I want to upgrade to all grain

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by jhines18, Jun 20, 2013.

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  1. jhines18

    jhines18 Initiate (0) Jun 20, 2013 New Mexico

    It seems like everyone has their own system and I have learned that with homebrewing things can get pricey fast, so I want to be more thoughtful about my upgrade. Any advice or gems of knowledge in this arena would be appreciated. Thanks.
  2. HerbMeowing

    HerbMeowing Aspirant (267) Nov 10, 2010 Virginia

    What volume do you want to brew?
    How often can you brew?
    How will you package (bottles, keg) what you brew?
    Will your equipment be new or used?

    IMO...these questions should be answered first.
    jhines18 and inchrisin like this.
  3. scurvy311

    scurvy311 Disciple (344) Dec 3, 2005 Louisiana

    Also, what is your budget?
    jhines18 likes this.
  4. standardcherry

    standardcherry Initiate (0) Jan 17, 2011 Massachusetts

    Just missed it but there were some great father's day deals recently. Homebrewing can get pricey but that's not always the case. You can have a very basic kit and make great beer. You'll need a mash tun and HLT, at least 2 kettles (I use up to 3) and at least 1 carboy (I rarely do secondary fermentation unless I'm adding fruit or making a big beer). I assume you already have a fermenting vessel, siphoning equipment, bottling bucket, bottle capper, etc. So pretty much the only upgrades you'd need would be the mash tun, HLT and an additional brew kettle.

    Feel free to hit me up with other questions, cheers!
    jhines18 likes this.
  5. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,275) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

  6. Ejayz

    Ejayz Initiate (0) May 15, 2011 Iowa

    I went AG this winter all I can say is do it! I choose the 10 gallon Home Depot water cooler as a HLT and the Coleman Extreme cooler as my mash tun. I found both coolers to be affordable and the extreme series coolers you will see very little temp drop while mashing about 2 degrees per hour. Hope this helps!
    jhines18 and TheMonkfish like this.
  7. TheMonkfish

    TheMonkfish Initiate (0) Jan 8, 2012 Chad

    I agree totally - I love my 52 quart Coleman mash tun - it has so little dead space and holds temps really well, and making the manifold can be fun if you like tinkering a bit. Those spent grains make for some fantastic compost.

    If you have a big enough pot, you could use brew in a bag (BIAB) to dip your toe in the water to see what you think of all grain before committing to a proper mash tun - some homebrewers don't even own one and make fantastic beer with the BIAB method.

    The Homebrewtalk forums were the most helpful to me when first getting into all grain, followed by Palmer's "How to Brew."
    jhines18 likes this.
  8. Canfield30

    Canfield30 Initiate (0) Aug 2, 2012 Ohio

    Going all grain was easy for me. I use my old 7 gallon pot as a hlt. I made a cpvc manifold for a 50 qt cooler I already owned. The only real cost for things I didn't already have weren't an absolute requirement. Made my own stir plate for starters. Bought an oxygenation setup for $50. Basically you can brew great beer keeping it basic. Homebrewtalk will show you how to build a lot of equipment yourself for cheap. And brewing all might take longer but for me it's a lot more enjoyable.
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  9. TheMonkfish

    TheMonkfish Initiate (0) Jan 8, 2012 Chad

    For me a good chunk of the fun as I get further into the hobby is making your own stuff (computer fan stirplate, cobbling together a temp controlled germentation chamber, etc.) None of it is required but can only help to give you more control over your beer and it's darn fun to tinker with the equipment.
    jhines18, LostTraveler and Canfield30 like this.
  10. FATC1TY

    FATC1TY Moderator (1,229) Feb 12, 2012 Georgia
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Honestly, you can put together 1- 10ga igloo cooler that will get you up to a 1.120 OG beer roughly for a 5 gallon batch.. Grab another 10g igloo cooler and do the same deal, but don't bother with a braid or anything. I use mine with a SS ball valve and nipple on it for a HLT.

    Get a big kettle, atleast 11 gallons if you want to do a 5 gallon batch, minimum.

    Roughly $100 in coolers, $40-50 in parts to do it yourself, and you have mash and HTL easily. If you have a pot, your golden.

    Best thing to add is an oxygen set up, which is around $50-60, and a fermentation chamber to control temps, which is whatever you want to spend.

    Figure if you need a pot and coolers, that it's around.. $300 without much work... O2 set up is $55, and a used fridge or freezer is free to $100, and a temp controller is $60.

    Call is $500 and you are SET, unless you want some bells and whistles.. pumps and stuff like that.

    Get a stir plate too if you can as well.. Yeast control and temp control are pretty much one of the biggest things about making good vs. great beer.
    jhines18 and PortLargo like this.
  11. Canfield30

    Canfield30 Initiate (0) Aug 2, 2012 Ohio

    This + 1. My next project is to make a whirlpool chiller that I can use in a keggle or 10 gallon pot. Do I need it? No I dont even have a pump yet, but I like making things and need a larger chiller than I have now. Chilling 6 gallons in May should not take an hour in Cleveland Ohio.
    jhines18 likes this.
  12. LostTraveler

    LostTraveler Initiate (0) Oct 28, 2011 Maine

    jhines18 likes this.
  13. fastenoughforphish

    fastenoughforphish Aspirant (218) Nov 14, 2012 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    I upgraded to all grain by buying a mesh bag, cutting ties with all my friends and family, and hording the small 2.5 gallon all grain batches I can make on my stove :wink:
    jhines18 likes this.
  14. pointyskull

    pointyskull Disciple (310) Mar 17, 2010 Illinois

    I recently went from extract to BIAB. Cost upgrade included a bigger kettle, a burner, a few inexpensive add-on gadgets and most importantly a fermentation chamber (a Vissani wine fridge off Craigslist - which holds a fermenting bucket w/out any mods necessary) that I use a temp controller on.

    I added a ball valve, thermometer and a sight glass to my kettle, too.
    jhines18 likes this.
  15. jhines18

    jhines18 Initiate (0) Jun 20, 2013 New Mexico

    Hi Herb,

    I brew about 6-8 batches a year. Im in the desert, so its just too hot right now without sufficient refrigeration, which I dont have, so I typically brew monthly in the fall and spring. I use both kegs and bottles for packaging. I like to brew 10 gallon batches. I have a 10g kettle and typically brew around 7 gallons and then top off two 5g carboys with water to help cool my wort. I prefer used or self constructed equipment. Thanks, Jarrett
  16. jhines18

    jhines18 Initiate (0) Jun 20, 2013 New Mexico

    Thanks Standard, I have a bunch of carboys and a 10g kettle. What Im really looking to build is a really nice and integrated system as cheaply as possible. I enjoy building things so Im really looking for some personal recommendation on what and how to construct those things (mash tun and HLT) and clever ways to siphon or transfer the liquid etc. I feel like in my short time brewing (~2 years), I have already made some simple innovations to streamline my processes and make things easier and cleaner, so that's the advice Im looking for; thoughtful, DIY upgrading to all grain.
  17. jhines18

    jhines18 Initiate (0) Jun 20, 2013 New Mexico

  18. jhines18

    jhines18 Initiate (0) Jun 20, 2013 New Mexico

    Thanks, do you have any plans on how to build it? Regards, Jarrett
  19. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,275) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Who's that? I know a Jared. My first name is Jeff.
  20. bgjohnston

    bgjohnston Initiate (0) Jan 14, 2009 Connecticut

    In the end, I would recommend buying equipment that makes you happy to work with it. Even if you have to save up for a while, when you start all-grain you will save money on the malts for the rest of your brewing career. In addition, you will have more choices for coming up with distinctive malt flavors on your recipes.

    I'm not saying go crazy and buy a professional-grade automated brewing system, but while some folks make it a point of pride to build an effective system themselves, that may or may not be your thing. Some specialized equipment is unavoidable, like a wort chiller, but even then there are tiers of options/prices.

    I do suggest buying a larger brew kettle than you think you need. You never know.
    jhines18 likes this.
  21. standardcherry

    standardcherry Initiate (0) Jan 17, 2011 Massachusetts

    If you're looking for easy ways to transfer beer then you should look into drilling some holes into your kettles. And building the mash tun/HLT yourself. You can easily find instructions, I found some here for the kettle:

    jhines18 likes this.
  22. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Initiate (0) May 21, 2010 Texas

    IMO, two things are key before you even start thinking about a mash tun.

    1. fermentation temperature control. If you've already got it, great. Continue. If you don't have a guaranteed under 70F ambient room temperature year round place to ferment your beers, start here. I have been fermenting at 64F with great results. However, when I used a 68F closet, I also got fine results. I suspect 70F is about the cutoff point tho. This is the most important thing you can control, before even bothering with trying to go all grain.

    2. Full boils. I recommend a turkey fryer setup as a cheep way to get the pot and burner you need to do a full boil. This will make a big difference. I got my turkey fryer and pot for about fiddy bucks on sale, and it works just fine. The pot is big enough for most five gallon batches. I suppose there might be some recipes that would need a bigger pot, but I haven't brewed them yet (and I have a bigger pot anyway, lol). Generally the standard 7.5 gallon-ish turkey fryer pot will boil up to about 6.5 gallons of wort, plenty for most five gallon batches.

    If both of these concerns are non-issues, then I suggest finding a mash tun manifold/filter-thingie either online or at your local homebrew store. I got mine at the LHBS, and it works great. It's essentially a cylindrical screen filter attached to a threaded connector. This piece of equipment can then be added (along with a little bit of hardware) to various different types of coolers. The cooler doesn't have to be fancy either, many different types will do just fine. Get creative with the hardware, or ask for help at home depot if you aren't handy like that. Bring all the parts you have, and the cooler too, into the store with you and fit them there. Such parts may be cheeper online. It won't take a whole lot of hardware though, a valve and some washers and a few fittings and you're good to go.

    A five gallon water cooler will work for a mash tun, BUT you will be somewhat limited on your beer styles. My PtE pseudo-clone was a bit too big, with a bit too much grain at just over 15 lbs (required 5.4 gallons of mash tun space, but I "winged it" on the procedure, and it came out fine). Much bigger than this would not be possible without some serious wings. 12 lbs is my approximately standard batch, and this amount of grain works fine with five gallons of mash tun space.

    With my five gallon system my "lauter tun" is simply my old boil pot from before I got the turkey fryer. Works fine. I'm about to get fancier with my new ten gallon system (once this semester is out, that is, right now I'm too busy hating life. I don't even have time to friggin' brew!).

    Anyway, all grain is surprisingly easier than you'd think. Go for it.
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