All-Grain Beer (On a Budget and in an Apartment)

Introduction: All-Grain Beer (On a Budget and in an Apartment)

About: I make things with yeast.

Brewing is an ancient art that helped bring about civilization. Wars have been fought over beer and friendships sealed over a pint. Today I'm going to show you how to bring a little bit of the life-blood of civilization into your own home!

This guide is aimed at complete beginners and shows how to brew an all grain-ale (as opposed to an extract beer, which involves buying the maltose already extracted from the grain and skipping straight to the boil stage) with limited resources and space.

Homebrewing can, sometimes, seem very intimidating, complicated and like an exercise in throwing money at a problem and this guide strives to create a counterpoint to that. You do not need perfect efficiency, precise temperatures or tons of fancy equipment to make good beer and have fun! Remember, beer predates the thermometer.

Note: I lost the recipe I was originally going to use, so this is going to be an exercise in winging it.

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Step 1: Assemble Your Stuff

First clean your kitchen. I know this seems common sense, but it's really important, you will make a mess and it's really nice to not have a preexisting mess to clean up. I also invariably spill something with a lot of sugar in it and end up with a sticky floor.

Things you will need:

Two 7-gallon food grade buckets, one this a hole bored in the side near the bottom

A plastic spigot that fits in aforementioned hole

A lid for the buckets with a small hole

A fermenter doo-hickey that fits in aforementioned hole (I'm sure this has a real name, I can't remember it for the life of me)

A large stainless steel pot that's at least 5 gallons (I need a bigger pot)

A mesh bag

Some large binder clips

A siphon

A thermometer

A large stirring paddle or spoon


A carboy, either glass or food-grade plastic, with a rubber stopper (A carboy is that weird plastic looking bucket with a small top in the picture)

A small scale

A hydrometer

A graduated cylinder

Grain Bill:

When I use the phrase malt I am referring to malted, or toasted, barley (or sometimes wheat). The different names in front of malt refers to how dark the grain got toasted. Pale malt is the base-line malt and should make up the largest portion of your grain-bill as it is the backbone of most beer.

For this recipe I used: (Weights are approximate, I don't have a scale big enough to properly weigh the grain. If anyone tells you that you need perfect precision to make a good beer they are lying to you.)

7 pounds pale malt

4 pounds wheat malt

1/3 pound flaked wheat

2/3 pound Munich malt

1/2 pound rice hulls

1 oz amarillo hop pellets (hop pellets are ground up hops compressed into a pellet shape and are more convenient then whole hops as they just dissolve into the beer and don't need to be fished back out)

1/4 oz centennial hop pellets

White Labs Belgian Wit Ale Yeast WLP 400 (wit translates to white and just refers to a Belgian style wheat beer, which was the goal here, but, uh, not the result)

7.5 gallons of bottled water



You can use tap water here, but you really need to filter it, and then maybe mix some minerals back in. Water is the most copious ingredient in beer and it is very important that the water tastes nice and neutral, but also it needs to have the proper mineral balance for the kind of beer you're making or it won't taste right.

This is actually part of why different areas of the world are known for different types of beer! Way back when, when people made beer they were stuck with the water in their area so they made beer that matched their water well. For instance, Burton on Trent has really hard water, which enhances hop bitterness, so they are now well known for the wonderful IPAs they make. (please excuse my enthusiasm for beer history)

You can find all this stuff online with a quick google, or at your local homebrew shop.

Step 2: ​Sanitize!

Sanitation is the the single most important step. Cleanliness is so much more important in brewing then in other cooking. We are trying to make a medium that facilitates yeast growth, so sugary warm and wet. What else likes those conditions? Pretty much every single other microbe out there. So sanitize everything, wash your hands a lot and don't let your significant other or dog into the kitchen.

Now if you do get an infection in your beer it is unlikely to make you sick, it's just going to make your beer taste bad. But if your beer smells weird, just throw it out and try again. The best advice ever given to me (By Mr. Bob Brewer of Anchor Steam himself!) is don't give up. You will make a bad beer. Just throw it out and try again.

Step 3: Mash

The first step of making our beer is extract the sugar, maltose, out of the grain, which you do through a process called mashing.

Simply, you submerge the grain in water that is about 155 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour. There are a lot of different ways to mash that involve different temperature ranges for different amounts of time. These require more sophisticated equipment then I have. Just remember that if you let the temp get to 170 the sugar conversion will stop, and the lower the temperature gets the slower the conversion will be. Keeping the temperature between 145 and 165 and you're golden.

A good rule of thumb is to use about 1 quart of water per pound of grain. I did not do this, I need a bigger pot. (Or, more realistically I should just make less beer at once.)

I mash by heating the water to 170 degrees, adding the grain and adjusting the stove temperature constantly while hovering over my baby and stirring a lot. This is not the easiest way to do it. Most people put the grain in a cooler or other insulated holding device (a mash tun) and pour the hot water over-top and walk away. I do not have the money or space of an extra piece of equipment. (If I take up even more space in the apartment with beer stuff my partner may kick me out. D:)

Step 4: Sparging

Sparging is the process of rinsing the sugar from them grain. The resulting liquid is the wort. First I set up the sparging bucket (the one with the hole in it) by attaching the spigot and placing the mesh bag inside, held up by the binder clips, with the other bucket underneath to catch the wort. (I tried it sans binder clips once and it did not work very well.)

Then you should let the wort drain out from the first bucket. You may need to un-clip the bag, pick it up and shake it around a bit. When it's fully drained, close the spigot and dump the worth back over the grain and then let it drain again. Meanwhile, heat up your sparge water, which should be 1.5 times your original mash water, to about 150 degrees and then slowly spray it over the top of the grain using the siphon. When the liquid has all drained into your second bucket you are done.

There are several different ways to sparge, this is an attempt at a fairly simple one.

Step 5: The Boil

The boil is where you, no surprises, boil the wort.

Dump the wort into your pot, add a few drops of fermcap if you'd like, (this will keep the wort from boiling over and creating an ungodly mess) and heat it up until it boils. Let the wort just steam and boil for a while until enough boils off that you are at your desired volume, 5 gallons in this case. (I had to add my wort in batches and let some boil off before adding more because I need a bigger pot.)

If you see chunky bits float up to the top like in the picture, just spoon it out. It's bits of protein that break out of the wort when it gets hot enough and is called trub.

When you reach the desired volume you can start adding the hops. The longer you boil the hops the more bitter and pronounced the hop flavor will be. If you add hops into the fermenter instead of the boil they will contribute a hoppy aroma rather then flavor. The traditional amount of time to boil the hops is one hour.

I added 2/3 ounce Amarillo at the start of the boil, 1/3 ounce Amarillo a half hour into the boil and 1/4 ounce Centennial 45 minutes into the boil, and then removed the pot from the heat one hour after I first added the Amarillo.

Step 6: Saving the Grain

While you are doing the boil you may be thinking, but what about all of this leftover, spent, grain? It seems such a waste to throw it all away! Well, you don't have to. Many big breweries feed the spent grain to cows. Seeing as I don't have any cows, what do I do with all that grain? Make bread of course!

Now I'm often too tired on brew day to also make bread, so I portion a bunch of the grain, 4 cups a bag, and freeze it for later use.

If people are interested I'll make an instructable on how to make spent grain bread.

Step 7: Cooling the Wort

Now that the boil is over you have to cool the wort as quickly as possible. I achieve this by dumping a bag of ice into the sink, running some cold tap water to make an ice bath and plunking the pot down into it and then stirring the wort. When the wort gets to about 70 degrees, or room temperature, you're done. (If we were making a lager it would need to go colder because lagers ferment at about 50 degrees while ales are fine at room temperature.)

At this point we can also check the gravity (density) of the wort. This will help us determine the alcohol content of the final beer. Spoon some of the wort into the graduated cylinder, place the hydrometer into the wort and take a reading. (I forgot to take a picture of this.) We will take a second reading when the beer is done fermenting and then be able to calculate the alcohol content with this formula:

( ( 1.05 x ( original gravity – final gravity) ) / final gravity ) / 0.79 x 100 = % alcohol by volume

where original gravity is the first reading we took and final gravity is the second reading we will take. (This step is completely optional, but it's nice to know how strong your beer is.)

Step 8: Add the Yeast!

When your wort is cool, go ahead and siphon it into the carboy. You could also use your second bucket, after you've washed it out and sanitized it again. Make sure to splash and shake your wort around to dissolve as much oxygen in there as possible. Yeast needs oxygen to survive. Shake up the yeast vial (or if using dried yeast dissolve it in some water) and dump it into the fermenter. Then put the plug in, or lid on, add a little water to the fermenter doo-hicky, stick it on and you're done! If you're using a clear carboy be sure to place it somewhere dark, or wrap it in a blanket, as light can damage your bear.

In a couple of days you should see some bubbles rising through the doo-hicky. This means your beer is fermenting! In two weeks it should be done and ready to be bottled, at which point I will make a second instructable to show you how!

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    6 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Nice instructable. I've been brewing beer for quite a while, but just partial mash. I haven't tried all grain because of all the extra equipment needed. Maybe it's time I give that a shot.


    5 years ago

    excellent instructable! I brew myself, and believe the more people know how easy and rewarding brewing is, the more brewers there will be.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    That's awesome. It's a project-based introduction to brewing, arranged like a glossary of terms. Publish more stuff and use a photo editor on your pictures, please. You've got a gift for communicating process, and simple tweaks to crop and color correct the pics will make this a nearly-perfect project.

    This isn't quite a first at-bat home run, but it's definitely a warning track triple. A great main image and it'd be out of the park.

    Please show us the spent grain bread project! We like to see folks use all parts of the grain 'round here. Nothing wasted, except for guests after too much homebrew. :D


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I want to see your spent grain bread. Do you have to mill it?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    No, you don't have to mill it, it just results in a coarse, crumbly bread. I like the texture, but if you don't you can dry and then mill the grain.