Author Topic: brewing all-grain with less water  (Read 3041 times)

Offline landsrud

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brewing all-grain with less water
« on: June 09, 2013, 06:40:38 AM »
Hello everyone,

longtime lurker, first time poster. I've been partial mash/extract brewing from about one year and a half. I've done five batches and have been pleased with the results.

I have three questions (for now! ha ha) about all-grain.

1. How do you guys feel about halfing recipes? (cutting the recipe in half, making 2.5 gallon instead of the full five)

2. Is it possible to extract sugars mashing/sparging with less water than 1.1qt. / ~ 1 lb grain ratio?

3. I understand some integrity of the brew is lost, but is possible to do a 3 gallonish wort and add water to make the full five with all-grain as is often done with extract brewing?
-----------------------------------
in the primary:
:(

in the secondary:
:(

conditioning:
Westvleteren quadrupel clone (2.5 gal)
http://beerrecipes.org/showrecipe.php?recipeid=1241

in bottles:
Imperial Stout

Offline klickitat jim

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Re: brewing all-grain with less water
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2013, 06:55:47 AM »
My answers to all three would be yes, ish.

1. Sure no problem.
2. Yes, but too thick or too thin creates issues.
3. Yes you can but your mash running will have to be strong obviously

What makes you want to do this?

Offline a10t2

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Re: brewing all-grain with less water
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2013, 06:58:29 AM »
1. The only downside to brewing smaller batches is that it takes about the same amount of time to produce less beer. That could be a good thing too, if it means you get to brew more as you're starting out.

2. Mash thickness has very little effect on anything as long as it's within reason. I personally would suggest mashing around 1.5-2 qt/lb if you can. It's just so much easier to work with. Below around 0.8 qt/lb you need some sort of grist hydrator just to get everything mixed.

3. It's possible, especially for low-gravity beers. Above a certain point your efficiency will start dropping faster than you can add grain to compensate. In the long-term it would be more cost-effective to do whatever equipment upgrade(s) you need to allow for a full boil volume.
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Offline landsrud

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Re: brewing all-grain with less water
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2013, 10:26:06 AM »
Thanks for your responses a10t2 and klickitat. All very helpful information. I think I'm going to go with the half-batch plan.

What makes you want to do this?

I don't want to increase the footprint of my operation beyond maybe an extra carboy or two. Don't want to invest in an larger boiling pots at the moment.

1. The only downside to brewing smaller batches is that it takes about the same amount of time to produce less beer. That could be a good thing too, if it means you get to brew more as you're starting out.

that's a good point that it gives me opportunity to brew more. spending double time for less product is ok - I tend to take the long way round in my personal projects. it relaxes me somehow.
-----------------------------------
in the primary:
:(

in the secondary:
:(

conditioning:
Westvleteren quadrupel clone (2.5 gal)
http://beerrecipes.org/showrecipe.php?recipeid=1241

in bottles:
Imperial Stout

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: brewing all-grain with less water
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2013, 01:05:43 PM »
I think you would be a lot happier with the quality of the beer you produce brewing smaller batches than trying to brew five gallon batches on too small of a set up. Trying to create extremely thick mashes is asking for all sorts of problems with the mash.

A small set up isn't time efficient but it certainly is space efficient and probably financially efficient because you don't need to buy a lot of other equipment. Your existing kettle is probably fine for doing three gallon or smaller batches, you just need something to use as a mash tun. For 2.5 gallon batches you could easily go BIAB-style or convert a three or five gallon cooler (or use the cooler combined with a straining bag so you don't have to modify it). For BIAB you could use another pot to directly fire it on your stove but anything that will hold enough mash volume is fine. You could just as easily use a five gallon bucket with a lid and wrap it in a sleeping bag or blankets to maintain temperature.

I have a small batch set up myself that I use for 1-2 gallon batches. I used to use a 1.5 gallon stock pot (the kind that come with most pots and pans sets) on the stove with a bag but I had a hard time keeping consistent temperatures. I switched over to a two gallon cooler and the bag. The cooler maintains better temperature consistency and by using the bag I didn't have to modify the spout. It's a very simple set up. No risks of stuck sparges and cost like $10 to get the cooler. A two gallon cooler is probably too small for most 2.5 gallon batches but a five gallon cooler would work ok. If you can find a three gallon cooler that would probably work as well.
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Offline erockrph

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Re: brewing all-grain with less water
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2013, 06:57:31 AM »
+1 to the smaller batches suggestion.

I made the jump to all grain but still wanted to keep brewing in the kitchen with my existing kettle. I use a 5 gallon beverage cooler lined with a bag for my mash tun. Most batches I no-sparge (and treat it like BIAB), but I have batch sparged with this setup as well for really big brews.

I get anywhere from a case to a case and a half per batch depending on batch size. The best part is that I get to brew twice as often. This means you can climb the learning curve twice as fast as well.
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Offline mtnrockhopper

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Re: brewing all-grain with less water
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2013, 09:06:20 AM »

3. I understand some integrity of the brew is lost, but is possible to do a 3 gallonish wort and add water to make the full five with all-grain as is often done with extract brewing?
I think smaller batches and partial boils are fine ideas. That's why we homebrew, right?  If you use software like BeerSmith, I think you can specify how much water you want to add to the fermenter. Then all it's other numbers will be adjusted to give you X gallons at the end of the boil.  You can also take a 5 gallon recipe and easily scale it. There is a "No-Sparge" option too, which might be useful for partial boils.
 
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Offline garc_mall

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Re: brewing all-grain with less water
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2013, 08:47:57 AM »
Another possibility for you, which I use when I am doing long boils (I only have a 7.5 gal Turkey Fryer) is to use two pots.

If I have too much wort for my kettle, I will pour the remaining wort (1-1.5 gal) into a big stockpot, and boil it on the stove. When I get down to about 10-15 minutes, I add the wort on the stove to the turkey fryer. I don't think you need to do that, and you could boil two separate batches, and add them to the same carboy. That might get you up to 5ish gallons without adding any more junk (assuming you already have a stockpot).
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Offline malzig

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Re: brewing all-grain with less water
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2013, 04:19:31 AM »
I spent a small pile of money buying a big kettle and a burner to make 5-gallon batches all-grain, when I first started.  If I was starting again, I would have stuck with my 5-gallon extract pot and stovetop and simply made 3-gallon batches until I decided that I absolutely needed 5 gallons.  That probably would have been never.  I would have had more variety of beer, fresher beer, and the additional brewing would have improved my skills faster.

Offline landsrud

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Re: brewing all-grain with less water
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2013, 12:35:04 PM »
ok, ended up doing the half batch. did the protein rest and decoction saccharifications in the boil pot wrapped in an old sleeping bag. lost some temp during the low, and gained 10 degrees F during the high. interesting - and not bad given the spartan approach.

sparged in the white plastic bottling bucket with a couple colanders and a sparging bag for the dredges. pretended like I was making lots of fabulous pour overs at a snobby coffee shop.

after that it was just like partial mash. somehow I didn't believe it would be, but it really was ! ha ha

used white labs westmalle 530 yeast vial. the farts smelled like the banana bread ripe bananas so was a little worried, but a sample from the primary to the secondary didn't taste like bananas. it's chugging away in the glass secondary now.

not to get too Off topic for all grain thread, but wanted to give an update since you guys gave lots of advice. Thanks for all the help and useful suggestions. you guys really gave me some great ideas and encouragement. wow, 1st all-grain.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2013, 01:12:07 PM by landsrud »
-----------------------------------
in the primary:
:(

in the secondary:
:(

conditioning:
Westvleteren quadrupel clone (2.5 gal)
http://beerrecipes.org/showrecipe.php?recipeid=1241

in bottles:
Imperial Stout

Online morticaixavier

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Re: brewing all-grain with less water
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2013, 07:50:14 AM »
congrats. It's not that much harder at all
"Creativity is the residue of wasted time" - A. Einstein

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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: brewing all-grain with less water
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2013, 08:49:45 AM »
Good on ya. I think there are some great extract beers but the extra control, personal touch, and fun of all grain can't be touched