Author Topic: Why go all grain?  (Read 5480 times)

Offline dnva75

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Why go all grain?
« on: March 20, 2011, 08:50:58 PM »
So I have been brewing about a year.  I like to brew what I like to drink.  This mostly includes IPA style ales but I have several Kolsch batches and a batch or 2 of porter under my belt that I also enjoy.  Have about 15 batches under my belt and have been slowly working to increase capacity so that I can actually produce what I and my beer loving friends and relatives can consume.  Currently can brew about 25 gallons per session and have gone Extract w/ specialty grains to this point.  My critics have been very complimentary and they have nothing to prove.  I only hand out 1 bottle per person per batch to sample.  if you are at my house, it is fair game from the tap. 

So, why do I want to tackle All Grain?  I get the purest aspect of it but I the time is a concern, have little kids and I have to squeeze in brew days as it is.  I'm not finding limitations in the styles I like to produce with extract.  Any other reasons? I'm guessing cost, variety, ?.

Anything else, I did a quick look on the board and didn't find anything but I am sure this has been asked before.

Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2011, 08:53:55 PM »
There is cost. But as you say time is a concern. It takes me about 5-6 hours for a batch of all grain and costs about .5 as much at least for fermentables. I think variety and control are the big reasons for me. If I want to do a big beer like a barley wine or RIS it is hard to get enough attenuation with extract. too much unfermentable sugars. It's also fun.
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Offline The Professor

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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2011, 09:27:07 PM »
The cost savings can be a big factor,  but that factor is  not important to a lot of brewers. 
I myself like the considerable savings over extract brewing, since even at the  $35-40 I usually have to pay for a sack of grain these days (twice what I was paying only 15 years ago), that 50 or 55 lbs of grain still translates to anywhere from five to ten  5 gallon batches depending on the type of beer.  The math is pretty compelling.  And you don't even need to spend a fortune on equipment to go all grain.

So for me it's partly about the significant cost savings (especially these days) but in the end,   I just enjoy the process. 
Devoting  6 hours to a brew is not that big of a deal especially since I can typically do other work if I need to during the mash, the boil, etc. 
But the other big draw for me is that I like the much better control I can get over the results as opposed to extracts.   My first 15 years of brewing was pretty much all from extracts and I was happy with the results,  but the last 25 years have been pretty much exclusively all grain,  and despite the simplicity of extract brewing and the vastly improved ingredients available, I really don't think I could ever go back to extracts or even to regularly buying commercially made beer.   
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Offline punatic

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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2011, 09:38:41 PM »
It's like the difference between making bread with a bread machine and making bread by hand using an oven.
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Offline kgs

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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2011, 05:29:22 AM »
It's like the difference between making bread with a bread machine and making bread by hand using an oven.

Exactly--well, and also using a mix someone else put together versus using your own freshly-milled flour and other ingredients. If you're happy with your process, there's no shame in sticking with extract. But if you're the type to get deeper into what you're doing and explore the process, AG is the next step. Once you build a mash tun, the equipment cost is covered, and it will pay for itself almost immediately, so if you try all-grain and don't find it worth your while, it's not a huge loss. It's a cooler and some hardware, not a yacht or an RV.  ;D


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Offline oscarvan

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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2011, 06:10:55 AM »
The cost savings are huge, especially if you pace yourself and repitch. I buy base malt and hops in bulk, and do 10 gallon batches. 10 g of APA runs about $25 + fuel with a repitch versus two kits which would cost $70-$80.

As far as time..... It's a matter of setting up an efficient process and getting it down to a science. While my water heats I'm milling grain, as soon as the water is hot in the tun iit goes. During the mash I weigh out hops get the sanitizer and small implements, the yeast and the buckets going. Heat the sparge water so it hits temperature right as the tun drains. Start heating the BK during the sparge, hit boil shortly after the second drain is done. During the boil clean up the grains and anything else that needs putting away.

Yesterday the whole thing took less than four hours cleaned up.
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Offline corkybstewart

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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2011, 06:18:33 AM »
How are you brewing 25 gallon batches?  Or do you brew 5 5 gallon batches per brewday?  Even with extract that has to take all day.
I love having absolute control over what goes into my beer.  I also love the cost savings I get by buying bulk malt from a brewpub.  The 6 hours I spend brewing 10 gallons is my downtime, a chance to relax and do something I truly enjoy.  
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2011, 06:21:04 AM »
Its a hobby for me so I actually like the additional work involved, learning all about the various processes, and procuring the ingredients.  Most of my hobbies are chosen as a learning activity, and theres a ton to know about brewing AG.  After several years I'm still learning interesting stuff.

And I get beer as a product of my efforts.

I firmly believe that anyone can make some really good extract/specialty grain brews, in fact every once in awhile I'll do it myself.  You mentioned kolsch, I think you can improve that style by going AG.  Basically you can probably make it lighter than you could with extract.  There are other styles where the ingredients available kind of limit your ability to execute a certain style.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2011, 06:47:44 AM »
One gets great satisfaction from all grain.  The conversion process in the mash has some wonderful goodness to it.  Wehnyou hit all the number in the process, you feel great.  Less money for the malted grains is good too.

It has been mentioned you can make light beers with a lower SRM.  You can also make beers that there are hard to find or no extracts for that style.  My example is a German Rauchbier.  Weyermann makes a Rauch extract, but I have never seen it, and I like to make Rauchbier.
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Offline weithman5

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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2011, 07:23:38 AM »
i brew small batches and i think all grain is easier. (1-2gallons). i think it would be a hassle and costly to buy a variety of extracts and try to keep it from spoiling. as it is i can keep several grains in tubs in my fridge ready to go.  i mash my grains in a bag in the kettle i boil in.  when i am done mashing i lift the grain bag up and rinse.  so far so good.  my brew days take as long as anyone else, but there are several hours of down time that allows me to do all the other things i need to do around the house.
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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2011, 07:24:30 AM »
The time investment might not be as much as you're thinking either. There's the mash itself, which is an hour on average. Plus you have to heat up a little more water to account for grain absorption, and there's one extra piece of equipment to clean. But that extra time should still be under two hours total.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2011, 07:43:15 AM »
You have a LOT more control over brewing if you brew all grain, in addition to the amount of savings (which is substantial). For instance, I am brewing a saison today and am able to do a very low mash temp for an extended period which will allow the yeast to dry the beer out substantially. If you are an extract brewer you are entirely dependent on the original brewer of the extract, including whatever minerals he has in his water. So you have essentially given up much of the control over the process.
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Offline timberati

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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2011, 07:44:14 AM »
For me, it was to see what all the hoopla was about. I brewed maybe a hundred extract kits before I decided to try all grain. It turns out that it's fun. I drilled holes in an old fermentation bucket. It fits into another fermentation bucket. Those two are now my mash tun (I could have used a large mesh bag and accomplished much the same thing). There are classes at most local homebrew stores (LHBS) to show you the basics. The one I went to cost $20 and included pizza and beer for lunch.

As with every hobby, there's always interesting stuff to buy and learn. But, with this one you end up with beer.

Cheers.

(You're welcome to message me about specifics.)
« Last Edit: March 21, 2011, 08:49:34 AM by timberati »
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Offline dnva75

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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2011, 07:56:17 AM »
Thanks for all the feedback.  In the reply to the question about the large batches. I currently run a 15 Gallon and 30 Gallon pot and shoot for 24 and 12 Gallons of prefermented beer.  I then break into 6 6 gallon fermenters which yields about 5 Gallons of finished product per for a total yield of 30 gallons.  I usually do 2 different varieties with an extra light extract as the base.

I was also a little concerned about how to tackle the Mash Tun at this scale.  I feel like I am close to maxing our what you can realistically do in a cooler.

Brew day to get through this usually takes me about 4 hours, not including prep and cleanup.

 


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Re: Why go all grain?
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2011, 09:42:44 AM »
Go to Sams or Costo and pick up a 50-100 gallon cooler and fit it with a braid ala denny conn style.

See: http://hbd.org/cascade/dennybrew/
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