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Old 11-15-2011, 08:53 PM   #1
Nov 2011
Los Angeles, California
Posts: 21

Hola folks, first time poster here. I figured I'd ask this in the beginner section, because I am 100% new to this. I've got a copy of How To Brew that I'm slowly working my way through, but I realized I've got a really basic question...

Is it unwise to attempt an all-grain or partial-mash brew for the first time out? Everything I read seems to assume your first batch will be from an extract kit, but I haven't read anything that explicitly says "No, you fool! All-grain is much too hard for a n00b!" Though it seems like that could be the case. Or is it more a case of extract beer being easier to brew with starter equipment?

For reference, I don't have any gear yet. Rather, my good friend and future brew buddy has very generous parents who will most likely be getting him a serious all-grain setup from Synergy this xmas. Should we still start with an extract batch or bravely forge ahead? The plan would be to pick a simple recipe to start with either way, ideally single fermentation, nothing weird.

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Old 11-15-2011, 08:59 PM   #2
McGarnigle's Avatar
Jul 2008
Posts: 1,960
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Some people have brewed all grain their first time and lived to tell about it. The advantage of starting simpler is there are fewer places to go wrong. There's even a case to be made for doing a canned kit the first time just so you can focus on sanitation and temp controls (but I didn't do that).

It's easy to underestimate how a lot of the apparently simple steps in brewing can go wrong in practice.

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Old 11-15-2011, 09:01 PM   #3
scoundrel's Avatar
Apr 2010
Ellicott City, MD
Posts: 806
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All grain ingredients tend to be cheaper and assuming you have the gear, I say why not. Many people brew extract exclusively but I think most go to AG at some point, so why not right away. I think the reason people start with extract is so they can focus on the process and not get overwhelmed by the details. The turning point for me came when I realized that I only saved about 30 minutes when brewing an extract w/ steeping grains as apposed to AG. I know one guy who started with AG and did just fine. Looking back, I also would have saved money on gear if I dove in and just bought AG equipment. Anyway, that's my 2 cents.
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Old 11-15-2011, 09:02 PM   #4
headbanger's Avatar
Apr 2011
The Hill, KY
Posts: 2,903
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If you have, or have access to, the equipment you need for AG then I say go for it. The reason most people start with extract is the cost of a good AG setup. Just make sure you do plenty of research and have a plan prior to brew day.

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Old 11-15-2011, 09:03 PM   #5
ThickHead's Avatar
Oct 2008
Posts: 974
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I would advise you to begin with and extract kit or recipe. Mostly because it would probably get you brewing sooner rather than later. Which means you will have homebrew sooner rather than later.

Having said that, there is no reason why you couldn't jump directly into All-Grain (AG) brewing. Equipment is typically the biggest initial barrier. Extract batches are easily completed right on your stove-top. In fact, AG brewing can be done directly on your stove-top. Here is a thread that will help you walk through it. Just do plenty of research before you dive in. Enjoy!

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Old 11-15-2011, 09:16 PM   #6
Nov 2011
Los Angeles, California
Posts: 21

thanks guys! in that case we'll probably go all-grain and just learn the whole process, warts and all. living in a tiny Los Angeles apartment (no yard, barely any kitchen counters) I don't really have the space to do a homebrew here anyway. my friend has a loft with a spare room that he plans to devote fully to brewing. We can't brew until he has a break from law school anyway, so I figure if he'll be supplying the majority of the gear, I should do my part and read and research as much as I can to hopefully bring some understanding to the table. i definitely appreciate all the advice!

While I'm here: any particular styles make for a good, uncomplicated starter brew? My first instinct was "oh, I'll brew a pilsner. that's a simple beer." And then I read up on lager brewing and the difficulty in pulling it off and I got scared, haha. I assume some kind of basic ale style might be a better start?

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Old 11-15-2011, 09:45 PM   #7
Aug 2010
Posts: 553
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Pilsners and light lagers and going to be hard because of temp control, yeast pitch rates, etc. Because of their light body and flavor they don't give you any room to "hide" any imperfections in your brew.

If I were getting a friend into brewing, I would recommend starting with an extract batch so you can focus on:
- Sanitization
- Proper temp control
- Proper yeast pitch rate

But, everybody learns and attacks thing differently. Just my two cents.

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Old 11-15-2011, 09:59 PM   #8
May 2009
Posts: 803
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I only did about half a dozen extract batches before going AG. After much anxiety over making the transition, I found that it's not really a big deal. Just count on low efficiency (60-65%) if you're using pre-crushed grains from one of the online suppliers.

That being said, sometimes you can get a deal where you get a starter equipment kit and an ingredient kit as a combo for a reduced price. If you can find one of those, I'd jump on it. You'll still be using everything you get in the equipment kit for your AG brews and you'll get a cheap(er) batch of homebrew to enjoy while you finish collecting the rest of your gear.

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Old 11-15-2011, 10:10 PM   #9
Aug 2011
raleigh, nc
Posts: 255
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First off, go all-grain. It's science, but not rocket science.

And I would strongly suggest brewing an ale. As you have already learned, lagers require a bit more equipment/knowledge.

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Old 11-15-2011, 10:13 PM   #10
Oct 2011
Denver, CO
Posts: 376
Liked 39 Times on 36 Posts

Originally Posted by Ishouldbeking View Post
While I'm here: any particular styles make for a good, uncomplicated starter brew? My first instinct was "oh, I'll brew a pilsner. that's a simple beer." And then I read up on lager brewing and the difficulty in pulling it off and I got scared, haha. I assume some kind of basic ale style might be a better start?
There are probably many schools of thought as to what beer you should start with. First and foremost, brew something you want to drink. An American Pale Ale or an IPA might be a good place to start, because you will have an easier time hiding any mistakes you make behind those hops. If you want to get your pipeline flowing faster (you do, because it becomes a lot easier to let a fermenter sit undisturbed when you are drinking your own beer), consider a faster maturing beer like a Mild or a 60/-. As a bonus for your law student friend, you can drink a few Milds while doing a case brief and still feel fine for class the next morning. Trust me, law school classes when you are still drunk from the night before are the worst.

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