Question about All Grain

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I am looking at getting into all grain but I am confused about setup. What
is the difference between the 3-pot/3-burner system and the systems using
one pot and 2-coolers. Other then expense, what are the differences and is
either one better than the other? Also if going with the 3 pot system what
size pots are required for 5 gal. recipes. Are recirculation pumps necessary
and from where to where?


Re: Question about All Grain

Walter Venables wrote:
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I'd do just a little reading before taking the plunge, as there are a
lot of ways to do all grain. I got started with a single 8.25 gallon
canning pot and an easymasher-type screen. To this day I still usually
use a single cooler, one 15 gallon Al pot and one 15 gallon SS pot. No
pumps and one burner.

In the end, all-grain is pretty simple. Essentially you're just making a
giant batch of hot cereal, draining the liquid, boiling the liquid, and
cooling it. The only complicating factor, really, is that you're boiling
and cooling a fairly large volume.

Check here, for the basics -- I think what you find will help a lot with
your decision:
Personally, I find that buying complete systems is pretty pricey if
you're just doing 5-gallon batches.

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Re: Question about All Grain

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The difference is overkill. A system with 3 pots, 3 burners and a pump
might be easier to use than a simpler system, but maybe not. There's a
lot more complexity. Both will make the same quality beer.

I can't imagine why a 5 gallon system would require two coolers. Can
you elaborate on where you read about this?

My system consists of two kegs. I heat the mash water in the tun and
add the grain directly to it. Then I transfer (via gravity) to the
boil kettle. Since I have to place the burner stand on the floor, this
procedure involves two heavy lifts -- one lift to get the mash tun
above the boil kettle, and another lift after the boil, to get the
kettle above the fermenters to fill them.

Some people solve this problem with a pump. Some solve it by buying/
building a stand to keep the vessels in a tiered configuration so
gravity does all the work. If you build a tiered system remember that
you still have to empty the grain out of the mash tun at the end --
nothing saves you from having to do that.


Re: Question about All Grain

The 2 cooler system I was referring to are sold by companies like Northern

Re: Question about All Grain

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One cooler to hold your mash .... the other cooler to hold the temp of
your sparging water.

Re: Question about All Grain

GrantLee63 wrote:
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I only use one cooler, 2 pots and 1 burner.  No problem....see

Life begins at 60...1.060, that is.

Re: Question about All Grain

Walter Venables wrote:
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Basically, YOU make the beer, not the equipment.  Equipment choices
should be based on how you want to brew and your budget.  Take a look at
my "Cheap 'n' Easy" system....


Life begins at 60...1.060, that is.

Re: Question about All Grain

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Hi Walter,

The best advice I can offer about all grain brewing is to keep it
simple.  For years I considered going AG but hesitated because I
thought I needed a lot more equipment, gadgets, ph strips, etc.  Then,
after reading about how easy batch sparging can be, I took the leap
and haven't regretted it.

I use a converted keg boil kettle, a propane burner with two LP tanks
(walmart $30 special), a 54 quart cooler with a slotter copper
manifold that I built myself, a glass thermometer, and three 5 gallon
buckets to brew.  I use the buckets to move hot water from the boiler
(HLT) to the mash tun cooler, and also to collect the sweet wort from
the mash tun while the boiler (HLT) is still being used to heat sparge

And one doensn't have to have a large boil kettle and mash tun,
either.  I use these larger vessels as I prefer to brew 10 gallon
batches so I don't need to brew so often.

Sometimes I don't even bother checking the specific gravity of my
worts and beers.  Since I batch sparge, I've never bothered to check
the ph of the wort during the sparge.  I also buy my grain in bulk,
and have my local homebrew shop grind it (BrewCon in Boise will mill
your malt for free if you buy it from them...I appreciate this

Anway.  You don't need three kettles.  You definitely don't need
expensive pumps.  One doesn't need to have professional quality tools
to brew decent beer.


Scott P.
Brewing in Boise, Idaho

P.S. I do recommend that you get two LP tanks for all grain brewing.
Let's just say it's really inconvenient to run out of gas at ten at
night after swilling homebrew for four hours...

Re: Question about All Grain

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I was pretty confused about all of the possibilities when I started
well and although I'm still a newbie I feel comfortable with my
setup. I'm doing 3 gallon recipes using a SS pot that fits in my oven.
After pouring in the strike water I mash in the oven by setting the
temperature by thermometer.

After the mash I use a simple home made batch sparge system and
then boil on the stove where the recipe size isn't an issue. I cool
down in
the sink with plenty of ice and then ferment in a 5 gal carboy primary
before switching to a 3 gal secondary for clearing.  I had the carboys
from making wine so I didn't have to buy those.

I think the setup is about as simple as you can get which was what
I wanted in order to test out doing all grain. Being very simple I've
worked on my technique until I'm comfortable with what is going on and
could get more complicated from here on in but I'm comfortable enough
that I may even stay at 3 gal recipes for some time. Less to throw out
on a bad batch and depending on how much you drink you may not want
5 gals of stout and some other brews.

You even don't really need the batch sparge system but could use a
colander with a cheese cloth filter in it and pour the sparge water
the grain. You'd need to think about ensuring the grain is filtered
and hot side aeration with that technique.

It's a bit of a crude setup but cheap and easy. I grind my grain in
store where I buy it although I've even heard of people using cheap
corona mills or even blenders. A candy thermometer, the SS kettle,
my home made sparge setup, some long plastic spoons... that's
pretty much it.


Re: Question about All Grain

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You can make all grain beer with very cheap ($100) equipment or you can go
out and spend several thousand on a fancy SS automated tiered system.  In
the end you get the same beer.  There's nothing about the expensive
systems that will make your beer any better than what somebody can make
with cheap coolers/buckets.

What it really comes down to, is how much do you have to spend and what
type of system do you want.  If you like playing around with gadgets and
high tech stuff, then maybe a fancy system would be more "fun".  But the
beer will end up being just as good no matter which type of system you

Regarding pot size, I like to recommend a boil pot (kettle) that is 1.5X your
batch size.  So for a 5 gallon batch you'd want a 7.5 gallon kettle.  This
gives you plenty of room to do a full boil, plus the amount you will boil
off, plus some extra space so that you don't need to worry about boil overs.
For the mash tun, it depends on how strong you want your beers to be.  You
can use a 5 gallon mash tun for 5 gallon beers, but you'll be limited on
the amount of grain you can get into it and won't be able to make really
high OG beers.  If barleywines or other "big beer" styles appeal to you, then
a larger mash tun would be a good idea.  If you usually only make regular
strength beers, then a 5 gallon mash tun would probably be fine.


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