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Trying to start a dialogue

Today is the first anniversary of starting this hobby. Batch number 25 will be in the fermenter on Saturday. I’ve done a couple partial mashes, and a couple boil overs. I’ve made good beer, great beer, a couple marginal, but none so bad they had to be dumped. I’ve porbably given half my beer away to friends and neighbors which is the best part for me. Drilled a couple holes in the rec room fridge and am now kegging. I’ve met some really nice helpful people at the NB in Milwaukee.
My problem is I feel like I have to apologize because I haven’t converted to all grain. I have concerns about the cost for equipment, the time factor, ( I can do an extract batch in 2 1/2 hours with cleanup), and it is in my comfort zone. What are your thoughts, and is there a class system in home brewing? Bottle vs. kegging/all-grain vs. extract/Packers fans vs Bears- Vikings fans Oops wrong forum. Thanks for your feedback and have a blessed brewing New Year.

Technically, you could get into AG for about $3, doing “mash in a bag” in your kettle to see how you like it. Even if you decide to put together a cooler mash tun, you’re talking about a $20-50 investment that will pay for itself after fewer than a dozen batches. If you’re going to be brewing every other week, AG will save you a ton of money in the long run. Eventually you’ll probably want to get a ~$120 grain mill, but even that would pay for itself in a year.

Time-wise, it only adds the length of the mash rest, which is typically 60 min. So you should be able to knock out an AG batch in <4 hours if the rest of your process stays constant.

I like to use an analogy to making pasta. Brewing with extract is like opening a jar of store-bought sauce and pouring it over your noodles. It tastes good, but there’s no pride associated with having created something. AG is just plain more fun and more rewarding, IME. Pick a day when you have some free time and try it.

It’s totally up to you, man. You are ready when you are ready. If you really enjoy extract brewing and you like the taste of your beers then I would see no reason to rush it. But one day, you’ll be willing to sacrifice the time and money to convert. All grain brewing ultimately gives you the most control over the flavors that go into your beer and takes the craft to a level that has been done traditionally for a long, long time.

It’s all up to you. Don’t apologize for anything. World class beers can be brewed with extract. And kegging was a smart move, I really don’t like bottling.

I would echo the comment that it is totally up to you and you shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for whatever type of brewing you choose to do. That being said, based on my own experience, I would strongly urge you to give all grain a try if you have any interest in doing so. I was similar to you, I brewed with extract for about a year and a half, was quite happy with it and very reluctant to try all grain, thinking it seemed unecessarily complicated and not wanting to buy any additional equipment. After trying it out however I was amazed at how relatively simple it was and how cheaply I was able to make the transition using the cooler/steel braid mash tun system. My guess is you would be happy you gave it a shot and it would only fuel your passion for the hobby, as it’s done for me.

I went All Grain almost immediately, and your right there is some cost and more time involved, but I still do extract batches. Ive made extract batches that tastes better than early all grain batches. I suggest saving a bit of money up, making the step, and then deciding to brew based on the time restraints of your brew days. If youve gotta be somewhere in 4 hours, all grain wont work, but by god you can still get beer in that keg.

I agree with most of what has been said. It is your hobby - no need to apologize for doing what you enjoy. I brewed extract for a year, went to partial mashes for a couple years and then on to all grain for the past 12 years or so. However, even though I have done all grain for a long time - I have been kind of itching to try a batch or two of extract brewing again - just to compare it to what I am making now.

It does take more time, there are more steps, every cent I saved by buying grain instead of extract has been spent 3-fold on new equipment and upgrades to my “brewery.” But - I don’t do it to save money - I do it because it is fun. I love all-grain because I like seeing the entire process. I like doing it from scratch. I enjoy dedicating entire days to “brew day.” Ultimately, for me - the process is what I like. It is the same reason I garden, can my own produce, make my own bloody mary mix with 90% homegrown products, etc. It is not cheaper, it is not faster. If I was in it to make great beer, quickly and cheaply - I would not brew. I would buy a good keg fridge and just go buy quality microbrews by the keg.

I hear what you are saying though - I think there can be a slant toward “why don’t you go all grain?” Kind of like the trout fisherman who “only” catches trout with a spinning rod, instead of a fly rod.

If you love extract brewing, and have no desire to go all grain - keep doing what you like. If you are curious about all-grain, I think the best thing you could do is find a person or two who does do all grain and go brew with them for a couple brew days. Maybe even brew an extract along side them while they do an all grain and then see what you think about how different the two processes are. All brewing is good brewing in my opinion.

All-grain savings per batch is arguable when you factor equipment cost and time, but I think it really depends how much you like to tinker (the same case could be made for batch vs. decoction vs. fly sparge). For me, the equipment design and automation is just as much fun as the actual brewing, so all-grain is very appealing. If I can make an excuse to solder pipe, weld steel, or draw an electrical schematic, I will. When time is limited, though, I’m fine with a “quick” batch of extract. When it comes down to it, the difference between all-grain and extract brewing is miniscule when compared to brewing your beer versus buying it.

As far as bottling and kegging, there’s just no comparison for me. I have zero desire to bottle, except for the big beers (almost exclusively in 22 oz. bottles and only to let friends and family cellar them). I would sooner buy another corny than a couple cases of bottles and I have a dozen growlers in various sizes when I want to share something on tap.

Gotta love the pink squirrel!

If you enjoy what you’re doing and don’t want more from the hobby then I wouldn’t worry about any “class system.” However, I love all grain brewing because I have total control of recipe formulation, which is difficult or impossible with extract brewing. The extra time involved is not a detriment since I love the entire process of brewing.

You can make some dynamite extract beer these days… much better than years ago. You should go to AG when you are comfortable with it. I brewed with extract for 5 years. That’s almost unheard of. But some buds of mine (web buds, not locals) convinced me that it could be easy and they had a chart to prove it. I have an AG page on my site (link below) that outlines the process and the simple chart is on there too. Yes, it’s simple and there is a boatload of information that you may or may not need in addition to it but the key is to find your comfort zone and go. You need a good thermometer, a scale for weighing the grains and something to mash in. I think I got into AG for less than $100 but I was already into brewing for 5 years so I had a 10-gal pot, an outdoor burner, etc. Cheers and good luck.

First off, there’s no reason to apologize for not going AG after a year. There’s a lot of legitimate reasons people don’t, time and money mostly, however the latter isn’t a big deal if you are already set up to do full volume boils, a new cooler and conversion should only run around $50.

I was a lot like you when I started. After my first 6 batches, bottling grew tiresome so I went all in and started kegging, the best brewing move I ever made sans deciding to start brewing. The third best though was moving to AG around my 12th batch. The transition cost me around $150, mainly the cost of the grain mill and some misc. stuff since I was already doing full volume boils. The switch wasn’t due to unhappiness with my extract beers, it was the cost. I was dropping 30 to 40 bucks every other week ordering a kit. After doing a couple of NB’s AG kits to get my feet wet I spent around $70 for a bag of 2-row base malt, specialty malts, hops, yeast and shipping, I got five 5 gallon batches out of that. The savings was well worth the couple extra hours it added to the brew day.

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