Critique my All-Grain technique

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jldc

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Here is my plan for my first AG next weekend. It's mostly Bobby_M's double batch sparge technique brewed in a bag. I have a 10 gallon pot and a 5 and 10 gallon coolers. I've done basically this same thing for 3 PMs with good results.

1: Run grains through mill, collect in bag in 5 gallon bucket.

2: Heat strike water to about 175. I've been using about 1.5 qts/lb of grain. I know 1.25 may be more standard, but there have been threads about using more. I don't know any better, so I split the difference.

3: Add strike water to 5 gallon cooler. Wait 5-10 minutes and check temp. Should be about 168. Add grains in bag. Mix/stir well. Check temp again after 5-10 minutes, shooting for about 152. Let sit for an hour.

4: While I'm waiting, heat about 6 gallons of water to 180 degrees and transfer to 10 gallon cooler. Check temp in cooler, should be 175 or so.

5: I don't know if it matters or not (since I'm using a bag), but I collect the first quart or so and put it back in the top. Then I lift the bag up and drain the water into the brew kettle.

6: Shooting for a total volume of 7 gallons (for a 5.5 gallon batch), I subtract the volume of the first runnings from 7 and divide by 2 to give the volume of each of my two batch sparges.

7: I add this volume of water from the 10 gallon cooler to the 5 gallon cooler (with the grain bag). Mix well. Wait 10 minutes and drain into brew kettle.

8: Repeat step 7 with the second half of the sparge water.

9: While I'm sparging, I can start to bring the runnings to a boil in the brew kettle.


Do you see any problems with this technique? I think it's ok since it's really only a minor variation of batch sprarging methods that I've read about here.
I'm also interested in thoughts about the temp of the sparge water and the volume (qts/lb grain) of the initial strike water.

Thanks
 

Pelikan

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You should look into doing a cooler conversion. Mashing in a bag won't give you the efficiency of a straight cooler MLT. A bag bunches the grain up, and gives you a much thicker mash than what your water/grain ratio would suggest. Since you've got the cooler already, it's only a matter of picking up a few parts from Northern Brewer and spending ten or so minutes putting it together. And as someone that has done the whole bag thing, trust me when I say a proper MLT is waaay easier, and much less of a hassle when compared to bags.

What are you doing about mash pH? If nothing, pick up buffer 5.2. Takes all the guess work out, and is very simple to use properly. Another gizmo that's almost mandatory is a refractometer for determining mash efficiency (basically lets you know where your efficiency is at, and whether or not you'll need to add DME to get to your target OG). You can get one on ebay for thirty bucks and change...worth it's weight in gold.

You should try to get your temps dialed in more precisely. A lot of your conversion will occur in those first five to ten minutes; you want to hit your mash temps within about a minute or less. Check out one of the online mash calculators and go from there.

Assuming you go the MLT route, you really should thicken up the mash a bit too. The thicker the mash, the better protection it has against temps that are too high (although if you go too thick, a la mashing in a bag, your efficiency will stuffer). 1.33 is the absolute max I go with; generally around 1.25 if I can help it. I like to round up or down to the closest quarter-gallon, and at the same time stay within the 1.2 -1.33 range. So, for example, I'd go with 3.25 gallons for ten pounds of grain (1.3 quarts/lb), but 3.5 gallons for 11 pounds of grain (~1.27 quarts/gallon). Some folks have a very strict ratio that they go by, but I find that as long as I'm within the aforementioned range, I'm good. When in doubt, err on the side of less water/grain as opposed to more.

Regarding batch sparging, I just do it in one shot, and routinely get 75-80% efficiency. Less hassle, but nothing wrong with splitting it and doing it in two. Also, you probably want to mix your sparge and mash volumes before you begin heating, or else risk over darkening/caramelizing of the wort.
 

Blender

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I would convert one of the coolers to a cheap and easy stainless steel braid. It don't have to be fancy. I have been using the setup from Denny Conn's page for 2 years and have had no problems. DennyBrew

Look at the cooler detail picture. Dead simple and cheap if that is what you want.

I really don't see any reason why you would want to lift a bag of grain when you can just drain it right into the kettle.

I don't think mashing at 1.5 per pound will be a detriment but I always have to have my strike water at 172 to get a 152 mash temp. It is far easier to cool the mash with some ice than to heat it with additional water.

My first sparge water is always 185 or more.
 

ghpeel

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I've had an excellent experience doing exactly what you are talking about: a hybrid Brew-In-A-Bag and Double Sparge mash. I couldn't tell if you were planning this, but it (apparently) really helps efficiency if you add your first batch of sparge water to bring the whole mash up to 170 BEFORE you start your recirculation for your first runnings. And yes, with a typical grain bag, you'll have to recirculate to get it clear.

The hardcore Australian BIABers do NOT do a recirculation, but I haven't tried that yet. Also, I am not convinced that the grain bags we get here are anything like the stuff they are using over there anyway. After my last batch, I am going to start mashing in two bags: my grains in a 5 gallon paint strainer (fine, but flimsy) and then put that bag inside a course grain bag from the homebrew store (course, but sturdy). That way, you can lift the sturdy grain bag without fear of it bursting, but the finer paint strainer acts as a better filter.

I am using about 1.8 quarts / lb of grain, per the recent Thin Mash technique.

I do this in a 5 gallon cooler with about 7 to 7.5 lbs of grain for a stove top partial mash. With this technique, I hit 80+% efficiency and have to add only 1-2 pounds of dry extract to hit normal gravities (1.050 - 1.070)
 

ajf

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Here is my plan for my first AG next weekend. It's mostly Bobby_M's double batch sparge technique brewed in a bag. I have a 10 gallon pot and a 5 and 10 gallon coolers. I've done basically this same thing for 3 PMs with good results.

1: Run grains through mill, collect in bag in 5 gallon bucket.

2: Heat strike water to about 175. I've been using about 1.5 qts/lb of grain. I know 1.25 may be more standard, but there have been threads about using more. I don't know any better, so I split the difference.

3: Add strike water to 5 gallon cooler. Wait 5-10 minutes and check temp. Should be about 168. Add grains in bag. Mix/stir well. Check temp again after 5-10 minutes, shooting for about 152. Let sit for an hour.

4: While I'm waiting, heat about 6 gallons of water to 180 degrees and transfer to 10 gallon cooler. Check temp in cooler, should be 175 or so.

5: I don't know if it matters or not (since I'm using a bag), but I collect the first quart or so and put it back in the top. Then I lift the bag up and drain the water into the brew kettle.

6: Shooting for a total volume of 7 gallons (for a 5.5 gallon batch), I subtract the volume of the first runnings from 7 and divide by 2 to give the volume of each of my two batch sparges.

7: I add this volume of water from the 10 gallon cooler to the 5 gallon cooler (with the grain bag). Mix well. Wait 10 minutes and drain into brew kettle.

8: Repeat step 7 with the second half of the sparge water.

9: While I'm sparging, I can start to bring the runnings to a boil in the brew kettle.


Do you see any problems with this technique? I think it's ok since it's really only a minor variation of batch sprarging methods that I've read about here.
I'm also interested in thoughts about the temp of the sparge water and the volume (qts/lb grain) of the initial strike water.

Thanks
I switch steps 1 and 2. I put the strike water on to heat, and get the grain milled before the strike water is up to temperature. For your first brew, keep it the way you have it, but time the grain milling and the strike water heating. You can probably save about 15 - 20 minutes off a long brew day.
Step 3. See Green Bay Rackers--Mash Calculators or use brewing software to accurately calculate the required strike water temperature.
Step 4. I think you are about 5 - 10 degrees too cool here. When you add the sparge water to the mash, you want the equalized temperature to be pretty close to 168F
Step 5. Why lift the bag? I've never used a bag, but I would think you could just drain the first runnings into the kettle without lifting the bag.
Step 6. I completely agree.
Step 7 (and 8) I'd do a dry run on this first to make sure you can estimate the volume with reasonable accuracy.
Step 9. Make sure you have another container to collect the final runnings, and that you know when to stop collecting.

As for the mash thickness, this can vary between 1 and 2 qts per lb. I usually us a thick mash of 1 qt/lb with English malt (this is traditional for English brewing, and produces a very dextrinous wort) and get efficiency of about 85% Others say that a thinner mash can improve efficiency, but it produces a less dextrinous wort. It really depends on the type of beer you are brewing, and what you like.

Hope this helps.

-a.
 

Mad_Milo

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+1 on going the extra step and just mash in the cooler.

Add the steel braid, along with a ball valve and some fittings from Lowe's et al and you are complete for <$20. Just beware - not all SS braided supply lines are the same. The ones at Home Depot (in my area) have plastic covered SS. You'd have to torch that crap off first. Lowe's has straight up SS braided lines, just behead and gut it.
 

SumnerH

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I've had an excellent experience doing exactly what you are talking about: a hybrid Brew-In-A-Bag and Double Sparge mash. I couldn't tell if you were planning this, but it (apparently) really helps efficiency if you add your first batch of sparge water to bring the whole mash up to 170 BEFORE you start your recirculation for your first runnings. And yes, with a typical grain bag, you'll have to recirculate to get it clear.

The hardcore Australian BIABers do NOT do a recirculation, but I haven't tried that yet. Also, I am not convinced that the grain bags we get here are anything like the stuff they are using over there anyway. After my last batch, I am going to start mashing in two bags: my grains in a 5 gallon paint strainer (fine, but flimsy) and then put that bag inside a course grain bag from the homebrew store (course, but sturdy). That way, you can lift the sturdy grain bag without fear of it bursting, but the finer paint strainer acts as a better filter.

I am using about 1.8 quarts / lb of grain, per the recent Thin Mash technique.
This differs from the Aussie BiaB technique in a few key ways:

1. They use a bag the size of the pot (you should be able to fit your pot inside the bag). It essentially lines the entire pot, so you grain is free-floating in the water (not concentrated in a bag), but you can lift the bag and grain out at the end.
2. It's a Swiss voile type material. This is a pretty fine mesh. Because there's no worry about stuck sparges, they grind the grain a bit finer to boost efficiency (I've seen some who set the mill finer, but others leave it at the same gap and just run everything through it twice).
3. They use the full boil amount of water in the pot--there's no separate sparge step, and they don't reduce the amount of water during the mash. They claim that this is crucial to reaching 80% efficiency.

A Guide To All-grain Brewing In A Bag - AussieHomeBrewer.com is the master source of info on the method--the first post has a link to a tutorial in PDF form.

Voile material, click for closeup (the ruler is metric, so those are centimeters--the dime is American):
 
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jldc

jldc

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This differs from the Aussie BiaB technique in a few key ways:

1. They use a bag the size of the pot (you should be able to fit your pot inside the bag). It essentially lines the entire pot, so you grain is free-floating in the water (not concentrated in a bag), but you can lift the bag and grain out at the end.
I am doing this. My bag completely fills my cooler and the grains are free floating. I've done this instead of installing a stainless screen or false bottom just because it seems (to me) to be easier. Clean up sure is easy.

I'm learning a lot from all the comments, thanks.
 

SumnerH

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I am doing this. My bag completely fills my cooler and the grains are free floating. I've done this instead of installing a stainless screen or false bottom just because it seems (to me) to be easier. Clean up sure is easy.

I'm learning a lot from all the comments, thanks.
Yeah, I was responding to ghpeel's statement that he uses a 5-gallon paint strainer bag--unless he's doing tiny batches, that's going to constrain the grain and hurt efficiency.
 

magnj

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I use a similar method, I use a single batch sparge. I typically do 2 1/2 gallon batches. My bag fills the whole 5 gallon cooler so my grains are just about as free as they could get. I like the easy clean up and low up front cost. I may try a split sparge though...
 

ghpeel

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Yeah, I was responding to ghpeel's statement that he uses a 5-gallon paint strainer bag--unless he's doing tiny batches, that's going to constrain the grain and hurt efficiency.
Yup. As I said, I can do around 7 lbs of grain, so I have to add a pound or two of extra sugar (extract, honey, jaggery, panela, etc) to hit "normal" gravities. I usually start with 4.5 - 5 gallons of wort to boil. I am using about 1.8 qts / lb, so while its not as thin as real BIAB, its certainly thinner than a traditional mash.

I do this because:

1) I can just use my regular 5 gallon unmodified cooler
2) I can boil on my stove top in 2 big pots since I am usually boiling only 4.5 gallons or so.
3) Cooling can be done by adding a gallon or so of 35 degree water to your 3.5 - 4 gallons collected from the boil (plus a quick ice bath). No need to buy a chiller (although I do have one, but its a luxury)

I don't know why this type of "almost all grain" doesn't get discussed here more. It seems like everyone goes directly from steeping or counter-top partial mashing with 3 or so lbs of grain, straight into 11-13lb all grain setups with separate mash and lauter tons, and big 7-8 gallon starting boil volumes to get down to 5gal in the fermentor.

That seemed like too big of a leap for me. I did about 5 batches of extract + steeping, then did partial mashing for a batch or two, and now I'm into this "almost all grain" method for the cost of a 5 gallon cooler and some paint bags. Doesn't get much cheaper to get into real mashing that that.

I feel like if someone can't quite leap from partial mashing to all grain, this way is a great intermediary step. Some of the brewing setups I see on this forum are downright intimidating!
 
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