This guide will go over the basic steps of your first all-grain brew day. I’m going to try not to delve into the “why” we are doing things, see Lesson 5 for all of the science and technical information behind what’s happening – this guide is all about the “how” of brewing all-grain. I’m attempting to make this document as step-by-step and concise as possible, but I still want it to be easily understood. If anything is unclear, do not hesitate to leave a comment under Lesson 6 on my blog at TheBeerPilgrim.com.
Before you Begin:
I like to start every brew day with a clean kitchen (despite what my videos show, I do clean my kitchen/work area before every brew day; I’m often doing multiple things, though – which tends to create clutter). Wipe down your counter-tops and put things you won’t be needing away.
Next, get out all the equipment you will need for brewing, make sure it is clean (however, I sanitize as I go – don’t sanitize your fermentation bucket 3 hours before you pitch your yeast…). At this point I measure out my malt (if needed), hops, etc.
Finally, grab a homebrew, some extra light DME (useful in case you need to adjust gravity, among other things), put on some tunes, and make sure your recipe is correctly plugged into a good brewing calculator program like BeerSmith 2 or ProMash. Of course it is possible to do without brewing software, but the investment is so low and they save so much effort/time and are more precise than you will ever be – I also am writing this guide assuming you are using one, I won’t be telling you how to do the calculations manually.
- A boil kettle that will safely boil your full volume of beer.
- No, you cannot do a 5 gallon batch with a 5 gallon pot, remember that you’ll be starting with a volume much higher than will be going in your fermenter to account for boil-off. I use 10 gallon pots and make 6 gallon batches, typically.
- Mash Paddle
- Mash-Lauter Tun
- I use a 10gal “igloo” style cooler with a “kettle screen” braided tube for lautering and a stainless ball valve.
- A propane burner or powerful gas range
- A hyrdrometer or refractometer
- Containers of various sizes for vorlaufing/measuring water volumes
- A way to measure how much water you are adding.
- I use weight in the video, but only because it is faster for me. You can use volume if you want, and I suggest if you are going to use weight that you calibrate it against a volume measurement. Accuracy with your water volumes is very important in all-grain brewing.
- A thermometer that is calibrated to both freezing and boiling.
- I have heard that dial thermometers are best if you don’t want to go digital, glass thermometers with the red stuff inside are supposedly notoriously inaccurate around the mashing temp range, even if calibrated at 0C and 100C.
- Determine what mash temperature you want for your recipe. Hotter = Fuller Body. Should be somewhere between 140 and 165. Input into software.
- Determine your mash thickness. If you don’t know, use 1.25qt of water per pound of grain. Input into software.
- Take temperature of grain and temperature of the MLT and input into software to calculate precise temperature of water to add to give you your desired mash step temperature.
- Put malted, crushed grain in the mash-lauter tun (hereafter referred to as MLT).
- Use software to calculate temperature of water needed for mashing (it will be warmer than your mash step temperature, because the grain is below the step temperature)
- Heat water to specified temperature.
- Add “hot liquor” (hot water) to the mash tun and malted grain.
- Stir for several minutes until the whole mixture is homogenous.
- Check temperature, if low, add small amount of hot water (can be boiling for small amounts) until temperature is where you want it. Ideally you won’t have to do this, but make sure you don’t go over your step temperature as it is harder to cool down your mash.
- Wait until conversion is complete, stir periodically. You can use a starch-iodine test or just wait 60 minutes. If you test, conversion may be complete in as little as 15 minutes. It will essentially always be complete by 60, which is why that is a safe time if you aren’t testing.
- Add about 1 gallon of water to raise mash temperature to 168-170. This lowers the viscosity of the mash and helps the sugars dissolve into the wort. Many people let the mash rest (often times while stirring) for 10-20min at this new higher temperature before continuing.
- Vorlauff. Start draining (lautering) your wort from the MLT into a small, clear container. Initially there will be bits of grain in with the wort in your container. Dump it all gently back into the MLT, and repeat until there are no more grain particles coming out
- Drain your MLT completely into your boil kettle. You can open the valve all the way.
- Take a gravity reading for your reference. It should have an SG well above your pre-boil gravity or even OG.
- Heat more water.
- Batch Sparge: Add the remaining volume of heated water needed to achieve your pre-boil volume in the kettle (both temp and volume calculated by your software, but it is easy to figure out on your own).
- Stir the second addition of water.
- Repeat steps 12-14.
- Verify you have the proper pre-boil volume.
- Take pre-boil gravity
- Bring entire volume to a boil and proceed with adding hops, etc as per recipe (same as an extract batch at this point – see lesson 2).