Beginner - wanting to start with All-Grain?

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IslandLizard

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Either way you’ll be following other people’s recipes to start.
Not necessarily.
One could use the ingredient list of many commercially sold kits and use as is, or as a template to build or adapt your own.

Most better extract kits (and recipes) include steeping grains instead of a can of "specialty LME," that may have lingered on a shelf in some shop for years.
 

IslandLizard

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I settled on 3 gallon batches a long time ago.
It's a much more logical volume for many homebrewers, indeed!

In that light, 2 to 3 gallon batches are the better size for beginning homebrewers too. 5 gallons seems to be very arbitrary, and the right volume of beer to brew depends on the individual and projected use.

By choosing a smaller volume to brew, such beginning homebrewer gets the opportunity to brew more often and more varied, and doesn't have to deal handling the larger and more cumbersome volumes and eventually may get stuck having to drink all of it.

I think 1 gallon is a bit (too) small, though.
 
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a can of [some ingredient] that may have lingered on a shelf in some shop for years.
Agreed - it's well known that stale ingredients make bad beer.

From what I've been reading here (and in a couple of other places) is that there are a couple of on-line home brew stores that are selling style specific LME that is arriving fresh and making good beer.

It may be time for me to "put those ancedotals to the test". ;)
 

PCABrewing

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In that light, 2 to 3 gallon batches are the better size for beginning homebrewers too. 5 gallons seems to be very arbitrary, and the right volume of beer to brew depends on the individual and projected use.
It (five gallons) probably was based on the readily available size of carboys and buckets.

I agree one gallon is probably not worth the effort.
My knees would have been happier if I had been carrying 3 gallons down the basement steps last night VS six!
 

IslandLizard

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From what I've been reading here (and in a couple of other places) is that there are a couple of on-line home brew stores that are selling style specific LME that is arriving fresh and making good beer.
I didn't mean to knock the whole genre of style specific LME, I too have seen some promising products in that line appear lately.

It may be time for me to "put those ancedotals to the test". ;)
For the larger benefit of our community of extract brewers? That ought to be very appreciated!

Now steeping 1-2 pounds of mixed "specialty malts" is so simple, and with endlessly more variation than cans of LME can ever offer. Same for adding an ounce of hops here and there.

I understand all those steps adding up, in addition to sourcing the ingredients. Duncan Hines' style Brewing won't go away anytime soon. But we may have the ability now to do it so much better.
I'm serious.
 

GrowleyMonster

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I think the biggest hurdle to just starting with all grain is recipe formulation/knowing all the different grains and understanding what they contribute.

To me, there is the grain side of things and the hop side of things. And there are many beer yeasts. If you’ve never brewed before you don’t know munich malt from vienna malt from biscuit malt, etc. Or Cascade from Amarillo from Fuggles, etc. Or what yeast is for what. So how are you supposed to put a recipe together and understand it?

This is a big part of where extract recipes can be of value. Extract kits or recipes take most of the grain side recipe stuff out of it and you can concentrate on techniques and getting your equipment to do what you want and also makes the hop part of it more up front. It’s part of a learning curve.

Either way you’ll be following other people’s recipes to start. How do you pick decent recipes that are supposed to make a good beer if you don’t understand ingredients? If you start with a bad recipe you won’t get good results even if you do everything right.
All true and I am in the same camp, promoting an extract kit for first batch. Now it doesn't take much of a recipe to make a drinkable beer, as long as the steps are performed correctly. Two 5 lb bags of generic two-row mashed BIAB and hopped an ounce or two in a 60 minute boil with cascade or other popular hop, pitched with an envelope of US-05 will make a trouble free beer with very few tricks up its sleeve. There is no need to overthink it for the first batch's ingredients, and trying to make the exact clone of Leffe Blond first time at bat is probably not going to end well and will cost twice what a first batch should cost. A lot of even very popular recipes are to my taste and in my view unnecessarily complex. I think a first timer would be overwhelmed, and that is not a desirable entry into this thing of ours. A simple single malt recipe is a not too terribly complicated way to get started.

Still, even a very straightforward recipe isn't as simple as a good kit of ingredients featuring extract, with a bag of blended steeping grains. Everything is picked out and packaged already. No need to ask on a forum "Which yeast is the best yeast?" or "What is the most popular hop?" type questions. You just read through the instructions a couple of times, ask about anything you don't understand, and proceed simple step by simple step. And a very good beer will be the result if all instructions were followed exactly. It's how I started and I was extremely pleased with batch 0001, an extract kit from Northern Brewer called Block Party Amber Ale. I made two more batches using the same kit, and a batch doubling up two kits of ingredients but still for 5 gallons that I called "Doppel Block". And I did I think 4 or 5 LME only batches, no particular recipe, that were also pretty good though TBH while they had more ABV, the BPAA had a nicer flavor, body, aroma and appearance. I moved to BIAB mostly just to save a few bucks per batch. Is the beer "better"? Yeah. I would certainly put my batches up head to head against the BPAA kit, but success, REAL success, with grain, has depended on knowing a lot of TECHNIQUE, at least as much as knowing my ingredients and having a good recipe. The finer points of brewing technique can be a handful to learn and follow on the first time at bat. A good extract kit does away with half of it or more. Clean and sanitize. Steep grains then discard. Add hops and boil. Chill to pitch temp, transfer to fermenter. Pitch yeast. Wait two weeks, keep some water or everclear in the air lock. Bottle it, or keg it.

And a couple of years in, I am STILL ironing out my technique. But those NB kits were dead easy to get spot on. I didn't have to learn to brew, to make them work. And when there is no trial and error, there is a lot fewer errors.
 
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But we may have the ability now to do it so much better.
The ability to "do so much better" has been around for a while.
  • Basic Brewing Radio Aug 25, 2005
  • Basic Brewing Radio Nov 17, 2005.
DME/LME product information sheets from Briess have, for many years, indicated what color to expect from a fresh package.

Recently (at least for me, but I don't brew with LME at the moment):
  • BYO Dec 2020 has an article on how to assess the freshness of DME/LME.
  • One of the online stores I mentioned (see #43) is mentioning this
1636311724241.png
which is "new to me" (but may have been there for a while, as I don't brew with LME at the moment).​
I too have seen some promising products in that line appear lately.
The community of active extract brewers is already using them and reporting good results.
 

IslandLizard

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The ability to "do so much better" has been around for a while. [...]
Absolutely!
I'm not rebutting these examples and resources, they're very good. But a typical beginning homebrewer is not aware of them.
They read the (usually outdated) instruction sheet that comes with the kit, and hopefully some Palmer and HBT.

For example, SRM is still a mystical judgment for most brewers, and (typically) an after-the-fact test for LME freshness, yet used in 99.9% of extract kits sold without a manufacturing date.

I've brewed very good Ambers, Pale Ales, IPAs, Saisons, etc., using LME, poured fresh from my LHBS barrel. I read and reviewed many chapters and processes in How to Brew, several times over. Those were also brewed during my novice brewing years, before I discovered HBT and joined a homebrew club. So yeah, many improvements came then and quickly. Would any of my early, novice extract brews hold its own against what I brew now? Maybe one could, a Great Lakes Christmas Ale clone.
 
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For example, SRM is still a mystical judgment for most brewers, and (typically) an after-the-fact test for LME freshness, yet used in 99.9% of extract kits sold without a manufacturing date.
As I mentioned above, information is available to evaluate the quality of LME before it is added to the boil kettle.

Maybe someone will develop and document a detailed process for doing this.

:mug:
 
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kartracer2

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In my opinion I would never "recommend" a new brewer start with all grain for the first brew. (or 2-3) There is enough things to worry about with your first couple of batches with out adding to them.
With that said if you are someone that cooks from scratch that changes things a bit. You know how important temps and timing matter to the overall success of the project. Chances are you know your stove and utensils, those parts of the equation have been tried and proven. We have to remember, for most of us, it's the destination (drinkable beer) not just the journey (AG, Mini mash, Extract) for our hobby.
As far as cost, I wont touch that one as each of us have our own budget. I'll just say with a $140.00 (+/-) equipment kit that includes a tried and true boxed 5gal. extract beer kit (you will need to supply bottles) you can be drinking home brew in a few weeks. The sky is the limit on the top side.
On the somewhat derailed part of this thread, LME needs to be date stamped like yeast IMHO. As consumers we are at the mercy of the suppliers to sell us products as fresh as possible. I am sure most of the larger players do a good job at that as return sales makes their world go round and round. I wish the major players, (MB, NB/MS, AIH for example), had a presents on the forums. I think I know why they don't but it would be a sign they did care.
I've rambled enough for now, good luck @miss.toonchie on your journey and in finding your destination.
Cheers, :mug:
Joel B.
 

CascadesBrewer

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With that said if you are someone that cooks from scratch that changes things a bit.
It is probably an important point. People enter this hobby with a wide variety of backgrounds. Somebody with a solid background in cooking (and all the cleaning involved!) with maybe some experience with sourdough starters or other fermented foods might be able to jump right in.
 

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For me the biggest challenging to starting AG was overcoming the fear that I'd screw it up.
I am glad that I already had several years of extract brewing behind me but I would not say that is a requirement.

I look at it this way; AG simply inserts the few steps at the front of the brew day that are needed to create your own extract, kinda. I say that because once the runnings are in the kettle it is not any different than brewing with extract.
There is a whole set of things that you learn to do and perfect your skill at doing that occurs from that point forward and it is the same no matter AG or extract.
Having those skills in your toolbox takes 60% of the stress off so you can focus on learning how to and perfecting your mash skills.

As for equipment, from the boil forward it is all the same stuff so doing extract first doesn't waste any money on gear that will be obsolete with AG.
Of course there is always opportunity to spend more money on gear whether you do AG or not :).
 

dan46nbrew

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I started with all grain because I knew eventually I would not want to use extract. I have 3 brews down so far and I've made mistakes with each one and am sure will make more but I've learned a lot. Even with my first brew the beer came out really good. So I say go for it! Even if you mess up it will probably still make beer at the end of the day.
 

Bobby_M

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There will be mistakes made regardless of where you start. There are a few EXTRA ways to screw up a brew day with all grain that you don't have with extract, but not many. As long as one goes into it understanding that the first few batches may not be great, no big deal.
 

Martys1

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Hi all! I am brand new to this world of home brewing. I have not yet purchased my equipment/first kit because I am trying to decide what type of brewing I should start with before I make my purchase. Originally, I was looking at buying a kit from Northern Brewer that was recommended by some friends. Recently, I have discovered the idea to jump straight into all grain brewing instead of starting with extract. There is a lot of support for either method the more I read online, but I dont want to get in too over my head by trying to start with BAIB. I read some reviews and articles talking about the functionality and great price of the BrewZilla and how that can be used for BAIB - thoughts?

Sorry if this seems all over the place. There is a lot to read and learn as I journey into home brewing, but I wanted some advice before I make my first equipment purchase! I am a graduate student so my finances are important and I don't want to get equipment that I may want to replace sooner ratehr than later which has also guided me some towards starting with all grain.

Any and all comments/advice is very much welcomed! Thanks!
Hi all! I am brand new to this world of home brewing. I have not yet purchased my equipment/first kit because I am trying to decide what type of brewing I should start with before I make my purchase. Originally, I was looking at buying a kit from Northern Brewer that was recommended by some friends. Recently, I have discovered the idea to jump straight into all grain brewing instead of starting with extract. There is a lot of support for either method the more I read online, but I dont want to get in too over my head by trying to start with BAIB. I read some reviews and articles talking about the functionality and great price of the BrewZilla and how that can be used for BAIB - thoughts?

Sorry if this seems all over the place. There is a lot to read and learn as I journey into home brewing, but I wanted some advice before I make my first equipment purchase! I am a graduate student so my finances are important and I don't want to get equipment that I may want to replace sooner ratehr than later which has also guided me some towards starting with all grain.

Any and all comments/advice is very much welcomed! Thanks!
Hi , recently purchased a bunch of stuff from one person on Craigslist.My neighbor I brewed with forwarded an ad that had a solid oak bar w marble and 4 faucets sitting on a keezer w/a 5&20 aluminum tanks dbl regulators 2 Cronus a copper chiller line cleaner bottle of starsanbrushes plastic brew boy and 2 cronies for the whopping price of( drum roll) four hundred bucks , and it was all new equipment to him.So I guess my advice is to check Craigslist and FBMarketpl daily , type beer, beer brewing, etc I also purchased a brewers best kit so I’m brewing extract kits and partial mash. In a few days I will get my first 2 all grain kits blonde ale and ipa
Good luck
 

deuc224

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I started with all grain and dont regret it one bit. If money isnt an issue, go all grain but you will spend more upfront on all grain IMO. Once you spend on everything, then its smooth sailing from there on out. Im using yeast i multiplied about a year ago and still have vials in the freezer thatll last me another 2 years. Also dont let anyone tell you yeast expires on the date, those bad boys are extremely resilient.
 

davidabcd

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AG is nowhere near equal to extract as far as getting it close to right the first time. If someone wants to make potentially bigger mistakes by doing AG first, that's cool. Some may be fine but that would be the minority. With extract, you can eek out a drinkable beer right off the bat.
The potential for making errors that you can't rebound from with AG is far greater than with an extract kit.
I'm sure AG seems like a piece of cake for those that have been doing it for a while.
The safest advice for a novice brewer is to go buy an extract kit from a reputable producer. All else is too steep of a learning curve for most everyone.
 

hotbeer

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Just to be a little on the contrary side...

I didn't find starting with all grain that difficult. And my first brew was really good too. And my friends I gave some bottles thought so also.

And I also did BIAB with that first brew. However I started with a 1 gallon kit.

I'd agree that dealing with the grain to do a 5 gallon batch and even the boil that really needs a high power burner will have a lot of noobs guessing what to get and what to do when things don't go as planned. Just the handling of that large amount of grain will make for a lot of possible unforeseen goofs at the last minute.

However scaling back to 2 or less gallons will leave one something they can do on a kitchen stove with normal size stock pots or canning pots. The grain amount/weight will be much more manageable and even the fermenting vessel doesn't have to be more than a jug, bucket or other container that you can put a lid on.

Experience can be had with little needed investment other than a hydrometer, thermometer and a grain kit. And the hydrometer isn't completely necessary. But it'll end some guessing and they are inexpensive, so get one.

As one builds experience with brewing, then they can see easier where they might want to go with higher dollar equipment.
 
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For about $15 (ebook), one can obtain a start with either DME/LME or "all-grain" brewing:
  • How to Brew, 4e (2017) chapter 1 has a process for 5 gal batches using DME/LME using a stove as the heat source.
  • Speed Brewing (2015), chapters 1 & 2 has a process for kegging 1.75 gal all-grain batches using a stove as a heat source.
 

RyPA

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Since the extract equipment can also be used for all grain, I'd just buy a larger kettle that is suitable for all grain (10 gallon+). This way nothing goes to waste, and you can get a little experience with brewing extract before jumping into all grain. When you are ready for AG, buy or build a 10 gallon mash tun and you're pretty much good to go. I personally do not use a hot liquor tank, so I'd say this is not required.

I recently started AG and am no expert, but at a high level, the general steps for mashing are not that complicated but you do need to be mindful of temperatures and water volume. I am not yet experienced enough to make my own recipes so I buy recipe kits. I am now prepping for a brew day next weekend and am going to do water adjustments for the first time, in hopes of improving the beer. Good luck
 

Maitiss

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Made an account to give my reply after browsing these forums for the first time ever.
I've currently done 5 batches, my first ones ever. Youtube algo just suggested me a brewing video out of the blue some months ago, and I wanted to start this hobby. I went with all grain right away, and feel like it was a good choise. I felt like I had already spent some time researching and watching videos, that going extract would be lazy or something. For the first three I just found some recipe PDFs online, scaled them to my system and went with that. Last two I used brewfather and played around with the recipes quite a lot. Nice and interesting a hobby, this is!

I had doubts and still do about one thing though: 5 gal batch is way too big to start with. 9-10 L (around 2.5 gal) batches are nice, because that yields a perfect amount of .33 L bottles of beer (a nice 24 pack, or almost that). Don't want to bottle any more at once and going for 1 gal or less feels a bit too little. If you have a large family, go bigger for sure, but most people don't have a huge family to share the beer with.
 
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