So my first attempt at a "Big Beer" using all-grain had a couple unexpected twists.
1. I needed 26.5 lbs of total grain for this 10 gal batch with a target OG of 1.066 at an expected 70% efficiency
2. My mash tun is a 52 qt cooler with cpvc manifold collection.
Well, as soon as I went to dough in my mash I learned quickly that 26.5 lbs of grain and 8.6 gallons of strike water will NOT fit in a 52qt mash tun!
I ended up mashing about 20 lbs at a 1.5qt/lb ratio and mashing the other 6.5 lbs in a 5 gallon kettle in my grain bag. Doh!
Next I miscalculated how much to sparge and ended up with 14.5 gallons of wort, pre-boil! In order to get down to 10.4 gallons post boil I had to boil for almost 2.5 hours! the bittering hops went in with 90 minutes left on the boil and finishing hops went in at the correct times.
Somehow my mash was SUPER efficient and I ended up with a final OG of 1.074! 8 points higher than recipe target.
So from these lessons I have decided that an AG big beer is NOT worth it! Next time I am shooting for a beer over 1.055 I will mash at most 20 lbs of grain and make up the difference with extract.
Because of sparging volume needed to get decent efficiency, I see no way to make an AG "big beer" without boiling MUCH longer than 1 hour or being content to waste grain by getting poor efficiency out of the mash. Is this correct or am I doing it wrong?