All Grain or kegging?

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Teufelhunde

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Soooooo....I've been extract brewing for a couple of years and am comfortable with it, but feeling like it might be time to up my game. I have thought about switching to All grain brewing(BIAB), but balk at the equipment I will need, and also, I don't want this to become a JOB. I don't want it to become too complicated and too much work. I have also thought about kegging rather than bottling. I am retired, so the time to bottle is not that big of an issue, but simpler would be nice. I balk at the equipment for kegging as well, but then again, I am a cheap SOB, so take that with a grain of salt.

Were you in my shoes, which would you do, and why?

TIA for the input....

Lon
 
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Wolfbayte

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The answer will depend on what you enjoy doing. Knowing what I know and having had both a mash tun and a kegerator, albeit not at the same time, I'd buy a BIAB bag and try out all grain brewing first. Homebrewing, like most hobbies, can take you as far up the chain and be as complex and cumbersome as you want, or you can follow the KISS mantra and keep it simple. BIAB will get you into all grain with minimal investment. Then after some all grain batches, see what you want to do next. Maybe grow your own hops, build a keezer, weld the mother of all brew rigs, or mine your own ore so you can forge a plow from scratch you can use when you are ready to plant 4 acres of barley you genetically modified on an app you programmed yourself.
 
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IslandLizard

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As @Wolfbayte said, BIAB can be a fairly small and easy step-up from extract to all-grain.

That is, as long as you have a large enough kettle and heat source. If you can do full volume 5 gallon boils now, you can probably do 5 gallon all-grain batches too, depending on how large your kettle is.
An 8 gallon kettle is about the minimum for 5 gallon all-grain batches, just keep an eye on the boil to prevent splashing. A 10 gallon kettle leaves you some extra headspace you may appreciate, but no need to upgrade from an 8 gallon one you own already.

For 5 gallon batches doing full volume BIAB mashes, a 15 gallon kettle is the preferred size. An 8 or 10 gallon gallon kettle can be used if you do a dunk sparge on the side in a bucket or so with 2-4 gallons of withheld water.

Or brew smaller batches if your equipment is smaller.

I really like using a 3500W induction plate for 5 gallon all-grain batches, using a converted cooler as mash tun. I've done 10 gallon batches on that plate too, just realizing heating close to the double amount of water/wort does take about twice as long. ;)

I can recommend kegging, regardless of going all-grain or not.
You can start small, using a previous, spare or 2nd hand fridge or freezer controlled by a $35 Inkbird ITC-308 external temp controller.
The only big investments are a few kegs, a CO2 tank, regulator. There is a used market for those too. Couplers, connectors, and beer/gas line are fairly cheap. If on a budget, use picnic taps to start, then buy a few real taps and shanks or a tap tower, later.
Once you start kegging, you just keep wondering why you waited so long...
 

RM-MN

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I have thought about switching to All grain brewing(BIAB), but balk at the equipment I will need, and also, I don't want this to become a JOB.
If the price of a paint strainer bag is holding you up from all grain, kegging is waaay over your budget.

Since you have been making beer from extract you must have some kind of kettle, probably at least 5 gallons in size. You can just put a 5 gallon paint strainer bag in that and make a 2 1/2 gallon batch. Very little cost to get started. If you like that kind of brewing, a bigger kettle and a way to heat it will be next on your purchase list.

 

DosGatosBrewing

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I went from 5 gal extract to 5 gal all grain, then kegging, then 10 gal all grain over the course of about 3-4 years.

I am also cheap, so I started saving my side job money, asking Santa for equipment, and paying for some things straight out of the household budget. I converted a round 10 gallon cooler into a mash/lauter tun, and made my own 50' copper immersion chiller and 25' pre-chiller. Then I built a brew rig out out lumber, concrete board, and some 4" casters.
None of it is pretty, but it works pretty well and it was done on the cheap. Anybody can buy this stuff; I'd rather make the things that are within my capabilities.
 

Dland

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Sooo, after giving this some thought, I'll add that if I could not brew all grain, or if I had to bottle 10 gallons every time I brewed, I probably would not bother brewing at all. As for both, have been there and done that, as they say. High volume bottling a major pain, and although some will disagree, extract brews can not approach all grain in quality, at least not the styles I like to drink.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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although some will disagree

Once the mysterious 'they' accept that people taste beer differently, the disagreement disappears.

[for me] extract brews can not approach all grain in quality, at least not the styles I like to drink.

you're good.
 

kevin58

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The cost of either can be as much or as little as you want to make it. Going all grain is the easy part. As other suggest just go to your local hardware or home store and get a paint strainer back. They usually come in packs of two for less than than $5.00. With that and your existing equipment you are now ready to brew all grain.


Kegging will be the more expensive option. You will need a keg obviously and those are getting more and more expensive. The kegs most often associated with homebrewing are Cornelius kegs that were once used for soda like Coke or Pepsi. Distributors switched from kegs to plastic bags decades ago and retired kegs flooded the market at one time. You used to be able to get one for $10 - $15. With the supply dwindling now however if you can find one for under $50 it's a deal. Adventures in Homebrewing is selling them now for under $40.

Next you will need a CO2 tank and a regulator... a hose to connect the gas from the tank to the keg... and a hose to get your beer out. These hoses will also need a connector, either ball lock or pin lock depending on the style of keg you use.

Lastly you will need a refrigerator to keep the beer in the keg cold. The most simple set up I have found is a refrigerator in which to set both the keg and the CO2 tank and to serve the beer use a picnic tap instead of an external faucet.

You should be able to find a complete kit offering everything except the refrigerator for around $200.

Good luck.
 

FloppyKnockers

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why-not-both-por-que-no-los-dos.gif
 

Gorm

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I prefer all grain brewing tho started as a extract brewer.

It does not have to cost a lot to convert if your handy.
Mash tun can b made from a cooler. Think I payed25$ for mine and a valve with a stainless strainer attached was around $30.

You can buy pre ground grain but a grain will set u back near $100 or more. Mine has lasted 12 years so far.

I have a 8 and 10 gallon kettle got them used with valves for$30 and $45.

I prefer bottles, nothing against legging, just don’t want the expense.
 

CascadesBrewer

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Were you in my shoes, which would you do, and why?

What does your current brew day equipment look like?

I agree with comments that BIAB makes the entry into all-grain brewing very easy. If you are not set on brewing 5.0 gallon batches, you can easily adjust your batch size to fit your needs and equipment. I do a lot of all-grain batches in the 2.5 gallon /10 L range. BIAB works well for a kettle that is about twice the size of your target batch size, though you can make it work with a smaller kettle.

You can also make very good beers with extract. Or partial mash is an option as well...or just supplementing an all-grain BIAB batch with extract to hit your target gravity and volume.

I think kegging is a solid upgrade in both convenience and in quality. I would have a hard time giving up my kegs, but I do understand there is a considerable cost to get started.

genetically modified on an app you programmed yourself
Genetic modification using an app?!? My family has been hand breeding and selecting barley varieties for 36 generations now!
 

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I have done both in several ways each.

1) I would not go back from kegging, but I would not go back to home built freezer conversion. Now have a purpose built kegerator, and love it. I can't see having more than 2 kegs on the go at any time, plus have locals in cans, and if needed still have the stuff to bottle.
2) did the all grain in a cooler mash, burner and stovetop boils, and now use a Brewzilla, and would NEVER go back to multiple vessel brewing system. The ease of the Brewzilla makes this beer making so simple.

Depending on how much of a money pit you want to get into is what will make most of the decisions.
 

NickTheGreat

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I can't remember what I did first. I think I did a few batches of partial boil mash and then starting kegging, and then went All-grain.

But I'd vote kegging for you. Something about having your beer on tap seems so much more legit.

Depending on your fridge situation, it could have a fairly low cost of entry. I went for many years with my kegs in my old kitchen fridge with picnic taps. You don't have to run them through the door and buy expensive faucets until you know if you like it!
 

MHBT

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Soooooo....I've been extract brewing for a couple of years and am comfortable with it, but feeling like it might be time to up my game. I have thought about switching to All grain brewing(BIAB), but balk at the equipment I will need, and also, I don't want this to become a JOB. I don't want it to become too complicated and too much work. I have also thought about kegging rather than bottling. I am retired, so the time to bottle is not that big of an issue, but simpler would be nice. I balk at the equipment for kegging as well, but then again, I am a cheap SOB, so take that with a grain of salt.

Were you in my shoes, which would you do, and why?

TIA for the input....

Lon
if time is not a issue definitely go AG, a extract batch with fresh ingredients is awesome nothing wrong but AG gives you all the control, i never understood why homebrewers do partial mash, steeping grains for 20 mins could have mashed a whole AG batch in 20-30 mins and saved a few bucks
 

renstyle

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My kettle is approx 6.5g/24.6L so when I switched from extract to AG on batch #3, I took the cooler side route.
My max batch size is 21L into the fermenter, so that informed my decisions as well.

I got the smaller 5gal round and a brew bag. Ball valve+bulkhead was the only other expense. Maybe $50 all in, including the bag.
I MAIB and batch sparge, but a 10gal cooler could handle a full-volume mash for a 5gal batch as many others have mentioned.

Going AG means getting grain milled, so one additional decision is whether to get it pre-milled, or get your own mill.

Past this, everything else is identical to extract brewing (more or less)

Your split between "sweat equity" and "convenience" will dictate whether a pump to move wort around/recirculate is worth the expense for your situation (for instance). I'm not there yet, but I keep it in mind.

On the cold side of things:

Kegging at minimum needs:

a cold box (fridge)
one CO2 tank
one keg
some gas/bev line
ball-lock disconnects
and a tap

Granted, this is a fairly large up-front expense, especially when you factor in the cost of a dorm-size fridge for a DIY kegerator, CO2 tank, and keg.

Some possible pros:

No need for a tower, you can run a tap shank (or two) right out the front door.
Many dorm fridges can fit 2 5gal corny kegs.

Once the "big things" are purchased, you are basically in maintenance mode: replacing lines periodically, filling a CO2 tank every now and then. That's about it tho.

You can work incrementally: you can use a cobra/picnic tap, or a Pluto gun inside the fridge until you wanna spring for the actual tap faucets/handles.
 

WESBREW

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AG to start. A wilser bag, ph meter, acid, mill. you're pretty much all grain brewing with what you have. i'd also be looking for some used kegging equip in local ads . Its nice to be able to pour exactly the amount you're in the mood for. Clean bottling from the keg is nice too.
 

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I went the BrewZilla route and have been doing no-sparge batches fairly successfully. I also built a keezer, but you could continue to bottle. I just got over the bottling process fairly quickly. Oh and I'm lazy.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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i never understood why homebrewers do partial mash, steeping grains for 20 mins could have mashed a whole AG batch in 20-30 mins and saved a few bucks
What about "stove top brewing"?
  • Many people brew in the kitchen during the cold months of the year.
  • Let's assume I have equipment to do 5 gal extract batches using partial boils. I add half the water/DME ('wort a') at the start of the boil, the rest ('wort b') at the end of the boil.
  • For 'wort a', substitute the DME & steeping grains with base malts and specialty malts that need to be mashed.
  • I now have access to a larger list of malts that must be mashed without having to buy bigger equipment or brew outside.
  • aside: if one doesn't like the flavors that they think they get from 'extract', simplest thing possible is likely to be to buying the equipment to go all-grain.
 

MHBT

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What about "stove top brewing"?
  • Many people brew in the kitchen during the cold months of the year.
  • Let's assume I have equipment to do 5 gal extract batches using partial boils. I add half the water/DME ('wort a') at the start of the boil, the rest ('wort b') at the end of the boil.
  • For 'wort a', substitute the DME & steeping grains with base malts and specialty malts that need to be mashed.
  • I now have access to a larger list of malts that must be mashed without having to buy bigger equipment or brew outside.
  • aside: if one doesn't like the flavors that they think they get from 'extract', simplest thing possible is likely to be to buying the equipment to go all-grain.
thats all i do, i have a modified lodo system 3-4 gallon stove top batches, i have no problem with any methodology but you can brew AG in a lot of different ways big,small,simple,complicated, auto, hands on etc etc, i just feel if you can steep you can mash
 

CascadesBrewer

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i just feel if you can steep you can mash

I would not discount the power of partial mash batches for stovetop extract brewers wanting to make full 5 gallon batches. A partial mash opens you up to using a lot more grains than just those that can be steeped (really just Crystal and Roasted grains). So now you have access to grains/malts like flaked oats/rye/barley/wheat, Munich, victory, aromatic, honey, brown malt, etc. A partial mash with a lb or two of grains can easily be done in a 1 gallon cooler during the time that the rest of the water is heating up to boiling temps.

Yeah, I am a fan of all-grain brewing, BAIB and small batch BIAB brewing, but for those with a 4-5 gallon kettle and a standard kitchen stove that want to make 5 gallons of beer, partial mashing can be a valuable tool.
 

MHBT

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I would not discount the power of partial mash batches for stovetop extract brewers wanting to make full 5 gallon batches. A partial mash opens you up to using a lot more grains than just those that can be steeped (really just Crystal and Roasted grains). So now you have access to grains/malts like flaked oats/rye/barley/wheat, Munich, victory, aromatic, honey, brown malt, etc. A partial mash with a lb or two of grains can easily be done in a 1 gallon cooler during the time that the rest of the water is heating up to boiling temps.

Yeah, I am a fan of all-grain brewing, BAIB and small batch BIAB brewing, but for those with a 4-5 gallon kettle and a standard kitchen stove that want to make 5 gallons of beer, partial mashing can be a valuable tool.
very true you make very logical points, i personally would just AG if any grain involved
 

Velnerj

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For me kegging did not save me time or make things simpler (if anything kegging is more complicated). I spend about the same amount of time cleaning and tinkering with my kegging set up as I did bottling. And there are more parts to the system that can (and do) go wrong causing frustration and delays to drinking beer.
That being said, I still keg and haven't bottled since. One of the perks that I particularly like about kegging is that I can have a batch carbonated in about 3 days as opposed to the standard two weeks of bottle conditioning. I also like pouring small glasses, when bottling I only had 0.5L and I'm not always in the mood for that size beer, especially if it's higher in abv (yes I'm a lightweight).

But personally if I had to choose between AG and kegging I'd go AG. The difference you can make to your brewing will be far more noticeable than the switch to kegging.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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if you can steep you can mash
There are a couple of of items (grain crush, temperature control, water adjustments for proper mash and for flavoring, wort adjustments based on actual mash efficiency) that need some additional attention when mashing (vs steeping). Each item, by itself, isn't complicated, although the combination of the items may look daunting to some people. There are good articles 'out there' on each of those items - but that's probably the subject of a different topic.
 

Yesfan

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There's a huge upfront cost with kegging compared to going all grain, but imo it's worth it. So many ways to skin that cat. You need a fridge, taps, kegs, co2 tank and the plumbing to connect all that. The major cost will be the fridge. Going with picnic taps over your standard stainless taps will save you money, but honestly, most who go this route want to move into having that setup they see in bars. If you're handy going DIY, you could source a fridge or freezer used and make it work. Most go with chest freezers with a separate temp controller to keep the beer from freezing (aka a "keezer"). I did this route for years before going with a dedicated kegerator.

Going all grain is much cheaper. At most (as mentioned, depending on your kettle size), you could buy some strainer bags and a cheap 2 roller mill for around $100-$120. The least, to save money, would buy the paint strainer bags at your big box store and buy your grains already milled.

If you're willing to spend the money, I'd do both. If you have to pick between the two, I'd go with kegging. It costs more, but I like knowing I can have a batch carbed up in a couple of days vs a couple of weeks bottle conditioning. If I want to have a half glass of beer, I can do that with kegging. Kegging also involves a single 5 gallon "can" vs 48-50 bottles plus a bottling bucket. You can bottle off a keg too. Another thing with kegging, you can use a spare keg as a fermenter. Kegging is more cost, but you get a lot more for your money than just filling a 5 gallon can with beer, plus pulling that first pint feels as good as popping the top of that first bottle of homebrew.

Like @IslandLizard said, "Once you start kegging, you're wondering why you waited so long".
 

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There are a couple of of items (grain crush, temperature control, water adjustments for proper mash and for flavoring, wort adjustments based on actual mash efficiency) that need some additional attention when mashing (vs steeping). Each item, by itself, isn't complicated, although the combination of the items may look daunting to some people. There are good articles 'out there' on each of those items - but that's probably the subject of a different topic.
and you can mess up all those variables you can still make great beer, its the cold side,sanitation, the fermentation that should be the main focus
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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its the cold side,sanitation, the fermentation that should be the main focus
The theme of this topic is experienced extract brewer(s) either moving to all grain or kegging. I think it's safe to assume that the cold side processes are 'solid'.

you can mess up all those variables you can still make great beer
The proof would be in the brewing: Want to try an exBEERiment? How about a pale ale recipe with an extra course crush, water adustments for a stout beer, 2% aciduated malt, and mashed at 160 for 60 minutes?
 

MHBT

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The theme of this topic is experienced extract brewer(s) either moving to all grain or kegging. I think it's safe to assume that the cold side processes are 'solid'.


The proof would be in the brewing: Want to try an exBEERiment? How about a pale ale recipe with an extra course crush, water adustments for a stout beer, 2% aciduated malt, and mashed at 160 for 60 minu

The theme of this topic is experienced extract brewer(s) either moving to all grain or kegging. I think it's safe to assume that the cold side processes are 'solid'.


The proof would be in the brewing: Want to try an exBEERiment? How about a pale ale recipe with an extra course crush, water adustments for a stout beer, 2% aciduated malt, and mashed at 160 for 60 minutes?
but why would you do that? and yes you right i am way off topic my bad
 

madscientist451

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The major cost will be the fridge. Going with picnic taps over your standard stainless taps will save you money, but honestly, most who go this route want to move into having that setup they see in bars.
I don't pour that many pints, probably like 4-5 a week, so the picnic taps work for me. No, it doesn't "look impressive", but its cheap, it works and its a step up from bottling. I agree that all grain brewing can be done on a budget, I've been taking the low cost route for years.
 

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I did both at the same time and in retrospect I remember being a little overwhelmed by that. I'd say go one at a time. Neither of those options is going to be life changing but for many they are both included in the progression (obsession) in this hobby.

I don't think many people who change over to BIAB all grain would consider it complicated or like a job. Overall it's just an expansion of the hobby into wort production that takes a little more time and gives you a little more control over the fermentability of the wort and opens up a few more beer styles that are otherwise hard to brew. Since you admitted to being a cheap SOB, wort derived from grain is about half the cost if you buy ingredients "by the batch" in both cases. When I say "cost", I specifically mean the extract vs. the grain and it doesn't factor in time or fuel.

On the other hand, since kegging requires obtaining a CO2 tank and regulator, it then becomes advantageous in moving the beer around with less oxygen exposure but it's easy to tumble down the rabbit hole. It wouldn't work well if you use buckets for fermenters for example.

You asked which one of those specific things you should do, and some folks have alluded to potential other ways of spending some money and improving your end product. If it were me and my budget was limited, I would get fermentation temperature control (refrigeration, heat wrap and controller) if you don't already have that. Then go with BIAB to produce the wort. Then get a Co2 tank, regulator and a keg last.

Edit: on second thought, it's really difficult to make these kinds of recommendations without knowing exactly how you brew end to end and knowing what specific improvements, if any, you want to prioritize.
 
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DonT

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Joining the conversation a little late... when I first started brewing we did extract and bottled. Nowadays I do both all grain and keg. I think, by far the greatest timesaver to me was kegging. Bottling always seemed like a ton of work. I like the convenience of going to the kegerator and pouring exactly how much beer I want. Sometimes it's just a few ounces... sometimes it's a full pour. Yes, it's going to be a bit of an outlay, but as others have noted, it can be done on the cheep. Craigslist is your friend. Get a refrigerator, you won't have to lift heavy kegs over the lip of a chest freezer.
 

Bobby_M

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Joining the conversation a little late... when I first started brewing we did extract and bottled. Nowadays I do both all grain and keg. I think, by far the greatest timesaver to me was kegging. Bottling always seemed like a ton of work. I like the convenience of going to the kegerator and pouring exactly how much beer I want. Sometimes it's just a few ounces... sometimes it's a full pour. Yes, it's going to be a bit of an outlay, but as others have noted, it can be done on the cheep. Craigslist is your friend. Get a refrigerator, you won't have to lift heavy kegs over the lip of a chest freezer.

It's a reasonable point, and I've made that justification plenty of times. On the other hand, it's hard to keep track of your consumption with a free flowing tap. At least with bottling you can count the empties. It's a good and a bad thing.
 

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It's a reasonable point, and I've made that justification plenty of times. On the other hand, it's hard to keep track of your consumption with a free flowing tap. At least with bottling you can count the empties. It's a good and a bad thing.
So true, i went from bottling to kegging back to bottling for that very reason, i was getting out of control having beer on tap, with bottles i have a visual reminder of my gluttony and helps me control my intake
 

RM-MN

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I don't think many people who change over to BIAB all grain would consider it complicated or like a job. Overall it's just an expansion of the hobby into wort production that takes a little more time and gives you a little more control over the fermentability of the wort and opens up a few more beer styles that are otherwise hard to brew.

If you have been steeping grains as part of your extract brewing and bringing the water to the 150 - 160F range for steeping, BIAB is no more complicated than that. That temperature range will be fine for the conversion of starch to sugar and take no more time than steeping does.
 

MHBT

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If you have been steeping grains as part of your extract brewing and bringing the water to the 150 - 160F range for steeping, BIAB is no more complicated than that. That temperature range will be fine for the conversion of starch to sugar and take no more time than steeping does.
🎤 drop
 

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Soooooo....I've been extract brewing for a couple of years and am comfortable with it, but feeling like it might be time to up my game. I have thought about switching to All grain brewing(BIAB), but balk at the equipment I will need, and also, I don't want this to become a JOB. I don't want it to become too complicated and too much work. I have also thought about kegging rather than bottling. I am retired, so the time to bottle is not that big of an issue, but simpler would be nice. I balk at the equipment for kegging as well, but then again, I am a cheap SOB, so take that with a grain of salt.

Were you in my shoes, which would you do, and why?

TIA for the input....

Lon
Lon,

try BIAB
get a mash tun or get a false bottom.
Brew some all grain and keg some beer.
Check FB marketplace and Cragslist for used equipment.
 

Panderson1

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BIAB is pretty simple. A lot of the electric setups are basically BIAB style. Anyways, i would give kegging a try. All my beers started tasting better when I kegged -- prob cause I brew hoppy beers and bottling exposes a lot of O2.
 

BeerAndTele

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Another vote for all grain here, via BIAB as described above. Low cost: insulate your kettle with old blankets, jackets or sleeping bags and you'll only lose a couple of degrees per hour. Paint bags are okay, but for an extra $25 or $30, a Wilser Bag is a great buy and will fit your kettle better.
 

sibelman

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A while after switching to all grain, I brewed extract again briefly to assess the difference, which seemed pretty big. Note: even the simplest (BIAB) all-grain brew day will be considerably longer than with extract.

A simple kegging setup can be pretty cheap, but variety is limited by the number of taps. Of course, you can still bottle some batches to expand your choices when it's time to drink what you've made.
 
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