Your First All-Grain Batch
Things You Can Do Differently Next Time
The procedure is nearly the same for other styles of beer. If you are making a Stout or perhaps a mellow dark ale or lager, one thing you can do to take some of the bite out of the dark grains is to add them later in the mash. Add the Black Patent or Roasted Barley during the last 10 minutes before you sparge. This is one means of coping with soft water (low in carbonates) when making dark beers. Saving the acidic malts until the end will reduce their acidifying effect on the mash.
Another change you can make is to do a two or three step mash. The yield can be improved by doughing in at a low temperature (105°F) with a thick mash (.75:1 or 1:1) and letting that rest for 15-20 minutes. Then you add more hot water to get the mash to saccharification rest temperature. Or you can use the pot-on-the-stove method to heat the mash. Use the usual ratio of 1.5 quarts per lb. and use the stove to heat the mash to the different target temperatures. It is very important to stir the bottom of the tun while heating to prevent scorching. After the mash is complete, carefully transfer the mash to the lauter tun (cooler with manifold), and sparge.
You could also use a decoction mash to do the rests. This method is most applicable when you are attempting to brew a drier, continental lager-style beer using less-modified malts.
If you feel that your extraction is too low while you are lautering, you can stir and start over if you want to. Simply close the runoff valve, add a little more water, stir the mash thoroughly and let it settle. You will need to repeat the re-circulating step, but this will often make a big difference if you were getting poor extraction due to channeling. In fact, most commercial breweries practice a technique called "raking" during the lauter, where they stir the grainbed with rakes a few inches above the manifold or false bottom. As long as you have a deep enough grainbed that you won't disturb the grain forming the filter around the collection device, you won't get any cloudiness coming through, and you will improve your extraction. Or you can just add another 1/2 pound of malt to the recipe. Grain is cheap.
Well, that was pretty easy, wasn't it? Not too much spillage I hope. A little practice and you will be able to do it in your sleep.