Is all-grain really THAT much better than extract?

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RM-MN

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Not necessarily true though. People have had varying degrees of success w/ longer mash times and even mash-out with BIAB.

Some notice 2% better efficiency, some notice 10% better efficiency incorporating a mash out, or extending mash times from 60 to 75 or even 90 minutes.

FWIW, my BIAB efficiency is 71% on the dot, each and every time, for 5.5-7% ales. That is with 60 minutes mash time, and crushed grain to .027" and no mash out. I also am a squeezer---the reason I squeeze is really for boil volume. If I don't squeeze then I lose 1/2 gallon on my finished product which is too much.

Plenty of people are getting 80% efficiency from BIAB, or even more. Some of them are getting much more because they are circulating the mash (which I don't plan to do...more equipment and more stuff). At some point, I'm going to try a 60 vs 90 minute mash, and I'm going to try a mash-out and compare refract numbers. Chasing down a couple percentage points of efficiency is not worth it, but if you can get 10% efficiency improvements (and be consistent), then it's probably a win-win.

This is a very interesting thread. Take a look:

https://www.biabrewer.info/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=1669
Mash our will speed up conversion if is isn't complete. A finer crush gets a more thorough conversion with better efficiency and with that the conversion also happens quicker. Tighten up your mill to .020 and see if you notice any difference.
 

fendersrule

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I may tighten it to .025. That’s still a very fine setting and probably less wear on the mill. I’ll do that tonight.
 

fendersrule

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Got it right at .025" for now. I'm a perfectionist, and it usually takes me 20 minutes to adjust a cereal killer. It's a bit tricky. The good news is it holds the setting for at least a year or more, so it doesn't need constant adjusting.

.027" and .025" is a big difference when you're working with feeler gauges!

.027" basically makes 30-35% powder, barley is completely crushed, zero chance of a husk only "cracking". Here's a picture of .027" (don't mind the oats in the bucket, it's not barley).

57552010143__202E7B9A-ED90-4D55-960E-441F170F97A6.JPG.jpg


I bet .025" would probably be 40-50% powder, barley completely crushed, and any husks that survive will be in small pieces.

Maybe it won't be much different. I'll take a pic of a .025" crush this friday.
 
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kh54s10

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Got it right at .025" for now. I'm a perfectionist, and it usually takes me 20 minutes to adjust a cereal killer. It's a bit tricky. The good news is it holds the setting for at least a year or more, so it doesn't need constant adjusting.

.027" and .025" is a big difference when you're working with feeler gauges!

.027" basically makes 30-35% powder, barley is completely crushed, zero chance of a husk only "cracking". Here's a picture of .027" (don't mind the oats in the bucket, it's not barley).

View attachment 654313

I bet .025" would probably be 40-50% powder, barley completely crushed, and any husks that survive will be in small pieces.

Maybe it won't be much different. I'll take a pic of a .025" crush this friday.
That looks like a good crush for BIAB, but would be too fine for my mash tun with braid filter. I need some husks to allow the grain bet to act as a filter.

Husks just cracked open is not a killer. Shredded husks could give more of a chance to extract tannins if you hit the right temperature and pH.
 

fendersrule

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Husks just cracked open is not a killer. Shredded husks could give more of a chance to extract tannins if you hit the right temperature and pH.
I believe this has been debunked, but I think what you're saying is if you're wayyyy off on your PH (basically, if you don't treat your water) things are more probable to go bad. Not sure on that one either, but I always treat water and shoot for a mid 5 on PH.

I've stopped using my PH meter because Bru'n'water is so accurate. :ban:

Some people will crush even finer than this on B.I.A.B. I've seen it down to .020". I've seen many people just set it to the finest possible to where it's all basically powder.

Many benefits of BIAB. Less equipment needed, no sparging, and you can get away with a finer crush. I just want to keep good longevity out of my mill. :)

Here's an interesting BIAB crush test. .035" vs .025". There was a .010 OG difference, and the finer crush for some reason dropped a little lower on the FG which was interesting. The finer crush beer was preferred in the taste test.

http://brulosophy.com/2015/11/23/mind-the-gap-course-vs-fine-crush-exbeeriment-results/

I'm only moving from .027 to .025. So I may pick up a 1-2% on efficiency, but I'm not expecting more.

I'm about to brew a 1.100 OG stout. I know that making high gravity beers causes a slight loss of efficiency. I've never made a beer this high before, so hopefully this slight mill "bump" will aid. I also may mash for 75 minutes instead of 60 minutes. I'll actually be mashing outside @ 25-30F, so I don't see a reason why not to extend it out a little bit. I'm leaving it up to my brewing assistant on whether or not he wants to perform a mash out or not.

He's a 3-vessel brewer, but he's gotten quite accustomed to just coming over and using my BIAB system. It's just so simple!
 
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kh54s10

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I see it stated that a finer crush would be easier on the mill. I wonder? I would think it would be harder on the mill since you will be forcing it to crush the grains more. I know they are not very strong but a little more effort will add some stress to the machine.
 

kh54s10

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I believe this has been debunked, but I think what you're saying is if you're wayyyy off on your PH (basically, if you don't treat your water) things are more probable to go bad. Not sure on that one either, but I always treat water and shoot for a mid 5 on PH.
That is why I said if you hit the right temperature and pH. I should have added that this is unlikely unless you do something really strange.

For 106 batches I never treated my water or took pH measurements. I would stack most of them up against any mid priced commercial craft beers. I am now looking into water and pH (slowly) to see if I can make my very good beers great.
 

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It's a very easy and cheap thing to do. I'll get shot for saying this, but get a water report in you're area, support Martin and get the spreadsheet, and don't fret about getting a PH meter. As long as you enter everything in correctly, you'll improve.
 

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I never did try extract but I consider it sometimes when I'm scrubbing a mash tun.
Scrub your mash tun? I guess I just rinse out my cooler mash-tun which is pretty much the easiest thing to clean.
 

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It's $10 a lb.
That's a huge bummer. Without special deals or buying in bulk, I get it around $4/lb. I'm wondering if it's where you live?
If I had to pay that, I don't suppose I would have made more than a couple batches using extract.
 

madscientist451

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Everyone has their taste likes and dislikes. Extract beers have won awards at homebrew competitions. The extract beers I've made range from OK to unacceptable. With grain, I can consistently make a decent beer that suits my taste.
Every now and then I play around with extract, my most recent experiment was with second run cider that was boiled and light pilsner LME, no hops. I've also used extract to make some "15 minute" IPAs that come out OK and are really easy to make.
 

Soulshine2

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I have just tasted my very first bottle of my very first all-grain brew, and it tastes completely, utterly, and amazingly good. It was a SMaSH Pale Ale made with NZ Cascade hops, regular pale ale malt, and US-05.

What puzzles me so much is that this brew was full of mistakes. I missed my target OG, and ended up with something too weak, I mashed too hot, I bottled too soon, then I lost too much CO2 from the bottles and had to re-prime.... and yet it still tastes WAY better than any extract brew I have ever made, hands down.

Can this insane improvement in taste be put down to the simple fact that I made an all-grain brew, and all grain just fundamentally produces far nicer beer that the typical extract kit, or is it perhaps something else?
yes, it is that much better . The few times Ive used extract,followed to the letter , I got drain cleaner as a result. Won't do it again.
 

GrogNerd

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I've made extract brews that have been indistinguishable from all-grain by members of my brew clubs, including some BJCP judges. No "twang" whatsoever

Fresh extract is key. Use the palest dry extract you can get (it sells more, better turnover = fresher product) & use specialty grains for color
 

kh54s10

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It's a very easy and cheap thing to do. I'll get shot for saying this, but get a water report in you're area, support Martin and get the spreadsheet, and don't fret about getting a PH meter. As long as you enter everything in correctly, you'll improve.
I have the pH meter, have the salts, use r/o water, did 2 so far. No better than with plain old tap water so far.
 

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So far all I have done is a few recipe kits with LME and steeping grains, a DIY recipe with LME and steeping grains, and four all-LME batches, all ales. My last few batches were made with LME from NB, 36lb for I think $90. With free shipping, that was $2.50/lb. Was it super fresh? Probably not. Was it disgustingly old and stale? I don't think so, though I am not very experienced in this. Anyway, with 9lb LME for 5.5gal batches and a single ounce of Cascade, pouring new wort over old trub, my cost per batch of all extract, medium gravity amber ale was pretty reasonable, and the beer is delicious, suiting my palate quite well. I hate IPAs and other extremely hoppy beers. So, FOR ME, all extract is great, good flavor, great body, reasonable price, in every way superior to what I get at the grocery. Did I mention simple, and easy? I keg only, since my second batch, so slightly better and much simpler than bottling.

Now, mostly to trim costs a bit more without compromising quality, I am looking forward to my first all grain batch. I have a Corona mill on the way, and I will be sticking with BIAB for a while, so no other equipment to buy. Our tap water seems pretty good. Has a very neutral taste, doesn't form lime deposits on stuff, my shave soap lathers great and chlorine is pretty moderate. I only use distilled water to make up the difference between boiled wort and full batch volume. With 4 gallon boils, I have been ambient cooling to 150, then ice bath chilling in the sink to pitch temp. Last couple batches have been around 6.5%ABV, high teens, low 20's IBU. I gather I am looking at over 10lb grain per batch to duplicate this with whole grain. Will I be able to do this with my 4 gallon boils, using BIAB on the gas stove in the kitchen? My current option is to use our crawfish boiler, a big double jet burner and a 15lb aluminum pot. I have concerns about the aluminum though the crabs and crawfish don't seem to be bothered by it.

It is nice to know that I can expect some further improvement in quality to an already very nice product, when I go all grain. But just having more or less the same beer but less expensive is reason enough to consider switching. Am I getting it right? Will all grain BIAB work for me, given the type beer I am making and the limited equipment I am using? Honestly, I am okay with my LME ale, just want to save a few bucks without having to buy a lot of stuff to do it.
 

Gulo_gulo

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Our tap water seems pretty good. Has a very neutral taste, doesn't form lime deposits on stuff, my shave soap lathers great and chlorine is pretty moderate. I only use distilled water to make up the difference between boiled wort and full batch volume.
Once you get to mashing, if you pull the water you're going to use the day before and let it sit overnight the chlorine will dissipate.
 
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I take a certain satisfaction in my ability to start with whole grains, skillfully transform it into sweet, sticky wort and then ferment it in a controlled manner to produce a delicious mug of finished beer. I use DME only for making starters, and even that feels like unnecessarily cutting corners.
 

bwible

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Fresh extract is key. Use the palest dry extract you can get (it sells more, better turnover = fresher product) & use specialty grains for color
Right. I have also made and won awards with extract brews and all grain brews supplemented with extract. Many in our local club have. No reason to be the all grain nazis. I always use some steeping grains and partial mash whenever I do “all extract” anyway. Be it Munich, Crystal, Victory, etc. Some recipes even lend themselves better to extract imho, such as brown ale. I won first place with an extract brown ale 3 years in a row.

Fresh ingredients all around are key. No 5 year old bulging cans of extract you found hidden in the back of the shelf. Thats just never going to work out well. Maybe for sour beers, I don’t know because I don’t make those. No year old 1/2 ounce packages of hops you opened and used half of and saved half of. I try to always calculate recipes to use the entire ounce and if I’m not going to brew again soon I toss partial hop packs.

Also, I find dry extract to be better than cans of liquid extract. Dry extract never has any twang. Comes in extra light, light, amber, dark, and even wheat. Since its dry and bagged, can be measured out and partial containers much more easily used and saved than liquid.

All grain is not a magic bullet. A brewer still needs the skills to formulate recipes, hit mash temperatures and hit efficiency targets etc. I have also had bad all grain brews. I guess all grain is easier these days because of brew in a bag. But still.
 
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I have the pH meter, have the salts, use r/o water, did 2 so far. No better than with plain old tap water so far.
All of those things are like high-end golf clubs, fancy shoes, and a subscription to golf digest; now that you've got the knowledge and the tools, all that's missing is more practice.

Disclaimer:
I'm in the same position you are but with far less experience than you have. I own a pH meter but have never opened the box.
 

GrogNerd

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Practice making beer

Nothing more awesome than that

All of those things are like high-end golf clubs, fancy shoes, and a subscription to golf digest; now that you've got the knowledge and the tools, all that's missing is more practice.

Disclaimer:
I'm in the same position you are but with far less experience than you have. I own a pH meter but have never opened the box.
 

beerme70

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Short answer.....YES. With that said, BIAB or extract brewing is, IMO, better than your run-of-the-mill commercial beers anyway. With AG, you have a LOT more control and a LOT more options to twist, tweak, and refine your recipes. No matter HOW you brew, though, you're brewing. THAT'S what's important.
 

bwible

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Extract is more expensive pound per pound than all grain. And you are paying extra for 2 things.

The first is convenience. You don’t have to crush grain, heat water, pre-heat your mash tun, mash in, wait an hour, sparge if you are so inclined and slowly draw off over some time to get your wort. And collect 6 gallons to boil down to 5. All you have to do is heat water and mix in the sugar that someone else has done the work to collect. All of this results in time and energy savings. Your labor and also savings on your gas or propane bill. Remember that your time is also worth something. None of us go to work for free.

The second thing you are paying for is consistency. Companies like Muntons, Briess, Coopers and others are very good at making this extract and its the same every time. You know it is 1.045 for the dry extract - which means 1lb of extract dissolved in 1 gallon of water will give you an OG of 1.045. 1.038 for the liquid. Which makes it very easy to hit your recipe target gravity to the point. No guessing, no efficiency problems.

I also keep extract on hand to make up lost gravity if I hit my target low or to supplement a mash to make stronger and higher alcohol beers like Doppelbock or Barleywine - particularly if my mash tun is 5 gallons and can’t hold enough grain to make 5 gallons of a high gravity beer.

Extract has its uses and I am not going to be quick to write it off or say all extract beers suck or there’s no reason I would ever brew extract. I learned that lesson long ago.
 

Saunassa

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I guess one can use specialty grains to enhance extract. I have never used extract other than hopped extract which is not very good in my experience. I would really like to make the basic Brewing 15 minute pale ale from extract.
I have made their 15 minute pale ale kit twice now. I do the 3 gal version. The first batch which fermented to warm was good but the second which I fermented cooler was great. Nice and easy to make on a kitchen stove in the middle of winter.
 

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Got my 1.104 OG Russian Stout fermenting right now.

The crush at .025" looks close to the same to .027". Just a hair finer. A little more powder.

I nailed 69% efficiency....again.....with such a big beer. 80 min mash time. I'm actually pretty happy with this number for it being such a huge beer.

I need to make my regular beer to see if I gained efficiency by the slightly finer crush. I'm assuming I likely did.

IMG_4370.JPG
 

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My brew kettle holds 4 gallons at about an inch and a half from the top. So 4 gallons is about my limit, without resorting to my big aluminum crawfish pot. Is that too small for BIAB? I am really looking for around 6% ABV, 5 gallons. I could go as low as 5%, maybe, but certainly no lower. I am doing very lightly hopped amber ales.
 

fendersrule

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The math isn't adding up....to make 5 gallons with a BIAB you should really be at 10 G to be comfortable.
 

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If you are using an electric stovetop then you may have trouble maintaining a boil with a conductive alum pot. Propane or gas would probably bring aluminum to a boil without much issue.

for a 5G batch, you will need 7-7.5 gallons water preboil to account for boil off and water that will still be in the grains after drainage. Plus the room needed for 16lbs of grain or so. So plan on a 10G pot at minimum for a 5G BIAB batch. Most of us recommend 15-20G kettles.
 

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If you are using an electric stovetop then you may have trouble maintaining a boil with a conductive alum pot. Propane or gas would probably bring aluminum to a boil without much issue.

for a 5G batch, you will need 7-7.5 gallons water preboil to account for boil off and water that will still be in the grains after drainage. Plus the room needed for 16lbs of grain or so. So plan on a 10G pot at minimum for a 5G BIAB batch. Most of us recommend 15-20G kettles.
Okay. My crawfish boiling setup should work, then. Now that I think of it, it is a 100 quart pot so 25 gallons. The burner is a double jet, don't remember how many BTU but I can boil two sacks of crawfish at a time if I need to, though I usually only do one. (about 30 to 35 lbs) So it is a pretty powerful burner. I sure as hell won't be able to chill in the sink though haha. I will probably make ice bags for chilling. My stove is gas but I am not sure I can get the pot inside so the outdoor propane burner will have to gitter done. And so, my next batch will definitely be all grain.
 

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Not sure about your location, but my local HBS has 50’ immersion chillers on sale constantly for dirt cheap. I think you’d find that a IC would cool muccccch faster that ice bags would!
 

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My brew kettle holds 4 gallons at about an inch and a half from the top. So 4 gallons is about my limit, without resorting to my big aluminum crawfish pot. Is that too small for BIAB? I am really looking for around 6% ABV, 5 gallons. I could go as low as 5%, maybe, but certainly no lower. I am doing very lightly hopped amber ales.
While less than ideal, with a sparge and carefully boiling near the kettle rim, and topping the fermenter with a bit of water, you might be able to squeak a 5 gallon batch.

I would try a 4 gallon batch first to get your feet wet.....uh well hopefully not literally :)

Your 100qt crawfish pot seems excessive imo for 5 gallon batches, but would be prefect for 10-15 gallon BIAB with a decent pulley set up.
 
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z-bob

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My brew kettle holds 4 gallons at about an inch and a half from the top. So 4 gallons is about my limit, without resorting to my big aluminum crawfish pot. Is that too small for BIAB? I am really looking for around 6% ABV, 5 gallons. I could go as low as 5%, maybe, but certainly no lower. I am doing very lightly hopped amber ales.
I've done 4 gallon BIAB brews with a 22 quart pot. I have an 8 gallon kettle now, and I could probably squeeze 5 gallons out of it, but it does 4 gallons pretty well. The only thing magic about 5 gallons is that's what most recipes are written for (probably because that was the most common size of glass carboy when we were all using glass carboys) There is no shame in brewing 2.5, 3, or 4 (etc) gallon batches. Some people do all-grain 1 gallon.

If your kettle is a little too small, you'll have to sparge in a separate container (like a white plastic bucket) That's easy to do; squeeze the bag as best you can, move it to the bucket, add another gallon or 2 of water, let it soak for 10 minutes (stirring occasionally), and drain and squeeze again. Add the squeezins to back the kettle, which now has a lot more room in it because you took out all the grain. Maybe hold a little back until after it comes to a full boil, then add the rest a little at a time after the initial hot break foam dies down (less likely to boil over that way)
 

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I will probably make ice bags for chilling.
I have a pretty sucky immersion chiller. It will quickly cool down to about 95 degrees, but has trouble going much lower than that even if the tap water is running really cold. I use frozen 1L soda bottles to chill the wort the rest of the way; just sanitize a couple and drop them in the bucket. They are sealed so they don't dilute the wort. Don't fill them quite all the way when you freeze them or they might burst in the freezer. I fill 'em almost full and then squeeze the air out before I cap them.

Or use kveik yeast because it actually likes to be pitched at 95 degrees.
 

fendersrule

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do you stir the IC in the kettle? That’s how they are more effective. Assume you do.

95 sucks. My IC that doesn’t really fit and only has about 20’ of exposed coils in the wort will at least get me into the low-mid 80s in the dead heat of summer. Fall, winter, and spring...wort is 65F right after transfer.
 

z-bob

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do you stir the IC in the kettle? That’s how they are more effective. Assume you do.

95 sucks. My IC that doesn’t really fit and only has about 20’ of exposed coils in the wort will at least get me into the low-mid 80s in the dead heat of summer. Fall, winter, and spring...wort is 65F right after transfer.
If you're talking to me, yes I do stir it. I can get the wort down to about 75 or 80 degrees eventually, but it takes a *long* time to get it there. Ice bottles are a lot faster once I get it below 100. I'm not sure what size my IC is, but I think it's about 20 feet of 3/8" OD copper. It's just too small, plus my kettle has a lot of thermal mass (so I wipe the sides down with a cold wet cloth and that helps a little)
 
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