Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com

Switching to Partial Mash - Is My Plan Sound?

Okay so I am entering my 5th year of extract w/specialty grain (crystal malts, etc) brewing and while I have had great success creating some tasty brews, I am finally ready to step it up to the next level. As I still have a decent supply of some LME’s left (some dark, golden, and maris otter, with a little rye LME to boot) I figure the logical thing to do is go to the partial mash first.

Until now the brew process has been basically 2-2.5 gallon batches. I would steep the specialty grains in a 2.5 gal pot, eventually add the LME (I used to do this in the beginning but now do this towards the end of the boil), any DME (usually just a little, like half a cup), and the hops (bitter at the break, aroma at 20 min left), and then boil for an hour. After that, into the little mini-keg (that came with the original cheezy Mr.Beer kit that my wife got me that started this infatuation) it goes, let it cool some, add yeast, go back to my life for 3 weeks. After 3 weeks, bottle, make new batch (using yeast from previous batch - I kept one strain of WL002 going for 3 years!), wait 2 weeks. Then refridgerate beer for 24 hours and commence drinking. Good times. For the most part, despite lack of attention to any details like fermentation temp (have since gotten a fermometer), etc, this has worked perfectly (possibly by luck). I’ve only had to toss two batches - one from ingredients I used that turned out to not be so tasty, and another stout that I added too many fermentables to that was undrinkably strong. The rest have tasted great.

So, if I go to 5-gal partial grain batches with an eye towards eventual full-grain, I figure I will need:

1> Bigger pot, something like the Megapot 1.2 8-gal (don’t need a HUGE one). I like the idea of having a ball valve and thermometer on it too.
2> Probably a burner since the stovetop isn’t going to be very effiecient for the bigger pot
3> 6.5 gal carboy for fermentation (something like the glass Big Mouth is attractive)
4> Probably a siphon and tubing for bottling from the carbo

Do I need to get much crazier than this? I am thinking at least for the original partial mash phase I could go with a large strainer bag and BIAB the mash portion of the affair. This means I should be able to sparge using the other 2.5 gal pot, yes? Realizing that I am not necessarily trying to get to 85% efficiency, since I have LME going into the product anyway.

Is this a reasonable approach? Or am I completely missing something (eg, “no way you sparge effectively that way, fool!” or “you had better get a false bottom for the pot”)? I would probably plan on getting some kind of other pot later when it’s time to go full grain, to enhance the sparge effeciency.

Please poke holes in my plan!

If you want a pot with a valve, then you’ll need a false bottom or some sort of screen.
If you want to BIAB, you don’t need the ball valve, but I guess that would still work. You’ll need something to pour the wort into though, since you’ll be pouring off the wort rather then pulling the grain sack from the pot.

If you do plan on doing full volume boil with BIAB and a sparge, you’ll need a larger sparge pot. I use a 10gal pot to mash in and a 7.5gal pot to do a quick dunk sparge. Using 3-4gals of sparge water it can still get pretty full when dunking 12-15lbs of grain.

Really you can move to partial mash or even all grain with very little effort and expense. Definitely go with at least a 10gal pot. I BIAB because of space constraints living in a condo. I do have a turkey frier burner to cook on, which works great. No complaints. But other than those things (burner, large pot), you really only need a mesh grain sack and a fermentor (or 2 or 3, yeah get 3 or maybe 4 :smiley: )

If you enjoy brewing you’ll love moving to partial mash. And if partial mashing with this equipment, you may as well just go all grain. There is little to no difference.

:cheers:

I was thinking the ball valve on the boil pot would be good for hooking up a hose to in order to transfer the completed wort to the carboy when it’s done? Is there an easier or better way?

In any event it seems I may have been understimating the amount of grain involved and perhaps I should indeed be looking at getting another pot (eg, two 10-gal pots). Miraculously my loving wife told me to just get whatever I needed, so perhaps I just go for it and get 2 nice pots with false bottoms lol.

Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it!

That would work too. You’ll need a chiller to cool your wort in the pot before running off to your fermentor. You could also get a pump and plate chiller, but your talking more money now.

I guess you need to decide if you are going to do BIAB or not. Start by deciding on that. Your brewing process will dictate what equipment you’ll need. Many mash in a cooler and use the pot for strike and sparge water and again to boil. I BIAB so my pot is both my mash tun and brew kettle. If you decide to mash in a cooler you’ll only need one large pot and the cooler converted to a mash tun.

I guess I’m thinking BIAB for now. That could change later, but I could always pick up a cooler at that time since it’s not a huge investment.

What do the total grain bills (average) for a partial and full mash come in at? Is 12-15lbs about usual for a full grain mash for a 5gal batch? I want to make sure I don’t go too small on the pot.

Chilling - well, I live in Montana so that’s not exactly a problem right now. But yeah, come later in the spring or early summer I reckon I will have to rig up some kind of chilling system. For now I could just set the pot in the 3 ft of snow in my backyard lol.

[quote=“krudler”]I guess I’m thinking BIAB for now. That could change later, but I could always pick up a cooler at that time since it’s not a huge investment.

What do the total grain bills (average) for a partial and full mash come in at? Is 12-15lbs about usual for a full grain mash for a 5gal batch? I want to make sure I don’t go too small on the pot.

Chilling - well, I live in Montana so that’s not exactly a problem right now. But yeah, come later in the spring or early summer I reckon I will have to rig up some kind of chilling system. For now I could just set the pot in the 3 ft of snow in my backyard lol.[/quote]

Surprisingly enough, setting the pot in snow doesn’t seem to do much, the snow melts away from the pot then seems to insulate things (I tried). I had far more success in putting cold water into a stationary tub then adding the appropriate amount of snow. Worked far better than a simple ice bath, oddly enough.

[quote=“krudler”]I guess I’m thinking BIAB for now. That could change later, but I could always pick up a cooler at that time since it’s not a huge investment.

What do the total grain bills (average) for a partial and full mash come in at? Is 12-15lbs about usual for a full grain mash for a 5gal batch? I want to make sure I don’t go too small on the pot.

Chilling - well, I live in Montana so that’s not exactly a problem right now. But yeah, come later in the spring or early summer I reckon I will have to rig up some kind of chilling system. For now I could just set the pot in the 3 ft of snow in my backyard lol.[/quote]

Yes, for lower gravity beers maybe 9-11lbs. Bigger beers will run up to 15-17lbs. Just ball-parking here. I use a 10 gal pot and have no problem mashing upwards of 15-17lbs. It’s a little tight and I usually have to go with a thicker mash, but it’s doable. 10-13lbs is really the sweet spot. I get great conversion and it’s easy to work with.

+1 on the snow thing. Doesn’t work. The snow melts and creates a little open area that actually works to insulate the pot.

Thanks for the tips guys. It looks like I am going to go for it and get a more all-grain friendly setup now, although there could be a couple partial mashes in store just for the sake of using up some of the LME I have left.

Thanks again, I appreciate your time.

Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com