I have often had many different people approach me who are interested in All Grain Brewing, but are scared that it is too complicated, expensive and time consuming for them to actually do it. So I put together a very simple tutorial here that is meant to show beginners just how easy and simple All Grain Brewing can be. I am assuming in this tutorial that you have at least done some basic kit brewing, if not sign up for our Complete Beginners Guide To Brewing right here to get started.
First, Some Terms You Will Need To Know:
- Mash: Hot water and milled grains, this is where starches are converted into sugars.
- Mash Ton: A vessel to Steep your mash, usually has a false bottom to filter the sugar water from the grains.
- Striking Water: Hot water used to heat you mash it its steeping temperature.
- Steeping: Soaking your grains in hot water.
- Lautering: The entire process of removing the sugar water from the grains.
- Sparging: To rinse any wart left on the grains after the mash.
- First find a recipe that sounds good either online or ask us for one if you need some direction. Most all grain recipes will give you a mash temp and duration, how much of what grains and ingredients to use, boiling durations and hop addition times. Starting with a recipe makes it much easier for your first all grain because it gives you a good starting point. If you want to you can change out parts of the recipe to add different flavors or keep it the same .Then once you have your ingredients you’re ready to go.
- You will need to steep your grains in your Mash Ton at some temperature between 150-158 F (similar to extract) for one hour. Check your recipe and if it doesn’t mention a steeping temp aim for the middle around 155F
- To reach this temperature you start with striking water in you mash ton. This water should be 10-15 degrees more than your steeping temp to allow for heat loss when adding the grain. As far as how much water, you usually add about 1-1.5 liters of striking water per pound of grains. Add the striking water first then the grain to your mash ton.
- Check your temperature and add cold or hot water to achieve the required steeping temp and shut the cooler. If you live in a colder temperature area, you may want to cover with blankets to keep more heat in. Let the mash steep for one hour.
- After the hour you will now extract the sugary water you just made in the mash ton. This process is called Lautering.
- Before you start emptying this into you brew pot. You need to add some more water or sparging water. Pre heat the sparging water to 175 degrees and add it as soon as the mash is done steeping. This can be trickled uniformly with a porous pipe system (not necessary) or poured slowly on the top with a ladle or pitcher. Remember in this step you are trying to “rinse” the sugars off the grains. Again these are different schools of thought.
- You want to reach a boiling volume of roughly 6-7 gallons. So figure how much striking water you added to your mash ton and subtract that from 6.5 gallons or 1.5 to 2 times as much striking water will get you close. Some recommend adding half or none of the sparging water now and topping off you brew pot to the 6.5 gallon later but the goal is to make your mash liquid enough so that it’s easy to extract the fluid thus rinsing the sugars from the grains.
- When pouring the first liquid out or “first running’s”, collect the liquid in a pitcher until it is running clear. The purpose of this is to keep the grains out of your brew. Pour that right back in the mash ton gently as the purpose is to get the grain bed settled so no more debris comes out in the liquid. Once you have clear liquid running, start to collect it in your brew kettle.
- Top of your brew kettle to 6.5 gallons to allow for evaporation during the boil and you are back in familiar territory of extract brewing other than the larger volume. Add your hops and other ingredients just like when extract brewing. The only difference is since you will be left with the entire volume you intend to ferment, you cannot use cold water adding or adding ice to cool the brew. This is where the cooling coils come into play. Submerge your cooling coil and run cold tap water through your beer to cool it. Poor it into your fermenter when cooled, pitch your yeast at the proper temp and that’s it! Everything else is the same.
You are now an all grain brewer!
Now to say that is a comprehensive guide to brewing all grain is a major overstatement. This is about as basic as you can get. The draw to all grain brewing is to have more control of your brew. As your do more and more all grain brews you can start to work in the more complicated techniques and measurements to aid you in making the beer. There are hundreds of ways to Mash your grains differently hitting different temperatures to allow for specific enzymes to be released from the grains. There are many schools of thought on sparging the grains. The variations are endless and every step is customizable. This might not be the best or easiest way to do it but it’s a place to start when trying to brew all grain. All grain is a learning process, ask us and ask your fellow brewers for tips and help along the way!