This guide is written for would be All Grain brewers to see what is involved in a basic all grain brewing session. It is not meant to be a tutorial but just an overview of what is involved. Please check out the All Grain Equipment page.
A recipe at it's simplest will have, water, malt, hops and yeast. Most beers will have a base malt and at least one one speciality malt. The hops used will usually be added in 3 stages for bittering, flavouring and aroma. Other adjuncts can also be added.
The use of grain in this process puts the home brewer as close to commercial beer as one can get. One usually uses 5-15 pounds of grain for one 5 gallon batch. This grain must be milled so that the kernel is broken up but leaving the husk as intact as possible. Hop utilization will be greater when doing a full boil so the use of less hops in the recipe is recommended. A yeast starter is suggested to be made 1-4 days in advance to provide a quick fermentation. If brewing for a particular style the brewer might adjust the water to match that of a famous area from which the style is brewed.
After heating the water to the correct temperature, the brewer mixes the grain and water in a specific ratio ranging from 1-2qt/lb of grain. Be sure not to aerate the water to much, hot side aeration can occur at any point the water is above 100F. After checking that the mix is at the require temperature the brewer lets the mix mash for a dedicated period, an hour being fairly standard.
After the mash is complete the brewer must "rinse" the grains of the sugars. This is done by sparging the grains, there are two common methods of sparging, batch and fly. Fly sparging is the letting out of the water from the bottom slowly and the adding of 170F water from the top at the same rate. Batch sparging is the draining of the mash/lauter tun as quick as possible and then adding more water, mixing, let it settle and drain again.
After sparging the collected mixture (now known as wort)is brought up to a boil where hops are added at the prescribed rate and times. During this period the wort will be condensed to make the desired amount of beer.
Cooling 5 gallons of boiling wort to 70F is no small task since this is to be done as quick as possible. The use of a wort chiller is recommended to lower the temperature quickly. Since the generation of DMS occurs above 150F dropping the temp past this point is of importance.
Once the wort is at 70F you may transfer to the fermenter. Aerating the wort at this point is highly recommended to raise the amount of oxygen in the wort. After aerating pitch the yeast in to the wort.