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uglygoat

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i've done four batches of malt extract/grain steep brews. i threw the pail to the side after the first batch tasted like the pail a little too much for me, that or some funk got in it, and bought a 6.5 gal glass fermentor, and two 5 gallon glass carboys to age in. the beer i've racked outta the glass fermentor into the carboys tastes ten times better than the stuff outta the pail and into the bottles, even after the bottles have set for three weeks (agian, i think i funked that plastic pail batch up somehow....)

i'm not too thrilled with the price of malt extract, liquid or dried, i end up spending close to thirty bucks for a five gallon recipe of malt extract and some specialty grains and hopps and yeast. the malt extract being the most expensive and similiar in price, both dried and liquid. and i am not completely sold that the extract is always of the finest quality.

grain seems the cheaper, but the more complicated way to go. i am really interested in making my beer from 'scratch' rather than some hyper-processed extract, even though the results can and have been good. it's too much like makings cookies from a box, rather than getting your flour and sugar and such and combining them yourself. it's the purest in me, i'd grow my own crops if i had the land and didn't really have to have a real job to pay bills etc...

so i need some advice and support to get this venture started. i've read over the all grain method in the 'complete joy' book and pecked around online, but was looking for some hands on accounts by folks here. how much more complicated is it really as opposed to the entry/intermediate level of brewing i've been doing? can you give me a quick run down of the basics that you feel important etc. how do you do it? or point me to a crediable reference that you've found helpful.
 

Janx

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It's really not more difficult once you get the hang of it. Everyone I teach how to brew learns all-grain right from the start.

It costs us about $30 for a 12 gallon batch, so you're looking at a significant cost savings.

Let's see - downsides. It takes more time to make a batch and it takes more equipment.

Upsides - it's better in every conceivable way ;)

Here's my brew day if it helps:

I have a three-tier setup. My brother/brew-buddy and I built the three tier framework out of wood. It's like a big, rugged staircase, and each step is as tall as a keg and burner. Three rehabed stainless kegs for the kettle/mash/liquor tanks. 2 big propane burners. Obviously, I brew outside, which really is the only way to go.

1) Get the mash water heating in the liquor tank on the top step of the frame. This is often done before we even have a recipe, as it takes some time. We heat the water to about 170-171, as that will make a strike temp of around 150-152. It doesn't matter how much you heat as long as it's enough. It just takes longer to heat too much.

2) Keg the batch from 2 weeks ago if necessary while the water heats.

3) Rack last weeks batch from a 14 gallon demijohn to two 6 gallon carboys. Often, I leave the yeast slurry in the demijohn to use in today's batch. Just shove an airlock in it and keep everything clean.

4) Get the grain together. We usualy have 20-25 pounds of grain. We buy pre-ground 2-row, so we just have to grind the adjuncts. We throw them all in a cooler and wait until the mash water is hot.

5) Mash in - when the water is hot, we open the valve at the bottom of the liquor tank and the water flows down into the mash tun. The mash tun is another stainless keg with a manifold at the bottom (a false bottom if you like). We add some water to the bottom, then start adding grain and water at an even rate so nothing gets too hot. When all the grain is added and the mash is the consistency of runny oatmeal, we cut off the water, make sure the temp is about 150, and put a lid on the mash tun. We also wrap a blanket around it to keep it warm. It doesn't lose too much heat over the hour.

6) Once the mash has been on for about 10 minutes, we start the sparge water heating, again on the top tier of the frame. It takes about 15 gallons, so it takes at least 45 minutes to heat to 170.

7) After an hour of mashing, we start to sprinkle the now heated water from the hot liquor tank onto the top of the grain bed gently through a hose. Once it has an inch or two of liquid on it, we open the valve at the bottom of the mash tun to slowly drain the wort out the bottom. It flows into the third keg (the kettle) which sits on the bottom step on a burner. We match the flow of water in the top and out the bottom so it always has an inch or two of liquid on the grain bed. We usually get about 10 gallons before it stops being sweet, then stop the mash. Often we'll wait a bit then run the sparge again and get quite a bit more sugar out of it. We never muck around with iodine tests or anything. Just taste the runnings. If it's sweet, keep running.

From here on, it's just like extract brewing. Boil. Hops. Chill. Ferment. Drink.

It's really simple once you do it once or twice. I think if everyone had someone to show them how to do it once, you'd all be grain brewers.

Janx
 

zprime

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Janx said:
...

It's really simple once you do it once or twice. I think if everyone had someone to show them how to do it once, you'd all be grain brewers.
Janx
That's been my biggest problem through the whole learning process....I'm better at learning if someone shows me once or twice. Eventually after we get settled into a house I intend to expand my brewing skills beyond the realm of the kit. I'm kind of waiting as well to get consitent good results from the kit before I start adding alot more time and energy to it.
 

Janx

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zprime said:
That's been my biggest problem through the whole learning process....I'm better at learning if someone shows me once or twice. Eventually after we get settled into a house I intend to expand my brewing skills beyond the realm of the kit. I'm kind of waiting as well to get consitent good results from the kit before I start adding alot more time and energy to it.
Try liquid yeast instead of the yeast they give you. Also, add some whole hops to the recipes they give you. Those are some easy ways to really improve your beer quality.

Frankly, I just don't think you'll ever see the results from kit/extract brewing that you do from all-grain. Many will disagree with me, but in my experience, all-grain tastes like real beer and extract just doesn't.

There's no doubt, especially with all-grain, that seeing it done first hand will really clarify a lot of the steps. Good luck!
 

zprime

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I think my definition of kit might be a little different, by kit I mean the DME and specialty grains and hop pellets and yeasts that get put together by my local brew shop. The first batch we tried (well....actually two) was a kit in a can and they turned out horrible, we thought we had done something terribly wrong. We almost quit brewing because of them...then we found a different shop.

I'm not saying that an all grain isn't better still, but the kit in a can is a horrible horrible thing.
 

Janx

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zprime said:
I think my definition of kit might be a little different, by kit I mean the DME and specialty grains and hop pellets and yeasts that get put together by my local brew shop. The first batch we tried (well....actually two) was a kit in a can and they turned out horrible, we thought we had done something terribly wrong. We almost quit brewing because of them...then we found a different shop.

I'm not saying that an all grain isn't better still, but the kit in a can is a horrible horrible thing.
Agreed. While I still prefer all-grain, using DME, liquid yeast, real grain adjuncts and (my preference) whole hops is a vast improvement over kit-in-a-can. I've never had a beer made from those pre-hopped syrups that tasted good.

I've noticed more shops assembling "kits" the way you describe. It's a good idea, and pretty soon you'll feel confident enought to start making up your own recipes.

Janx
 

Dude

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Good info on here again.....

I'd like to go to AG soon too. I'm going to slowly acquire the necessary equipment and do it. I've done 3 extract kits so far and all 3 (very different beer styles: Brown Ale, Hefeweizen and Stout) kind of have the same "taste". Now that I've researched Extract vs. AG I've come to find its a common theme. That just makes me want to do all-grain so much more.
 

arachnyd

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thanks for the link to the kitchen mash site - now I have a convenient place to send folks who wanna give it a try withoiut having them get the impression that mashing is some kinda rocket science.
 
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uglygoat

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so can the mash be a sorta slow meandering bubble or does it have to be this rigid 30 min at 130 then forty at 150 then 15 at 170 scientific recipe?

yer just trying to coax the goodness out right? i am currently working on a partial mash, that's half a mash and half extract right now. it smells good like oatmeal, and is sweet :)

i'm getting excited :)
 

Janx

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t1master said:
so can the mash be a sorta slow meandering bubble or does it have to be this rigid 30 min at 130 then forty at 150 then 15 at 170 scientific recipe?
It needs to be pretty much held at the right temps for the right amount of time. It's not a simmer, like a slow bubble or low boil. It really is holding the grain at certain temps so that the enzymes present in the grain convert starches to sugars.

t1master said:
yer just trying to coax the goodness out right? i am currently working on a partial mash, that's half a mash and half extract right now. it smells good like oatmeal, and is sweet :)
No. All-grain isn't like using grains as adjuncts in extract brews. In the case of grains as adjuncts, you just need to "coax the goodness". In other words, you steep the grain like a teabag for some flavor, but all your fermentable sugars come from malt extract.

With all-grain, you are making the "goodness" happen. :D

Malted barley does not have sugars in it unless it is mashed properly. That means holding it in the 150 degree range for an hour or so...sometimes stopping at other temps for different styles of beer. It is not just simmering the grain, and the temperature should be nowhere near a boil. Also, with all-grain, you can't just steep the grains in a bag and pull them out. You have to mash them properly and then sparge properly or you will get really crappy yields and you might as well just extract brew.

In extract/grain brewing, grains are flavoring. In all-grain, a crucial chemical reaction is taking place to actually generate the sugars you want to ferment. It aint rocket science, but it's a big step up from simmering grains in an extract brew to coax out the goodness :)
 
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uglygoat

uglygoat

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i didn't boil it, i took it too 130 more or less, and let is set there for a bit... then let it get hotter to about 155-160 and let it sit. then up a bit more... but i didn't get anal about watchin over the pot every five seconds. by a bit i mean it took two hours to mash four pounds of grain... i poured the grains through the colander (didn't spring for the big screen yet) and poured water i had heated to about 170 through the grain into the pot. then squeezed out what was left. very little to no grain made it into the wort surprisingly :)

so short of an iodine test, can you tell by taste if the mash was done properly?

it tasted sweet, but also had the earthy/grain taste. and was supplimented by a can of malt extract. it's also only about four gallons when it's all said and done. just a test run for me.
 

Janx

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t1master said:
i didn't boil it, i took it too 130 more or less, and let is set there for a bit... then let it get hotter to about 155-160 and let it sit. then up a bit more... but i didn't get anal about watchin over the pot every five seconds. by a bit i mean it took two hours to mash four pounds of grain... i poured the grains through the colander (didn't spring for the big screen yet) and poured water i had heated to about 170 through the grain into the pot. then squeezed out what was left. very little to no grain made it into the wort surprisingly :)

so short of an iodine test, can you tell by taste if the mash was done properly?

it tasted sweet, but also had the earthy/grain taste. and was supplimented by a can of malt extract. it's also only about four gallons when it's all said and done. just a test run for me.

The mash probably worked OK, but you don't want to apply direct heat to the mash. You'll scorch grain and kill enzymes. You want to heat water seperately and add it to the grain to reach the desired temp. If you use a cooler or wrap a blanket around the mash, then you just leave it for an hour or so. 2 hours isn't necessary. You don't have to keep a close eye on it or anything. But it's important that it be in the right temperature range for the right amount of time if you want to get good extraction.

The biggest problem with what you describe is your sparge. You don't want to move the grains when you are done mashing. You need to leave the bed settled and slowly percolate water through it. The colander/squeeze method will definitely not give good yields.

In your situation, it's no big deal. Most of your sugar comes from the extract, so if you only get 25% yields off the grain it's all good. But if you go all-grain, you'll need to sparge properly to get the sugars you need.

Don't get me wrong. Your methods sound exactly like my first efforts. Sparging is a weird process and it doesn't seem intuitively necessary. But without a long, slow, gentle rinsing, you will not get decent yields.
 
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uglygoat

uglygoat

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i did it just to get a feel for the amount of grain and see what would happen. i was sorta following the 'partial mash' as outlined in the complete joy book. i knew there was gonna be aplenty of sugar from the can of malt.

it's a transitional thing right now. i'm not even sure my extract brews are any good but they are getting too expensive for all the extract ;)

can you describe a decent sparge method for me? i read about your elaborate three tiered set up and this is not for me just yet :)
 

Janx

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t1master said:
can you describe a decent sparge method for me? i read about your elaborate three tiered set up and this is not for me just yet :)
Hey I hope it doesn't come across like I'm getting on your case. I'm just offering help based on experience...not trying to be critical at all. Take or leave whatever you want. And I definitely understand the transitional phase between extract and grain brewing. :D

A good first mash/sparge setup is to get a cylindrical Gott cooler...the orange ones you see at jobsites. Fit it with a false bottom or manifold of some sort so that the water can flow out but grain stays. Heat water to about 170 degrees. Then add scoops of water and grain alternately and mix it together well. You want a runny oatmeal consistency. Take the temp. You want it around 150 degrees. The stop at 130 is a protein rest and not strictly necessary. For simplicity, just shoot for a strike temp of 150.

That just sits there for an hour once you get the temp right (ad dmore hot or cold water and stir to get it to 150). It won't lose more than a degree or two in an hour and that's no biggie.

Now heat a bunch of water...like 5 gallons or so for a 5 gallon batch, to about 170. Once the hour is up, your mash is done. Gently sprinkle the sparge water on top of the grain in the cooler. They make cool little sprinkler arms to do this very gently...Phil's Sparge Arm is one. Then if you can put your hot water above your mash tun, gravity does the work of sprinkling the water on top of the grain.

Once you have a couple inches of liquid on top of the grain bed, open the valve at the bottom of the cooler and start slowly draining the sweet wort out. Keep running it until there is no trace of sweetness, which will take a while. At this point, you should have collected the volume of your batch.

My 3-tier setup is just a framework so I can have my hot sparge water at the top step, my mash tun in the middle and my kettle at the bottom. that way there's no lifting of heavy, hot things and gravity does more of the work.

Let me know if I can clarify any of the steps. Once you get the equipment together and do it once or twice it's a piece of cake.
 
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uglygoat

uglygoat

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no worries about tone or getting on my case mate! i'm here to learn from others and share the experience i have with others :)

and...

it's the world wide web and conversations per se are difficult to dechiper at times. i'm not a very good at putting my thoughts to words and typing them and was back and forth last night, and a wee bit tipsy and giddy from playing with beer stuff, is it me or do the flavors and smells of cooking almost, almost outweigh the delight in consuming?

i'll look forward to continued sharing of knowledge mate
 

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You want to follow the temperatures and times as close as possible, but it doesnt have to be 100% accurate. As long as they are in those ranges. You get certain fermentable and non fermentable sugars at the different temperature ranges referred to in the kitchen mash link. You have to follow those temperature ranges to get the best beer possible.

Check out this link: http://www.alpha-byte.demon.co.uk/fullmash.htm
 

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t1master said:
i didn't boil it, i took it too 130 more or less, and let is set there for a bit... then let it get hotter to about 155-160 and let it sit. then up a bit more... but i didn't get anal about watchin over the pot every five seconds. by a bit i mean it took two hours to mash four pounds of grain... i poured the grains through the colander (didn't spring for the big screen yet) and poured water i had heated to about 170 through the grain into the pot. then squeezed out what was left. very little to no grain made it into the wort surprisingly :)

so short of an iodine test, can you tell by taste if the mash was done properly?

it tasted sweet, but also had the earthy/grain taste. and was supplimented by a can of malt extract. it's also only about four gallons when it's all said and done. just a test run for me.



It sounds like you got Guiness !! You Got Guiness!!! The malt extract will help if you didnt get all the sugars from the sparging process.

If you want to check out a cheap Cooler mash tun, look at this:
http://cruisenews.net/brewing/decoction/page1.php


When you sparge, you're just trying to rinse gently without disturbing the grain bed. The ideal temperature for sparging water is 172 degrees. Some websites describe using a diffuser like a large spoon to deflect a large stream of water from sticking your mash. I would read this link. it has a lot of good ideas..
 

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i have done the extract thing a few times.... and as expected i want to get into all-grain brewing (it just doesnt feel right using an extract). Anyways, i have been doing my research and im am sort of confused with some aspects of the mashing process.

please someone correct me if i am wrong... but the process goes....

place crushed grains in mash tun
pour water at 160-170 degrees onto grains (with a goal temp of 150 or so)
let it sit for about an hour
then drain the liquid out (this is where i am confused.....do i use this drainage...or is this just discarded)
follow draining with sparging....170 degree water sprinkled over grains and drained

im very new to this.... any help would be greatly appreciated
 
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uglygoat

uglygoat

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you want to keep all the liquid you can possibly get out of the grain!!!

i've made 15 gallons using the mini-mash now, and the taste is 100% better than just using extract and some grain adjuncts...

i'm gonna get into the all grain this spring, but i'll have to move my brewing facilities outdoors :)
 

D-brewmeister

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Janx said:
There's no doubt, especially with all-grain, that seeing it done first hand will really clarify a lot of the steps. Good luck!
I don't know if the format of the FAQ would support this, but it would be great if we could post a photo illustrated step by step of a basic all grain mashing procedure, along with a description like the one you gave. Just a simple thing to give those of us just starting on all grain the confidence to tackle it.
 

D-brewmeister

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Janx said:
It needs to be pretty much held at the right temps for the right amount of time. It's not a simmer, like a slow bubble or low boil. It really is holding the grain at certain temps so that the enzymes present in the grain convert starches to sugars.
I understand that there are several distinct types of protein action that occur in a mash: protein rest, beta amylase, and alpha amylase. And I guess the beta produces the fermentable sugars (alcohol potential) and the alpha produces the unfermentable sugars (body and head retention). Is this why people go to all the trouble of step mashing/decoction etc? Is their any kind of rough guide as to how much one would want to try and encourage the beta vs. the alpha (I suppose it would depend on the style of beer? A rich ale would want more alpha, while a light bodied lager would be all beta?). And what about that protein rest deal? Is that something I should worry about? I don't know if such a thing exists (in a book maybe), but I think it would be cool to see some sort of chart divided along the lines of different beer styles (or grain constituents) and the optimal mash temp/temps along with timing guidelines.
 

Janx

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You should never worry about anything ;)

I don't muck about with different steps. With 2-row, a protein rest is completely unnecessary and is just a pain. Likewise multiple mashing steps. It's such highly converted grain that it takes all of 5 minutes to convert the starches to sugars. So other steps would be extraneous IMO.

Now decoction and fancy mash steps can be useful for doing fancy styles. But for your basic ales, I just do a single infusion at about 150 degrees. I don't think with standard 2-row, you'll see much difference trying to hit the alpha or beta steps precisely. Plus, I imagine most homebrewers can't control temp that precisely.

I'd try playing with different base malts if you want to imitate different styles. Check out morebeer.com for some of the other options for base malts that will give very different flavor profiles. But, in general, I wouldn't worry about the numerous mashing steps. I've tried it, but don't see any benefit to the finished beer.
 
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