All homebrewing enthusiasts love getting the opportunity to try out different types of beer. Many of you who are new to homebrewing might want to learn how to brew all grain beer. Going all-grain is not an easy task for a novice. There’s a vast amount of information in the homebrewing literature about all-grain brewing.
However, with the right pieces of information simplified in actionable steps, you can easily make a lovely all-grain brew that you can be proud of and enjoy. Brewing well at home comes with practice and following the instructions. The experience of brewing helps you understand some of the quirks that can help you get the best quality homebrew beer.
In this article, we will cover all the necessary information you need to learn how to brew all grain beer. By the time you are done, you will be well on your way to successfully brewing your first batch of all-grain beer.
What You’ll Need
Before you dig into the steps, make sure you highlight everything that you will need to complete the task.
Here is the equipment you will require:
- 5- to 10-gallon cooler as a mash tun
- 8- to 10-gallon stainless steel kettle for brewing
- 8- to 10-gallon stainless steel kettle for strike water
- Heat-resistant tubing to siphon hot water
- Wort chiller
- 1-gallon plastic pitcher
- Long-handled spoon
- Thermometer to monitor temperature
- Iodine for conversion testing
Here are the ingredients for the delicious all-grain beer you will need:
- 6 to 10 pounds of grains
- Hops, as much as necessary
- Yeast, as much as necessary
- Water, as much as necessary
1. Sanitize the Equipment
The first and most important step for brewing a batch of all-grain beer is to properly scrub and clean your equipment. Remember that a clean and sanitized set of equipment is essential for safe and happy beer drinking. You must perform this step before you begin each brew.
2. Mash Temperature and Strike Water
The different types of grain require unique mashing temperatures. Depending on the specific recipe you follow, you should heat up the beer. Let’s suppose that your beer recipe has a 150°F mash temperature. You should heat up the strike water to the temperature up to 18°F higher than 150°F. 150°F + 18°F = 168°F
The quantity of water depends on how much grain you have. Ideally, you need a single quart of water for every pound of grain. If your recipe has 8 pounds of crushed barley. You will need 8 quarts of water. Eight quarts equals 2 gallons of strike water.
3. Preparing Your Mash Tun
The next step in learning how to brew all grain beer is to prep your mash tun. Before you add the strike water, heat a gallon of water in your kettle and bring it up to a boil. Once it is boiling, add the water to your mash tun and let it sit for 5 minutes. The tun will warm up, and it will not drastically lower the temperature of your mash. When the five minutes are up, return the water back to your pot because you will need it for sparging.
After returning the water to the pot, pour some strike water into the mash tun and add a handful of the grain. Keep alternating between grains and water. Stir the mixture frequently so that the grains do not form a clump in the mash tun.
4. Mash Temperature Check
Once you have all the grains and strike water added to the tun, you have to check the temperature of the mixture. Ideally, a floating thermometer can help you get an accurate result. Add the thermometer to the mash and close the lid. Take a reading of the temperature after letting the thermometer sit in the mixture for 30 seconds.
Ideally, the temperature should be within 1 degree of the target mash temperature. If it is still higher, wait for a little while longer with the lid on. Once it hits the target temperature, you should stir it and check the temperature every 20 minutes. If the temperature ever falls below the target temperature, add half a quart of boiling water and stir it until the temperature comes back to the target range. If the temperature gets too high, take off the lid and let it cool down while stirring it.
5. Prep to Sparge and Lauter the Mash
You need to begin preparing the mash for the process of sparging and lautering.
While many homebrewers refer to them as the same thing, sparging and lautering are different terms that we will discuss later. First, you need to prepare the mash. Half an hour into the mash, use the sparging kettle to heat 1.5 times the water you used for the strike water. Let’s suppose you used 2 gallons of strike water for this recipe. You will need 3 gallons of sparging water. Heat the water in that kettle up to 170°F. Do not do anything with this water yet.
You have to check for starch conversion in your mash before you can sparge the mash.
6. Starch Conversion Test
You can start checking for starch conversion an hour into the mash. Before you can lauter the mash and extract the wort, you need to ensure the starch in your mash is converted into sugar. This is where the iodine comes in. Put a drop of iodine into a tablespoon of the liquid on a white surface. If the extract changes color, the mashing isn’t complete.
Let the mash stay at mashing temperature and check it for conversion after every 10 minutes. Keep doing this until the iodine doesn’t cause the extract to change color.
7. The Vorlauf Step
Once you’re satisfied that the starches have all converted into sugar, drain a quart of the extract from the mash tun into the plastic pitcher. You will notice bits of grain in this extract. Pour this liquid back into the mash but do it very gently. Ideally, you can use an aluminum foil and make holes with a clean fork to use as a makeshift filter.
Pour the extract over the mash as gently as possible so that the force of the water does not disturb the grain at the bottom of the mash tun. Keep repeating the process until the extract is relatively clear.
8. Sparge and Lauter the Mash
With the Vorlauf Step out of the way, you are finally ready to sparge and lauter. Open the tap on your mash tun to let the liquid drain into the wort kettle. Use the heat resistant tubing to siphon the 170°F sparge water back into the mash and over the grains.
Slowly pour the hot sparging water over the mash as your extract slowly drains into the wort kettle. You want to make sure the water doesn’t disturb the grain bed. Try to keep the water level an inch above the grain bed during this process. Continue lautering until you have 7 gallons worth of wort in the wort kettle.
9. Boil the Wort
With the wort successfully transferred to the wort kettle, boil the mixture for 90 minutes or as directed by the specific recipe. You can add hops to your beer during this process.
10. Transfer the Wort after Cooling it Down
Cool the wort using a wort chiller and then pitch the yeast. Transfer the cooled wort to your favorite fermenter, and there you have it. You have successfully brewed all grain beer.
Our Final Thoughts
Learning how to brew all grain beer is different from most other homebrews. It requires a certain level of finesse and control. However, if you can get the hang of the careful pouring and patience necessary, you can become a master brewer. It might not come out the right way with your first batch. However, practicing it enough can improve your brewing skills. You will notice that you have an easier time with other brews once you master brewing all grain beer.