All Grain Systems
Reasons for Brewing With All Grain Systems
- Cheaper- purchase ingredients in bulk
- Total Control-you make all the decisions about the wort you make
- You Know Exactly What’s In Your Beer
- You Will Become a Better, More Knowlegable Brewer
- Fine Tune Your Recipes.
- Make Lighter Beers-extracts make it hard to brew light colored beers
- Brew More Varieties and More Complex Beers with an All Grain Brewing System
- Much of the Equipment You Can Build Yourself DIY
- Brew on a Bad Ass Brew System
Don’t be intimidated by anything you hear about all grain systems. If you are an extract brewer, you already have most of the equipment you need. You can make the rest very cheaply.
Check out Northern Brewer’s video “All-Grain Brewing 101: The Basics” below:
If you are ready to take your homebrewing to the next level, read on:
BREW KETTLE (BK) – You will need a brew pot (kettle) big enough to boil full wort boils. 7.5 gallons is the minimum. I recommend you bite the bullet and invest in a quality stainless kettle of at least 9 gallons, bigger would be better. Shop around, I found a 12.5 gallon commercial grade stainless kettle online for $83. You can get by with a turkey fryer, but you may want to upgrade later.
MoreBeer.com has a huge selection of Brew Kettles and Pots.
MASH / LAUTER TUN (MLT)– A very important piece of equipment in any all grain system. The cheapest way to go is to convert a cooler or good ice chest. Buy a conversion kit from homebrew supplier and make or buy a bazooka screen. You can also purchase a plastic or stainless false bottom. A 10 gallon Gott or Rubbermaid Water Cooler is what I use. Go large rather than small. You may want to make large batches or high gravity batches that require more mash tun volume.
OT LIQUOR TANK (HLT) – You only need this if you are going to fly sparge (also called continuous sparge). You can heat your water in your kettle for batch sparges. Another cooler with conversion kit is all you need. If you want to fly sparge, you will need to make or purchase a device to sprinkle hot water on the top of the grain bed. They sell rotating sparge arms, or you can gravity feed a sprayer or copper coil with holes drilled in it. There are lots if ideas online.
WORT CHILLER – The simplest way is to use an ice bath. But, it takes too long and you want to cool the wort as fast as possible. Most homebrewers use an immersion chiller, a coil of copper tubing with inlet and outlet that cold water is pumped through. You can make one or it’s easier to just purchase one from a homebrew supplier. It’s too easy to kink the soft copper tubing. There are several other options you may like: counterflow chiller and a plate chiller. Both of these are faster but harder to clean.
GRAIN MILL – Eventually you will want to purchase a grain mill. They aren’t cheap but having the ability to mill your own grain when you need it, and to control the degree of crush will be very important later on. It is another way to take control of your beer.
All Grain Systems Explained
Most systems are gravity fed systems. There are many ways to accomplish gravity transfer of water and wort. Some systems are built in tiers. The Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) on top, then the mash tun, then the kettle. In this type system, the HLT must be directly heated so you don’t have to carry extremely hot water up a ladder. If you are using coolers for your all grain system, you can arrange them so that the HLT is above the mash tun, and the mash tun is above the kettle. You will have to do a little lifting to get the HLT in place but this is an inexpensive system that works extremely well.
The next step is to utilize pumps to move liquid and wort around. For the Ultimate in brewing pumps, check out the Blichmann RipTide™ Brewing Pump below:
These are food grade and allow back pressure to be applied to slow down flow. This makes your brew day much nicer. It may not be a problem if you are young and indestructible, but once you get a little older, anything that keeps you from lifting heavy objects is a welcome addition.
Refurbished used kegs (make sure they are legally obtained) make great HLT’s, mash tuns and “Keggles”. They can be drilled easily and welded to incorporate all the extras like sight glasses, thermometer wells, ball valves, etc. Another option are the Weldless Kits available from MoreBeer.com. You can also make your own fittings.
Most brewers begin with the coolers and ice chests and eventually begin working on their “ultimate system”. Usually a Brutus 10 setup. There are plans on the internet and in the DIY section showing you how to build your own system. I’m building my RIMS system now, check out the progress and find links to the best values on parts and equipment I can find. You may find the ideas I’m using helpful.
Click the link below to go back and check out the Extract Brewing System; you should already have this equipment.