Questions re: learning all-grain

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grimstuff

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Okay, so I've brewed 3 batches of extract+specialty grains beer. All good so far. I want to make the step into all-grain for further batches. I have the equipment, but I'm having a bit of trouble making sense of all the instructions floating around out there. I "know" it's very simple, but for some reason, I'm finding it hard to reconcile conflicting information.

So here is what I think I need to do:

1. Put grains in mash tun (for this example, let's say 10 lbs). I know Palmer says to do it the other way around, but I've seen others do it this way and I think its simpler and will be far easier to achieve correct temp.

2. Heat water for mash. Pour.
Amount: ???
Temp: (assume 152 F)
Duration: (assume 60 mins.)

3. Maintain temperature, stir every 15 minutes.

4. Drain carefully.
Recirculate first quart or so.

5. Heat sparge water. Pour.
Amount: ???
Temp: 165-175 F
Duration: 15 mins.

On Step 2, Palmer says heat up 2 qts per lb of grain. Other sources say 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, etc. The difference between them and Palmer is significant. Why? Is there something I'm missing?

On Step 5, do I basically just put in an amount that equals the difference between what drained from Step 4 and my total? (I'm pretty sure this is what Orfy states in his sticky). Also, does the amount I heat for Step 2 include the amount I will need for Step 5?

Of course, any other tips or corrections on my method would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

--David
 

1Mainebrew

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1) I think that its easier to go water then grain because you can check the temp of your strike water first before you add your grain.

2) 1.25 is the most common qt/lb ratio because it compromises the best mash thicknesses for both the beta and alpha amylase enzymes.

3) NO. Stir like mad at first to get out the dough balls and to make sure that the temperature is consistent throughout. Then leave it alone until you are ready to drain your tun and vorleuf (recirculate).

4) Yes. Only open your ball valve about 1/4 the way until it clears (and be prepared for it to get cloudy again when your recirculate if your not extremely careful on your ball valve)

5) Your understanding is basically correct, except that you need to account for grain absorption. Getting some brewing software will help you with that. You don't want to heat your sparge water above 170 to prevent leaching tannins into your wort, unless you use it as an infusion with No-Sparge brewing and you skip #4 and you heat your "sparge" water to 180 or so and stir like crazy to get to mash out of 170 and then you drain the tun- but thats another discussion. Have fun!
 

Draken

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Might want to preheat your mash tun as well. That will make it easier to hit temps
 

nebben

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....

So here is what I think I need to do:

1. Put grains in mash tun (for this example, let's say 10 lbs). I know Palmer says to do it the other way around, but I've seen others do it this way and I think its simpler and will be far easier to achieve correct temp.
I wouldn't recommend this. Instead, a general rule of thumb for my equipment is to heat my strike water approximately 15-20 degrees warmer than my target mash temperature. As soon as I add the measured amount of strike water to my cooler at that temperature, I wait for a few minutes with the lid on. The temperature should ideally drop to ~10F above my mash temperature. I pour in my cracked grains (at room temperature) and stir them in as I'm pouring. As soon as they are in, I stir vigorously to eliminate any clumps, ensuring it is a good porridge consistency. Lastly, I insert a thermometer immediately after stirring for a minutes to ensure I've hit 152F if that was my target.

I use Beersmith to help with calculations, and it is quite good at figuring out a lot of your variables. For instance, it has the ability for me to enter the temperature of my cooler mash-tun, the temperature of my grain, and it can calculate exactly what temperature strike water to use in order to hit my target mash.

By adding grains first, not only is it harder to mix up later since the dry grains will be stuck to the bottom corners, but you also need to figure out what temperature your strike water should be at. If you guess wrong, you might have a thin mash or a thick mash that is somewhere other than 1.25qt/lb , which can [theoretically] impact the mash performance.

2. Heat water for mash. Pour.
Amount: ???
Temp: (assume 152 F)
Duration: (assume 60 mins.)
Yep. I usually heat 15-20F over my mash temp, then take a measurement after I've added it to my mash-tun and it has had a chance to settle, prior to adding grains. As soon as I am ~10F above mash temp, I dough in, stir, measure, then start the clock.

3. Maintain temperature, stir every 15 minutes.
Maintaining temperature is important, but it may not be necessary depending on your equipment. My cooler might drop a degree or two, but I don't worry about it since opening the lid and introducing boiling water or ice usually makes for over-corrections in my opinion. If your mash-tun is metal or uninsulated, this might be something you need to figure out though. The key is to not over-do it. If you're down 5F, don't introduce gallons of boiling water or fire up the tun with high heat...go slowly when trying to adjust the temperature!

4. Drain carefully.
Recirculate first quart or so.
I often recirculate almost a gallon since it really doesn't clear up in my tun until then. YMMV!

5. Heat sparge water. Pour.
Amount: ???
Temp: 165-175 F
Duration: 15 mins.

On Step 2, Palmer says heat up 2 qts per lb of grain. Other sources say 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, etc. The difference between them and Palmer is significant. Why? Is there something I'm missing?

On Step 5, do I basically just put in an amount that equals the difference between what drained from Step 4 and my total? (I'm pretty sure this is what Orfy states in his sticky). Also, does the amount I heat for Step 2 include the amount I will need for Step 5?
I echo your thoughts in that last paragraph. Sparging generally equals the difference between the first runnings that you've drained into your boil kettle and the volume you want to have pre-boil. If you drain 2 gallons of first runnings and it stops, and you want 7 gallons pre-boil, then it is safe to assume you will need to sparge with 5 gallons at some point. Sparging twice, sparging once, fly sparging...it's all do-able.

Mash thickness is often specified at 1.25qt/lb grain. In some cases, it is thicker than that, such as if you are making a high gravity beer and you don't have enough room in your mash tun after accounting for all of the grains. In other cases, it needs to be thinner than that, such as if you're doing a decoction mash.
 

helibrewer

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Consider acidifying your sparge water with Lactic Acid....your LHBS should have it, I think it's around 88% and you use about 2 tsp in 5 gallons....the pH is far more significant in tannin extraction than temp....remember that in decoction mashing a portion of the grist is boiled...nobody talks about tannins there, right?? It's all about the pH.
 

kapbrew13

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If you have an android phone, brewzor calc is good for figuring out strike water temp, water amounts, etc.
 
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grimstuff

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Thanks for the responses! The light has turned on and it's become much clearer for me. The brew365 calculator makes it much more simple. I've got all the little things down, like stirring the mash, preheating the tun, vorlaufing, etc... it was mainly just figuring out the mash and sparge water amounts and reconciling that with batch size. Also figured out the double-sparge method for high gravity beers for greater efficiency.

A couple more questions: I came across some recipes that say "75% efficiency assumed." Is 75% like the standard for a good efficiency? With anything above that being better? Or is it no more no less?

Second, I read here and there about oxidizing the wort, with Palmer saying not to splash the wort at any time, pretty much, except just prior to pitching. But i watch videos of people doing their lautering and none of them seem to be too concerned. Is it as big of a deal that Palmer suggests? Or is it one of those hyper-precautions?
 

kapbrew13

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Start with 75 but that number will change as you do more batches. You can calculate your true efficiency after a few batches. I started with 75 but hit closer to 82. Oh well, more abv :)
 

1Mainebrew

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Oxidation is really only a concern if you are introducing lots of o2 after fermentation has gotten underway.
 
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