Author Topic: ? Regarding Converting from Malt Extract to All Grain Brewing  (Read 629 times)

Offline coachjames

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Hey all,

First post. Glad to be here!

Im sure this question has been asked before, but as a novice brew maker (have been brewing for over a year and am by no means an expert) what does it run you price wise to convert from malt extract  to all grain brewing? Everywhere I read tells me that all grain is a longer and more expensive brew making process, but the results are well worth it.

Thanks and would love to hear your all's thoughts!

Offline jtoots

  • Brewer
  • ****
  • Posts: 306
    • View Profile
Re: ? Regarding Converting from Malt Extract to All Grain Brewing
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2015, 03:11:27 PM »
I've found that if you're purely looking at ingredients, all grain is significantly cheaper.  The extract is pretty expensive.

It is a longer brew day for sure.

Lots of options for equipment to get you where you need to be... for me it was a larger kettle and a cooler mashtun.  I don't BIAB but I think that might be less expensive, and you could obviously spend much more if you wanted.

Personally I feel like my beers have improved in quality pretty significantly since going all grain.  My perception is that, amongst many other benefits, I can taste my specialty grains after mashing them more than I could after steeping them. 

Offline BrewHalla

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 39
    • View Profile
Re: ? Regarding Converting from Malt Extract to All Grain Brewing
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2015, 04:45:44 PM »
The expensive part of all grain is definitely the time, the equipment you only have to buy once ;). The quickest I can accomplish a brew day with all grain is 6 hours. That's from taking things out to having everything clean and put back up. IMO what all grain buys you is, ingredient cost is less, the ability to better control your color and your ability to control end sweetness. If you are not making a dry beer and are not particularly concerned with color I would say you would be hard pressed, in a blind taste test, to differentiate a well brewed partial mash from an all grain brew. I think more the question is what are you wanting to accomplish with your brewing? Going all grain will no doubt increase your beer knowledge and give you even more appreciation for the craft but wont necessarily make your beer better. 

Offline johnnyb

  • Assistant Brewer
  • ***
  • Posts: 242
  • Pembroke, NH
    • View Profile
Re: ? Regarding Converting from Malt Extract to All Grain Brewing
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2015, 05:19:32 PM »
It really depends on what you currently own for extract brewing, which of course is related to your process.

If you've been doing partial boils with a top-off, you're going to likely need a new brew pot. At least 8 gallons but I prefer the 10 gallon size. You will also need something to chill the wort with. You can probably use your current brewpot to heat your water for mashing and sparging. Most likely you need a propane burner as you won't be able to do full boils on a kitchen range

Now if you've been doing full extract boils you might already have a large enough brewpot, a chiller, and a burner.

You will also need some kind of mash tun and lauter tun (or a combined unit like a cooler mashtun with a braid or a bazooka tube.) Or you could look into brew in a bag (BIAB) methods. I'm not familiar with it but I think it would be cheaper equipment wise.

Another option is to do smaller batches of all grain. Like 2 or 3 gallons. You might be able to do that with BIAB methods and get by without purchasing much at all.

Most everything else you probably already own.

« Last Edit: June 18, 2015, 05:25:49 PM by johnnyb »

Offline coachjames

  • 1st Kit
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Re: ? Regarding Converting from Malt Extract to All Grain Brewing
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2015, 07:24:49 PM »
Thanks for the replies.

What is the general consensus of most home brewers regarding which is the best method? Is the extra time/initial investment worth it to convert to all grain?

Offline 69franx

  • Official Poobah of No Life.
  • *
  • Posts: 3106
  • Bloatarian Brewing League
    • View Profile
Re: ? Regarding Converting from Malt Extract to All Grain Brewing
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2015, 07:30:59 PM »
I think the general consensus is that yes it is worth it. I have not made an extract batch in the last 18 months. My all grain beers have been much better than my extract batches. The cause of this could be many fold : going all grain, better yeast handling and pitching, better fermentation practices and temperatures, etc. So in reality I can't say my beers are better because I went all grain. I have been meaning to remake a couple of the first extra t batches I made to see how they turn out now that I have a better idea of what I am doing on brew day as well as before and after. Hope that helps
Frank L.
Fermenting:
Conditioning:
In keg:
In Bottles:  
In the works: Hopefully brewing 10 gallons of Pilsner tomorrow for a family reunion in July, then back to IPA and  a barleywine to age

Offline BrewHalla

  • Cellarman
  • **
  • Posts: 39
    • View Profile
Re: ? Regarding Converting from Malt Extract to All Grain Brewing
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2015, 08:25:12 PM »
You will hear a lot of people say all grain is better hands down that they make better beer with all grain but from my experience, for the vast majority(not all) of what you will brew, if you have well executed beer, all grain vs partial mash is negligible. I may sound like a bit of a hypocrite because I mostly all grain brew, but I come back with I spent the money on the equipment so I better use it. What happens is as you gain more knowledge, you put more effort in, the more careful you become and the better you execute which means better the beer.  Think about it. If the first all grain batch takes you 10 hours start to finish you really start thinking hey I need to get better at this so I don't screw this up and waste this much time. So you start doing the things you skipped over or thought not important while you were extract brewing. Then later when you go and taste the beer you remember how much effort it took which makes you go well I spent this much extra time so this is no doubt better, and part of that will be real because you did execute better and part of it in your head because of the pride in what you did.  So back to is it worth it? I say Yes from that stand point it will make you learn and pay more attention to what you are doing but no if you think using all grain will magically make your beer better without focusing on furthing your beer knowledge and bettering your execution in turn.

Offline duboman

  • Senior Brewmaster
  • ******
  • Posts: 1576
    • View Profile
Re: ? Regarding Converting from Malt Extract to All Grain Brewing
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2015, 09:00:33 PM »
There are plenty of people that brew award winning beer with extract as well as all grain. It really comes down to what you are comfortable with and how well you understand the process of brewing. In addition, as with anything, the freshness of your ingredients. If you use fresh extract vs old grain, chances are your extract batch will be better, all else being equal.

Extract is more expensive per batch than all gran but all grain brewing requires a larger initial investment in equipment. All grain is also a more complex brewing process with a lot more variables involved in refining your process, understanding the mash, using water, etc.

All Grain brewing allows you full control over each ingredient and element of  your process but also requires a greater understanding of how each affects your beer so there is a much larger learning curve as well.

Time is the last consideration, extract brewing is less time consuming to create the wort. All grain brewing for a 5 gallon batch generally takes me 5-6 hours from set up to cleanup and pitching the yeast.

If you want to make the jump I would highly recommend reading John Palmer's "How to Brew" There is a free online version but the latest purchased edition is much more updated and current.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2015, 09:02:16 PM by duboman »
Peace....Love......Beer......

The Commune Brewing Company-Perfecting the craft of beer since 2010

Offline Lazy Ant Brewing

  • Brewer
  • ****
  • Posts: 412
    • View Profile
Re: ? Regarding Converting from Malt Extract to All Grain Brewing
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2015, 03:11:47 PM »
What are your priorities and what might be a limiting factor in your brewing?

If your budget is "tight" now, but you anticipate better times ahead, you could certainly postpone buying the additional equipment for a while. The savings between all-grain and extract are considerable, but you still have to go through an awful lot of malted grain before you'll break even on the cost for the brew pot and propane burner. and immersion chiller (if all are needed). 

If time is a limiting factor now, that might be another reason to stay with extract.

Even if you do go to all-grain, will you still have other limiting factors to crafting great beers? 

I'm doing all-grain BIAB now and getting beers I and others like to drink, but can't brew lagers because I have no good way to achieve the lower fermentation temps required. That is a limitation! Fortunately, I do like ales.

My current temperature stabilization method is to put the fermenter in a tub of water and keep the thermostat in the house at a constant temperature utilizing yeast that can handle temps in the 68-72 F temp range.

Is that a limitation for competition brewing? Perhaps at least according to the ads in brewing magazines.  I'm satisfied as long as it tastes good.

Brew on anyway you choose!
It's easier to read brewing books and get information from the forum than to sacrifice virgins to appease the brewing gods when bad beer happens!