The main reason to do All-Grain HomeBrewing is simply increased creativity. Brewing beer is an art, so why not take it all the way and be as creative as you want?
There is a huge selection of grain, hops and yeast to choose from, each one with its own distinct flavor and purpose. The combinations of just the grains are nearly endless, and then you have a wide variety of hops and yeast to stretch the boundaries of creativeness using the All-Grain HomeBrewing method.
One of the other reasons to consider All-Grain HomeBrewing is cost savings, which is not a huge factor but still something to consider. The other factor is having the freshest ingredients.
When you brew beer using the All-Grain method you are using fresh cracked grain to give the freshest flavor available when comparing to a canned extract. Although, now day’s fresh bulk extract can be purchased giving a very suitable alternative to All-Grain HomeBrewing.
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All-Grain HomeBrewing Process
The All Grain Brewing Process is easy to do! It does require additional equipment and will take about 6 hours of time on brew day.
- Basic Steps Involved in All-Grain HomeBrewing:
- Mashing — Converts starch to sugar and is the process of mixing a measured amount of 163˚– 173˚F water and milled grain to a temperature between 148° -155°F to create a mash. During the mash Enzymes naturally within the grain become active from the heat and convert starch into sugar.
- Sparging — is the process of rinsing the sugar out of the grains in the mash and into the boil kettle. Hot water is sprinkled onto the top of the mash and allowed to slowly seep through. Sugar dissolves into solution and is carried down through the outlet valve and into the boil kettle. Sparging takes about 45-60 minutes to complete. Once in the boil kettle this sugar solution is called wort. Use about 1/2 gallon of water at 170 degrees to sparge each pound of grain.
- Boiling — is the same as it is in the Extract Brewing process. After the correct amount of wort has been collected (usually 1-2 gallons more than the volume you are making), the procedures are the same as if you were doing a full-wort boil in the Malt Extract process of brewing. You would add your hops, boil for one hour, cool and add yeast.
Basic All-Grain Brewing Procedure
First you must select a good recipe. Specialty malts should account for no more than 35% of the total grain bill. Once you have weighed out your grains, they must be cracked. This is best done in a roller mill. Cracking the grain is necessary for the starch conversion and enzyme activation, just like you crack specialty grains for steeping to get at the flavor and sugar inside.
Heat up enough water in an 8 gallon brewing kettle to conduct the mash. At a water to grain ratio of 1.5:1 qt./lb., the amount would be 12.5 quarts or about 3 gallons. The initial infusion temperature should be about 163°F to create a mash temperature of 152°F.
Mix the crushed grain into the hot water gradually while stirring to make sure all the grain is fully wet, but don’t splash. Hot side aeration can occur anytime the wort is hotter than 80°F. Oxidation of wort compounds will not be affected by the subsequent boil, and will cause flavor stability problems later.
Check the temperature to see if it has stabilized at the target temperature range of 150 – 158°F. If the temperature is too low, add some heat while stirring constantly to avoid burning the bottom. Temperature will continue to rise two to three degrees after the burner is turned off, so be careful not to overheat. If it is too high, then add cold water to bring it down. Remember that temperature is critical, so you must use a thermometer.
Stir the mash every 15-20 minutes to prevent cold spots and help ensure a uniform conversion. Monitor the temperature each time you stir and as heat if necessary. The cracked grain must be mashed at a constant temperature between 150-158°F for one hour. The warmer temperature range will cause more unfermentable sugars to be made, resulting in a fuller bodied, sweeter beer with less potential alcohol. The lower range will create highly fermentable sugars, resulting in dryer beers with more potential alcohol. An iodine test will show if starch conversion is complete. Cover the mash tun with the lid between stirrings and let it sit for a total of an hour.
These guidelines are for the single temperature infusion method so you will not have to raise temp during the mashing process. You will only heat the water to one level and add grain, and hold it there for one hour. Follow this method for any grain with a starchy white center and for all recipes requiring the use of flaked barley, oats, or wheat etc. With any grain combination it is a good idea to use at least 50% 2-Row pale malt to ensure enzyme activity and proper conversion during mash. Enzymes play a crucial role in developing both nutrients and creating the starch to sugar reaction. These reactions are usually temperature specific but luckily there are temperatures that allow most enzymes to work together.
Meanwhile, heat up the sparge water in an 8 gallon stock pot. You will need 1.5 – 2 times as much sparge water as you used for the mash. The water temperature should be about 170 – 180°F. Do not allow the mash to get hotter than 170°F. At temperatures over 170°F tannins are extracted from the grain husks causing harsh flavors. There will be some heat loss from the sparge water to the mash tun so it is alright to have the sparge water over 170°F.
Sparging is the process of rinsing the grain with water in order to leech out all the sugars and dextrin’s left in the grain. This is done by slowly sprinkling water (170 degrees F) over the grains, allowing the water to flow through the grain and out the bottom of your container into your brew kettle. Your final volume should be approximately 6 to 6.5 gallons. Usually I use five gallons of sparge water with about 10-14 pounds of grain.
Remember over sparging will not only dilute your beer it will also give a grainy flavor. Under sparging results in a stronger beer but your yield will not be five gallons, which is what you’re shooting for. You will be boiling your wort, so remember you will lose approximately one gallon in vapor, and possibly more if you use flower hops in the boil which retain some wort, that is the reason for a seemingly large volume after sparging.
Okay, the hour has gone by and the mash should look a little bit different. It should be less viscous and smell great. Turn the heat back on while stirring constantly to avoid burning the bottom and monitoring the temperature to bring it to 170°F to halt the enzyme activity.
Transfer the mash to a lauter tun with a false perforated bottom and allow it to settle for 15 minutes to perform the sparge.
Drain off the first runnings into a quart pitcher. The wort will be cloudy with bits of grain. Slowly pour the wort back into the grain bed, recirculating the wort. Repeat this procedure until the wort exiting the tun is pretty clear. It will be amber colored, but not cloudy. It should only take a couple quarts.
Once the wort has cleared, drain the wort carefully into your brew kettle . Fill the pot slowly at first and allow the level to cover the outlet tube. Be sure to have a long enough tube so that the wort enters below the surface and does not splash. The splashing of hot wort before the boil can cause long term oxidation damage to the flavor of the beer.
Watch the outflow of wort, you do not want to lauter too fast, as this could compact the grain bed and you would get a stuck sparge. A rate of 1 quart/minute is the most common. Allow the wort level in the Tun to drop until it is about an inch above the level of the grain. Sprinkle sparge water from the hot water tun maintaining at least an inch of free water above the grain bed.
If the wort stops flowing, even with water above the grain bed, then you have a stuck sparge.
There are 2 ways to fix it: (a) Blow back into the outlet hose to clear an obstruction of the manifold; or (b) Close the valve and add some more water, stirring to re-suspend the mash. You will need to re-circulate again. Stuck sparges are an annoyance, but usually not a major problem. Sparge at a slow rate to avoid stuck sparges.
Stop lautering when the gravity of the runoff falls below 1.008. If you have lautered too fast, you will not rinse the grains effectively and you will get poor extraction.
Calculate how efficient your extraction was. Measure the gravity in the boiling pot and multiply the points by the number of gallons you collected. Then divide by the number of pounds of grain you used. The result should be somewhere around 30. 27 is okay, 29 is good, and over 30 is great. If it is 25 or below, you are lautering too fast or you are not getting good conversion in the mash, which could be caused by having too coarse a grist, the wrong temperature or not enough time.
Okay, throw the spent grain on the compost pile and you are done! Boil and add hops as usual.