AG Kits Lacking Instruction?

We did our first All Grain batch last weekend (Dead Ringer IPA).

I noticed that the instructions don’t say anything about strike water volume and temp or sparge water volume & temp.

How is one supposed to know how much water to put into the mash and how much to sparge with? Further, how are they supposed to know what temps that water should be?

All it gave us was to mash at 152 for an hour and then our hop addition boil schedule.

How did you get it done then ?

One of our fellow forum members provided me with the info I needed.

Not trying to be a smart ass, but I assume they think you would have done some homework before diving in to AG.

You can mash with anything from 1 qt/lb to 3 qt/lb of grain. I usually use 1.5 qt/lb. You can sparge with 1/2 gal/lb of grain. These are rough figures at best though.

I would suggest also buying a brewing software program as it will help with total water volumes.

I understand that sentiment…but 1.5 - 3 qt per pound is a big variance. How is someone who’s new to AG supposed to know which end of the spectrum to use?

You’d think that NB would know their grains enough to give some general guidelines for each kit.

I’ve done A LOT of reading about all grain before we tried out a batch, and honestly, I assumed the kit would come with adequate instructions on how to brew it.

There are far too many variables for the AG instructions to have what you’re looking for. Here’s a partial list of the variables that would have to be addressed (some more important than others):

material that the mash/lauter tun are made out of
ambient temperature
temperature of the grains
volume/capacity of mash/lauter tun
volume/capacity of hot liquor tun
sparging method
water chemistry
preferred mashing method
volume/capacity of boil kettle

If they start getting into specifics (do this, now do that, etc), the instructions will be useless to a large portion of brewers. AG is not as simple as extract.

Yeah, I guess so.

You’d think they could at least provide some general guidelines with each kit that would differ based on the grains.

I dunno…maybe it’s not that simple.

[quote=“stompwampa”]Yeah, I guess so.

You’d think they could at least provide some general guidelines with each kit that would differ based on the grains.

I dunno…maybe it’s not that simple.[/quote]

it’s not that simple. There are so many variances in brew equipment that it would be next to impossible to provide a generalization. Some say use 1.25 qts/lb, some say 1.50. It just varies so much by system. There are spreadsheets you can use and over the course of a few batches you will figure out what works with your system and what doesn’t. When I read your statement at the top of “mash at 152 for 60 minutes” that is enough for me to make the batch. I know my pot boiloff, how much absorption I have in my tun, heat loss. It just takes a few runs to figure it all out for your particular system.

I am somewhat enamored with brewing software and have been using BeerSmith (now version 2) for a while. I’ve found it very helpful for designing recipes and providing guidance on mashing now that I have moved to AGB. It is not perfect (see my post on my not hitting temps when using the software in the AGB forum) and is no replacement for study and understanding of brewing processes, but it does help me along significantly. There are also other brewing softwares out there for IOS. Download some trial version and play with it. It helped me a lot.

Good luck and don’t stress the AGB too much. It is more work but the depth of your understand of brewing will increase exponentially.

:cheers:

Not long ago (about a year) I was in the same boat of making the leap to All Grain and had all those questions. This forum was a great place to get answers ahead of time until you understand the process.

Also, I have come to really like Beersmith for importing and adjusting recipes and within reason, you can customize for your unique set up.

Also, you will notice that every All Grain Kit that NB sells says “Advanced - additional equipment required”. I think it also means that knowledge of how to use that equipment helps too. It takes a while to dial it in though

[quote=“560sdl”]Also, you will notice that every All Grain Kit that NB sells says “Advanced - additional equipment required”. I think it also means that knowledge of how to use that equipment helps too. It takes a while to dial it in though[/quote]Good point. It took me 2-3 batches before I got my set up dialed in. I’d also suggest to new all grain brewers to cut their teeth on low to medium gravity brews until they get their process down.

Some basic things you need know and or find out:

You need to have an accurate way to measure water and volumes in your pot

You need to know your boil off rate for your pot and burner.

You need to determine the dead space in your mash tun. To get a ball park figure, put some water in it, drain it and measure how much is left.

You need to know how much water the grain absorbs, a good number to start with is .1 gallon/pound.

Here’s a quick rundown of my mash procedure for a 10# grain bill on my system (batch sparging):

I want 5 gallons in the pot when I’m done boiling and the wort’s cooled. With my pot and burner, my boil off rate is 1.5 gallons so I’ll need 6.5 gallon not counting the amount the grain will absorb. I try to do close to equal mash and sparge runoffs so I divide that by half, 3.25 gallons each. I figure my grain absorption at .1 gallon/pound and add that gallon to the mash in water volume. So I’m going to mash in with 4.25 gallons and sparge with 3.25 gallons. I only lose about a cup to the dead space in my mash cooler so I don’t even account for it, if your mash tun has a large dead space, add that to your mash in water volume too. Beersmith has a calculator for the temperature of your strike water or there’s lots of online calculators, I use this one all the time and it’s pretty accurate:

http://www.brewheads.com/strike.php

In the example above, if my grains were 55° and I wanted to mash at 153° I’d mash in with 165° water. I always preheat my cooler with water about 7 or 8° hotter and add the grains when it hits 165°.

I like MashWater 3.3 for water volumes and temp.

http://gnipsel.com/beer/software/beer-software.html

[quote=“Glug Master”]

You need to determine the dead space in your mash tun. To get a ball park figure, put some water in it, drain it and measure how much is left.

You need to know how much water the grain absorbs…[/quote]

What do you mean by dead space?

For absorption, isn’t every grain type going to absorb differently?

Dead space is the area of the cooler that you can’t get water out of.

Yes different grain will absorb a different amount of liquid. Flaked wheat/barley may absorb more than cracked barley. But the variance should not be much. .01 gallons/lb is a number used most often.

I tend to keep 1/2 gallon of extra water heated up. That way if I don’t get enough wort in the boil pot I can add more water to the grain and get the amount I need.

Okay…so to figure out the boil kettle volumes, I figured I’d fill it up with a gallon of water, and then make a mark on my mash paddle with a permanent market, then add a few more gallons and make marks accordingly so I can measure based on depth of the mash paddle.

For boil off…it’s better to end up with less wort at the end than more, right? So if I start with 6 gallons in the kettle, I can determine my boil off and the top off with water to make 5. Would that work? After a couple batches I’d get the boil off down pat.

All grain is a little more complicated, but don’t let it get you out of sync. The key is mashing with around 2 quarts of water per pound of grain and sparging with enough water to collect about 6 gallons (most large boil vessels evaporate around a gallon per hour). You can use any number of online calculators or software, but you will need to do a few batches and “dial your system in”. Even then, other variables will change from time to time, such as ambient temperature, humidity, etc…so, it is less than absolutely precise. Ultimately brew many batches and you will get your system down. Instructions would never get you that far unless all the variables were the same.

:cheers:

[quote=“stompwampa”]Okay…so to figure out the boil kettle volumes, I figured I’d fill it up with a gallon of water, and then make a mark on my mash paddle with a permanent market, then add a few more gallons and make marks accordingly so I can measure based on depth of the mash paddle.[/quote]I made mine out of a length of CPVC:

[quote=“stompwampa”]For boil off…it’s better to end up with less wort at the end than more, right? So if I start with 6 gallons in the kettle, I can determine my boil off and the top off with water to make 5. Would that work? After a couple batches I’d get the boil off down pat.[/quote]Yep, that will work fine.

Thanks for all the tips. This is very helpful. I’ll use this info for our next batch…the Irish Red!

Keep on brewing stomp, before long it will seem easy peasy. The key thing is to relax and just go for it. See what you get and then do it again. Adjust when you think it will help you in your process, everybody has their own way that they brew beer, and that’s a good thing, proof that there is many ways to brew great beer. Before you know it, it will be second nature.

Cheers and Beers.