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Making the Great Leap; New Gadgets Needed When Going to All-Grain

by Bill Bunning

There comes a time in a lot of homebrewer's lives when they decide it's time to try their hand at all-grain brewing (for me, it was my third batch). There's more to this great leap than going out and buying grain instead of malt extract. Some additional equipment is needed. If the reason you stick to extract brewing is because of time, then stick with extract brewing. All-grain brewing takes about six hours, compared to two to three for extract brewing. If you think that it may be too expensive to go to all-grain, that's where you're wrong. Up front, you will have to fork out some cash for the additional equipment, but all-grain batches are about 30% less expensive than an extract one. Where an extract batch costs $20-25 per batch, all-grain runs around $5-10 cheaper per batch.

Standard equipment for an extract brewer includes a brewing kettle (usually less than 5 gallons), fermenters, bottling bucket, bottles, etc. Additional equipment needed for all-grain includes mashing equipment, a brewing kettle large enough to brew the entire volume (7-8 gallons), something to fire this volume of wort up to boiling (Cajun cooker clones), and a wort chiller.

Mashing can be done on the stovetop (in the boiling kettle) or in a combined mash/lauter tun picnic cooler. I prefer the Gott cooler mash/lauter tun. I use a Phil's false bottom in a ten gallon Gott. You can get by with a five gallon Gott but this limits you to five gallon batches of beer with an OG of about 1.060. You can do single infusion mashes (one temperature rest), multi-step infusions (add boiling water to raise the temperature), and decoction mashing. Your old boiling kettle can be used for boiling water infusions and to heat your sparge water.

My lautering is done in the cooler itself. If you go with stovetop mashing, you'll need some type of lautering set-up. The Zap-pap lautering system described in Papazian's book (which one? - editor) works well and is relatively cheap. Your bottling bucket can be used as a hot water tank to hold the sparge water. I use a Phil's sparge arm to spray the water on top of the grain bed. If you haven't seen it, it works great.

After sparging the procedures are the same as extract brewing with unhopped extract with a couple of exceptions. You're now boiling the entire volume of wort (the need for a bigger boiler and something to fire it) and hop utilization will change. Generally, you need less hops in an all-grain batch (full wort boil) to achieve the same bitterness as an extract batch (partial wort boil). That's because hop utilization increases as wort gravity decreases. If you previously boiled half your batch, your effective wort gravity is approximately double you predicted original gravity. (How's that for beer geek techno mumbo jumbo?). After boiling, chill your wort (a wort chiller works well), aerate, and pitch the yeast. This is the same as extract brewing. From here on, the procedures are the same.

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