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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: dano14041 on September 02, 2010, 05:28:04 PM

Title: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: dano14041 on September 02, 2010, 05:28:04 PM
Good morning!
I am a noob who is going to start brewing. I ordered a brewing kit and receip kit this morning. I have almost finished reading "How to Brew" (am getting bogged down in the math at the moment) and have started reading "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing."

It looks like All Grain is more "fun" than doing the extracts and steeping methods. How fast (or slow) would you suggest going before jumping into all grain?

Thanks!
Dano
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: tschmidlin on September 02, 2010, 05:29:33 PM
There's no single answer, it just depends on when you are ready for it.  Mentally, financially, have the space, have the time etc.

If you're ready, go for it!
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: bonjour on September 02, 2010, 05:31:13 PM
AG requires more equipment (more cost in equipment) but lowers your ingredient costs.

AG is simple enough, so if you are so inclined I'd make the jump.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: theDarkSide on September 02, 2010, 05:38:54 PM
Mufasa would say you're already moving too slow   :D

If you got the money and space, do it...you won't regret it.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: saintpierre on September 02, 2010, 05:39:38 PM
For me the equipment cost and space is what delayed me but if you got the space and $$ I would go for it!
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: Hokerer on September 02, 2010, 05:42:24 PM
It's really up to you.  One of the benefits of starting with extract kits is that you can get a feel for how much you're gonna like the process of brewing your own.  Once you're comfortable that you're in it for the long haul, then you can go ahead and upgrade to all-grain.  And don't forget, it doesn't have to be all at once.  There're incremental upgrades you can make on your path from extract to all-grain.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: gordonstrong on September 02, 2010, 05:52:18 PM
If you're ultimately going to do all-grain and you have the equipment, do it as soon as possible.  You'll have less bad habits to unlearn.

Go see someone do it end-to-end before doing it yourself, though.  A lot of what you do is visual, so you need to know what "looks right."
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: tschmidlin on September 02, 2010, 05:56:37 PM
Go see someone do it end-to-end before doing it yourself, though.  A lot of what you do is visual, so you need to know what "looks right."
Yeah, if you have a club in your area and can go watch/help someone brew some day that will really help you know how to do it and figure out if you really want to.  Don't be afraid of it though, it can sound all complicated and mystical when you're getting started but it really doesn't have to be that hard.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: Pawtucket Patriot on September 02, 2010, 05:57:11 PM
Brew your kit beer to see whether you even enjoy brewing. Assuming you do, you don't have to jump right in to AG brewing. There are alternatives such as partial mash (aka mini mash) brewing, which is a hybrid of extract and AG brewing. Click on my links below for visual examples of both partial mash and AG brewing processes. Good luck!
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: dbeechum on September 02, 2010, 06:02:42 PM
+1 on whenever you're comfortable
+1 on finding someone in your area to help out

I always advise someone doing 1 or 2 two Extract with Steeped Grains recipes to get the hang of the boil, sanitation and fermentation and then go for AG if you're having fun.

I moved to AG on my 6th batch. (Oddly enough I switched to kegs then too)
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: denny on September 02, 2010, 06:22:40 PM
Go see someone do it end-to-end before doing it yourself, though.  A lot of what you do is visual, so you need to know what "looks right."

While that's undoubtedly the best way to do it, that's not the way I did it.  I'd never seen anyone do AG before I started.  I just read a lot of books and the usenet group rec.crafts.brewing and jumped in.  Once I was done, it was kind if like "wow, is that all?".  The point being that if you can't brew with someone else to learn, don't let it stop you.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: roguejim on September 02, 2010, 06:59:36 PM
Go see someone do it end-to-end before doing it yourself, though.  A lot of what you do is visual, so you need to know what "looks right."

While that's undoubtedly the best way to do it, that's not the way I did it.  I'd never seen anyone do AG before I started.  I just read a lot of books and the usenet group rec.crafts.brewing and jumped in.  Once I was done, it was kind if like "wow, is that all?".  The point being that if you can't brew with someone else to learn, don't let it stop you.

I had no one to watch either, but I did read, and ask Denny and others at the HBD lots of annoying questions.  For me, I wish I had never bothered with extract brewing.

Don't let the math scare you.  Most of the brewing software programs do it all for you, and there really isn't all that much to do anyway.

One other thing.  Be careful with what, and how much equipment you buy.  A lot of newbies think they need everything.  Don't go buying 150 bottles thinking you're going to really dig bottling your own beer.  Try not to fall for gimmicky brewing crap.  Don't buy the smallest boil kettle you can get away with.  You will likely want to do some double-batches, especially if you have friends who are sucking your kegs dry, or if you have a brewing partner.  Take a look at Mike Dixon's homebrew site and see how little you can easily get by with.
 

http://www.ipass.net/mpdixon/
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: weazletoe on September 02, 2010, 07:00:04 PM
Huge +1, Denny. That's how I did it too. I had 3 extract batches down, before switching. I would recommend you do a couple extract, just to get the boiling, sanitation, racking processes down. That way, if there is a question with your finished, you have fewer things to second guess.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: Mark G on September 02, 2010, 07:30:35 PM
You'll know pretty quickly if this hobby/obsession is for you. I knew it as soon as I was finished brewing my first batch. My third batch was all-grain. I did it with minimal equipment, a cooler and a couple pots. My only advice is to get the biggest brew pot you can afford, you'll use the capacity, I promise. And focus on temp control. That's where I spent my dough, and it has paid off.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: svejk on September 02, 2010, 07:36:01 PM
I went to all grain after only a few extract batches.  In addition to doing lots of reading, I also suggest searching youtube for videos of homebrewing.  If there is something that doesn't make sense to you, sometimes it helps to see it done.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: Me on September 02, 2010, 07:54:31 PM
I would definitely recommend doing a couple of extract batches, especially to see if you enjoy the process. All grain will require more equipment, more space, more time to brew but it will also be more fun and rewarding. I did one mini mash before stepping up to all grain and I thought it helped me understand the science and process of all grain. I'm just glad to hear that you are doing your homework before brewing. My first batch was yanking the package out of the mail and firing up the stove-- but it somehow worked out.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: blatz on September 02, 2010, 08:42:43 PM
Go see someone do it end-to-end before doing it yourself, though.  A lot of what you do is visual, so you need to know what "looks right."

While that's undoubtedly the best way to do it, that's not the way I did it.  I'd never seen anyone do AG before I started.  I just read a lot of books and the usenet group rec.crafts.brewing and jumped in.  Once I was done, it was kind if like "wow, is that all?".  The point being that if you can't brew with someone else to learn, don't let it stop you.

nowadays its very easy to find a solid youtube video (think Kai) series that can show you the steps in case you don't have a friend to show you the ropes.

FWIW, I would have gone all grain my first batch as well, but I had a brew partner who insisted we do extract first.  He lasted 3 batches before his ADHD took him elsewhere.  He loves coming to drink my beer though.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: bluesman on September 02, 2010, 08:58:36 PM
Another vote to do some extract kits to get a firm handle on the essential parts of the process...ie..sanitation, boiling, hopping, and chilling while continuing to research.  This will ease the learning curve and allow you to really enjoy the hobby.  Once you become comfortable with extract kits then start the transition into AG.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: susanr on September 02, 2010, 10:03:07 PM
Everyone starts at different levels so you need to start where you are comfortable - I watched a friend brew once and went all out with all grain to start with - it was almost 2 years later before I ever did an extract batch and that was only because I won one in a homebrew competition.  I enjoy the process of of starting with the malt and mashing it so for me the process is less exciting when I do an extract batch.  It all depends on what you want out of brewing, the time and money you have.  Don't feel like you have to go to AG tho as you can make phenomenal beer by extract also.  It does sound like you are interested in going AG tho so just go for it - don't feel like there is a magical amount of time you need to wait to move up.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: dak0415 on September 03, 2010, 12:46:26 AM
You've heard some great advice on how to get into brewing-->AG.  IMO you are only moving too fast if you are mashing your first AG BEFORE your last batch of extract has cleared your fermenter. ;)
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: dano14041 on September 03, 2010, 01:29:30 AM
Thank you all for the great advice.

I am looking for a good fridge (Hope to pick one up this weekend or next), have plans to build an IC this weekend and a mash tun next weekend.

I love cooking and love drinking beer, so I think this hobby (obsession) will be a good fit.

You've heard some great advice on how to get into brewing-->AG.  IMO you are only moving too fast if you are mashing your first AG BEFORE your last batch of extract has cleared your fermenter. ;)

Therein lies the rub.  ;) I would like to do an extract batch soon, then a steep/extract batch a couple weeks later. Rack the extract to a secondary (to free up the primary). When the extract batch is ready to bottle, bottle it, move the steep/extract batch to a secondary and brew an AG for the primary.

Another question occurred to me. Which is better to use for temp control for fermenting, a fridge or freezer? I have read on here that a lot of you have multiple fridges/freezers and am looking forward to the day when I will to.  ;D I was thinking a freezer would have a wider temp range so it could be used for lagers and ales. Is a fridge as versatile?

Thanks again!
Dano
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: bluesman on September 03, 2010, 01:37:20 AM
A chest freezer with a temp controller is very versitile for use with fermentation and lagering.  I have two 7.5cf chest freezers with Johnson controllers. I could actually use a third chest dedicated for lagering but I would need more room. If you are purchasing a chest I would go with something at least 7.5 cf.  The bigger the better IMO.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: chezteth on September 03, 2010, 02:14:45 AM
I have also heard that a chest freezer works better with a temp controller (more energy efficient?).  I have a 15cf chest freezer with a Johnson controller and it works great for fermenting and serving.  A fridge doesn't have as much space as a chest freezer so that would also be a deciding factor.

Happy Brewing,
Brandon
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: majorvices on September 03, 2010, 03:12:52 AM
I was brewing AG by my 3rd batch.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: The Professor on September 03, 2010, 04:33:12 AM
Go see someone do it end-to-end before doing it yourself, though.  A lot of what you do is visual, so you need to know what "looks right."

While that's undoubtedly the best way to do it, that's not the way I did it.  I'd never seen anyone do AG before I started.  I just read a lot of books and the usenet group rec.crafts.brewing and jumped in.  Once I was done, it was kind if like "wow, is that all?".  The point being that if you can't brew with someone else to learn, don't let it stop you.

I agree totally.  AT least two people I know started brewing all-grain from their FIRST BATCH.
As for me, I brewed extract for quite a few years,  thendoing  partial grain, but when I saw what grain could be had for in bulk, it was a no brainer taking the plunge to AG. 
Like Denny, I read everything I could get my hands on and went in well prepared...and the very first AG batch came out really good.  My reaction was much  like Denny's..." ...is that all there is to it?"  At that point I felt sort of dumb for not switching much  earlier after hemming and hawing about it.

As far as extra equipment expense, it doesn't have to break the bank, not by a longshot.  For 20 years or more I've been brewing all grain with a  5 gallon round Rubbermaid/Gott cooler ($20);  a false bottom for the cooler (a gift from my LHBS for referring a load of business to them); a counterflow wort chiller ($35), a home made 220V/3000W electric keggle with a false bottom  (around $120)...and miscellaneous hoses, copper tubing, and other ephemera totalling no more than $40.   A total of $215 over the course of a few months...totally manageable and it did the job and continues to do so.

In the music world, musicians who like an array of gizmos, FX boxes, and have to have anything that's currently state of the art are often referred to  (often by themselves) as "gear sluts".

Brewers can be that too...so, I mean,  get fancier if you can afford it and like to fuss around  with the gear, but it's absolutely unnecessary. You can make beer just as high quality  with picnic coolers and other repurposed vessels as you can with a multi $K automated system. 
Then you'll be ready for that SABCO rig  when your lottery ticket finally wins. ;D
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: kgs on September 03, 2010, 10:53:05 AM
Brew your kit beer to see whether you even enjoy brewing. Assuming you do, you don't have to jump right in to AG brewing. There are alternatives such as partial mash (aka mini mash) brewing, which is a hybrid of extract and AG brewing. Click on my links below for visual examples of both partial mash and AG brewing processes. Good luck!

+1 I moved to partial mash by my 4th batch and stayed there for a while. I now do AG but in smaller batches (3 to 4 gallon) because that's what I can physically deal with comfortably and it keeps my equipment footprint manageable for an apartment-dweller. I would have no problem doing another partial-mash in order to do a really high-gravity beer with my existing setup.

My big step up, in retrospect, was moving from kits to recipes. Especially since I'm scaling recipes, I have to think carefully about each ingredient and its proportionate role in the overall beer. As much as I enjoy an all-grain brewing session, I think I get even more out of the planning process.

Find out what gives you joy in the process and follow that path. it's a terrific hobby. I guarantee you will be the hit of your block party. :-) 
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: akr71 on September 03, 2010, 01:05:18 PM
Don't let the math scare you.  Most of the brewing software programs do it all for you, and there really isn't all that much to do anyway.

+1
When I was getting ready to go all-grain, the math and recipe formulation really had my brain twisted in knots too.  I knew I could buy all-grain kits, where everything was all measured out for you (which I did for 2 or 3 batches), but I wanted to go all-grain to be able to experiment and make my own recipes.  Once I spent $25 on BeerSmith, it all seemed so simple.

Get comfortable with the process and worry about the math and science part later.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: majorvices on September 03, 2010, 01:29:21 PM
I was brewing AG by my 3rd batch.

Let me rephrase this, I was brewing AG by my third batch with no one to help me, no forums to consult and only Charlie Papazian's book to consult. It really ain't that hard. You will spend the next several years perfecting it, but go ahead and make the jump anytime.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: bluesman on September 03, 2010, 01:49:01 PM
...and if at first you don't succeed...try, try, try again.  Words to brew by my freind.  ;)

I believe most brewers here are still learning including myself.  It's the never ending process of improvement IMHO.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: IHBHS on September 03, 2010, 08:28:31 PM
I jumped right in to doing AG and didnt ever do an extract batch til I started teaching the Homebrew class we offer. I have seen people that spend the money on the equipment and then their beer doesnt come out the way they expected or find it too overwhelming and give up and sell off their equipment.  Like most others have said, make sure you are ready to go to AG
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: bendbrew on September 03, 2010, 08:31:52 PM
I did extract brewing for years.  I was always too nervous about doing all grain and postponed jumping in for way too long.  I then read "How to Brew" by Palmer, listened to Brewstrong from the Brewing Network and asked way to many questions on this forum (thanks for all the support by the way).  Finally I took a three session course offered through our community college and taught by one of our local brewers (from Silver Moon in Bend).  The last class was a full brew day.  It was incredible.  I have since done three 10 gallon batches with a fourth in two weeks.  The three batches came out excellent.  It was much easier than anticipated.  I wished I had jumped in earlier.  I agree the other posts in that extract with specialty grains gave me a good base to start with.  Good luck.
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: dano14041 on September 03, 2010, 08:57:39 PM
Thank you all for your great advice!
I am looking forward to doing my first batch on the 11th!

Have a great Labor Day weekend!
Dano
Title: Re: How fast is too fast to move to all grain?
Post by: rocketfuel on September 05, 2010, 06:25:38 PM
With all the info (books, articles, and online forums) you can figure just about everything out and make the jump as soon as you want to. 

That being said, I made ~6 batches with extract before moving to AG.  I thought this was about right because it gives you a feeling for what the specialty grains and hops do before you add all the variations of a mash.  To put it another way, all grain introduces a lot of other parameters into brewing.  For me it helped to understand by first tasting the outcome of recipe variations, so I knew how to tailor a beer's taste before I got into the complexity/freedom of all grain.

Just one person's opinion...