Friday, February 19, 2016

Your First All Grain.. Learn to Mash Grains STEP BY STEP

This is the first blog in a series of blogs on "your first"  Designed to help newer brewers try brewing techniques for the first time.

So as most of you know I am a fan of partial mash.  I can argue, quite compellingly that partial mash is the best method for most home brewers to follow.  With nominal equipment you can make excellent beer by using partial mash. To make a good partial mash, you have to learn how to mash grains. I also realize that many of you are intimidated by partial mash, and large all grain brewing.   You read the forums, and you hear us talking. It all sounds so foreign.  Vorlauff, sparging,  Mash pH,  Equal Runnings....So...with out further adieu... I present "Your first all grain"   A step by step approach to your first grain mash using small batch BIAB.

The whole idea here is that you probably have everything you need to make a 1 - 2.5 gallon batch of beer at home.   You might need a paint strainer bag,  you might need a 2 gallon bucket.  If you have a Mr Beer LBK, you are fine.   The pot you use for extract is fine.  (4 to 5 gallons).

In this recipe we're making a 2 gallon batch Bell's Two Hearted Ale. of Here is a list of what you will need;  if you've been extract brewing you probably have most of this stuff.

The Equipment
The pots you use for extract are big enough for a 1 gallon,
All grain batch of beer.
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • 4- 5 gallon kettle
  • 5 gallon paint strainer bag
  • a large spoon
  • brewing thermometer
  • a colander that fits on your kettle, mine doesn't fit so i put a spoon next to it!
  • a 2 gallon food grade bucket (They're about $6 to $7 at your LHBS)
  • an air lock 
  • Hydrometer or Refractometer - not strictly necessary but nice to have.
  • A spray bottle full of clean water
  • A Volume dip stick... wait what?   What the heck is that?  
    • Simple take a wooden spoon and put one gallon of water in your kettle,  mark the spot where one gallon is, then two gallons, mark the spot where the water is, then repeat to volume of the kettle.
For now Camden
and 5.2 stabilizer
are your only
water adjustments!
The Chemicals
  • OxiClean Free - Good general purpose cleaner
  • Star San
  • Camden Tablets - buy the small package
  • 5 Star 5.2 pH stabilizer - yes there are other ways to adjust water, you dont need to worry about them for now.
The Ingredients - This is for a 1 gallon clone of Bell's Two Hearted Ale
  • 2# of Two Row Base Malt,  any two row or pale ale malt will do,
    • But not Pilsner, Vienna, Golden Promise, or Munich.  They are all wonderful base malts, just not right for this style.
      • If they don't have two row, or pale (and why the hell wouldn't they?)  My next choice would be Maris Otter. 
  • .2# of Caramel/Crystal 40
  • Ask your Home brew store to crush the grains fine, or crush them 2x for you.  
  • 1 Ounces of Centennial Hops, 
    • if you don't have a scale have them package for you;  just show them this recipe and they will know what to do.
  • 1 Package of Fermentis Safale US05, or BRY97
    • Why not liquid yeast?  Why not Wyeast or White Labs, or Imperial?  Well because this is a 1 gallon batch.  No reason to spend that kind of money on a liquid yeast.
    • Further dry yeast comes pre packaged with nutrients and oxygen (bound to the nutrients) and gives newer brewers the best chance of success. 
  • Irish Moss
  • Yeast Nutrient
The process.

Camden Treated water
Ready for brew day
The Afternoon, or Night before brew day;
  • Clean the 5 gallon bucket and rinse thoroughly
  • Add 1/2 a crushed camden tablet to the bucket
  • Fill with 3 gallons of water, this is your brewing water, stir thoroughly
  • The camden will take any chloramine out of the water.  It will also remove chlorine, but so would the boil.  If you know for a fact that the only chloride in your water is chlorine, you can skip this step.  But most municipal water supplies are a mixture of the Chlorides.
  • Do not put a lid on the bucket
Brew day morning
  • Make some coffee  RDWHAC  (Relax Dont Worry have a coffee)
    • The golden rule of drinking a beer or two while you brew is for more experienced brewers.  
    • Im really lucky, SWMBO often
      cleans the brewery before brew day
    • While Brewing Your safe zone is coffee, or soda until you really know what you are doing.
  • Organize your brewery, you can not brew good beer amidst chaos.  So if you need to clean your area first,  please do so, I'll wait here...
  • Organize your brewing Chemicals and Ingredients
  • Clean and inspect all equipment.
The Mash
  • Put 2.29 Gallons of your brewing water into your kettle.
  • A clone of Bells Two Hearted Ale
    mashing away on the stove.
    • "OK WAIT  Why 2.29 Gallons?"
      • It's really not complicated.  The Grains will absorb some of the water.  When you remove the grains you'll have about 2 gallons of wort for the boil.  You'll loose about .5 gallons in the boil   So 1.5 Gallons will go into your fermentation bucket.   When you transfer to the 1 gallon jug, you will leave behind about.5 gallons of trub. 
  • Add 1 teaspoon of 5.2 pH stabilizer and stir
  • Heat the water to 157
    • "OK WAIT  Why 157?"  
      • Again it is simple,  the grains are at about 65 F.  When you lower them into the water, the water will come down in temperature to 153, which is where we want to be.
  • As the water is heating put your grains into a Bag.  
  • put the bag in the
    bucket then put
    the grains in the bag
    • the easiest way is to do this is to put your bags in the bucket so that the  bottom of the bag is in the bottom of the bucket and the elastic is around the top.
  • When the water is stabilized at 157 (here's a tip turn it off at 155 -156 it will still rise to 157)
  • Add the grains to the water, fasten the elastic around the top of the kettle.  
    • if it wont fit all the way around, clip it on. 
  • Give it a thorough stir, no dough balls should be present in your wort. But you also do not want grains getting out side of the bag.  
  • Set a timer for 15 minutes When the timer goes off remove the lid and stir.  Set the timer for 15 minutes... repeat....Do this for 60 minutes total.  check the temperature every time  you may have to turn the heat back on to keep  the mash between 150 and 155 F.   Don't stress if it falls over time, it will.  But do not let it get above 160.  Add ice water if you have to.  My thermometer has a clip and stays on during the mash. 
    • Congratulations you are now Mashing Grains in an all grain batch of beer!
  • At the end of the mash, pull the bag and set it on the colander.  Let it drain into the wort.
  • Check the volume, use the dip stick you made,  it should be about 2 gallons, if it isn't then squeeze the bag until it is at 2 gallons.  
    • You will not extract tannins by squeezing, you are not that strong.  
      • Tannins are extracted by incorrect pH levels, and by heat!
The Boil

If your stove has a
ceramic top, put the
kettle over 2 burners!
Both set to high!
From here on it is just like an extract batch.  The only difference is you are boiling the entire volume of wort, There will not be an addition of water into the fermenter.

(.1 ounce First Wort Hop; .2 ounce 25 mintue;  .4 ounce 5 minute, .3 ounce 7 day dry hop)
  • Immediately Add .1 ounce of Centennial Hops to the wort as soon as you pull the bag and are draining. 
    • This is called first wort hopping.  Some recipes will want you to do this others wont. 
  • Bring the wort to a boil When it has been boiling for 35 minutes add .2 ounces of Centennial Hops to the wort  (25 minute to go addition)  
  • With 10 minutes to go in the boil add your Irish Moss (1 teaspoon) 
  • With 10 minutes to go in the boil add your yeast Nutrient (1 teaspoon)
  • With 10 minutes to go in the boil add your wort chiller if you have one.  
    • if you do not have a wort chiller,  put a stainless steel spoon in the wort at this time to sanitize.
    • Clip your thermometer to the kettle again, it also needs to sanitize
  • Allow the wort to boil for another 20 minutes then add .4 ounces of Centennial Hops to the boil. (5 minutes to go at this point)
  • At 60 minutes turn off the heat and move the kettle off of the burners.
  • Chill the batch.  If you don't have a wort chiller, you can use ice water in the sink, it will still chill in short order, remember it is only a 1 gallon batch.  
    • put the kettle full of wort into a sink that has 2" of ice water.  use the sanitized spoon to stir the wort. do not take the spoon out of the wort, you could contaminate it.  
  • When the wort is at 65 to 70 degrees you are done chilling.
  • Sanitize the 2 gallon bucket; use star san and a soft sponge if necessary.  Do not scratch it!
  • Aerate: pour the wort into the bucket vigorously. (you may want to leave behind the break material.  If you do, pour all but the break material into the bucket, dispose of break)
    • The pour the wort vigorously back into the kettle
    • Then back into the bucket.
  • During one of these pours catch some of the wort in a sanitized small plastic cup.  This wort will not return to the batch ever.  It is for your gravity reading
    • Take a gravity reading. 
  • Pitch your yeast 1/2 a package of US-05 - 
    • Do NOT pitch it all.  You want the colony to grow and expand. More is not better!
  • Place the fermenter in a cool dark place for 14 days, leave it alone. 
  • On day 15 Wash your hands.  Then carefully open the fermenter.   
    • It is a good idea to have a spray bottle with some StarSan solution with you when you do this.   It allows you to easily sanitize everything!
    • Set the lid onto a sterile surface - like aluminum foil that you have sprayed with starsan.
  • Put the dry hops into the fermenter.
  • Be careful not to splash or create foam.  You do not want oxygen at this point in the fermentation process.  Just gently put in the dry hops.
  • Allow the beer to age for 1 more week before packaging.  
That's it.  You did it, you made all grain beer. It really isn't that hard.  And if you can make all grain beer, you can certainly make partial mash.

There are many many more things to learn about home brewing.  That is what makes it fun.  Over the years you'll learn to do step mashes, re-iterated mashes, partial mashes, decoction mashing, turbid wort extraction.  Eventually you'll learn about water chemistry, and the kind of oils that make up a hop flavor profile.  If you are wise you will learn to keep things simple, not to over complicate things. As you might suspect I field a lot of questions on this blog.  Most of them come as private messages. It also wont surprise you that most of the questions are either from new brewers who don't quite get something, or they are from experienced brewers who read something somewhere and they have now complicated the crud out of everything.  Remember brewing is just cooking.  Seek to understand why things happen and you don't need a recipe!

Eventually,  You'll learn your system and what really works well on your system.  All kinds of fun stuff.  But you'll always remember the first time you made all grain beer.


  1. This is a great, simple step-by-step process for all-grain brewing. For anyone who thinks they need to perfect extract brewing before they attempt all-grain, that is not the case. Dave is a guru when it comes to this stuff, give it a try yourself and if you have questions he will gladly help you through the process, he has done wonders for my brewing ability.

  2. This man know's of what he speaks. there is some great advice here and it is really easy to do. with these small batch's you don't have much to lose and a world of knowledge and future brewing experiences to gain.

    1. Thanks Robert. Just trying to make it as easy to understand as it is to do...