fail

Now that that's established, let's see how much less you can fail.
Stick to batch sparging.
Download the free trial of beersmith and let that calculate water temps for you.
Forget the DME, you'll still make beer.

When doing my first AG batch I expected failure and told myself, that the day was just about going through the motions of AG brewing to get the nerves worked out and see what kind of stuff came up during the day.
There is nothing to it.
When you're done you'll think...Sure I missed something. That was too easy. Making beer is the objective right now, not winning an award so grandma can get that operation!

Plan everything out, don't rush, have a couple beers to help you relax but not too many to where you're messing up the basics/forgetting stuff.

But remember, if you totally botch it, you still had a day hanging with your friends and you learned what not to do next time.
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Old 03-03-2009, 07:26 PM   #3
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Jul 2008
Fort Collins
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Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew. All grain is easy, just be patient. Yes, you will screw up your first time (I sure did!). But the beer I made was still beer, and I ended up drinking it anyway. I've been brewing little 2.5 gal batches in my apartment using a 2 gallon cooler. Gosh, I love brewing all grain, and you will too!
Check out my Homebrewery Virtual Tour!

Who says you can't brew all-grain indoors?
Brewing 2.5 gal batches with a 2gal cooler MLT in my cramped apartment. Pictures coming soon!

Ask me about my Keezer/2.5 gal brew setup!

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Old 03-03-2009, 07:27 PM   #4
Dec 2007
Buffalo, NY
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Dude, you're all good. Just don't go trying to brew some crazy Belgian with $50 of weird brewing sugars and specialty grains.

Brew something simple.

Make a pale ale.

If your efficiency sucks, then maybe it's 4.5% instead of 6%. I guarantee it will still taste better than your extract batches. My all-grain brews are the first I made that don't taste like homebrew.
"This song goes out to me because I'm so f*ckin' cool!"~John Reis

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Old 03-03-2009, 07:31 PM   #5
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Dec 2008
Wilmington, DE, DE
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You will be fine! I have found the hardest parts of AG are getting your mash temps right. Make sure you warm your tun with boiling water first. Drain the water off, then add your mash water at around 185 deg and let it sit and cool till its 10-15 above your tgt mash temp. Then, stir in your grains and you should be good!

Also, I haven't fly sparged yet, but I find batch sparging to be pretty easy. Don't forget to vorlauf!

Edit: One more thing. Make sure your thermometer is as accurate as possible too!
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Old 03-03-2009, 07:37 PM   #6
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Jan 2009
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+1. Just relax and do a simple beer.

If you're really one of those plan everything out types of guys then write stuff down. It helps. Make yourself a schedule from start to finish with approximate times and post it in your brewing area, but be sure to leave a lot of wiggle room too.

If you really want to be prepared, maybe try and think about all the stuff that could go wrong, and come up with a solution to it beforehand. For instance:

what if you get a stuck mash? What will you do? I ran the outlet of my MLT through a hop bag when that happened. Worked like a champ.

What will you do if you have less wort then you thought you would? Deal with it, it's not that big of a deal.

What if you miss your temperature on your infusion? Add some boiling can boil it out later if you want a higher OG.

If you know your reaction to these problems ahead of time, you can just follow the script and there won't be any panic.
"There are no stupid questions. Only stupid people who ask questions."

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Old 03-03-2009, 07:46 PM   #7
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Oct 2007
Littleton, CO
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Remember, you're making beer, not planning the invasion of Normandy.

Man was making beer 4000 years ago, without thermometers, hydrometers, sanitizers, Gott Coolers, PVC, stainless steel, airlocks, or propane burners. It will be OK. You'll probably learn a few things by making a couple of mistakes, but you'll still make beer. RDWHAHB. Don't start drinking on brewday until the chiller goes in the kettle.

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Old 03-03-2009, 10:19 PM   #8
Apr 2008
Stony Brook, NY
Posts: 486
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Originally Posted by xxMaynardxx View Post
Edit: One more thing. Make sure your thermometer is as accurate as possible too!
This is what I was going to say. My first 2 thermometers read way high, so I thought I missed my mash temps. I would add some extra water and get it to where I wanted but was really 6 degrees less. Ended up making a IPA that fermented down to 1.008 or so...too thin for an IPA. Still tasted pretty good!

Preheat your mash tun which was mentioned also and use an online calculator to determine what the temp of the water should be when you add the grains. It does matter what your grain temp is before you start.

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Old 03-03-2009, 10:31 PM   #9
Oct 2008
Lake Bluff, Illinois
Posts: 191
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i'd say my top five are...

-accurate thermometer- can't mash well without it
-sanitize, sanitize- this applies to extract, as well
-maybe try a darkish beer for your first few all grains- that way you can see the color of the runoff change as you sparge, good way to know when you've got what you can out of the mash
-use a blowoff tube- more nutrients in your all grain could mean the difference between vigorous and EXTREMEMLY vigorous fermentation
-take better notes- you just added a lot more variables to keep track of, and the only way to improve is to know what you've already tried

other than that, im still trying to get my false-bottom fly-sparge system to give me as good efficiency as my original stainless braid/batch sparge setup, so dont worry about it too much- a little DME is ok to bring up gravity if you want, but id rather reduce hops a little and just make a lighter beer that is truly 100% grain, just for the process

good luck!

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Old 03-03-2009, 11:17 PM   #10
Oct 2008
Youngstown, OH
Posts: 114

My first AG went completely wrong! I missed my mash temp, didn't sparge correctly and had much less wort for the boil than needed. My OG was low and my burner was totally wrong for the job. My final gravity was not even close to the prediction! But you know what? It was the best effing beer that I have ever tasted!
There are some great stickies here and on other brewing forums dedicated to batch sparging and beginning AG brewing. Read, absorb and RDWHAHB!


Oh BTW have fun!
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