All Grain Homebrewing #1

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I made the jump to all-grain brewing this weekend.  So far I’ve brewed 2 batches of beer (American Wheat from Homebrewing 101 and Pilsner Urkel) using extract kits and decided to take my shit to the next level and actually do all of the work from scratch myself.  Homies DBlue and Shojonz came over on Saturday and we cooked up 10 gallons of Southern English Brown Ale.  If you don’t give a shit about how you can make beer like the breweries at the convenience of your own home than jump to one of Serg’s posts about bacon dogs or deep-fried pancakes, they are way more entertaining.

First, I’ll try to enlighten you guys on the overall brewing process before I nerd out.  In order to make beer, you need 4 things: malted barley (milled), hops, water and yeast.

Here is a synopsis of the all-grain brewing process (taken from John Palmer’s book, “How to Brew“) :

  1. Malted barley is soaked in hot water to release the malt sugars.
  2. The malt sugar solution is boiled with Hops for seasoning.
  3. The solution is cooled and yeast is added to begin fermentation.
  4. The yeast ferments the sugars, releasing CO2 and ethyl alcohol.
  5. When the main fermentation is complete, the beer is bottled with a little bit of added sugar to provide the carbonation.

I’m going to cover steps 1-3 today.  Steps 4 and 5 will be covered in follow-up posts. 

Step 1:

I needed to buy some more equipment so I picked up a mash tun and sparge vessel (or hot liquor tank) from my homeboy brewd00d.  He sells some awesome rigs and I can’t recommend checking out his site enough.  Here’s the shit in action:

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“The Mash Tun is simply used to steep the various grains selected for brewing beer. Grain is mixed with water and allowed to steep for a set amount of time (60 to 90 minutes) which allows the starches to be coverted to fermentable sugars. After the mashing is complete, the liquid mixed with the grain is allowed to slowly drain off through the bottom valve into the bucket.  At the same time, water is introduced from the sparge vessel (or hot liquor tank) and introduced to the top of the grain bed. This allows the residual sugars to be rinsed from the grain and is known as fly-sparging.”

Yes, I copied the explanation above from this place because it was written way better than what I had.

In the photo below (taken from brewd00d’s site because I’m too lazy to go outside and take my own picture) you’ll first see the bottom manifold inside the mash tun which is basically a filter to keep the grain inside. 

For our batch this weekend we heated up 5.5 gallons of water and poured it into the mash tun. Once the water cooled down to 163 degrees we added the milled grain I bought from Dave over at St. Louis Wine and Beermaking and stirred it up to prevent clumps of grain from forming. The temperature of the mash hit 153 degrees so we closed the lid and set the timer for 90 minutes while we drank some of DBlue’s homebrewed lemon wheat and APA beers and heated up some more water for the sparge vessel.  Once 90 minutes passed, we slowly began to drain the liquid (now called wort) from the bottom cooler into the bucket.

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Just prior to draining the wort from the mash tun, we filled the sparge vessel with the water we heated while waiting for the mash to finish.  A sparge vessel is basically a giant thermos that is used to hold the hot water at a constant temperature.  This hot water is slowly trickled into the mash tun via the built in sparge manifold.

Here is a photo of the mash tun’s sparge manifold in action.  The manifold is that thing attached to the lid which evenly distributes water to prohibit channels from forming in the grain.  The grain bed has settled and is now naturally filtering shit so I’m not getting grain husks and crap in my wort.

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Step 2

Once I collected the required amount of wort, in this case 11.5 gallons, I dumped it into the brew kettle. We collected the extra 1.5 gallons because we are nerds and calculated the evaporation loss from a 60 minute boil.

My not-so-ethically aquired brewing kettle is an old keg that my homie Jamy gave me in exchange for a six pack of the first beer I brewed.  These things are perfect.  They hold 15.5 gallons, are stainless steel and much cheaper than a kettle you would buy from a homebrew shop.  I cut a hole in the top of that bitch with a sawzall and cleaned it up with a Dremel tool.  A spigot was later added after I drilled a hole in the side of the keg and returned the $45 drill bit to Home Depot.  The burner is a Bayou Classic hookup that I got at the same Home Depot and shit is rated at 200,000 BTUs.

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Once the wort hit a boil we added our first stage of hops. Hops add bitterness, flavor and aroma to beer. The longer that hops boil they lose their aroma, flavor and then become bitter. So we added some magnum hops for bittering at the beginning of the boil then let that shit go for 45 minutes while we ate some of Sarah’s chicken adobo. With 15 minutes left in the boil we added some East Kent Golding hop pellets for flavor and aroma.

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Step 3

After 60 minutes passed we cooled off the wort with DBlue’s immersion chiller.

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An immersion chiller is basically a coil of copper tubing that you place in the hot wort to cool it down.  Here’s a damn good explanation by Karl Lutzen and Mark Stevens from their book, “Brew Ware“:

“Wort chillers are used to quickly cool the hot wort after boiling. Rapid wort cooling is important to the making of good beer. It helps to reduce the formation of off-flavor compounds and it allows the brewer to add the yeast to the wort more quickly, thereby reducing the chances for bacterial spoilage. Immersion chillers are usually built from a coil of copper tubing with connectors on each end to which hoses are attached (garden hoses are often used). One connector is run to a source of cold water; the other is run to a drain for expelling the hot water. The immersion chiller offers a simple, effective way to quickly cool hot wort.”

There are a few other wort cooler contraptions out there that are much more efficient but I’ll get into that when I post the “Build Your Own Immersion Chiller” article.

Once the wort was cooled to 80 degrees I drained it into a sanitized fermenting bucket and 6 gallon carboy (big glass jug). I made a yeast starter from a pack of English Ale yeast a few days before so it would be ready to kick ass when I placed it in the wort.  Airlocks were placed on the bucket and carboy to allow CO2 (one of the byproducts of fermentation) to exit but keep bad shit from entering and infecting the sterile wort.

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I placed the bucket and carboy in the closet of our guest bedroom away from the light.   For this style of beer you want it to be at around 65-70 degrees for optimal fermention and let it go for 11-14 days.

So last night I was at DBlue’s crib and mentioned how much extra wort we had and how I practically topped off the carboy.  He laughed at me and advised me to check on it when I got home and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t overflowing with foam (krausen) produced by the yeast.  Here’s the email I sent to DBlue:

“dude.

I got home and checked the bucket and carboy- shiiiit.

The bucket was ok but that fucking carboy practically exploded shit everywhere. No glass breakage but it probably wasn’t too far off. The airlock has crap all up in it and I tried to release some pressure but was greeted by a spray of foam shit all over the front half of my body and the closet wall. I managed to wrap my shirt around the top of the carboy and airlock but the middle piece of the airlock kept coming out with the foam so I said fuck it and walked downstairs and built myself a blowoff system out of an old #7 bung, some tubing, an avocado and a glass bowl from the kitchen filled with sanitizer (that I sanitized the tubing and bung with). I hope I didn’t contaminate anything but I’m assuming not since all the shit was on it’s way out.

I’d say we’re bubbling away like a motherfucker now.”

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To be continued…

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12 Responses to “All Grain Homebrewing #1”

  1. SergDun Says:

    have you brewed shit in bottles? I don’t have room to do a massive batch/keg like that but a small batch I’m considering attempting.

  2. MF Grocery Says:

    The first batch I brewed was bottled. 5 gallons gives you approximately 2 cases of beer. I wouldn’t recommend doing any batch sizes smaller than 5 gallons. Holler at me and I’ll go through the equipment you need and all that with you- it’ll probably run you between $75 and $100 to make a beer using malt extract (ingredient kits are approx. $30-$40). Sure you could go out and buy a couple cases of beer for about the same price as the ingredients but for real doing this shit yourself is fulfilling plus the move to all grain dropped my cost per 5 gallon batch to about $10. Start saving all of your non-twist off bottles cause you can reuse them hoes.

    Sarah bought me a chest freezer for my birthday and I’m in the process of converting it to a kegerator. I’ll hold six 5 gallon kegs. So fucking dope.

    Oh yeah, this weekend I may end up brewing some Irish Stout.

  3. Sleazy E Says:

    dude very interesting and informative, can’t wait to see how it turns out

  4. mattbrains Says:

    This post makes me want to move out to nowhere, rural america. I have zero space to get into these type of experiments.

  5. MF Grocery Says:

    Well, I built my immersion chiller and didn’t take any pics of it. Honestly it wasn’t very exciting, much like the last few blog posts of mine.

    I have been busy building my kegerator out of a chest freezer though. More on that soon.

  6. Sandy Says:

    mmmm….chicken adobo….mmmmm

  7. weenote Says:

    dude, that is the best and funniest description of the allgrain process I’ve ever read!

  8. hydraulic floor jacks Says:

    I must say, that I could not agree with you in 100%, but that’s just my IMHO, which indeed could be wrong.
    p.s. You have an awesome template for your blog. Where have you got it from?

  9. Joe Says:

    Yo I have been home brewing for several months now, but I always use the extract I want to strat doing all grain. I do have a 6.5 gallon carboy and fermenting bucket that I converted to a bottleing bucket with a spicot. The question I have is I only have a five gallon brewing pot that I use on my kitchen stove, with all grain do I need to boil the entire batch at once or is there a way I can do it using the set up I have. Because right now what I do is boil 2.5 gallons with my grain extract and hops then add the 2.5 gallon condensed wort to 2.5 gallons of cold water in my carboy, then pitch. So far this has not failed me but I dont think I can do all grain this way. I am looking into making my own mash pot because I am a cheap ass and no someone who made one and will help me build it for a sixer.

  10. MF Grocery Says:

    @Joe: You really want to boil the entire thing for a number of reasons such as hop utilization and other shit that I can’t think of off the top of my head. I suggest the turkey fryer / converted keg/kettle option. It’s much cheaper than buying a large 8 gallon pot brand new and you can move to larger batches without investing in a new pot which I see a lot of people doing as they get more into the hobby.

  11. Aland Says:

    Thank you for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning far more on this subject. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with additional data? It’s really helpful for me.

  12. sparky Says:

    cool blog you have going on. hope you dont mind if i make a suggestion? I have been blogging for many months, and found that an easy way to add worth in terms of viewers involvment is to offer a forum for visitors to interact with eachother. There are several good free forum soloutions available… (just search yahoo or google). The good thing is that you dont need your own host plan, thats included. The only negative is that when you want to modify or even add advertising etc you generally have to pay a fee… Best wishes! sparky

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