All Grain Brewing Process


Most of the process for making beer from grain is very much like making beer from malt extracts, except that there is the extra step of getting the 'malt extract' out of the barley (or other grains if the recipe calls for them) and into the boil kettle. Once the boil starts the procedures are almost exactly the same except that there isn't a way to do a concentrated boil with all grain so you need a bigger pot to brew in.

About a day or two before I'm going to brew I pop the yeast packet that comes with the kit. This mixes some nutrient solution in with the yeast and gets it ready to ferment the beer. In about 24 hours the packet will be all puffed up and then I know that the yeast is alive and ready to use. Some people would say that you need to make a starter to build the yeast up to prevent problems. I've never bothered, something I'll have to try one day I guess.

On the day I'm going to brew, I set aside about 5 hours for the brewing process and cleanup. I start by filling my 30 quart stock pot about 3/4 full with water and putting it on my propane burner. I'll use this water in a little bit for the mash.

While that's going on, I fill my mash tun with hot tap water about 2" deep to help preheat it. The mash tun is converted from a picnic cooler. I removed the drain valve on the bottom and replaced it with a ball valve and connected a section of stainless hose braid inside to serve as a strainer. This sort of setup is described by Denny Conn on his batch sparging webpage.

While I'm waiting for the mash water to heat, I weigh out the grain for my recipe (usually about 10lbs of various different sorts of grain) and run it through my grain mill.

About this time, the water in my kettle is usually heated up enough. 173° seems to be the right temperature for my system. It took a bit of experimenting to figure this out and it'll probably be different for your setup. For each pound of grain in my recipe I use 1.25 quarts of Mash water. So for a typical batch with 10 lbs of grain I put 12.5 quarts (or 6 and a quarter pitchers worth) of 173° water into my cooler/mash tun.

Once the mash water is in the cooler it's time to stir in the crushed grain. The grain needs to be stirred well to avoid clumps. Once it's all stirred in the whole pudding like mixture should settle out to about 153°. It's a good idea to check this with a thermometer and adjust the temperature with a little hot or cold water if necessary. Then shut the lid and let it sit for an hour.

About 1/2 way through the hour, I start heating water for the sparge. I use my 20 quart pot for this because I need to save my 30 quart pot for the boil. At this stage, I don't need to be too concerned with temperature, because I'm mostly shooting for boiling anyway.

When the hour is over. It's time to start sparging. First I need to figure out how much water to add for the mashout. I want to collect 1/2 of my 6.5 gallon boil volume (or 13 quarts) at this stage. In the case of a typical batch with 10 pounds of grain, I can expect the grain to absorb 4 quarts of the 12.5 quarts I added at mash in, leaving 8.5 quarts. That means I need to add 4.5 quarts of near boiling water. I'll add this amount, stir and then wait 10 minutes.

Then I put the hose coming out of the ball valve on the cooler into my 30 quart pot and open the ball valve. I collect the first couple of quarts in my pitcher to catch any grain husks and stuff that may have worked their way into the hose braid and recirculate it back into the cooler.

When all the yummy wort drains out I set aside about 1/2 a cup for my wife. She really likes the stuff. Then I add 13 quarts of near boiling water to the cooler, give it a stir, recirculate another two quarts and drain it into the brew kettle. I heft the kettle onto the propane burner and light it up.

From this point on, everything is pretty much the same as doing an extract batch except that I'm boiling in a bigger kettle and using a propane burner outside instead of a kitchen stove.

This stage is when a boil over is most likely to happen. Usually, I stay near the kettle with a spray bottle in my hand to fight back any foam that forms on top of the boiling wort. I let the wort boil for a while until the foam isn't quite as thick anymore before going on.

Once the foam has fallen back into the mix it's time to add the hops. Usually, the first addition of hops should be boiled for 60 minutes, but it depends on the recipe. When adding hops some foam will form so I usually turn the heat off while it add the hops. Then I set my kitchen timer for 60 minutes.

Depending on the recipe, there may be some other hops and things that need to be added to the boil, so I keep an eye on the timer, but mostly at this point I can relax for a bit. When the timer reads 30 minutes, I put a teaspoon of Irish moss into a small dish of cold water.

After I get the Irish moss rehydrating, I fill my primary fermenter with One Step solution. I put the lid to the bucket, a racking cane, and some 3/16" tubing, the airlock and my big brewing spoon into the solution so that they stay clean.

When the timer reads 15 minutes, I put the rehydrated Irish Moss into the boil. At this time, I also rinse off my wort chiller and put it into the boiling wort to make sure it is sanitized.

During the last two minutes of the boil I set the lid of the kettle on loosely so that it gets a chance to be steam cleaned. I also get any hops that need to be added at the end of the boil ready. Then the timer goes off. I turn off the stove and connect my immersion chiller to the hose and start the cold water flowing. Then I stir the wort into a bit of a whirlpool to get it moving against the wort chiller, put the lid back on and wait about 1/2 hour.

Once the wort is cooled to room temperature, I remove the items from the fermenter and place them on the upside down lid on the counter. This keeps everything that will touch the cooled beer sanitary and leaves the airlock filled with One Step solution.

Then I use my racking cane and tubing to siphon the wort into the fermenter. I do my best to keep the hop residue and other crud from the bottom of the kettle from being siphoned into the fermenter. I stir the cooled wort with my long handled spoon to work as much oxygen into the wort as possible. Then I tear open the yeast packet and pour the contents into the fermenter, put the lid on the bucket and insert the airlock. After this I put the bucket in the corner in my basement for about a week.

After a week or so, it's time for the secondary. I place my primary fermenter on the counter then assemble the rest of the things I need. For this process I'll need a carboy, a rubber stopper, an airlock and a length of 5/16" hose. I fill the carboy with One Step solution then scrub it out with a brush. I pour some of the One Step solution into a pan and put the other items in the pan to sanitize while I empty out the carboy. After that, I attach the 5/16" hose to the spigot on my primary fermenter and place the carboy on the floor underneath. Then it's just a matter of removing the lid from the bucket, opening the spigot and waiting a few minutes for the beer to drain from the bucket into the carboy. Then I attach the stopper and airlock and move the carboy to a cool dark corner of the basement. Then I clean the crud out of the bucket.

The carboy will remain in the basement for about 10 days until there is no more bubbling from the airlock at all. Once I am sure that fermentation is complete I put the carboy into the fridge for a few days to help the rest of yeast settle out. I find that this helps the beer clear a little bit more before I put it in the keg.

After a few days, I get an empty keg and siphon the beer into it. To do this, I use a raking cane, a length of 3/16" tubing, and a carboy cab. Since I fill my kegs with One Step solution when I empty them, I don't need to do anything to sanitize the keg prior to putting the beer into it. I do make up a small pan of One Step solution for the carboy cap, raking cane and tubing. I also drop the lid to the keg into the pan while I'm siphoning. The carboy cap has two short tubes sticking out the top. The raking cane goes through one and I blow into the other to start the siphon. Since I want to keep everything sanitary I always take a shot of vodka first. Also, it's an excuse to take a shot of vodka. Once all the beer is siphoned into the keg, I put the keg in the kegerator and connect the CO2. It takes about a week for the beer to carbonate at serving pressures. This works out well because beer is best about one month after is was brewed and I now have about a week left until it has been a month since I brewed. When the beer is pressurized and in the fridge I clean up the carboy and I'm done with brewing.

Now, comes the fun part. Drinking. I like this part.