May 4, 2012

All-grain Approaches

So, after a long process, lots of delays, many hours of research, much money spent, and tons of craigslist searches, our first all-grain batch is coming up next weekend.  The actual switch from extract to all-grain isn't really that difficult - if you have the Ben Franklins to drop on the new equipment.  For us, gathering all of our equipment without dropping hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars is what has taken so long.  And we're still not there.

Ours won't be so fancy - at first.
Our ideal setup is a three keg system (known as a half barrel system, see to the left).  Many homebrewers use old kegs as boil kettles and mash tuns, and for good reason.  First, they are all stainless steel, and thus durable.  Second, they are large, holding fifteen gallons.  They can be used for double (10 gallon) batches.  Third, they look bad ass.

It is very easy to attain one of these kegs.  The hard part is doing so legally.  See, most people just go to their local beer distributor, pay for a keg of beer plus the $30 deposit, and then keep said keg when the beer is gone.  How easy is that?  The problem is, kegs cost more than a $30 deposit.  And by keeping and cutting a keg which you don't own... well, at the very least, that is gray area.  So, we have been working hard at finding kegs we can attain legally.  So far, we have one fully ready to go.

Igloo Mash Tun
That will be our boil kettle for our brew days.  A nice, big kettle.

For a mash tun, we have a second keg which is in the process of being converted (top cut off, ball valve/thermometer installed, false bottom put in).  The question is will it be finished?  If it is, we're in the clear for a 10 gallon batch.  If not, on to plan B.

In plan B we would use  a converted Igloo cooler for a mash tun, similar to the picture but without all the extras.  We picked up the cooler and false bottom for cheap from a local brewer and homebrew club member.  If we don't need it, no big financial loss.  (Anyone looking for an Igloo Cooler Mash Tun?)

Our hot liquor tank will just be one of our old kettles, probably mine since it has a valve installed.  No keg dedicated for that yet.  Waiting and searching.

Our brew for the day will be an Amber ale.  We chose this because 1) it is simple to brew, not requiring a lot of mash steps and 2) because wins the award for the recipe which we have screwed up most royally in our brewing era.  We are hoping for a better result this time around.  

Our official award for screwing up our Amber Ale.
I am glad this day is nearly here.  Our first all-grain batch seemed so close when I started this blog.  I've had to fill in posts which should have been about all-grain brewing with some other stuff.  Maybe now this blog will settle into what I initially envisioned.  But on the other hand, this delay in brewing has helped me be a little more creative in posts.  I hope to keep some of that variety as we move forward.  Posts like, "Here's my recipe," "here are pictures of me brewing" can only take me so far...

That being said, I will post the recipe and pictures in a future post.  Here's hoping for a nice, smooth brew day. Wish me luck.