All-grain brewing is the closest thing to being a professional brewer. If you’re already brewing with malt extract, advancing to all-grain means that you need to learn how to mash, i.e. extract fermentable sugars from barley malt by mixing the grains with hot water. To do this effectively, you’ll need to add a few pieces to your existing home brewery:
• A large pot for heating water. Professional brewers call this a hot liquor tank. You will need to heat mash water, and then sparge water. Larger is better, so you can heat all the water you need at once. Also keep in mind that the larger the pot, the easier it is to brew larger batches later on. The Polar Ware 30 Qt. Brew Pot will work for a 5 gallon batch of brew.
• A mash tun – Mashing requires 1-1.5 qts of water per pound of grain. A typical 5 gallon batch of homebrew uses 10-12 lbs. of grain, plus you need to account for the grain itself. At the very least, you’ll need a 20 qt brewpot, but the larger the better. Some brewers like to build their own mash tuns from a large water cooler, but a Polar Ware Brew Pot with a false bottom, thermometer, and ball-valve is the way to go.
• A large kettle for boiling wort. If you play your cards right, you could move wort from the mash tun back to the hot liquor tank for the boil, but many brewers prefer to have three separate vessels. Keep in mind that over the course of a 60 minute boil, you’ll probably evaporate 20% or more of your volume. You also don’t want the wort to go all the way to the top of the kettle. If you want to end up with 5 gallons of wort, you need a brew kettle that holds 7 gallons or more.
• Wort chiller – Beginning homebrewers might get by with an ice bath in the kitchen sink, but if you need to cool 5 gallons of boiling wort, an Immersion Wort Chiller makes things much easier. Depending on the temperature of the cold water going through the chiller, these can chill wort to pitching temperature in 15-20 minutes.
• Thermometer – even if you have a thermometer built in to your mash tun, it help to have another one to measure the temperature of your sparge water.
• Grain Mill – You can get by without one, but you will have to buy pre-crushed malt (or borrow a mill from a friend!).
• Gas burner – Not essential, but if you have the space to safely use one, an outdoor gas burner will save a lot of time when heating water.
There are about as many different homebrew setups as there are homebrewers, but these are some of minimum requirements for all grain brewing. From there, you can easily customize your setup with countless doo-dads and gizmos. If you’re looking for ways to save a little money, consider the Brew-in-a-Bag (BIAB) technique, which we will cover in another post.
Want to learn more about all grain brewing? Stay tuned for more!