Brewing All-Grain beer is a rewarding way to dig into homebrewing and learn more about the chemistry of the beer you are making. This homebrew method gives you more control over ingredients and flavor. The ingredients are less expensive when brewing all-grain beer; however more equipment is needed and your brew day is a bit longer.
Here’s the equipment you need to get started:
- Grain Mill – used to crush the outer hull of grain (Not necessary, as most homebrew shops crush the grain for you)
- Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) – Because you are using your brew kettle to boil the wort, you will need an additional pot or cooler
- Mash Tun – used in the saccrification process of converting starches to maltose, color, & flavor from grain
- Brew Kettle – Need at least a 7.5 gallon pot for 5 gallon batches
- Heat Source – Kitchen or propane burner
- Chiller – Immersion wort chiller or plate chiller
- Primary fermenter – Bucket or Carboy
- Pitcher - For moving and measuring liquids
- Large spoon
- Hydrometer and test jar or refractometer
Steps of All Grain Brewing
- You don’t need to create a starter for all beers, but it never hurts.
- Bigger beers & larger batches do not require a starter, but is highly recommended.
- A starter allows your yeast to wake up and populate.
- This will ensure that there is no strain on your yeast & that they are viable to be pitched into your wort.
- To make a starter, boil a pint (1/2 quart) of water and stir in 1/2 cup of DME. This will produce a starter of about 1.040 OG. Boil this for 10 minutes, adding a little bit of hops if you want to.
- Cool it down and place in a sanitized Erlenmeyer flask or sanitized Mason jar.
- Cover this flask/jar with sanitized tin foil & place on a stir plate.
- If you don’t have a stir plate, just swirl the vessel every time you pass to wake up the yeast out of suspension
The Recipe - Water, Grain, Hops and Yeast
- The Water: If you are using tap water, filtering is always a good idea. That way you know you’re stripping out the chlorine, chloramine, and trace pharmaceuticals from your water source. Another cheap trick is to toss in a 1/2 a crushed campden tablet to 10 gallons of water and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
- The Fermentables: flavor, & color come from the grain you use.
- The amount of sugar you extract will determine the alcohol level.
- The type of grain will determine the flavor.
- The lovibond will determine the color.
- Each hop has a different profile & can be used to add bitterness and/or aroma.
- Yeast is a beautiful organism that consumes oxygen & simple sugars to create alcohol & CO2.The yeast can add esters and phenolics to the beer. There are different yeast strains for different styles: lager, ale, Belgian, sours, etc.
Milling the Grain
- The grain needs to be crushed to expose the starches to the mashing process.
- You want to crush it just enough to break up the kernel, but leaving the husk in tack.
- This is important to establish a proper grain bed for lautering.
- Enzymes such as Beta Amylase, and Alpha Amylase convert the complex starchs in the grain to simple sugars that they yeast can process.
- This process also extracts the color, flavor from the grain.
- The average temperature loss is 12F when mashing in, so if you want 154F, the water should be close to 166F.
- Doughing in refers to mixing the grain with the water.
- Make sure there are no “dough balls” by stirring the entire mash and observing for chunks.
- The final resting temperature should be between 148-158F depending on the style of beer you’re brewing..
- Mashing can be a little as 45 minutes or up to 90 minutes depending on the style of beer.
- Start the sparging process by slowing allowing the wort to run into a pitcher.
- You want to run 2-4 quarts of wort into the pitcher & then gently adding it back into your tun by pouring it over your spoon or using a device like a sparge arm.
- The reason for this step is to make sure no grain is sucked out of the tun & into the brew kettle.
- This is also called setting the grainbed as the grain hulls create a natural filter for the wort to run out.
- You can stop vorlauf when the line runs clear of grain particles and is only wort.
Sparging and Lautering
- Three main styles – fly, batch, or no sparge. Any style you choose, the purpose is to remove the color, flavor, & sugars from the grain.
- Optional: If you decide to mash out, then heat up 1-2 gallons of water to 185 & stir it into the grain bed. Let it sit for another 20 minutes.
- Heat the rest of the sparge water to 168-170F.
- Either fly or batch sparge at this point
- Fly sparging is a continuous process – a relatively slow, continuous rinse of the mashed grain done simultaneously with collection of the wort
- Batch sparging – quick collection of wort before adding additional sparge water, followed by addition of one or more “batches” of sparge water that are stirred into the mash, briefly rested, recirculated, then collected.
- After collecting the proper pre-boil amount of wort bring your wort up to a boil.
- Make sure to watch the pot so it does not boil over – or try using a foaming agent.
- You may need to lower the heat if the wort starts to foam too much.
- Once the foam dies down, you’ve likely achieved a hot break.
- Hot break is when the protiens (foam) from the grain coagulate (clump) and fall back into the boil.
- You can now proceed with your hop schedule.
- Most brewers also add a whirlfloc tablet or Irish Moss at the last 15 minutes of the boil to aide in clarifying the finished beer.
- Also during the last 15 minutes is when to add any adjuncts: spices, sugars, or herbs.
- Flame out or whirlpool hops can be added directly after the flame out.
Cooling and Transferring
- The faster the wort is cooled down after your boil, the less likely it is to be infected by airborne particles.
- You want to bring the wort under 80 degrees before you pitch your yeast. Preferable just under the temperature you want to ferment at.
- Use either a immersion chiller or plate chiller.
After cooling, transfer the wort to your fermentor vigorously by pouring to introduce as much oxygen as possible to aide in fermentation.
- Once the wort is less than 80 degrees, you can aerate the wort.
- Close the fermentor and place a sanitized finger over the grommet or bung hole and shake vigorously for 5-10 minutes.
- Yeast need oxygen to reproduce so the more oxygen the happier the yeast.
- Now is the time to add the yeast from either the starter or from the vial.
Airlock and Fermentation
- Place the airlock filled with sanitized water into the space in the lid of the bucket
- At this point, primary fermentation will begin within the next 18 hours.
- Fermentation can depend on your beer style and is covered in more detail in the extract method document.