All Grain Brewing

Well, you finally made it.  We are about to undertake an adventure of enormous proportions.  Imagine, the ability to control every aspect of your home brewed beer’s flavor.  With all grain brewing, you gain this amazing ability.  You can control how dry or sweet your beer is and you can experience the ultimate in freshness.  By using an all grain brewing technique, you can have the advantage of a freshness unobtainable by brewing with extract because you are making your malt extract right now, just before you brew.  Compare this with malt extracts that have sat on the shelf for an unknown number of months and you can easily see why you would want to try all grain brewing.  So, what is it that you have to do in exchange for this amazing ability?  Not much.  You just have to set aside a little more time and get a kettle capable of boiling the full volume of liquids needed for your brew.  You will also need to construct an immersion chiller.  I have included plans for this on my Articles page.  I have created a list of things you need in order to brew an all-grain beer.  We are going to make my favorite porter for this tutorial.  It is usually about 5.2% alcohol and has a nice smooth, slightly sweet, flavor.  Make sure you read through all of the instructions before you begin.
You need the following brewing items:
1) A lauter tun
2) Long spoon to stir the brew
3) Fermenter (a 6 1/2 gallon food grade plastic bucket or glass carboy)
4) Airlock (available at your local home brew store)
5) A sanitizing agent (chlorine bleach, iodophor is better)
6) 1 brewing thermometer
7) A brewing hydrometer
8) 54 cleaned and sanitized bottles (non twist-off type)
9) Bottle caps
10) A bottle capper
11) Optional secondary fermenter (a 5 gallon food grade vessel)
12) A 5 gallon food grade bucket for bottling
13) A brewer’s racking cane with hose (for siphoning beer)
14) Optional bottle filler
You need the following additional brewing items:
1) A stock pot of at least 7 gallons in size
2) Another 6 1/2 gallon bucket with a spigot to hold your sparge water
3) 10 feet of vinyl hose (attach 5 feet to each spigot)
4) Immersion cooling coil
You need the following Ingredients for a Powers’ Pirate’s Porter (PPP):

7.5 pounds Beeson’s Pale Malt (crushed)
1 pound Caramel/Crystal Malt – 80L (crushed)
1 pound Chocolate Malt (350 SRM) (crushed)
.33 pounds German Wheat Malt (crushed)
.33 ounces Centennial Hops (60 min)
1 teaspoon Irish Moss (20 min)
1 ounces Willamette Hops (15 min)
.25 ounces Centennial Hops (3 min)
1 ounces Willamette Hops (3 min)
1 vial White Labs English Ale Yeast

3/4 cup corn sugar
The Process:

1) The brewing day begins by making sure that all of your “tools” have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. This means that every piece that will come in contact with your brew has been thoroughly cleaned and has been soaked in a solution of one tablespoon chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water for at least an hour. After everything has been cleaned, sanitized, and rinsed well, it is time to begin the brewing procedure.

2) Make sure you allow the yeast you are using to warm to room temperature for at least 6 hours before you begin your brew.

3) Bring 1.2 quarts of water per pound of grain to 167 degrees on your stove in your large brewing pot.  For this particular recipe, this amounts to 11.8 quarts.  We also need to add the amount of foundation water we need to reach the perforated part of our lauter tun.  The total amount of water to heat to 167 degrees is 15.8 quarts.  When the water has reached the correct temperature, dump it into your lauter tun.  This water is known as our strike water.

4) Place your crushed grains into the water and thoroughly mix them.  It is best to mix a little in at a time.  In this case, our lauter tun is doubling as our mash tank.  Put a lid on the lauter tun and leave the mixture to sit for about one hour.  Sometimes it helps to wrap our mash/lauter tun with a blanket in order to help keep the temperature constant.  During this time, enzymes are activated in the grains and the fermentable sugars are extracted.

5) While the mash is sitting, heat 6 gallons of water on your stove to approximately 170 degrees.
6) After the hour mashing process is complete, it is time to set your mash/lauter tun on a chair.  slightly open the bottom spigot and allow about a quart of liquid to drain into a small saucepan.  Gently pour it onto the top of the grain bed.  Continue to do this until the liquid is free from grain debris.  It should take about 15 minutes.
7) Dump your 6 gallons of 170 degree water into the other plastic bucket you got to hold your sparge water.  We are now ready to begin the sparging process.  This is the time that we wash the residual sugars from our grain bed.  Place this bucket on the counter above the chair that holds your mash/lauter tun.
8) Take your large stock pot (7 gallons or larger) and place it under the spigot of the mash/lauter tun.
9) Open the spigot slightly and allow the hot wort to flow from the mash/lauter tun and into the large pot.  Once the level of the liquid has settled to about an inch above the surface of the grain bed, place the hose from your sparge tank on top of the grain bed.  At the same rate that the liquid is leaving the lauter tun, gently allow the hose from your sparge bucket to sprinkle the 170 degree water onto the top of the grain bed.  Try to keep the liquid level in the mash/lauter tun at an inch above the surface of the grain bed and don’t disturb it too much.  You may need to move the hose around a little in order to evenly disperse the liquid.  The idea is to stretch this process out for as long as possible.  It should take between 30 and 45 minutes to complete this process.  If it takes more time or less time, don’t worry.  You can buy a rotating sparge arm for this process or something can be made to sprinkle the water onto the surface of the grain.  The above described method is known as fly sparging.
10) After all of the liquid has been transferred to the top of the grain bed, allow all the remaining liquid in the grains to drain into your large stock pot and discard the spent grains.

11) Place the large stock pot on the stove and bring the solution to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, it is time to start making your hops additions.  Boiling this much liquid on your stove can be a long process.  On my electric stove, it took 60 minutes just to get the liquid hot enough to come to a moderate boil.  I eventually switched to an outdoor propane cooker because of this.

12) Place .33 ounces of  Centennial Hops  into the kettle and begin boiling your wort. These are your bittering hops.  Make sure you pay attention, it is possible to have a sticky boil over when the boil begins.  This wort boiling procedure will take exactly 60 minutes.  During this time, the bitterness, flavors, and aroma of the hops will be extracted and the wort will be sanitized.

13) 40 minutes into the boil, place one teaspoon of Irish Moss into the liquid. This will aid in the coagulation of proteins and will result in a cleaner tasting final product.

14) 45 minutes into the boil, place the one ounce packet of Willamette Hops into the kettle.  This is the Hops addition that will add a nice hop flavor to your beer.  At this time, place your immersion chiller into the beer.  This will sanitize it and minimize the chance of infection.

15) 57 minutes into the boil, place the one ounce packet of Willamette Hops and .25 ounces of Centennial Hops into the kettle.  These will be your aroma hops.

16) After the 60 minute boil process has completed, it is time to cool the wort to yeast pitching temperature. This means attaching the immersion chiller to your sink faucet and turning on the cold water.  Make sure the other end of the chiller is in your sink drain or you will have a wet mess on your hands.  Briskly stir the beer in a circular motion for approximately a minute.  This will help cause a whirlpool effect that will help urge the settling coldbreak material to drop to the center of the kettle.  It should take about 20 to 45 minutes to cool your beer to yeast pitching temperature.

17) Once the liquid has cooled to approximately 80 degrees, it is time to transfer it to your sanitized fermentation bucket or carboy. I would suggest using your racking cane to perform this procedure.  Make sure you leave behind as much of the coagulated coldbreak material that is in the bottom of the kettle as possible.  It is at this time that you might want to use your brewer’s hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of your beer.  Fill the hydrometer’s tube with the beer and allow the hydrometer to float in a container.  Read the number that appears at the liquid line.  It should be a number that looks something like 1.052.  Variances in this number can occur due to several reasons.  Don’t worry about it.  This number can allow us to determine the final alcohol content of our brew.

18) Pitch your yeast into the beer and vigorously shake your fermentation tank.  This agitation will help to increase the amount of oxygen in the beer.  At this point, the yeast need a lot of oxygen in order to begin a healthy fermentation.  Seal your fermentation vessel with the water-filled sanitized airlock.

19) For most beers, fermentation will begin within 36 hours. Depending upon the style of beer you are making, the fermentation process will last anywhere between 4 to 7 days.  If you have a secondary fermentation tank, it is at this time that you would siphon your beer off the yeast sediment in the primary fermenter and transfer it to the secondary.  Fermenting beer that is treated in this manner and left in the secondary fermentation tank for at least 2 weeks will become much clearer and have a cleaner flavor.  This process, however, is completely optional.

20) Once fermentation is complete, transfer the beer to a bottling bucket. Add 3/4 cup of corn sugar that has been boiled with a cup of water. Stir the beer well to make sure the sugar solution is evenly mixed into the solution.  Be very careful not to splash the beer at this point.  Splashing can cause oxidation in the beer which can lead to off-flavors.

21) The beer may now be transferred to the cleaned and sanitized bottles.  It is also at this time that you should use your hydrometer to measure the final gravity of your beer.  Place bottle caps on the bottles and allow them to sit in a warm place for approximately 14 days.  You can enter your original and final gravities into the Beer Statistics calculator on my Calculator and Texts page in order to find out the alcohol content, calories per 12 ounces, and carbohydrate content of your beer.

22) Enjoy your home brewed beer.  Home brewed beer is best enjoyed in a clean glass.  Pour all but the last quarter inch of beer from the bottle into the glass.  This will leave behind the spent yeast cells that have finished performing their duties.
Cheap ‘n’ Easy Batch Sparge Brewing

Some homebrewers aspire to someday go pro. Some homebrewers like to use pro style systems and techniques for their homebrewing endeavors. Some homebrewers get their kicks from designing fancy automated systems for the brewing. Not me….I like the simple, hands on approach to brewing. Kind of the same way you think of cooking. For me, it’s “Cheap ‘n’ Easy” batch sparge brewing.

What is sparging and how do you do it?

Sparging is the rinsing of the grain bed to extract as much of the sugar from the grain as possible without extracting mouth puckering tannins from the grain husks, says John Palmer (How to Brew, John Palmer 2nd Edition 2000, 2001). We’ll further specify that sparging begins only after runoff of the sweet wort from the mashtun has begun. Otherwise, there would be no such thing as no-sparge brewing, which we’ll get to in a minute.

Fly Sparging

The usual way most brewers sparge is continuous (also called on the fly, or fly) sparging. In this method, after vorlauf, the wort runoff is begun and water is added to the mash tun at the same rate as the runoff. It’s important to go slow so as to extract the maximum amount of sugar and not compact the grainbed, which would stop the runoff. Lauter design is also highly important in fly sparging. Your lautering system must allow no channeling, or the sparge liquor will “drill” straight down through the grain bed in only one or 2 locations and leave the rest of the mash unrinsed. Because the buffering power of the grains in the mashtun is continually being diluted by the sparge water, it’s necessary to monitor the pH of the runoff. Too high a pH will cause the extraction of tannins and polyphenols, compromising the quality of the beer. To counteract this, it is often necessary to acidify the sparge water to keep the pH of the runoff below 6. Because the runoff may take an hour or more, many brewers do a mashout step in an attempt to denature the enzymes and prevent further conversion from taking place while the sparge is happening. However, this method will usually yield the highest extraction from the grain.

No Sparge Brewing

As described by John Palmer in his BYO article “Skip the Sparge” (May-June 2003), a no sparge brew has the entire volume of sparge water added to the mash and stirred in before any runoff has taken place. Even though additional water has been added, since it hass been added to the mash before runoff has begun, we can more properly think of it as a mash infusion, rather than a sparge addition… hence the name “no-sparge”. This method is the easiest way to mash, but at the expense of poor extraction, typically 50%. The advantage, though, is that because all the sugar from the mash is in solution from the agitation of adding the water, lauter design has minimal effect.

Batch Sparging

Batch sparging is like partigyle brewing or the English method described in Palmer’s How to Brew, but instead of a separate beer being made from each runoff, the runoffs are combined into a single batch. In batch sparging, mashing is done at the normal ratio of anywhere from 1 to 1.3 qt./lb. After conversion, the sweet wort is recirculated as normal and the mashtun is completely drained as quickly as possible, and an addition of sparge water is added. This is stirred into the mash, allowed to rest for a few minutes, thoroughly stirred again, and after recirculation is once more drained as quickly as the system will allow. Sometimes, multiple batches are added if necessary or an additional infusion is made before the first runoff is begun. The advantages of batch sparging are no (or reduced) worries about pH because you are not continually diluting the buffering power of the grains, inefficient lautering systems do not really affect the extraction rate since the sugars from the grain are in solution, a mashout is seldom necessary (though may still be desirable) since the wort will be in the kettle more quickly and enzymes denatured by boiling, and extraction rates that range from slightly less to slightly more than fly sparging. The more inefficient your lautering system is for fly sparging, the bigger the gain in extraction you will see from batch sparging.

Formulae and definition of variables

Most of the following is drawn from and builds on the work of Ken Schwartz (Ken Schwartz [1] and Bob Regent [2]. The main concept we are going to be working with is that for the best efficiency, the runoff volumes from your mash and batch sparge should be equal. In order to do that, it is sometimes necessary to infuse your mash with extra water before the first runoff. Here is how it works…

R1 = initial runoff volume which = mash water volume – water absorbed by grain
S = batch sparge water volume
V = total boil volume (amount in needed in kettle for boil)
I = volume of infusions for a step mash

R1 + I + S(1) + S(2) + … + S(n) must equal V and R1 + I = .5V

(Note: On my system I assumed the water absorbed by the grain to be .1 gal./lb. Use a figure that matches your system.)

Let’s see how this works in a brewing session. Assume a recipe with 10 lb. of grain, and that you need to collect 7 gal. of pre boil wort. A mash ration of 1.25 qt./lb. would require 12.5 qt. or 3.125 gal. of strike water. Based on an absorption of .1 gal./lb., the mash would absorb 1 gal. of water so we would get 2.125 gal. of water from the mash. Since we want to collect 3.5 gal. (or 50% of the boil volume), after the mash is complete we would add 1.375 gal. (5.5 qt.) of water to mash tun before the first runoff. Stir the additional water in, let it sit for a few minutes, then vorlauf until clear and start your runoff. After the runoff, we add 3.5 gal. of batch sparge water. Stir it in, rest 10-15 minutes, stir again, then vorlauf and runoff as before. These two runoffs will give us our pre boil volume of 7 gal. of sweet wort.

Now, let’s take a look at how to build the equipment and do a brew session!

Building the Mashtun

For the mashtun, you will need a cooler. I prefer the rectangular ones. The large top opening makes it easier to stir the mash than a round cooler does. Since grain bed depth makes practically no difference in batch sparging, one of the main reasons people use the round coolers is nullified. The rectangular ones are also cheaper. You will also need a rubber bung for a minikeg, some 1/2 inch ODx3/8 inch ID food grade vinyl tubing long enough to reach from whatever you set your cooler on to the bottom of your kettle PLUS 6 inches, an inline nylon valve, and a length of water supply line with a stainless steel braid for a jacket, and 3 hose clamps. The length of the water supply line does not really matter. I use one that is long enough to run the length of the cooler, but my experiments have shown that shorter ones seem to work as well. Feel free to substitute parts if you would like something a little snazzier. The only really crucial piece of the whole setup is the stainless hose braid, so if you want to put a fancy ball valve or something else on your mashtun, go for it!

NOTE: The minikeg bung fits snugly into the hole left from removing the drain in most of the 48-54 qt. coolers I’ve checked. If the fit is loose, or you are worried about leakage, apply some food grade silicone sealant on the flange before inserting the bung into the cooler. Be creative!

Step by Step

  1. Remove the spigot from the cooler. Usually, there is a nut on the inside of the cooler holding the spigot on. Unscrew that and the spigot should pop right out.
  2. Remove the plastic insert from the hole in the minikeg bung, and insert the bung into the spigot hole, from the inside of the cooler. The beveled edge of the bung goes in first, and the flange of the bung should end up flush with the cooler wall.
  3. Cut off a 6 inch piece of the vinyl tubing and, from the inside of the cooler, insert it into the hole in the minikeg bung. Let a couple inches of tubing protrude from each side of the cooler.
  4. Cut the threaded fittings off the water supply line (I use a hatchet). Pull the tubing out from the braid, leaving you with a hollow length of hose braid. Flatten the last inch or so of one end of the braid. Fold it over on itself 3 times to seal the end. Squeeze the fold with a pair of pliers to crimp it closed.
  5. Slip a hose clamp over the end of the braid, and slip the braid over the end of the vinyl tubing INSIDE the cooler. Tighten the clamp until snug, but do not squeeze the tubing shut!
  6. Insert one end of the valve into the tubing on the outside of the cooler and secure it with a hose clamp. Slip another hose clamp over the end of the long piece of tubing, connect the tubing to the output side of the valve, and secure with the hose clamp.

That’s it! You’ve built your Cheap ‘n’ Easy mash/lauter tun! Now, let’s brew some beer!

Brewing Your First Batch Sparge Beer

Let’s walk through an actual brew session. This is from a 8 gallon batch of altbier I brewed recently. Remember that the method can be used with any brewing system or equipment. I’m going to describe how to do it the “Cheap ‘n’ Easy” way.

The equipment you’ll need is:

  • Your converted cooler mash tun
  • A pot to heat water in (5 gal. minimum recommended)
  • A 1-2 qt. heatproof pitcher (preferably unbreakable)
  • Your regular brewing equipment-thermometer, boil kettle, and whatever else you normally use

In this photo you can see my cooler, converted keg boiler, a 7 gal. aluminum pot for heating water, a thermometer, a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup, a 1/2 gal. plastic pitcher, and the pickup tube for my kettle.

The things that you need to know to figure your water volumes are:

  • Total grain weight – in this case, 19.3 lb.
  • Strike water volume – in this case, 1.24 qt./lb or 6 gal.
  • Absorption of water by grain – in my system, it’s 10 lb. of grain absorbs 1 gal. of water. Some systems absorb 1 gal. for 8 lb. If you don’t know your absorption volume, measure your first runoff volume the first few brews. By knowing how much water you put in and how much wort you got out, you can easily figure your absorption.
  • Preboil volume – how much wort you need to start with. For this batch, we want 10 gal.

OK, we’re ready to brew!

  1. Mash in with 6 gal. of water for 1.24 qt./lb. I use the pitcher to pour water from the 7 gal. kettle (4th row 1st photo) until the kettle is light enough to lift and pour the rest of the water in. I predict that the grain will absorb 1.9 gal., so I should get just about 4 gal. out of the mash.
  2. Since I’d like to get 5 gal. out of this runoff, I infuse with 1 gal. of water at the end of the mash, before the first runoff. I add boiling water to get as close to the 168F mashout temperature as I can and stir it in.
  3. After 10 more minutes, I begin to recirculate the mash by draining into the pitcher (5th row 1st photo). I only open the valve partially at first, then as the runoff clears I open it up fully. With the hose braid, I usually only have to drain about a quart or so until it’s clear. Keep draining and recirculating until the runnings are clear and free from pieces of grain.
  4. Once the runnings clear, direct the runoff to your kettle, and slowly pour the contents of the pitcher back over the top of your mash.
  5. Completely drain the mash tun as fast as your system will allow.
  6. As the first runoff progresses, start heating your batch sparge water. In this case, we’re going to heat 5 gal. to about 185F to try to get to a grain bed temperature in the 165-168F range.
  7. When the first runoff is done, close the valve and once again use the pitcher to add your sparge water until the pot is light enough to lift. .Then pour the rest in. Stir the grain thoroughly , close the cooler, and let it rest for a few minutes.
  8. After the rest, open the cooler and thoroughly stir the grain once again…yep, you heard right! We want to get all the sugar into solution in the water.
  9. Go through the recirculation and draining process again, once more draining the cooler as fast as your system will allow.
  10. 10) Continue the brewing process as you usually do.

Congratulations…you’ve batch sparged! Like anything else in brewing, it may take a couple tries before you get everything figured out completely. But with batch sparging, you can brew all grain beers with a minimal investment in equipment, and a pride in the hands on fun of brewing.

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