All Grain Brewing: Homebrewer's Best Guide to Going All
July 25, 2014 by
If you are like many home brewers, you likely started
your home brewing process by boiling the sticky,
molasses-like extract - a method known as "extract brewing".
Now that you are more educated and confident in brewing beer
at home, you may be interested in going "all grain".
In short, you want get serious.
Why go to all-grain
brewing? There are two primary reasons: savings and
control. Brewing all-grain generally costs less
than extract brewing. So, you are going to save a few
dollars per batch. And, the control you get from mixing
and matching various types and amounts of grains is what
separates all the beers of the world. With all grain
brewing, you have that flexibility to create you own special
There really is only one
primary difference between extract and all-grain brewing,
and that is you will be soaking (steeping) your crushed malted barley
(and/or other grains) at a controlled temperature of about 169
degrees F. This is a beer brewing process known as "mashing".
It basically hydrates the malted barley and converts the
starches into sugars. You then drain the sugary liquid into your brew pot for boiling.
This is known as "sparging". After that, it's
pretty much the same as extract brewing.
All Grain Brewing
Brew Kettle - A 10-gallon brew pot/kettle is suggested.
Propane and Burner Stand
- It's better to "cook" your beer outside. You won't have to
worry about boil overs making a mess and you can kill the heat
instantly. Also, you'll prevent the condensation from
forming on the stove hood, which could drip back down into the
Mash Tun (Cooler) - Most home brewers us a modified
drink cooler as a mash tun. It's cheap and easy to make.
And, it controls the temperatures perfectly for all-grain
Wort Chiller - When the wort has boiled it is essential you cool
it to about 70 degrees F as quickly as possible.
Otherwise, you run the risk of bacteria or sanitation issues
finding their way into the wort. And, the best way to cool
the wort is with a wort chiller.
All Grain Brewing Process
The process of brewing all-grain is about the same as
brewing extract, as noted above. But, it does take a
little more time. You'll be heating mash water, mashing
the grains, sparging the grains, boiling and
cooling the wort, fermenting the wort. Here is a basic
class on the all-grain brewing process...
Obviously, like all brew days, you are going to spend a
certain amount of time cleaning and sanitizing your home brew
equipment. This will include the brew kettle, mash tun,
sparge water pot, spoons, wort chiller, siphon, hydrometer, etc.
You'll also be moving your yeast from the refrigerator so it can
reach room temperature. In the case of "smack packs" of
yeast, you'll want to smack your pack!
Heat Mash Water
The first step is to heat the measured amount of water you
will be using in mashing the grains (usually 6.5 gallons for a
5-gallon batch of beer). You can accomplish this on a
standard stove top, but it would be more efficient to do it in a
larger brew pot on an outdoor propane burnner setup.
You'll heat the water to around 169 degrees F. Once the
appropriate temperature has been achieved, the water is
carefully poured into the mash tun.
Next, crushed grains are poured in slowly and stirred to a
consistency of oatmeal. It helps if you have a partner to
do the pouring while you stir, or vice versa. The goal is
to accomplish the addition of the grains at a rate that
permits you to reach a mash temperature of around 155 degrees F
(temperatures are specific to the type of beer being brewed).
Some home brewers add the grains to the heated water in
less than a couple minutes, while others may take up to 15
minutes or more. The main thing is you want the
temperature in the mash tun to be at a certain level for the
beer brewed. The lid is then added and the grains are
allowed to "rest" for about an hour to an hour and half.
What happens is magic - the starches in the malted barley and/or
grains are converted to sugars that will be used in the boiling
process and ultimately will be turned into alcohol.
A second amount of water is heated (usually about 4 and 1/2
gallons) to a temperature of about 168 degrees F. Any more
than that and you risk extracting awful-tasting tannins from the
mash. This is
going to be your "sparge water". After the gains
have been in the mash tun for the required amount of time (1 to
1.5 hours), this water will be slowly
added to the mash tun as the extracted sugary nectar of the gods
is slowly drained from the bottom - a process called "rinsing". You will end up with a
certain amount of mash "runnings" that will go into the brew
kettle and boiled.
The first bit of drainings will be cloudy and have some small
pieces of grains. These are drained until clear, into a
1-gallon pitcher or bowl and is slowly poured back into the mash
tun. What happens is the grains form a filter bed,
which then encourages the runnings to come out clear. In
the art of brewing beer, clear wort is usually desired.
The first runnings are then very slowly drained into the brew
pot, with care (hot). This will permit the maximum amount of
sugars being extracted. You can either drain the whole
amount and then add the sparge water and drain it (batch sparging), or you can fly sparge,
whereby you continually add the sparge water as the mash tun
drains. Ideally, you'll want to drip or shower the sparge
water into the mash tun as opposed to a single stream.
This helps "rinse" more of the grains of their sugars.
Sparging is a process that can take up to an hour to accomplish.
The sugary water you mashed and sparged is now ready for
boiling. The kettle is added to a heat source (stove top
or propane burner). The fist step is to take a sample of
the wort prior to boiling, and cool it to about 70 degrees F
(place in freezer, if desired). A "specific gravity"
measurement is taken at 70 F. A second reading will be
taken at the end of boil and you will be able to calculate the
estimated gravity, and alcohol by volume of the home brew.
During boiling, you'll add your first addition hops (pellets or
whole hops), second addition hops, flame-out hops, fining agents
such as Irish moss, and any possible spices. Be careful
for boil overs! This can happen around the time you add
The boiling may last for about 1.5 hours. After that,
chilling it to about 70 degrees F. (for ales) as quickly as
possible is the main goal. Usually, the wort chiller is
used to accomplish this. It is essentially a copper tube
connected to the sink's cold water and acts as a heat exchanger.
It is added about 10 minutes before the end of boil so as to
sanitize it. Water flows through the wort chiller and
cools the wort to the required temperature in about 20 minutes.
When the wort has cooled, the beer is siphoned to a fermenter
where yeast is added. The yeast will start to eat the
sugars and poop two things - CO2 and alcohol. This is
called fermentation. The yeast also imparts unique flavors
into your home brew. That's why you will always use yeast
that is specific for the type of beer being brewed.
about 7 to 10 days, fermentation has ceased and the beer is
ready to be bottled or kegged.
All-Grain Brewing Video