Basic All Grain Homebrewing Instructions
The Brewer's Apprentice is the largest homebrew supplier in New Jersey and the tri-state area. We carry a wide variety of malt grains, malt extracts, hops, liquid and dry yeast, as well as many other ingredients such as exotic herbs and spices, fruit puree and flavoring, and much more. We have an extensive catalog of home brew recipes that have been developed over the 20 years we have been in business covering every beer style from ales to porters and everything in between. Whether you're an extract or all-grain homebrewer, we'll have a recipe that suits you perfectly ... if you create your own recipes, no problem! We have a huge inventory of homebrew ingredients and we are constantly replenishing our stock, so you know that your order will be as fresh as possible, every time!
Getting Started ....
The following instructions are a guide for the home brewer who is venturing into all-grain brewing for the first time or anyone needing a refresher on the basics.
Please note that these instructions DO NOT encompass every single detail of all-grain brewing ... there are entire books on how to all-grain brew. We covering the basics which will allow you get your feet wet and take away any fear or hesitation you may have about all-grain brewing.
If you'd like to learn more about all-grain brewing, we highly recommend the book "How To Brew" by John Palmer. It provides excellent information on almost every aspect of all grain brewing.
STEP 1: "Mise En Place"
Tip for Success: Have your grains crushed and mixed together by the store that you buy them from.
The first step to brewing is ensure you have all of your equipment before you begin brewing. Basic brewing equipment needed includes:
- 5 gallons of filtered tap water - we do not recommend spring or distilled water as the grains will rely on certain minerals to help make the mash happen properly. Distilled water is devoid of any minerals and spring water’s mineral content is unpredictable. Tap water filtered through a good charcoal filter (such as a Brita) is fine.
- A 30 quart brew pot (or larger). Keep in mind when all grain brewing, you MUST brew the entire volume of beer all at once (i.e., 7 gallons for a 5 gallon yield).
- A 16 quart or larger brewing pot
- A mash / lauter tun. This is the vessel where you will mash your grains. We recommend an igloo cooler mash tun (5 or 10 gallon) with false bottom and spigot.
- A large (at least 20" long), heat resistant spoon or mash paddle.
- A candy or brewing thermometer (preferably with clip)
- Heat resistant tubing. For draining the wort from the mash tun. You DO NOT want to use normal, clear vinyl tubing for this procedure!
- A 1/2 or 1 gallon pitcher. Used in the sparging process.
- A fermenter (either a 6.5 gallon bucket or 6 gallon carboy)
- An airlock
- If using a carboy - a funnel (for pouring wort into carboy)
- A cleanser / sanitizer (such as One-Step or B-Brite)
- Plenty of ice or a chiller (to cool the wort down before the yeast is pitched)
Equipment that's not absolutely necessary, but helpful:
- A hot liquor tank. An insulated vessel equipped with a spigot that holds mash and sparge water and makes adding water to your mash tun much easier.
- An extra brew pot or stock pot. If you're not using a hot liquor tank, an extra brew pot can also make things a lot easier.
- A floating or mash thermometer. While you can use the thermometer from your brew pot, you will get much better temperature readings from a thermometer that can go deeper into the grain bed.
And ... double check your recipe kit … making sure you have all of the ingredients listed on your recipe printout. If you think something is missing, call us before you brew!
Step 2: Heat The Mash Water
- Before you start, determine the quantity of water your recipe requires as follows:
- Heat your water to your strike temperature.
Generally speaking, this will be between 149°F - 158°F range. Provided you stay within this range, the starches in your grain will be converted to sugar. With that said, we strongly recommend you speak with us when selecting your all-grain recipe so that we may help you determine the mash and strike temperatures for your recipe. If you're computer savvy, homebrewing programs such as Beersmith or BeerTools are available to assist you with this determination.
- If using a hot liquor tank, transfer the heated mash water to your hot liquor tank.
- If using a pot, be ready to move to the next step as the pot is not insulated and can lose temperature.
Step 3: Mashing
Before you start, ensure the false bottom is properly connected to the spigot on your mash tun!
Mashing is mixing the strike water and grains together as follows:
- Add one gallon of strike water to your mash tun.
- If using a hot liquor tank, open the spigot and simply allow the water to flow.
- If using a pot, carefully pour one gallon of the water into the mash tun.
- Start adding the grains and the rest of the strike water, making sure to constantly stir during this process to ensure no dry spots of grain (a.k.a. dough balls) remain.
- If using a hot liquor tank, leave the spigot open adjusting the flow as necessary to ensure the grains and water are being added in equal parts.
- If using a pot, a second set of hands are useful during this step. While one person slowly adds the strike water, the other adds the grains and stirs.
- If working alone & using a pot, alternate between adding water, adding grains and stirring.
- You should do this task calmly, but try not to take too long as you can lose your target mash temperature.
- Mash Temperature: Determine the mash's temperature by placing the thermometer into the mash and closing the lid for a minute.
- If your mash is at +10F of the recipe’s target temperature (or 149°F - 158°F if not known), proceed to the next step.
- If too warm, leave the top off and continue to stir until the temperature is within the target range. Close the lid and proceed to the next step.
- If too cool, add a small amount of boiling water (i.e., < quart), stir thoroughly and recheck the temperature. Repeat as necessary until the temperature is within the target range. Close the lid and proceed to the next step.
- Every 20 to 30 minutes stir the grain briefly and recheck the temperature to ensure it is still within the target range. If it ever falls out of the target range, follow the instructions above for increasing the mash temperature.
- Wait ..... Your mash will sit for a total 60 to 75 minutes. 30 minutes before the mashing process is complete, prepare your sparge water.
Step 4: Sparging
Tip for Success: Slow and steady is the key to a successful sparge. It should take a minimum of 30 minutes to fill a brew pot with 6 gallons of wort … ideally it should take 45 to 60 minutes.
- Heat one and a half times the quantity of water used in the mashing process to 200°F.
- Using the example above, a brew that required 4.3 gals of water for mashing will require 6.5 gals of water for sparging (i.e., 4.3 x 1.5 = 6.45)
- Ensure your equipment is lined up properly.
- Place the brew pot below the mash tun, taking care that it is in your way as you sparge the mash.
- Attach the heat resistant tubing to the mash tun’s spigot
- Place the loose end into the brew pot
- Have your pitcher nearby
- The next step is known as the Vorlauf step and its intended to ensure the wort is free from any grain or debris. It is performed as follows:
- Remove the mash tun lid and place to the side.
- With the end of the heat resistant tubing inside the pitcher, crack open the mash tun spigot just enough to have a steady, gentle stream of wort coming out.
- Initially you will see little bits of grain in the wort which should clear after collecting about 1 quart of the wort.
- When you see this, gently turn off the spigot and very delicately pour the wort over the mash in a circular motion, being very careful not to disturb the grain bed.
- Repeat this step to ensure the wort is clear of bits of grain. If the wort is still running cloudy and/or if it has bits of grain in it, repeat a third time.
- If it is still not clear after removing three quarts of wort, review your movements and take extra care to be delicate and don't use fast or jarring movements.
- Rinse the grain bed with the heated sparge water as follows:
- Secure the tubing.
- The easiest way is to have a friend hold the tubing in place.
- If you are brewing solo, put the tubing directly into the pot and secure in place to prevent the wort from spilling on to the floor.
- Carefully open the mash tun spigot, allowing a slow steady stream of wort to flow.
- Slowly replace the out flowing wort by adding sparge water.
- If using a hot liquor tank, open the spigot so the flow of water matches the flow of wort exiting the mash tun, ensuring the water level is at least 1” above the grain bed. Remember the slower your wort flows, the better your beer will be!!
- If using a pot carefully pour the water into the mash tun, taking care not to disturb the grain bed. Using a pitcher can make the pouring process easier. If your arm gets tired during this step, take a break every minute or so, but make sure to keep the water level above the grain bed.
If you sparge too quickly, or if grain compacts too tightly, you may get a "stuck sparge". This is not the most fun thing... but there's no need to panic. Take the following steps:
- Stop the sparge water
- Close the spigot
- Here’s where it gets fun …
- Place the loose end of the tubing into your mouth and one hand on the spigot. Quickly open the spigot all the way, forcefully blow into the tubing and immediately point the tubing into the pitcher.
- If that starts the wort flowing, immediately slow the flow and go through the vorlauf process again to ensure the wort is clear. Please note this is about the only time it's okay to put your mouth to unfermented wort. It has not boiled yet, so there's no concern for the wort getting infected.
- If the mash doesn't release the wort, give it a good stir, wait a few minutes and try to clear the tubing again by blowing into it. If it still doesn't work, you may have a mechanical failure with your false bottom or spigot.
That's it! You've just completed the all-grain portion of your brew!
Step 4: Brewing
Tip for Success: Don't forget to add the hops at the specified times!