Saturday, February 11, 2012

All Grain, No Pain

My beginner’s journey of extract and partial mashing was over and it was time to put on my big boy brewing pants and take a try at all grain brewing. For those unfamiliar with AG (All Grain), it is a brewing process where you extract the sugar directly from the grains (Barley, Rye, etc.). This is different from Extract and Partial Mash because in those brewing techniques the majority of the sugars is extracted from the grain and delivered to you ready to boil and brew. Think of it as Hamburger Helper vs. made from scratch pasta. There is a step up in equipment when it comes to doing AG but this was helped by a brewing friend in McKinney who graciously let me take his Mash Tun, but more on that later.

For my first AG beer I decided to go with a Saint Arnold’s Lawnmower Clone. This is a Kolsch style and with spring approaching it sounded great.

The first part of AG brewing is to extract the sugars from the grains. This is done by letting the grains steep in hot water similar to what happens when you make tea. For this recipe the grains needed to steep for one hour. For that hour you need to keep them at approximately 155 degrees Fahrenheit. The easiest way to do this is take an orange water cooler and let the grains sit in there. This was something I didn’t have but thanks to Chris, he let me have his.

After letting the grains steep you need to drain the mash water. Before you can really let it flow out you have to “Vorlauf”. This lets you take the sediment that is at the bottom of the cooler out and put them onto the top.

After draining the mash water there is still some sugars left on the grains. To remove these you need to “wash” the grains. This is done through a process called Sparging. I prefer to batch sparge, or dump a lot of hot water in. After adding more hot water, vorlaufing and draining it was time to boil.

Due to large amount of water used for AG I made the switch to using a propane burner. Also due to large amount of water was my first experience with a near boil over. Luckily I got the brewpot off just in time.
Don't worry, the green is from the hops

After boiling and cooling the wort, I took my gravity reading. Unfortunately I missed the target OG by a couple of points, nothing too crazy though. I then pitched the yeast and said goodbye to the Kolsch for a couple of weeks.

I was fairly impressed with how simply my first AG batch went. Several lessons were learned but overall it wasn’t too bad. Can’t wait to try this one out!.

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