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I Would Like To Practice With My All Grain Setup. Cheapest Way?

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Misterobots

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Hello All!
A preemptive thank you for the help! I would like to practice with my current all grain/biab/electric equipment setup. I know the best "practice" is to just do and see where to make adjustments. My question is, does anyone have any "cheap" suggestions, or recipes, for practicing / "dialing in" my setup?
 

VikeMan

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Here are some things you can do, some of which will apply to your system and some that maybe won't.

- Boil a known amount of water for a known amount of time, then cool and measure what's left, to find your boil off rate
- Fill with known volume of water, drain, and measure, to find your dead space(s) (mash tun, kettles)
- Measure the amount of water left (lost) in your hoses/pumps after normal pumping/draining
- Do a 60 minute Mini-mash with a small amount of your crushed grains (i.e. with your grain mill gap), in a pot or whatever, and drain, to find your grain absorption.
 
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Misterobots

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Here are some things you can do, some of which will apply to your system and some that maybe won't.

- Boil a known amount of water for a known amount of time, then cool and measure what's left, to find your boil off rate
- Fill with known volume of water, drain, and measure, to find your dead space(s) (mash tun, kettles)
- Measure the amount of water left (lost) in your hoses/pumps after normal pumping/draining
- Do a 60 minute Mini-mash with a small amount of your crushed grains (i.e. with your grain mill gap), in a pot or whatever, and drain, to find your grain absorption.
That is excellent advice, thank you!
 

Jim R

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That just sounds like a brew day with nothing to show for it in the end. There is a lot of room for error that will still result in good beer.

I would put together a detailed instruction sheet for yourself with the best information you have and just brew a batch recording every detail. This helps me to avoid missing steps. Then go back and add corrections to use for the next batch. I still use my continually updated cheat sheet every time I brew.
 

ba-brewer

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All of the things @VikeMan mentioned (maybe not grain absorption) needs to be done prior to your first brew. Even if you use kits it good to know how your system preforms compared to kit instructions.

@Jim R is correct too as brewing is somewhat of a iterative process to get your system dialed in. Take notes and review is helpful earlier and ongoing in brewing.

Brewhouse efficency is one thing important to overall system use and that can only be found brewing beer.


Maybe make a few smaller beers or half size batches to get a more use in a faster amount of time. Or do full size and batches and share with friends to brew more often. No substitute for hands on experience.
 

eric19312

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I'd brew a batch and take good notes. Be really careful with measuring volumes and grain weights. Make a note about your crush...what was your mill set at and how did the crush work out. Probably would do an all barley grist on first batch before getting adjuncts in there.

On the volumes make sure you note volumes of strike and sparge water, amount you collected from all runnings (pre boil volume), post boil volume, volume into fermentor. Get gravity measurements at minimum of original gravity and final gravity but I'd also get gravity in the mash tun before sparging (if you are going to sparge) and in the kettle before boiling.

Might also want to take some notes on heating times, how long to get to strike temp, how long to get to a boil.

I'd start with something pretty simple that I've brewed before if possible.
 

kevin58

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Here are some things you can do, some of which will apply to your system and some that maybe won't.

- Boil a known amount of water for a known amount of time, then cool and measure what's left, to find your boil off rate
- Fill with known volume of water, drain, and measure, to find your dead space(s) (mash tun, kettles)
- Measure the amount of water left (lost) in your hoses/pumps after normal pumping/draining
- Do a 60 minute Mini-mash with a small amount of your crushed grains (i.e. with your grain mill gap), in a pot or whatever, and drain, to find your grain absorption.
That just sounds like a brew day with nothing to show for it in the end....

That's called determining your equipment profile.
 

Spartan1979

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When I made my electric system, I did a trial run with water just to check for leaks and to make sure the control panel was working correctly, but I didn't go through the whole process of brewing.
 

Genuine

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When I completed the build of my system, I spent a morning figuring out the boil off rate and my losses so that I could properly enter them into BrewFather and brew consistantly. From there you could make a simple cascade pale ale with just 2 row and US-05.
 

VikeMan

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The problem with "just brew something and dial-in from there" is that some things (e.g. water/wort losses) are constants and some are variables. So unless you brew the same beer forever, any adjustments made are fairly unlikely to work when you change batch size or grain bill size.
 

Jeremy W

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I recently moved to a 3V eHerms and therefore had to reconfigure my equipment profile (I use Brewfather) to suit my new setup. A few thoughts on efficiency from past experience:
- as you get a few brews under your belt, make adjustments to your mash/brewhouse efficiency (when calculating grain bill quantities) based on past performance of similar beers. For example a big 1.075 Imperial IPA will typically yield a lower efficiency than a 1.050 Kolsch.
- when making adjustments to your efficiency, the average over a few brews is a better indicator than your most recent (unless you changed something in your process).
- At the end of the day though, understanding your typical efficiencies is more important than pursuing the highest efficiency possible
Cheers!
 

IslandLizard

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You will always have boil off, there's no way to avoid it. And you shouldn't, DMS needs to be driven off.
Estimate at 1/2 to 1 gallon per hour. For your first brew start with 1/2 gallon boil off, and compare with the end result. Adjust accordingly for your next brew.
For the first brew, you can keep an extra 1/2 gallon of wort behind from your final sparge, you can top up midway if you see your boil off was underestimated.

Keep making adjustments like that everywhere where needed.
For example, if you come up short on gravity, but your volume is as expected, start looking where the shortage could come from. Maybe much good wort is left behind in the mash tun due to the deadspace under the drain, etc. Or your mash conversion is not as expected, maybe mill finer, or use more grain/malt.

As you gain more experience, while honing your system, from milling to kegging/bottling, you also keep making beer. Win-win.
 

z-bob

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A minimalist cream ale using 95% pale malt, 5% sugar; about 5% ABV and 20 IBU using your favorite hops is a very cheap and satisfying beer to brew and to drink. You can figure out how your system works and not have a lot invested in it, and still have something to show for it when you're done.

Do at least some of the stuff Vikeman said beforehand about figuring out dead space losses, etc, and making sure your heat source can boil that much water.
 

jtgoral

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I use this as a cheap eBIAB for 5 gallon batches:

- equipment: 64QT pot (must be magnetic with induction heater), Avantco 3.5KW and 240V heater, grain mill, bag from Amazon or direct from the guy in Plainfield, Illinois.
- ingredients: drive to avoid shipping for 50-55lb bag of Avangard or Briess malt to Brew and Grow, 5 or 3 pack dry yeast from Amazon, 1lb hops from the Internet.
 

IslandLizard

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Avantco 3.5KW and 240V heater
+1 for the Avantco IC3500.
But you do need access to a 240V, 20A (or higher amperage) circuit, such as a dryer outlet. Not everyone has those, or access to one where they're brewing.

And yes, you do need a kettle that works with induction.

FWIW, it looks like the OP is already set up with equipment, he wants to know an easy, cheap way to dial in his equipment profile.
 

Tobor_8thMan

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To the OP, please realize kettle volume markings are usually inaccurate. Kettle volume sight tubes are usually inaccurate. When I began with my electric brewery I wasn't getting the expected results due to the kettle sight tube markings being around 4% off. Once I realized and adjusted my recipe only then did I get the expected results.

Same goes for fermenter volume markings. These are usually wrong too.
 
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Misterobots

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@Tobor_8thMan Thank you so much for the info. I had realized this same thing. I used a cpvc tub to mark where the "known amounts" sat on the kettle (1,2,3,4,5 gal) and sharpee marks on my fermenter buckets. That's great advice for everyone
 

IslandLizard

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Also, don't ignore expansion of water due to temperature.
Water expands about 4 percent when heated from room temperature (68F) to its boiling point (212F).

Although that doesn't sound like a lot, if volumes are measured at or near boiling temps, you can easily come up short once chilled.
The volume of water is about 5.12 fl.oz per gallon higher at boiling than it is at room temps. At 6 gallons that's 30.7 oz difference, almost a quart.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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Yup - if the site lines were intended to be used during the boil, they would be different than site lines intended to be used when water was at 'room' temperature.
 
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