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Thoughts on newbie going straight to AG

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daholl01

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Hey Everyone,

I am new to homebrewing and am contemplating going straight to AG brewing, skipping extract and mini mash.

The thing is, I love beer. I enjoy the many different styles of beer as well as sampling beer from various craft brewers/micro brews. I also do quite a bit of entertaining and have a bunch of friends to drink with that also enjoy good beers as well. Basically I think this is a good hobby for me.

While I have been out of the country for about the past 5 months or so, I had the opportunity to follow this forum quite a bit, and I also have read "How to Brew" cover to cover, so I have a good understanding the AG brewing process.

The way I look at it, for the cost of a couple extract kits, I would be able to add all the necessary equipment to a starter kit to be able to go AG. Any reason why I shouldn't?
 

Soulive

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Other than possibly biting off more than you can chew, I say do it! In retrospect, if I had the money and foresight I would've gone straight to AG. Extract brewing is good for learning the basics of brewing and sanitation procedures. If you're not into baby steps, then go for it!
 

c.n.budz

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The price increase for equpment is more than the cost of a couple extract kits. If money isn't a huge concern I say go for it, you may make some mistakes but you'll learn from them and you can always get ask questions here if you run into a problem.
 

cd2448

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If I knew then what I know now - I'd probably have gone straight to all grain. Certainly there is quite a bit of extra stuff required (and if you are putting equipment together, my advice would be to think about 10gallon batches from the start - a lot of people who scale for 5gallons end up upgrading later on) - likely to treble or quadruple the cost of your basic kit, at least.

One thing to consider, though - it takes a lot longer to brew AG - from what I read here probably 6+ hrs is a reasonable brew time for a 10gallon batch. I'd probably struggle to allocate whole days to brewing so partial mash is probably as far as I'm going for a while (at least till it gets warmer outside!!).
 

ohiobrewtus

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If you have the money and you're willing to learn as you go then I also say go for it. You can get a basic setup without too much of an investment.

It's a few months AFTER you start doing AG that you blow your budget on new brewing toys. :rockin:
 

Dr Vorlauf

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cd2448 said:
If I knew then what I know now - I'd probably have gone straight to all grain.
+1

Also once you go all grain there is nothing to stop you from trying out extracts and PMs with the same equipment ( as you will already have it ). If your going to go for it you may as well also go large. If it were me Id want to be able to deliver 12 gallons of wort to 2 fermenters at the end of my brew day. Can always experiment with smaller batches but once you find a session brew... well it goes too fast.
 

WBC

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Go for it. It's just not that hard. It's a great hobby. I just love the beer I make and I can make what I like cheap once I had the equipment. Don't bottle either, just go strait to the keg and tap. It is way easier.
 

jdoiv

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If you have the money and time, go for it. It also helps if you done any kind of cooking before. I think experience in baking is really relevant. You have to be precise when you bake and you have to understand things like leavening. If you can do that, you can do AG with no problem. It's a fun hobby that you can constantly grow in. Always something to learn or try.
 

menschmaschine

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I'd agree with everything posted in response so far... except for the kegging. Yeah, if you have the money for it all, go for it, but kegging could add a lot to your set-up costs and I'm one of those that thinks bottling isn't so bad.:) I started right off with AG. I've never brewed any other way and every batch (inclucing my first) has been good. HowtoBrew.com and this forum were pretty much my mentors. The only bit of advice I can give is to be patient, don't get discouraged if something doesn't seem to go right, and really try to understand WHY you're doing each step... not just that you're doing it. For my first batch, I wrote out a step-by-step procedure of what I was doing and I had done a lot of research to understand why I was doing each step. It actually went pretty smooth and was a very rewarding day. Start off with a tried and true recipe with a simple mash schedule. If you're thinking of going right into AG, you're probably the kind of person that likes to do things right the first time (nothing against extract and PM!), so apply this same principal to your set-up. You'll save money in the long-run. Go for it!:mug:
 

Lil' Sparky

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I started out AG. I had a buddy who had been brewing for many years show me the ropes. I think it was a great help putting what I had read with what I was doing. Where are you at? I bet there's another brewer close by that would be willing to help get you going. If not, I'd say the reading you've been doing is probably enough to get you through.
 

Jekster

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I say go for it. I started off and did three extract batches before I moved to all grain. The quality of all my AG batches was far better and it really isn't that much more complicated. I would however say you should look around on this site and find some of Yuri's videos on the AG process or simply go watch a fellow home brewer at work. it really helps to see the process in action.

Cheers and good luck!
 
OP
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daholl01

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Wow guys thanks for the encouragement, I think I am going to go straight for AG within the next couple weeks.

c.n.budz said:
The price increase for equpment is more than the cost of a couple extract kits.
Yeah, you are right, I guess I was trying to make convince myself. I probably would not splurge for a mill right off the bat, but I think I could probably upgrade for about $100 (turkey fryer kit and cooler MLT plus some other odds and ends). Its just that if I started spending money on doing extract kits it would be harder for me to justify another $100 investment in order to do AG.

WBC said:
Don't bottle either, just go strait to the keg and tap. It is way easier.
Unfortunately, I don't think kegging is going to work in the budget right off the bat. Everyone seems to agree with you that kegging is much easier, and I do hope to get into kegging but thats a little lower on my priority list. I also scored enough Grolsch bottles to bottle two 5 gal batches for only $10 so I will go with that at first.

Thanks for all the input.
 

DUCCCC

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cd2448 said:
...
One thing to consider, though - it takes a lot longer to brew AG - from what I read here probably 6+ hrs is a reasonable brew time for a 10gallon batch...
This should not be overlooked. I know that I don't get that much free time, with a wife and two toddlers in the house. I get 2 hours at most for brew sessions, and even then I have to keep everything up off the floor and well out of reach of everyone (yes, even the wife sometimes:) ).

If you've got:
1)$$$ to get all the AG equipment
2)Decent sized area to brew in
3)NO kids, or at least older ones that are less likely to goof with your stuff
4)Plenty of free time
5)A desire to make me jealous of your having 1-4

Then I'd say you're all set to go straight to AG!
 

BierMuncher

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All grain brewing is insanely easy...once the vail of mystery is removed.

I think switching off a few early extract brews for some all grain equipment is a wise decision.
 

Mutilated1

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You might as well go for it. Thats what the local home brew shop tried to tell me when I went to buy my first few kits. I ended up deciding to work my way up from extract batches till I got comfortable and then do all grain, but in hindsight All-Grain is not any more difficult, and its a lot of fun.

I understand totally the idea of being hesitant to start with all-grain right off the bat, but in all seriousness its nothing to be concerned about. You might as well just go for it.
 

cd2448

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Lil' Sparky said:
Also, if you haven't already, check out Bobby's videos, Orfy's pics, and this walkthrough.
+1 on this. someone else also mentioned going along to see how it's done at a local brew day. i went to up to Bobby_M's just after i got started and seeing someone else step thru the process is going to save you a lot of time and maybe the odd ruined batch as you're learning.

bottling: i don't have a problem with it. a lot of my beer gets consumed elsewhere, so it'd be tough if it was all in kegs. like seeing in the new year with a good few holiday ales, wouldn't be so easy if i'd had to wheel a keg into the BYO restaurant!
 

Nate

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Our first time brewing was all grain on the system that we built. Go for it...
 

mr x

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I went directly to AG and kegging and am happy that I did. Not hard at all if you do a bit of reading and plan your first brew out good.
 

BrianP

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I also started out doing AG. My first batch turned out great.

Like you, I did lots of lurking on this site, read the online howtobrew, etc.

If you've got the equipment, have the process figured out, there's no reason not to go for it.

The only thing I would have done differently has invested in a keggle or other larger brew kettle. My 30 qt alum kettle can alway used as a HLT, so no harm no foul.

Good luck with your first brew.
 
OP
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daholl01

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ma2brew said:
This should not be overlooked. I know that I don't get that much free time, with a wife and two toddlers in the house. I get 2 hours at most for brew sessions, and even then I have to keep everything up off the floor and well out of reach of everyone (yes, even the wife sometimes:) ).

If you've got:
1)$$$ to get all the AG equipment
2)Decent sized area to brew in
3)NO kids, or at least older ones that are less likely to goof with your stuff
4)Plenty of free time
5)A desire to make me jealous of your having 1-4

Then I'd say you're all set to go straight to AG!
Haha, I've actually got 1-5! Just kidding no hard feelings, but I am still a full-time student so at least 3 and 4 are givens.
 

gruntingfrog

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There's absolutely no valid reason for you not to go all-grain. It's a lot easier than it seems at first. If you're even a bit reluctant, find someone who brews all-grain and go help them with a single batch. My friend helped me with one batch and by the second batch he had the basic process down.
 

korndog

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Nate said:
Our first time brewing was all grain on the system that we built. Go for it...
LOL! I have seen pictures of your brewery before, and it's awesome. Who wouldn't go straight to AG if they had the skills to build that beast. Kudos.
 

rdwj

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Personally, I'm glad I did a few extract batches before moving to AG. If I had a mentor, AG would have been a nice option, but I don't see how doing some extract costs you anything. Just buy stuff with AG in mind.
 

Wables

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rdwj said:
Personally, I'm glad I did a few extract batches before moving to AG. If I had a mentor, AG would have been a nice option, but I don't see how doing some extract costs you anything. Just buy stuff with AG in mind.
+1! Luckily, I started with a 34 qt turkey fryer for my extract batches. After 3 brews I scored a 30 qt aluminum turkey fryer for $20 for a HLT and a cheap cooler and stepped up to all grain. While I no longer use the fryer pots and coolers, they got me through about 20 AG batches before I built my 3 keggle, 2 tier system, and I still use the burners, hoses, and regulators from my original turkey fryers. Much of the equipment is the same for extract and AG. If as soon as you get the equipment to do a full boil and cool your wort, do an extract batch. It will cost you, what, $8 more than an AG batch, and you can learn the process while you are building your MLT, etc.

Don't invest too much money until you figure out what your eventual set-up will look like. Do you want to do 10 gallon batches? Heavy gravity brews? Then don't invest in equipment that will only get you 1.050 5 gallon batches.
 

Sir Humpsalot

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Regardless of your brewing experience, when you start brewing AG, you may miss your temperatures a little bit until you get accustomed to it. The result of this will be a less sweet wort, leading to a drier and lower ABV beer. To get the beer where you want it, you can use DME to supplement your wort.

Or, you can leave it where it is and just have a more mild beer. That's ok too. But I suggest keeping some DME on hand. You never know when it will come in handy. Heck, just today I found myself out of priming sugar... so I used DME instead. It comes in handy.
 

abracadabra

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WOW! What a difference a year makes! When I stated on this site a little over a year ago that I was in the process of building my own equipment and planned to go AG on my first try all I got was people telling me not to do it.

Judging from the OP's initial post I'd say the best advise was posted early on saying buy equipment that will allow you to do 10 Gal. batches.
 

discgolfin

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I say go for it as well. I did extract brewing for over a year before I took the plunge. I did 2 partial mash recipes and saw an immediate change in my beer. I than realized"Why the hell am I not doing all grain?"

My advice would be find a style of beer you really enjoy, find a good easy recipe to do , and than make it until u are dead on with your technique. This will allow you to learn from your mistakes and fix them. No matter what if you plan your brew day you will make great beer..It will take time to get the temp and water volume down..that is the key..also take multiple gravity readings so if u miss your target u can pin point the mistake.

Also get a good digital themometer for gods sake..Worth every penny..

Jay
 

menschmaschine

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Sir Humpsalot said:
Regardless of your brewing experience, when you start brewing AG, you may miss your temperatures a little bit until you get accustomed to it. The result of this will be a less sweet wort, leading to a drier and lower ABV beer. To get the beer where you want it, you can use DME to supplement your wort.

Or, you can leave it where it is and just have a more mild beer. That's ok too. But I suggest keeping some DME on hand. You never know when it will come in handy. Heck, just today I found myself out of priming sugar... so I used DME instead. It comes in handy.
+1 on that. I'd set your efficiency at mid to low, like 70% for the first time. Download some brewing software. Have some DME and pre-boiled water (6-8 qts.) on hand. That way you can adjust your OG up or down with a quick software check for quantities of DME or volume of pre-boiled water.
 

TheJadedDog

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I don't see any issues going straight to AG. There are a few more pieces of a equipment to buy initially and a few more things to worry about on brew day, but it isn't really any harder than brewing Extract or PM.
 

TexLaw

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If you have the cash, the room, and the time, then there's little to hold you back from starting with AG.

One good thing about starting off with extract, though, is that you can concentrate on your boil and fermentation techniques without worrying about hitting a temperature, hitting a gravity, boiling husks, or any of the other complexities of AG brewing. Starting with extract also gives you a reference point from which you can learn. That might pay off more in the long run.


TL
 

JamesKY

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daholl01 said:
Yeah, you are right, I guess I was trying to make convince myself. I probably would not splurge for a mill right off the bat, but I think I could probably upgrade for about $100 (turkey fryer kit and cooler MLT plus some other odds and ends). Its just that if I started spending money on doing extract kits it would be harder for me to justify another $100 investment in order to do AG.
FYI, I just followed this path and here is everything that I spent to convert from extract to AG.

$50 - 10 Gallon Beverage Cooler
$25 - Miscellaneous Hardware to Convert it to a MLT
$40 - 30 Quart Turkey Fryer

I received a mash paddle, digital thermometer, and digital scale as Christmas presents but you may be able to get away without having them at first although they help a lot so you should definitely consider it. A mash paddle is practically required. I also already had a propane tank from my grill but that is something else you will need if you don't already have one.

So yes you'll spend around $100 bucks to convert to AG but don't forget the little odds and ends that will eventually add to the total cost of conversion.

*Edit*
Also, since you're starting from scratch, you'll need things like a fermentation vessel, racking cane, blowoff tube, sanitizer, etc. I guess the best thing you can do is make a list of the bare necessities that you need to get started and try to buy things that you will be able to reuse in the future. I still use my original Ale Pail for various tasks all the time like mixing sanitizing solution.
 

CBBaron

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I did two extract kits before starting AG. The extract kits were good to get me started and to learn some of the basic steps. I am learning everytime I do an AG brew. There are lots of little details that you come to understand as you brew. Its not that brewing is difficult just that it is fairly complicated with lot of variables.
I think its fine you want to jump into AG but don't expect you will produce better beers until you get a good feel for the process. It is a hands on learning process.

Craig
 

eviljafar

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Go all grain. I brewed extract for years and the difference in quality with AG makes me wish I went AG years ago. Repeating some of what was mentioned above:

-Write out the process step by step.
-Prepare what you can the night before to reduce your brew day time, eg weigh out your grain and hops, filter your water etc.
-Good sanitation of your equipment and a clean (as possible if you're brewing in the garage or outside) brewing environment is key. If you drop or sneeze on something sanitise it again.
-Always have extra water. Boiling and chilled water in case you under or overshoot your mash temp. Extra sparge water because you will run short from time to time.
-Get some software like Beersmith or Promash.
-Clean up on brew day and save youself from scrubbing off dried up stuff.
-It's the law to have a beer (or few) while brewing but don't get off your face (on your first few batches anyway).
-Use your mash time to tidy up and prepare the next steps. If you don't risk a boil over use your boil time for the same.

Cheers, Jaf.
 

abracadabra

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I have to disagree about the software. Software might be nice to have but it's by no means needed.

For your first attempt at AG you'll be much better off just trying to make a clone or using someone else's recipe.

I also disagree about drinking, better to drink your beer after you've cooled your wort.

But to each his own.
 

Boerderij_Kabouter

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In hindsight, my preferred way to get into homebrewing would have been to follow these steps:
1. Talk to an experienced homebrewer and brew on his/her souped up AG system.
2. Decide homebrewing is obviously the coolest hobby in the world.
3. Designed my system on paper, priced everything out for my dream all grain system (this will be ridiculously expensive)
4. Gone back to my experienced homebrewer friend, and asked which of those components were necessary to brew extract.
5. Purchased the necessary components.
6. Built my way to all grain heaven as the funds allowed.

If I could have done that I would have saved a bunch of money in the long run and had an even cooler system that I have now. A problem most homebrewers have is buying a kit, being unsatisfied with the equipment then upgrading. This wastes time and money, not to mention brewing with nice equipment is awesome!

I say give all grain a go.

Cheers,
Justin
 

Chriso

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From a fellow AG student, DO IT!!!

I did. My first batch was September 22 2007, All-grain from the get-go, and I love it! Honestly, if I had learned on extract, I probably would've quit brewing already.

Besides that, I don't know about YOUR lhbs, but mine is so cost-prohibitive that I couldn't AFFORD to brew extract. That would be 40 bucks or more per batch for me!
 
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