All Grain Brewing is a brewing method where you are essentially making your own malt extract through a process called mashing. We will go over some of the steps involved and explain these brewing terms below.
There are several methods of mashing, but they all involve steeping the grains with roughly 1-2 quarts of hot water per pound of grain. Ideally, the grain is put into a container that is either insulated or stainless steel, so that temperature can be maintained. This grain is then held between 145 -158 degrees for 60-90 minutes. The mash temperature will have an effect on the finished beer. Keeping the mash temperatures lower in the range will favor enzymes that produce simpler, more fermentable sugars. These sugars ferment more easily and will result in a beer that has a slightly lighter body and higher alcohol content. Using a mash temperature in the higher end of the range will result in a beer that is fuller bodied or heavier, with slightly less alcohol.
Now is the time to separate the sweet wort from the spent grains. Ideally, the grain is in a container with a false bottom or manifold to facilitate draining. Some of the sweet wort is drained from the mashtun and gently poured back in on top of the grains. This is done a couple of times or until there are no more bits of grain coming out. This is called recirculation and it is intended to set up all the grains and husks to act as a filter bed, so that sweet wort can be separated from the spent grain.
Once the filter bed has been established through recirculation, the next step is the sparge. Sparging consists of rinsing the grains with hot water to dissolve and remove all the sugars produced during the mash. Usually another container with hot water (between 170 and 180) is positioned at a level above the grains so that water can be drained gently onto the surface of the mash. Sweet wort is drained from the mash at the same rate as the hot water is added to the top of the mash. This washes all the available sugars from the spent grains.
The sweet wort is then collected in the brewpot and brought to a boil. At this point, you set a timer for at least 60 minutes, although most all grain recipes boil the wort for 90 minutes. Here is where the all grain and extract methods of brewing combine. As the wort is boiling you will be adding measured amounts of hops to get a bitterness that will balance the sweetness of the malt extract and add flavor and aroma to the finished beer.
After the boil is complete, the wort needs to be cooled down. This would be ideally done in 5-10 minutes, but can take a little longer depending on your equipment.
Once the wort is cool, it will be siphoned or poured into a fermenter where the yeast will be introduced. The yeast will start fermenting the malt sugars and converting them into alcohol and C02. Over the course of the next week or two, the sugars will have been consumed. After fermentation has stopped, the beer is ready to be bottled.
Siphon the beer off into a clean container and stir in a measured amount (usually about 3/4 cup) of priming sugared, typically corn sugar. stir this into the beer well, siphon it straight into bottles and cap them up. This will reenergize the yeast and start a new ferment in the bottles, producing a little C02 and creating carbonation. The carbonation process generally takes about two weeks at room temperature.
Finally the last thing to do is to chill the beer and enjoy your work.
Have any questions about all grain brewing? Shoot us an email or give us a call at (817) 281-7252. We hope to see you soon.