All-Grain Homebrewing


The quickest and easiest ways to brew beer are by extract brewing and steeped grain brewing because the necessary components of the grains are already prepared for the brewer in the form of malt extract. The most complex and advanced method of homebrewing is called all-grain brewing, which (as the name suggests) uses only grains and no extracts to brew the beer. In contrast to the extract brewer, the all-grain brewer must extract the necessary ingredients from the grain himself in order to create the beer. However, natural grain alone is not sufficient to create beer. It must first be malted in order to create the exact conditions necessary to brew. Once the grain has been malted, it is ready to be used for brewing. To learn more about the malting process, see the ingredients page.

This page provides instructions on how to brew beer using all-grain brewing techniques. This page assumes a very good understanding of the brewing process, so each and every concept will not be separately explained. If you are brewing all-grain, you already know how beer is brewed. After introducing the necessary equipment, all-grain brewing terms and techniques will be explained. Then the two simplest methods of all-grain brewing - single-temperature infusion mashing and step-mashing - will be described in turn. A third method of all-grain brewing - decoction mashing - is often used by homebrewers to re-create German beer styles, but it is not detailed on this page yet. For further all-grain recipes, check out the all grain portion of the recipes page. If any of the terms used on this page are not familiar to you, please refer to the glossary, equipment or ingredients pages.


All-Grain Brewing Equipment:

The equipment necessary for all-grain brewing is essentially the same equipment you used for extract brewing with a few important additions. If you are brewing all-grain, you already have the other equipment necessary to ferment and bottle and the knowledge of how to use them, so those items will not be listed and explained here. Anything you are missing could be purchased from your local homebrew supply shop or online.

  1. One (1) grain mill and one (1) pound scale

    A grain mill and pound scale will be necessary if your grains do not come pre-crushed and pre-weighed. The grain mill should be adjusted so that the grains are cracked and separated from their hulls, but not pulvarized into flour. The scale is obviously used to weight the grains.

  2. One (1) mash/lauter tun

    A mash tun is basically a stainless steel brew kettle upgraded with a false bottom and a spigot of some sort. The false bottom keeps the grains from blocking the spigot from which the wort is eventually drained. For a 5-gallon batch of beer, you will need a 9-gallon mash tun. For a double batch of beer, a 14-gallon mash tun.

  3. One (1) mash paddle

    The mash paddle is used to stir the mash and should be 18-24 inches long and sturdy enough to mix a heavy mash.

  4. One (1) hot liquor tank

    The hot liquor tank is another vessel that is used to heat and hold the sparge water until it is ready to use.

  5. One (1) sparge arm, wire screen, strainer or colander

    A sparge arm, wire screen, strainer or colander will evenly distribute the flow of sparge water over the grain bed at the bottom of the mash/lauter tun.

  6. One (1) brew kettle

    For a 5-gallon batch of beer, you will need a 9-gallon brew kettle. For a double batch of beer, a 14-gallon kettle will be necessary.

  7. One (1) probe thermometer

    As temperature control is the key to successful all-grain brewing, a good quality probe thermometer is a crucial piece of additional equipment that you will need if you do not already have one. It is suggested that a metal dial thermometer that can read from 32 to 212 be used instead of a candy thermometer or a digital thermometer - candy thermometers usually need to be removed from the mash to take a reading and digital thermometers will break if accidentally dropped into the wort.

  8. One (1) wort chiller

    A good quality and efficient wort chiller is necessary for all-grain brewing given the quantity of wort being boiled.

  9. pH test papers

    The pH papers are necessary to determine whether or not the appropriate level of enzyme activity is present in your mash.

  10. Iodine Tincture

    The Iodine tincture is used to determine whether the starches in your grains have been successfully converted into fermentable sugars. Iodine is poisonous, so it should never be added to the mash or consumed.

All-Grain Brewing Terminology:

  • Strike Heat: The temperature of the liquor before the grains are added. Because the grains are cooler than the strike liquor, they will reduce the temperature of the liquor - sometimes up to 18 degrees - when added. Therefore, the liquor needs to be heated to a temperature higher than what you want your mash to be. Generally, the rule of thumb is to heat the liquor 10-15 degrees higher than the desired mash temperature before adding the grist. Follow your own experience in this regard.

  • Mashing In: Also referred to as "doughing in," mashing in is the initial step of the all-grain brewing process whereby the grains are mixed with the strike liquor. The crushed grains are basically sprinkled on top of the hot liquor in the mash tun then gently stirred in with the mash paddle. It is crucial that the grains are mixed and saturated evenly to ensure proper enzyme activity. The amount of strike liquor to use depends on the amount of grain mashed. Use 1 to 1-1/2 quarts of water for every pound of grain. Suppose you've decided to use 1-1/3 quarts of water per pound of grain. If you're using 12 pounds of grain, multiply that by 1.33 quarts of water to obtain 15.96 total quarts of water necessary to brew. Divide 15.96 by 4 (1 gallon = 4 quarts) and you will need 3.99 gallons of liquor to mash with.

  • Rest: A period of time when the mash is left at a certain temperature in order to allow the enzymes in the grain to work at their optimum temperatures. The duration and temperature of the rest is determined by the specific method of all-grain brewing being employed, the type of grains being used and/or the character of beer desired.

    1. The protein rest is so named because this is where the protein-degrading protease enzymes go to work breaking down large protein molecules into smaller protein molecules that provide nutrients for the yeast during fermentation and increase attenuation. Certain proteolytic enzymes work best between 113-122F and break large protein molecules into smaller protein molecules that are then used by yeast as a nutrient during fermentation and increases attenuation. Other proteolytic enzymes work best at 122-140F break down proteins that increase foam potential and clarity. A protein rest is unnecessary when using fully-modified malts. However, if you are step-mashing or decocting, one protein rest at 122F is more than sufficient to allow both types of proteolytic enzymes to work.

    2. The saccharification rest (or sugar rest) is where the starch-degrading diastase enzymes - alpha-amylase and beta-amylase - convert the insoluble starches contained in the grains into soluble fermentable sugars. Alpha-amylase works best at 149-153F and is the enzyme responsible for breaking insoluble starch molecules into unfermentable dextrines. Beta-amylase works best at 126-149F and is the enzyme responsible for converting dextrines into fermentable sugars. Both enzymes generally work well between 145-158F, however, the temperature of the saccharification rest will alter the characteristics of the final beer. With higher rest temperatures, the beer will have more body and less alcohol, whereas the opposite is true with lower rest temperatures. Again, you will eventually need to be guided by experience in this regard.

    3. An acid rest may be necessary where highly acidic malts prevent the pH of the mash water from dropping to acceptable brewing levels. The acid rest, if necessary, will occur before the protein rest at 95-105F.

  • Mashing Out: Stopping the mashing process by raising the temperature of the mash to approximately 170F thereby destroying the starch-degrading enzymes. Mashing out also reduces the thickness of the mash making it easier to sparge the grains.

  • Sparging: Rinsing the spent grains to extract residual wort held by the grains. It's good practice to recirculate the first few cloudy gallons of wort that collects at the bottom of the brew kettle before sparging and re-add it to the top of the mash in the lauter tun. This wort will drain through the grains and clarify. Keep recirculating the wort until it begins to run clear. Sparging is done in the lauter tun with 170-180F water where the sparged wort can escape through the lauter tun's false bottom and out the spigot into the brew kettle while leaving the spent grains behind. The grains act as a filter. After mashing out, the grains should be allowed to remain undisturbed for 10-15 minutes to allow the grain bed to remain loose. The key to successful sparging is avoiding a stuck mash or stuck run-off where the grains become too compact and slow or stop the flow of liquid through the grains. If that occurs, gently stir the mash to lift it off the false bottom and allow it to re-settle for another 5-10 minutes before re-starting the sparge. Otherwise, avoid disturbing the mash once sparging begins. One way to avoid a stuck mash is by using foundation water. Fill the lauter tun until the water level is 3-4 inches above the false bottom, then alternate adding the mash and sparge water while maintaining the sparge water just above the grain bed. To avoid a stuck mash, it is important that the sparge water be added gently and slowly (generally at the same rate that the sparged wort is running off). Use a half gallon of sparge water for every pound of grain. Place the sparge arm, wire screen, strainer or colander over the grain bed and begin sparging slowly. Stop sparging when the specific gravity of the wort drops to 1.008-1.010.

  • Running Off: Letting the wort extracted from the spent grains run out of the bottom of the lauter tun into the brew kettle. Run a length of siphon tube from the spigot of the lauter tun to bottom of the brew kettle to avoid aerating and, therefore, oxidizing the wort. Sparge and run off approximately 1 gallon more of wort than you intend to ferment as approximately one-half gallon of water will evaporate each hour the wort is boiled. Once the desired amount of wort has been run off, you are ready to brew exactly the same way as you did when extract or steeped grain brewing.

Single-Temperature Infusion Mashing

This is the most simple method of all-grain brewing. Luckily, many beer styles can be perfectly re-created using this simple method. The single-temperature infusion mash uses just one saccharification rest for the entire time needed for starch conversion. Because no protein rest is used, highly-modified malts must be used. Instructions:

  1. The liquor and sparge water pH should be between 5.0-5.7. Also, the mash should be thin for optimum starch conversion and fermentability, so unless your particular recipe specifies otherwise use approximately 1.5 quarts of liquor per pound of grain.

  2. Gently stir the grist into the liquor. The strike heat should be 10-15F hotter than the temperature at which the starch conversion is intended. The rest can be anywhere from 148-158F. If you want a lighter-bodied, stronger beer, rest 60-90 minutes at 148F. If you want a fuller-bodied, weaker beer, rest 30-60 minutes at 158F. Again, if you're working from a recipe, the recipe should specify the length and temperature of your rest.

  3. Use the iodine tincture on a clean, white plate to determine when starch conversion is complete. Iodine is poisonous, so it should never be added to the mash or consumed. Allowing the mash to continue after conversion is complete will extract more flavor from the grains, but you should never allow the mash to go for more than 120 minutes to avoid extracting harsh tannins from the grains.

  4. Mash out at approximately 170F and allow the mash to rest for 5-10 minutes to decrease wort viscosity.

  5. Unless your mash tun doubles as your lauter tun, transfer the mash to a lauter tun, recirculate the first runnings of the wort until it runs clear, then sparge slowly with 170F water. Collect the desired amount of sparged wort in the brew kettle and continue brewing as usual.

Single-Temperature Infusion Mash Belgian White Ale Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Six (6) pounds Belgian Pils malt

  • Four (4) pounds raw wheat flakes

  • One-half (1/2) pound oats

  • Two (2) ounces Hallertau hops (5.2 AAU)

  • One (1) ounce Tettnang hops (5.2 AAU)

  • One (1) ounces Saaz hops (4.8 AAU)

  • Two (2) ounces crushed coriander seed

  • One (1) ounce chamomile

  • One (1) ounce sweet orange peel

  • Wyeast 3944 Belgian White Beer yeast

Instructions:

  1. Crush malt and mash in

  2. Rest for 1 hour at 152F

  3. Mash out at 170F for 10 minutes and transfer the mash to the lauter tun

  4. Sparge with 5.25 gallons and run off to the brew kettle

  5. Boil wort for a total of 90 minutes

  6. After 30 minutes of the boil, add 1 ounce of Hallertau hops and 1 ounce of crushed coriander seed

  7. After 60 minutes of the boil, add 1 ounce of chamomile

  8. After 70 minutes of the boil, add 1 ounce of Tettnang hops

  9. After 80 minutes of the boil, add 1 ounce of Hallertau hops and 1/2 ounce of sweet orange peel

  10. Cool wort, pitch yeast and transfer to the primary fermenter for 1 week

  11. After primary fermentation, rack beer to secondary fermenter, add 1 ounce of crushed coriander and 1/2 ounce of sweet orange peel and allow to ferment for 1 additional week

  12. After secondary fermentation, bottle beer, allow to condition and enjoy

Single-Temperature Infusion Mash Alt Beer Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • One (1) pound wheat malt

  • Twelve (12) ounces crystal malt

  • Four (4) ounces dextrine malt

  • Eight (8) ounces flaked barley

  • Seven and a half (7-1/2) pounds 2-row pale malt

  • 12 AAUs Northern Brewer whole flower hops

  • 6 AAUs Cascade whole flower hops

  • One (1) teaspoon Irish moss

  • Edme ale yeast

Instructions:

  1. Crush malt and mash in

  2. Rest for 1-1/2 hours at 148F

  3. Mash out at 170F for 10 minutes and transfer the mash to the lauter tun

  4. Sparge with 5 gallons and run off into the brew kettle

  5. Boil wort for a total of 60 minutes

  6. After 15 minutes of the boil, add the Northern Brewer hops

  7. After 45 minutes of the boil, add the Irish moss

  8. After 55 minutes of the boil, add the Cascade hops

  9. Cool wort to 70F, pitch yeast and transfer to the primary fermenter for 1 week

  10. After primary fermentation, rack beer to secondary fermenter

  11. After secondary fermentation, bottle beer, allow to condition for 2 months

Step Mashing

Step mashing - also called "upward infusion mashing" or "temperature-controlled mashing" - is necessary for undermodified malts, starchy adjuncts or beers with lower serving temperatures. Unlike single-temperature infusion mashing, with step mashing the brewer increases the temperature of the wort with specific rests to more closely control optimum enzyme activity. In other words, there is at least one protein rest and one saccharification rest.

  1. The liquor and sparge water pH should be between 5.0-5.7. Start with approximately 1quart of liquor per pound of grain. This thicker mash favors the proteolytic enzymes.

  2. Gently stir the grist into the liquor. The protein rest should be at 122F for 30 minutes while gently stirring every 5 minutes.

  3. Raise the temperature of the mash to between 150-158F by slowly adding pints of water at 200F. This thinning of the mash will favor the diastatic enzymes later in the mash. Conduct a saccharification rest until starch conversion is complete as evidenced by the iodine test. For a lighter-bodied beer, rest 20-30 minutes at 150F. For a medium-bodied beer, rest 10 minutes at 150F followed by a rest at 20 minutes and 158F. For a full-bodied beer, rest 23-30 minutes at 158F.

  4. Mash out at 170F and allow the mash to rest for 5-10 minutes to decrease wort viscosity.

  5. Transfer the mash to a lauter tun, recirculate and sparge slowly with 170F water. Collect the sparged wort in the brew kettle and continue brewing as usual.

Step Mash Steam Beer Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Nine (9) pounds U.S. 2-row pale malt

  • Fourteen (14) ounces 80L U.S. crystal malt

  • Three (3) ounces Northern Brewer hops (8 AAU)

  • Wyeast 2112 California lager yeast

  • One (1) teaspoon Irish moss

Instructions:

  1. Crush malt and mash in

  2. Rest at 122F for 30 minutes

  3. Raise temperature and rest at 150F for 90 minutes

  4. Mash out at 170F for 10 minutes and transfer the mash to the lauter tun

  5. Sparge with 5 gallons and transfer wort to the brew kettle

  6. Boil wort for a total of 90 minutes

  7. After 30 minutes of the boil, add 1 ounce of the hops

  8. After 75 minutes of the boil, add another 1 ounce of the hops and the Irish Moss

  9. After 89 minutes of the boil, add the final 1 ounce of the hops

  10. Cool wort, pitch yeast and transfer to the primary fermenter for 1 week

  11. After primary fermentation, rack beer to secondary fermenter for 1 week

  12. After secondary fermentation, bottle beer, allow to condition and enjoy

Step Mash German Weiss-Rauchbier Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Six (6) pounds German pale malt

  • Two (2) pounds smoked Munich malt

  • One (1) pound wheat malt

  • One (1) pound crystal malt

  • Two (2) teaspoons gypsum

  • One-eighth (1/8) non-iodized table salt

  • One and one-quarter (1-1/4) ounce Hallertau hops

  • One (1) ounce Tettnang hops

  • lager yeast

To Smoke the Malt:

  1. Immerse the Munich malt in water then drain the water

  2. Make the coals in a charcoal grill white-hot

  3. Place aromatic hardwoods, such as apple, hickory, cherry or beech over the coals

  4. Place the malt on a clean wire screen over the wood

  5. Close the air vents on the grill to allow the grains to smolder

  6. Stir occasionally to prevent burning

  7. Allow the malt to dry and smoke for 15 minutes then cool the malt

Instructions:

  1. Crush malt and mash in

  2. Rest at 130F for 30 minutes

  3. Raise temperature to 150F and rest for 15 minutes

  4. Raise temperature to 158F and rest for 15 minutes or until the iodine test confirms that starch conversion is complete

  5. Mash out at 170F for 10 minutes and transfer the mash to the lauter tun

  6. Sparge with 170F water and transfer wort to the brew kettle

  7. Boil wort for a total of 60 minutes

  8. When the boil begins, add the Hallertau hops

  9. After 55 minutes of the boil, add the Tettnang hops

  10. Cool wort, pitch yeast, ferment for a week each in a primary and secondary, bottle, condition and enjoy


As you can see, all-grain brewing takes more time, patience, knowledge and equipment than extract or steeped grain brewing, but it allows the brewer to more closely manipulate the beer to achieve a more exact beer profile than extract brewing allows. Unfamiliar terms are defined on the glossary, ingredients or equipment pages. If you want to read more about homebrewing, I highly recommend Charlie Papazian's "The New Joy of Homebrewing" and Stephen Snyder's "The Brew-Master's Bible." I found both of these books indispensible when learning about homebrewing. If you have any questions about this process, feel free to e-mail me by clicking on the link in the navigation frame on the left. Enjoy!  

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