3rd Essential Step Into All-Grain – All Grain Series

A big fear with extract brewers when switching to all-grain is that they are going to have to start all over again with recipes.  Well fear no more, you can take your extract recipes and convert them over to all-grain recipes so you’ll never have to leave them behind.

 I personally only know two different ways of converting recipes.  One is really worth sharing, the other not so much.   The one that is worth sharing is, “The Simple Method” the other not as big of a fan of because it’s hard to learn I’ve called, “The Technical Method”.  I know the names are amazingly descriptive, blame it on the lack of coffee this morning.  We continue.
The Simple Method
It may be easier to show by working backwards with an all-grain recipe to extract. To begin to know how to convert your recipes you need to find one key element.  The key element is the, “Base Malt”.  We have a blog written about base malts, but as of now know that this is the grain that you are going to get most of your fermentable sugars out of.  The base malt is the equivalent to your dry malt extract (dme) or you liquid malt extract (lme).  The way to find the base malt is look for the largest amount of grain.  Normally it wil be any where between 5lbs – 10 lbs.
Example Recipe:

8 lbs of pale malt

1 lb of crystal malt

(The 8 lbs of Pale Malt is the base malt)

Multiply the number of pounds of base malt by 0.75 to get the pounds of liquid extract. In this case we have 8 pounds of pale malt which means 6 pounds of liquid extract.

To convert to dry extract multiply the orginal base malt by  0.6.  In this case 8 lbs of pale malt becomes 4.8 pounds of dry malt.

So now, working in the other direction, as if your an extract brewer looking to convert into all-grain.  If you have a recipe that says:

4.8 lbs of Golden Light DME
1 lbs of Crystal Malt
4.8/.6 = 8 lbs of 2 Row
See really not that hard.  But I know as well as you know, not all recipes are just with golden light malt extract.   You have recipes that use dark malt and amber malt as well.  Here is the golden ticket for those.

The conversion is that amber malt extracts are typically 95% 2 row and 5% crystal malts (use 60L or 80L if possible).  For dark malt extract it is 90% 2 row and then 5% Roasted and 5% Chocolate (or crystal) malt.

Example With Pilsner Malt

6 lbs Pilsen Light DME =
6 lbs DME/.6 =
10 lbs of Pislner Malt

Example With Amber Malt

6 lbs Amber DME =
6 lbs Amber DME/.6 = 10 lbs 2row

but you still need to include the ratio listed above that is 95% is 2 row and 5% is crystal malt.

.95*10 lbs = 9.5 lbs 2 row
.05*10= .5  lbs of 60L Crystal Malt.
So at the end 6 lbs of Amber Malt extract is about the same as: 
9.5lbs 2row
.5 lbs 60L Crystal Malt
Really not too hard.  But if you wanted to make it more technical here is the technical method.
Technical Method
Dry malt is considered 100 percent sugar. This is the equivalent of 100° Brix. In one gallon of water, one pound of 100° Brix malt would yield a specific gravity of 1.045. Malt extract syrup about 80° Brix. One pound of an 80 percent mixture of sugar (80° Brix) dissolved in one gallon of water would yield 1.036 specific gravity.Multiply the maximum gravity (1.045) by the sugar percentage, which was 80 percent (0.8) in this case of 80° Brix extract. You are trying to get the specific gravity into “points” before multiplying. Specific gravity can be expressed as points for convenience in calculating. Just subtract 1 and multiply the result by 1,000. Specific gravity 1.045 is the same as 45 points.
1.045 (S.G.) = 45 points
0.8 (80 percent) x 45 points = 36
36 points = 1.036 (S.G.)
After you finish your calculation, remember to convert your “points” back to specific gravity.
The example above assumed 80° Brix extract.
Now that you know what specific gravity your extract will supply, you can aim to get the same specific gravity with your grains, but you need to take into account that your brewing system will not be able to extract the entire 100 percent of sugar from the grains.If you’ve never brewed all-grain before, you won’t know how efficient you are going to be, unless you know otherwise, assume that you will get 75 percent of the maximum quoted above (1.036 specific gravity), which is pretty typical for a home brewer.  This percentage is known as efficiency. Now, to convert your nine pounds of extract to grain, do the following:Determine how many points per pound you will get, in this case you are looking at getting 36 (1.036)Determine how many points per pound you will get from one pound of grain .  This is the 75% of 36.

Multiply the weight of extract (9lbs) by the ratio of points from the extract  (36) over points from grain (27)

9x(36/27) = 12 lbs of grain.

If you see specialty grains, you end up using the same amount in general for both.  In many cases this is true because you are assuming that you are steeping the is done correctly, which is with heating water from around 149F – 168F.

And that’s why I usually stick with the Simple Method….
So now you know that you won’t leave your recipes behind.  In fact you can plan on making your best recipe as your first recipe if you would like.  There is one big thing you should know when it comes to using hops with all-grain.  You typically use 25% less hops with all-grain when compared to the same recipe for extract with specialty grains.  The reason is that, hop utilization is based off of the amount of original gravity there is in the boil.  When boiling with 3 gallons of beer the gravity is going to be higher then when boiling with 5-7 gallons of water.  So take that into consideration when converting as well.
There are calculators out there which can help you with this, also programs like: Beer Smith, Pro Mash, Reel Beer Tools.  Truthfully they all pretty much do the same thing.  It really comes down to which interface you like the most and feel most comfortable with.  If they have free trials I would try them out first.
Beyond that I think that we’re ready to go onto to building some stuff that we need to get our all-grain brew on.  Which is the next step in the all-grain series.  Then it’s time to take it home and do the all-grain brew.
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2cnd Essential Step Into All-Grain – All Grain Series

The next part of the all-grain series is a basic overview of some main terms that are used to describe aspects of all-grain brewing.  While right now it may seem as you are looking at random puzzle pieces, trust me the picture will start to become more clear as we work through everything and get up to your first batch.  Soon enough everything will be more connected.


Mashing is a term for when grains are steeped in hot water, much like steeping for extract with specialty grains. The difference is that when all-grain brewers mash we are actually creating the malt extract that extract with specialty grain brewers are using.  This is actually the only difference in the whole process, this one step.

During mashing you are breaking down starches and enzymes.  This is where your level of control comes into play.  Depending on what you are trying to accomplish you can work your mash at different temps.  While we could really get into the different levels control at the different temps, you really won’t need to know a lot of the enzymes broken down at different temps.  Just go by a rule of thumb with this.  You will want to mash your brew most likely between 149-156.  When looking at this range, know that the lower the temp range (149) will get you a thinner beer with more fermentable sugars (higher alcohol).  On the upper range (156) it will give you a sweeter beer with less fermentable sugars (lower alcohol).

Mash Tun/Lautering Tun

This is the vessel which the grains and strike water go into.

Strike Water

This is the water that is added in with the grains to make the mash.  This water is crucial to get at least close to what you are looking for when looking at the mash temp.  If your feeling like SWAGing  (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) it for what temp you need to heat your water up to feel free, but there are free calculators out there to help you out as well.  What you end up doing is heating the water up to the designated temp, and then adding it in with your grains.  You should be pretty close to the mash temp that you want.  There are ways to adjust if your not.

Too Hot – Stir like crazy until it drops in temp

Too Cold – Add hot water

Single Temp Infusion

This is the type of brewing that we are going to be doing for the first batch.  This type of mashing is by far the simplest and should give you the results that you are looking for most beer styles.  Usually the way it works is that you will mash in at about 155 for an hour.  The way to maintain temp for an hour is a cooler which will be converted into a mash tun.  We’ll show you how to build that in a future post.  Some where on the internet I read that about 90% of the beers today are brewed this way.  I’m not exactly sure about that, I can just tell you that it wouldn’t surprise me.

Multiple Temp Rest Mashing

This gets a bit complicated and we won’t be doing it for the first batch.  But I still it’s worth knowing about at least a basic level of understanding.   Pretty much in a nutshell you end up starting at a lower temperature and you will add heat to the mash and letting it sit at different temps for a period of time.  If you know what your doing, you can build the sugar profiles to exactly what you’re looking for.  If you’re working out of a picnic cooler for this technique it’s a bit of pain.  The ideal set up is something like a pot, with a false bottom where you can add heat via propane rather then by water.  So at the end of this, don’t worry you won’t be doing it for your first batch.

This procedure really works well for doing some pretty cool lagers, but like I said, you can brew just about everything with the single infusion method.

Setting The Mill For The Right Gap

The thing with all-grain is that the better the crush of the grains the better your mash is going to be.  You need it so the husk are broken off but intact, not to turn it into flour.  If you are not looking at buying your own grain mill then your homebrew shop should be able to crush grains for you.  Just assume that they are going to be crushing at the correct level.

If you are looking at getting your own set up, I love barley crushers.  To me these really set the standard.  You can adjust the distance but I believe they come ready to go.  There are fancier ones out there but they cost more.  We have one at the shop, and it’s crushed thousands of pounds of grains; not a peep of discomfort out of that thing yet.  If you wanted to adjust the distance between the rollers you want to go somewhere between .035-.042 inch.  The way to measure the distance you need a feeler gauge.  They’re cheap don’t worry ($5).  Oh by the way, if you get your own mill, just hook a drill up to it.  Makes life better then cracking 15lbs of grains by hand.

Grain Bed

This is where the grains will settle out in your mash tun.  Don’t disturb the bed.


This is a technique to get the beer cleared up.  What you end up doing is recirculating the beer until it looks like unfiltered apple juice.


While all of these terms may mean nothing to you at the moment, they are part of the vocabulary for all-grain.  In extract with specialty grains you learned “steeping”, with all-grain brewing there is a bit more of a vocabulary.  You end up using these words when going through the process.  It will all start to make sense in a little.  All that’s left is learning how to convert your recipes from extract into all-grain and also how to build the equipment.  After that we’re good to go for the first all-grain experience.  It may seem like a lot at the moment but at the end you’re going to breeze through your first all-grain batch and also be able to share this knowledge with others.



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1st Essential Step Into All-Grain – All Grain Series

If your thinking about diving into all-grain brewing and have been reading different articles online about how to do it, you have come across the last one that you will need to read.  All-grain brewing is really not that hard, in fact it’s easy.

To make the switch to all-grain brewing we’ll go through a comprehensive step by step series answering the questions of, “Why, What & How?”  The first real question that needs to be answered though is, “Why?”.  After we get that addressed, we can move on.  Our goal with this step-by-step guide is to be able to make your switch into all-grain as easy as possible.  You will be confident enough with the idea of all-grain brewing your first will not only a sucess but, you will have the knowledge to teach your friends and family how to all-grain.

Exctract brewers will normally ask a few questions when getting intrested in the world of all-grain. I have a feeling that these questions are based off of assumptions of some loose, “facts” that are on the internet that should be cleared up before we dive in any further.  Time to tackle these one by one so we can get clarification and move on to the next step.  Just a quick note: I do both extract with specialty grains and all-grain.  It just depends on what mood I’m in, I’ll switch between the two.  Both are fun to me and also I really don’t care which one I do.  To me one isn’t better then the other, it’s all around fun.  So I really have no bias, just telling you how I see it.

Is all grain brewing cheaper?

Sometimes it can be.  A lot of people think that all-grain brewing is cheaper then extract brewing.  It is, in a sense that grains such as base malts are less expensive then malt extracts but in all actuality the difference is not a ton cheaper if you are just buying recipe to recipe (10lbs-15lbs of base malt at a time).  You save money doing all-grain brewing when you buy your base malts by bulk.

To show this, here is the following example from my own personal experience.

A 50 lbs bag of 2-row cost ruffly $45.  When I all-grain brew I usually use on average 10 lbs of base malts.  So one bag can get me 5 recipes out of it.  So we start with now $9 dollars a recipe.  Then you can assume using a few specialty grains, we’ll call it $5 worth of specialty grains just to make it easy – so we’re up to $14.  Throw in a few hops $5 dollars worth, up to $19.  And that’s where it stops for me because I culture my own yeast, but if you didn’t put on another $7-8 for good liquid yeast.  At the end of it your spending $26 per recipe.  So it’s $13 per case of brew.  Now that’s what I call saving money.  If you can culture your own yeast (which we have a post about it) you can make brew for about $9.50 per case.  But if you’re brewing per recipe figure that 10 lbs of 2 row might cost about $15-$20, so per recipe with that in mind you would be spending about $37 per recipe ($18.50 per case).  See, not a huge savings compared to when buying by bulk.

Going back to it, do you save money?  If you buy bulk you will.  In the beginning for your first few all-grain brews, just buy for the recipe and find out what base malts you like. Once you know what you like and have tried a bunch out, that’s when I would get a big bag.  My guess is it’s going to be 2-row or M.O.  But that’s up to you and what recipes you tend to make.

Does it really taste better?

I personally love this one.  If your an all-grain brewer (including myself don’t forget) you are going to have to answer, “Yes it taste better”, you just have to! If you didn’t why are you spending twice as long brewing if your really not saving that much money batch to batch?  So the answer is yes… kinda…

Honestly, I make some really good extract with specialty grain brews.  Some which most people wouldn’t know if its all-grain or extract brews.  At the end though people say that extract brewing has a tang to it.  I’m not really sure what this, “tang” is.  Never tasted it honestly.  But trust me, I believe you if you are reading this, and you happen to be the person telling me about this so called, “tang” in the beer.  I can tell you I haven’t had a, “tang” like flavor all-grain brewing.

Figure this though, (and I guess this is a legitimate argument) the brews that you buy from the store are made with an all-grain method, not extract.  So there has to be some truth in it tasting a certain way, “better” might not be the word I’m looking for, but who knows.

To get back to the answer.  Couldn’t really tell you if it taste better.  All-grain brewers have an unspoken rule, it’s to say there beer taste better when it’s all-grain verses extract.

Do you have more control?

If you know what your doing, yes.  If you don’t know what your doing you can screw up your all-grain by accident because of the level of control you do have.

The best way to think of this is driving a stick versus an automatic.  If you know how to drive stick it can be pretty fun.  You can really do exactly what you want to do, you can shift up and down making the car operate to the level that you want, maybe even show off.  Until you figure it out though, normally it can be discouraging and or annoying making you scream, “WHY CAN’T I JUST DRIVE?!”.

So  just know that you will have more control.  What is that particular control and how to use it will be another post.

Is all-grain brewing harder?

Simple answer is, nope.  A lot of people especially home brew shop owners and for the love of G-d I don’t know why, make all-grain brewing out to be some algorithm that makes you believe you have to be, “The chosen one” to understand it and have the ability to figure it out.   Truthfully that is the biggest fib I’ve ever heard.  Just remember, people were brewing all-grain beer by candel light.  With the technology and advancements we have today, easy as pie.

I just have to put this out there once and for all (not that it really will change anything anyone else will say), all-grain brewing is not any harder, of course like anything in life you can make it harder, hell you can make it near impossible but if you are just trying to brew a batch of beer with only grains; not hard.

That’s not to say it doesn’t take longer.  It takes about twice as long.  For your first all-grain batch, we’ll walk you threw it all step-by-step when we get to that point.  But if you didn’t want to do our recipe expect it take 6 hours (doing our recipe plan for about 4 hours start to finish, but we’ll see what we end up doing).  No joke.  After that you can usually expect 4 hours once you figure out how to multitask through the whole process.  For your first batch if your riding solo with no help you will be figuring out how to do everything and when to heat water when to do this and that, so it takes longer.  So here’s a quick piece of advice, start it in the morning for your first batch if possible.

Is it expensive to get the hardware for all-grain brewing?

You don’t need complicated stuff to get started.  Everything that you need you can either build it yourself, or get at a homebrew shop.  You don’t need a complicated brewing sculpture that cost $6000 to get started, even though they are pretty sweet.

Another post is going to be about building the stuff you need on a budget.  We’ll have step by step instructions on how to do it as well.

So at the end of it why do I personally do it..?

For me brewing is fun, I don’t take it too serious, it’s a hobby that I honestly just enjoy.  It’s not about the money that you save or the control I just think that all- grain brewing is just a lot of fun for a couple reasons.

I enjoy making beer from scratch.  I’m part of the whole process from start to finish.  Pretty cool.  Ya it takes 4 hours instead of 2 but, the fact of the matter is if I got time to kill or I know some buds want to smoke a cigar and drink some brews doesn’t really matter to me.   Another reason I enjoy it is you can make some recipes that are near impossible to make if your just an extract with specialty grains brewer.  Some all-grain recipes have you using base malts  like, munich, vienna, rye.  Any of those don’t have an equivilant or an easy one for extract brewing.

Like I said, I do both extract and all-grain brewing.  I wish someone would have told me when getting started into the hobby of brewing my own beer  just to buy all the stuff that I needed to get for all-grain.  All-grain equipment can be used for extract with specialty grain brewing but not the other way around.   When I got started brewing I heard the same stuff that most everyone else heard, “You should do X amount of recipes  before doing an all-grain recipe.”  Except, I have given the complete opposite advice to some customers.  If they tell me they are thinking about doing all-grain, I tell them, “Do it.”  If all else fails you will have the stuff for extract brewing if you don’t like all-grain brewing.


Now that you know some main over points with all-grain brewing, and if your still thinking about it’s time to make the next step.  We’ll discuss that as a part of our series of extract to all-grain.  

If you live in an apartment where you can’t use a burner, it does make a bit more tricky.  So I’m thinking about putting a special bonus together for those that can’t have use much equipment for all- grain brewing.   Should be fun, and pretty old school also.

So that really is it as an overview of the all-grain brewing madness, now the journey continues.



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