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basic all grain brewing

november 2008

This article is designed for those who either have no experience in brewing and want to start off in all grain brewing, or those with some experience, and are ready to make the move.

All grain brewing requires extra equipment, such as a mash tun, and large brew pots. An an example, for a 5 gallon all grain batch, your mash tush should hold at least 32 quarts (8 gallons), but more is better. You can actually use something smaller than 32 quarts, but you will be unable to make even moderate batches, therefore, a 48 quart mash tun or larger is best.

Your brew pot should be at least 6 gallons, but 7 is better. Multiple brew pots are fine, as long as they total the amount you need. In addition, a pot to hold striking water and sparging water (sparge tanks are called hot liquor tanks) is necessary, however, if you only have one pot, that will work because all of this water is not needed at once. Watch the videos under the all grain section to see how this was accomplished.

Here is a brief, lightly detailed instruction set on how to brew your first all grain batch. This is assuming you already have the grain, equipment, and everything is ready to go.

1. For striking water, calculate the number of pounds of grain you have and multiply this by 32, which is one quart. For example: 11 pounds x 32 = 352 ounces, divide that by 128 for gallons, which is 2.75, so you will need almost 3 gallons of water. Tap water is fine as long as it is drinking quality.

2. Pour that water into your pot and turn on the heat. We will mash (mix) in the grain and water later at 150F, so you are going to want this water to be between 15-20F over 150F, so let's go to 170F to be safe. 150F is not the only acceptable temperature, but the point of this article is not to cover all possibilities.

3. Once the water is heated, your mash tun should be clean, sanitized, empty, and ready to go.

4. We need 1 quart of water per 1 pound of grain, so you should pre-heat your mash tun with some of that water. Since we need 11 quarts, using 7 or 8 should be sufficient. The purpose of this is because the grain is at room temperature, and we need to heat it up to 150F as quick as possible.

5. Pour in all of the grain now. Take a long handled spoon or paddle and mix the grain and water very well. Mix the sides, bottom, everything. Keep at this for 30 seconds to 1 minute. The grain is probably not completely covered. You should still have 3 or 4 quarts left. Pour in a couple quarts, stir thoroughly, and check the temperature. Is it close to 150F? If too hot, pour in a little bit of cold water (a cup or less), mix, and check again. Too cold? Pour in another quart of hot water. Keep using this trick until you get the temperature as close to 150F, within a few degrees. If you can not get 150F exactly, that is fine. 147F or 153 is fine.

6. Close up the mash tun and set the clock for one hour.

7. Time to heat the sparge water now. This is used for rinsing the sugars out of the mash tun at the end of the hour. So you take a half gallon (64 oz) and multiply by the pounds of grain, in this case, 64 x 11 = 704 oz, divide by 128 (one gallon) = 5.5 gallons. But an easier method is to simply divide the pounds of grain in half, which gives you the same amount. Much faster. So heat 5.5 gallons of water to between 168F and 170F, but not much over that.

8. When the hour is up, open the mash tun, and place something over or onto the grain bed to keep water from splashing it as much as possible. A strainer, dish flipped over, foil across the top with holes on it, anything that works. It doesn't have to look pretty. Now take some of that water and slowly, gently pour it into the mash tun and build up a 2-3" bed of water.

9. Open the valve or tap on the mash tun and be sure to have something the sugar water will be caught with. I use another pot. Barely open the valve so the water slowly pours out. Do not open it all the way and let wash rush out.

10. Pour some of the sparge water slowly and evenly into the mash tun, going in about the same speed as it comes out. When you have about 1 gallon collected, shut off the valve, and pour that water back into the mash tun, which recirculates it . Now open the valve, and continue pouring the sparge water back in, using all of it. Make sure you do this whole process slowly.

11. Once you have used up all 5.5 gallons of water, be sure to have collected at least 6 gallons from the mash tun, although if you can get 7, that is better. This is because when you boil soon, you will lose some to evaporation, and if you only collect 5 gallons, you might only have 4 after boil.

12. Pour your 6 (or so) gallons of sugar water into your boiling pot, and bring it to a full, rolling boil as quick as possible. Do not cover the lid, or if you must to get a boil, then no more than half.

13. Set the clock for 1 hour. This is a reversed time scale, from 60 down to 0. Follow the recipe guidelines and add your hops, irish moss, or anything else called for at the specified times. For example, if the recipe calls for a hop at 15 minutes, that means 15 minutes from the end of the boil, NOT from the start.

14. When the hour is up, turn off the flame, and place the pot into a sink or bath tub full of cold water, preferably with some ice. Get the temperature down to 80F or less as quick as possible. The faster you cool it, the less chance of risk of infection.

15. Rack (siphon) your beer into the fermenter and add yeast. Put on the airlock, and let science happen for the next few weeks. I should let all readers know that this is very brief, and a number of details have been left out on purpose.

By writing this article, I want to show a quick method of getting into all grain brewing. Should you decide to go through with it, I highly recommend watching the videos here to get more detailed information. A number of detailed were removed in order to get the critical steps listed.