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Don't be afraid of all grain...a guide for beginners

All grain brewing is a lot like driving a stick shift car…it’s hard as hell until you can do it, then it’s easy.

I just read a post "A beginners guide for beginners " (nice post btw) and it prompted me to write this up for those afraid to take the next step. I have done tons of research and I have compiled a fairly simple formula for all grain beer making. I have only made two AG batches (1 last weekend and 1 last night, so both still in fermentor) but last night went so smoothly I almost felt like I did an extract.

a little about me —I started brewing mid september (not even 3 months ago) from a Mr. Beer kit. American Classic light. It turned out well and I now have 3 Mr. Beer LBK’s. I stumbled across NB and was directed toward their 1 gallon kits. I got 2 kits of Caribou Slobber and 2 of BarleyWine so I made 2 galls each. CS turned out freakin awesome (never really a fan of brown ale’s but this stuff is great), BW still conditioning. I decided I like making small batches because: *I can brew inside on a rainy Tuesday night if I want, *not quite as expensive to get into, *I could fit 8 fermentors in my converted freezer if I wanted - though I typically have just two, *much greater variety of beer, *speeds up the learning curve (the more you brew the more you learn), *I don’t want 5 gallons of any one beer - - I wanna drink something different as often as possible. (in only 3 months I have a hefe, dubbel, BW, Pale Ale, Brown ale, Quad, Tripel, and an IPA either drunk, fermenting or bottle conditioning). Anyway, I took the plunge last weekend and went AG. It was FUN! :evil: and am a little concerned about the beer being ruined, but oh well…that’s why I started with a $13 beer.

Anyway, I’ll post some things I’ve learned then show my step by step that goes with every recipe.

1 - this forum is awesome - i wouldn’t be making beer without it!
2 - use online calculators! I use them for batch priming, yeast pitching, water/sparge calculator
3 - you can re-pitch yeast. That takes $6 off the price of the ingredients right there. (4 or 5 repitches anyway)
4 - Patience!!! I can not say this enough. I had a buddy that brewed a pale ale and when he tasted it, he said it tasted streile. He poured it out - all 5 gallons (about $60). He saved 2 bottles for me cause I paid for 1/2 of it. I drank one after sitting it in the closet for 6 weeks…it was awesome. BE PATIENT!
5 - You can do this on a budget or spend thousands, you can make good beer either way. I went Budget+ route.
5.1 - yes, 2.5 gallons will fit in an LBK but i recommend using a blowoff tube for high abv beers.
5.2 - your local home brew store (LHBS) will happily convert any recipe to any size you need.
6 - table sugar (sucrose) is all you need :cheers:
7 - a good homebrew <-----(that YOU made) is better than a great commercial beer!

what i have : 3 mr beer lbk’s to ferment ($10 each), a 3 1/2 gallon bucket(free from Publix) with spigot to batch prime and bottle, a refractometer ($20 e-b@), a stand up freezer (much better than a fridge)- ($150) with STC-1000 temp controller ($20), small siphon, bottling wand, 3 gallon and a 5 gallon graniteware pots, a drink cooler with ball valve and screen tube installed ($30 for cooler/$30 for valve and screen), bench capper ($30) - i knew i wouldn’t like the other kind so i went ahead and got the upgrade first - highly recommended!!! and a five # bucket of no-rinse sanitizer. I also bottle at least one of everything in a 12 oz plastic soda bottle (so i can see the beer and feel the carbonation). If i’m gonna drink the beer within 3 months - it goes in plastic (i keep store them in an enclosed book case so sunlight isn’t an issue). If it needs to condition for a while, it goes in bottles. Sweetwater makes a really nice bottle, they are a little expensive but they do come with free beer in them.

on to a sample brewday list:
(these measurements and temps are specific to My equipment and MY beer - the calculators will adjust for your needs but the proceedures will remain the same.) I put a colander in my cooler to dissipate the water more evenly) :?:

o Prepare Yeast
o Use calculator to determine mash/sparge water needs
o Preheat Mash tun with pot of boiling water
o Heat 2.5 gallons strike water to 165°
o Empty mash tun and add strike water then stir in grain bill
o Hold at 153° for an hour
Sparrging:
o Step 1 - After the hour hold, open the valve on your mash tun and drain 1 - 2 quarts into a pitcher. Take this and slowly pour it back into the mash tun through colander :?: as it is going to get. This is called the vorlauf and is used to help set the grain bed to be used as a filter when you are draining.

Step 2 – Completely drain mash tun into boil pot. Measure the volume for future reference. ________________.

Step 3 – Add 7.2 qts. at 175° to mash tun. Stir the grain bed to get all those sugars back into solution, and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

Step 4 - Repeat Step 1 by draining and replacing 1 - 2 Quarts at a time until it is relatively clear. You will notice that, this time, your wort has less color than the last time.

Step 6 - Open the spigot and drain this volume into your boil pot. Again, measure the volume for future reference. _____________________.

o Take Brix (or hydrometer) reading and record
o Start boil and continue as though it was any other beer you’ve brewed before.

I would recommend you try this with an inexpensive beer (such as a hefe or simple pale ale). You should get somewhere around 70% efficiency with this method (not GREAT but not bad either) that is what i recommend you plug into your calculators until you find out otherwise.

Congratulation on finding a AG system that works for you.

Not a big deal, but use your “pre heat” water for your strike water. Have your “pre heat” water about 10* over your mash in temp. Maybe 5* because you are doing smaller batches.

that would save a step or two, thanks.

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