For extract brew with specialty grain steeping, what is the ideal (if such exists) steeping volume of water per weight unit of specialty grain?

Some sources (e.g., John Palmer, How To Brew) states "at most one gallon per pound", while others simply assume the full boil volume.

Intuitively, I would say that the volume must be at least so and so per weight unit, instead of at most. On the other hand, there might be some osmosis issue or similar to keep in mind.


If your ideal is best efficiency, then more water is better, up to a point. In a typical AG brew, the grist to water ratio is typically a touch less than 1 pound grist per gallon of water. (I often use 16 pounds of grain and end up with 16 gallons pre boil or thereabouts.) However, this includes also sparge water. so is definitely the upper limit.

You could use half that quantity and then also rinse the grain with the other half. This would give you a slightly higher extract. Just be sure to keep the water at 160F and no higher, else you can start to extract tannins which make the beer taste like tea.

  • Thanks for your answer. However, I am not too familiar with all-grain brewing (yet!), and am unsure of how to apply the answer ... Is it possible for you to translate to the pros and cons of large/small water volume for steeping specialty grain in an extract brew? – Nemis L. Jan 28 '13 at 20:33
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    I mention AG only to give you some insight into how much water comes into contact with the grain, and where Palmer's suggestion of no more than 1 gallon water per pound of grain comes from. My suggestion says that you could steep in half of that, and then use the same amount of water to rinse, which will increase the efficiency slightly. – mdma Jan 28 '13 at 21:51
  • Ok, thanks. But what about larger volumes? What effect would that have? – Nemis L. Jan 29 '13 at 10:20
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    Using a larger volume might give you a little more extraction up to a point, since it will take more extraction to raise the concentration of the sugar in the water the same as in the grain, but you'd be better off splitting that in half and rinsing. The mechanics of steeping grain is similar to batch sparging where two equal sized volumes is considered optimal. Rather than increasing your steep volume, use the additional water to perform a rinse. – mdma Jan 29 '13 at 17:48

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