Happy Brew Year! Today I'm going to brew a simple Mexican-style dark Lager which traditionally were based on a Vienna dark lager but with US ingredients including flaked corn. In this thread I will document my brew day.

The first step is to heat up my mash water. I brew beer using a Grainfather brewing system, which automates a lot of the process for me and shaves a few hours off of my brew day.

While the mash water heats up, I grind my grain using a hand grinder. For some recipes I get my malted barley pre-ground, but I have started buying my base malt in bulk, and the barley comes whole.

Grinding the grain removes the kernel from the husk and exposes more of the starch to the water so the mashing process is much more efficient. Malted barley contains an enzyme that will convert starches in the barley to sugar when immersed in water.

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After the water heats up I can "dough in" or add my ground grain to the mash water. I have a long metal mashing paddle that makes it easier to stir the grain as I add it to remove clumps, which helps improve mashing efficiency later. Basically you are making a barley porridge and the consistency at the end is pretty similar to oatmeal.

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Once all the grain is added I add a mesh screen above the water level in the kettle, attach a recirculation arm to my Grainfather's pump and tell it to start the 90 min mashing process. It recirculates water throughout the process to improve efficiency and clarity in the beer.

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During this 90 minute mashing process enzymes in the malted barley convert starches into simple sugars like alpha and beta amylase. The ideal temp to convert each of these sugars is different, so recipes pick temps somewhere in the middle based on which sugars they want the most of. This choice can affect the body and residual sweetness left in the beer after fermentation.

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Even though I need to wait 90 minutes for the next step of the process, I'm not sitting here idle. A key part of having an enjoyable brew day, I've found, is to clean up incrementally during these down times, and prepare everything for the next step. For instance, after I started the mashing process, I put away all of the grain grinding equipment and my bag of bulk barley, swept loose grain from the floor, and now I'm preparing my lauter tun for the next step.

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After mashing, the next step is the lautering process, where I remove the grain from the mash water and rinse it with hot water to extract more remaining sugars.

This is my lauter tun. It's an electric brewing kettle that I used to brew beer with before I got my Grainfather. I fill this kettle with the appropriate amount of water, heat it to the proper temp, and then connect a hose to a spout at the bottom and use gravity to move the water to my Grainfather.

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@kyle thanks for this thread, I really enjoyed it. I love the slow pace and processes of brewing, I think you captured it really well. As an inexperienced brewer, please could I ask a technical question? How do you know when to stop sparging (lautering?). I went on a brewing course before I did my first brew, and didn't realise at the time that I didn't understand this point clearly. I've not found a clear explanation in a book or website since, so I'm hoping you can help!

@Tomlenegg So glad you asked! In general, you want to sparge until your kettle has the volume of liquid you want for the boil. We can assume after the mash that the grain is saturated and can't hold more water, so new water in = water out. So take the final volume of water you want at the start of the boil, subtract however much water you collected in the first runnings, and the difference is how much water you want to use for sparging.

@Tomlenegg Beyond normal sparging there is also a traditional sparging method in the UK called the parti-gyle method where you collect the first, second, and often third runnings from a mash and use each for its own beer.

The first runnings have the most sugar, and become your strong beer, the second runnings a standard ale, and the third, a mild. Some brewers like Fuller's use a modified parti-gyle and will blend their runnings in different %s for their beers instead of 100% from one batch.

@Tomlenegg Alternatively, some brewers don't go by volume, instead they use a tool called a refractometer which lets them measure the gravity of the wort with just a drop from it. They are targeting a specific pre-boil gravity and will stop sparging once the wort reaches that gravity.

@kyle now that really is a proper answer to a question that I've had for ages. We've done around 10 brews and so far have sort of guessed when to stop, but although the results have been ok we've been struggling for consistency. This answer really helps. Thanks for taking the time to reply. I'll let you know how we get on after the next brew day!

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