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First Time All-Grain Equipment Question

I’m about ready to make that ‘jump’ over to all-grain, and have been checking into the equipment I need to make it happen.

I don’t want to spend a lot of cash to make this switch, and I think all I would really need to do this is a mash tun.

Here’s what I currently have for brewing:

20qt kettle with valve
41,000 BTU Floor Burner

I’ve checked a lot of resources, and most of them seem to have 5-6 gallons of water in the kettle for a boil, based on the recipes they are using.
If possible, I would like to avoid dropping another 100 bucks or so on a bigger pot, since I figure I’ll be spending the money on converting a cooler to a mash tun.

With my 5 gallon pot, what size cooler would I need to make this happen?
Also, can I easily draw back a recipe to fit in my 5 gallon pot, since it seems I’ll be doing a full boil with this instead of a 2.5 and then topping off my fermenter.

Can I ‘top off’ my fermenter with an all grain batch?

Sorry for all the questions, but I want to know my options here to see if it is something I can make happen with my current set-up.


Sounds like you’re gonna have to boil then top off, unless you plan on brewing 3 gallon batches. You can’t really boil more than 3.5 to 4 gals in a 5 gallon pot. You need a little room at the top. And you’re gonna boil off about 1gal per hour. In the winter when it’s dry out, I boiled off 1/2gal every 20min, meaning 1.5gal per hour. But about 1gal per hour is typical. So, if you start with even 4.5 gal in your 5 gal pot (which is really pushing it) you’ll end up with no more than 3.5 gals of wort post boil.

30qrt aluminum pot - $42 ... 458&sr=8-1

Thanks for the info!

I was figuring it would be tight with the 5 gallon set-up.
As long as topping off isn’t going to adversely affect my brew, that would be OK to try at the start.

Eventually, I’ll probably step up to a bigger pot, but I’d like to take small steps to get the hang of everything first!

Nothing wrong with that idea. Some people frown on topping off. I don’t. I’ve made pretty good beers in the past while topping off. I do full boils now, so it’s not a concern. When you look to get a bigger pot down the road, I wouldn’t go any smaller than 30qrt. That’s what I have and even then, it can be a little tricky at the beginning of the boil to keep boil overs down.

Just remember you’re gonna boil off at least 1gal per hour, maybe more depending on the size of your pot, how strong of a boil and the weather conditions outside. And you may want to boil some beers longer. Some beers need 90min boils for different reasons, which means more water boiled off. And you may also want to leave some of the wort and sludge in the bottom of your pot after you fill your fermentor. You may leave as much as 1/2 gal or so in the pot. So I’d recommend nothing less than 30qrts for a brew pot. And IMO, that’s the bottom end.

I brew “mostly mash” on a stovetop with a concentrated boil in the winter when I can’t brew outside.

I use a 5 gallon igloo cooler converted with a ball valve and a supply line mesh (see Denny’s cheap’n’easy setup). I mash 9 lbs of grain typically and do an 18 qt boil in a 20 qt pot. This will produce 5.25 gallons of 1.048 wort for me and then I add any additional gravity points via extract. I could fit more grain in the cooler at the expense of effeciency, but I like the predictability of always mashing the same size.

Everyone’s system is different but maybe this will give you an idea.

I’m going to suggest that you go bigger. Go with a 70 quart cooler which you can pick up on sale for $35.00 (Walmart) and a 40 quart aluminum stock pot for around $53.00 at a restaurant supply. Your starting with the right equipment and for right around $100.00 and won’t have to shell out additional money later to upgrade it, not to mention it will take some of the aggravation out of your brew day. Even if you go with a smaller cooler I would still invest in a bigger kettle.

+1 to a bigger kettle. It makes for a much more relaxing brew day if you’re able to just watch the hot break build and collapse instead of frantically beating it back with a mash paddle while turning down the burner with your free hand :wink:

Go with a 10 gallon kettle. Everything else looks fine to me.

i got this 40 gal aluminum one on amazon and i’m very happy with it: ... 01_s00_i00


(Looks like it’s actually 40 quart :wink: ).

70qt cooler? Can you say over kill.

I can make any 5 gallon beer I want on a 48qt cooler. Depending on what you can find with a drain, you may need to go to a 52qt.

Start with the pot you have. You may need to order an extra pound or two of 2row to get your gravity up. After a few brews, save up for the larger pot.

Play around with a recipe calculator to find a grain bill that fits a OG you might be looking to make. Then pug the lbs into “can I mash this” to see how much space you need. You will find you can go with a smaller cooler.

You’ll be more satisfied with a bigger boil pot. Mine is a 40 qt and yes it was about 100 bucks. It does buy peace of mind and I’ve not regretted it once.

My 10 gallon pot was a gift from a Good Friend, otherwise I would be in the same boat as you. However, if we had to do it again we would have either bought a 8 gallon pot or a 13-15 gallon. 10 is like 5 in that you can’t really do 5 with a 5 or 10 with a 10.

I don’t like spending money on equipment, because I think about all the beer I could have brewed with that $$.

My MLT and HLT are Lowe’s 5 gallon coolers and they work great for every beer I have made so far. No issues with space to complain about. They were around $20 each and converted the MLT with a false bottom for an additional $40. If I had to do it over, I would probably go with a SS braided hose for cost sake.

On a side note: Are there any issues with collecting wort initially to fill your kettle, then as boil off occurs collect more to offset?

I routinely mash in a 5 gallon cooler and boil in my 5 gallon extract pot on the kitchen stove. Normally, I try to keep my water/grain ratio near 1.5 qts/lb. I also aim for about a 3 gallon batch, so I reduce my 5 gallon recipe’s to 3 gallons (multiply all ingredients by 0.60). So a 10lb recipe becomes 6lbs. Then at 1.5 qts/lb, I need 9 qts for the mash. I also use 9 qts for the sparge. After the mash, I usually collect 15 qts of the original 18. My boil off rate is about 3-4 qts per hour so I end up with 11-12 quarts post-boil.

If I need to up my water because of a larger grain bill/bigger beer, I’ll evenly split the run off between my 5gallon pot and my 4gallon pot (these SS 16qt pots are very cheap…like $15-cheap at Big Lots). After about 30 minutes, the boil-off from both is large enough that they can be combined into 1 pot. Prior to 30 minutes, I split my hop additions between the two pots.

New 5 gallon coolers are 19.95 at wallyworld, so the cost to jump to AG is minimal this way.


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