Moving to All Grain
After you have some experience with Extract Brewing, you will inevitably find yourself wanting to make the move to All Grain. While the all grain brewing process does take 1-2 hours longer (for the Mashing and Sparging processes, it offers a much wider range of ingredients and better control over the brewing process. This article details some of the items you need to consider when moving from extract brewing to all grain brewing.
All grain brewing does involve an added investment in equipment. Here I assume you already have a 5 gallon fermenter, racking and bottling equipment but probably lack some of the items below:
- Large Boil Pot - For all grain brewing you will need to boil the full size of your brew (usually 5 gallons) plus a gallon or so additional wort that will boil off during your 60-90 minute boil. In addition you need some space at the top to avoid boil-over. We recommend at least an 8 gallon pot for a 5 gallon batch size, or 14 gallon pot for a 10 gallon batch. In addition you will need a second pot equal to your batch size that you can use to heat water for sparging.
- Outdoor Propane Burner - While it is possible to heat your huge pot over several burners on a stove, it can be quite dangerous moving large amounts of wort around and it also takes a very long time. A high BTU propane burner is relatively cheap and will boil your wort quickly in the driveway or on the back patio with less mess. Don't use it in an enclosed area however!
- Gott Style Cooler - A water cooler makes the best Mash Tun for most homebrewers. A 5 gallon cooler can easily be converted to serve as a mash tun and lauter tun - and the insulation will make it very easy to do an infusion Mash. See the Mash Tun link for details on how to add a false bottom to your cooler.
- An Immersion Chiller - While not strictly needed, it does take a very long time to cool 5+ gallons of boiling wort without a chiller. Cooling your beer quickly reduces the risk of infection and also helps many undesirable proteins and tannins to fall out of the beer before ferementation.
The All Grain Process
All grain brewing starts with the Mashing process. All of your grains are crushed first, and the crushed grains are placed in your Mash Tun. Hot water is then added to the mash tun to raise the temperature of the mixture to between 148F and 158F. Typically water is mixed with grains at a rate of approximately 1.25-1.5 quarts per pound of grain. The temperature and amount of water for the infusion can be calculated using a tool such as BeerSmith. You then cover your mash tun and leave the mash for 45-60 minutes. During this time, complex sugars are broken down into simple sugars that yeast can easily consume. One typically stirs the mash every 10-15 minutes to prevent hot spots from developing in the cooler.
In the next step, called Sparging, hot water is added to the top of your mash tun and drained through the false bottom into your boiler. It takes time to extract the sugars from the grains, so don't rush this process. I usually allot at least 20-30 minutes to fully sparge the mash tun and extract about 6 gallons of wort for a 5 gallon batch.
Once you have the hot wort extracted, the rest of the process of Boilling, Cooling and Fermenting the wort is the same as it would be for an extract brew. There are only two differences. First, you will use less hops during the boil because your wort is not as concentrated - meaning that more bitterness is extracted from the same amount of hops. The best way to account for this is to use some brewing software such as BeerSmith to calculate the bitterness of your brew and adjust your hops accordingly. The second obvious change is that you are boiling a much larger amount of wort, and need to be cautious when handling large heavy pots and also need a good cooling system to cool the wort as quickly as possible. However, the rest of the brewing process is just as it was with extract brewing.
The process can be a little messy the first time, but remember it gets much easier after a few batches! Good luck and happy brewing!