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Old 12-03-2006, 12:33 PM   #1
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Default First All-Grain Experience

Yesterday I ventured into the new world of all-grain brewing. The one good thing I did was set aside a lot of time, which I wound up needing the first time through.

My set up was a 40 quart kettle as my mash tun then I had a 10-gallon Rubbermaid cooler with a stainless steel false bottom. I used continuous sparging. The whole process was complicated by the fact that it was snowy and cold, so I did my boils in my garage with the door halfway open.

Everything was going fine until I realized I had to get hot sparge water into the cooler and I would need three levels, and I had no way to do this in the garage, so everything went back into the house and I set the cooler on a chair close to the stove. I also was using the kettle for the boil and for sparging and found out that doesn’t work too well. So I had to make some changes midway through the sparge to get the boiling kettle on the floor and another pot on the burner.

I had no idea how much water to collect for the boil, and then realized I had no way to measure the volume of the boil, so I set the kettle on a bathroom scale and kept sparging until I got 6 gallons. I also did not realize how much water I would need for the sparge, and had to keep heating up more. I guess with continuous sparging you use more water than with batch sparging.

Now looking back I wish I had another gallon since the final amount in the fermenter was definitely less than 5 gallons, maybe four. I think next time I will go for 7 gallons, but I have no idea if I need to sparge more or call it quits after some time and just add water.

I was also not sure if I should have kept the water level 1 to 2 inches above the grain bed the entire time or let it drain out toward the end. My gut told me there was a reason to keep 1 to 2 inches the entire time even if I did not use it all.

It was a lot of work but should get easier as I get the method down. All in all it was not a bad experience, but I need to make a few adjustments.

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Old 12-03-2006, 12:56 PM   #2
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To gage how much wort is in my brew pot I have a large SS spoon that has gallon marks scribed on it. To make the marks I added one gallon of water at a time and put the spoon into the kettle until it just touched the water. I scribed a line on the spoon at the top of the kettle. I repeated this until I had 10 gallon marks on the spoon. It works great for me.

For mash and sparge water amounts I've always used the charts in Papazian's The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing as well as ProMash for guidance.
If you use a quart to 1.25 quarts of water for the mash and 1/2 gallon for the sparge per pound of grain you should be fine. Remember that the more grain you have the more wort ends up in the pot. High gravity brews require more boiling.

I fly sparge and I keep the water level above the grains until the water runs out. I then let the water level drop until flow stops or the gravity drops below 1.012. (On my system it usually stops at about 1.018 or 1.020.)

Keep plugging away! It sound like you have learned a lot from your first AG. It does get easier.

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Old 12-03-2006, 01:20 PM   #3
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It does get easier, I agree.

But it doesn't ever get significantly faster. I batch sparge, which speeds the process up a little, but it is still never any less than a four-hour thing: longer if their are multiple mash steps, a longer infusion, longer boil, etc.

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Old 12-03-2006, 03:32 PM   #4
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I batch sparge with a 10 gallon igloo cooler. All work is done in my kitchen till it comes time to boil, then it's outside on my turkey fryer for the boil.

I use a stainless braid in my cooler, and I'm getting 70 to 75% efficiency.
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