How to Brew Your First Whole Grain Batch of Beer – Mashing Made Easy

Making whole grain beer is an art as well as a science. Most people begin their homebrewing journey by using malt extracts, both because it is quicker and easier than brewing with grains, and because it takes less space and equipment. If you have never brewed your own beer before, you will probably want to begin with a homebrewing kit that includes malt extract. Learn the basics first, and then delve into the world of grain brewing when you are ready to move on to something more complex. Brewing with grains allows you to truly customize the taste of your own beer.

The first step to making beer involves taking grains and removing the sugars from them. When you brew with malt extract, this step has already been done for you. When you brew with whole grains, you will have to steep them in hot water to remove the sugars yourself. Grains are made from starches, and cooking them in hot water will allow natural enzymes to convert those starches into sugars that can be fermented. Different enzymes work at different temperatures, so you can alter the taste of your beer by altering the temperatures you cook your mash at. For simplicity, you will probably want to cook your first mash at a single temperature. Later, you can move on to cooking for different periods at successively higher temperatures in order to change the flavor of your mash.
Begin your first whole grain batch of beer by sterilizing everything you will be using, and gathering your ingredients. This process goes quickly, and is probably easier than you think. You should have something to cook your grains in, your boiling pot, a thermometer, and the equipment of your choice to strain the wort off your grain. If you don’t have a grain mill at home, ask the brew shop to crush the grain for you.
You will start with the pot and thermometer. Begin by heating your water on the stove. The water should be at least 10 degrees hotter than the temperature you want to cook your mash at, because adding the grain will lower the water temperature. Once you get the grain into the water and the temperature just right, you will want to keep the temperature consistent for an hour. Some people stick the pot in the oven, some people put it in a cooler, and others just keep it on the stove. The amount of water per pound of grain will probably be specified in your recipe, if not, try 1.5-2 quarts of water per pound of grain. Keep it at about 150 degrees or a little more for one hour, this is the method used to make most types of beers.
After you have cooked your mash for one hour, you may want to raise the temperature to 170 briefly. This stops the enzyme action right where you want it, instead of continuing until later in the process. Then you will need to sparge your grains. Sparging is the process of rinsing the remaining sugars out of your grains. You will need to strain them, hopefully you have used a sparging kettle or have your grains in a container with a spout set in the side. Heat your sparge water to about 170 degrees, and plan on using about 5 gallons of water for 10 pounds of grain. Slowly pour your sparge water over the grains, and let it flow out into your boiling kettle.
Now you should have 6 or more gallons of sweet liquor. Add your hops and start making your wort!