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Old 04-14-2011, 07:58 PM   #1
Mar 2011
Chicago, IL
Posts: 7

So I did my first all-grain batch last night and I wanted to council some of you fine fellow homebrewers to share tips and point out some errors I may not have seen in my process. Although the beer has just begun the wonderful process of fermenting, I went through a few bumps in the road that I could've avoided had I planned it better.

The one thing that surprised me was the temperature dropoff. I had a grain bill of 16 lbs so using the 1.25 qt of water/1 lb of grain equation, I came out to 5 gallons of water. Using this website (http://njnear76.bravehost.com/), the calculator told me to heat up the water to 165-167, which I did. Thing was, when the grains got added, I wasn't able to get above 140 for my steeping, which I know killed any hopes I had of this barley wine turning out the way I intended. I mashed for 90 minutes and got an OG of 1.050, which was salvagable, but nowhere near what I wanted. Is that a common thing to lose so much heat? I was expecting a 10 degree dropoff, so next time around, I'm thinking of heating up to 170-175, so I'll be right on the button.

On a side note, just to double check, you only first start to add hops after the wort has begun to boil, never before right?

Also, anyone have any pointers about unexpected problems they encountered as they learned to do all-grain. This is all still new to me so any advice about potential problems is definitely appreciated. Cheers.

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Old 04-14-2011, 08:04 PM   #2
Senior Member
Hammy71's Avatar
Sep 2008
, Maryland, The Tax Me State
Posts: 5,906
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I use this:


When you ended up with 140 for the mash did you try to raise it? In the future if it's only a couple of degrees low, you can add a small amount of boiling water. For missing by a lot, you may want to do a sorta decoction. Meaning taking out some of the mash itself, boiling it, and returning it to the mash to raise the temperature of the whole mash.

Also, make sure your thermometer is calibrated. Probably the number one thing in all-grain brewing ,in my opinion, is mashing temps. A few degrees either way can ruin your day/beer. A calibratible, digital thermometer is a must. Maybe your mash wasn't so far off as you think. When I first started some of my digital thermometers were off by as much as 7 degrees.

Normally you add the hops after the boil as started. However, some recipes call for 'first wort hopping'. Meaning you introduce the hops to your wort as soon as you pour it into your boiling pot and begin to heat.

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Old 04-14-2011, 09:36 PM   #3
beerkrump's Avatar
Mar 2009
Triune, TN
Posts: 2,113
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What are you using as a mash tun?

If its a cooler, try this.

Add your strike water to the empty cooler at about 180. Close it up for about ten minutes and take a reading. For 1.25 qt/lb and room temperature grain, you want the water to stabilize 16-18 above your mash temp. Adjust accordingly and add your grain. Your set up may vary some, but you'll need to account for the heat loss going into your tun.

Also, there's no sin mashing at a higher water to grain ratio.

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Old 04-14-2011, 09:45 PM   #4
Oct 2009
Posts: 683
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165 sounds low, especially for that much grain. I usually heat my mash water to at least 170 and hit 152-4 with 10-12 lbs or so of grain. For me, it's a lot easier to cool it down a few degrees by stirring or adding some cold water than to try to warm it up.

Try pre heating your mash tun with some hot water for 1/2 hour (if you're using a cooler).

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Old 04-14-2011, 09:49 PM   #5
JonK331's Avatar
Nov 2009
Fremont, CA
Posts: 2,099
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You have to figure out how much temp your system loses between the strike water temp and mash in. It definitely helps to preheat the mash tun but you can also just figure out the difference and heat the strike water accordingly. Papazian, and this is one of the very few things in Joy of Homebrewing that I still go by, states that you will lose 16-18f. This is pretty darn close to what I lose in my system and is a great starting point. You can also add boiling water, as stated by Hammy, to bring up the temp. You can go as far as adding 3 qts per lb to get the temp right. Proper temp is more important than having a slightly thinner mash. I usually add at least some boiling water or cold water to fine tune the mash temp before I close it up and let it sit. If it comes out slightly too warm, you can also stir the crap out of it to drop the temp a few degrees. For your next brew, I'd suggest making a beer with around 10 lbs of grain, it's much easier to adjust the temp of the smaller amount. If you can hit around 1.050 with 10 lbs of grain and maintain your temp for the full hour within a degree or two, you are well on your way.

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Old 04-15-2011, 03:55 AM   #6
Jun 2010
Arlington, Washington
Posts: 225
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I noticed that with my cooler setup that it's alot easier to mash 1 or 2 degrees higher than you're aiming for and just give it a good stir until the temp drops 1 degree below what you want and then shut the lid. Make sure you have the temp probe in the middle of your mash for the most accurate reading and I notice that my mash temp will rise to exactly what I want within the first five minutes and hold for at least 45min before it starts to drop again. It's alot easier to just stir a little longer than to try and fine tune small amounts of hot and cold water.

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Old 04-15-2011, 06:30 AM   #7
Jul 2009
Trinidad, Colorado
Posts: 48
Liked 2 Times on 1 Posts

Use a brewing software or http://www.rackers.org/calcs.shtml to figure it out right on. Brewsmith will even make adjustments for 'cold' equipment, but I don't trust that (or really I don't trust my processes as much when using that) and work to try to use hot water to preheat to my mash temp when I use a cooler tun. Hitting temps dead on the nose is the most important thing you can do. A super accurate digital thermometer (thermapen), while expensive, is I think the best money I've spent in my brewery.

At the end of the day, mash temps and the calorimetry to hit temperatures right on might be the most scientific (and I think therefore controlable) thing about brewing.

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