Friday, March 12, 2010

All-grain brewing

Sorry for the delay, but hopefully it will be worth it. In this post, I talk about going all grain.

Brewers have a tendency to rank themselves based on the level of brewing. Beginner brewers may use pre-hopped malt extract that comes in a can. Basically, you choose a can of whichever style of beer you want, then you boil it and add water. The next step up for brewers is extract brewing. This is where you buy extract which is a sticky, thick, sweet solution of concentrated wort. Most extract brewers steep grains, which can add color and flavor to the beer, but still the sugars come from the malt extract. The next step up is all grain. While there is nothing wrong with extract, most brewers seek to get to the level of all grain.

One of the reasons going all grain is a big step is the initial investment of new equipment. To make the switch, I had to buy things like a cooler, turkey cooker, propane, stainless steel pot, and a bunch of random hardware. I won't go too much into the assembly of my equipment, because 1) its probably not that interesting 2) I literally got my directions off of this website ( and followed them almost identically. However, with all grain, you really do save more money per batch and you have a lot more control over the flavor and style of your brew.

The basic purpose of brewing is to get the flavor of the beer (with grains and hops) and create a sugary mixture. Once you drop in the yeast, you pretty much sit back and let them do the work of converting sugars into alcohol. So, as stated before, its possible to buy extract or you can convert starches into sugar through a process called mashing. Here is a basic rundown of our process:

1) We had to heat up 4.5 gallons of water. We got the water up to 165 degrees because we figured we would lose some heat when we switched it over to the mash.

2) We added all of our grains to the mash tun. Then we filled it with hot water and let it sit for an hour at around 157 degrees. During this hour, the starches in the grains are converted into sugars, which can later be consumed by yeast and transferred to alcohol and CO2.

3) We drained the mash to get our wort. Then we heated more water to sparge the leftover grains. Sparging grabs any remaining sugars that might be left in the mash tun.

4) Now that we had our wort, we boiled for an hour, adding our hops at the appropriate times.

5) After an hour, we had to cool down our wort with a wort chiller. This is basically a length of copper tubing that is coiled around. We ran cold water through the tubing, which takes the heat away from the wort, leaving a temperature that wont kill the yeast.

6) Pitched our yeast, the same as we would have using an extract method.

7) Clean up.

Our first all-grain recipe was for a pale ale, actually a clone of Stone's Pale Ale. Here is the recipe we used with a few alterations to the original recipe.

10 lbs 2-Row Pale Malt

1.5 lbs Crystal Malt (60˚ L)

6 oz Crystal Malt (75˚ L) [We just used 2 lbs of Crystal Malt (60˚ L)]

.6 oz Magnum hops [We used Yakima Magnum]

1 oz Ahtanum [There was another substitution here, but I can't find the sheet where I wrote it down, so it will be considered a secret]

White Labs WLP002 (English Ale) Yeast [We used Nottingham Ale Dry Yeast]

1tsp Irish Moss