Author Topic: Stepping into partial mash  (Read 5661 times)

Offline applecrew135

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Stepping into partial mash
« on: March 21, 2013, 06:54:12 AM »
I've been wanting to get involved with all-grain brewing for the longest time, but don't have the equipment, and have even less ability to control mash temperatures on an electric range - or so I thought until last night.

In my last batch, I used a cooler filled with an ice-water batch to chill my wort prior to fermenting. Since I am only doing small batches at the moment, it's easy for me to put my boiling kettle into the cooler, and I can even close the lid. Works great, and I can quickly chill my wort down to pitching temp.

I also steeped some crystal malt on my stove top for my last brew, and my experience was that it was very difficult to maintain a steady temperature - it was more like a 10-degree range that I kept bouncing around in (I hate electric ranges!), and I think I need to do better than that before I try a partial mash. I thought about using my oven to hold the temperature, but even that would be difficult without an accurate thermometer.

Then how do I manage my grains and sparging? I don't have a mash/lauter tun, and really don't want to build one just yet. So many questions...

Within the last two weeks I read an article about a home-built mashing tun that was pretty cool - using an immersion chiiler that circulated hot water through it (pump controlled by a temp controller) to maintain mash temps. Nice, but not a project I want to tackle right now.

So I started thinking... about my cooler, and how I could use it without having to carve it up. And I made a trip to Home Depot to get a attachment for my drill to help me aerate the wort prior to pitching my yeast, and it all came together.  Instead of an ice bath to cool my kettle, I could use a hot water bath to maintain a temp. I bet I can get the temp in the cooler to my target temp within a fairly narrow range. It's then a matter of gently heating my kettle to get very close to my target temp and then transfer the kettle to the cooler and cover it. I bet the temp will hold a lot steadier than I could ever manage on the stove top alone!

This even makes it possible to add steps to my mash without adding more liquids to my grains... just raise the temp of the bath in the cooler, and then gently heat the kettle till I reach the desired temp then transfer back to the cooler for the rest period.

Of course, we're not talking about 5 gallons of wort being moved around. I'm doing 2.5 gallon batches to experiment with, so this is all very do-able. As I found my aerator, I also spied some 5-gallon nylon paint-straining bags... and cheap! So it's off for an experiment... Going to do a partial mash, grains in the bag for an infusion mash. After mashing, I can then put the grains and bag in a large strainer over the kettle to sparge... then add my extract (going for an Imperial IPA) and get ready to boil!

I'm pretty excited about this. I could probably do all grain for medium to light ales with this setup. Looks to be a very manageable way to step into all-grain without having to spend some dough to scale up to 5 gallon all-grain. Cool! I'll let you know how this turns out.

Offline tom_hampton

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Re: Stepping into partial mash
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2013, 12:17:20 PM »
Should work just fine.

Just to throw another option out there to consider:

At home depot you may not have noticed that they have 2.5 gallon round coolers, too.  Take that cooler, put your nylon paint strainer bag in it.  Add your grain and your mash water at strike temperature + 5 degrees.  Put the lid on, wait an hour.

Remove bag from cooler and proceed as you have described already. 

I make my starter wort using this exact setup.  The cooler will hold up to 4 lbs of grain.  Which is enough to make 3-4 gallons of 1.040 wort without DME/LME.

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Offline MaltLicker

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Re: Stepping into partial mash
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2013, 09:08:59 AM »
...............I'm doing 2.5 gallon batches to experiment with, so this is all very do-able.

And you could stick with 2.5 gallons for AG, full-boil, or you could add DME to increase the batch size if you wished. 

What you described would work for anyone doing extract that wanted to add fresh malt flavors from a partial mash technique. 

Offline alcaponejunior

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Re: Stepping into partial mash
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2013, 08:43:41 AM »
Sounds like you're on the right path.  What you're proposing is basically "BIAB" (brew in a bag).  Lots of info on that online.

What you're doing isn't that far off of what I did when I was doing partial mash batches.  I feel your post was more rhetorical than your actually needing a bunch of advice, you just needed someone to say "go for it."

Go for it.