All grain beginner

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Bubbles, Apr 21, 2013.

  1. Bubbles

    Bubbles New Member

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    I'm going to purchase a 10 gallon mash tun, an Igloo with SS false bottom and SS valve, and would like people to know what the pros out there recommend for additional equipment. I live in the Twin Cities and our water appears to be adequate for most beers without a lot of manipulation. I'm focusing my brewing on Belgian style beers and would like to become competent with Blonds, Dubbels, Goldens, Tripels and perhaps Dark Strongs. I'm now doing partial mashes and have had some good successes, but feel I can do better with all grain. I'm planning on doing batch sparging after listening to Denny Conn's talks on the likelihood of adequate to outstanding mash efficiency and, as importantly, the practicality regarding time commitments. Do I need a pH meter, water chemistry tools, any other things I should consider?

    Thanks
     
  2. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Have you got your boil and sanitation processes down? If not, I'd stick to extract until that's very reliable; otherwise, you're just adding more things to go wrong to the process. If you feel comfortable with boiling, sanitation, fermenting and packaging, take the plunge. Your setup will mirror mine and I get great results from it. Do some "simple" batches (like a blonde ale) so you can see how your results change and see if there are any problems. Believe me, if you have a flaw in your process, a simple beer will expose them. Find a mash schedule and stick with it until you're secure in the process and know what varying it will produce - I use the German "Hochkurz" schedule of a 20 minute rest at 145°, a 40 minute rest at 158° and a 20 minute sparge at 170°. Add a 10-15 minute rest at about 120° for high-protein grains like rye, oats, unmalted wheat or American six-row. And good luck - your beers will change immensely!
     
  3. LarryBrewer

    LarryBrewer Active Member

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    I personally went with a 15 gallon so I could do 11 gallon batches (which require up to a 13-14 gallon boil volume).
     
  4. TheZel66

    TheZel66 Member

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    I have the same mash tun... works like a charm. Definitely go all grain. If you're doing a Dubbel first, use Maris Otter malt. It's the most easily converted malt. Key for extraction I've found is making sure your grain is milled enough. I go with about 1.2 quarts of water in the mash per pound of grist. I also fly sparge using a 10 gallon cooler lauter tun.
     
  5. The Brew Mentor

    The Brew Mentor Well-Known Member

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    A 10 gallon MLT will be fine for 5 gallon batches and medium to lower gravity 10 gallon batches, but not big enough for a 10 gallon Dubbel.
    I have made 2 cooler MLT's and went with the 12 gallon size. They can hold about 27# of grain with water, but then it makes for a difficult sparging process.
    If you think at all that you'll got to 10 gallon batches, go with a bigger MLT. If 5 is the max, then the smaller one will be better.
    I'd start with a single infusion mash and work first on hitting your mash temp. A simple batch sparge will get you good efficiency and you're on your way!
    Keep it simple and build on your successes.
    Good Luck
    Brian
     
  6. Bubbles

    Bubbles New Member

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    Thanks for the responses. I will likely never go beyond five gallons -- in fact, I'm considering doing smaller batches since I'm in the phase of getting to know the ingredients and techniques, so I don't really want five gallons or more of something I'm not fond of.

    What I've learned from you (and others) so far is that, for most Belgian ale recipes, it doesn't seem that you have to worry too much about ease of conversion since they use mostly modified pilsner grain. Also, again from Denny Conn, that running the grains thru the mill a couple of times ensures a higher mash efficiency without a great concern for a stuck sparge. I will more than likely at least start with a single infusion technique until I get proficient, then maybe do a more complex mash schedule.

    What I'm looking for to fill in the blanks is whether mash pH or other water factors should be a big concern or even be monitored as I start on the all grain path as well as anything else that I could be blindsided by. I feel quite comfortable with my fermentation, yeast starter cultures and sanitation techniques and have software for creating recipes so I have a sense of OG, bitterness ratio, etc. I've had great success with some high OG Belgians, such as Tripels and Strong Goldens, so I guess I'm really looking for advise on how going to an all grain approach is going to introduce additional factors. I'm hopeful from the many who say that the quality will go up. My goal is to make great tasting Belgians (and other types, but mostly Belgians) and I really don't care much about competition -- it's about pleasing my taste, so I don't worry much about conforming to style guidelines. I like the traditional Belgian approach of making what you like and not worrying about how to categorize the beer.

    Thanks for your help!
     
  7. LarryBrewer

    LarryBrewer Active Member

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