Wednesday Food: Going All-Grain
This week I brewed beer without training wheels. I had neither a pre-measured kit of ingredients nor the crutch of malt extract to ease and expedite the process. It was my first ever all-grain brew session.
Because it was the first all-grain for my cohorts as well, a few problems arose that we just had to work through. There was a bit of arguing over recipe augmentation (we used a 1 gallon recipe but brewed 5), last minute tool improvisation, and guestimated calculations for evaporation, but we didn’t kill one another and more importantly, the beer remained unharmed. In fact, it happily bubbles away in the primary fermenter sitting next to me.
The essential difference between a partial mash and all-grain is that the former uses a mix of malt syrup concentrate (malt extract) and grain, and the latter derives all its fermentable sugars from full grain mash. This means steeping 8-15 pounds of grain in your kitchen in a very, very large brew kettle. The only downside to partial mash, which I have long favored, is that recipes aren’t as easy to manipulate. But with a full mash you have a shit ton of grain to steep.
In the case of all-grain brewing, extra water is used to “sparge” the grains and release all their sugars, for this recipe 7.5 gallons were used for a 5 gallon batch. A substantial amount of excess liquid is absorbed by the grain, and the rest evaporates in the process of bringing the wort (unfermented beer juice) to a boil and adding hops. My pot wasn’t big enough for the extra liquid so we divided it, let it reduce a bit, recombined the liquids, and by the time all the hops had been added (60 minutes at a rolling boil) it was down to 5 gallons.
In retrospect it would have been wise to read this first, and attempt to understand the importance of pH and enzyme production, but I prefer to jump blindly into new projects… WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? So now comes the very scientific part of crossing my fingers and praying I didn’t infect the Honey Oroblanco Ale I so look forward to enjoying in a few weeks. It’s been almost 2 1/2 years since I began brewing beer. The learning curve remains exponential.
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