In a distant blog far, far away, a-non-y-mous suggested I start the summer off right and go all-grain. Great idea, but for a variety of reasons now is not the time.
However, I am going to trade my tricycle (extract brewing) in for a two-wheeled bike with training wheels. I am going to start doing partial mashes.
In extract brewing, 90-100% of the fermentable sugars come from malt extract. This source is very convenient and makes great beer. In all-grain brewing, all of the fermentable sugars come from the malted barley. While this beer is also great (and not necessarily better), there are more subtleties involved with all-grain beer that take the art of brewing to a much higher level. Partial mashing is a combination of the two, though more closely associated with extract brewing.
In partial mashing, some of the sugar comes from grains and the rest comes from extract. It is an easy transition to make since the only additional piece of equipment needed is a beverage cooler (and that's not even critical).
I am planning a future post on the actions of amylase during mashing, so I will save the science for later. The general procedure (and I have not actually done this yet) is to add the grains and water at 155° F to the cooler and let it sit for 60-90 minutes. The liquid is drained off and added to the brew kettle. Extracts are added and things proceed as normal.
I am sending my lovely wife on a reconnaissance mission to my homebrew supply store on Thursday. I should be brewing by Friday.... which reminds me, I am going to recover the yeast from the bottles of beer I will drink tonight and make a yeast starter. No need to buy new yeast. They should multiply and be ready to go by Friday.