Beginning All-Grain Q's

Brewing processes and methods. How to brew using extract, partial or all-grain. Tips and tricks.

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Beginning All-Grain Q's

Postby Liquid Blur » Thu Dec 05, 2002 6:02 pm

Hey Guys,
After having gotten my feet wet with extract brewing, I'm feeling quite confident in brewing. I have a little bit of money saved up for the extra brewing equipment and I'm really feeling that I want to jump into all-grain. I've read the sections in all-grain on www.howtobrew.com and it doesn't seem that hard. The question I have is what should I be expecting when going all grain. What is a good first brew. Is it hard to keep the sparge water and the draining from the mash tun at the right rate so that i have about an inch of water above the grain. Also at what rate should I sparge? How long should it take? If I have a 5 gallon rubbermade cooler how much of that would the grain take up for a typical batch of beer. I'm just trying to picture it in my head. You've probally heard this one before. One picture is worth a thousand words. I've seen many books but can anyone recommend a VHS tape that shows the all-grain brewing posess? Anyway, thanks for the help guys. LB
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Right on

Postby jayhawk » Thu Dec 05, 2002 7:00 pm

I am no expert, and you will get a lot of good advice from others here. These are just a couple of things I picked up over the last few months. I had a hell of a time sparging my first all grain a few months ago. I now use the batch sparge technique (details in the archives). This seems to me to be the easiest way. One day when I have a sweet home brewery I will probably get in to the proper sparging technique, but for now this method is working well. When sparging, it is imperative that you start the runoff as slow as possible. I did not heed this advice the first few times and paid with poor extraction. Sparging can take from 30-60+ mins depending on your system. Stirring the mash periodically has also improved my effeciency. Also, get a good thermometer. I have been suffering with slow, innacurate thermos and I am hoping Santa will drop a digital one under the tree.

All grain is the way to go. Good luck
Chris
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And You're Off!

Postby Gravity Thrills » Thu Dec 05, 2002 9:07 pm

I must have been the slow kid (short bus?) when I started out brewing, because I did at least 30 extract and steeped grain batches before even trying a partial mash. I had done at least 50 extract brews before trying all grain. To be fair (to the short bus kid), when I started brewing in 1987, there was nowhere near the resource base a new brewer has now. Papazian's first book was about all I had for the first couple of years and I didn't know any other home brewers besides for my college dorm mates who were fumbling along with me. I'm sure I would be a little more adventurous if I was just getting into brewing now.

That said, if you're ready to make the switch, then go for it. Here's my 2 cents, meant to inform and not disuade:

1) If you do not yet have positive temperature control over your fermentations (e.g., a dedicated spare fridge with a Johnson-style external controller), I would address this need before spending bucks on mashing equipment. A fermentation temperature just a few degrees above the optimum can make a big difference in your beer, and your considerable efforts at all-grain brewing won't yield the best possible brews.

2) If your yeast ranching skills are not yet at the stage where you are really comfortable using liquid yeasts and managing starter cultures, I would hone those skills over a few more extract brew sessions. (a good of thumb is to not do too many new things in a single brew session, since you will have a hard time deciding what the specific effect of each change in the process was on the finished beer).

3) If you have not done at least one partial mash brew, definitely do this before attempting full mash. You will get a feel for hitting the right strike temperatures, maintaining mash temperature, checking and adjusting pH, checking starch conversion, doing a mini-sparge, etc. If your mash efficiency on a partial mash brew is poor, you have only lost a small portion of your total fermentables. Throw a 1 pound kicker of extract and try to do it a little better next time.

4) Be aware that small-scale beginner mashing setups are usually messy and frustrating. This may be the first time you have ever had to boil 6-7 gallons of wort, and if you're doing it on the stovetop it can be challenging. You'll also have to use a chiller (maybe you already do) to cool that whole volume, rather than just adding cool water to the concentrated wort of an extract boil. A lot of would be all-grainers get fed up if they are still stuck in the kitchen, but the alternative of buying larger equipment is foolish until you have done a few novice mashes to see if you really like it. Be aware that a 2 hour extract brew session will turn into a 6+ our brew day when you commit to all grain.

2) If your first all grain brew is an American ale, Steely Dan's "Can't Buy a Thrill" or Todd Rundgren's "Something/Anything" album, er... CD should be playing loudly on the stereo (did I just age myself?). If you are going British, Jethro Tull's "Songs From the Wood," Elton John's "Tumbleweed Connection," or anything by the REAL Genesis (Peter Gabriel variety) will suffice.

For a first all grain recipe, I would say keep it simple and stick with a good old American pale ale. 2-row pale malt, maybe a pound of 10-20L crystal, perle or chinook hops in the boil (go easy if you use the latter, it packs a punch), scads of cascades for flavor and aroma, aerate completely and pitch a healthy starter of that old workhorse, the always reliable Wyeast #1056. Most importantly, try not to drink it all in the first week when you realize what an awesome beer you just brewed :-)

Good Luck. RDWHAHB. And, as always... Brew it Like You Mean It!
Jim
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Jim hit most of the high spots...

Postby Brewer2001 » Thu Dec 05, 2002 9:53 pm

LB,

DO NOT LET THESE POINTS STOP YOU. I don't think you need to get the frige yet,if you can control the temperature (within reason). I am still working out the temperature issue. I brew in the fall,winter and spring (just like craft brewers did for centuries).

That said, you do need to have a good grasp on fermentation, yeast pitching requirements and a recipe that you are familiar with (I converted my Irish Red from extract to partial to all grain). I do not agree with Jay on stirring the mash once the 'bed is set'. The grain bed becomes the filter that the wort is drawn through as you recirculate (Vorlauf)and sparge. Build a good layer of foundation water in your mash tun (at strike temperature) and add grain slowly while mixing. I use a bucket (5 gal.) with a tap and a hose as my hot liquor tank and add water while mixing. Add the malt to the water and get it wet. Don't make dough balls!

Vorlauf until the wort clears, this will help get you clear beer/ale. Start run off fast to clear the plumbing then back it down a bit. The main thing is to keep the bed covered and balance the run off with the amount sparge water added. The run off keeps the fluid pressure on the bed and helps to prevent channeling (this becomes a bigger problem the larger the tun or the thicker the mash). Watch your temperatures, volumes and pH levels. Can you boil all of your collected wort? You may get by one a partial boil with a water addition (like extract) for now. Experiment!

Good brewing,

Tom F.
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You're right, it isn't hard!

Postby Push Eject » Fri Dec 06, 2002 5:47 am

Good for you, LB. If you'd posted this a week earlier I would have documented last Saturday's brew for you.

Here are some pictures from one of our first all-grain batches. http://www.essersnet.com/beer02b.htm

What part of the country are you in?

Cheers!
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You drew a crowd!!

Postby Freon12 » Fri Dec 06, 2002 1:49 pm

My advice would be to design the "system" 1st and then try one. Be sure you have all of the components before starting and keep going even if you think you messed up really bad.

A wort chiller, and starter will improve the beer but not keep you from making a good one.

Ollie has a good first setup, he shows that you need three levels to make it work.
(although I would put the drain hose in the wort as to not gain O2 going to the boil kettle).

The beer grains don't have to be simple either because once they are milled, it's there. I would not make a large beer, maybe 1.050 and lower.

An ale perhaps, and ferment at room temp. "how to brew" should give an idea of process steps, so make a "brew form" to follow while you go. And never mind about Gravity, he's tone deaf, it must at least be Ozzy if not Soundgarden.

And please use an air pump with filter and stainless stone.(we'll talk stirer later)


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A great brew form

Postby Push Eject » Fri Dec 06, 2002 2:36 pm

Here's one I stole from fellow brewer and Drinking Song God, Stu Venable: http://brewing.happyjacks.org.

Go to "articles" and get the flowchart.

Cheers!
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Huh, Sonny...?

Postby Gravity Thrills » Fri Dec 06, 2002 7:57 pm

You kids and your loud music!

I didn't think Mr. Freon had the words "ferment at room temperature" in his glycol-chilled vocabulary :-)

Watch out, Ozzy music will definitely make your beer come out a little heavy...

Goin' after the ales on a crazy train.
Jim
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Colorado

Postby Liquid Blur » Fri Dec 06, 2002 10:49 pm

I'm in colorado right now but for how long I don't know. I'm in the military for two more years and there's really no telling where I'll be. :) When I first started reading about homebrew and watching this forum I was in Saudi Arabia. Thanks for the pictures BTW.
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Thanks.

Postby Liquid Blur » Fri Dec 06, 2002 10:52 pm

Woah, I would have never expected so much advice from so many seemingly knowledgable people. Thankyou. I'll take what you guys have said into consideration. Maybe I'll try a partial mash before jumping into all-grain. As for the fridge, I already have a spare one in the basement. It's just waiting for a lager. :) Anyway thanks a bunch for all of the info. I've been reading just about everything I can get my hands on. I figure that is a good start. Take it easy guys.
~From your friendly underaged brewer. LB
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