All Grain Brewing Simplified Pt 2: Equipment Profiles

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If you missed it, Part 1 of this series deals with the all-grain brewing process. It goes over taking the leap into all-grain brewing in a simple, down to earth manner.
In this part, I'll go over some of the different methods and equipment profiles used in all-grain brewing. Each method is different, and you should choose the one that works best for your environment and budget. I'll cover everything from bare-bones systems to sophisticated setups.
For any of these brewing systems (minus an electric powered one) you'll need a burner of some kind. A small 50,000-55,000 BTU burner will be large enough for 5 gallon batches, but look to increase your BTUs if you plan on making larger batches.
Brew In A Bag (BIAB)

Brew in a bag uses the least equipment while still being all grain. This particular setup uses an optional, non traditional, dunk sparge.
Brew-In-A-Bag (BIAB) is a growing trend in which the mash and boil all take place in one vessel. Traditionally, sparging is not needed for BIAB. This dramatically cuts starting costs for going all-grain, as you don't need as many kettles. Lastly, BIAB equipment only takes up a small amount of free space when not in use (great for apartment brewers).
For a BIAB setup you'll need:
1. A Kettle - This should be large enough to hold roughly 7 gallons of water and 10-15 pounds of grain. Remember, the bigger the grain bill, the bigger the kettle needs to be
2. A Bag - A large mesh bag, similar to a grain steeping bag, but much larger and sturdier. The bag should be able to fill your kettle with room to spare.
To use this setup, heat your water to strike temp and add in the bag containing your crushed grain. Mash as you normally would. If you have a false bottom, you can regulate the mash temp a little better, but be careful to not burn a hole in your bag.
Once the mash is completed, remove the bag and let the excess wort drip back into your kettle. Some people squeeze their bag. Some people drain their bag. Others sparge their bag (this isn't True BIAB but do what works for you). After the bag is removed and all the wort is drained from the grain bag, it's on to the boil.
Recirculating Infusion Mash (RIMS-eBIAB)
With an electric BIAB system, equipped with a pump and an electric temperature control panel, during the mash hot liquid is pumped from the bottom of the kettle after passing over an electric heating element. At the top of the kettle the temperature of the liquid is read by a sensor as it is being returned to the mash. The controller constantly monitors the temperature of the liquid and turns the heating element on or off to adjust the temperature of the mash and hold it steady.
Wort Temperature Is Measured As It Is Returned To The Mash
Heat Exchanger Recirculating Mash System (HERMS)
With a HERMS system the wort never comes in direct contact with the heat source. This type of system assures the brewer that their wort will never scorch or burn. The heat source is used to heat up water in the hot liquor tank and a coil of copper or stainless steel tubing that is inside the hot liquor tank. The wort from the mash tun is then pumped through the coil in the hot liquor tank where it is heated before being returned to the mash tun.
Three Vessel (Two or Three-Tier Gravity-Fed) System

Gravity fed systems don't rely on pumps to move wort around. However they can still be used in a two tier setup, or to move things faster. Photo Credit - Auger:
With a gravity-fed system, you either have a tall stand that has 3 kettles, or 2 kettles plus one converted cooler mash tun. On top will be your hot liquor tank, which will fill your mash tun with strike or sparge water.
Below the mash tun will be your boil kettle. After the boil, you can either drain into a fermentor on the floor, or remove the kettle from the stand and transfer to a fermentor another way.
For a gravity-fed setup you'll need:
1. One to Three Kettles With Ball Valves - Depending on how much you want to move parts on your stand, you'll need one to three kettles. Your hot liquor tank (HLT) can serve as a boil kettle, since they don't need to be used at the same time. Your mash tun can also be a kettle. The ball valves allow you to open the valve and move your water / wort from vessel to vessel using gravity.
2. A Mash Tun - Whether it's another kettle, or a converted cooler, you'll need a dedicated mash tun.
3. One to Two Burners - One burner for the boil kettle and one for the HLT. You can also move the burner from spot to spot, so this too depends on how many moving parts you want. Remember, if you do move the burner, use proper protection as it will be HOT!
You shouldn't need any pumps, as Mother Nature will be moving your beer for you!
Three Vessel (Single-Tier Pump Powered) System

Electric systems brew beer at the switch of a control panel. Things like firing elements, mash temp, and pumps, can all be controlled electrically if desired.
Photo Credit - Ki-ri-n:

This setup is similar to the gravity fed system, except all vessels are on the same level. The water/ wort is moved using pumps instead of gravity.
In addition to the equipment listed in the previous section, for a pump fed setup you'll need:
1. Pump(s)- You'll need at least one pump to move water from the HLT to the mash tun, and wort from the mash tun to boil kettle, etc. Depending on your sparging and chilling methods, you may need two pumps.
Three Vessel Electric System
Similar to the previous system, an electric option replaces propane burners with electric elements mounted into your kettles. A significant amount of money and knowledge is needed to get set up. The knowledge can be found right here on Homebrew Talk, so now you just need the cash flow.
Electric systems are flashy, can be used indoors (you will need some kind of ventilation to deal with steam from the boil off), and can make beer just by pressing a few buttons!
Single Vessel Brewing Appliances
These are systems that you buy ready to use out-of-the-box. They are the most expensive, and typically run off of electricity. The two most popular examples of these are the PicoBrew and the Grainfather. Many functions are programmable, such as mash temps and hop additions. Their limits are typically batch and grain bill size, and only make 3-5 gallons of beer.
In closing, there's no wrong system or setup to choose. All that matters is the art of homebrewing beer, not the system it was brewed on.
Feel free to share your system/setup in the comments!// t=_self
You're Welcome! It's been on my write this article post it note for a loonnnnggg time (since the first one several months ago).
I don't understand something you said about HERMS. You said it takes the heat source away from the mash. Would it also make sense to say that water in coils is now the heat element? And thus, how is it different than a direct heat source? Lower temp of the element? More gradual temp changes?
Right, so you're not heating your mash directly, which has a higher risk for uneven heat and scorching grain. A few different set ups also don't directly heat the mash, but it all comes down to personal preference.
Even scorched grain issues can be avoided when being careful.