Starting out with all grain brewing

I get  a lot of beginner brewers asking me how they can get started brewing all grain for the least amount of money and equipment possible. For those people I have devised a start kit with everything you need for all grain brewing with the least amount of money possible (in my opinion). And just because the kit is simple you don’t sacrifice quality of the finished product.

The process I recommend starting out with is Brew in a Bag (BIAB).

Before I go into the BIAB process I want to detail what I include in the BIAB start kit I make for newbies:

  • 33 liter plastic boil kettle, with 2x 2200 watt heating elements from electric kettles
  • 33 liter fermentation bucket with an air lock
  • Polyester fine mesh bag big enough to cover the inside of the boil kettle (grain bag)
  • Thermometer (digital)
  • Hydrometer
  • Racking cane
  • Chlorine based cleaning agent
  • Iodophor for sanitizing
  • 70 bottle caps
  • Capper
  • Your first all grain recipe  – Milled grains, hops and dry yeast

I have written an exhaustive document detailing the process using this kit. It is however in Icelandic, but I intend to translate it to English soon™.

For starters I will just give a quick summary of the process:

  1. I start out by heating up 27 liters of water in the boil kettle to 72 degrees celsius (161F)
  2. I put the grain bag in the boil kettle and add the grains, taking care to stir well to avoid any clumps in the mash
  3. By now the temperature should have dropped to 67-68°C (15-154F) so I put the lid on the kettle and cover the kettle with towels to keep the temperature stable for the next 60 minutes. This process is called mashing and it is very important to keep the temperature stable.
  4. After 60 minutes I uncover the kettle, raise the bag off the heating elements and raise the heat to 77°C (170F) for 10 minutes
  5. After 10 minutes at 77°C (170F) I hoist the bag up and drain the remaining liquid from the grains. I use the time while liquid slowly drips from the grains to turn on both heating elements.
  6. When most of the liquid has drained from the grains I throw the grains away*.
  7. When the liquid (wort) has reached boiling I disconnect one heating element as one is enough to keep a vigorous boil. I boil for 60-90 minutes depending on recipe and add hops and other additions as the recipe states.
  8. After the 60-90 minute boil I stop the boil, put a sanitized lid on the boil kettle
  9. After about 24 hours the wort has cooled down to 20-22°C (68-72F) and I pour everything except the sludge on the bottom of the boil kettle into a sanitized fermentation bucket. Some splashing is encouraged here, as it will oxygenate the wort and help the yeast get started. I take a sample of the wort and measure it with a hydrometer.
  10. I add the yeast to the fermentation bucket, put the lid on and the airlock into the hole on the lid.
  11. After about 10 days the fermentation is finished and the beer is ready for bottling (which I’ll describe in another article)

* You can also make bread, dog treats or feed the spent grains to animals.

It is extremely important that everything that touches the beer after boil is properly sanitized and cleaned!

This is the short version of how a typical brew day using BIAB goes. If someone wants I can translate the full document to English and post here. I realize that some people will disagree with some of the processes described here (no chill, no sparge etc) but this is a great, simple way to get started with all grain brewing, and these techniques can be extended and improved upon with more equipment after a few batches. This will make a perfectly good beer that can stand comparison to beers brewed with equipment costing many times more.

I hope this article has proved useful for someone, and if you have any questions the please comment and ask away!

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