Beer Brewing – Full Mash w/ Sparge

Well, you finally made it. We are about to undertake an adventure of enormous proportions. Imagine, the ability to control every aspect of your home brewed beer’s flavor. With all grain beer brewing, you gain this amazing ability. You can control how dry or sweet your beer is and you can experience the ultimate in freshness. By using an all grain beer brewing technique, you can have the advantage of a freshness unobtainable by beer brewing with extract because you are making your malt extract right now, just before you brew. Compare this with malt extracts that have sat on the shelf for an unknown number of months and you can easily see why you would want to try all grain beer brewing. So, what is it that you have to do in exchange for this amazing ability? Not much. You just have to set aside a little more time and get a kettle capable of boiling the full volume of liquids needed for your brew. You will also need to construct an immersion chiller. I have included plans for this on my Articles page. I have created a list of things you need in order to brew an all-grain beer. We are going to make my favorite porter for this tutorial. It is usually about 5.2% alcohol and has a nice smooth, slightly sweet, flavor. Make sure you read through all of the instructions before you begin.

Beer Brewing Equipment

  • A lauter tun
  • Long spoon to stir the brew
  • Fermenter (a 6 1/2 gallon food grade plastic bucket or glass carboy)
  • Airlock (available at your local home brew store)
  • A sanitizing agent (chlorine bleach, iodophor is better)
  • 1 brewing thermometer
  • A brewing hydrometer
  • 54 cleaned and sanitized bottles (non twist-off type)
  • Bottle caps
  • A bottle capper
  • Optional secondary fermenter (a 5 gallon food grade vessel)
  • A 5 gallon food grade bucket for bottling
  • A brewer’s racking cane with hose (for siphoning beer)
  • Optional bottle filler

Additional Equipment

  • A stock pot of at least 7 gallons in size
  • Another 6 1/2 gallon bucket with a spigot to hold your sparge water
  • 10 feet of vinyl hose (attach 5 feet to each spigot)
  • Immersion cooling coil

Ingredients for a Powers’ Pirate’s Porter (PPP)

  • 7.5 pounds Beeson’s Pale Malt (crushed)
  • 1 pound Caramel/Crystal Malt – 80L (crushed)
  • 1 pound Chocolate Malt (350 SRM) (crushed)
  • .33 pounds German Wheat Malt (crushed)
  • .33 ounces Centennial Hops (60 min)
  • 1 teaspoon Irish Moss (20 min)
  • 1 ounces Willamette Hops (15 min)
  • .25 ounces Centennial Hops (3 min)
  • 1 ounces Willamette Hops (3 min)
  • 1 vial White Labs English Ale Yeast
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar

The Process

  1. The beer brewing day begins by making sure that all of your “tools” have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. This means that every piece that will come in contact with your brew has been thoroughly cleaned and has been soaked in a solution of one tablespoon chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water for at least an hour. After everything has been cleaned, sanitized, and rinsed well, it is time to begin the brewing procedure.
  2. Make sure you allow the yeast you are using to warm to room temperature for at least 6 hours before you begin your brew.
  3. Bring 1.2 quarts of water per pound of grain to 167 degrees on your stove in your large brewing pot. For this particular recipe, this amounts to 11.8 quarts. We also need to add the amount of foundation water we need to reach the perforated part of our lauter tun. The total amount of water to heat to 167 degrees is 15.8 quarts. When the water has reached the correct temperature, dump it into your lauter tun. This water is known as our strike water.
  4. Place your crushed grains into the water and thoroughly mix them. It is best to mix a little in at a time. In this case, our lauter tun is doubling as our mash tank. Put a lid on the lauter tun and leave the mixture to sit for about one hour. Sometimes it helps to wrap our mash/lauter tun with a blanket in order to help keep the temperature constant. During this time, enzymes are activated in the grains and the fermentable sugars are extracted.
  5. While the mash is sitting, heat 6 gallons of water on your stove to approximately 170 degrees.
  6. After the hour mashing process is complete, it is time to set your mash/lauter tun on a chair. slightly open the bottom spigot and allow about a quart of liquid to drain into a small saucepan. Gently pour it onto the top of the grain bed. Continue to do this until the liquid is free from grain debris. It should take about 15 minutes.
  7. Dump your 6 gallons of 170 degree water into the other plastic bucket you got to hold your sparge water. We are now ready to begin the sparging process. This is the time that we wash the residual sugars from our grain bed. Place this bucket on the counter above the chair that holds your mash/lauter tun.
  8. Take your large stock pot (7 gallons or larger) and place it under the spigot of the mash/lauter tun.
  9. Open the spigot slightly and allow the hot wort to flow from the mash/lauter tun and into the large pot. Once the level of the liquid has settled to about an inch above the surface of the grain bed, place the hose from your sparge tank on top of the grain bed. At the same rate that the liquid is leaving the lauter tun, gently allow the hose from your sparge bucket to sprinkle the 170 degree water onto the top of the grain bed. Try to keep the liquid level in the mash/lauter tun at an inch above the surface of the grain bed and don’t disturb it too much. You may need to move the hose around a little in order to evenly disperse the liquid. The idea is to stretch this process out for as long as possible. It should take between 30 and 45 minutes to complete this process. If it takes more time or less time, don’t worry. You can buy a rotating sparge arm for this process or something can be made to sprinkle the water onto the surface of the grain. The above described method is known as fly sparging.
  10. After all of the liquid has been transferred to the top of the grain bed, allow all the remaining liquid in the grains to drain into your large stock pot and discard the spent grains.
  11. Place the large stock pot on the stove and bring the solution to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, it is time to start making your hops additions. Boiling this much liquid on your stove can be a long process. On my electric stove, it took 60 minutes just to get the liquid hot enough to come to a moderate boil. I eventually switched to an outdoor propane cooker because of this.
  12. Place .33 ounces of Centennial Hops into the kettle and begin boiling your wort. These are your bittering hops. Make sure you pay attention, it is possible to have a sticky boil over when the boil begins. This wort boiling procedure will take exactly 60 minutes. During this time, the bitterness, flavors, and aroma of the hops will be extracted and the wort will be sanitized.
  13. 40 minutes into the boil, place one teaspoon of Irish Moss into the liquid. This will aid in the coagulation of proteins and will result in a cleaner tasting final product.
  14. 45 minutes into the boil, place the one ounce packet of Willamette Hops into the kettle. This is the Hops addition that will add a nice hop flavor to your beer. At this time, place your immersion chiller into the beer. This will sanitize it and minimize the chance of infection.
  15. 57 minutes into the boil, place the one ounce packet of Willamette Hops and .25 ounces of Centennial Hops into the kettle. These will be your aroma hops.
  16. After the 60 minute boil process has completed, it is time to cool the wort to yeast pitching temperature. This means attaching the immersion chiller to your sink faucet and turning on the cold water. Make sure the other end of the chiller is in your sink drain or you will have a wet mess on your hands. Briskly stir the beer in a circular motion for approximately a minute. This will help cause a whirlpool effect that will help urge the settling coldbreak material to drop to the center of the kettle. It should take about 20 to 45 minutes to cool your beer to yeast pitching temperature.
  17. Once the liquid has cooled to approximately 80 degrees, it is time to transfer it to your sanitized fermentation bucket or carboy. I would suggest using your racking cane to perform this procedure. Make sure you leave behind as much of the coagulated coldbreak material that is in the bottom of the kettle as possible. It is at this time that you might want to use your brewer’s hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of your beer. Fill the hydrometer’s tube with the beer and allow the hydrometer to float in a container. Read the number that appears at the liquid line. It should be a number that looks something like 1.052. Variances in this number can occur due to several reasons. Don’t worry about it. This number can allow us to determine the final alcohol content of our brew.
  18. Pitch your yeast into the beer and vigorously shake your fermentation tank. This agitation will help to increase the amount of oxygen in the beer. At this point, the yeast need a lot of oxygen in order to begin a healthy fermentation. Seal your fermentation vessel with the water-filled sanitized airlock.
  19. For most beers, fermentation will begin within 36 hours. Depending upon the style of beer you are making, the fermentation process will last anywhere between 4 to 7 days. If you have a secondary fermentation tank, it is at this time that you would siphon your beer off the yeast sediment in the primary fermenter and transfer it to the secondary. Fermenting beer that is treated in this manner and left in the secondary fermentation tank for at least 2 weeks will become much clearer and have a cleaner flavor. This process, however, is completely optional.
  20. Once fermentation is complete, transfer the beer to a bottling bucket. Add 3/4 cup of corn sugar that has been boiled with a cup of water. Stir the beer well to make sure the sugar solution is evenly mixed into the solution. Be very careful not to splash the beer at this point. Splashing can cause oxidation in the beer which can lead to off-flavors.
  21. The beer may now be transferred to the cleaned and sanitized bottles. It is also at this time that you should use your hydrometer to measure the final gravity of your beer. Place bottle caps on the bottles and allow them to sit in a warm place for approximately 14 days. You can enter your original and final gravities into the Beer Statistics calculator on my Calculator and Texts page in order to find out the alcohol content, calories per 12 ounces, and carbohydrate content of your beer.
  22. Enjoy your home brewed beer. Home brewed beer is best enjoyed in a clean glass. Pour all but the last quarter inch of beer from the bottle into the glass. This will leave behind the spent yeast cells that have finished performing their duties.