How to Brew from Grain

Cleanliness is Godliness!  Memorize that, seriously!

I said, ROAR! ~ Cleanliness is Godliness!  not so much during the brewing process, but after the brew process has been completed, everything the beer comes in contact with (un-fermented or fermented) needs to be clean and sanitized!  Otherwise the beer can go bad.  We have yet to have a single batch go wrong!

Is brewing beer legal ?  Hell ya!

Check your states from the drop-down in the link above!

If you live in a different country other than US of A, check your local laws; hopefully it is legal too, if not move or don’t tell anyone!

For cleaning various products exists!  For sanitation, we like Star San, it has never let us down!  So you clean first and then sanitize!  That includes the fermentor, everything, the transfer lines, later when you bottles, the actual bottles need to also be sanitized and or Kegs, the rubber seals, EVERYTHING ROAR!

did I scare you yet! ? I hope so!  :- )

Beer is usually made from extracting sugars from grain like barley or wheat, its that simple!  Beginners brew beer from extracts.  Extracts already went through the process of extracting the sugars from the grain(s) and leaving it in extract form of various sources…

Most people when they start to brew, start with extracts, because the entire stage of going through various methods and steps to extract the sugars has already been done, so you can go straight to brewing beer.  The steps are as follows:

A) extract sugars from grain (you can skip if you are using extracts)

B) start to brew beer by mixing water with extracts (sugars), hops, other additives

C) after brewing beer is done, this is called wort (un-fermented beer), you cool, transfer the beer into a fermentor and pitch the yeast (various methods exist from beginner to more advanced)…

Let’s Begin…

If you want to really learn about beer brewing, you have to learn how to brew from grain, there is no escaping that!  There are also major economical reasons for doing this because brewing from grain is much cheaper $$$ than brewing from extracts and also a level of control is gained that is only available to you when you brew from grain.

A beer recipe will have various types of grains mixed into the recipe, some of the grain is base grain and some of it will be more fancier grain types.  The grain needs to go through a malting process (without this you are wasting your time), the malting process un-locks and makes available the various sugar types in the grain available to the beer extraction process.

There is already a great Wiki on the subject of malting so here you go:

So brew stores sell the grain that is already malted, so there is nothing to worry there, but if you were to grow say 2-row barley, after harvesting it and all that you would have to malt it (another layer of work) that mostly is not talked about in the beer brewing process.

Malting Houses do this work and then breweries buy the grain from them and also brew stores.  Also after the grain has been malted, it needs to be crushed, this is another crucial step (so make sure that if you buy a brew kit, the grained has been already crushed), if not you have to do that and also correctly.  The grain has to crush just so so….  You can buy a manual mill too, those are usually preset for the correct crush settings.

When you brew beer from extracts and skip this stage, you really only need 1 brew kettle, but when you go through the extraction process, you will need additional equipment.

In addition to the kettle, you will need another kettle with a built in thermometer, and this is called a mash tun; because you will literally be mashing the grain with some big spoon.

You will also need another 3rd container that will hold the strike water, that is water that has been heated to the proper temperature that you will introduce to the start of the extraction process, later steps also.. so 3 total kettles of some sort.

All of this is covered here:

Here is an example of a product picture to show:

A lot of people buy kegs and cut holes in the top and install values in order to turn them into brew keggles.  These are 15.5 gallons so you can brew smaller batches or bigger ones, all the way to up to 12 gallons, leaving some head room for the brewing process.

How to make a keggle without killing your self (that’s another article left for another frosty day), just know that brew pots, especially the bigger ones are not cheap, you are talking about $250 and up, sometimes even $500; but a used keg can by bought for $50 +/- (craig list) and converted with little effort, and people swear by those, including us here at Kodiak Brewing!  they are made like a tank and will last you a life-time and after you die, someone else can continue to brew in them, enough said….

Also most kegs are made from stainless steel, this is the preferred metal, but also aluminum pots are used, this metal is cheaper/lighter metal and will stain black when used, stainless steel stays nice and clean and does not get discoloration, but is heavier.  We have brewed in aluminum pots and this is as far as we know, only a visual thing, it does not affect the quality of the beer or change its color.

If you are not good making things, just buy a converted keggle, people make them!  :- )  check your local craig-list.   < picture coming up >…

So when you buy an all-grain kit, it will come with instructions, how much strike water to start out with, and the mash temperatures and durations, sparge (a hot shower), etc… I recommend getting a kit and following the instructions.

Once you have successfully brewed a few times, then you can assembly your own ingredients and make your own instructions and mix and match your grains.  Never be afraid to experiment, because that is in fact how the craft brew industry got to the point where it is now.

The basics of a grain brew from start to finish is (but varies of recipe and instructions)…

  •  pre-heat the right volume of starting water (strike water) and transfer that into the mash tun
  • add all our grains into the mash tun and mix it (mashing begins)
  • after the right time, transfer the hot sweet liquid from the mash tun to the brew kettle
  • for efficiency reasons, you want to re-mash or sparge the grain a 2nd time (various techniques exists), batch sparging is popular and attains about 85% extraction efficiency+  batch sparging is an older method that is undergoing a revival – Google…
  • you also maybe want to employ a re-circulation technique, this turns the grain into a filter and allows clean liquid to exit from the mash tun
  • once the mashing phase is done, that’s when the brewing actually start, you will again follow the recipe and adds other ingredients (spices, various different types of hops) at different times into the brew time
  • Once the brew time is over, you want to cool the wort (unfermented beer) as quickly as possible (again various equipment and style exists)
  • Don’t forget to take a OG water gravity reading, write that down (later you have to take a FG reading, to find out how much alcohol will end up in the beer) – read the other article here in the Blog
  • then you want to transfer the wort to a fermentor and pitch the yeast (again various different methods exist for pitching the yeast, some yeast is dry and some is wet, sometimes you make starters and sometimes you don’t), different people swear by different techniques.  We here at Kodiak have made lots of great beer simply by pitching dry yeast, but if you were a commercial brewer and you wanted consistency, you would cultivate your own yeast and maintain the strains :- )  Many books exists just on the subject of yeast and it is just as important as any ingredient

After the fermentation is over, you might want to consider secondary fermentation.  You can naturally corbonate the beer with priming sugar or transfer to kegs and use co2 gas.

Some people bottle, some don’t, some use kegs, some use growlers, its up to you!

At Kodiak Brewing we don’t bottle (because that just takes way too much time), we keg all our beer, unless we are going to give our the beer as gifts for other people to try, then we would bottle into 1 pint bottles.

From our experience, aging the beer is very important, good beer only comes with age.  Different styles of beer require different aging times, some 2 months, some 3, 6 and some even a year.

Commercial breweries also use filters to speed up the aging process, but there is a Pros and Cons to everything in life, including using filters.

If this sounds like an overwhelming article, it’s not.  You just have to go through to process a few times and the stars will slowly start to align, you will fall deeper and deeper into brewing.

There is no better way to learn than through experience, so go out there and don’t be afraid.

This article does not cover everything, or other fancy terms; that you will learn once you decide to roll up your sleeves and take the plunge; but it covers almost all the basics that you will need.

Also a good read is this Wiki:

You also want to learn about enzymes, Alphas and Betas and why temperatures are important during the mashing phase.  Also look into pH, learn that and the fact that proper pH matters for the extraction efficiency, so that also leads to water quality.

Is your water soft or hard ?  Are you on city water or well water like we are ?  Should you have your water analyzed or not ?  What about trace elements, do you have the right amount or not ?

Duration and pH variances also affect the sugar composition of the resulting wort!


This entry was posted in BEER Home Brewing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.