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I have made 7 or 8 extract brews over the past year and am interested in moving up to all-grain. What equipment is needed, and what steps are added to the process.

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7 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

First, time and patience.

Moving to all-grain is a big step, but definitely an awesome one. Including cleanup, your brew day will extend to many hours. Probably close to 9-10 hours when you first start, though it will become faster as you learn your system.

Equipment wise, I'm not sure what you have, so I'll just go through it all.

Propane burner. It's not required, but it's WAY more better than an electric stove.

Mash tun. This is where you mash the grains, sparge, etc. I built one for super cheap. It's a big chest cooler, a spigot, and a braider washer hose. My blog has pictures of all this stuff.

Big kettle. With extract, if you're used to adding water after the boil, you'll almost definitely need a bigger kettle. I'd suggest something at the 8 gallon or bigger level.

A wort chiller is pretty essential at this stage. Getting 5 gallons of hot wort down to 70˚ is hard without one. There are a few different kinds. I have an immersion chiller, which is pretty much just coiled copper. There are also plate / counterflow chillers, which are fricken badass. Depends what your budget is.

Carboy. same as with extract.

Other useful tools are great, or even essential, too like a mash paddle (big slotted spoon), testing equipment (thermometer, hydrometer, cylindrical tube for testing), etc.

That's the basics. Go to your local homebrew shop and peruse. They'll have tons of gadgets that make the whole thing more fun too.

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PJ gave a great answer. Because PJ didn't come right out and say it, I'd point out that the purpose of a propane burner and larger kettle is that you have to go to full boils when doing all grain. There's just no way around it. Think of all-grain as making diluted extract. –  brewchez Jan 29 '10 at 13:14
    
How to convert a cooler to a mash tun: homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/… –  Nicholas Trandem May 14 '10 at 12:55
    
I switched to All-Grain after 3 extract batches, probably added an extra 1.5 hours (total of 3-4 hours). 9-10 hours seems a little much to me. –  jessecurry Aug 29 '12 at 1:50
    
@jessecurry I'm curious what your process is that it's taking 9-10 hours. Maybe you could ask a new question, something like "Why is my process taking 9-10 hours?", and then spell out what you're doing, and possibly learn some tips that will speed it up? –  hookedonwinter Aug 29 '12 at 15:03
    
@hookedonwinter, I'm saying that the 9-10 hours that you mentioned in your answer seems like an excessive amount of time. My total process lasts 3-4 hours including cleanup and I've only done 2 all-grain batches. –  jessecurry Aug 30 '12 at 14:03
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If you want to test the all grain waters without investing a lot of cash, check out the 'Brew In A Bag' technique.

http://www.thebrewingnetwork.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4650&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0/fa

You basically steep(mash) a giant bag of grain in all of the water* your brew requires in the same kettle you boil the wort in.

I use a converted cooler for my mash tun and a Masterbuilt indoor 28qt countertop electric turkey fryer for my boil kettle.

*total vol = grain absorption + evaporation + final volume

How to calculate total volume (adjust to your setup as necessary):

  • grain absorption = 0.11 x total lbs of grain
  • evaporation = 6 - 8% per hour (about 1 to 1.5 gallons)
  • final volume = how much beer you want in your keg or bottles
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I am also going through the process of switching from extract to all-grain.

As a general overview of the process, I found A "Cooler" Way to Ease into All-Grain Brewing really helpful.

And as far as building your own mash tun, the video "How to make a Mash Tun from a cooler" has great step by step instructions. I am typically a visual learner when it comes to brewing, so I find youtube videos help the best.

Edit: By the way, I used the video "How to make a Mash Tun from a cooler" and it went great! It took me a few times of running back and forth from home depot, but I got it built. You may have a few minor issues depending on the type of cooler you buy (the only real problem I ran into).

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Things you need:

  1. Big enough pot for full wort boil.
  2. A heat source strong enough to get 6 gallons to a boil, without waiting all day. (Hence, the wide use of propane outdoor cookers)
  3. Capability to chill big pot filled with 5-6gallons of hot wort.
  4. Mashtun for converting the grain starches to sugars.
  5. Need a second pot or some planning for how you will heat sparge water and collect wort from the tun at the same time.
  6. Some basic math skills are helpful for calculating efficiency, boil-off rates and dilutions should the need arise.
  7. A little DME on hand always to adjust pre boil gravities if needed the first few times you brew all-grain.

Hope that helps.

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I have 2 of these: http://www.williamsbrewing.com/60_QUART_BREW_POT_WITH_1_2_V_P1905C50.cfm both with false bottoms in them. Actually, mine are polarware, but the design is the same. One I use as a mash tun and the other is my boiling pot. I have a 6' tall rack next to my cookstove (just a freestanding propane campstove-- one of those big 2 burner jobs with legs) where I keep my hot water tank (which is an old plastic bottling bucket). I don't have a sparge arm, though they help. I just hang out during the sparge and spread the sparge water around by hand, using my bottling tubing as a hose.

Basically, I've got a poorboy setup that simulates the Tiptier Modular Brewing Stand here: http://www.williamsbrewing.com/WORT_MAKING_EQUIPMENT_BEER__C13.cfm

So the hot water tank's at the top, the mash tun's in the middle and the cookpot's down below. If you get a rack and burners like the one in the photo linked above, then you don't have to lift the damn brew pot off the floor onto the burner like I have to.

Crap, the links above may not work here-- looks like the wiki is stripping out underscores. So you'll need to go to the site above and search "R12" for the cookpot/mash tun and click on "WORT MAKING EQUIPMENT (BEER)" under the homebrew category for the stand.

Oh yeah, getting the thermometer accessory for both the mash tun and the cookpot is helpful too. That way you don't have to float one in there. I also have another 7 gal stainless pot that I use to heat my sparge water in while I'm heating my mash water.

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Personally I'd recommend checking out your local homebrew club, and watching someone run through an all-grain batch. I taught myself from books because at the time I didn't know that such clubs existed, but it makes it so much easier to do once you've seen the process. It seems fairly confusing to read descriptions of it, but watching it you will realize it's really not that difficult... time-consuming, in that there's a lot of waiting around, drinking beer, yes, but difficult no.

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I suggest buying the DVD from Basic Brewing Radio.

http://basicbrewingshop.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=2&products_id=7

Just remember as with everything in brewing, it can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. You can put together 100 bucks in equipment or 10000.

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