Let’s brew: all grain demo

I got into all grain brewing about 8 months ago, after about a half dozen batches of extract. I really like how you can fine tune the grain bill, and tweak times and temperatures of your mash to emphasize and alter certain characteristics of the grain. People have this notion that all grain brewing is difficult. It’s not! It just takes some extra time and equipment.

more grain being added to the strike water

Gather your ingredients, sanitize your gear and get ready to brew…. or just sit back and have a read. Today, we are brewing a red rye beer… affectionately dubbed Greenethumb Rye.

I will go step by step through my process, and have a ton of pictures as well. First let’s get our equipment together.


The degree of gadgetry seems to vary from brewer to brewer, but when you are doing an all grain batch here are the essentials:

1. Mash/Lauder Tun

Mash Tun refers to the container where the mashing ( converting the starch of the grain into fermentable sugars) happens. The Lauder Tun is the place where the sparging (filtering of the wort from the grist) happens.
Temperature control is key here, and that is what many of the DYI models are built from coolers or some other well insulated container. Also, there is no reason why your mash tun and lauder tun can’t be the same thing! I built my own out of a cylindrical cooler from home depot. It wasn’t very hard. Check here for a demo on building a mash/lauder tun from a cooler

2. Large Brewpot

We are going to be boiling upwards of 6.5 gallons of sweet, sweet wort, so we will need a brewpot that can safely handle that volume. I have a 7.5 gallon one, and it’s manageable.

3. Large Boil Proof Spoon

Metal or heat resistant plastic.

4. Heat source

Kitchen stove will work if you are very patient, but my propane burner saves me some serious time.

5. Fermenting gear

Either an airtight plastic bucket or glass carboy with accompanying airlock. Should be able to hold 5.5 gallons with some head space.

6. Thermometer

Other niceties:
* Extra plastic bucket or kettle for storing hot mash water
* Strainer to bypass the vorlof process
* Propane burner to speed up the boiling process
* a wort chiller to speed up the cooling of wort after the boil
* hydrometer for taking specific gravity readings


We are making a rye beer today, and we want it to be a nice reddish amber color. We’ll start with a creamy base of Marris Otter malt, toss in some rye, and add a few different speciality malts for the color. I like to use a variety of malts in each batch to help layer the flavors. As far as hopping goes, we will use some noble (european) hops for their spicy attributes to help accentuate the spiciness of the rye, and dry hop with some US Armaillo for an bold citrusy aroma.

1. Grain Bill

GrainAmountRatio of Entire Bill
Marris Otter Pale Malt8 lbs60.4%
Malted Rye3 lbs22.6%
CaraRed1 lbs7.5%
Crystal 20L8 oz3.8%
Crystal 40L8 oz3.8%
Belgium Special B4 oz1.9%

2. Hops Schedule

Willamette4.4%1.5 oz24.1First Sign of Boil
Perle7.0%1.5 oz30.330 Min From End
Perle7.0%1.5 oz8.05 Min From End
Amarillo8.9%1 oz0.0In Fermenter
Amarillo8.9%1 oz0.0Dry-Hopped

ingredients-- grain, hops and water

3. Yeast:

ingredients-- yeast

2 packs Danstar-Nottingham

4. Water:

Plain old boston tap water, run through a Brita charcoal filter. If you don’t have one of those fancy on-tap filters, I recommend filtering your water the night before your brew day. It takes freakin’ forever. That 7 gallons took a few hours to filter in my box filter thing. Don’t have a filter?, don’t worry, this is more of a precaution- by no means required. If your tap water tastes bad, you might want to run to the store and by some distilled water.


Yes, it’s important. Its not very interesting though. So just make sure you scrub your equipment clean, and give it a soak in some sanitizer solution. Make sure to clean your brewpot, your mash tun, siphoning hoses, funnel, strainer, etc…

I use Idphor. Its great, soak items in a light solution for about a minute and then set out to dry. No rinse necessary.

Here is shot of my gear soaking/drying in the tub:

Ok, enough of the boring stuff. Let’s move on.


First things first. We need to figure out how much water we need to mash our grain, and what temperature the water should be. This initial dose of water is called the strike water.

1. Strike Water

The strike water will allow us to hit our target temperature for the first step of the mash. For this brew, we are going to use a single-step infusion mash at 153F with a mashout at 170F. Basically our strike water will take us all the way to mashout, keeping things simple. Here we go:

How much strike water do we need? This formula works well for me:

Grain Weight in LBS/4 = gallons of strike water.

In this case, we have 13.4 pounds of grain, so 13.4/4 = 3.35. Rounding up to the nearest quart, we will use 3.5 gallons. Great, now what temperature should our strike water be? This is a little more complicated. I use a great OSX beer program that helps me figure this out, but there are several infusion mash calculation utilities out there on the web. In this case, we settle on 172F:

Let’s get to work.
Pour the water:
pouring the strike water into the kettle

Thats better:
the water has been poured

Now its time to fire up the burner (outside!)
the propane burner burning

There it is, 173F:
thermometer reading of strike water is 173F

2. Start the mash

Starting the mash is easy. Just add all of the grain to the hot water in your mash tun. You want to pour the grain in slowly and stir it as it goes in. If you dump it in all at once, you risk having big clumps of grain that will not mash properly.

Get ready to pour the water into the mash tun:
boiling water in the kettle

Pour the grain into the tun and stir while doing so:
adding the grain to the strike water while stirring

more grain being added to the strike water

Close up the tun. Don’t forget to drop your thermometer in there. We will be using it to double check our initial temp and to check up on things every 10-15 mins:
the lid is now on the mash tun Feel free to rock it back and forth every once in a while to stir things around

3. Time, Stir and Test

Set a timer. When this baby goes off our starch conversion should be complete:
an exciting timer set for about an hour

Ok, its been a couple minutes. Let’s check the temp inside the mash-tun:
thermometer reading from inside the mash tun We are right on target, nice!

With about 25 mins left on the timer, pour the rest of the water into your kettle. We have about 4 gallons of our pre-flitered water left in our carboy. I like to be on the safe side, so I’m going to add another couple of gallons to the kettle. Bring it to a boil:

water boiling on the kettle This should take about the remaining 25 mins.

Once our timer goes off, we are almost ready for the mashout. Almost. First, let’s do a little test to see if our starch conversions are complete. Gather a small sample of the liquor (liquor == our liquid mash):
small liquor sample for iodine test

And drop in some iodine:
iodine in the liquor sample It stayed reddish, so we are ready to mash out! If it turns dark blue/black then our starch conversions are not complete. In that case, put the top back on the mash tun and test again in another 30 mins or so.

4. mashout/sparging

We now want to raise the temperature of our mash to something over 165F. This will deactivate any conversion enzymes still working. The higher temperature will also thin out our mash to make it easier to sparge (separate the liquor from the grist).

Let’s figure out how much boiling water to add in order to raise the 153F mash to 171F for the mashout. There is a nice chart in The Complete Joy of Homebrewing – which if you don’t own you should. According to my computer… ahheem, my calculations, it looks like we need about 2.75 gallons. Let’s be on the safe side and make that 3 gallons:

For today’s brew, we are going to use a simple sparge method called batch sparging. Basically, we will completely drain the liquor from mash. And then re-add the necessary amount of hot water to the drained grist to give us about 6 gallons of wort. Since we are adding 3 gallons of boiling water to the mash, we can expect about a 3.5 gallon first run. Remember, the grist will hold a lot of water, so the strike water won’t really add all that much volume to the wort.

Remember the boiling kettle? Go turn it off.

Pour 3 gallons of the hot water into the mash tun, and save the rest in bucket for the second half of the sparging.
pouring the rest of the boiling water into a bucket for later use

Our mash is now about 171F:
mash temperature reading: 171F

Let’s get ready to sparge. Connect a sanitized drainage tube to the spigot of the tun, place the kettle nearby and get your strainer ready:
prepare the sparging setup

Turn the spigot. Not too far, we don’t want to compact our grain bed too tightly causing a stuck sparge. A nice easy flow is what we are looking for:
turning the mash tuns spigot

There we go, good thing our strainer is catching any stray grain husks that made it through our mash tuns filter:
If you boil too many husks in your brew, you are asking for a powerful astringent flavor… yuck. Keep the grain husks out. If you don’t want to use a strainer, you can vorlof. Vorlofing just means draining the wort into a container and continually re-adding the drainage back to the mash tun until no more grain husks are coming out of the tun. I prefer the strainer method because its faster and more effective.

Sooo pretty:
reddish gold sparge

The first run of the batch sparge is complete:
first run of batch sparge finished

Close the valve:
close the mash tun valve

We have about 3 gallons of wort so far. Let’s add 3 more gallons to the mash tun and stir things up:
refloating the grain bed with 3 gallons of HOT water

You know the drill:
more beautiful sparing

Damn, I forgot it’s freaking cold outside. I want to have a little extra wort because we are going to boil off a lot of water in the colder temperature.

Adding another gallon or so of boiling water:
pouring in another gallon of boiling water

Stir it up before starting our final sparge:
stirring the mash

We will just let it drain out now. When we decided the drip-drip-drip is no longer worth the wait, lets grab a sample:
grab a sample

Chill the sample and take a pre-boil gravity reading:
put it in the freeeezzzeeeer!

Pre-boil readings are not necessary, but can give you an idea of your actual mash efficiency (percentage of starch from the grain converted into fermentable sugats). Our pre-boil gravity is a little low (1.044, target was 1.056), but we did dilute the mash anticipating heavy boil off. No need to worry.

h2. Boiling

For all you extract brewers out there, we now meet. Here on out should seem very familiar. Once the wort is in the brew pot the differences between all grain and extract brewing are pretty much gone.

Today, we are going to shoot for a 60 min boil. As I mentioned earlier, it’s cold outside so we are expecting to have a higher than average boil off, which will hopefully put us in the Original Gravity ballpark.

1. Heat ‘er up

Without further ado, fire up your heat source and put your kettle on it.
bringing the wort to a boil I like to put the lid on while bring the wort to a boil. It makes it go a little faster.

Since this will take about 15 or 20 minutes to get boiling, we can do a little cleanup without fear of a boil over. I went out to the parking lot and dumped my grist into our dumpster.
a mash tun in need of a scrubbing Rinse, scrub, rinse, dry.

2. first hop addition

While we wait for the boiling to start, let’s get the first hop addition ready. Measure out 1.5oz of the Williamette pellets:
1.5 oz of williamette hops

Finally, we are boiling. Remove the lid and let the boil stabilize for a minute:
the wort is finally boiling!!

And toss is the hops:
first addition of hops complete Don’t forget to stir your wort, and watch for boil overs. Adding hops seems to make the boil get a little more vigorous.

Now just sit back and marvel for a little while:
the wort boiling, and the beef jerky drying In case you are wondering, you are also seeing my homemade beef jerky dehydrator in action. Beer and jerky at the same time, what a great day!

3. second hop addition

Alright, let’s get the second batch of hops ready to go. Measure out 1.5oz of the Perle pellets:
getting the second hop addition ready

When there are 30 mins left in our boil, toss in the Perle:
adding the second round of hops to the wort

and stir:
stirring the wort

4. Irish Moss/Clarification

With 15 mins left in the boil, we will add some Irish Moss to the boil. They recommend about a tablespoon, but I tend to add about 1.5 tablespoons for the heck of it. Irish Moss is really a type of seaweed. It will help to coagulate some of the extra proteins in the wort and help them settle out during our fermentation. That means a clearer finished beer. Let’s get it ready:
irish moss

At the 15 min mark, toss it in and give it a stir:
toss the irish moss into the boil

At this point, we are going to place our wort chiller into the pot. The boiling wort will sanitize it. Drop Place it is the boil, and be sure to keep the tubes away from the flames. The tube on the right used to be a lot longer until I accidently melted it off a few batches back:
place the wort chiller in the brew pot

The cooler initial temp of the chiller will probably stop your boil. Don’t worry, it will resume shortly:
it's boiling again!

5. Get Ready to Cool and Transfer

During the last few minutes of the boil, we’ll set up for the wort chilling and for transferring the chilled wort to the primary fermentor. The wort chiller I use can be used with a standard indoor faucet by screwing an adapter into the faucet aerator’s threading.

First remove the aerator:
removing the aerator from the bathroom sink

and screw in the adapter:
bathroom sink with the threading adapter Now the wort chiller is ready to use after a quick connection of the coupling attached to the chiller’s intake tube.

Since the brewpot will likely have some soot on it from the propane burner, I’m going to lay down a piece of aluminum foil where the kettle will rest during the chilling process to help contain the mess:
foil will make your clean up easier

6. final hop addition to the boil

With about 5 mins left on our boil, measure out the final dose of Perle hops. No pics this time, but I think you can figure it out. Toss ’em in the boil and give them a stir. Don’t worry about coating your chiller with hops… you are gonna have to clean that baby anyway. The last addition of the hops will not add any substantial bitterness to the beer, but will have a nice effect on the smell. We are going to be doing a pretty intense Armaillo dry hop which will impart a strong floral aroma, but the spice of the Perle will be a nice touch.

Racking to the Primary Fermentor

1. Cool the Wort

When the timer goes off and your boiling is complete, carefully carry your brewpot into to ‘the chilling zone’ (aka bathroom) and set the kettle on the foil. Connect the chiller’s intake hose to the faucet adapter and let the cold water flow:
chilling the wort

We will let the chiller do its thing until the wort is down around 80F. This takes about 15 mins with my bathroom faucet. While we are waiting, make sure your hydrometer, thermometer, strainer and funnel are sanitized. Done? Ok, drop your thermometer into the brewpot to monitor the temp.

2. Original Gravity Reading/Tweaking

When your wort is cooled to about 80F, you can either pull a sample of the wort to further cool in your fridge for a calibrated hydrometer reading:
pulled a sample and checking its temp before a hydrometer reading or you can just drop your hydrometer into the brewpot and take the reading at 80F. Although most hydrometers are calibreated for 59F, the difference in temp should only skew your reading about -.002 degrees. You can control for the temp with a formula, or just just do what i do and plug it into your brewing software and it will correct it for you. The nice part about taking your reading now is if your gravity is high, its easy to add some water to it bring it down.

Our original gravity reading is: 1.054… right on target :)

3. Transfer the wort

Now that the Original Gravity is in the ballpark, and our temp is around 80F, it’s time to transfer the wort into the primary fermentor. I like to use a large funnel with a strainer inside it. It also helps to get a hand with this step… especially if you want pictures.

Pouring the wort into the fermenter

More pouring of the wort into the fermenter

Success, and we didn’t even spill!
wort transferal complete

And the leftovers:
its alot easier to clean than it looks

4. Aerate the wort

There are lots of different ways to do this. And I’m not sure mine is very effective. Most of the aeration comes from transferring the wort from the kettle to the brewpot. All the splashing helps bring some oxygen into the mix. You can go nuts and transfer back forth into and out of buckets, yadda yadda yadda. Aside from actually running pure oxygen into your wort (yes, with the right equipment you can do this) I haven’t really heard of an effective way to load up your wort with oxygen. I swirl the carboy around and then let my hand off the top:


Probably doesn’t accomplish much, but what the heck most aeration techniques are for the birds anyway.

Pitching the Yeast

After letting the carboy sit still for a few minutes, it’s time to add the yeast. Just pour it right in the top:
adding the yeast

yeast has been added

After the yeast is added, seal off the carboy with the airlock:
what a sight!
Once the yeast get started, we want to keep oxygen OUT. Too much oxygen at this stage could oxidize and ruin the beer.

We also want to avoid unnecessary light exposure. I find the towel technique the easiest:
keepin' out the light

(Notice the Armarillo hops… those will be called into action soon)

After the yeast have had a few minutes to start hydrating, I like to swirl the carboy a little to help speed up the hydration process:
helping yeast hydration along


For this beer, we want to do some intense dry hopping. We are going to continually dry hop the beer. This means dry hopping in the primary, the secondary, and heck, probably in the keg as well. Without further ado, let’s add the first batch of Aramillo and kick of the dry hopping:
dry hopping commences

‘Dry hopping’ is really wet… So the term doesn’t really make sense to me. Dry hopping actually refers to hopping the beer without heat. Without heat, the alpha acids in the hops (what give the beer its bitterness) will not be released in the wort, and therefore not attribute any bitterness to the beer. However, all the glorious aroma will settle in and give the beer a nice floral smell (which will end up effecting the taste quite a bit)

Primary Fermentation — Waiting

Move the carboy to an out of the way, preferably dark, area to set for a week or so. You should start to see some fermentation activity in the morning. It usually takes anywhere from 8-24 hours to really get going. Keep an eye on things and make sure your fermentation doesn’t get too active for your carboy/airlock combination. If fermentation gets going too heavy and you think things might erupt, replace the airlock with a blow off hose that has its open end submerged in water. If that blows, you are really screwed :)

Try your best to leave it alone as much as possible. Heck, brew another batch to keep your mind off of it.

Congrats, you have done all you can for today

There is still more to do: secondary fermentation, racking, more dry hopping, etc… but the most complex stuff is done.

After getting this article together, I realize why I haven’t done this before. Its a lot of work :) More work than brewing itself! I hope this has helped you realize that all grain brewing is pretty easy. Or was at least was helpful in some way. I’ll update with photos throughout the fermentation process. Who knows, I might even have a another thread about secondary fermenting and kegging when the time comes!

Hasta luego and happy brewing.

UPDATE: Racking to the Secondary demo

I decided to break out the racking step into another article. It’s been a couple weeks and it’s time to transfer the beer to secondary for clarification, and another dry-hop addition. Check out the racking to the secondary demo if you’re interested.

10 Responses to 'Let’s brew: all grain demo'

  1. Wow. That was alot of work. Very cool, though! I might have to finally try home brewing myself!

  2. Andrew Fernsten says:

    Your beer tasted really good before, but now, after seeing all the work that goes into it… Perfect

  3. glad you guys likes the article. andy, i will bring some of this batch into work when is its ready. Walker, as I mentioned you are getting a care package, so be prepared to try this baby soon.

  4. My dad says I should tell you about “Creeping Charlie”. It’s a weed in the same family as the Hop plant. He says that long ago when home brewers couldn’t find or get hops, they would use Creeping Charlie as a substitute.

  5. I’ll check out the creeping charlie, sounds cool. I have been doing some reading on pre-hop beer, and all sorts of crazy roots/twings/berries were used waaaayy back when. Creeping Charlie sounds like a newer remedy for an age old problem :)

  6. Mary Greene says:

    Wow! What a great lesson. You need to put all this into a book! Your explanations and pictures are great!

  7. Jonathan says:

    Awww, thanks mom :)

  8. Zach Mc says:

    Dude, excellent tutorial..enlightens me on some practical methods of brewing. I’ve been brewing for less than a year now and have moved from Mr. Brew to my own ale pale and carboy, but am still working off kits…hopefully next year I’ll get into mashing, woo-hoo! Thanks for a great step-by-step..cheers!

  9. Jared says:

    Thanks for the detailed article! Would love to see more about your dehydrator too!

  10. Dave says:

    Hey Jonathan I used your recipe and guide as my initiation into all grain brewing, I found it easy to follow and really appreciated the inclusion of good quality images to help understand the process. The end product was stunning and I can honestly say hand to heart that this is the most delicious beer I’ve ever tasted in the 42 years of my beer swilling life… I’m bloody well hooked! Anyway just wanted to drop by to say thanks mate for sharing your wisdom!

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