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The Beginners Guide to Advanced and All-Grain Brewing

By Richard B. Webb, the Brews Brother's 1993 Homebrewer of the year

**Ed. Note: In printing this article, I have changed and taken out some info. I felt there was some long droning sections that were unneeded for this article. Also, some updated into for your reading pleasure and accuracy. Mike Winslow

The purpose of this guide is to give you the brewer all the information you need to strike off into unknown brewing territories. In it, I will try to communicate my brewing philosophy and techniques. Zymurgy (pronounced Zi-mer-gee, with the i pronounced like 'eye') is the study of living, organic chemistry. It seeks to use and manipulate chemical compounds (such as salts and sugars), living organisms (yeast), and a universal solvent (water!) to create a pleasant tasting, psychoactive substance called alcohol. Alcohol is a drug, similar to many other drugs that every culture known to man has used to expand the consciousness, commune with the gods, or just to catch a buzz. Alcohol in general, and beer in particular, may have been the driving force behind the eventual civilizing of the beast, man.

What new equipment will you need?

Boiling pots

The process for all grain brewing is actually pretty easy. If you are an extract brewer now, you probably have the beginnings of an equipment pile already. An extract brewer can get away with a three or four gallon boiling container, but this is just a spittoon to serious all grain brewers. The first thing that you need for all grain brewing is a larger boiler. All grain brewing typically produces a gallon of water for every three or four pounds of grain, and it doesn't take much grain before the volumes of water begin to strain that old coffee cup of a boiler. My first bit of advice is to invest in a large boiler, the bigger the better, with a minimum of seven gallons is best. You may find yourself outgrowing even that size of boiler as your brewing plans become more ambitious, so consider getting an even bigger pot to start with.

Stainless steel pots are ideal for brewing, but they can be a bit pricey. An alternative to stainless steel is enameled steel. This is made by heating a glaze onto the surface of a cheaper type of steel kettle. This can work for you, but remember that any chip in the enamel that exposes the underlying steel will allow that steel to begin rusting.

My advice? Find a used stainless steel mega-pot or convert a beer keg, some welding may be involved, although there are weldless accessories on the market.

Cooling systems

Your old small boiler may have fit just fine in a sink filled with cold water and ice for cooling the wort after boiling, but your bigger boiler will never fit. If you don't have one already, invest in a wort chiller , or better yet, learn to make your own. They are frightfully easy to make. I prefer the copper coil immersion wort chillers myself. As the hot wort is cooled rapidly, proteinaceous matter (also called floating junk) condenses and precipitates out of solution. An immersion type chiller allows this stuff to settle out to the bottom of the boiling pot before it is transferred to the fermentation containers. If you get really creative, you can build a couple of wort chillers and chain them together, with the first chiller immersed in a bath of ice water, pre-cooling the water before it begins to chill your hot wort.

Immersion chillers are best kept clean prior to use, and are sterilized by placing into the wort while it is still hot. If there is any water inside the chiller, especially if there are also air bubbles inside, the heat from the kettle will force the water out of the chiller. Watch your shoes!

Another type of chiller is called a counter-flow chiller. This tube inside a tube system allows the draining of hot wort through a copper tube whose outside is being cooled by water. The picture formed is the opposite of the immersion chiller where the wort is on the outside of the tube, with coolant water flowing through the tubing. The counter-flow chiller has the advantage of siphoning the wort from the boiling container into a fermenter at the same time as it is being cooled, saving a step of transfer later on.

The counter-flow chiller is much more efficient at cooling the wort flowing through it, the proteinaceous matter that precipitates out of solution tends to stick to the sides of the tube. Care must be taken to completely flush this matter out of the tube prior to the next use. Failure to do so will ensure that your next batch of wort will be contaminated by nasty beasties growing in your chiller between batches. Proper cleaning of the chiller involves back flushing the tube with a series of nasty chemical baths which themselves leave residue which may taint future batches!

Mashing and Lautering Tuns

A tun is a container that is used to maintain certain environmental conditions while the malt sugar is being created. The mash tun holds the grain in a soup of water and sugar during this process. A lauter tun allows the liquid surrounding the grains to be drained off, while allowing more rinsing water (the sparge) to be run through the grains, allowing even further sugar extraction. One attribute of a good mash tun is the ability to allow liquid to flow easily through a straining system incorporated in the tun. Another of the attributes of a good tun is the ability to maintain a steady temperature. The most versatile tun that I've found is made from a large picnic cooler, with straining filters placed in the bottom to let the liquefied sugars pass through while restraining the spent grains. This set up combines the best attributes of the mash and lauter tuns into a single device, saving money, process steps, and a mess on the kitchen floor. (Another reason I do my mashing in the garage...) My design of the sieve is a very simple one. I use two four inch sections of slotted copper pipe, joined at the center with a Tee section. End caps keep the grain out of the ends of the pipes, and the outlet from the Tee section is connected to the cooler's outlet. Not only is this design simpler, but it is also harder to dislodge from the outlet. The smaller number of slits gives a longer sparge time, which increases the sugar extraction rate.

When creating such a tun and filter system, there are some points that you should keep in mind. The size of the tun determines the amount of grain you can mash, and if your tun is too small, you will be restricted to making light and wimpy beers, because you simply have no room to mash larger amounts of grain. When buying a cooler to make into a tun, get one with a drain system already in place. Drilling your own hole is a gateway to frustration.

A Stainless Steel Pot or Keg can be modified in the same fashion, these tuns become more universal in use. We will discuss more on this later.


If one of your goals is to maximize the amount of sugar that you can create from your grains (the ones that you've spent good money for!), then you need to know about sparging. Sparging is the running of hot water through the hot grains to dissolve the last bits of sugar from the mash. This is best done gently and slowly. If the water is flushing through the grain, pathways of water are formed, channeling the water around, and not through the grains. Hot water is used, but the temperature of the grains should never exceed 170 degrees Fahrenheit, as this would leech out harsh bitter oils from the grain husks. And the quantity of water must be such that after a sixty minute boil, the amount of wort called for in your recipe is the amount you wind up with. If you do make an error, it's probably better to wind up with to little liquor after the boil. The important points to remember are 1) gentle sparging, 2) temperature control, and 3) try to get the quantities right!

The Mash

Sugars, Extracts and adjuncts

Brewing requires sugar to use as food for the yeast beasties. In ancient times, the only source of sugar readily available was to be found in the hives of bees. Honey, exposed to rain water in the trunks of trees where bees had built their hives, might have been spontaneously fermented by "wild" yeasts, and likely would have yielded mankind's first experience with the joys of alcohol. Today, we seek to make something a little more palatable.

All grain brewing: Where does the sugar come from?

Anything with the right kind of sugar can be fermented, and most any kind of starch can be converted to the right kind of sugar. Fermentable sugars used in beer have traditionally been made from barley, a seed grain which has little use outside of brewing, but any kind of seed grain can be used to make fermentable sugars. The seed contains mostly starch. We encourage (some say trick) the seeds into converting this starch into sugar by controlling certain temperature, moisture, and other environmental needs. This process is begun at the great malting houses, and, in my case at least, is completed in my garage. Warmer temperatures (over 153 degrees Fahrenheit or so) encourage the type of enzymes, called alpha enzymes, that convert long chains of starches into medium length chains of sugars, called dextrins, which don't ferment very well, but are necessary for a well made beer. Temperatures below that encourage the beta enzymes, which convert the chains of dextrins into fermentable sugars. In order to get a good balance of fermentable and non-fermentable sugars, we seek to achieve a balance of temperature of around 150-153 degrees Fahrenheit.

The process by which seeds are made ready for brewing is called malting. When the seeds are bathed in warm water under conditions of continual aeration, they begin to germinate. This germination is interrupted by the maltster, who dries and sometimes roasts the partially germinated seeds. It is this drying and roasting process that determines the ultimate color of the malt sugars extracted from the malt.

Barley that is taken farther along in this malting process is called well-modified malt. Historically, this type of malt has lent itself to English style ales. When you buy ale or pale ale malt from your friendly neighborhood brewery supply store, you are buying well-modified malt. Other types of malt, referred to as under-modified, or lager malt, are of course, less well modified. This means that the malting process has not proceeded along as far as is the case with the well-modified malts. If you desire to get the maximum amount of extract/sugar from your malts, you need to know how to treat these two kinds of malt. Otherwise you're throwing money into the compost pile in the form of starch and sugar that you've neglected to remove from the malt.

While we call these malts ale malt and lager malt, these terms are pretty much subjective. There is nothing to stop you from using an ale malt with lager yeast, or vice-versa. For all intents and purposes, the only difference in the malts is the method best used to get the maximum amount of sugar from the grain.

Single Infusion Mash

The sugar in the well-modified malt is readily available to us, we can extract the maximum amount of sugar by a process called single step infusion mashing. Hot water at approximately 165 degrees is placed into the picnic cooler mash tun, and allowed to sit. This is necessary to heat the interior of the tun, allowing a constant and uniform temperature to be achieved. After the temperature settles, the grain is poured on top of the water and thoroughly mixed in. The starch tends to settle to the bottom of the tun where it is converted to sugar and drained away. The grain husks, which tend to float away, will then settle to the bottom of the tun, forming a filter bed to work in conjunction with the filtering properties of the slotted pipe. A constant temperature of about 149-158 degrees is maintained for up to 90 minutes, or until the starch has been completely converted to sugar. This conversion of starch to sugar is called saccharification. Some of the hot, sugary liquid is drained away, while more hot water is added to the tun until the temperature of the grains is about 170 degrees. This temperature is maintained for five to ten minutes, which allows the sugar created during saccharification to be readily dissolved. The liquid sugar soup is then partially drained away, while new water is allowed to flow through the grains.

One problem with single step infusion mashing is that the initial temperature of the grains is very hard to control. If the water is too hot when the grains are added (the strike temperature), then the enzymes in the grains can be killed, and an insufficient sugar yield will result. If the temperature is too low, then it will have to be raised, especially for beer styles that call for rich, thick, and full bodied beers. The temperature can be raised in a couple of ways. First, hot water can simply be added to the mash. This works up to a point, but it has a certain drawback. The enzymes are more likely to survive the high temperatures of the mash in a relatively thick grain bed. Adding hot water only serves to dilute the grain bed, resulting in a loss of enzymes. The other method of introducing heat to the mash is to remove some of the liquid from the mash. This liquor is heated up, and then returned to the mash. Basically, a Decoction Mash.

Decoction Mash

This process, most commonly used with lager, or less-modified malt, is similar to single step infusion mashing, yet different.

**Note: Most Grains malted today are modified to the point where a Decoction mash is not needed, but some people say it's the only way to get a TRUE lager flavor and crispness.MW

Instead of placing the grains into a liquid bath at a single, high temperature, the grains are introduced at a lower temperature into the cooler tun. Another tun (pot) is used to remove a 1/4 to 1/3 of the thickest part of the mixture. This liquor can be boiled for a few minutes and then returned to the mash tun. After returning the mixture , it must be steeped for 10 minutes to average the temperature. The goal is to slowly bring the original mash up to 150-155 F for Sugar conversion and rest. Care must be taken not to extract, heat, and return too much liquor at one time, lest the temperature inside the mash tun become too great. It takes a lot of heat added to the tun to increase the temperature significantly, so after a few small decoctions there is a temptation to drain the whole batch and boil it and return it to the tun. Try not to be too impatient...This is not a process for the faint of heart!

Step Mash

Step temperature mashing lends itself to heating in a kettle/Mash/Lauter Tun on a stove or burner. Step Mashing is an easier more user friendly version of a Decoction Mash. Grains are added to Hot water to equalize at 122 F, then held for enzyme activity. There are numerous STEPS that can be taken to achieve different end results. Constant stirring from the bottom of the pot upwards is needed during temperature changes. The temp at the top will appear cooler than the bottom, the stirring keeps a descent equilibrium to the mash temperature.


There is nothing wrong or sinful about using malt extracts. There are many wonderful malt extracts available on the market today. Extract brewers have taken many knocks concerning their "beginner" status. This is mere provincialism. The use of malt extracts allows the all-grain brewer to thicken up a batch of normally extracted sugars without the long term boiling that would otherwise be required to reduce the sugar solution to the higher gravities required for styles like bocks and barley wines.

Non-barley additives

Other substances, called adjuncts, can be added to the mash or kettle for a number of reasons. The most common adjunct, at least in British style brewing are various kinds of sugars. Because the malting of barley is so labor intensive, and therefore expensive, many types of sugars have been added to the boiling kettle to stretch out the mix. Adjuncts are more commonly added to the mash tun, with the most commonly added grain being wheat. Wheat is hard to malt, because it lacks a protective husk around the grain. Wheat is also higher in proteinaceous material, which can lead to a particulate haze in the final brew. The use of a little wheat in the mash can contribute to improved head retention, and so many of my recipes call for a pound or so of wheat in the grain bill.

Other grains can be added to the mash, but are not always malted. Rice is often used to stretch out barley sugars. In fact, the big mega-breweries use a lot of rice (and corn) to make the beer that makes the money that powers the hydroplanes and dragsters that seem to be these companies main products. Rice is not malted, but must be boiled, prepared just like you were going to eat it, to soften up the starches inside the grain. If this is not done, the enzymes provided by the barley malt will not be able to gain access to the starch in the grain.

Another method of making starch available to the enzymes is used with grains like rye, oats, and corn. These grains are crushed in special rollers, with the heat released by this operation serving to cook the grain. The crushing action also makes little grain bits out of big grain bits, making enzyme access that much easier. These grains, especially rye and oats, could also be boiled, but this would allow some nasty oils to be leeched out.

What other kinds of starch can be used to make beer?

Your imagination (and the trust of your friends) is all that stands between you and the next big micro-brewing revolution. If you can think of a starch, it can probably be mashed into your next brewing adventure. Many cultures make their own kind of beer without knowledge of barley, but other sources of converting enzymes must be found. Sake is a type of rice beer that uses only rice for starch and sugar. Millet and other grains are used for many intoxicating native beverages. For other sources of starch, the sky's the limit. Potatoes? Sure. Pumpkins? Why not. Peanuts? OK. Chickens? Well maybe not. The important thing is not to limit yourself to doing what everybody else does. You can't learn anything if you don't make mistakes.


pH is a measure of the acidity of a substance. There are no limits on the pH measurement scale, but because the scale is logarithmic (like the Richter scale for measuring earthquakes), a solution with a pH of 5 is ten times more acidic than a solution with a pH of 6, and a solution with a pH of 4 is ten times more acidic than a solution with a pH of 5. Pure distilled water forms the neutral point on this scale with a pH value of 7. Water that has been carbonated by dissolving carbon dioxide in it (forming a weak carbolic acid) has a lower pH, as does rain water, which absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Why do we worry about pH?

**We’re not, so it’s not added! MW

The Boil

You've finally finished draining and sparging the grains in your mash tun. Now what? From here on out, the procedure is similar to the techniques that you use for extract brewing. But here are some tips that maybe you didn't know.

When you are draining the rather warm sugar liquor from your tun into the boiling kettle, don't let the liquid fall too far, or splash up too much. This leads to what is called hot-side aeration, and can lead to some funny aftertastes. Rather unpleasant aftertastes.

You should bring the wort to a full and rolling boil before you add any hops, waiting until after the foam, or hot-break, dissolves. There are important chemical reactions taking place in the wort even then. The foam consists of proteinaceous matter that you want to coagulate out of the final beer. Of course, if you want a thick, full bodied beer (nutritious, as the Brits would say), then a long boil, over 90 minutes, will encourage the protein to re-dissolve back into the wort. But there are plenty of non-fermentable sugars in the liquor now, especially if your mash was held at temperatures above 155 degrees or so. This long boil will also make the finished beer darker, due to caramelization and other chemical reactions taking place over time. If you are seeking to keep the beer nice and light, mash at lower temperatures, and only boil for an hour or so.


All right you hop-heads, listen up. Be careful with these things! When you were using malt extract to make your beers, those small boiling pots made for a denser liquid than you will be using in all-grain. Consequently, the extraction, or utilization of the hop acids will be greater. Especially if you've read the section about adding Gypsum which accentuates the hops to make the perfect pale ale, your hops are going to be more pronounced in this thinner boiled beer. If you don't do your calculations very carefully, you'll be scraping bitter hop resin off of your teeth long into the evening.

This chart of my own construction shows the IBUs necessary to achieve one definition of "balanced" hop bitterness, based on the original gravity of the wort:

Original Gravity recommend IBU

1.010 4

1.020 8

1.030 12

1.040 16

1.050 24

1.060 32

1.070 40

1.080 48

1.090 56

1.100 64

Early Additions (Boiling Hops)

Early hop additions make more bitterness than later additions. Using more hops makes for more bitterness than using fewer hops. And using more bitter hops makes for more bitterness than less bitter hops. Hopefully this is obvious to you. What you may not know is that winding up with 6 gallons of wort leaves your beer almost 17% less bitter than you would have if you gotten the 5 gallons that you planned for. (This is also true of the color of the beer, but that's not my concern here.) This just goes to show how important it is to not only accurately design your beer, but also how important it is to keep to that plan.

Late Additions (Finishing Hops)

Hops that are added late to the boil do not complete the chemical changes necessary to extract all of the hop resins available to the kettle. Instead, the essential oils that are boiled away in long boils remain to contribute to hop flavor and aroma. Some hops are well known for their superior taste and aroma, while others are more suitable for long boil bittering. Try to match the hops to the style that you're trying to create.


Mystery Ingredients

Before hops were popularized in beer making, the sweetness of the malt was balanced by what was called "gruit". This tended to be a trade secret of the brewer, and was often grown right outside in the garden.If you have a creative bent, especially if you're also a prolific gardener, don't be afraid to try different herbs for bittering purposes. If you don't trust yourself, try small batches with new experiments. Maybe you don't want 5 gallons of hot chilli flavored beer, or maybe you don't have enough onions or garlic to flavor a large batch. And do you really like oregano that much?

If I'm going to leave you with one thought, let it be this. Try to use your enthusiasm for this hobby as a springboard to bigger and better things. And don't be afraid to do something really stupid. It's the only way you're ever going to learn anything!

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