First all grain beer – recipe & 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 sparging?  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 & rinse (sparge) 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!

 

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave December 12, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Great info. I did my first all-grain batch last week and am looking to improve my process. Happy to find this post.

Perforated aluminum foil sounds like a great trick! I’m wondering if this is something you’ve kept up or if you now have a different method for sparging. I’m assuming your method above was a continuous sparge,yes?

Reply

Daniel December 13, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Hi Dave, yes I still use the perforated aluminum foil – it’s just so simple and works well to prevent channeling. And yes, the method is for a continuous sparge. It’s simply the best method to get the best efficiency out of your mash – just keep the right flow rates so there’s always about 1″ of water above your grain bed!

Reply

Greg February 26, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Hey Thank you for the information. Have some questions. Do I need to add any sugar for carbonation before I bottle? Is dry hopping necessary or not? Look forward to hearing your answers before I brew. Greg

Reply

Daniel March 8, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Hi Greg, sorry for the late reply. Yes, you need to add sugar before bottling. Dry hopping is not necessary if you don’t want to. For bottling, boil 3/4 of a cup of cane sugar in 2 cups of water, let cool, and add to your bottling bucket (an empty, sanitized bucket) and then siphon the beer out from your fermenter into this bucket, on top of the priming sugar (being careful not to no splash the beer around). Then transfer from your bottling bucket into bottles and cap!

Reply

Mathew Carruthers December 29, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Hi. Just discovered your blog this weekend and built my first MLT based on your design and instructions. The parts list was immeasurably helpful – and you’re right, no one carries a stainless steel 5/8″ ID flat or fender washer. Had to fabricate my own out of food-grade plastic and stack it with a neoprene washer. Anyway, that’s beside the point I was trying to bring up – when you do your pre-boil gravity check, have you cooled the wort or do check it at your lauter temp?

Thanks and keep up the informative work!
Mat

Reply

Daniel December 31, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Hi Mat, thank you! I’m glad to hear everything worked out! Good question with the pre-boil gravity check. I check it at lauter temp – and I actually put a thermometer in with the hydrometer so that I know the exact temp associated with that gravity, since gravity is dependent on temperature in what is mathematically predictable. I used Ray Daniels’ Designing Great Beers to make an excel chart and produce a polynomial regression formula to calculate this temp adjustment. The formula I came up with is: Gravity adj for temp = (1E-06x^2 + 9E-06x – 0.0045) + SG. Where “x” is the temp reading, and SG is the specific gravity reading. If you don’t want to get that complicated, the table in his book can give you a decent estimate. If you don’t have that book, I highly recommend it!

Reply

Todd May 20, 2013 at 11:33 pm

I have a couple questions on this recipe;
1). What was your Mash pH , Did you need to alter your mash water by adding salts for this recipe ? Or were the natural buffers in the grains sufficient to maintain mash pH ? 5.2 – 5.6
2). Did you use tap water or bottled ?
** i.e. Spring water, distilled, or R.O. Water.
(I ask because I’m from Rochester and I use tap water for brewing. I use a campden tablet to treat my Brewing water to remove the chlorine/Chloramines from the water as referred to by John Palmer in his book “How to brew”)
I’ve brewed all grain via “BIAB” (Brew In A Bag method) mainly Brown Ales, Porters and Stouts, and found our water seems to work well for these styles, But this will be my first attempt with the new Mash tun and a lighter colored beer, so any input and advice from a fellow Homebrewer is appreciated, especially where our water chemistry is concerned.
Enjoying the Blog, keep up the good work and thanks.
Cheers !
Todd

Reply

Daniel May 21, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Hi Todd, thanks for the questions. As for #1, I don’t measure mash pH here in Rochester because I looked at the water reports and compared with what is considered within normal range, and we have a good balance of minerals in the water and low levels of chlorine – we’re lucky to be getting good water from lake Ontario. I think for most people’s purposes, measuring pH is not necessary, and all of the all grain batches I have brewed have come out great with out any off flavors that would be attributed to mash pH. 2.) I use tap water – again for ease and because for most people’s purposes, including my own, the beer comes out fine without worrying. In fact, I’m happy to report that my imperial stout recently won 3rd place in its category in the UNYHA Home Brewing Competition. I thing using the campden tablet can be great to remove chlorine from the tap water. Overall, my recommendation for brewing this pale ale is not to worry too much about mash pH and go for it–especially if you’re using Rochester water. If you do measure the mash pH, I would love to hear what you find, and expect it will likely be within the desired range.

Reply

Todd May 21, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Thanks for your reply. LOL I think I worry too much but its reassuring to hear good results with our local water. I’ll check the pH and pass what I find along to you. Congrats BTW on taking 3rd place with your Imperial Stout.
Cheers !
Todd.

Reply

Mike January 7, 2013 at 8:24 am

Great post. A few questions.
1. Where do you buy your grains?
2. Do you put yeast in wort after it is in fermenter?
3. Do you want to try and keep particles out of fermenter, or would they add to the flavor?
4. I hadn’t read about dry hopping previously, is that particular to this recipe or all brews?

Reply

Daniel January 7, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Hi Mike, thanks for the comment! To answer your questions:
1.) I get my grains currently from the local home brew shop, called Sunset Hydroponics & Home Brewing in Rochester, NY. I also recently purchased a 55lb bag of Canadian 2-row through my local home brew club that does a once-a-year bulk grain buy to save money. I definitely recommend joining a local home brew club for benefits like this!
2.) Yes I put the yeast in the wort once it’s cooled and in the fermenter.
3.) As for particles, you definitely want your fermenter to be totally sanitary before you add the wort. However, sometimes adding things like spices, wood chips, etc can add defferent flavors/characters to your beer. Just remember sanitation is #1.
4.) Dry hopping can technically be done with any beer, but there are some styles it does better for than others. Some beer styles may just not be as appealing with the sharp hoppiness so you may not want to do it. Most common beers for dry hopping would be Pale Ales & IPAs. In my case, I wanted my pale ale to have an extra kick in the aroma & flavor.

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