First all grain beer – step by step

by Daniel on May 6, 2012

First All Grain Beer

Making your first all grain beer can be a little intimidating.  There’s that new mash tun you just built, and some extra steps that you may have read about but you haven’t had to do before on your own.  Also, when you look up recipes online they seem to glaze over some details that you’re just not sure how to do yourself, or parts don’t make sense.  How do you get the temperature right for the 60 minute mash in?  What is mash out?  How do you set up for lautering?  I just brewed my first batch yesterday May 5, and now I’ll to take you step by step in making a simple and delicious recipe.  I’m very particular about planning ahead, so there’s lots of detail to this post, but you could basically print these steps out and follow them the whole way through.  Let’s get brewing!

Let me first recommend that for your first batch, you choose something that isn’t too complex so you can focus on just a few variables at once.  Pick a recipe that requires a single infusion mash.  That means that the grain steeps in water at one temperature for about an hour, then you drain (lauter) it for your  boil.  So if you see a recipe that requires multiple temperatures to rest at during the mash, stay away for now.  There are tons of recipes out there that use a single infusion mash.  If you don’t want to do the same one I’m going to walk you through, check out this database at Home Brew Talk, it’s fantastic and the ingredients & temperatures are usually fairly clear.  I wanted to make this first batch as easy as I could for myself, and I found this clone recipe for the Fire Rock Pale Ale from Kona that has rave reviews.  The original recipe was for an 11 gallon batch, so I did the converting for you for a 5.5 gallon batch.

Ingredient Shopping List – cost me ~$33 (hooray for going all grain, my last batch was $60)

  • Grain:
    • 10# Pale Malt – Marris Otter – I added an extra pound from the online recipe because I didn’t know what my “mash efficiency” would be because it was my first time.  I ended up a little higher than the specified 1.055 original gravity at 1.060.  So you can choose to go with either 9, 9.5, or 10#’s.  It’ll be beer!  If you’re curious, my efficiency turned out to be 75% using the equipment and steps below.
    • Mashing in at 154°F
      mashing in at 154°F

      1# Light Munich

    • 0.5# Honey Malt
    • 0.25# Cara Pils
  • Hops:
    • 1oz Cascade
    • 1oz Centennial
    • 0.25oz Mt. Hood – I actually substituted Styrian Goldings because I had them lying around and they have about the same percentage of alpha acids in them as Mt. Hood.
  • Yeast:
    • WYEAST 2565 Kolsch

(Extra) Equipment:

  • Brew pot – at least 8 gallon size (I have a 10 gallon).  You definitely need one that can hold your full 6.5 batch (because after the boil it gets down to 5.5 gallons, of course).
  • Secondary pot – at least 3.5 gallons I would say – for heating up sparge water, etc.
  • Large (1 gallon) pitcher – this is nice to have for all kinds of reasons.  It’s great for measuring out all the water needed throughout. I also use it for the verlauf step – catching the first cloudy runnings of the wort when lautering and pouring them back into the grain bed (see below).
  • Mash tun
  • Bottling bucket – you probably have this, I used it for lautering.
  • Copper coil wort chiller (or another kind) – wort chillers are worth their weight in gold.  If you haven’t purchased one already, let this be your incentive.

Implementation:

  1. The morning of brew day, remove WYEAST pack from refrigerator, let it reach room temp as you’re setting up stuff & pop pack when at room temp.
  2. Have all of your equipment clean – I use OxyClean and warm water.  Anything that needs to be sanitized (only stuff that is used after the boil) I soak in StarSan.
  3. Mash In:
    • Mashing out at 170°F
      mashing out at 170°F

      Make sure mash tun valve is closed.

    • Bring 4 gallons of water to 167°F in brew pot – I calculated that this volume of water at this temperature will heat the grain (room temp of 65°F) up to 154°F which is our desired temperature to maximize enzymatic conversion of sugars from the grain.
    • Also simultaneously boil 1 gallon of water in a secondary pot (to use to preheat mash tun) – if you don’t preheat the mash tun, you will lose temperature from your 167°F “strike” water to the tun.  You want all this heat to work in heating up the grain, not the tun.
    • Pour 1 gallon boiling water into mash tun and let sit 5 minutes to preheat mash tun, then remove (back into secondary brew pot) – save this water because you already spent time & energy heating it, and you can use it again for sparging if you want.
    • Add all of the grain to the mash tun (that’s my picture at the top of this post).
    • Pour in strike water – check temperature – target = 154°F.  I nailed it on the button, no biggie.
    • Let rest 60 mins
    • While this is resting, you need to heat up some more water for Mash Out (see why we saved that last 1 gallon?)
  4. Mash Out
    • verlauf

      You need 2.4 gallons boiling water for mash-out.  This is the amount I calculated you would need to raise the temperature of the mash up to 170°F.  The purpose of mash out is to denature the enzymes to stop their activity.  The reason you want to reach 170°F and not higher is that at higher temps you can end up breaking down other parts of the grain husks and such that don’t taste good.  Would I steer you wrong?

    • You also need 1-2 gallons of water heated up to exactly 170°F in another pot for sparging.  I only ended up using about 0.5-1 gallon total, but it never hurts to have a little extra.
    • Pour in your 2.4 gallons of boiling water at the end of your 60 minute mash.  Let this sit at 170°F for 10 minutes.
    • During this 10 minute rest while you’re also getting your sparge water ready, make the following:
      • Take a large piece of tinfoil and cut out a circle to match the inner dimension of your mash tun. Then punch a bunch of evenly space holes in it with a sharp knife or something.
      • This tinfoil with holes is a nice trick to allow easy distribution of your sparge water on top of your grain bed.
  5. verlauf – note the tinfoil on the grain bed

    Lautering/Sparging

    • You need gravity to work in your favor here, see my arrangement below, or you can figure out your own stacking method.
      • Sparging bucket (bottling bucket) should be at the top (mine’s on a cold spot on the stove), holding your water which is at 170°F.
      • Mash tun should be in the middle (mine’s on a chair up against the stove), now with the round piece of tinfoil resting at the top.
      • Empty brew pot at the bottom (mine’s on the floor) ready to catch your hot wort.
    • “Verlauf” step – the first runnings filtered by your mash tun when you open the valve will have fine pieces of grain and such that made it past your filter.  Rather than let this go into your wort, catch it in a pitcher.  Watch the stream out of the mash tun until it becomes more clear, then allow this to begin draining into your brew pot.  Take your pitcher and sprinkle these first runnings gently and slowly back on top of your tinfoil on top of the grain bed.
    • At no point during sparging do you want to disturb the grain bed.  That’s what the tinfoil helps with, so the verlauf and sparge water hits the tinfoil.  If it wasn’t there and you weren’t careful, the water could burrow through the grain bed rather than seeping through, and you wouldn’t be washing out all the sugars you worked so hard to extract during the mash.

      Sparge & Lauter Tower Setup

      top to bottom: sparge water, mash tun, pot

    • Now your wort is draining into your brew pot.  Watch inside your mash tun as the level continues to drop just until you start to see the grain bed.  This is when you want to crack open spigot of your bottling bucket to begin adding sparge water.  You never actually want the grain bed dry at the top.  You want to keep about an inch water on top of the grain bed (on top of your tinfoil).  Try to match the flow rate of your sparge water to what’s going out of the mash tun, that way you keep a constant inch of water on top.  You should arrange it so the spigot allows the water to come out gently onto your tinfoil so it doesn’t burrow through the grain bed.  You could also attach a little 3/8″ line to the spigot and lay the other end on the tinfoil.
    • Lauter into your brewpot until you reach 6.5 gallons (it’s nice to have this height measured in advance so you know when you’ve reached it.  It’s 6.5 gallons now, but after 90 minutes of boiling, it’ll be down to about 5.5 gallons.  Imagine that!
  6. Boil (90 mins):
    • Desired starting volume: 6.5 gallons
    • Start 90min time at rolling boil.  Remember to watch your boil carefully so you don’t have boil-overs until the hot break.  These can be disastrous, and they always seem to happen when you step away for a few minutes.  It’s always a good idea to have a spray bottle with water in it to quickly stifle a boil-over..
    • Hops Schedule:
      • 0.50 oz Centennial (60 mins remaining in boil)
      • 0.25 oz Cascade (40 min)
      • 0.25 oz Cascade (30 min)
      • 0.25 oz Cascade (20 min)
      • 0.25 oz Cascade (10 min)
      • Measuring Wort Gravity

        measuring wort gravity pre-boil

        0.25 oz Mt. Hood (5 min)

        • At same time as adding Mt. Hood hops, placed wort chiller to boil (so I didn’t have to sanitize!).
    • At end of boil, remove pot from heat, and put beside sink and start wort chiller (sanitized or boiled).
    • Take a small portion before pitching the yeast and check your original gravity with your hydrometer.  In the image on the right I’m actually checking the wort gravity prior to boiling, and it is at about 1.035.  This makes sense because the wort becomes more concentrated as water boils off during the 90 mins.
    • Desired original gravity (OG) after the boil: 1.053 – (mine was 1.060 – again most likely because of the extra 1lb of pale malt I added to the recipe in case my efficiency was too low – you can adjust to get close to 1.053 by just doing 9lbs of pale malt rather than my 10lbs)
  7. Pitching yeast for fermentation
    • Desired finish volume after boil & cooling: 5.5 gallons
    • **Remember that everything that touches your wort from now on MUST be cleaned & sanitized!
    • When temp reaches 68F using whatever cooling method, siphon into fermentation bucket.  It can help to stir your wort with a sanitized spoon to make a whirlpool, and then siphon from the outside of this.  This concentrates all of the particles into the center & bottom of the pot so what you siphon off is nice and clear.
    • Ferment for two weeks.
  8. Dry hopping
    • Dry hop with 0.50 oz of Centennial hops for 5-7 days (after 7-9 days in primary fermenter)
    • To do this, you put the hops in a sanitized hop strainer bag and add to the bucket.  Be very careful to be extremely cautious about sanitation since you have to crack the lid of your fermenter to do this.
    • At the end of your two week fermentation, bottle or keg as you please!
    • The maker of this recipe (“BierMuncher”) suggests cold conditioning for 10 days prior to enjoying.

If you have any questions, comments, or need clarification on any of these steps, please add a comment below.  If you haven’t yet converted to all grain but you are intrigued by this post, check out my Converting to All Grain Brewing category to learn how to build your own mash tun for cheap!  Also, if you’re looking for diving deeper after brewing this batch, learning how to calculate how much water and what temperature to mash in with, how to design recipes, and more, subscribe to my blog by entering your email in the subscription box on my side bar above on the right, because that’s all coming soon!

 

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }