I figured that I would give a simple break down on all grain home brewing for those of you who have been doing extract brewing for a while and are considering making the change but want some basic information on what you are in for before you do.
So what is the difference between extract brewing and all grain brewing? With extract brewing, the home brewer bypasses the mashing process and instead uses either concentrated dried malt extract (DME) or liquid malt extract (LME) to brew his or her beer. This greatly lowers the complexity of the home brewing process since the brewer does not need to worry about water pH levels, mash conversion temperatures, water profile composition, sparging, lautering or things like tannin extraction problems. Also, the extract home brewing takes far less time and equipment than all grain home brewing. With all grain brewing, you do not utilize any forms of malt extracts and instead convert all of the sugars yourself from grain starches and adjuncts. With all grain home brewing it is important to check your gravity readings throughout the brewing process to make sure that you are not extracting too much or two little sugar. You are also in charge of the type of sugars that are created during the mashing process. If your mash temperature is a few degrees to high your beer may come out very sweet, if it is a few degrees to low you may end up with a very dry beer. Mastering all grain brewing is all about understanding the process, tailoring the process to the style of beer you are brewing and being as exact as possible.
So what equipment will you need to do all grain home brewing that you do not need for extract brewing? Unless you are going to go the brew in a bag route, you are probably going to want 3 kettles and or combinations of 3 kettles \ coolers. One will be your Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) which will allow you to quickly modify the temperature of your mash during the different steps of the starch conversion process. The second is your Mash Tun which is where you will place your grains and convert the starches to sugars. A mash tun typically uses a false bottom which allows the wort to pass through it during the lautering and mash out process but restricts the grain husks from being transferred to the boil kettle. If you will be conducting a fly sparging process, which many home brewers do in order to boost your efficiency of extracting the sugars from your grains, you will also need to purchase a sparge arm. Lastly you will need a boil kettle that has a sufficient volume for the quantity of wort that you will be boiling. Aside from that, the equipment is very similar to what you would use during the extract home brewing process.
If you are looking for a ready-made all grain home brewing stand, brewing sculpture or home brewery; there are several options available here that range from cooler based setups to stainless steel home brewing racks!
Pre-built beer stands, turnkey home breweries, pre-made brew sculptures, single tier brewing stands, multi tier home breweries… call them what you will. Before your only option was to build your own brewing stand, but now, if you have the money; there are several pre-built home brewery options available. So which is the best option for your money?
If I had not already gone through the blood, sweat, tears and frankly burns of welding and constructing my own single level home brewing stand; I would opt for one of MoreBeers brewing sculptures. Over the last 5 years they seem to have perfected the pre-manufactured beer rack. They have 3 styles of brewing sculptures available for you to choose from; a stainless steel single tier brewing rack, a 3 tier tippy-dump brewing sculpture and a 3 level gravity based home brewery. I would personally go with their single tier home brewing stand, but if you have space limitations or can not afford the hefty price tag of the single level brewing stand, the stainless steel multi tier brewing stands are a great option as well.
Multi-level home brewing stand – MoreBeer Tippy-Dump Stainless Steel Brewing Stand
What I like most about MoreBeer’s stainless steel brewing stands, over the other pre-constructed brewing stands on the market is that they seem to have thought of everything in their design and did not skimp on any of the features. Their brewing racks are all made out of stainless steel and many of their versions include the following features:
Stainless Steel Maximizers and Diverter
High Temperature March Pumps
The MoreBeer Stainless Steel Ultimate Sparge Arm
Digital Temperature Controls
Convoluted Heat Exchanger for RIMS and HERMS support
Boil Kettle Whirlpool Arm
Fantastic Customer Support
Hard propane lines
The only downside that I can see is the price. One of these stainless steel home brewing stands will run you anywhere from $1099 to over $6000 depending on the style, capacity and features that you want in your brewing sculpture. In all reality that is not too bad of a deal when you consider that it comes with the kettles and almost all of the items that you will need to have an out of the box, ready to go, top of the line all grain home brewery constructed from stainless steel.
If you are interested in purchasing one of these all grain home brewing stands, you can view their full lineup here:
A home brewing single-tier brewing sculpture or beer rack is a single level brewing configuration where all of the brewing kettles are at the same level. Single-tier brewing racks typically consist of a hot liquor tank, mash tun, and boiling kettle. One or two pumps are used to transfer liquid from one kettle to another.
A notable benefit of a single-tier brewing sculpture over a multi-tier one is ease of access to the kettles. On a single-tier platform, the kettles are all at one low height, so it makes it safe and easy to stir the mash, add water to the hot liquor tank, or transfer the wort from the boil kettle. If the single tier system is constructed high enough off the ground, gravity can still be used to transfer wort from the boil kettle to the fermenter. Single tier beer racks also tend to be more stable then a multi-tier rack; trust me when I say that one of the last things you want is 15 gallons of burning hot liquid pouring down upon you due to an unstable rack or earthquake.
Cleaning and unloading grain from kettles is also very easy with a single-tier design since no step stool is required to reach any of your kettles. I personally use a single-tier brewing rack that I designed and constructed myself. It was a good deal of work, but I also learned a lot while building it. If you prefer not to build your own, there are some really fantastic stainless steel models available for sale here:
Below is a photo of the brewing rack that I built. It uses 2 pumps, 3 burners, and 3 (20 gallon) Blichmann brewing kettles. If you have any questions on building your own, please feel free to drop me a line.