The Ultimate Guide to Brewing All-Grain Beer
Brewing all-grain beer is more time-consuming and confusing than brewing extract beer, but you’re likely to get better results. Before you start, it’s essential to know all the most important factors about brewing all-grain beer, including the equipment you need and how to go about completing each step.
To brew all-grain beer, you must have all the necessary equipment; this includes a mash tun, propane burner, and kettle. Heat the strike water and add your crushed grains using the mash tun. Once ready, recirculate the wort in the mash tun until it runs clear. Then, you can sparge and boil the wort.
This article will discuss brewing all-grain beer in much more detail. Therefore, keep reading to learn more!
How Is Brewing All-Grain Beer Different From Extract Beer?
Brewing all-grain beer is different from brewing extract beer because you don’t use any ready-made products, like syrups.
All-grain brewing is more personal and time-consuming because you have to do everything from scratch, including using hot water to create the sugar (a process known as mashing).
So, if you’re looking for a real brewing experience, you should try all-grain brewing. Since it’s a more complicated process, all-grain brewing is more time-consuming. You must ensure you have plenty of time set aside if you want to make a batch of all-grain beer!
Pros of Brewing All-Grain Beer
Here are the main pros of brewing all-grain beer:
- You can make your beer more personalized. Since you need to do everything from scratch, you have more control over the process and the final product. It’s more challenging to fully control the beer when using the extract-brewing process.
- The ingredients are affordable. Ingredients like grains and water are cheap, so you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank when shopping for them.
- You gain valuable experience. When you brew all-grain beer, you gain a lot of experience and learn how to make beer properly from scratch. Through mashing, you can convert starches to sugars all by yourself!
Cons of Brewing All-Grain Beer
- Slightly more time-consuming than extract brewing. Although all-grain brewing is fun and educational, it is more time-consuming. Therefore, you’ll need plenty of time to get the job done.
- You need some expensive equipment. Although the ingredients are inexpensive, the equipment required to brew all-grain beer is not. Things like mash tuns and propane burners can be costly, so you must budget accordingly.
- The process can be confusing for a beginner. There are a lot of steps when brewing all-grain beer, so the process can be overwhelming for beginners (and even intermediate beer makers). It may take a few tries to get it right, so you’ll need plenty of patience and determination.
Essential Equipment You Need for Brewing All-Grain Beer
Before I discuss how to brew all-grain beer, I must go over the essential equipment you need to get the job done. If you’ve brewed before, you likely already have some equipment.
However, if it’s your first time making all-grain beer, you might need to buy some of the equipment I’ll discuss below.
You’ll need a mash tun with a lauter if you want to make all-grain beer; this is one of the most essential pieces of equipment because it’s where you mix the water and grains to turn everything into sugars. The lauter is also crucial because it separates the liquid (wort) from the grains.
The amount you spend on a mash tun will depend on the size, but you can expect to pay hundreds or (most likely) thousands of dollars on a high-quality one.
Using a mash tun during this process is essential because it’s made specifically for all-grain brewing. It’s made to hold high temperatures for long periods, giving you the best results possible.
You need a propane burner for the final steps of the all-grain brewing process. A propane burner is essential for safely and evenly boiling the wort and keeping it at the right temperature. It will also help make the boil faster, so it can save you some time.
Thankfully, propane burners aren’t nearly as expensive as mash tuns, so you won’t have to break the bank to buy one.
Along with the propane burner, you’ll also need a kettle for boiling your wort safely and evenly. In most cases, a standard kitchen kettle won’t be enough for an all-grain brew (unless you’re making a tiny batch). If you’re making a large batch of beer, you’ll need a brewing kettle.
Brewing kettles are large metal devices that can carry plenty of liquid at once but can be costly.
Hot Liquor Tank
A hot liquor tank will heat your water, so it’s another essential piece of equipment for making all-grain beer. The hot liquor tank is one of the three main pieces of equipment you need to make all-grain beer (the other two being the mash tun and brewing kettle).
The three of these devices work together to give you the best possible wort, so you must have each.
How To Brew All-Grain Beer
You now know what equipment you need for brewing all-grain beer, so let’s discuss the steps you’ll need to follow. It’s also important to note that you’ll need plenty of space when brewing your all-grain beer due to the amount of equipment required.
You should also sanitize all equipment to avoid contamination in your brew.
Beware that this process might be confusing the first few times you try it, but if you persevere, you should get it right in no time!
Crush the Grains if Needed
The first step is to crush your grains. However, you can skip ahead to the next step if using pre-crushed grains. Thankfully, crushing grains is easy; you can place them in a bag and use a rolling pin or another utensil to crush them until they appear slightly crumbly.
Once all your grains are crushed, you’re ready to move to the next step!
Heat the Strike Water
Next, you want to heat the strike water, which is essential for mashing. Strike water should be hotter than your mash temperature by around 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.44 degrees Celsius).
Since the recommended temperature for a mash tun is between 148 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit (64 and 70 degrees Celsius), you should aim for a temperature that’s 15 degrees (-9.44 degrees Celsius) above your chosen temperature in that range.
You can use your brewing kettle to heat the strike water before adding it to the mash tun (which I’ll discuss further in the next step).
Add the Strike Water to the Mash Tun
Once your strike water has reached the right temperature, you can transfer it to the mash tun, and once in the mash tun, the temperature of the water should remain stable. That’s because your mash tun should have the appropriate insulation to keep the heat.
If you don’t use a mash tun, your liquids likely won’t hold their temperature, meaning your batch will get ruined.
Add the Crushed Grains to the Mash Tun
After adding the water to the mash tun, you can add your crushed grains. This is the most critical part of the process because it’s when the starches turn into sugars.
As I previously mentioned, the best temperature for a mash tun is between 148 and 158 degrees Fahrenheit (64 and 70 degrees Celsius), so aim for a temperature in this range.
Once the grains are added to the mash tun, stir everything around and place the lid on. Then, you can move to the next step.
Heat the Hot Liquor
While your mash is boiling, you can heat your hot liquor to approximately 175 degrees Fahrenheit (79 degrees Celsius). Once you’ve warmed it to the right temperature, you can add it to the hot liquor tank. It will remain at the right temperature in the hot liquor tank.
So, you can keep it there until you need to use it later, keeping the lid on.
Add Boiling Water to the Mash
Once the first hour has passed, add some boiling water to your mash to keep the consistency right. The best way to boil this water is to use your brewing kettle.
Not only do you want to keep the consistency right by adding boiling water, but you also want to raise the temperature of the mash.
When adding the water, you want to raise the temperature of the mash to approximately 170-175 degrees Fahrenheit (76.67-79 degrees Celsius) for 8-10 minutes. After adding the water, stir it and place the lid back on the mash tun.
Collect Wort from the Mash Tun
After your mash has sat at 170-175 degrees Fahrenheit (76.67-79 degrees Celsius) for 8-10 minutes, you’ll want to start collecting the wort from the mash tun.
The wort will likely look cloudy when you do this the first time. It may also have small pieces of grains in it; don’t fret because this is normal!
To get rid of the cloudy color and small bits, you’ll need to drain the wort and re-add it to the mash tun, repeating the process as many times as is necessary. You should notice that the wort will appear more transparent each time you drain it from the mash tun.
If it remains cloudy, there might be an issue, like contamination. However, this is highly unlikely if you follow each step correctly.
Once it’s the right color, you can move to the next step.
Sparging is when you rinse the mash with hot water, and it’s one of the final steps of brewing all-grain beer. You’ll need the three main pieces of equipment for this step, which are the following:
- Hot liquor tank
- Mash tun
- Brewing kettle
In this step, you’ll allow the water from the hot liquor tank to trickle down into the mash tun. At the same time, the wort from the mash tun will be falling into the brewing kettle.
It’s good to have the equipment set up appropriately for this process to work correctly (i.e., ensuring the hot liquor tank is next to or above the mash tun so the water can trickle in smoothly).
You can finish this step once you have as much wort as you need.
Boil the Wort
The final step of the brewing process is boiling the wort. You should use your brewing kettle and propane burner for the best results, especially if making a large batch.
If you’ve brewed beer before (all-grain or extract), you’re likely already aware of how this process works.
You’ll boil the wort, adding the essential ingredients as you go (such as the hops, which you generally add in the last few minutes of the boil). And once the boil is finished, you’ll need to chill it as you would with any type of beer.
Once you’re done with this step, the brewing process of your all-grain beer is finished! Another thing to consider after the brewing process is bottling your beer later on.
Is All-Grain Brewing the Best Brewing Method?
All-grain brewing is the best brewing method if you want to make everything from scratch rather than buying pre-made ingredients. It means you can have more of an impact on the taste and appearance of the final product, making the beer more personalized to you.
Due to the creative possibilities when brewing all-grain beer, you can accomplish many different flavors from each batch (depending on how you make them).
However, it’s still important to remember that all-grain brewing isn’t always the best, especially for beginners or people who don’t have much time to dedicate to making beer.
Extract brewing is less time-consuming and doesn’t require all the expensive equipment that all-grain brewing requires, so those are other factors to consider, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
Brewing all-grain beer can be time-consuming, and the equipment is expensive. However, it’s an excellent way to make beer if you want to control the entire process.
Once you have all the essential equipment and ingredients, you can make all-grain beer at home. Beware that the process can sometimes be confusing for beginners, so it might take a few tries before you get it right.
Once you follow the steps and clean/sanitize your equipment before making each batch, you should end up with a tasty all-grain beer!