First All-Grain Batch

Yes, today was the day for the first all-grain batch of beer.  I was (and still am) very excited.  For Christmas I received an all-grain brewing equipment kit that you can read more about here.  And today, the weather behaved and I was able to use it.

For those that may not know, many homebrewers start brewing using malt extract.  That is, malted barley that has been mashed, boiled, dried to some extent, and then packaged.  In all-grain homebrewing, you the brewer mash the malted barley to convert the starches to sugar, lauter (drain off the sugary liquid), sparge to rinse the remaining sugars from the grain, and then proceed with the normal boil just as you would with an extract batch.

Extract brewing gets a bad reputation for the most part because malt extract can stale over time and cause less than desirable flavors.  The two kinds of malt extract available are liquid malt extract (LME) and dried malt extract (DME).  Liquid tends to stale quicker than dried and I can attest to the flavor of stale liquid extract.  To me it tastes like metallic, rotting vegetables.  Not the best flavor for beer, in my opinion.  At best, stale malt extract can have a certain metallic ‘twang’ to the taste.

After reading thus far, you may wonder why anyone would use malt extract, and the answer is using extract is easy.  In the most simple sense, you just heat some water, dump in the extract, boil, add hops according to the recipe, and your done.  If the extract is fresh, the resulting beer can be excellent.  I can also attest to the excellence of fresh extract.  All but one of my 47 batches to date have had some extract in the recipe.  Now were they all excellent?  No, but I can’t blame all of it on the extract.  Some of it was the brewer’s fault.

Why would anyone want to brew using all grain?  All-grain brewing allows the brewer to have more control over what goes into each batch, how fermentable the batch is going to be, and color can be better controlled.  All of this, and it’s fun too?  Sign me up.  Oh yeah, and malted grain is cheaper than malt extract.  I guess it’s that ‘how much is your time worth’ thing because brewing all-grain will make for a longer brew day.  Did I mention that brewing is fun?

Now that I have babbled on for quite awhile, if you’re still with me, let’s talk about batch 47.

Batch #47 was an all-grain ‘re-brew’ of an extract recipe that I brewed last year that I called Hop Grenade.  I enjoy listening to The Brewing Network podcasts and their logo is a hop cone that looks like a grenade, so I thought something super hoppy should be named after it.

I went with a water to grain ratio of 1.3 quarts per pound of grain.  The total grain bill weighed in at 12 lbs so the total strike water amount was 15.6 quarts or 3.9 gallons (we’ll call that 4 gallons).  I was aiming for a mash rest temperature of 152 F so I heated the 4 gallons to about 180 F and poured it into the mash tun.  The temperature settled to about 162 F by the time the cooler absorbed the heat.  I slowly poured in the 12 lbs of grain, stirring every so often.  When all the grain was poured and stirred in, the temperature settled at 153 F.  Having the thermometer mounted in the side of the cooler/mash tun was a real treat because it was easy to check at I poured and stirred.

After a rest period of 60 minutes the temperature had dropped to 151 F which I think is acceptable.  I then recirculated the mash by draining off into two 2-quart measuring cups and pouring slowly back into the mash tun.  This clears any chunks of grain that get below the false bottom in the mash tun and helps to set up a filter bed in the grain for easier run-off.  After this point the wort was running clean of grain chunks so I drained into the boil kettle.  While the remaining wort was running into the kettle, I heated 3.5 more gallons of water to 170 F to use as a sparge.

When the mash tun was empty of wort, I poured the sparge water into the mash tun.  I accidentally splashed some of the sparge water all over the place.  It was very hot.  While the sparge water sat in the mash tun I started the burner under the boil kettle so that when the sparge water was ready to run off, the boil kettle was already near boiling.  This saved some time as the wort in the kettle was near 190 F when I was done running off the sparge.

After the sparge, I boiled, added hops, did a little light reading, added some more hops, drank a cup of coffee, added more hops and then shut off the burner.  I cooled the batch by dunking the kettle in a giant metal wash tub filled with ice.

I started the boil with nearly 7 gallons of wort but with boil-off I ended up with about 4.5 gallons of wort transferred to the the fermenter, so I topped up with a bit of filtered water.  I got the temperature down to about 70 F and pitched the 1 quart starter of Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast at about 7:00 pm.  It is now near 1:00 am and the yeast has started rising to the top and it is starting to bubble in the blow-off tube.

If this batch is anywhere near as good as the extract version I brewed last year, then one this won’t last long.  The extract version was strong tasting even though it was only around 5% ABV.  It had a striking bitterness and a strong caramel malt and American hop flavor.  I would have to check my records, but I think the original batch only lasted 3 months in the bottle.

Want the recipe?  Here it is…

5 lbs US 2-Row
5 lbs Maris Otter
8 oz Crystal 40L
8 oz Crystal 120L
8 oz Munich
8 oz Victory

1 tsp Irish Moss (rehydrated) at 10

.6 oz Chinook (12.2% AA) at 60
.25 oz Cascade (5.9% AA) at 10
.25 oz Amarillo (8% AA) at 10
.75 oz Cascade at 0
.75 oz Amarillo at 0

Mash at 152-153 F
Wyeast 1056 ale yeast (I used a 1 qt starter)

I may dry hop with .5 oz of Chinook to boost the bittering hop flavor/aroma but I haven’t decided.

The Adequate Brewer

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