Former American Homebrewers Association President, Charlie Papazian, and Brewtopia Events Director, Owen Ogletree, at the Baltimore Great American Beer Festival.

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Tips on Making Easy 3 Gallon, All-Grain Batches of Homebrew

Many homebrewers shy away from the idea of doing all-grain batches of beer because of all the extra equipment they think they might need. But the simple truth is that all-grain beer just tastes so much better than extract. Brewtopia Events Director, Owen Ogletree, is an award-winning homebrewer and certified beer judge who will tell extract brewers on this website how to make simple, 3 gallon, all-grain batches at home without a bunch of extra expense and equipment. Making 3 gallons of all-grain homebrew is very simple. Give these ideas a try, and we are sure you will find them fun and useful -- and you'll probably make the best beer you've ever had!

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Choose hop pellets or flowers that are fresh and green with a floral, citrusy, and/or spicy aroma (not cheesy)...

Choose a large 4 to 5 gallon brewpot (stainless steel is best)...

Equipment Needed for Simplified 3 Gallon All-Grain Homebrewing:
  • 4 to 5 gallon brew pot with lid. 
  • 5 gallon insulated plastic water cooler. 
  • 10 inch fine mesh stainless steel strainer with handle. 
  • Heavy duty plastic or metal spoon with long handle. 
  • 11 inch plastic funnel for carboy. 
  • 5 gallon glass jug (carboy) with carboy cap and air lock. 
  • 3 gallon glass carboy (optional) for secondary fermentation. 
  • Wide range (0-220 degrees F) thermometer.
  • Small nylon fishnet from aquarium shop.
  • Strong cleaner/sanitizer from homebrew shop (not just bleach).   Five Star Star-San no rinse sanitizer is great.


Keep in mind that all-grain brewers usually make use of huge brewpots that boil the entire 5-6 gallon batch of beer on outdoor propane burners. They also take lots of time to run hot water through their grains (sparging) in complex equipment systems to get every bit of fermentable sugar out of the grains they can. The three gallon system that is outlined here is so simple that it can all be done indoors and requires less equipment because of three points:

  • We are going to make around three gallons instead of five. 
  • We are going to use 15-20% more grain than normal (at a minimal cost) instead of investing time and equipment in extensive sparging. 
  • We are not going to boil our entire 3 gallon batch of beer. Rather, a concentrated two gallon batch of beer will be boiled on the stove, and a gallon of cold, jugged drinking water will be added to this in our carboy fermenter. 
These "shortcuts" will mean that you will not need all the usual, complex all-grain equipment. This does NOT mean you will be making three gallons of inferior beer. I have won numerous awards and compliments for my beers made in this fashion. So get ready for a new and engaging homebrew experience!

"All-Grain" is the Key to Wonderful Homebrew Flavor:

The easy steps outlined here will take more time than making homebrew from extract. Count on six hours at first and four to five hours once you get used to the system. Much of this time involves waiting while your grains soak in hot water and while your beer boils. It is NOT six hours of constant work, so have a few beers ready for sampling. 

Recipes and Grains: When you look at all-grain recipes from books, divide the grain down from five to three gallons and then ADD 15-20% to each grain type. Do this to make up for the fact that we are not going to sparge very well. Or, you can use one of my exact recipes elsewhere on this page for your three gallon all-grain batch. Take your recipe to your friendly neighborhood homebrew shop and ask them to measure out the grains and crush them for you. If these exact grains are not available, I'm sure the supply store owner can recommend substitutes that will turn out just as nice. 

Other items for your recipe: Also be sure to pick up your hops, yeast nutrient, gypsum salts, and irish moss. Gypsum is good to use with ales -- especially if your water is soft. You'll also need two gallons of jugged, filtered, ozonated spring or drinking water from the grocery store. Put this water in the refrigerator the night before you brew to get them good and cold.

Yeast: Pick a good liquid yeast from Wyeast or White Labs. These yeasts produce much better results than dry yeast. Start Wyeast a day or two before you brew (by popping the interior starter pouch), and give some serious thought to making a simple starter culture in a beer bottle with malt extract (see Papazian's New Complete Joy of Homebrewing for tips on this). Oh yeah, please don't forget your corn sugar for priming at bottling time.

Important Steps: OK, you have all your equipment and ingredients, and your two gallons of jugged water are chilling in the icebox. You've gotten your liquid yeast culture almost to full steam. Be sure to also fill your brewpot with three gallons of cold tap water the night before you are going to brew and put the lid over it loosely. This will allow the chlorine to dissipate. You can also use jugged drinking water.  Now here are the brewing steps:

  • Pour your crushed grains into your clean five gallon, insulated water cooler. Be sure there is NO soap residue on any of your brewing equipment (this can reduce the head retention of your finished beer). 
  • Heat your chlorine-free three gallons of water in your brewpot (with a teaspoon of gypsum mixed in) to 165-168 degrees F and pour quickly onto your grains. Pour in just enough water to soak all through the grains and leave about one inch of water on top. Stir well to be sure there are no dry pockets in the grain. This mixture should now be close to 152-155 degrees F (if it is over 158, stir in a few cubes of ice). Put the lid tightly on the cooler and wait one hour. This will convert starches in the grain into fermentable sugars. 
  • When your grain is almost done soaking (mashing), get a large saucepot and boil about a gallon of tap water for five minutes or so. Then add some ice cubes to bring this water down to around 170 degrees F. 
  • Put your large brewpot in your sink, open your water cooler filled with mashed grains and liquid, and using a large cup or small pot scoop out the grains and liquid a little at a time and put them into your strainer positioned in your brewpot. Allow the sweet liquid to flow from the grains into your brewpot. Stir the grains a bit and pour a bit of your 170 degree F water through each scoop of grains to rinse. Your goal is to end up with about 2 1/2 gallons of grain juice (wort) in your brewpot. If you run out of your 170 degree F water before this, you can continue to sparge your grains with HOT tap water as a last resort. Try to get as much sugar out of your grains as you can, but don't over do it. Remember that we have added extra grains to make up for this poor sparge. It works! 
  • Compost your spent grains or feed them to your chickens, horses, or goats. 
  • Now stick your funnel, large spoon, brewpot lid, and strainer in your dishwasher on the high heat cycle with a little dishwashing powder. This will sanitize them for use after your beer has boiled.
  • Use your small nylon fishnet to fish out most of the loose grain husks and bits from the wort in your brewpot.
  • Boil your 2 1/2 gallons of wort and hops UNCOVERED on your kitchen stove (don't let it boil over). Don't stir this boiling wort very often. Add a teaspoonful of yeast nutrient and a teaspoon of irish moss (for clarity) 15 minutes before the end of the boil.
  • At the end of the boil, cover the brewpot with its lid out of the diswasher and place it in an ice and water bath in your sink for 30 minutes. Keep adding ice as it melts. 
  • Pour 1/3 of one gallon jug of your cold drinking water into your cleaned and sanitized five gallon carboy. Put the lid back on the water jug and shake the jug vigorously for one minute to aerate the remaining water well. Add this water to your carboy. 
  • Using your sanitized funnel and strainer from the dishwasher, strain your concentrated wort into your carboy on top of the cold one gallon of water. Leave the last cup of wort in the bottom of the brewpot (this contains proteins and hop residue).  This should give you close to three gallons total in your carboy (if not, top up with some water from your second cold jug).  Wort temperature in the carboy should be 60-75 degrees F.
  • Pitch in your yeast culture. 
  • Plug your carboy the normal way with your carboy cap/plug and airlock with water. Set the carboy aside and watch the fermentation take off within 24 hours or so! If you are brewing in the summer, you may want to place your carboy into a bucket of cool tap water and place a towel around the top of the carboy so it soaks up water. Place this near a fan and water will evaporate off the towel and cool the fermenting beer down a few degrees. This will produce better flavors in many beers. 
  • If your recipe is a low to medium gravity beer, there is really no need for a secondary fermenter. If you are making a strong beer, or if you want to have beer with less sediment in the bottles, after five days or so siphon your beer into a sanitized three gallon carboy for another week before you bottle. 
It's that easy! Try different grains, read up on other recipes, and above all HAVE FUN and make delicious beer!

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*** Click here for great bottling tips ***

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