First Steps in All-Grain Brewing: The Mini Mash

Are you an extract or canned-kit brewer? Maybe you’d like to make the jump to all-grain, but don’t feel you can because you haven’t got all of the equipment?

Well you couldn’t be more wrong…

Why not try mini-mashing? It’s basically all-grain brewing on a small-scale, but using equipment that you’ve probably already got.

(Alright, you might have to buy some stuff…but I bet you’ve got a lot of it already…)

In fact, equipment-wise, you shouldn’t need anything more than the following:

1x Glass Brewing Thermometer
1x Gallon Glass Demijohn
1x Bung and Airlock for the Demijohn
1x Winemakers Simple Siphon and hose clamp
No-rinse Sterilizing Solution (StarSan or similar)
1x 10L Pan with lid (Pan A)
1x 5L Pan with lid (Pan B)
1x Fine Mesh Straining Bag or clean muslin to fit inside…
1x big colander
1x 3L Mixing bowl or similar heat proof container that the Colander will fit over
1x good-size funnel
8x 500ml fizzy pop or beer bottles (with caps!)

The recipe I’m working with here is a scaled down and modified recipe for a one gallon (4.5L) batch of standard bitter from the example recipes included with Beer Engine (http://www.practicalbrewing.co.uk/main/calculators/beerengine/)

I chose it because it’s nice and easy and doesn’t require a ton of different malts and hops.

Mini-mash-bitter

(in terms of yeast, you can use half of a 11.5 gram pack of something like Safale S04 Dry Ale Yeast or similar)

Now before you start:

IMPORTANT: Read through the instructions and ensure that you have got everything before you need it. Try and visualize exactly what you’ll be doing at each step. Don’t be stood there with a pan full of hot something, wondering what to do next. Plan!

IMPORTANT: You will probably need to set aside an absolute maximum of 3 hours to get through steps 1 to 4 without rushing. Really. This isn’t something that you can do in a snatched five minutes. Set some quality time aside to enjoy the process.

Step 1: The Mash

Ensure that you have labelled your pans “A” and “B”; A will be the “mash” pan (and should have a lid) and B will be the “sparge” pan.

On a stove, heat 3 litres of water in pan A to 75C and then turn off the heat.

Add all of the grains (as per the the recipe) to the water in pan A and stir gently to ensure that all the grain is wet and there are no lumps.

This is the mash – and “mashing” is a process where starches in the grain are converted to sugars that the yeast will then ferment to make alcohol and flavour in the finished beer.

Check the temperature of the stirred mash, it should be 65C. If it’s too cold, add some heat on the stove; if too hot, add cold water little-by-little until the stirred mash temperature is exactly 65C.

Turn off the heat under the pan.

Cover pan A with its lid and either leave it on the stove, or take it off of the stove and carefully wrap it in a blanket or old coats.

The mash needs to be left alone now for 60 minutes at 65C, so set a timer.

While the mash is going on, put 4 litres of water into the other pan (pan B) and onto the stove and heat up to 75C.

From time-to-time, during the hour-long mash, (e.g. every 20 minutes) check the temperature of the mash in pan A; if the temperature has dropped below 65C, carefully add gentle heat from the stove until, when stirred, the mash is 65C. Be careful, it’s very easy to scorch the mash, or push the mash temperature too high by overheating.

Step 2: The Mash-out and Sparge

After an hour it’s time for “The Sparge”.

Sparging is simply the rinsing of the grains in the mash with hot water to get at all of the sugars that have been extracted during the mashing process.

If you’ve wrapped your mash in a blanket, now is the time to unwrap it.

Before sparging you need to “mash out”: this is where you apply heat to the mash to stop the enzymatic activity which converts the malt to fermentable sugars.

Do this by placing pan A on the heat again and gently raising the heat while stirring. You need to slowly and carefully raise the temperature of the mash to 77C. Try not to overshoot the 77C target by heating too rapidly.

When you reach 77C in Pan A take it off of the heat.

Now put the colander (with the fine mesh bag inside of it) over the mixing bowl.

Pour the mash (grains and liquid) from pan A into the colander and leave to drain into the container.

When the grain has drained (DO NOT SQUEEZE OR MIX THE GRAIN AT ALL), move the colander (still containing the grains) over the (now empty) pan A and gently pour the mash liquid from the bowl back through the grains again through into pan A.

Now, using a jug, gently pour the 4 litres of 75C water from the other pan (pan B) over the grains in the sieve and leave to drain into pan A, this is the Sparge.

Don’t rush, let it all work through the grains – you’re trying to rinse the sugars from all of them, again: DO NOT SQUEEZE STIR OR AGITATE THE GRAINS – they are acting as a filter to trap all sorts of particles that you don’t want in the finished beer.

When all of the liquid has run through, you should have collected around 6 Litres of liquid (which is now known as “wort“) in Pan A, if it’s a little under this volume don’t worry too much.

Step 3: The Boil

Now put pan A back onto the stove and start to heat the liquid wort to a boil.

You can throw away the grains in the colander by composting, feeding to chickens or the local wildlife. You can even make bread with it…see “https://yeastismybitch.com/2013/06/20/bread-from-a-brew-day/” for more details.

Keep a careful eye on the pan throughout the boil, as liquid wort can sometimes boil over without warning. You will be boiling the wort for 60 minutes.

Once a gentle rolling boil has been achieved (check with the thermometer if you’re unsure), add the 60 minute hop addition (as detailed in the recipe) to the boiling wort and set a timer for 60 minutes.

Keep an eye in the boil and stir from time to time.

When the 60 minutes have elapsed, remove the pan from the heat.

Step 4: The Cool-down

Now take the pan off of the stove and place it into a sink of water or an ice bath to cool it down, being careful to keep cooling water or ice out of the pan.

IMPORTANT: Anything that touches the liquid wort from now on MUST be sterilized with the sterilizing solution

Monitor the temperature with the sterilized thermometer, you need the wort to be cooled to below 20C

When the wort has cooled to 20C, it can be poured into the sterilized demijohn using the sterilized funnel

If needed, top up the volume of the shoulder of the demijohn, using cooled boiled water.

Step 5: Prepare to Ferment

Sterilize a small sheet of tin foil and hold tightly over the demijohn opening with the palm of your hand and vigorously – but carefully, – shake the demijohn to get air into the wort. Wet demijohns can be very slippery. Be careful.

Temporarily put the sterilized airlock and sterilized bung into the demijohn opening.

Take half a pack of the yeast and add to 50ml of boiled water (cooled to at least 30c) in a clean and sterilized drinking glass.

Leave the yeast to hydrate for 15 minutes and it’ll become a thick creamy liquid. Stir with a sterilized teaspoon if necessary.

When it has hydrated, take the yeast mixture and carefully add to the demijohn full of wort.

Replace the sterilized airlock and sterilized bung into the neck of the demijohn and pour enough sterilizing solution into the trap of the airlock to fill just one “bubble”.

Step 6: The Ferment

Place the demijohn out of direct sunlight (preferably in the dark) and somewhere with a temperature between 17C and 20C.

Bubbles should start coming through the airlock within 24 hours.

Leave the wort to ferment for 2 weeks and don’t be tempted to fiddle. Leave it alone to do its thing. Every time you open the airlock to look, sniff or whatever you run the risk of introducing infection.

Step 7: Bottling and Conditioning

After 2 weeks the beer should have finished fermenting and should be starting to look clear.

Start by cleaning and sterilizing 8x 500ml (or 12x 330ml) bottles and caps. You should use bottles that have previously contained fizzy drinks and are able to contain pressure – beer bottles are obviously ideal, as are Polyethylene (PET) “pop” bottles.

Dissolve 20g of white sugar in 100ml of boiling water and allow to cool, then distribute that evenly between the bottles. This is the priming sugar that will feed the yeast and put the right amount of fizz into the finished beer.

Using the sterilizing solution to sterilize the Simple Siphon: tubing and all, inside and out.

Ensure that the hose clamp is also attached to the siphon tubing – about 2/3 of the way along.

Remove the airlock and bung from the demijohn and put the simple siphon into the demijohn containing the fermented beer.

Put the other end into one of the sterilized beer bottles (ensuring the beer bottle is at a lower level than the demijohn) and pump the siphon.

Let the beer flow into the bottle until it’s about 1 inch from the top, then close the hose clamp and move on to the next bottle and open the clamp again.

When all the bottle are filled and capped, move them to somewhere that’s around 20C for 4 days to carbonate up, before moving them to somewhere cooler – preferably on a stone or tiled cold floor – for a further 10 days.

This period of “cold conditioning” will aid the clearing of the finished beer

Step 8: Serve and Enjoy

After cold conditioning, open up a bottle and pour carefully to keep any yeast sediment in the bottle.

Share and enjoy!

Plan your next batch, you don’t want to be left without…

Notes:

You can use the Beer Engine software to scale down any beer recipe, Just ensure that the Original Gravity Fixed and Bitterness EBU Fixed tick boxes are ticked before you change the Volume amount to 4.5 Litres.

Greg at BrewUK, or Rob The Malt Miller will be very happy to supply you with grains and hops at very good prices.  Google them, place your order and say that Jon from Yeastismybitch.com sent you.

4 thoughts on “First Steps in All-Grain Brewing: The Mini Mash

  1. Thank you so much for this guide! It’s so much more concise than the instructions provided by Crafty Brews in their stove topper kits. Can I please ask for clarification on one point? After the wort is chilled to 20 degrees (after the boil). Should I filter the wort as I’m adding it to the demijohn? Just to remove the boil hops?

    I’ve just done a Saison kit and it required the final hop addition at the very end of the boil. If I don’t (filter), then I’d be including all the hops for the full fermentation – it’s just that the final hop addition won’t have been in the wort very long before I take them out.

    • Hi Richard,

      Thanks for your words, it’s always good to hear from folks that read the blog…

      You’re probably best ordering a small hop bag and doing your hopping during the boil in that. By using a bag you’ll keep all of the hops together and at the end of the boil you can just fish it out.

      If you filter after you’ve cooled the wort, you’ll have a right old faff sanitizing the filter/strainer/whatever.

      So yeah, a hop bag is probably the best way forward.

      In fact you could get a grain bag at the same time and then do all of your mashing of the grains in the grain bag, fish it out at the end of the mash and then drop in your hop bag (with the hops in) once you’re boiling.

      The other hop additions are a simple matter of opening up the bag, chucking them in and letting it carry on…

      Hope that helps?

      Cheers!

      Jon

      • Hi Jon,

        Ah, that’s great advice, thank you. I’ll certainly get a few bags ordered.

        What I didn’t mention, is that I decided to filter the hops (I used a sieve that had been in a bucket of star san, then sat it on top of the funnel). Anyway, afterwards I added some home-grown green chinook hops to the demijohn (should’ve used a brew bucket and bag…). It was my last chance to green hop fresh from the plant (though I should’ve frozen them, like you in your new blog post today…). It’ll probably get messy and I may have a go at transferring to secondary, as a way of getting rid of them later.

        So yeah, stove topper Saison kit, with green chinook hops in the primary, should be interesting….! But all good fun!!

        Cheers,
        Richard

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