If you are just getting started in homebrewing, I would suggest starting off with a few extract batches just to learn the ropes and get the process down before jumping into all grain brewing. Brewers have different time tables for moving from extract to all grain, some never move to all grain. This is fine, you can make some excellent beers by using extract, but if you want the ultimate in control over your finished product, then all grain is the way to go. Prices for getting a new all grain set up vary depending on what parts you have or want to have in your setup. You can expect to spend approximately $100.00 - $300.00
The equipment: If you have done extract brewing, then you already have most of this.
Primary fermentation bucket with lid
Secondary fermentation vessel (carboy) - usually 5 gallons and made of glass
Airlock to let carbon dioxide out and keep air from getting it
Racking cane and tubing
Ingredient kit or custom ingredients (Needed for each brew.)
Additional equipment for the all grain experience:
Brew kettle preferably 7.5 gallons or more
Mash tun with false bottom
Hot liquor tank
Mash paddle or long spoon
Various lenghts of tubing
Connectors for connecting tubing to hot liquor tank and boil kettle
Sparge device (could be a sparge arm device or a simple pie tin with holes punched in it)
Wort chiller and hoses
Propane burner (70,000+ BTUs) and tank
First of all SANITIZE everything that comes in contact with the beer. Things cannot be too clean. There are commercial sanitizers and cleaners available, but I find it cheaper to use unscented household bleach. Soak all items in hot water and bleach for 30 minutes. For 5 gallons of water, use 3-4 ounces of bleach. Rinse well, until you can no longer smell the bleach on the equipment. Note: If you have sensitive hands, you may want to use gloves while working with bleach, as it can dry your hands out and make them split - not comfortable at all.
You should have an ingredient kit or recipe and all of its components including the malt, grains, hops, and yeast. There may be instructions with the kit. If there are follow them. The below is provided as a guide to get an idea of what all grain brewing entails. Note: These are instructions for brewing ales, lagers are done at different temperatures, but it is the procedure that is the focus here. It is a good idea to keep notes as you brew, for future reference.
The mash is the enzymatic process of converting starches to sugars. This by holding the temperatures between 148°F and 158°F for approximately 45 - 60 minutes. This has been debated, with some people claiming as few as 20 minutes are sufficient.
First, you need to figure out how much water you are going to need in the mash tun. Depending on who you ask, this amount varies from .9 quarts/pound of grain to 1.2 quarts/lb. It can be more or less, but this is the typical range. To calculate how many gallons you need you can use this formula. For simplicity we will use 1 quart/lb.
Number of gallons of water needed = # of lbs of grain x 1 quart / 4
Now obtain the proper amount of water, be it filtered, distilled, reverse osmosis or what have you. You can test the pH of the water if you do not know what it is (ask your local water department if they can provide you with a breakdown of the mineral content of your tap water) and then add various minerals to recreate the water from the region where the beer was originally brewed. This step is not necessary, but if you want to get as close as possible to the classic style, it is recommended. Water chemistry is beyond the scope of this document, but you may read up on this in George Fix's book An Analysis of Brewing Techniques.
Heat your water. By using different temperatures in the mash you can alter the body and taste of the final product. A temperature of 148-152°F you will end up with a drier beer and with a temperature of 154-158°F you will have a more malty beer with more viscosity. Remember that when you add the grain, the temperature will drop due to the grain being cooler than the water - so take this into account.
Dough in - Stir in grain to the heated water slowly to even the temperature and lessen the chance of creating dough balls - or clumps of grain that do not get even amounts of water. Continue to stir the mixture after the grain has been added for several minutes. Put the lid back on the container to keep the heat in and let it sit for the desired amount of time. I recommend 60 minutes. If your temperature drops too low you can add some hot water to kick it back up.
When the allotted time is up it is now time to sparge - or rinse out the sugars from the grain/mash.
A task you should do before the sparge is recirculating the run off (the wort coming from the mash tun). This helps clear the wort - the clearer it is now - the less it will have to clear later. Take a pitcher and open the spigot and fill the pitcher with wort. Dump this back into the mash tun. Repeat this until the run off is clear or close to it.
Let us prepare to sparge. You should calculate the amount of water you need to complete the sparge process - approximately 1/2 gallon of water for every pound of grain in the mash. Heat the sparge water to 170°F. This is the proper temperature to dissolve the sugars but not extract excess tannins from the grain. Also, the pH of the sparge water should be 5.5 - 6.5 to help keep the grain husk tannins from being absorbed into solution and finding their way to the boil kettle. Add this water to the hot liquor tank (HLT).
OK... now it's sparge time. Whatever method you use, the object is to sprinkle water from the hot liquor tank on to grain bed of the mash tun to rinse the sugars out and into the boil kettle. This process should take 45-60 minutes to allow the sugars dissolve into solution. In this example we will use a sparge arm attached via a hose from the HLT. Open the spigot on the hot liquor tank slightly to start the flow. Attach a hose from the mash tun into the boil kettle and open the valve slightly. The output should match the input from the HTL. Keep about 2 inches of water on top of the grain bed to prevent the water from just running through.
Once you have 1 or 2 gallons of wort over the level you want to end up with you can start the boil adding any hops or other ingredients in the recipe as called for. From here on, just continue as you would with an extract batch. Follow the recipe directions for the boil. Then add the wort chiller to the boil with about 20 minutes left - be careful of any water that may come out of the chiller as it will be hot. When the boil is over, chill the wort to 70 - 75 degrees, get the wort into a sanitized fermenter, aerate and then pitch your yeast.
Congratulations, you have brewed an all grain batch of beer. There is a lot of room for customization in all grain brewing, experiment, bend the rules, and brew on.
Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of their country and ....BREW MORE BEER!
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"You're all wanking sissies if you even think about using a grain mill, teeth, or ball-peen hammer. A real brewer uses 17 vestal virgins stomping on the grain in a large wooden vat. And yeast is for losers. True brewers just dip one end of their dog into the wort to get things going." -- Drew Avis