All Grain or kegging?

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Bobby_M

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There are always going to be outliers but I think the moral of the story is that both of those things are worthy of making the beers better if you pay attention to details. Both of them will require some cash outlay and dealing with the inherent learning curve. I've run a homebrew shop for 8 years so I have a pretty good understanding of the experience people have with both of those process changes and both can be a big pain in the butt.

It is possible to brew all grain with very little equipment. A pot, a bag and a thermometer is all you really need. Hell, you can even skip the bag and strain through a colander if you wanted. The biggest pitfall that may make the beer taste like a step backwards is the water but if you pick an amber recipe for the first one, the odds of it being undrinkable is reduced.

Kegging has probably two major soul crushing pitfalls. First is a leak on the gas side that can empty your CO2 overnight. Second is a leak on the liquid side that dumps 5 gallons into the the kegerator/on the floor overnight. I think everyone that has been kegging for a few years has had at least one of these happen, if not both, if not multiple times. Hence the learning curve.

Knowing what they have brought to the table in my own brewing, I wouldn't give up either no matter what. All grain brewing and kegging are a fixture for me.
 

Yesfan

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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.


That's why I said most. I'm not dissing on picnic taps. For me, it's a no brainer between them and bottling. I used them for a little bit until I got my taps.
 

cajunrph

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a Wilser Bag is a great buy
I second Wilser Bags. He'll custom make one to your kettle dimensions. I went with BIAB also, but back to extract during the heat of the summer. I wanted to brew indoors. My gas range in the house can hardly boil 2 gallons, so it's partial boils for me. You'll need a grain mill, a bigger kettle and a BIAB. 10 gallon kettle minimum, 15 for bigger beers. I had a keg set up with picnic taps, but that freezer died on me. Now I'm looking for another one. I'll likely get a Keezer built first. Then save my pennies for a Clawhammer Supply system.
 

DBhomebrew

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One does not necessarily need a kettle 2-3x their batch size. I regularly fill my fermenter with 4 gallons of wort up to ~1.065. I use a 5 gallon kettle. Single dunk sparge, gentle boil, filter through a 200 micron paint strainer. Except for a Carona mill and a Wilserbag, I use the exact same equipment for my extract batches as I do for BIAB.
 
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Closet Fermenter

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It’s not difficult or terribly expensive to go AG; I’m cheap, too. How cheap? Well my brew day starts with a pot of water on top of a wood stove out at the shop where I brew. One neighbor actually asked me if I were a moonshiner! 😂 I built a decent brewing stand out of bed rails salvaged from the recycle center. (Put a couple of old lawnmower wheels on it to move it around.) AG is a little more involved, but I don’t regard it as a job, but therapy! When I am brewing, I ain’t thinking about Ukraine or Brandon. Also, I bulk buy my grain and have my favorite recipe down around $15. Initially, my cost was just for the 10 gallon water cooler, a homemade bazooka screen, and a valve. I have done a extract since, and was disappointed.
I moved on to kegging. I was really tired of the bottle thing. I was tired of cleaning them, storing them, recleaning, cleaning up broken bottles, filling, capping, moving here & there, etc. Kegging is worth every penny of it to me.
Look for used equipment; there’s plenty out there to be had at great prices. Once mamma bear tells papa bear to get that old junk out of the corner of the basement, or garage, there’s going to be a sale!

Good luck!
 
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bwible

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I don’t necessarily agree that all grain or biab is a “step up”. If you’re making beer you are happy with using extract then there is nothing wrong with that.

The upside of all grain is you do have more control over your final product. When you start with extract you are using concentrated sugars that somebody else extracted from whatever grain bill they used. When you start with all grain you have total control. Pound for pound, grain is cheaper than extract.

The downsides of all grain are first a longer brew day. Add at least 2.5 hours to your current extract brew day when you go to all grain. You have to measure and grind grain, heat mash water, mash usually for an hour, rinse your grain (sparge), runoff your wort, then clean out your mash tun and dispose of the grain. Second, you need more equipment. You need a grain mill to grind grain. You need a mash tun with the false bottom to mash and drain your grain, or a good bag and a large enough pot to do biab. You need a hydrometer to check your gravity pre-boil and post boil. Some other stuff. There is also a learning curve to all grain.

You stated you didn’t want it to turn into a job. All grain will definitely extend your brew day and give you more to do than extract.

It depends on what you want to do. If you are happy with the beer you are making with extract there is no reason to switch “just because”. If you are not happy with the beer you are making with extract and feel your beers are lacking then maybe you want to try grain.

There’s much to be said for kegging. I keg and I still bottle some, but not as much. I also feel my kegged beers are for the most part better than my bottled beers. I could be biased. More to go wrong with bottling.
 
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LJvermonster

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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
You don't want this to be a job but are okay with bottling?? That's an oxymoron right there!! Out of either of those two options, first start with kegging! Bottling is the worst chore ever. Period. It's harder than raising children. Yes, there is an investment, so your cheap @$$ will struggle there :) :) BUT, it's so worth it! And when you pour your first draught from your homemade kegerator, there's just such a fulfillment you get!

Cheers!
 

Closet Fermenter

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There’s much to be said for kegging. I keg and I still bottle some, but not as much. I also feel my kegged beers are for the most part better than my bottled beers. I could be biased. More to go wrong with bottling.

I pretty much agree with all you’ve said here. But with respect to bottling vs. kegging, you have nailed it! I really like that when I close my fermenter, my beer won’t see air again until I fill my mug!
 

MHBT

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I pretty much agree with all you’ve said here. But with respect to bottling vs. kegging, you have nailed it! I really like that when I close my fermenter, my beer won’t see air again until I fill my mug!
I agree its best to package beer just once to reduce oxygen, contamination issues etc but if someone is like me and cant have beer on tap due to personal reasons, bottling from keg with beergun air is not a big issue, the conventional bottling bucket is a different story but most people have self control and dont need to do what my dumb ass does if you set me loose im the real life landfill from beerfest and its not something im proud of
 

JoeSpartaNJ

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I kegged first, then went all grain, albeit not far apart.

I figured if I bought a kegerator, and gave up brewing, I could still have taps of whatever beer I wanted....Win Win.

I started all grain brewing later that year. The most daunting thing was getting the process and timing down, leave water chemistry and other stuff later.

I like that now I can brew an all grain beer in under 5 hours (including clean up) and keg a beer and be cleaned up in 30 minutes.

Burst carb and be drinking the following evening (if I had to.)
 

Closet Fermenter

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Water chemistry can be daunting. Water adjustments to make better beer doesn't have to be. Check out Brewing Water Chemistry Primer (link) and Water Chemistry - How to Build Your Water (link)

Hey, thanks for this! I have been doing all grain for awhile with decent results. However, beginning to suspect my water chemistry may be a little off. Mostly, I will get an astringency now & then, or some other minor after taste. Nothing to make me pour it out, or abandon brewing, but I think it could be a little better.
Looking forward to diving in on these links; thanks again!
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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Mostly, I will get an astringency now & then, or some other minor after taste.
Hopefully the links will help. They offer a good starting point for brewers with RO/distilled (and perhaps very low mineral) water.

If they don't the links are not helpful, there are people here who may be able to help troubleshoot the your specific problems.
 
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hamachi

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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?

I was in your exact shoes about 1.5 years ago, switched from extract to MIAB while continuing to bottle, and have no intention of changing because:
  1. MIAB is a cheap, simple way to do all-grain. And as others have mentioned, AG gives you much more flexibility in what you brew compared to extract.
  2. With MIAB in a 10 gallon cooler and batch sparging, I can do 3-pot full or partial boils on my kitchen stove for batches up to 5.5 gallons.
  3. I enjoy bottling because it's simple and relaxing, and I have neither the space nor inclination to deal with kegging.
  4. With bottling, I can (and do) have 10+ styles of beer available at any given time. I like the variety and rarely drink the same style two days or even two bottles in a row. Without massive space and massive expense, I could not do this with kegging.
 

ITV

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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
I ended up doing both around the same time and would do it again if I had to do it over.

Regarding your "cheap SOB" comment, I look at my brewing hobby as a "life is too short" attitude.

If I was in your shoes I would look at what your ideal brew system would consist of and work toward that goal.
 

MHBT

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I ended up doing both around the same time and would do it again if I had to do it over.

Regarding your "cheap SOB" comment, I look at my brewing hobby as a "life is too short" attitude.

If I was in your shoes I would look at what your ideal brew system would consist of and work toward that goal.
wisest words i heard all day, yeah dont get old and say" damn it im should have got those kegs im dyin over here"
 

Bobby_M

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I don’t necessarily agree that all grain or biab is a “step up”. If you’re making beer you are happy with using extract then there is nothing wrong with that.

The upside of all grain is you do have more control over your final product. When you start with extract you are using concentrated sugars that somebody else extracted from whatever grain bill they used. When you start with all grain you have total control. Pound for pound, grain is cheaper than extract.

The downsides of all grain are first a longer brew day. Add at least 2.5 hours to your current extract brew day when you go to all grain. You have to measure and grind grain, heat mash water, mash usually for an hour, rinse your grain (sparge), runoff your wort, then clean out your mash tun and dispose of the grain. Second, you need more equipment. You need a grain mill to grind grain. You need a mash tun with the false bottom to mash and drain your grain, or a good bag and a large enough pot to do biab. You need a hydrometer to check your gravity pre-boil and post boil. Some other stuff. There is also a learning curve to all grain.

You stated you didn’t want it to turn into a job. All grain will definitely extend your brew day and give you more to do than extract.

It depends on what you want to do. If you are happy with the beer you are making with extract there is no reason to switch “just because”. If you are not happy with the beer you are making with extract and feel your beers are lacking then maybe you want to try grain.

There’s much to be said for kegging. I keg and I still bottle some, but not as much. I also feel my kegged beers are for the most part better than my bottled beers. I could be biased. More to go wrong with bottling.

The last thing I want to do is get into a debate between whether extract or all grain brewing is "better". It's a futile exercise because there is more to the hobby than just the beer in the glass and how to get there with the least effort possible. There are brewers who just want it easy. There are brewers who want it the hard way. There are brewers who will do whatever it takes to make the beer the absolute best it can be. Diverse goals. What makes something feel like a job to one person is a dream Saturday to another.

TLDR: The OP could clarify goals and we can all make recommendations to help achieve those.
 

Closet Fermenter

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And putting that system together sounds like a lot of work a labor of love.

+1 for applying engineering skills to the hobby.

The “engineering” is half the fun! Reading this forum, thinking through a problem, or speculation on a change of procedure are all part of the process of solving puzzles. Putting together the solution and experimenting is the next part. Not everything turned out as expected, but I always end up with beer! 😁 Not a bad consolation.

It was mentioned above that it’s not about which is “better” and that some folks just like it simple. I agree. I bought a very nice brew pot and mash tun really cheap from a guy last year. He was an educated fellow who said he just wanted to do all grain and understand the whole process. Now that he had done that, he bought a programmable electric system and sits on the couch watching TV while his system brews his beer. Good for him! That’s not for me, (don’t even have TV) and I enjoy the process, but glad he found his comfortable spot.
 

Wolffie

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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
After reading all the information I, and all of us would like to know your thoughts on this LON!:yes: Brew on no matter what . PS Kegging in my opinion is the best and easy. I love all Grain also.
 
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Teufelhunde

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Thought I might take a minute to update this thread. First of all, thanks again to everyone for their input, I carefully read/considered every reply. A couple of clarifications....as far as not wanting brewing beer to be a job, I meant it less about the amount of work involved than I did about needing to be an expert and know everything about it. I had that responsibility for a whole bunch of years, and now that I am retired, I want to rest my mind. I freely admit to being a cheap SOB, but I also will spend the necessary money to get good quality tools to preform a task that I want to do.

And now........the envelope please.........I have decided to look into getting an all in one BIAB electric system for now. I may keg at a later time, but I really don't mind bottling, and a keezer or kegerator would require re-arranging things in the house to accomodate it and I'm not sure that SWMBO will take kindly to that.

So now, the question is:
1. Mash and Boil
2. Brewzilla
3. Digiboil
4. Another, as of now, unnamed brand

Grainfather is out of the price range I am wiling to pay, so it is out. Any input on any of those is solicited and appreciated. I will likely post that question to the folks in the BIAB forum

Thanks again

Lon
 

MHBT

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Thought I might take a minute to update this thread. First of all, thanks again to everyone for their input, I carefully read/considered every reply. A couple of clarifications....as far as not wanting brewing beer to be a job, I meant it less about the amount of work involved than I did about needing to be an expert and know everything about it. I had that responsibility for a whole bunch of years, and now that I am retired, I want to rest my mind. I freely admit to being a cheap SOB, but I also will spend the necessary money to get good quality tools to preform a task that I want to do.

And now........the envelope please.........I have decided to look into getting an all in one BIAB electric system for now. I may keg at a later time, but I really don't mind bottling, and a keezer or kegerator would require re-arranging things in the house to accomodate it and I'm not sure that SWMBO will take kindly to that.

So now, the question is:
1. Mash and Boil
2. Brewzilla
3. Digiboil
4. Another, as of now, unnamed brand

Grainfather is out of the price range I am wiling to pay, so it is out. Any input on any of those is solicited and appreciated. I will likely post that question to the folks in the BIAB forum

Thanks again

Lon
I have a mash and boil original, it makes wort but its not that good at holding temps and it will drop out of your set mash temp and then over shoot temp, but it’s affordable now they have pumps on newer models which is cool, i have made some very tasty beers on it, i modified mine and can honestly say i like it more then the grainfather and its alot less expensive, thats my vote mash and boil, never used brewzilla or digiboil im assuming they are equal or close to M&B, how about the anvil foundry?
 
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IslandLizard

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Limited to 110
Got a dryer socket nearby your brewing area? That's the easiest.

I put a 240V 20A outlet in the kitchen for my induction plate, took me about 3-4 hours, the panel is underneath the kitchen, so it was a short run. I regret not putting in 2 of them while I was at it... Some day, maybe.
 

JoeSpartaNJ

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Well, you're retired. You can afford to wait the extra heat up time I guess.
The Anvil 110 volt isn’t that bad. It is what I use.

If you are an early bird like me, I set the timer so when I wake up in the morning, the water is already heating or hot.

I am done usually within 5 hours total including clean up.
 

MHBT

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The Anvil 110 volt isn’t that bad. It is what I use.

If you are an early bird like me, I set the timer so when I wake up in the morning, the water is already heating or hot.

I am done usually within 5 hours total including clean up.
Totally, 110 is fine for 5 gallon batch, takes longer to heat, less vigorous boil but its a non issue IMO
 

Yesfan

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I was going to mention Clawhammer too, but didn't know about the price range. Honestly, I have an old school 3 vessel propane setup, so I can't tell you much on these all in one setups.

I can tell you that there's a review of the Foundry, Brewzilla, and some others on a YouTube channel called Short Circuited Brewers. I'm not an eBrewer, but love Brian's channel!
 

crazyjake19

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Little late to the party here, but between those two I'd have to say kegging 100% unless you really enjoy bottling for some reason. You can still make phenomenal beers with extract, and kegging is so much better than bottling.

Upgrading to all grain can be very inexpensive, especially with BIAB. All you need is a good mesh bag and you could likely keep using your existing equipment.

Ultimately, the decision is yours as to which part of your process you want to change.
 
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