The Grainfather

The Grainfather is a device that makes brewing beer easier and closer to how a professional brewing system works.  It is just one of many systems out there, many less expensive but this one may be the slickest.  What makes the Grainfather so cool is the app that connects it to your phone and via Bluetooth tells you exactly what is going on with your brew and when to move to the next step.  Rather than bore you with all the bells and whistles I will just show you my typical brew day and how it works. 

The first step in brewing is called mashing.  This works by bringing your (hopefully) filtered and sometimes mineral adjusted water up to your mash in temperature.  My target mash temperature is usually about 149F for 60 minutes.  The purpose of mashing is get all the sugars,  proteins and other good stuff that will make your wort and eventually allow you to ferment into beer.  When the water gets to temperature, you pour in your grains and stir to make sure it is all getting a warm water bath.  The Grainfather will keep your grains at your temperature, circulate the water over the grains and tell you when to move to your next step.

Heating water to mash temp.

Towards the end of your mash, the Grainfather will tell you to get ready to mash out by warming some water to sparge with and will raise the temperature to your mash out temperature,  mine is 167F for this recipe.

To mash out, you will raise the grain basket with all the grains and the mixture will drain into the main part of the Grainfather below.  You will then start sparging which is rinsing the grains with the hotter water to make sure you get all the good stuff off the grains and into your boil.  The Grainfather will start raising the temperature while you are doing this to get ready for the boil.

grain basket raised and pump removed

Once we have finished sparging, the grains are done.  You lift out the basket (tyring not to piss off the wife by spilling sticky wort on the floor) and dispose of it or give it to you baking buddy for spent grain bread.  I should mention that wort is what you call this liquid you are now going to boil to make beer.  A typical boil is 60 to 90 minutes and if you are making a hoppy beer (of course I am) you will add bittering hops at the beginning of your boil and more of the aroma hops at the end of your boil or even after the boil.  You should be stirring the wort on occasion but the Grainfather will keep it boiling and let you know when to add your hops.

At the end of your boil you need to cool down your wort in order to add yeast to make alcohol in your beer.  Most yeasts don’t like it really hot and ferment best at around 65F-72F for ales.  The Grainfather comes with a rather strange cooling coil that you run cold hose water into while running the wort thru the coil to cool it down.  It takes some time and wastes lots of water but it works.  I like to drop my temperature down and do what is called whirlpooling hops by stirring in hops as the beer cools to get different flavors.  You see hop oils are released and taste different at different temperatures. 

wort chiller in action

Once you are done and you have the wort down to your desired temperature you need to transfer it to a fermenter and add the yeast.  My fermenter is also made by Grainfather and also will keep your temperature for you.  The beer will ferment for about 7 to 10 days to give time for the yeast to do its thing and eat all those sugars to create alcohol.  It has very little carbonation at this point so you need to either force carbonate in bottles or keg it and add CO2.  I use CO2 and it needs to be put on high CO2 pressure for about a week before it is carbonated enough to drink.  I left out a bunch of little details along the way but that it the gist of the process. 

transferring to fermenter

My old brewing system involved open flames from turkey frying burners, lots of pots and pumps.  It was a pain to store, you always run out of propane, and clean up could be a hassle.  The Grainfather is very compact, easy to clean and store.  I would definitely recommend it to any homebrewers that want to take your brewing to the next level.  It has some downsides as do all systems but so far the positives have outweighed the negatives for me.   Hope this was interesting or informative for you and hit me up if you have questions.



  1. i thought that was a bigly coffeemaker for a minute….guess i didnt leave work at work today
    pretty sure i can build the crematorium models in my sleep now
    anyhoo..better go read the rest of your post now

    • Yeah, my first fermenters were buckets like those, that sucked!  They didn’t seal right after the first couple uses, a pain to clean, ugggg.  It has come a long way and is still evolving.

  2. Those are really cool systems. I finally switched to an electric kettle so I could mash and boil outside without the hassle of propane, but it’s a very basic system and everything else is old school. If I ever upgrade, the next step would be a cooler for fermenting instead of just keeping my bucket in a cooler with ice packs, but I don’t want to deal with the hassle of wrestling a fridge down to my little basement and trying to squeeze it in somewhere.

    • My fermenter has temperature control but in order to cool you either need a glycol chiller or what I do until I get one is use frozen water bottles and cold water to circulate thru the fermenter walls to chill.  It works well for ales but can’t get cold enough for lagers. 

  3. All-grain brewing has always seemed so daunting to me. I’d be interested in trying one of these newer all-in-one systems, but for right now I don’t know how I’d ‘test-drive’ one without committing to the purchase. I definitely don’t have the storage space or acreage to mess around with the propane turkey burner method.

    Hope your brew turns out well! Maybe I’ll document and write up my low tech stovetop partial-mash method in the future!

    • Brew in a bag is the easiest way. For a long time I just used two pots on a stove with two bags and combined it all in the fermenter at the end, and it’s barely more work than doing a partial mash. Grinding the grain in a blender to a level of coarse flour is the only extra step that I can think of.

      • You need to be careful grinding grain in a blender not to pulverize it, you want the grain kind of crushed or opened up but not too fine, that’s why the homebrew stores all use mills.  Also, you can’t put some grains like toasted oats thru the mills.

        • One nice thing about brew in a bag is you can skip all of the worries about the crush, and getting it to a meal/flour level helps with the efficiency.
          You have to be more careful about mixing grain and water at the start to avoid doughballs, and it helps to stir more frequently than you might with a traditional mash to get the efficiency up.
          This is a detailed article of how a commercial brewer in LA handles a mash with their malt ground down to flour. Brew in a bag is only a rough approximation, but the basic principle of using a fine mesh to contain all of the ground malt is the same.

          • I have had these guys beers & they make some really good stuff but I think some of this article is misleading.  I’ve done brew in a bag & never got efficiency over 70%.  98% is insane but they have a crazy expensive system to filter.  I learned about them because of a hop torpedo they were using which is also crazy expensive.  Do you use Beersmith?  I would love to hear you get that kind of efficiency.  Best I have ever got is close to 80%. 

            • I usually get 70% or a bit more, based on a feeeware program I use. But I usually don’t measure gravity with a super precise eye because I don’t have the patience, so number could be off a bit one way or the other.
              I’m also not super hung up on getting all the juice squeezed out of the grain after mashing, so to speak. I am guessing fine grinds tend to soak up more liquid and give it back less willingly than traditional grinds, so I am sure it’s possible to do better if I was more methodical.

    • My friends taproom was supposed to set up an event pre-Corona that Grainfather was going to sponsor.  My buddy & I that both have Grainfathers were going to give a demo so people could see how it works and then come back a month later to taste the beer.  Still could happen but on hold for now.  I don’t know if you have a good homebrew hop by you but ours does some gear demos from time to time.  It would be great if you could rent one but so far I haven’t seen that. 

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