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Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:13 pm
by Brendan
So I did a bit of a write up on stuff I’d learnt on some of the processes which could be used in Bourbon production, and posted it in the Mash Tun here. That was the process I was using at first, and it was fairly involved with the equipment used, but I’ve since refined that process to something much easier, and wanted to share it to encourage more people to jump into some real all grain distilling.

So this one I’m presenting as a recipe, and hopefully a simplified guide for anyone to follow and reap the reward of a superior product.

This recipe is for a 40L boiler charge of all grain bourbon, which will yield around 2.5L of product to age @ 62.5%abv


- 50L keg with the top cut out, used as a big ol’ pot (will need to be well insulated with about 3 layers of insulation...I use the silver and black stuff from Clark Rubber).
Or: - Large esky dedicated to mashing
- Boiler elevated above mash tun
- Paint mixer mounted on power drill. I use a 240V drill, not sure that a cordless would be up to the job...



- 7.5kg Cracked Corn (cracked to a FLOUR...if you do it any other way, don’t link your results to this recipe ;-) ) [$7.20]
- 2kg Malted Barley (I get Pilsner) (fine crack, I get 0.9mm) [$6.25]
- 1.9kg Malted Wheat (fine crack, I get 0.9mm) [$6.40]
- 2x 3g packets of dried enzymes [$3]

For those that like the spicier traditional bourbons, you can substitute the wheat malt with rye malt (yes, malt). I'm currently doing a 4 grain bourbon with Corn/Barley/Wheat/Rye.

I get my cracked corn run through the industrial grinder at the local home brew shop at 0.25mm. It’s still not fine enough, so I then run that through my corona mill at home to achieve the flour consistency. For some reason on the below video, it looks like there are quite large pieces in the container, but when you see me pick it up and run it through my hand, you should get a good idea of the flour-like consistency. The more flour, the better the yield...


Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:26 pm
by Brendan
MASHING (The magic stage that can make or break the result)

- Add about 40L of water to the boiler. Use the best quality water you can get, preferably filtered water if you have a filter hooked up to the tap at home.

- Add 3L of backset. Yes I know you’ve seen that JD use 20% backset, but we use it to control the pH, and i’ve found that about 3L is the sweet spot to that volume. If you have a pH meter, you’re looking for a PH of 5.5. This is also the perfect pH range for our later enzyme conversion. If you don’t have backset, look at a Sour Corn Starter, or at least lower the pH of your mash water to pH5.5 with citric acid.

- Bring the mashing water (water + backset in your boiler) to a vigorous boil (ie. 100 deg C, don’t skimp out early at 95...).

- Add about 20L of the boiling mashing water to the mash tun (assuming you have a ball valve on your boiler, this should be as simple as positioning the mash tun under the boiler and cracking the ball valve...). Be mindful to keep the heat in as much as possible, so you want the water in there as quickly as possible, and if you stuff around with your grain for a minute, chuck the insulation lid on until you’re ready.

- Get your drill mounted mixer ready in one hand, and bucket of finely milled corn in the other. Start pouring (shaking) the corn in slowly, and mixing at the same time. This will avoid any clumps, which I have learnt seriously affects your yield.

- Mix for a good few minutes, ensuring that you are getting to the very bottom as well (I have had a large clump stick at the bottom, which is what affected my yield as it never gelatinised or converted).

- As soon as you can after it’s had a really good mix up, get the lid on and seal that temp in there. I don’t actually use a solid lid, but 3 layers of that insulation stuff made into a lid; keeps the heat in there really well. The temp will already be down into the mid-80 degree range now...don’t worry, it will work!

- Now leave for 6 hours

- When you return and open it up again, all of the water will have been absorbed and it will look like a big pot of porridge. Then add another 10L of mashing water from the boiler (I have a heat shroud on my boiler, so the water is still warmish after 6 hours. If it’s not too cold, it might even help to bring the temp down).

- Get the mixer to work again and aim to bring the temp down below 70 deg C, this step could take 10 mins of mixing depending on temperature. You can also mix it a little every 10 minutes and walk away from it, but will take longer.

- When the temp gets to 70 deg C, get both your malts ready to go beside the mash tun (ie. measured/weighed out and in buckets ready to pour don’t want to lose heat at this temperature).

- At 68 deg C, start pouring in your wheat malt. Again, mixer in one hand and malt bucket in the other. This will drop the temp a degree or two. You will instantly notice that beautiful malt smell, as well as the mash will start thinning within 30 seconds and take on a slight brown tinge colour as the malt starts to take effect.

- Straight away start adding your barley malt in the same process.

- Add the 2x packets of dried enzymes

- Give it all a quick mix, again ensuring you get to the bottom, making sure everything is mixed in well. The temp should be around 64/65 deg C here.

- Seal it up extremely well, as here is where the insulation is critical.

- Now leave overnight, for about 8 hours. (I have left for 10 hours with no ill effects).

- When you come back in the morning, it should smell wonderful, have more of that light brown colour to it, and be sitting at a temp around 60 deg C, or a degree below.

- Now comes the only hard part of bringing it down in temp relatively quickly, and exercising extreme hygiene (which I know can be a problem for a lot of people not familiar with beer brewing or all grain washes). Everything that comes into contact with wort must be sanitised before and after (as simple as having a spray bottle handy), and be mindful to keep dust from falling in the top. I remove all of the insulation to help cool, but loosely place one layer of the lid on top to keep any dirt or dust out.

- Now for fermentation, you’re looking for an SG of 1.060-1.065 (7.5-8%). Don’t get greedy, if it’s above 1.065 (8%), water it down. To get an accurate measurement, you will need a sample of wort that is grain free. I normally scoop half a litre, strain it with a colander as seen in the All Grain Bourbon Tutorial, and after taking an SG measurement, will use that to hydrate the yeast as a starter.

Stirring in the corn with the mashing water...notice the bright yellow from un-gelatinised/converted corn


Thick gelatinous porridge like mash...ignore the coil in there, from my earlier runs.


Mashing in the first of the malts, turning a liquid consistency.


Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:30 pm
by Brendan

Now I can’t in good consciousness recommend baker’s yeast for this wash. I’m sure there’ll be a handful of people that will try it anyway, so let us know how it goes. However, there isn’t a commercial distiller out there, who uses it for a professional bourbon whiskey, so why go to all the trouble of an authentic all grain mash only to throw your own basic bread yeast in there.

With that said, I have been using SafSpirit American Whiskey yeast (which I have scored a 500g brick for $30, but full price it’s about $80). Generally, any derivative of the famous M-1 Whisky yeast (the original Scotch yeast) will give you great results, and is what is used by many commercial bourbon producers in the United States. Obviously, a lot of them have cultivated their own wild yeast strains from certain fruit growing areas, but those that buy will use a derivative of M-1.

- Hydrate yeast in 30 deg C water, or some watered down wort/wash (SG 1.030). As you will see in the other thread, I make up a starter and put on the stir plate, which theoretically isn’t required for a dried yeast, but I do it to reduce the lag time and get the fermentation happening quickly.

- Cool the wort down as quickly as possible, whether you have an immersion chiller, or can sit the mash tun in the pool...leaving to cool naturally is not recommended and can be a risky procedure with all grain.

- Once you get the wort down to 28- 30 deg C, pitch the yeast and give it a good stir with the mixer. Really chop it up to aerate the wort. You can go lower than 28 deg C if you prefer, but that’s where I normally pitch and the ferment stays between 28-30 deg C for the entire time.

- Loosely cover the top with something. I use one layer of the insulation cut into a circle, just to keep dust from falling in the top, but an otherwise ‘open ferment’ as the pros do.

- Ferment should take about 3 ½ days. From Ian Smiley’s book, I have always tried to run it prior to the 96 hour mark (4 days), but I have heard of people leaving it up to 7 days, but no more...(This is for a distiller’s yeast. I have no idea how other yeasts will perform on this).


Depending on the consistency of the mash, i've had thick ferments like this (which is more common)

And when I started, i'd get thinner ferments like this (still fine)

And you will visually see when the ferment is finished, it should be fairly still with a layer of clear liquid on top...

Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:35 pm
by Brendan
STRAINING (where a lot of people can come unstuck and lose their yield)

Now I strain after the ferment, while some strain before. The way I see it, i’m trying to emulate professional bourbon production as closely as I can. Seeing as they ferment on the grain and distil on the grain, the closest I can do is to still ferment on the grain, then strain and then distil.

My straining is a two part process utilising two different types of strainer bag. The first bag is just a standard laundry type bag with largish holes which you can pick up for $2.
The second bag is a higher quality BIAB bag which I actually had made by a guy in the U.S. who is well known for his top quality strong BIAB bags. His name is Jeff Omundson. Some of you may have heard his bags referred to on beer brewing websites and the like. If you want one, you can go to his website: I think the bag cost me about $25 for him to sew together, and another $15 or so for international shipping, and I received it really quick with constant communication. Alternatively, many brew shops in OZ sell BIAB bags...I haven’t used one, but if the mesh is as thin as the one shown in my photos then it will have the same effect I guess.

I get a smallish <10L stock pot for the first stage and a larger 19L pot for the second part.

- Line the smaller pot with the laundry-style bag, and pour 3-4L in. I would suggest 4 or 5L is fine at first, as there is a lot of liquid on top, but once you get further down, 3L will be better as there will be much more grain to squeeze out.

- Lift the bag up above the pot, twist it around to start the pressing, and then squeeze and manipulate with your hands. After the bulk of the liquid has come out from light manipulation, you will be able to squeeze areas of grain to get the rest of the wash out...I would say 30 seconds per 4L bag full is enough to spend on it.

- Then have the finer bag lining the larger pot. Pour the liquid just obtained into the larger pot, and I do that about 3 or 4 times before dealing with the larger pot and strainer bag.

- After you’ve done the first part 3 or 4 times and poured that into the larger pot, the easiest way to achieve this part is to position the pot under something where you can hook the handles on it to hold the weight above the pot while you use your hands to manipulate it. I use a handle on my home gym which is just the right height, but I’m sure you can figure something out.

- The BIAB bag should be so fine that it pretty much holds the entire 12Lish that will be in it, with only a small trickle coming out the bottom. Now you should just be able to manipulate the bag around, not squeeze, but just push it in and out which should force a lot of liquid to be rushing out and into the big pot. This process takes me a few minutes, and once it’s near empty, there will be a really small portion of corn trub in the bag which you can squeeze by hand to get the last bit of moisture out.

- Then tip that large pot full of milky yellow wash into another container (ie. clean fermentor) so that you can repeat the process again until you’ve strained all of the wash.

- This whole process takes me about an hour to get 40L of wash (from 50L of wash with grain), and I don’t find too much work as you are getting that glorious all grain wash solid free and ready to run.

Hopefully the pics and videos just assist in being able to picture what I’m referring to.






Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:39 pm
by Brendan

Excuse the one handed effort, had to hold the camera...on this stage you get stuck in with 2 hands and squeeze it out.




Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:44 pm
by Brendan
Manipulating the milking a cow ;-)

Actually squeezing the small amount of trub caught for any remaining liquid...there is only a small amount of solids from this stage.




Lots of people have made sugarheads from this stuff...there's no fermentable sugars, but you'll get flavour for your sugarheads out of it...give it a go and maximise your grain :handgestures-thumbupleft:


Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:49 pm
by Brendan

The way I see it, there’s 2 options for distillation.

1. Double pot run: Strip your 40L wash at full speed and collect about 13L of low wines. Save up 3 strip runs to get 39L, and then perform a final spirit run on the pot. Nice and steady, I ran about 3L per hour with an 80%abv output for a lot of the run which was the perfect spot on my equipment. (Think I ended up keeping down to about 70%, so don’t give up as soon as it starts dropping).

2. Single pass on a plated column: I recommend 3 plates...You want to be taking the product off around 80-85%abv, mine is normally a bit higher than 80%abv

Do your cuts and remember to think about long term ageing and complexity when evaluating those early tails...this shouldn’t be the kind of product you will only age for a few weeks, so look to those early tails for some beautiful’s really another skill that you pick up in distinguishing between nice tails after ageing and the manky tails. Definitely a further skill from just the old heads, hearts, tails...


Single pass on the bubbler - 3 plates

Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:58 pm
by Brendan
AGEING (Yes it's spelt this way in the UK and Australia ;-) )

Dilute to 62.5%abv with the highest quality water you can get. I buy bottled spring water, and I’m sure rain water would be equally as good. I wouldn’t even consider using filtered tap water to dilute my all grain spirit.

Everyone will do what they want here, but here’s my recommendation:

2x oak dominoes per 4.5L of 62.5%abv product, aged for no less than 9 months, preferably 12 months.

Even at 9 months, I found it nice but a little young. And with more oak, I just think it’s an overpowering oak infusion, and doesn’t age properly to balance the flavours. If you are going to age for a shorter term, but still want to do the all grain wash, just don't dig as much into the tails.

You definitely want charred oak for this recipe. I have toasted dominoes which I char myself. This is great, as bourbon barrels are toasted before being charred, so you’re getting as close as possible.

Also, take the lids off every few days for a few mins...when you get a chance, give them a bit of a shake (I swoosh it around in a circular motion so you can aerate it without spilling any).

Do yourself a favour and try the longer ageing worst, if you put this down every few months, you’ve only got to wait that year waiting period once, and then you’ll have some ready every few months ;)



Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 6:03 pm
by Brendan

Due to the vast amount of description and clarification in there, I thought I’d summarise it, to show that it really is simple. Once you’ve read the rest and done the procedure, this is all you will need to look at in the future....

- Boil mashing water (40L good water + 3-4L backset).
- 30L mashing water to mash tun.
- Add corn (milled to flour) slowly and mix well.
- Seal up well insulated, and leave for 6 hours.
- Add 10L more of mashing water, mix well, and bring temp down below 70 deg C.
- At 68 deg C, add wheat malt, mix well.
- Add barley malt and dried enzymes, mix well (temp should be 64/65 deg C).
- Seal up and leave overnight (8 hours).
- Cool to yeast pitching temp (30 deg C or below)
- Pitch yeast, mix well
- Allow to ferment for about 4 days
- Strain
- Distil

Boom, now that's a recipe anyone should be able to follow :handgestures-thumbupleft:

For those guys working Mon-Fri, I would suggest gelatinising the corn on a Saturday arvo (start boil 3pm, mix corn in 4pm), then come back at 10pmish to mix, bring temp down and add in malts. Leave overnight, then Sunday morning, chill it and pitch yeast. Assuming you would have to leave for 5 days and run it on Friday evening at the earliest chance...worst case, maybe even Saturday morning would work, and can put on another mash Saturday afternoon.

Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 6:04 pm
by Brendan
Zak Griffin wrote:Iiinteresting :-B Great write up Brendan.

I was only warming up Zak, but thanks for the kind words on the first part :-D

Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 6:13 pm
by Hava
Legend :ymapplause:

Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 6:42 pm
by punchy21
Great write up Brendan :clap:

Thanks for sharing, i would love to give all-grain a go sometime soon so this will be extremely valuable...

Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 6:54 pm
by Muppet
Great write up Brendon thank you! Sorry if its slightly off topic but with milling the corn is a dedicated mill required or get it done by a hbs etc. this would be the one thing that I'm not geared up for.

Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 7:02 pm
by Dusty_ben
Wow. Looks like I have a new project after my bubbler. Cheers for the write up.

Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 7:03 pm
by Brendan
Muppet wrote:with milling the corn is a dedicated mill required or get it done by a hbs etc. this would be the one thing that I'm not geared up for.

It really depends how good the mill is at your HBS mate... I get mine cracked to 0.25mm at the HBS (I buy the corn at the feed store). It would probably be fine after that, just not as high a yield and would need more corn.

The corona mill I finish it off with cost $50 on eBay :handgestures-thumbupleft:

It's more a point to distinguish from people cooking cracked corn as's just not the same...the more flour, the better the yield.

Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 7:13 pm
by Muppet
Big thanks mate!

Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 7:16 pm
by Brendan
I should probably hooking a 240V drill up to the corona mill, cracked corn is still too hard to get it down to a flour.

So by running it through the industrial sized grinder at the HBS, it gets it down to a much smaller size and then the Corona mill is able to finish it off into a flour (with a 240V drill driving it, but i've done a batch by hand as well).

Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 7:51 pm
by Zak Griffin
Not sure what happened there? I wasn't the second post when I posted? Internet wins this one.

Feel free to delete my above post :)

Good stuff Brendan, I'll have to give this one a crack!

Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 9:07 pm
by SBB
That,s a lot of work you've put in Brendan, top job. You've taken some of the mystery out of the process for me at least. I'm still to tackle an all grain.

Re: Simple All-Grain Bourbon For Anyone

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 9:34 pm
by Kimbo
Awesome work there Brendan, well done mate :clap: :clap: :clap: