Extract brewing is easy and if you take advantage of it’s simplicity you can really use it to your advantage to master fermentation…

Actually, I strongly suggest you use extract brewing to master fermentation before moving up to all grain… and if budget is an issue, I would strongly suggest you invest in fermentation equipment (temperature control) before you invest in all-grain brewing equipment…

The problem with extract brewing is the limitation on the beer styles you can brew… there are some styles that require you to mash grains…

But most importantly, all grain brewing is about removing the training wheels and begin to take more control of the brewing process… with all grain you can do more things to improve you brewing, but you also have more room for mistakes…

Today I’m going to talk about some of the things to watch out for when moving up to all grain…

One of the very first things you need to look at is how your brew day is going to change… The first thing you’re going to have to add to your equipment is a mash tun… after looking at various options and looking for least expensive, easy, good performance, and a bunch of other things, this is what I came up with…

Here’s the parts list:

10 Gallon Rubbermaid Round Cooler

Brewer’s Edge Kettle valve

Brewer’s Edge Kettle Valve Screen 3/8″

Hose Barb Adapter 1/2″ barb x 1/2″ MIP

Total cost: $88.93

Note that the kettle valve from brewer’s edge has a 3/8″ thread for the kettle valve screen… I mention that because there are other screens, but most have 1/2″ threads…

Now that you have your mash tun, you’ll have to start looking into your brewing process…

Moving Stuff Around

Most extract brewers are used to boiling all of their wort in a 5 gallon (18.9 L) kettle and cooling their wort in their kitchen sink…

When you move up to all grain, you will have to boil closer to 6.25 to 7.5 gallons of wort, which means you’ll need a bigger kettle and more than likely an outside burner…

When you start to think about this, you start to see that you essentially go from brewing in your kitchen to brewing outside… this also means you have to start looking at other things like water source, power source (if using pumps, etc.)

If you can’t easily get water near your new brewing station, you have to think about how you are going to get water there… You’ll be using about 9 – 10+ gallons, which is not exactly a light load to carry…

When I first started brewing all grain, I started mashing in the kitchen and then move outside for boiling… I had to put on some leg work to move everything outside, which was fine for the first few months, but started to get old after a while… so I started to figure out ways to move less equipment and do more outside…

Depending on your setup, you may need to look into other things in the brewing process… it’s one thing to do a simple infusion mash (just add hot water to the mash once), but it’s another thing to do a step mash or decoction mash…

Doing a step mash requires you to boil water and add it to the mash at different intervals… that means you have to move boiling water from your kettle to your mash tun… if you can do this using gravity, that’s great… if you can’t use gravity, then you may want to look into getting a march pump…

While a march pump may not be required depending on how you’ll be set up, it’s one thing to look into to make sure you have a good transition going from extract to all grain…

Cooling Your Wort

Another thing to look into is cooling down your wort… when brewing with extract in a 5 gallon pot, you may submerge the pot in an ice bath by moving the kettle two, three feet from your range to your kitchen sink and 30 minutes later call it a day…

If you are brewing outside, carrying a kettle full of boiling hot wort is not exactly safe and yields itself to all kinds of accidents… it’s easier to bring a cooling source to the kettle outside…

I personally got a wort chiller and used a pump to move and recirculate ice cold water through it… this is an extra step I had to take since I live in Phoenix, AZ where we average temperatures of 114 to 116 °F in the summer and cooling down wort outside is not exactly easy…

Water

When it comes to extract brewing, you can brew most styles with just about any water… obviously is better if you use the right water profile, but you can get away with using most water as long as the water tastes good and is contaminant free…

When it comes to all grain brewing, not so much…

Your water source will start to dictate what beers you can and can not brew… Some brewers have very alkaline water, hard water and they’ll have a hard time brewing light lagers… others have soft water, and they may have a hard time brewing darker beers…

Personally I would rather start out with soft water than hard water and make water adjustments using salts… I actually use RO water…

That being said, you’ll have to look into your water source and how you’ll need to prepare for brew day…

I for example have to collect water from my RO water system which only hold about 3.5 gallons of water… which means I have to start collecting water the day before brewing…

If I were to use city water, I’d have to boil the water to get rid of the alkalinity and add salts if I wanted to brew light beers… which means I’d have to boil about 10 gallons of water probably the day before brewing…

Some styles I may not have to do that, but it’s just one thing you’ll have to consider when moving up to all grain…

Whether you boil or start with soft water you’ll have to make sure your water has the minerals your wort will need to get good starch to sugar conversion and get a good fermentation… something we didn’t even have to think about when brewing with extract since extract had all the minerals needed…

Clean UP

When steeping grains, it’s one thing to get rid of 1 to 2 pounds of grain… it’s another thing to get rid of 9+ lbs of grain…

Some brewers who live somewhere off the grid simply dump the grain outside and feed the passerby deer, elk or whatever roams around their front yard… in AZ about the only thing I can attract to eat the spent grain are coyotes and scorpions?

So I had to look for an alternative…

Bagging up wet grains is the fastest way to a) stink up your trash can b) create an army of flies around your house c) not what I recommend…

My process for getting rid of grains is to drain as much liquid as I can using my mash tun… I leave the valve open and use a container to collect all the wort I can… drop by drop, I usually collect about one liter in the hour I spend boiling…

I then move the grain into a container, kind of like a baby plastic bath tub and set the grain there…

From there I have a couple of options… I can move the grain to the sun and let it dry, or take some of the grain and make compost with it…

I usually plan my brew days around trash pick up day, so I can get rid of the grain as soon as possible…

I also know of some brewers who simply take the spent grain to a local farm and give it to the farmers to feed their cows, chicken or whatever…

Most of these things are easy to overcome and not that big of a deal, but these are things no one told me when I moved to all grain…  hopefully this makes your transition easier and if you have specific questions or want to add please leave a comment below…


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