This may seem like a really silly post to some of you seasoned vets out there, but this is for the folks who are just a bit afraid of starting all grain. There were two major things that really held me back for a while from switching to all-grain:
- The myth that everything is really heavy, especially the BIAB grain bag.
Ok, everybody: this is not true for normal 5 gallon batches. The grain bag is not any heavier than a few shopping bags full of groceries. The filled carboy/bucket is heavier than the wet grain bag, and if you’re already making kit beer you’re already lifting the filled carboy. Ergo, you are strong enough to lift the wet grain bag. End myth.
- Crushing grain is scary, and using a grain mill is scary.
This part actually really scared me. I was afraid of using it wrong, I am not comfortable using a drill, there are so many pieces and bits and it’s just really intimidating if you never use tools. I was convinced I was going to lose a finger. This post is for the folks who are thinking about going to all grain but are just a bit scared of milling their own grain.
Eventually curiosity and the quest for tasty beer won out, and I’ve been brewing all-grain for a few years now. You can get pre-crushed grains, especially in some pre-made kits, but it’s extremely expensive to ship that stuff in Canada.
So the question is how do you go from this:
HOLY CRAP TOKLAS that is way too fine, don’t you get a stuck sparge? No, I do BIAB, and this crush won’t work for everybody. Then again, there are huge gaps (hahaha see that one? Gaps?) in my knowledge, and if you have a good reason for me to change what I’m doing I always remain open-minded. Also, this probably isn't the prescribed "correct" way to do things, this is just what works for me.
Step one, get a mill. The mill I own is The Barley Crusher.
Ok, now this is the hardest part, and it’s not hard. You may want to set the gap in between the crushing roller bits so that your grains are crushed to be whatever width you like. There are a lot of opinions on how finely to crush your grain, and you can satisfy your type A or type B personality as you see fit here. If you’re type B and are doing BIAB, use a credit card to set the gap. In fact, here’s a video from somebody that is not me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lh-jgVlE6kE who knows more than I do about how to set your gap properly.
Here are the rollers that do the crushing. Pro tip: They crush things. Do not insert your fingers. Insert a credit card that you don’t really care about. Or one of those loyalty cards that takes up space in your wallet and you wonder why you still have it because you haven’t shopped there in a year…
This is the part you’ll need to adjust to change the gap (if you want to). You loosen the screw (on both sides), adjust the gap using the adjustment knob to whatever width you have chosen.
This step really isn’t hard. It’s just a bit of adjusting here and there if you are interesting in getting a specific crush. When you’re done, tighten the screws again, put the hopper (the bigger metal funnel bit) on top, and you’re ready to giv’r.
For BIAB this is my setup: bucket with doubled-up grain bags inside, and I mill directly into there.
Yes yes, dirty floor pre-brewing, but that’s what the hot water from your chiller is for when you chill your wort. The post sticking out at the side is where the handle is placed, but really, use a drill. It makes life way easier. Again, there are several discussions about how quickly you should do this, the pros and cons of using a drill, et-cetera. I just use the drill at a medium speed. Pro-tip: double check it is in the "forward" mode and not in reverse...
Once you’re set up, put your grains in the hopper. You will probably need to refill it about 2-3 times depending on your grain bill. I like to support the butt of the drill with my knee so all my hand has to do is worry about using the trigger, and my knee holds the drill steady.
Finished product ready for mashing:
That’s it! I hope you guys enjoyed reading this, and I hope this post at least found 1 or 2 people who had some of the same initial hesitations that I had. Though to some of the seasoned vets here this may seem really trivial and silly, I remember how much of a big deal this was for me. I hope this reassures you that it’s not that difficult, it’s not that heavy, and it is so much freaking fun.
Oh for the record, the barley mill is my own and I get no kickbacks or perks from this.
Tags for this post: homebrewing, grains, crush