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Saturday, March 02, 2013

All-Grain Brewing

At some point I would like to try my hand at All-Grain brewing.  I mentioned before the advantage of expense.  Price isn't much of an issue for me.  What I'm really interested in is learning and performing the entire brewing process, as it is done without factory-made supplies.  I could see myself evetually running a brew-pub, if I had enough experience and success :)

With Extract Brewing, you are using malt extract that was produced from malted grains in a factory, and dissolving that in hot water to make wort.

With All-Grain Brewing, you are making wort the traditional way: Steeping several pounds of malted grains in hot water for an hour to extract the sugars.  This is called mashing.  Afterwards you drain the liquid from the grains and rinse hot water through to extract all the sugars.  You have then created your own wort, without the need for a factory.

A big advantage of All-Grain brewing over extract brewing (particularly Kit Brewing) is that you have infinitely more options on how to brew.  While I can (and do) add more malts/hops than an Extract Brew Kit provides, you have way more options when all-grain brewing.

All-Grain brewing requires three large vessels:  A bucket for lots of hot water, a bucket for the grains to steep (called a mash tun), and a boil bucket for brewing.  So far I only have one of these items, a large keg with the lid removed.

 This is a photo of a keggle (keg+kettle) I found on the internet.  Mine has the lid cut out, but does not yet have a valve or temperature gauge.  Both items will be useful for the Hot Water bucket.

Next I will need a Mash Tun.  Remember the mash tun holds the grains while they steep in hot water.  The mash tun can be made from an Igloo cooler with a few small modifications.  The modifications allow you to drain the wort after the grains have steeped in the hot water, while leaving the grains behind.  Here is an example:  A cooler with a strainer at the bottom.

And lastly, I will need a bigger boil bucket.  The one I have is a 36 qt, and I need more like 12-15 gallons of room for a 10 gallon boil.  Basically I need another keg with the lid cut off.  They are hard to find, and expensive.

There are a couple of different arrangements you can use to brew All-Grain.  Because the liquid gets transferred twice, you need a way to do accomplish the task.  The simplest is using gravity.  Hot water tank down to mash tun, down to boiling bucket.   Here is an example of an all-grain brewing system using gravity transfer:
Alternatively, if you don't mind paying for a pump and a few fittings (and cleaning them out after brewing), you can set up the rig horizontally, like this:

I like this arrangement best because you don't need a ladder to reach anything, and importantly, there is no danger of hot liquids falling on you in the event of an accident.  I think I could put this together.

A second burner might be nice, but I should be able to move it from the hot water tank to the boil bucket if I build the frame with that in mind.  I have a birthday coming up, so maybe I can convince the wife to get me a gas welding rig and some square iron!

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