All grain brewing is the process of making beer from malted barley, hops, water and yeast. There are many technical tricks and calculations brewers use to increase the efficiency of the process, or make particularly tricky styles of beer. This article will cover none of these, as it is designed to teach you how to make your first all grain beer. If, once you have mastered this process, you want to look into what is happening in a little more detail, go for it. But for now, lets just get the basics down.

Continuing with a technical theme, Thom outlines the importance of calcium to the brewing process and how to calculate appropriate additions.

Calcium is essential to every step in the brewing process. Most water supplies used in brewing are deficient in calcium and additions of salts are required to increase calcium to a more suitable level. The main actions of calcium are:

  • It influences mash pH in a beneficial way, ensuring that the pH is kept low enough for effective mashing. This is achieved through interaction of calcium with carbonates in the water. Carbonates tend to increase wort pH, dragging it away from the optimal pH of around 5.2. Calcium binds to carbonates forming compounds that precipitate out of solution and remove the ability of carbonates to influence mash pH.
  • Calcium protects malt amylases against heat inactivation during the mash. Malt amylases steadily lose their ability to convert starch into simpler sugars during the mash because the mash temperature is a compromise between the optimal operating temperature of both alpha and beta amylase. Alpha amylase suffers most during the mash, but a sufficient calcium concentration protects the enzyme from heat inactivation.
  • During the boil trub is formed by the precipitation of protein matter through thermal degradation, but calcium plays a significant role in trub formation by neutralising protein molecules through electrostatic interactions. A minimum calcium concentration of 100 mg/l is required for good trub formation.
  • Yeast flocculation is aided by calcium through the interaction with proteins on yeast cell walls. Most strains require at least 50 milligrams/litre (mg/l) for good flocculation.
  • Beer stone is formed from a build up of oxalate on brewing equipment. Oxalate in packaged beer provided nucleation sites for carbon dioxide that promotes gushing upon opening of the package. Values of 70 - 80 mg/l are sufficient to remove excess oxalate from the brewing process.

AmylaseMashing is a fundamental part of all grain brewing and if you are anything like me, the thought of making the leap from extract brewing to all grain mashing was an intimidating one. At the outset it brings with it a number of anxieties that the producer of the malt extract has borne for you in the production of ready fermentable extract.

Mashing is a complex procedure at the biochemical level with any number of molecular processes that must be provided a suitable environment to work effectively. Thankfully, providing a suitable environment is relatively simple using home brew equipment and in this article I hope to explain some of the biochemical reactions that are so important for effective mashing.

Mash tun and boiler in one.I have been brewing all grain for a few years now and have managed to produce all manner of beers with my simple, low tech system. It involves mashing and boiling in an electrim bin and has elements in common with the “brew in a bag” system recently pioneered by Australian brewers, but it differs in a couple of ways, most notably the fact that I sparge and I collect the runoff in a second vessel before returning it to the boiler.

I have learned a lot about brewing since I started using this system and have spent quite a bit of money on equipment for various bits of my process, but I have never upgraded the mashing side of things. There are several reasons for this, like the fact that I get quite good efficiency numbers, but more importantly, I make good beer with this system and that is the whole point of brewing, after all.