Sunday, January 23, 2011

All Grain Brewing, Lautering

I decided to leave the simpler world of extract brewing and leaped into all-grain brewing with Igloo ice cooler and boil kettle at the ready! After completing the extract brew and performing a lot of research on all-grain brewing, I realized that all-grain brewing really is not that much more difficult than extract brewing, which essentially involves one extra process called lautering. The lautering process requires almost twice the amount of time compared to extract brewing. The biggest issue with all-grain brewing is the time commitment, and a little more monetary investment for the extra equipment needed. For an example, my first extract brew took about 6 hours (3 hours for two people) and the my first all-grain brew took about 10 1/2 hours total labor hours.

So what's the benefit to brewing an all-grain beer as opposed to extract? Better Beer! The ingredients for all-grain is also less expensive, which helps to off-set the equipment costs involved in lautering. My first extract beer cost about $60 to make 4.5 gallons and the all-grain was $40 for 4.5 gallons (I was shooting for 5 gallons in both of these brews), which resulted in a savings of 33%. The savings are actually a bit more if I were to compare "apples-to-apples". (My extract beer was a pale ale, but my all-grain was an IPA requiring a larger amount of grain and hops - so my actual savings were probably 50%.)

I won't go into the steps involved in mashing, but I will say that I followed the instructions for building a mash tun (a step involved in lautering) and the instructions for "batch sparging" on this website - "Denny's Cheap 'n' Easy Batch Sparge Brewing" as well as advice from Mike Hess of Hess Brewing. Thanks to the WestCoaster magazine/blog I stumbled across Home Brews & Gardens which is a good little home brew store in North Park - very friendly and reasonable prices where I bought all my grain, hops and yeast for this brew. I formulated my recipe on Hopville - a great online community of homebrewers with an excellent, easy to use calculator tool for formulating recipes.

My Igloo cooler doesn't seem to be the best way mash tun since the drain hole sits a couple inches off the bottom of the cooler, which made draining the wort from the mash tun a very slow process. I was able to borrow an immersion chiller from a friend, which helped speed up the cooling process, although I did have to place the wort in an ice bath to cool it down further. So far the wort has been tasting very good - good bitterness and hoppiness, so despite some faux pas during the mashing process that most homebrewers would probably freak out about, the beer seems to be turning out quite nicely. I named this IPA the "Chizzam!".

 14 lbs of 2-row barley and specialty grains!
Mash tun/Kettle set up

Grain and water added to mash tun - hit target temp of 152!
  Stirring the mash
 Still stirring mash
 My assistant!
 Grain bed after draining the mash and batch sparging

 Waiting for 6 gallons of wort to boil
 Still waiting for it to boil (took about 20 minutes to bring it to boil)
 Cooling the wort with an immersion chiller.
My beautiful assistant sanitizing the primary fermenter.
 I had to place the wort in an ice bath to cool it down since the water running through the immersion chiller was about 75 (still too warm to bring it down the 68 I was targeting)
 Wort is in the primary fermenter!

 Wort after 1 day of fermenting - great fermenting activity on this one!
The fermenting finished in 3 days and settled out.
I racked the wort to a secondary fermenter, since it fermented so quickly and I still had several days before I had time to bottle - this helped the wort clear even more.
 Wort racked to secondary
 And finally the bottled Chizzam IPA!
Of course I was enjoying my first home brew during this time too!

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