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It's Time to "Begin Brewing"

There is a lot to learn and know about brewing beer.  I've been doing it for a few years now, and I definitely don't consider myself an expert.  I've made mistakes that required me to toss out a batch of beer, mistakes that resulted in a beer that didn't meet my expectations, and mistakes that cost me some extra money.  If you're interested in brewing your own beer but feel like you have a lot to learn, I understand your concern and I built this blog to help folks like you.  I want to help you make good choices of equipment, pick recipes that challenge you but don't exceed your skill level, show you how to do some basic things in brewing, and hopefully help you avoid the mistakes I made early on.

You might see posts like these in the coming weeks:

  • Articles about brewing terminology like wort, flocculate, sparge, and attenuation
  • Selecting the right equipment to start out
  • "Brew along" posts showing a beer from recipe selection through bottling

  • Beer recipes that are easy for a beginner to follow and produce a good beer
  • Demonstrations of common brewing techniques
  • Getting good deals on equipment and ingredients
  • Alternatives to the more-expensive brewing equipment
  • Links to other good sites on brewing
  • Reviews of books about brewing
  • Reviews of brewing equipment
  • Different grain types and how they change a beer's flavor
  • Pellet vs. whole hops
Those are just a few things off the top of my head.  If you have suggestions for posts you'd like to see, let me know in the comments.

While we're on the subject of comments, I totally encourage them - provided that your comment is related to the post and constructive in some way.  Can you correct a mistake or misunderstanding in my post?  Do you have additional information (or a good link) to share on that topic?  Do you have a solution to a problem I'm describing?  Do you just want to say "thanks" for the article?  Go ahead.  

The first "real" post will appear in about 24 hours.  Posts should appear approximately weekly after that, or more often when I can write them.  I hope you'll be back, and share this site with your home brewing friends.  Thanks!

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Brewing with The Grainfather, Part 1 - Mashing and Sparging

(Important note:  This article series is based on the US version of the product.  Prices are expressed in US dollars, measurements of temperature and volume are in US units unless otherwise noted.)

iMake's The Grainfather is an all-in-one RIMS brewing system designed to be used indoors with household electric current.  It includes the kettle, grain basket, recirculation tube, pump, electronic temperature controller, instruction book, and counterflow chiller.  It does not include a mash paddle, fermenter, cleaning supplies, or pretty much anything else.  The price is around $800-900 depending on where you shop and the discounts offered.

The Grainfather handles mashing, boiling, recirculating, sparging (to a degree), and chilling of the wort.  You'll still need a fermentation vessel of some sort and some other supplies we'll discuss later.

Grainfather Assembly and Initial Cleaning

Assembly of The Grainfather in my experience was pretty easy overall.  There were a couple of s…

Things I've Learned Brewing with The Grainfather, Part 2

In the last post, I shared an overview of The Grainfather, recommended equipment to use with it, and an overview of the brewing process.  In this installment, I'm going to talk specifically about mashing and sparging. Having brewed over a dozen batches with it, I'm finally becoming very comfortable with the device, the mash process, and how to get what I want out of it. I don't consider myself a "master" of it yet, though.

For those who have never done all-grain brewing, I want to provide a quick overview of the mash process itself.

Mashing - With or Without The Grainfather
The goal of mashing is to turn the starches in the grain into sugars. More specifically, you want to turn the starches into a mix of fermentable and unfermentable sugars that provide the flavor profile associated with the beer you are brewing. A sweeter beer might warrant more unfermentable sugars. A more dry beer will demand few unfermentable sugars.

To a great extent, controlling the amount o…

Brewing with The Grainfather, Part 3 - Cleaning and Overall Thoughts

In Part 1 of this series, I introduced The Grainfather and discussed how to use it for mashing and sparging.  In Part 2, we talked about boiling and chilling the wort with The Grainfather and its included counterflow chiller.  In this final segment, we'll discuss cleanup and overall thoughts about the device and its usage.

Cleanup

Once you've pumped the wort from The Grainfather into your fermenter and pitched your yeast, you're well on your way to a delicious batch of homebrew.  Unfortunately, you've still got some cleanup work to do.

The cleanup process in my experience will take 20-30 minutes.  It involves the following tasks:

Removing and discarding the grain from The Grainfather's grain basketCleaning the grain basket, kettle, recirculation tube, and wort chillerCleaning all the other implements used in brewing (scale, scoops, mash paddle, etc.) At the end of the brewing process, there will be hops bags (if you used them), grain and other residue, and usually so…