What is the best all grain homebrewing equipment?
Hey folks! We wanted to take a few minutes today to discuss the various ways to switch from extract homebrewing to all grain homebrewing. There is nothing wrong with extract homebrewing, and you can make some great beers via extract homebrewing, however if you brew somewhat frequent, maybe once a month or so, making the change to all grain will be the 1st step forward in making some world class homebrew! There are 3 main options for equipment when changing over to all grain, and we'll take some time to review those so you can decide what the best step is for you.
Brew in a Bag
If you already have a 10 gallon pot you can see the additional investment is on the actual brew in a bag, which is not very expensive. Its important to have a 10 gallon pot because you'll be mashing in the pot, so the ability to add 10-16 lbs of grain plus water is key, that is if you are making a 5 gallon batch of beer.
With this method you'll be mashing in your brew kettle, so you line your pot with the brew in a bag, add your grain, add you water (1.25 - 1.5 qt of water per lb of grain) with your mash temperature being roughly between 148-156 degrees. The most important part of all grain brewing is getting conversion of starches in grains to convert to sugars so you can have wort, and this is the one drawback with brew in a bag. your kettle is not insulated, and you have to mash your grains and keep temperature for a steady 60 minutes, this can be the challenging part with brew in a bag. You'll need to wrap your kettle good in order to keep the temperature of the mash from falling. You could also keep your kettle on a burner, and turn it on very very low while stirring it to prevent real hot spots. This process of keeping a steady temperature will take some getting used to but once you get your process down you are golden, i've known people to start with brew in a bag, and never change, they love it!
3 Tiered all grain homebrew step up
With this method you are mashing your grains in a cooler mash tun, the coolers are insulated and keep great consistent temperatures, typically within 3 degrees or so depending on the time of year. The mash cooler is the bigger purchase above the brew kettle which you would need to get with the brew in a bag. so it can cost an additional 200 or so dollars for this system. The pro's for this system is a better and easier mashing process, also when you have this system after the mashing, you'll have to sparge (poor hot water into the mashtun as the mashtun drains the wort into the brew kettle. This method also gives you better efficiency with your mashing, typically you can get 80 to 85% efficiency when mashing this method. All the parts for this system are durable, don't typically fail and won't need to be replaced much, and if something does break you can just replace that one part. The con's would be a higher cost, as well as more space it takes up. I would say this has been the typical set up for homebrewing for years and years.
New all in one all grain homebrew systems
Above are new systems that have hit the market over the past few years. These are all in one all grain systems, there are several different companies that have put out these systems, the two biggest ones in my opinion are the brewers edge mash and boil and the Robobrew. These systems are very similar i believe the main difference is the robobrew can hold more grain for a higher ABV beer. These systems really are amazing, you add water, heat it up via the heating elements in the bottom of the system, then add your grain and stir. The circulation system and heating elements keep the mash at a precise temperature as well as gives you a very high efficiency rating. At the end you remove the grain via a stainless steel basket (similar to a brew in a bag system) and then you bring it to a boil. at the end of the boil the system even has a wort chiller. Everything you need to create an amazing all grain homebrew. The system is electric so you can brew indoors without worrying about gas from a burner system, it is very compact and takes up little room, and the price points are great! More expensive then the brew in a bag method, but cheaper then the 3 tiered system. The only drawback is if something breaks, you might have to replace the whole system, as opposed to the 3 tier system, if something breaks you can replace that one part.
Overall i think the new all in one all grain systems are amazing, and they are my TOP PICK, if i was to get a new system i would really look at these systems. incredible control, small and compact, and if you are doing a sour you can dial in any temperature you need and have the wort sit at the temperature for days without monitoring. These systems really are amazing! I hope you learned something, if you have any questions let me know! And as always i want to remind you that we are the premier homebrew store in Vermont, and most of New England, if you need anything please visit our website below. Thanks!