All Grain Info



…is a multi-stepped process. It’s not difficult, but it requires new processes and equipment needs relative to extract brewing. The basics stay the same: malt, yeast, hops, water, and time.  Recipe formulation involves substituting base grains, usually 2-row, Pale,  Munich, or Pilsner malt for the extract.  These grains are properly crushed and mashed.  Mashing is an enzymatic process which results in the conversion of starches contained in the grains into fermentable sugars, and is generally conducted at 149-154 degrees. The easiest method known as infusion mashing, is done by simply steeping the grains in a measured amount of hot water (1.25-1.33 quarts/lb of grain) for 1 hour in an insulated container with a special false bottom for filtering out the grain. While this is happening, water is heated to 170-180 degrees for the sparge. Sparging is the collection of the sugars you just created. Water sprinkles down through the grain bed, leaching out all the available converted sugars, and exits from the bottom for collection in the brew pot. Unlike extract brewing, you must collect the entire volume for boiling, usually 6-6.5 gals of pre-boil wort for 5 gallons of finished wort. The wort is then boiled as normal. A propane burner is highly recommended for quick boiling, as most home stoves will take forever, and are not made for those weights. A wort chiller is imperative for quickly cooling the wort to pitching temperature.  Since boiling has driven off much oxygen, additional aeration of the wort is recommend.  This can be accomplished by splashing cooled wort into your primary and/or pouring through a wire strainer, or using a sanitary oxygen stone with filtered or sterile oxygen.




Starch conversion:  The enzymatic process of converting grain starches to fermentable malt sugars.  This is accomplised by using malted grains held at a specific ratio of water for specific time period.

Sparge:  The techincal term for controlled flow of rinse water through the grain bed at the end of starch conversion.  The sparge rinses sugar from the grain bed creating the wort.  In all-grain brewing a full pre-boil volume is required for maximum efficiency.  See our sample recipe below. 

Mash Tun:  A vessel that contains the mash during starch conversion.

Lauter Tun: A specialized vessel with a draining false bottom or manifold to let clear wort run-off while keeping grain in place.  Almost all brewers use a combination mash/lauter tun. 

Step Mashing:  A mash regime utlizing different temperate rests or steps.  Often used in Lager brewing.

Decoction Step Mashing:  A traditional mashing method whereby portion of the grain bed is removed a heated to a boil and then returned to the mash tun.  Traditionally used in Lager brewing and used when undermodified grains make up the mash bill. 

Infusion Mashing: A single step or rest conducted at one temperature usually for 60-90 minutes.  A well insulated vessel is typically used or a brew kettle held at low heat.

Batch Sparge (AKA No-Sparge or Dump Sparge) Technique:  “No-sparge” techniques streamline the all grain brewing process.  Batch sparging requires a mash/lauter tun that is about twice the volume typically used in conventional systems.  Instead of a careful sparging process, the sparge water is simply loaded or “dumped” into the mash/lauter tun at the end of starch conversion recirculated till clear and then run out as collected wort.  The benefits are shortened time, fewer process steps, and less equipment.  The trade-off is some loss of efficiency.  In a typical 5 gallon batch, this entails using an extra 2-3 pounds of grain ( or about $3-4 extra cost).

Word.doc on Batch Sparging: 

Batch sparge or no-sparge techniques.doc (32.00 kb)

Strike water:  Using infusion mashing technique a specific amount of water is mixed with grain at a specific temperature to target proper starch conversion.  Typically this is about 1.25 qts/pound of grain at about 16 degrees over mash temp.  See key ratios below.

Recirculating:  Before collecting wort the run-off from the mash tun should be clear and free from grain debris.  Typically this involves recirculating some wort back over the top of the grain bed using a coffee mug or small pitcher until the run-off clears up.  This doesn’t take long. 

Pre-boil Volume:  All grain brewing requires collecting about 25-30% more wort than your target batch size to account for evaporation.  The evaporation rate varies with the gravity of the boil, how vigorous the boil is, and the length of the boil.  In a typical 5 gallon batch about 6.25-6.5 gallons should be collected. 

Mash Temperature:  The mash temperature has a dramatic effect on the final beer.  The typical range spans from 147 to 158 degrees (for starch conversion).  At the high end of this range more dextrins (less readily fermentable sugars) are created resulting in more body, mouthfeel, and sweetness.  At the low end of this range, the opposite occours, A drier beer results with less body and a slightly higher alcohol potential. 


  • Water-to-grain ratio for mashing: 1.25 to 1.33 quarts water to pound of grain
  • Strike temperature/volume for infusion mashing: 15-17 degrees over target
  • Sparge Volume = Target yield
  • Mash range: 149-158 degrees:  151-3 degrees recommended “all around” temp for most styles
  • Mashing “cool” around 147-149 results in higher alcohol, drier finishing beer with less dextrin(s) and body
  • Mashing “warm” around 154-158 result in less alcohol, more residual dextrin/sugars and more body
  • Ideal Mash PH: 5.2-5.3

If your water supply is noticeably alkaline (greater than PH 7) or acidic (less than PH 7) corrections may optimize mashing.  At mash-in, a natural decrease in PH occurs.  Water at PH 6-8 is generally fine.  Our Bellingham residential water tests at PH 7-7.8, and will mash fine, however slight acid corrections may improve efficiency.


A typical all-grain recipe: Infusion mash, 5 gallon yield:


10# 2-row
8 oz Crystal 40l
4 oz Dextrin Malt
8 oz Munich Malt
4 oz Wheat Malt

OG:  1.055-57
Recommended mash temp:  152 degrees


  1. Determine how much water is needed for the mash. Typically 1.25 qts per pound of grain is used. 11.5x1.25=  14.37 qts/4=3.59 gallons of  water. Heat this water to 16 degrees above your target mash temperature to conduct an infusion mash, where you attain and keep one steady temperature.  We’ll use a mash temperature of 152 degrees (a good all-around temperature) so in summary: preheat 3.59 gallons to 168 degrees.
  2. Add this water to your insulated mash tun (or kettle), and slowly stir in the crushed grain, making sure there are no lumps and the grain is evenly wetted. Add any PH corrections at this point. Stir well, but do not splash. Take a temperature from different spots in the mash (the top, middle, and bottom) to get a true reading. Let sit for one hour.
  3. While mash is converting, begin heating 5 gallons sparge water to 170-180 degrees.
  4. Keeping the sparge water at 170-180, begin the sparge by either gently pouring the water over the grain bed, or preferably,  sprinkling the water constantly over the grain bed. Collect the first quart or two and recirculate by gently pouring this over the mash. Stop recirculating when wort is running clear. The idea is to slowly collect the liquid (the wort) into the brew kettle matching the sparge rate with your kettle outflow rate.  You want the outflow to not be greater than the inflow of sparge water, or you may get a stuck mash. A flow of 1 gallon per 6-8 minutes is perfect.  Avoid splashing during this process.
  5. After reaching 2 gallons, begin to slowly heat the wort, so you can be almost to a boil by the time you collect the full amount. Once the desired amount is collected, stop the sparge/runoff. From this point on, the process is almost the same as brewing with extracts.  5 gallons should take at least 30 minutes to run-off.  Collect 6-6.5 gallons of wort in brewpot which should boil down to 5-5.25 gallons of final, cooled wort.
  6. After reaching a boil, add the first addition of hops. Additional hops may be added throughout the boil as per recipe or inclination. Hops added earlier in the boil will contribute to the bitterness of the beer, while later additions add more flavor and aroma.
  7. Any fining agent such as Irish Moss, should be added 15 minutes before the end of the boil. Wort is generally boiled for a set amount of time, 1 hour or 90 minutes are the most used time frames. Longer boils are acceptable for certain styles, but hops should not be boiled for longer than 90 minutes.
  8. Near the end of the boil, Insert your sanitized immersion wort chiller to sterile via boil  Begin wort cooling.  Note that you have chosen some method for removing hops based on your choice of hop type and kettle equipment you have.  Sanitization becomes imperative from this point on! Rack into fermenter. Pitch yeast and aerate well.
  9. Keep a log book of your brew sessions and seek out opinions from everybody you can so as to make better beer the next time!

Some Background Notes on Estimating Efficiency

All grain brewing refers to deriving all of the fermentable sugars and flavors in a given beer from grains.  The grains are mashed which means they are crushed and steeped in a specific ratio of water and held at a target temperature, which causes starch conversion to sugar.  Several factors contribute to the efficiency of this starch conversion and the ability to extract this sugar effectively.  These include:

  • The degree to which the grain is modified.  Since almost all modern grains are highly modified this is of little concern to most brewers.
  • The crush of the grain.  Not too fine as to stick, but not so coarse as to leave uncracked husks.
  • The PH of the mash should be around 5.0 to 5.5.  Certain grain combinations and water chemistry can skew this out of balance, requiring acid corrections. 
  • The insulation and flow properties of the mash tun.  The mash tun should have a generous false bottom for flow, the grain bed must not compact during the sparge cementing shut and reducing the leaching of sugars.  The mash tun should be level and the sparge arm should evenly distribute sparge water over the grain bed.  The mash tun must be insulated to hold temperatures throughout the hour-long mash process and the sparge water should be hot enough to increase sugar solubility.

Unless you have a lot of dark roasted or unmalted grains, you can assume efficiencies of 1.033-1.037 per lb of grain per gallon of wort.

Common Grains:    *Theoretical Efficiency:
American 2-row    37
British Pale    38
Pilsner Malt    37
Wheat Malt (White)    38
Dextrin (Carapils)    33
Vienna    35
Munich (US)    34
Crystal 10-15    35
Crystal 25-35    35
Crystal 70-80    34
Crystal 125-135    33
Chocolate    29
Black    25
Roasted    24
Brown    32

So using an example recipe:

10# 2-row         37
8 oz Crystal 40l    35
4 oz Dextrin Malt    33
4 oz Wheat Malt    38
8 oz Munich Malt    34

Equals 11.5 total pounds of grain with an average efficiency of about 36 points

Using 11.5 x (the efficiency number) 36 = 414 (divided by gallons yield) 5 =  82.8 or 83

*So, under perfect efficiency you could get 1.083, but that is be pretty unlikely in the real world. A reasonable efficiency is more like 65-80% of the theoretical number.  Over time as you tweak your brewing procedures and manipulate water chemistry, your efficiency should increase.  What matters most is not absolute efficiency, but consistency over time.  I think 70% is acceptable.  With good procedures, 80-85% is about the practical limit.

We’ll use 70% as a good beginners’ estimate.  So, (70%) means .70 x 83 = 58.1 or 1.058 for this sample recipe assuming 70% efficiency and total potential grain yield of 36.

You can use a spreadsheet calculator to narrow in on your recipe, but roughly speaking, using 34-37 grain potential and 65% efficiency; you should be able to get a good estimate. 

This table provides a simplified reference:

Desired original gravity:               Assuming 65%  Effieciency:                                    Assuming: 80% Effeciency:           

1.045                                            9.5#                                                                              7.75#
1.050                                           10.5#                                                                             8.75#
1.055                                           11.5#                                                                              9.5#
1.060                                           12.25#                                                                            10.5#


The mash temperature you decide on could have a significant effect on your finished beer.  Mashing “hot” meaning mashing in the upper range of conversion (154-158 degrees) will result in sweeter higher residual gravities and thus more mouth feel and body and slightly less alcohol overall.  Mashing at the lower range of conversion 147-149 degrees) will conversely produce drier finishes, slightly higher alcohol and potentially less body and mouth feel.  All of this is related to the overall recipe context, so if your recipe doesn’t provide you with a recommended mash temperature you have may to make your own decision based on the overall style.  If you are really not sure, mashing right in the middle range at 151-153 degrees will work fine.

Recommended equipment for a complete 5 gal infusion mash system:

  • 8-9 gal Kettle (Mark or tap the key volume points: 6.5 gal, 5gal)
  • Wort chiller (Immersion style works great)
  • 5 gal Mash Tun with false bottom assembly with tubing and flow control
  • 5 gal Hot liquor tun with tubing and flow control
  • Sparge arm or ring (to be connected to your Hot liquor tun)
  • Accurate Thermometer
  • Propane burner (highly recommended, though a gas stove top can work)
  • Stirring spoon or spatula
  • Mug or small pitcher for recirculation

Final procedural notes and tips:

  • If you end up using a 3-tier system be careful when moving hot water!
  • Decide how you will strain out hops: boiling socks? manifold filters? whirlpool?
  • Temperature loss will occur in cool climates!   We assume about 16 degrees over target assuming a pre-warmed mash tun.  In the real world you may need another degree or two.
  • Consult a brewing book for advanced water chemistry corrections. PH agents or Acid malts could improve your efficiency.
  • Level your mash Tun and control flows to maximize sugar extraction and minimize hot side aeration and oxidation.
  • Know that your exact evaporation rate may vary from batch to batch.  Make some permanent marks in your kettle (or on your stirring spoon to assess volume).

The most common “all-grainer” mistakes:

  • Poor temperature control in the mash-tun:  Temperatures matter, and getting the correct strike for infusion brewing can be a bit tedious.  Use an accurate thermometer.  Don’t overact if the grain shows 168 in one corner and 142 in another.  Allow for some time for temperature equilibration.  Remember that enzymatic process is pretty much a one-way game, which is to say that heat de-activates enzymes.  You must be able to hold a solid temperate for 60 minutes.  If you start at 155 and drop down to 149 you have deactivated enzymes.  You can however start at 149 and then move to 155 for step mashing procedures.  Over time you may want to consider a stove-top (stock pot) heat-able mash-tun for real temperature control and the ability to conduct step mashing.
  • Poor sparging temperature/flow:  The sparging process should not be considered an after thought.  Think about, if you get complete and total starch conversion in the mash by careful process control, you still have to get those sugars out!  This is done by sparging with hot enough water at controlled flow rate via careful dispersion and percolation through the grain bed.  For infusion mashing, I’d recommend hitting the grain bed with sparge water that is 180 degrees.  The goal here is heating the mash bed thus creating more solubility.  Conversely, if you are step mashing you can conduct a mash out step to 168-170 and then sparge with water at 170 for good solubility.  Remember the goal is to get even flow through the grain bed, leaching out liquid (soluble) sugar while leaving the grain behind.  Simple reminders:  Make sure the mash tun is level, and you are not creating channels of single concentrated water flow through the grain bed.  Make sure you have real flow control on all vessels.  Take your time and don’t rush the sparge process.
  • Poor grind:  Try and get a proper grind with completely broken (but not pulverized) grain and husk material.  
  • Unrealistic efficiency:  Don’t assume you will nail your target gravities until you got some batches done.  Calculate your real world efficiency for realistic recipe formulation.  A “pre-boil” gravity check at the beginning of your boil can provide valuable information.  Pre-boil gravity readings typically reflect your final gravity minus 8-9 points.  So a pre-boil reading of 1.042 should yield a final gravity of about 1.050.  Armed with this information you can add malt extract or water to target your desired final gravity in case you are off.
  • Stuck Mash:  A stuck mash occurs when the false bottom fails to flow freely.  The common causes are:
    1.    Grain that is ground too fine
    2.    A grain bill that has high percentages of husk-less grain (Wheat or Flaked material)
    3.    A poorly designed false bottom with inadequate surface area
    4.    Rapid draining of the grain bed which “cements” the grain bed
    5.    Combination(s) of all of the above

In addition to the obvious remedies, brewers can back flush or under let the grain bed to regain flow, use rice hulls for potentially problematic recipes or incorporate sight glasses for better gauge on mash flows.


Typical stainless steel domed false bottom for use with buckets, Rubbermaid style coolers, or kettles:

Silicon food grade (heat rated) tubing shown here connecting the false bottom to the Thru-wall fitting in cooler:

Rubbermaid brand 10 gallon cylindrical cooler with Stainless valve and bulkhead (thru-wall) fitting:

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