All Grain Brewing as an entry point

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by marxistalert, May 12, 2015.

  1. marxistalert

    marxistalert New Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Hi,

    I'm new to the forum and new to brewing, so apologies if this has been answered elsewhere, I did a quick search and couldn't find anything which answered my (admittedly rather subjective) question.

    I'm about to embark upon my first forays into brewing and want to invest in some kit, having been having a poke around a few brewing forums by way of research. I've also just read Mikkeller Book of Beer, in which Mr. Mikeller tells the reader, essentially, the only way of brewing a decent beer is to use an all-grain brewing method, that using a malt syrup or powdered malt is never going to give you a great result.

    Is there any real benefit to starting out with a kit malt powder a la the Coopers one? The all grain method certainly adds a layer of complexity, but it doesn't look like rocket science (he says naively), as long as I follow the timings and methods precisely.

    I'm pretty particular about my beer, and I know what I Iike, so whilst I'm very aware my first experiments with all grain are likely to be a bit rubbish and subject to trial and error, equally what I've read I'm not expecting powders/syrups to ever be more than mediocre, so I'd rather start with a technique that I can perfect over time than one that will only ever be so-so.

    Am I setting myself up for a fall to start out with all grain? Obviously the cost of entry is significantly higher, and where I could get a Coopers kit for £60 GBP an all grain kit is likely to come in around £300 GBP, but I'd rather invest in something that is going to last, rather than something I'm likely to chuck out after a couple of months.

    Any advice for a total n00b? Thanks!
     
  2. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2015
    Messages:
    3,240
    Likes Received:
    1,557
    Trophy Points:
    113
    I've brewed plenty of beers that I really like as an extract. I think that with the extract, the mash is being done in a factory. That's the only difference, essentially. It took me 20 years to get into the all grain thing. The homebrew snobs that look down their noses at extract brewers won't approve of my all grain brewing either. I'm doing Brew In A Bag. I do not want to invest in the storage space for a traditional 3 vessel set up. I was perfectly happy with extracts. If you're set up to do that, all you need to add is the bag to go all grain. Whatever you brew, I'll happily drink!
     
  3. cearum

    cearum Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2012
    Messages:
    102
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Location:
    Metro Detroit, MI
    While I've never performed Brew in a Bag I think that it's a great starting point for a new brewer. It's a smaller equipment cost and gets you going into full grain right away. You might never go to 'traditional' full grain either.

    While there's nothing wrong with extract brewing if you're serious about home brewing you might as well jump right in. I don't think it's that much extra work; just keep a close eye on mash temps and sanitation and you should be fine. Then once you get good at those, expand to add more complex ideas.
     
  4. marxistalert

    marxistalert New Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Thanks for the input... Brew in the bag is only the same as regular all grain brewing, is it not, only with less mess/cleaning due to everything being contained? Or am I missing something?
     
  5. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2015
    Messages:
    3,240
    Likes Received:
    1,557
    Trophy Points:
    113
    That's the way I see it, although I've never done any brewing the other way myself - I've only watched my neighbor do it.
     
  6. GernBlanston

    GernBlanston New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2014
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
    As previously mentioned, extract will make fine beer. Home brew competitions have been won many times with a simple extract beer recipe. With extract, the mashing is already done, DMS precursors are driven off, hot/cold break have occurred, all you need to do is isomerize some alpha acids, sanitize in the boil, and ferment.

    All grain adds a level of complexity, but it DOES NOT, by its very use, make better beer. More moving parts, more $hit to go wrong.

    The beauty of extract is that you can make some fine, even great beer while you learn the process. Could be after a few batches you don't enjoy all the cleaning and sanitizing that goes along with brewing and decide to give it up. You wouldn't be the first.
    Or you might find it fascinating enough to peruse more details that lead to: All grain, 10 gal. batches, keggerators, yeast ranching, brewing rooms, and competitions.
    More than likely, something in between. I know some brewers who only do extract, and have no desire to go all grain as the extra work is undesirable. The extract schedule is all they are willing to put in for home brew. It suits them. And their beer is great, as they concentrate on quality ingredients, fermentation temperatures, and proper packaging and cellaring of the beer.

    You can mess up a beer quite easily with too hot fermentation, unsanitary packaging, and out of control recipe design. Nosybear may disagree here, but I feel not every beer one can conceive, should be made.

    Now for some practicality. If you are about to buy equipment, and you think, at some point, you may go to all grain, even if its BIAB, consider getting a kettle large enough to do full wort boils. 9 or 10 gal kettle for a 5 gal batch. You can still do concentrated boils if you want while doing extract, but if you got the room in the kettle, full volume boils are the first step to all grain.
     
  7. GernBlanston

    GernBlanston New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2014
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
    BIAB is all grain, with less equipment. Correct.

    However, the process is limited slightly. Its sort of a no sparge/ full volume mash. You cant do a proper fly sparge. You can sort of do a batch sparge if you dip the bag into some sparge water, but that requires a separate vessel, defeating the "less equipment" desire. Some claim that your efficiency is hampered a bit, but that is easily fixed with recipe adjustments. That being said, it is a slightly simpler all grain method that makes fine beer.
     
  8. Ozarks Mountain Brew

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    7,767
    Likes Received:
    3,976
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    IT Managment
    Location:
    The Ozark Mountains of Missouri
  9. cassa

    cassa New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2015
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    As others have said, good beer has been made in lots of different ways. I think the much more important consideration is your enjoyment.

    Beginners are often advised to start with extract before "graduating" to all-grain. That makes it seem like 1) all-grain is better and 2) all-grain is hard. I don't think either is true. If you think you would like brewing all-grain, go for it. If you want to keep it simple, I'd recommend one of the Brooklyn Brew Shop one-gallon all-grain kits, which really jump-started my brewing this year. If you like tinkering and building things, there's lots of DIY opportunity (mash/lauter tuns, fermentation chambers, ...). But if you'd prefer not to build it yourself, there's turn-key systems to be had. And if you'd prefer not to deal with the extra time and complexity of an all-grain process, then don't; you'll make fine beer using extract.

    My personal story is that I'm enjoying my small-batch all-grain process more than I did the extract brewing I did 20 years ago. To me, there's just something pleasing about starting with the raw ingredients, much like cooking from scratch. But if that doesn't sound like it's worth the hassle to you, no worries.
     
  10. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2012
    Messages:
    9,381
    Likes Received:
    6,613
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Aurora, CO, USA
    Okay, cue Nosy's classic stump speech for the beginning brewer:

    As Gern B. pointed out, all-grain adds a lot of complexity, more variables for you, the brewer, to control. In the beginning you don't know what works and what doesn't so here's my recommendation: Pick a very simple, somewhat bland extract recipe, say a Blonde Ale. Brew that over and over until it tastes the same every time. Once it tastes the same every time using extract, start adding steeping grains, then progress to a mini-mash, then try all-grain. That way you've developed your brewing process to the point where it's rock-solid, your sanitation is good and you know what to expect from at least one malt, hop and yeast. You know what to expect from your water. Your changes, then, will reflect the change and not some uncontrolled process issue.
     
  11. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2012
    Messages:
    9,381
    Likes Received:
    6,613
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Aurora, CO, USA
    You're right, my friend, I disagree. But I will state some beers that can be conceived should only be made once.
     
  12. jeffpn

    jeffpn Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2015
    Messages:
    3,240
    Likes Received:
    1,557
    Trophy Points:
    113
    :D nice line!! ^

    On the other page, someone said something about a lot of time needed for doing all grain. My BIAB days are only about an hour longer than my extract day. If you want strive to learn the science behind brewing, the post where he said to brew the same recipe over and over again and the other tips is all good advice. That said, it never would've worked for me. I've always enjoyed making different beers that I like. I don't need blue ribbons. There's nothing wrong with wanting blue ribbons. It's just not my thing. There are all kinds of different brewers out there. You'll have to figure out which one you are.
     
  13. GernBlanston

    GernBlanston New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2014
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Make it once, and then dump it.

    You can only drink so much Smoke Licorice Jalapeno Peanut Butter Belgian Imperial Stout, even if you Dry hop and secondary on fruit.
     
  14. The Brew Mentor

    The Brew Mentor Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2012
    Messages:
    961
    Likes Received:
    578
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Mentor, Ohio
    Walk before you run!
    Getting started, you have no idea if you're going to like the process, what type of set up you want, how much space and time you're willing to dedicate to it, what size batches, etc...
    The basic equipment you'll need will go forward with you if you decide to go to all grain although if you commit to a system with out the hands on experience with it, you'll likely regret, in some way, what you've chosen.
    If there is a local brewing club that you can join and have an opportunity to brew with others, you'll find out that there can be very different set ups and that very few are alike.
    You wouldn't buy a new car without test driving it, would you?
    This a great hobby, but each person can have different ideas, space requirements, interest levels, etc.
    So, test the water before you dive in!
    Good luck
    Brian
     
  15. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2012
    Messages:
    9,381
    Likes Received:
    6,613
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Aurora, CO, USA
    How did you know what I'm bringing to Homebrew Night? ;-)

    Still looking forward to that ham glaze beer!
     
  16. GernBlanston

    GernBlanston New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2014
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Are you putting it on oak and serving it with an orange slice?
     
  17. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2012
    Messages:
    9,381
    Likes Received:
    6,613
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Aurora, CO, USA
    Now that would be just downright pretentious!
     
  18. griz

    griz Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2015
    Messages:
    41
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    8
    A Lot of good points made. My 2 cents worth are:

    *Brewing with extract is easier and can make great tasting beer just like all-grain.
    *Using all grain allows the brewer to "tinker" with the recipe a bit more
    *I like using all-grains when making a "specialty" beer
    *Using all grain is typically cheaper cost-wise compared to using extract, and can sometimes be significantly cheaper depending on the recipe
    *Mashing your own grain is easy to do...it's no big deal
    *I use extract and all-grain recipes but generally use all-grain 95% of the time

    But regardless, you can make great beer either way and sometimes the amount of time you have to brew your batch may influence on what technique you use. Enjoy and have fun.
     
  19. MrBIP

    MrBIP Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2012
    Messages:
    495
    Likes Received:
    29
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Northern Michigan
    Start with some extract kits. There's a lot the goes on pre- and post- wort creation and pitching yeast. I would not jump straight to all grain for the obvious reason of start simple and build from there and the initial expense... what happens if you brew few a batches and say, meh, not for me? I know people who have brewing equipment not being used!
    Nosybear has the best plan, but, gosh, if you don't dabble around a bit and try things, I think it would get boring pretty quick. I'm now about 45 batches in and really zeroing in just a few recipes that I keep brewing over and over now. But when I first got going (with extracts), I was trying all sorts of stuff.
    Regardless, like others have said, start with extracts and get your feet wet. You'll feel what you want to do next when all the questions start coming and you start researching for the answers.
     
  20. Ozarks Mountain Brew

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Messages:
    7,767
    Likes Received:
    3,976
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    IT Managment
    Location:
    The Ozark Mountains of Missouri
    Ive found the easiest, cheapest and simplest way to brew all grain is to buy a 10 gallon turkey fryer with propane burner combo, got my set for $50 years ago and I still have it, do a brew in a bag but mash for 1.5 hours then lift up and dunk 3 or 4 times at the end, attach it to a ratchet winch or find a large stainless fryer domed screen, set the bag on it and pour water over the grain until your level is correct, I would add a pound or 2 more base grain the first time just to be safe

    bags
    http://www.morebeer.com/products/bag-24-mesh-grain.html

    pot and burner
    http://www.homedepot.com/p/Brinkmann-45 ... /202038907
     

Share This Page

arrow_white