All Grain Brewing From A To Z (High Grain Brewery)

High Grain Brewery

High Grain Brewery: Brewing with all-grains is a satisfying experience. Transforming raw materials into tasty beer is a skill, a test of patience, and a commendable hobby. If you’ve brewed beer with malt extract, it’s only logical to go on to all-grain brewing. Why not go full grain if you’re just getting started with homebrewing?

Extract brewers may find all grain brewing difficult and daunting. In reality, it’s a simple and straightforward procedure. We’ll walk you through mashing, lautering, sparging, and the vorlauf, making sure you’re comfortable with each step.

What Is All Grain Brewing, and How Does It Work?

100%-grain brewing refers to a method of brewing in which all of the fermentable sugars are obtained from malt during the mashing phase. An all-grain brewer takes crushed grain and mixes it with water to make sweet wort. Hops are then added, and the wort is fermented to create a tasty beer.

With an insulated mash tun, you can make all-grain homebrew.

All Grain vs. Extract (High Grain Brewery)

The majority of homebrewers begin with extract brews. The wort is made by diluting dried malt extract (DME) or liquid malt extract (LME) in water. Although DME and LME are made from grain, the brewer has no control over the production process.

Brewing with all grain gives the brewer complete control over the wort generated. All grain brewing generates any wort imaginable by adjusting the mash.

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Don’t get us wrong: DME and LME are fantastic for brewing high-quality beer. We don’t know how malt extracts were made, how they were stored, or how fresh they are, which is a problem. You can produce the exact wort you need for any beer you desire with all grain.

A variety of brewing systems can be used to make all-grain beer at home. There are a plethora of all-grain home breweries that produce excellent beer. The focus of this post will be on a classic all-grain setup with a hot liquor tank and mash.

Mashing

Brewing with all grain implies you, the brewer, make your own wort from malt. Malt refers to sprouted, dried, and/or roasted barley seed. Other grains, including as wheat and rye, can be malted and are often utilised by brewers.

Crushed grains are combined with hot water during the mash. To extract sugars from the malt, this combination is kept at certain temperatures. The starch inside the grain gelatinizes when it is exposed to hot water. The complex carbohydrates and insoluble proteins are then reduced to simpler amino acid chains by an enzyme process. This combination of carbohydrates, proteins, and amino acid chains produces a wort that can be fermented by brewer’s yeast.

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Temperature and time can be used to alter the amount of enzymatic activity that occurs. All grain brewers have perfect control over their desired product by using a specified mash type.

Mash with a single infusion
Almost every homebrewer does a single infusion. To convert the sugars in the malt, the mash must be kept at a constant temperature, known as a saccharification rest. For 30 to 60 minutes, the temperature should be between 145 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Modern maltsters have perfected their malting process, resulting in malt that is generally heavily modified. This reduces the amount of work the enzymes have to do to transform the sugars in the malt. As a result, the bulk of the malts you’ll be utilising will benefit from a single infusion rest.

If you mash at the lower end of the saccharification rest range, you’ll get a wort with a lot of fermentable sugars and a dryer beer. If you mash at the higher end of the spectrum, you’ll get a wort with more unfermentable sugars, which will give your beer greater body and sweetness. Consider mashing low for a dry Belgian Saison. Try mashing higher for a full-bodied stout.

Traditional breweries continue to employ malt that has not been changed. A step mash is used in these beers to stimulate certain enzyme reactions by varying the temperature.

Mash-ups

Temperatures in the mash can be adjusted in a variety of ways. Heat can be provided to direct fired mash tuns to raise the temperature. To alter the temperature of passive mash tuns, hot or cold water can be introduced.

Here’s a quick rundown of what common rest temps do:

Temperature and Time of Rest Rest the acid for 15 minutes at 95–113 °F. Lowers the pH of the mashBreaks up sticky mash
Rest the protein for 20 minutes at 113–138 degrees Fahrenheit. Proteolytic enzymes are activated, allowing proteins to be broken down.
60 minutes at 145–160°F saccharification Conversion of starch to fermentable sugars
For 10 minutes, mash at 170°F. The starch conversion is halted.

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Decoction

A decoction is a step mash in which a portion of the mash is withdrawn, boiled, and then returned to the mash to raise the rest temperature before moving on to the next phase. A triple decoction mash is the most traditional, in which the decoction is repeated three times for three different mash steps. Decoctions in single and double batches are also popular.

Melanoidins in the mash are increased by decoction mashing, giving the beer a richer, maltier flavour. The mouthfeel of a beer is also influenced by increased tannins from boiling the barley.

Traditional decoction mashes are uncommon in modern breweries. Despite this, decoction brewers believe the extra labor is worthwhile. A decoction mash is used to make some of the world’s best beers, such as Pilsner Urquell.

On the homebrew scale, we believe that starting with a single infusion mash is the ideal option. Once you’ve mastered it, try experimenting with different mash schedules to see which one produces the greatest beer for you.

Enzymes

The role of enzymes in the mashing process has already been addressed. Here’s a look at how they work from a scientific standpoint.

An enzyme is a protein-based biological catalyst that initiates chemical reactions. Enzymes are produced in grain during the malting process. During the mash, diastatic and proteolytic enzymes degrade malt kernels into simple sugars. During fermentation, yeast consumes these simple sugars and converts them to alcohol and carbon dioxide, resulting in beer!

Diastatic Enzymes are a type of diastatic enzyme.

Brewer’s yeast produces alcohol and CO2 by feeding on short-chain carbohydrates. Malt’s diastatic enzymes aid in the conversion of the grain’s starch’s long-chain sugars to short-chain carbohydrates. Other aspects of the finished beer, such as mouthfeel and body, are influenced by the amount of remaining long-chain sugars.

Proteolytic Enzymes are enzymes that break down proteins.

Body, head retention, and yeast nutrition are all provided by protein in beer. There are two types of proteolytic enzymes that break down protein in the mash:

Proteinase is a digestive enzyme that breaks down big proteins into smaller amino acid chains. This improves head retention and lowers haze in the final product.
Peptidase is an enzyme that breaks down the amino acid chains generated by proteinase and turns them into nutrition for yeast. This vitamin aids yeast in producing a healthy fermentation with fewer off-flavors.

Diastatic and proteolytic enzymes allow the grain to release the sugars, proteins, and nutrients necessary for a delicious brew. Brewers may fine tune their mashes to dial in the exact beer they want by manipulating these enzymatic processes.

All-grain brewing necessitates some specialised equipment, which may appear complicated at first. Don’t worry, we’ll explain everything to you.

Brewing all grain is similar to brewing in a commercial brewery, but on a much smaller scale. A hot liquor tank, mash tun, and boil kettle make up the typical three-vessel system. Many homebrewers have built their systems out of anything they could find for the least amount of money.

Homebrewers have a can-do attitude and a willingness to try new things.

Today’s market has a plethora of products created exclusively for homebrewing. Check out our guides to help you make the best decision possible on the equipment you buy.

Tank for Hot Liquor

Water is referred to as liquor in the brewing industry. During the mash and sparge, a hot liquor tank (HLT) holds hot water. There are two varieties of HLTs for homebrewing:

A kettle the same size as the boil kettle with a heat source is called a direct fired kettle.
Insulated: A container that stores hot water and is insulated (such as a beverage cooler). The hot water from the boil kettle is used to fill them.
For homebrewing, either sort of HLT will suffice. If you choose insulated, be sure it can keep water at least an hour warm. That should be enough time to complete the sparge operation.

Tuna Mash

All of the enzymatic magic happens in the mash tun. To convert long-chain sugars to short-chain sugars, crushed malt is combined with water and kept at specified temperatures. A fake bottom or a bazooka screen is then used to filter the sweet wort from the grains.

The most popular type of mash tun used by homebrewers is converted refrigerators. They’re affordable and do a great job of maintaining temperature. Because a cooler cannot be heated directly, step mashing is difficult. Additionally, coolers are made of plastic, which may deter certain brewers.

Mash tuns come in a variety of shapes and sizes. We believe that a stainless steel, insulated mash tun with a stainless steel fake bottom is the best alternative. Select a mash tun that is roughly the same size as your kettle.

Kettle
To accommodate for boil-off losses, the boil kettle for all grain homebrewing should be at least a few gallons greater than the fermenter contents. Between the top of the boiling wort and the brim of the kettle, leave a few inches of headroom. When brewing big batches of beer, boil overs are messy and dangerous.

Boil kettles come in a variety of styles, but we recommend a high-quality stainless steel kettle.

Other Resources
Here are a few more tools to aid you with your brew day, in addition to the basic equipment for homebrewing all-grain beer:

A grain mill is a machine that crushes grains.
Thermometer for measuring the temperature of the water and mash
To fast chill the wort to yeast pitching temperature, use a wort chiller.
Paddle mash
Checking gravities with a hydrometer
For executing the vorlauf step, a pitcher is required.
Grain and hops are weighed on a scale.
Pumps and hoses are used to transfer value between ships.
Fermenter\sIngredients
The most appealing aspect of all-grain brewing is its versatility. You have complete freedom to create any beer you choose. Hundreds of different malts, hops, and yeasts are available. Furthermore, you now know that the mash temperature can be used to alter the fermentability of your wort.

If you’re new to all grain brewing, we recommend starting with a simple recipe. On your first batch, you learn a lot about methods, ingredients, and troubleshooting. This is a fantastic recipe for a single-hopped Simcoe pale ale, based closely on Russian River’s Row 2, Hill 56.

Assume a brewhouse efficiency of 75% for your first all-grain batch. The potential fermentables taken from the malt are measured in the brewhouse efficiency. The majority of all grain 3-vessel home breweries have efficiency of 70-85%.

Original Volume of Simcoe Pale Ale Gravity: The End ABV: IBU: SRM: 5.5 Gallons Gravity: ABV: IBU: SRM: 5.5 Gallons 1.050 1.009 27 5.1 Malt 5.3 percent
Amount 6 lb grain °L bill percent Pilsner 4 lb 1.8 57.1 percent 3.75 38.1 percent 0.5 lb Maris Otter Crystal 15 litres 15 litres 10.5 lb 4.8 percent Total\sHops\sAmount Variety AA IBU Use Time
0.5 ounces 12.7 oz Simcoe 12.7 oz Simcoe 12.7 oz Simcoe 12.7 oz Simcoe 12.7 ounces 12.7 Simcoe 15 minutes at a boil 11 2 ounces 15 minutes Simcoe 12.7 Whirlpool
Yeast
Fermentis US-05 was sprinkled on top of the wort in a single pack. Ferment for roughly two weeks at 68°F.

To remove chloramines from water, use filtered water or a Campden tablet.

The Whole Grain Process
Brewing using all-grains is exciting and rewarding. You’ll be active and immersed in the hands-on brewing process at each level. To have a stress-free and effective brew day, follow these steps:

Planning
Once you get started brewing, having a good strategy will make your life a lot easier. To ensure that you’re ready and organised, start with clean tools and a clear workspace.

Using brewing software such as this one, calculate your water volumes and temperatures. For your initial batch, stick to the default input standards. You’ll be able to alter and fine-tune variables like boil-off rate and absorption losses once you’ve brewed a few batches on your system. These differ from system to system, so take careful notes on your brew day so you can stay on track and make adjustments in the future.

The following is the most crucial result of the calculation:

Mash/Strike Volume: the amount of water used in an infusion mash.
Strike Water Temperature: This is the temperature of the strike water. The temperature of the mash is usually roughly 10°F higher.

1st Runnings: the volume of wort Sparge’s first runnings. The amount of water required for the sparge is measured in volume.
Start heating up your strike water (the water used for the mash) when you’re ready to brew.

Grain Crushing
Most homebrew shops will crush your grains for free or a minimal price if you don’t have a malt mill.

Malt should be milled so that the grain’s husk remains intact rather than being pulverised. During the sparging procedure, grain husks assist filter the wort. Overly pulverised malt can also gum up and create dough balls, resulting in a clogged sparge. Adjust your mill so that the grain is crushed but not pulverised, and the husks are split but not crushed.

The mill is crushing the grain too finely if it looks like flour.

You can begin mashing once your brewing water has reached strike temperature.

Make sure the mash tun’s false bottom/bazooka screen is in place and the ball valve is shut. Transfer the strike water to the mash tun from your HLT or brew kettle. Using a mash paddle or a strong spoon, stir in the crushed malt. Stir the malt and water mixture for a few minutes to ensure that all of the malt is moistened and no dough balls form.

Check the mash temperature; it should be at your desired mash rest temperature. If it’s too low, whisk in a pint of hot water from the HLT and check again. As needed, repeat the process. If the mash is excessively hot, cool it down by adding cold water in the same way.

Cover the mash tun and set it aside to cool. After 30 minutes, check the temperature of the mash. If the mash has lost its temperature, add some hot water to bring it back up to normal. You’ll be alright as long as you stay within 2-3 degrees of your preferred temperature. You’ll be able to dial in your exact numbers as you learn to know your mash tun.

Allow one hour for the mash to rest in total — this is plenty of time for most beer styles. During this time, make sure your HLT is full of your sparge water, which should be around 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lautering
Lautering is the process of separating the malt from the sweet wort in your mash.

The wort from the grains inside the mash tun will be filtered and drained into the boil kettle at this point. A batch sparge is highly recommended.

Sparging
Drain about a quart of wort into a pitcher to begin. At this time, you’ll notice particles of malt in the wort. This is very normal. Pour this back into the mash tun gently. This stage should be repeated until the wort is free of particles. It should take three to four cycles.

The grain bed was positioned to enable for efficient filtration, which is known as a vorlauf.

Into your boil kettle, drain the entire volume of delicious wort. These are the initial runs.

Drain the HLT’s sparge water into the mash, stir, set aside for 10 minutes, then repeat the operation. You can do a single batch sparge if your mash tun is large enough. You can sparge in many batches for smaller mash tuns. Multiple sparges extract more sugars from the malt, resulting in increased efficiency.

Note: A fly sparge is an alternative to a batch sparge. A fly sparge performs both at the same time, rather than draining the initial runnings and then adding the sparge water. Water is added to the top of the mash at the same pace as the mash tun flows off. This process is repeated until the whole pre-boil volume has been collected. The conventional way of sparging is using flies. We believe that bastch sparging provides similar outcomes while requiring fewer equipment. You can easily add the requisite equipment to fly sparge later if you start with batch sparging.

Boiling
A full volume boil is required when boiling an all grain batch. Turn the heat source up to high and wait for the wort to come to a boil. It doesn’t have to be a vigorous boil, but it should be rolling around and breaking the surface.

Chilling
After the boil is finished, cool the wort to pitching temperature for yeast. This is normally approximately 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit for ales and 7-13 degrees Fahrenheit for lagers.

Sterilize your chiller when there are 15 minutes left in the boil. Immerse the coil in the boiling wort for immersion chillers. Using a pump, recirculate the wort through the chiller for plate chillers. You don’t need to use a sanitizer because the boiling wort sterilises the chillers.

Transfer the wort to your fermentation vessel once it has been cooled. Remember to collect a sample using a hydrometer to determine your gravity and brewhouse efficiency.

Packaging and Fermentation
Ferment your beer at the proper temperature after pitching your yeast.

Package and carbonate your all-grain brew in bottles or kegs, and enjoy!

Video Course on All-Grain Brewing
Check out our Craft Beer & Brewing video course to discover advanced all-grain brewing techniques:

Advanced Whole-Grain Techniques
Advanced Whole-Grain Techniques
Join Dave Carpenter for an in-depth look at how to get the most out of your grain. Learn about malt conditioning and crushing, stepwise mash protocols, continuous sparge processes, and the dreaded decoction mash (which isn’t as horrible as it sounds).

*For 30 days, it’s free.
Bison Brew is supported by readers, and we may receive a commission if you make a purchase after clicking this link.
For the first 30 days, it’s free, and you’ll have access to over 60 homebrewing classes from the top brewers in the industry.

Last Thoughts
We understand that getting started with all-grain brewing can be intimidating. It takes a few batches to get the hang of things and figure out what volumes, temps, and timings work best for you. We hope you now have a comprehensive understanding of the entire process from beginning to end.

Starting with a simple recipe and taking extensive notes throughout your brew day is a good idea. In no time, you’ll have your system dialled in and refined.

Most Commonly Asked Questions
What’s the difference in flavor between whole grain and extract?
Extract beers are prepared with concentrated wort that has been pre-made. Malt extract is exposed to a variety of variables throughout the concentrating process, including heat, which has an impact on the flavor. Extract usually results in a beer with a higher final gravity and a sweet, syrupy taste. Furthermore, extract beers have a deeper hue. In aged malt extract, oxidized tastes can also be detected.

Expect a sharper, drier beer with a clear malt taste when brewing with 100% grain.

How long does it take to brew an all-grain batch?
A full all-grain brew should take at least 4 to 6 hours to complete. You’ll be active for the entirety of the brew, from heating strike water and crushing malt to chilling and pitching yeast.

How can I improve the efficiency of my brewhouse?
It’s difficult for many brewers to hit their target volumes and gravities. You’ll learn the ins and outs of your all grain system with practise. This entails using the system to track your losses (absorption rate, mash tun loss, kettle loss, and so on).

Consider the following options if you feel like you’ve dialled in your system but are still unhappy with your efficiency:

Finer grain milling
Adjust your thermometer’s calibration and do more temperature tests.
Ensure that your mash has been thoroughly mixed and that there are no dough balls or dry malt in it.
Your hydrometer should be calibrated and used appropriately.
Is Brewing in a Bag (BIAB) an all-grain brewing method?
Yes, BIAB is a grain-based brewer. It’s a newer method of making beer at home, and it goes against some of the classic all-grain brewing techniques outlined above. We appreciate BIAB because of its ease of use and ability to produce excellent beers with little investment in equipment.

The three-vessel all grain technique is a classic, efficient, and enjoyable way to brew beer. It gives the brewer more control and freedom when it comes to recreating vintage styles.

You can produce world-class all-grain beer with either method, no matter which you select!

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