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Old 04-26-2009, 06:40 PM   #1
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Default 5 gal batches in a 10 gal MLT

Greetings,

In preparation for my sortie into AG brewing I am trying to formulate my equipment plans. I'd like to be able to do 10gal batches and it appears I need a 10gal cooler MLT to do that. What I am wondering is whether it would be a problem to do a 5 gal batch in a 10 gal MLT?

In reading about building MTLs I see that there are some considerations for dimensions of the grain-bed in order to get max efficiency during sparging. So with this in mind I wonder what would be the best option? Round or square and 5 or 10 gal if I am only doing 5 gal batches?

Also, I see there are options on how the drain is set up. Are there any particularly good reasons to use a false bottom instead of a manifold setup?

I have to say the more I learn the more it makes my head spin...LOL

Thanks in advance for your advice
TC

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Old 04-26-2009, 07:15 PM   #2
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I do 5 gallon batches in my 10 gallon Rubbermaid MLT, with no problems. It seems to take a little longer for the temperature to stabilize, but then it holds temp just fine.

I started with a 2 gallon cooler for partial mashes, then used a 5 gallon for about a year before moving to the 10. If I had it to do over again, I'd just go straight to the 10! (Like everybody told me to all along!!) Round coolers are a little more expensive, but better if you ever want to do fly sparging. My 10 gallon was about $39, so I really don't see cost as being a big issue.

Everybody has different preferences. I've had great luck with a circular braid, reinforced with a perforated piece of tubing. Never a stuck or even slow sparge, and minimal vorlaufing required. This shot is my 2 gallon MLT, but I reinstalled the very same loop in my 5 and 10 gallon setups.

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Old 04-26-2009, 07:24 PM   #3
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I also have the 10 gallon round MLT. I have a false bottom, though, instead of a braid. It works fine for both batch sparging and fly sparging. I've never done a 10 gallon batch in it, but I'm hoping to this summer.

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Old 04-26-2009, 07:45 PM   #4
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OK, 10gal it is. Now on to the question of braid, manifold or false bottom. Heck this is almost as hard as picking which beer to brew!

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Old 04-26-2009, 07:56 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CowboyShootist View Post
OK, 10gal it is. Now on to the question of braid, manifold or false bottom. Heck this is almost as hard as picking which beer to brew!
No, it's harder! You can always brew another batch, but it's harder to replace an MLT.

I like the false bottom, and I think it's recommended especially for those who plan to fly sparge. One of the reasons I chose it, though, is just because I'm not very handy and making my own out of copper, stainless braid, or cPvc was daunting. I bought the false bottom a couple of years ago, and I have never had a stuck sparge. Except once- when I hit the tubing connecting the false bottom and the ballvalve with my mash paddle and dislodged it. I got a longer piece of tubing, and it never happened again.

If you're handy, you could easily make your own manifold and it would be much cheaper probably.
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Old 04-26-2009, 07:57 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CowboyShootist View Post
OK, 10gal it is. Now on to the question of braid, manifold or false bottom. Heck this is almost as hard as picking which beer to brew!
The good news is that there is no wrong answer! All will give you good results, it just depends on what you are more prepared to build/buy/steal.

A reinforced braid is probably the easiest and cheapest route, and I've had nothing but flawless results with mine. With that in mind, I should mention that I don't brew a lot with flaked or cooked adjuncts such as wheat or rice, which are more likely to get "gummy" and cause a stuck sparge. Sure, a pound or two of flaked corn or oatmeal here or there, but nothing substantial. Those wishing to make wheat beers or use lots of adjuncts might be better off with a manifold or false bottom...or add some rice hulls.
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Old 04-26-2009, 08:03 PM   #7
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I'm on the verge of making the jump to AG myself.....and the best answer I can give you to all the alternatives you present is.....???? There will be those out there who tell you that this or that size, round, rectangular or cubical are each are the ONLY way to mash. Likewise methods of filtering the wort out of the mash- braid, plastic & copper manifolds, false bottoms, "bazookas" (whatever THAT may be...) all have adherents. Then there's the debate about whether or not one configuration or another is best if you batch sparge, fly.....etc. The good news is that evidently many people have good luck with a large number of variations, so much so that I've quit worrying about it. I'm going with the ever-popular 10 gal. Rubbermaid cylindrical job, and a braid manifold.

One caveat- you need a 10 gal cooler to do 5 gallon batches, unless you are going to stick with the lowest-gravity beers. There just won't be enough room in a 5-gallon cooler for all the grain you'll need to make something like a big Belgian or an Imperial stout, plus the mash or sparge water. Just get a 10 gallon cooler and make the conversion. There doesn't seem to be a downside, as long as you preheat the cooler before mashing in.

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Old 04-26-2009, 09:22 PM   #8
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The only thing I don't like is the two buckets with a bunch of holes in one of them. That thing I could vorlauf for an hour and still not have clear wort. Everything else seems to work fine. I made a braid out of supply hose cause I like building stuff and I love the thing.

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