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Going All Grain - Advice needed


Finally making the leap to AG and want to generate enough beer/wash for a minimum 100L stripping run, 300L would be even better :D.

But at present I have a mix of vessel sizes and I suspect I'll need to upgrade.

Vessels I have:

  • 120L boiler (7.6, 9.6 or 10.8kW)
  • 50L keg boiler (2.4 or 3.6kW)
  • 50L esky
  • 60L stainless drum
  • plenty of fermenter space

I have everything needed to make a HERMS or a RIMS.

I'd love to have a 300L esky mash tun but I can't find any locally, so figured I'd start with what I have.

What is the most efficient use of what I have to produce the maximum amount of AG whisky wash?
What is the 1 item upgrade that would produce




  • The $500 question is whether or not you plan to use rye or corn.

  • You need a mash tun.

    i made 1 out of a 200l olive drum wrapped in foil backed bubble wrap. Cheap camp mats work well. I used heavy duty braided SS hose (from Earles) hose clamped onto a tee piece which went through the side to a ball valve. I chuck a block of polystyrene on top for a lid. Using about 60kg grain in this have made 2 x 150l belgian beers (using partigyle).

    Straight barley & barley / wheat is easy, but as @grim says, using rye & or corn changes the ball game - especially at higher quantities. Rice hulls will work to help lauter but you might need a lot if you have a high % adjunct. Or else ferment on the grain & work out wether you just rack off the top & waste a bit or sort out some method to squeeze or press the additional liquid out of the grain.

  • Corn and rye = YES.

    200L food grade drums down here are very hard to come by. At the moment I'm stuck with a 60L stainless drum.

    I did find a 120L esky (new) for $199 but didn't want to rush in to anything until I spoke with you lot. Especially since I have a 100L boiler to fill for my stripping runs, and typically you need 3 strip runs for a spirit run.

    Ferment on the grain for corn and rye adjuncts? I can't see that being a problem.

    Last time I fermented on the grain with corn I noticed it doesn't really settle and clear that well, ie the top half was lovely. The bottom half was a gradient of mess, I poured that lot out into a filter. Haven't touch corn again since.

    If I was going to ferment on the grain I could always use a 1,000L IBC as my mash tun.

  • Why not keep it simple? A single pot, single infusion mash. If you are using cereals, gelatinize and drop temps prior to adding malt or enzyme. No rims, no herms, no insulated tuns. If you are fermenting on the grain, your conversion will be far superior than what you'll achieve with a traditional brewing setup. Put in a drop of glucoamylase when you pitch your yeast, and you'll see conversion percentages that brewers could only dream of.

    With corn and the sticky glucan grains, your options are going to be severely limited anyhow, and a fancy lauter tun is going to be nothing but frustration.

    A good pH meter and an accurate thermometer are going to be more useful than the fancy gear.

    Separation, well, separation is going to be the problem. Ain't no easy answer here. Crash cool and decant or rack? Sure, but you are wasting a significant amount of liquid. Squeezing with mesh bags or presses? Sure, but it's messy and time consuming. Creative approaches? We're all ears.

    If the goal is bourbon or rye, my vote is no rims, no herms, no tuns, no eskys. Plain ol' big pot on a burner. With your volumes, a good drill and a paint mixer will help out exponentially. If you can find a deal on a clamp on drum mixer, even better. Need to insulate? Throw a top on the drum and an old blanket on top of that.

    If you want to get fancy, good calibrated pH meters and good calibrated thermometers so you can control saccharification, a mini lab with stir plates so you can propagate your yeast starters. That's where the technology come into play and being an absolute stickler where it comes to procedure will pay dividends.

    In your volumes, 120-300l, insulation is not necessary, the mash itself will fight you tooth and nail to stay at temperature. It's not keeping it at temp that will be your problem (as it is with small batches), your problem will be cooling it to malt temperature, and then to pitch temperature in a reasonable amount of time.

    Sure there are 100 different opinions, and that's what makes this interesting.

  • I like that response @grim've got me thinking.

  • I use two step enzymes. Pot on burner, drill and paint stirrer. I don't constant stir...maybe 5-10 minutes tops, cover and wait for next temp.

    I agree insulation is not necessary. I spend more time waiting for temp to drop than anything else.

    Next, I hate separating grain from liquid for boiler. I want Santa to bring me a baine marie or jacketed boiler.

    DAD... not yours.. ah, hell... I don't know...

  • Reading up on enzymes now. Picked up a 150L cooler, it's sitting in the back of the car. For the money it was best storage solution I could find locally. I'll post some progress pics on Sunday I hope.

    Now for some enzyme reading...and hoping I can get some locally.

  • edited January 2015

    Where are you located @TheMechWarrior I am interested in seeing what you come up with as far as technique for a recipe . I currently use olive oil drums 180 ltr ,plastic for fermenting in but haven't done any all grain mash steps in that volume for liquor ,if I was to get to that size I would probably get some pots fabricated and have the mash tun on a frame so I could tip out the spent grains once the mash is over I'm always thinking of ways to make the day a little easier on my back. For now I'm concentrating on no chill cubes with a 50 litre mash tun , the same set up that I make my beer with

  • All done, just need to do the spirit runs (2 x 75L)

    Grain bill for the 150L mash:

    20 kg Corn
     7 kg barley
     7 kg rye
     7 kg wheat

    I made a 150L mash in my 150L esky. Used the enzymes as directed. And left it overnight to cool.

    I then squeezed it all through a bag and got about 100L of >1.090 so I watered it down to 180L at 1.062.

    Cheers for now,


  • Noticeable improvement in the last 2 runs since I've moved away from sugar.

    The fores are barely objectionable and the heads are actually pleasant.

    Cut range has dramatically increased.

  • Hey @TheMechWarrior

    With your grain mashes like this, do you have to keep the same sanitary procedures up? I only ask this as you say you "squeezed" it all through a bag so I'm going to assume no?

  • Sanitation for distiller's wash/mash is highly overrated.
    I've only ever had one wash get infected (spider web stuff on top of a many multi-generation UJ and it distilled into great booze anyway).
    Your mileage and sensibilities may vary.

    I figure my still, and the very high proof alcohol, will kill Any pathogen.

    Silly me for throwing the grain bed away, cleaning well and starting a new UJ as it was one of the best sips I ever made.

  • As Lloyd said.

    I do try and keep things clean as I go. I culture up my yeast in advanced rather than pitch dry yeast. So when I pitch the yeast any other bacteria don't stand a chance competing against the billion plus yeast I've just added.

    More than that I encourage "infection" by opening the fermenters to the atmosphere after the 3rd or 4th day for an hour or so to allow for environmental yeasts to get a foot hold.



  • Nice numbers for your first run through, that's a strong yield.

    Only have one thing to say about raw sugar… :))


    245 x 184 - 456K
  • edited January 2015

    I always found it easier to use the strainer bag separation technique after fermentation. Grain is less gummy and much more watery, but the downside is you need to deal with the yeast bulk. If you are in the rack-off-the-yeast camp, doing this means 1 or 2 more days for the yeast to settle, and depending on the %, you may get a bit of a secondary ferment. Overall, it seemed that the bag didn't clog up as quickly, and my back and arms didn't hurt nearly as much afterwards. Also risk of infecting the batch by swimming in it were significantly reduced as well.

    Doing this with 150l is punishment.

  • My back was fucked for the next 2 weeks! I'm working on an improvement that will allow me the gains of the bag method minus the back breaking work. Will post details as soon as the trial (300L) is completed.

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