Easy Stovetop All-Grain Brewing (with pics)

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DeathBrewer

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For some of you beginners out there, i thought i would show you how easy it is to make ANY type of beer you want using NO EXTRACTS in the comfort of your kitchen. I also hope to simplify things and provide some followup to my previous thread on Easy Partial Mash Brewing.

This method will work with any decent size beer (generally up to about 1.055 OG or about 12 lbs of grain)

I'll be using pictures from the SMaSH APA i made a few weeks ago and the Banana Bread Ale I brewed up today. You can reference those pages for the recipes and exact quantities.

So, here's the equipment you will need:

1 - 6+ gallon pot
1 - 5+ gallon pot with lid
1 - stirring rod (wooden spoon works, but a mash paddle is worth the extra $$$
1 - floating (milk) thermometer
1 - 24" x 24" grain bag
1 - additional container for the spent grains. i use another 5 gallon pot, you can use a garbage can or anything, really.

and, of course, you will need all of your regular fermentation equipment and sanitizers, etc.

Let's get started!

first things first...clean your kitchen and get everything laid out. the more organized you are the smoother things will go and the easier the final clean-up is:



the next thing to do is heat up your strike water for your mash in the 5 gallon pot. my mash temperatures generally fall in the range of 146-158°F, depending on the style i'm brewing. this means you will want your water above that temperature so it falls to the right amount when you add your grain.

you also need to know the correct amount of water. this is especially important with this setup because it easy to overfill (you'll see what i mean in a minute.) you want somewhere between 1-2 quarts per pound of grain. generally, i try to shoot for 1.25qt/lb.

for this example, i have about 12 lbs of grain and i will use just over 3 gallons of water:



i want my mash temperature to be about 154°F for this beer and i generally see a drop of about 12-14°F when adding grains (it always varies based on equipment, climate, etc.) so i will heat the water to 166°F.

Leaving the lid on for a little while helps speed things up:



Once your strike water reaches temp, throw the bag in and turn it out along the sides of the pot. add your grains, a little at a time while stirring:

 
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DeathBrewer

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now, it can get pretty close to the brim in a 5 gallon pot. this is greatly beneficial because you will see very little loss in mash temperature when you minimize the headspace. however, be careful to give yourself enough room for the bag and for stirring or you could have a mess on your hands.

i use promash to calculate. the banana bread ale recipe had 11.75 lbs and i used 3.25 gallons of water, which is about 1.1qt/lb. this gives me a total volume of 4.19 gallons when i add the grains.

even with an estimated 0.8 gallons of headspace, once you add the bag it can get kind of crowded in there...plus you'll need to stir:



until you get comfortable with this method, you may want to use less grain and/or do partial mashes. that being said, i didn't spill a drop tonight. in fact, i find brewing with this method has the least amount of cleanup than any other i've tried.

so, now you're doughed in. hopefully you hit your temp. if its off by only a degree or two, don't worry about it. if its far too hot, you can add cold water (if you have space) or stir for a few minutes. if it's far too cold, you can add heat and stir. just be careful and keep a close eye. especially on an electric burner, it really sneaks up on you and readings take time.

i hit 153°F (was shooting for 154) and left it at that. then cover and wait:



once you've mashed in, you have a while to wait. you can relax and have a beer or finish cleaning up your kitchen, whatever. just don't mess with your mash...let it sit, covered. i usually mash for at least 60 minutes, and i've gone up to two hours in one of these pots without losing a single degree on my temp.

once you're about 30 minutes in, start heating up your sparge water in your big pot. this is where you have options depending on your burner. on my electric burners, it's difficult to get anything above 5 gallons boiling, so i don't do my usual 6.5-7 gallon boil...i shoot for 5 gallons total volume. your grains will absorb a lot of liquid...i usually account for a gallon to be lost.

i started with 3 gallons and i lose a gallon to absorption, so i want my sparge water to total 3 gallons...this will give me 5 to start:



if you can boil more water, use more. you'll get higher efficiency from your grains.

and now we have the sparge water heating while the mash is still doing its magic. again, if you cover the pot, it helps to heat up faster:

 
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DeathBrewer

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you want your sparge to be about 170°F with the grains in it, but NOT OVER. this means i usually heat my sparge water to 185°F. once it gets to 185°F, i shut of the heat and drain the bag from the mash. it can be difficult lifting ~15 lbs of soaked grains and holding them for several minutes. a colander works really well but can get messy if you're not careful.

i use the help of my mash paddle to start things off:



look, it's plumbers grain!



then you add the grain bag to your sparge water and stir it up. the bags work great around the handles of my pot. you can use clamps or something if you'd like, but i just hold one side tight while i stir and then spread it across the handles like so:



let that sit 10 minutes, remove your grains and drain them again.

then set them aside to be disposed of. this is where you will need another container:



i usually throw mine away but they make fantastic compost.
 
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DeathBrewer

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lastly, you'll want to add the wort from the original mash into your large stockpot. just pour it right in:



and you're done! now you can add your hops and brew as normal:



cleaning out your grain bag is easy. just turn it inside out and spray the grains out:



if there are still a few grains on there, don't worry about it, when it dries, you can blow or brush them off like dust.

let's see...more pics...here's a fun trick i learned for draining my hops while i'm cooling:



i generally top off these batches with cold bottled water, which helps to cool the wort faster. because i use a smaller amount of water during the actual process, however, i don't get the best efficiency. as low as 60%, sometimes. but that's a small price to pay for the convenience of my kitchen. i use this method with my burner and can get up to 80% efficiency, if i'm on top of my game.
 
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here are the ales i made using this method over the last month. Banana Bread Ale, ready to ferment:



SMaSH APA, ready to rack:



well, that's it. i hope this helps some of you move forward faster with your brewing. it takes a little longer than extract with the mashing, but the rewards are great.

enjoy the madness of brewing and please let me know if you have any questions.

DeathBrewer
:mug:

:rockin:
 

goodbyebluesky82

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I did this ( or similar anyway) yesterday with 7 pounds of grain and it was hard.

A couple questions:

1)Do you serriously get your temp to stay consistent for 60 minutes by just putting the lid on it? Without using the burner to maintain temp?

2)What do you use to keep the grain bag from burning on the bottom of the pot? I used a metal colander that I broke the handles off to fit down into the pot. You had to have used something right?

3)Couldn't using an MLT instead of mashing on the stove give me higher efficiency and still keep me brewing in the kitchen on the stovetop?

Thanks for such a detailed post and good pics by the way.
 

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Awesome tutorial man. Just one thing... you want to stir during the mash to get better conversion. At least every 5 minutes.
 
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I did this ( or similar anyway) yesterday with 7 pounds of grain and it was hard.

A couple questions:

1)Do you serriously get your temp to stay consistent for 60 minutes by just putting the lid on it? Without using the burner to maintain temp?
yep, 153°F for almost an hour and a half tonight. it helps that the pot is preheated but the small amount of head space is key. and even if it did drop a couple of degrees, it's not a huge deal.

2)What do you use to keep the grain bag from burning on the bottom of the pot? I used a metal colander that I broke the handles off to fit down into the pot. You had to have used something right?
nope, it doesn't touch the bottom when the heat is on unless i need to adjust, and then just for a little while. it's never burned and i don't think it's a problem. i pull it tight when i get the grains in...fits perfect flush, so i could raise the bottom by pulling the sides if i really wanted to.

3)Couldn't using an MLT instead of mashing on the stove give me higher efficiency and still keep me brewing in the kitchen on the stovetop?
no. the difference would not be the equipment, it would be the amount of water used and possibly the method. i can get 80% efficiency using this method when i do a full boil and i regularly get close to that when i do partial mash the same way. what type of MLT are you talking about anyway? i certainly couldn't use my keg on the stovetop.

it's about convenience, too. the bag just makes things easy, because you don't have to lift heavy objects and you don't have to deal with coolers, coils, or false bottoms. basically, the bag replaces the need for any extra equipment. many people could start using this method simply by purchasing a pot. and the cleanup is a breeze.

Thanks for such a detailed post and good pics by the way.
no problem, let me know what else you thought was difficult...hopefully i can help!
:mug:
 
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DeathBrewer

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Awesome tutorial man. Just one thing... you want to stir during the mash to get better conversion. At least every 5 minutes.
not with homebrewing, at least in my experience. i stir it maybe 2-3 times the entire mash.

i know it's continuously stirred in breweries (and i'm sure it helps) but stirring every 5 minutes on this scale would cause you to lose temp rather quickly.

what kind of efficiency are you getting?
 

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this is a great explanation death brewer... I was thinking I would really like to get into the partial mash and all grain so I can really experiment with some different brews... one thing I was wondering though, how hard is it to formulate your own recipes? I know I can think of something I would like to brew and know what types of grain and hops I might use, but as far as the amounts... I have no idea. Also, I wanted to know, is the batch you described above a 5 gal batch? Whats the use of the larger pot for if you can top off when you put it in the primary? And you don't need stainless pot just for the mash right? the stainless is only for something that comes out of hops?
 

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three reasons why I started partial mashes,

lighter colors are possible....

tastes better......

and is cheaper than Extract. Especially dried.


I may have to try all-grain sometime, thx for the tips Death!.... but I will have to buy a bigger pot, I only have a 4 gallon.
 

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I've had success using a modified method of Death Brewer's and Reevy's. The three mini-AG's have been my best brews so far. I tried experimenting with some of Northern Brewer's cheaper AG recipes. I buy the recipe, extra yeast and 1 lb DME, then split the recipe in half. Their American Amber Ale is awesome, came out great for less than $20. Experimenting with a cheap recipe you may like is a no lose situation.

There are so many ways you can take this as well. My next purchase though is going to be a refractometer, so I will know instantly the gravity of my preboil wort. That way I can add DME if needed, and not worry about the efficiency. Hydrometers work as well, but the wort needs to be cooled, where as cooling a drop iss pretty quick.

Enjoy.
 

ApolloSpeed

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The three mini-AG's have been my best brews so far.

came out great for less than $20.
hmmm....what exactly is a mini-all-grain?


And how are you pulling off $20 batches? Mine are hitting the upper 20's to lower 30's.
 

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hmmm....what exactly is a mini-all-grain?


And how are you pulling off $20 batches? Mine are hitting the upper 20's to lower 30's.
A small batch all-grain?

I rarely spend more than $20 for my 5 gallon batches. I found some maris otter malt for $.88/pound, though! Figure 10 pounds of base malt, maybe a pound or two of specialty grains for a total of $11-12, and then the hops. Hops are expensive now, but I have some in stock and rarely buy them.

Great tutorial DB! That method looks perfect for apartment dwellings, as well as those who want to brew indoors. Thanks for sharing this!
 
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DeathBrewer

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this is a great explanation death brewer... I was thinking I would really like to get into the partial mash and all grain so I can really experiment with some different brews... one thing I was wondering though, how hard is it to formulate your own recipes? I know I can think of something I would like to brew and know what types of grain and hops I might use, but as far as the amounts... I have no idea.
it really helps to get some software like promash or beersmith to help you out. check out other peoples receipes on HBT, brewmonkey, the recipator and jamils recipes to get an idea of where you need to go.

Also, I wanted to know, is the batch you described above a 5 gal batch? Whats the use of the larger pot for if you can top off when you put it in the primary? And you don't need stainless pot just for the mash right? the stainless is only for something that comes out of hops?
yes, it's a 5.5 gallon batch. again, if you can use more water for your sparge, do it. the larger pot is for head space. you don't want to boil 5 gallons in anything less than a 6 gallon pot.

if you want to do a full boil, and your stove won't boil as much, you could also split it up between multiple pots for the boil like i did for my RIS 08/08/08.

i'm not sure what you mean by the stainless. you can use any type of pot you want. i left my equipment locked at my friends house once and had a friend bring over a couple ceramic pots to use.
 
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hmmm....what exactly is a mini-all-grain?
probably means a 1 or 2.5 gallon batch. i did a few 2.5 gallon batches with this method, too. that would be a good place to start with this AG method.

And how are you pulling off $20 batches? Mine are hitting the upper 20's to lower 30's.
doing all-grain, simplifying recipes and buying in bulk will greatly reduce those prices. you'll also reduce cost with certain styles, IPAs cost a lot because of hops.
 

goodbyebluesky82

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Ok, I see now how temps could be held long periods of time due to very small airspace. That would mean sizing the grain bill and amount of water to your pot would be pretty important.

I did a lot of removing the lid and stirring on my first AG stovetop attempt, I guess that explains why I had such a hard time maintaining proper temp.

I have a 6 gallon SS pot coming to my doorstep soon, can't wait to try it again like you demonstrated! Props.
 

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not with homebrewing, at least in my experience. i stir it maybe 2-3 times the entire mash.

i know it's continuously stirred in breweries (and i'm sure it helps) but stirring every 5 minutes on this scale would cause you to lose temp rather quickly.

what kind of efficiency are you getting?
It varies but, I would say about 75% on average.

I use almost exactly the same method as you with a few exceptions. I wrap my SS kettle in a layer or two of tinfoil that is loose on the sides. I find leaving this gap of air keeps it from dropping temp as fast.

I leave it on the stove top with the stove setting on its lowest. This will not heat water fast at all yet seems to minimize my temp loss. Having a warm bottom is also why I find it necessary to stir to minimize any burning/carmalizing. However, this is just my paranoia because the burner temp is very low.

Lately I have been brewing partial and half-mashes. I just had major surgery so going outside in the cold setting up my all-grain system is a no go. Instead I opt for this method and really see no issues. I do prefer extracting my own wort from grain as opposed to extract but, using at least 3 pounds of grain in a recipe seems to work. Ive done side by side comparisons to extract with steeping grains and partial mashes and find the partials attenuate lower and taste better.

If you are looking for a great partial recipe, check out the one I put together in the recipe section. It is modeled after Bells 2 Hearted but I find it way better than all the other clones out there.

Again, awesome tutorial. The pics here will help TONS of extract guys get into all-grain I am sure.
 

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Some random comments:

Even if you get 60% efficiency with this method it's still cheaper than extract, especially if you buy 55# bags of base grain. Dog food storage containers from the pet store can be used to store your grain.

I use aluminum pots for all my brewing. You can buy nice big aluminum pots at a restaurant supply store or online for <$50. The equipment forum has a sticky about aluminum vs stainless.

I use this method for 3 gallon batches which can be fermented in a Mr Beer or corny keg. My stove top won't boil 5 gallons, unfortunately (ceramic top).

If you are limited in your equipment, you can do a partial mash where, say, 75% of your fermentables come from grain and 25% from extract. BeerSmith will automatically convert AG to PM and will scale so they will fit your equipment.

Anytime you do a boil with grains I recommend using Whirlfloc or Irish Moss to coagulate proteins and clear the wort.
 

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Nice tutorial, a lot of good information there.

OT Question: Did you Nottingham yeast smell like rotten milk? I did a cream ale with it yesterday and it had the WORST smell.
 
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It varies but, I would say about 75% on average.
again, i can get up to 80% efficiency with this method if i use enough water.

I use almost exactly the same method as you with a few exceptions. I wrap my SS kettle in a layer or two of tinfoil that is loose on the sides. I find leaving this gap of air keeps it from dropping temp as fast.
air is an excellent insulator. i was thinking of buying some ½" insulation to make a jacket for my keg mash tun. i always lose heat in there due to the extra head space.

I leave it on the stove top with the stove setting on its lowest. This will not heat water fast at all yet seems to minimize my temp loss. Having a warm bottom is also why I find it necessary to stir to minimize any burning/carmalizing. However, this is just my paranoia because the burner temp is very low.
this works, i've also heard of people putting the entire pot in the oven, set to maintain their mash temperature.

Lately I have been brewing partial and half-mashes. I just had major surgery so going outside in the cold setting up my all-grain system is a no go. Instead I opt for this method and really see no issues. I do prefer extracting my own wort from grain as opposed to extract but, using at least 3 pounds of grain in a recipe seems to work. Ive done side by side comparisons to extract with steeping grains and partial mashes and find the partials attenuate lower and taste better.
yep, plus there are so many more options...you can't brew a rye beer or an all-vienna smash with extract :)

If you are looking for a great partial recipe, check out the one I put together in the recipe section. It is modeled after Bells 2 Hearted but I find it way better than all the other clones out there.

Again, awesome tutorial. The pics here will help TONS of extract guys get into all-grain I am sure.
thanks for your input. that's what's nice about this system...it's versatile. find out what works for you!
 
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DeathBrewer

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Nice tutorial, a lot of good information there.

OT Question: Did you Nottingham yeast smell like rotten milk? I did a cream ale with it yesterday and it had the WORST smell.
fermentation is a pretty nasty process and can smell unpleasant at times. i wouldn't worry about it.

i've noticed nottingham can have a yeasty taste when the beer is green, but it settles with time...in the end it's a very clean yeast.
 

Cpt_Kirks

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fermentation is a pretty nasty process and can smell unpleasant at times. i wouldn't worry about it.

i've noticed nottingham can have a yeasty taste when the beer is green, but it settles with time...in the end it's a very clean yeast.
It was the actual dry yeast in the package when I opened it. Really intense spoiled milk smell.

The ale just started bubbling a little this morning, so I have not smelled it yet.
 
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DeathBrewer

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that's odd, but may be nothing. i don't know that i've ever smelled it in the package.

like i said, yeast can be funky, but if you're unsure...it's always nice to have a backup.
 

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Awesome tutorial man. Just one thing... you want to stir during the mash to get better conversion. At least every 5 minutes.
As long as you stir well to begin with you shouldn't need to stir nearly this much. The loss in temp will way outweigh any benefit from the stirring.
 

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Death, I like all the pretty pictures. :)

Anyway another good tutorial. One thing: my stovetop will not handle more than 5 gals of boil volume either, (its not the btus but the weight, when I tried to put 9 gal on a single burner the burner cracked ominously and the whole stovetop started to sag.) To get around this I use two 5 gal pots and split the wort between the two. This way I can do I full sparge and full volume boil regardless of grain bill.
 
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yep! that's a good way to boil down a large volume:



i don't like to do that, tho, because cooling is a PITA.





i'm getting a wort chiller for the kitchen some time in the next few months. once i have that, it shouldn't be a problem any more. The one i have now uses garden hoses and leaks a little, so i'm not using it in my apartment.
 

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Hey DeathBrewer, could EdWort's Haus Pale Ale be done this way?


This is my Haus Pale Ale. A very quaffable beer that is very easy to make using basic ingredients and a dry yeast.

Grain Bill
8 lbs. 2-Row Pale Malt
2 lbs. Vienna Malt
0.5 lb. Crystal 10L Malt

Mash
Single Infusion mash for 60 minutes at 152 degrees.
I batch sparge in a 10 gallon water cooler with a stainless braid manifold. Click here for great info on Batch Sparging.
Dough-in with 3.5 gallons of water. After 60 minutes, add 5 quarts of 175 degree water and begin vorlauf. My system only takes about 2 quarts before it clears up, then it's wide open to drain in the kettle. Have another 3.25 gallons of 175 degree water ready for the next batch sparge. You should then get 6.5 gallons to your kettle for the boil.

I tend to think so, plus I thought it looked pretty easy to follow. I copied the recipe.
 

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Sorry for a late reply to a question asked earlier. I call small batch all grain brewing "Mini All Grain." The recipes I order are mostly from Northern Brewer. I like them, reasonably priced in the All Grain section. Also, I love that they give ingredients so I could always just half their recipes if I wanted to.

I just picked up a pair of paint straining bags from Lowes the other day for less than $2. I'm sticking with the All Grain / Mini mash b/c they've produced the best beer so far, and are the cheapest. Cheap Good Beer.

Even if I step up to full AG, I may stay with the grain bags for simplicity.
 

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Thanks for the great tutorial Death. Doesn't seem much different then the way I've been doing Mini-mash kits....so I'm thinking it won't be much more than to by one more big pot and I'm on my way...to at least experiment.... Thanks!!
 

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Great post DB. This is a great way to get good beer without all the expensive equipment (this coming from sombody that HAS the equipment).

I mash this way quite a bit and the results have been great. It keeps me in the house with the SWMBO chatting it up, it saves a ton on propane (I was filling two 20lbs every two months), and it makes clean up a breeze.

It's funny that I now prefer this method vs. being outside all night. If anything, I'll mash/sparge on the stove while watching a movie with the SWMBO and then take the results outside to the beast and boil er' up.
 

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I am pretty damn impressed that you can brew indoors on a stove like that.

I used to brew indoors with coolers, BUT, I boiled outside with my propane burner.

Id expect nothing less from DEATH himself
 

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Death,
Could you also use a covered roaster pan with grain in a loosely tied 24x24 bag. Add water slightly above desired temp and place grain into oven at desired temp?
 

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Planning Oakham JHB for my next batch and my LHBS doesn't sell Extra Light DME. This seems like a good way to get the results without building a mash tun.

So when I plug the details into BeerSmith is this the profile called "Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge"? (The recipe calls for 2 row Pale Malt which I assume means light body.) For a 7.8lb grain bill it suggests 9.78QT @ 161F.
 
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