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What is the minimum amount of equipment I need to have to brew very simple all-grain recipes? Bonus points for cheap & easy-to-find equipment. I'd like to go all-grain eventually, but for the time being I'd just like to dabble. I'd like to be able to do 1- or 2- gallon all-grain batches with an infusion mash. If the equipment would also let me eventually step up to doing a full 5-gallon batch, so much the better. If doing such small batches all-grain is a bad idea, please let me know that too.

My current major equipment list:

  • 7 gallon stainless pot (no taps, no built-in thermometer)
  • 2 gallon aluminum pot
  • Bayou Classic propane burner (though I prefer to use the small pot on my stove for 1 or 2 gallon batches)
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+1 to the brew in a bag response, but my advice is to just get a mash tun and do a 5 gallon batch. It's going to come out great, and you're just going to end up being an all-grain brewer anyway. No need to have minimal equipment in addition to your main setup. –  PMV Nov 10 '10 at 17:37
    
@PMV Yes, I definitely agree. The cost of getting up an running on all-grain really isn't that much, and I think you'll want to do full batches almost as soon as you try all-grain. –  sgwill Nov 10 '10 at 18:06

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You could do all grain with what you currently have by purchasing a large grain bag. It's called "Brew in a bag", and the beersmith blog has a write up if you want to check it out.

I do my single infusion mash in a large chest cooler that I converted similar to this writeup. Edit: My cooler cost around 30 bucks, plus another 10 for random equipment.

A 7 gallon pot is just barely large enough for a full batch. You'll be fine for now, doing small batches, but I would eventually step up to a larger brew pot. I have a 7 gallon pot just to heat water, and a 10 gallon pot for the boil as a full all-grain boil starts around 7 gallons.

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"A full grain boil starts at around 7 gallons." This depends on recipe, of course. I have a 7.5 gallon pot I used for AG boils and my pre-boil volume can range anywhere from 6 to 7 gallons depending on style and recipe. –  Jeff L Nov 10 '10 at 17:33
    
@JeffL - yes, fair enough. I said the 7 gallon is just barely large enough, but perhaps that's just been my experience. I certainly think you can brew all grain with the equipment he has now. –  sgwill Nov 10 '10 at 17:34

You might want to check out the Cheap'n'Easy system at www.dennybrew.com. In addition, if you get Zymurgy magazine, I'll have an article in there shortly after the first of the year with an overview of ways to move to all grain brewing.

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Wow! Denny Conn has joined us! –  Jeff Roe Nov 16 '10 at 19:50

From the equipment list you mention, if you add:
* a bottling bucket
* an old fermenter bucket
* a 1/8 inch drill bit
* several hours of time

You can make a zapap style mash tun. Drill about a zillion holes in the bottom of the bucket. Next, stack the bucket with holes into the bottling bucket. Buy pre-milled grain and mash. Add blankets/sleeping bags/pillows to insulate that mash tun. As for sparging, do a batch sparge, and you are good to go!

It whetted my appetite enough to make me want to go out and buy the whole cooler system.

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I did the Zapap for a few batches, it worked well. Drilling all of the holes wasn't too bad either, a chair and a few homebrews made it go by pretty quick. I quickly upgraded my mash tun for more volume though. –  dzachareas Nov 24 '10 at 18:57
    
Agreed. I have done 1 batch with the Zapap, and currently have a full All Grain System from Northern Brewer on the "will be bought sooner rather than later" category. But for the "I don't know if I want to continue this" question, you can't beat a zapap for the monetary investment. –  Pulsehead Nov 24 '10 at 19:21

The minimum amount of equipment to dabble in all grain is one item:

  • A friend who does all grain.

Seriously, there are a lot of ways of doing all grain and the equipment you will want to end up getting will vary from person to person, so the ability to borrow some equipment to make your first batch or two (and even better, lure the friend over to help/make suggestions) of all grain beer will help you know what you want/need to get.

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Good idea, it's quite possible that after you've sat through a five hour brewday you might change your mind :) –  CJBrew Nov 12 '10 at 15:30

You could go with what you have, plus a mash tun.

Mine is a platic bucket with a false bottom and a spigot, made by my LHBS, and cost me under $40.

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