First All Grain Brew!

Well, I just pitched my yeast on Waldo Lake amber for my first AG brew ever! It wasn’t nearly as scary as I was fearing but I do have some work to do to improve as I barely hit 60% efficiency :lol: . I managed to pull it off in 4.5 hours from start to everything clean, away and yeast pitched. Thanks to everyone on this forum for posting lots of questions and answers I’ve been reading through for the past year before making this attempt.

I built the Cheap and Easy Mash Tun based off of Denny’s site. I mashed in and hit my 152 target no problem. I checked temp at the end of the hour mash and was around 150-151 so very minor temp drop which is good. As it was my first time, I was off on my water volumes which may have lead to some of my efficiency issues.

Here are some notes:

-14.25 lbs of grain crushed with Captain Crush just below reccommended gap setting
-mash at 1.3 qt/lb with 4.75 gals water (realizing this is a bit high)
-first runnings finished just under 3 gallons so I lost just over 1.75 gallons to absorption/dead space
-first runnings OG 1.070
-batch sparged with 4 gallons (software said 3.5 gal but I was low on first runnings so I bumped it up 1/2 gal) of 185 degree water to hit 168ish
-put kettle on burner and heated wort as collected second runnings
-final boil volume was just under 7 gallons so I did 90 minute boil instead of 60 to boil off extra (I shoot for 6.25 starting volume based on 2 years of extract brewing)
-didn’t take OG on second runnings or preboil all mixed together
-5 gallons in carboy at 63 degrees, OG read 1.061 (I took this before I mixster’d it with yeast)

After cleaning MT, I tested and have 1/4 gallon dead space which leads me to think .1 gal/lb absorption rate is fair number to plan for. My question is should I have added some boiling water to the mash before draining to get more out of my first runnings or should I have mashed at 1.35 qt/lb (would have resulted in 3.15 gallons first runnings) and reduced the batch sparge volume to get closer to even runnings? I am assuming that roughly 2.9 gallons first runnings and 4 gallons second runnings may have caused some of my efficiency issues. Also, I suppose maybe I should have turned off the valve on the second runnings to stop it at 6.25 gallons instead of letting it completely stop before I took it out of the kettle?

Thanks again for all the great info! Any tips for an All Grain Noob (but no longer AG virgin! :stuck_out_tongue: ) would be greatly appreciated!


Congratulations! Please post and let us know how your brew turns out. And thank you for some of your notes as it will help me dial better as I will soon be doing my first all-grain batch as well…Tank… :cheers:

60% efficiency is not too bad for a large grain bill like the Waldo Lake.
I did it last fall and my efficiency was 59% I believe, when I usually get 75-79% with my more typical 10-11 lb batches.
If you have the room (I use a 5G mashtun and don’t have a lot of room) you can definitely add more strike water. Typical ratios are usually listed between 1.25-1.50qt/lb, but I’ve read where some will go up to 2qt/lb.
And definitely only sparge with the amount to make up your planned preboil volume. You definitely don’t want to oversparge and have to leave some wort(and sugars) in the mashtun.
All in all, sounds like you did real good! :cheers:

I get good efficiency on double batches which I need to double sparge so I don’t think it is your ratio. I think you over sparged but that should of been compensated for with the boil off. The only thing I do is tip the cooler to get that extra bit of first running. I have my grain crushed for me but I’ve heard you have to crush it just right or your efficiency drops. Either way keep track of your efficiency and use that number to adjust your recipes.

Brewcat- Good point about crush affecting efficiency. I tend to get about 5 % better efficiency with the crush from my LHBS than I get with the crush I get from NB. Until I realized the difference I was confused why some batches had higher efficiency than other batches.
Of course, when I eventually get my own crusher, I hope to be more consistent.

That’s a good point, this is the first time I’ve really used my Captain Crush on a full grain bill, previously I had only used it for partial mash brews. I had both rollers set at the second hash mark. I think it will tighten it down some more for the next attempt and see how it changes efficiency. Also from rereading the instruction manual, the bottom should be tighter than the top so I’ll set it at three top and four bottom and see how it does. I should have taken a picture of my crush. I will do that next time.


I also tip my cooler to get all that I can. Trust me, it won’t be long before you learn a bit more about your system and what it takes to get to your pre-boil wort volume.

I don’t use any calculators to figure out how much water I should be adding. You should be aiming for equal runnings but if you’re off by as much as a gallon one way or the other it’s not a huge deal. My method goes a little something like this:

Mash in with my preferred ratio. I usually go for 1.5-1.75 qt/lb. Thinner mashes are easier to deal with in my opinion. I heat up more sparge water than I am going to need to allow myself to adjust. I drain the mashtun and measure my volume there. I have a sight glass on my kettle but you can drain into a bucket with volume measurements to get an idea of your first runnings volume. Then I just subtract my first runnings volume from my target pre-boil volume (7.25g for my system) and that gives me how much sparge water to add.

So for example yesterday I mashed in at 1.5 qt/lb, missed my mash temp on the low side so heated another 1/2g of water to get the temp up. Drained the tun and got 3.25gal of run-off. So 7.25g-3.25g is 4 gallons. So even though I heated 5 gallons of sparge water, I didn’t need it all. I measured out 4 gallons of sparge water and used the remaining water for cleaning my equipment.

This works for me and doesn’t require having to be so accurate with pre-calculated volumes.

Yup, as this was my first time, I completely forgot about the fact that sparge water in would equal sparge water out. At the time, I was thinking I should be 1/4 gallon short out of what I put in for sparge because of dead space. Lesson learned. :lol: I did tip the cooler to get the last bit out of the first runnings.

I use Ibrewmaster2 so I had been playing around with the settings all week ahead of time to try to get close to an estimation of what I might need for my first attempt. Turns out I should have listened to it instead of second guessing it haha. Going forward I will continue to use it for a guideline but I now have more information on my how my system works. I will also make my next attempt at 1.5 qt/gal and see what difference that makes. Sparge volume will be much easier to figure next time, thanks for the tip.