I've seen a lot of threads started concerning problems with peoples first all grain brews.
I would like to give a couple suggestions that might help improve the process for new AG brewers. Here are a couple common problems I've seen:
1. Low efficiency.
I have found that the most common thread here is not using enough water during mashing and sparging. All you need to do is figure 1 to 1 1/4 quarts of water per pound of grain for the mash and about 1/2 gallon of water per pound of grain for sparging.
I think some folks are concerned about too much wort volume when they are figuring how much water to use but if you want decent efficiency you have to use the correct amount of water.
If your brew pot isn't big enough for the volume required you will need to compensate by using more grain and know that your efficiency will be lower. (You will want to use the 1 to 1 1/4 quart per pound of grain for the mash and adjust your sparge water for the volume required)
If you have a large enough brew pot you will need to calculate the boil time so you will have the correct volume when completed. Some high gravity brews can take 2 hours or more to boil down to the correct volume.
2. Missing the mash temperature.
(Usually low when using cooler type mash tuns)
To avoid this common problem there are two things I suggest:
1. Pre-heat your mash tun with hot or boiling water. This water is drained from the tun right before the strike water is added. Using this method will pre-heat the tun so not as much heat will be pulled from the strike water when added .
2. Heat your strike water about 2 or 3 degrees above your target temp, pour the water into the tun, and let the temp drop to your target. By the time you reach your strike temp, the tun should be conditioned and when the grains are mixed in you will hit your desired mash temp and it will hold longer.
I hope this helps for you first timers or even folks who are struggling with AG brewing.