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Old 12-15-2006, 07:10 PM   #1
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Default Extreme cooler hacking: heated cooler mash vessel ?

I've been racking my brain for days on systems to control mash temps. Largely because I like lagers and wheat beers and even Palmer himself has multi temp mash schedules for these beers. http://howtobrew.com/section4/chapter19-4.html, for example.

So, the idea would be to quickly add heat to mash to change the temps as the mash went on.

The question is how.

Infusions work, but the temp control isn't precise and if you miss its not easy to correct. One is also limited to the number of infusions one does before the mash gets too thin.

HERMS and RIMS systems are commonly used, but they rely on continually circulating the wort. I have a HERMS system myself. I have to admit that I am jealous of the infusion process where the mash just sits there cooking, with the occasional stirring.

So, what if we introduced heat into the cooler without circulating the wort ?

We could do this by embedded a copper coil in the mash and running hot water through it. But it would take a big coil and there would be hotspots and it would severely get in the way of of stirring. Also it would create channels if we were still circulating the wort and it would have to be removed prior to sparging.

We could put electric elements right into the wort, but usually their power density is so high that they would scorch the wort and they would be in the way for stirring, etc.

So, what if we converted a cooler to be an insulated water bath, like this:
http://www.pbase.com/me2001/image/71702045

Basically take a dremel tool and cut a path around the perimeter of the cooler to separate the inner liner from the outer shell. Then plumb in an inlet and outlet fitting into the shell that does not go through the liner. Then remove a bit of insulation everywhere to create a space for the water to flow from inlet to outlet. Then put the cooler back together, possibly using an adhesive to hold it together.

This would allow hot water to be circulated against the liner, thus warming up the cooler and the grain bed.

One would add a small vessel with a heating element to warm the water and a pump to circulate the heated water.

So... has anyone ever cut a cooler apart ?

Is the insulation bonded to the liner or the shell or both ?

Would a cheap cooler happen to be built without any insulation between the liner and the shell ? Aren't some of the lids like that ? A hollow cooler would be very easy to circulate water in.

Thoughts ?

If running the water between the shell and the liner is too extreme, one could route a ton of copper tubing between the two and run water through it.

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Old 12-15-2006, 08:45 PM   #2
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Assuming that your model will function the way you intend it to, I would think it would be less labor-intense (not to mention less messy!) if you could find a rectangular stainless-steel vessel to fit inside the cooler (think about a fryer basket at a fast food restaurant). You wouldn't have to modify the cooler at all and could use the regular spigot to drain water that was too cool and replace it with hotter water. When I get home from work tonight, I'll try my mad MS Paint skillz to come up with a visual if you need it.

Thoughts?

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Old 12-15-2006, 08:59 PM   #3
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You can also use a small pressure cooker as a steam generator and run steam into the tun via the manifold. A simple two-way valve would allow you to switch between steam in and wort out.

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Old 12-15-2006, 10:49 PM   #4
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David: are you thinking into the cooler itself or into the bed ?

The thing I don't like about running steam itself into the bed is that its too hot. It doesn't do the enzymes that it comes into contact with any good. Running it into the vessel, now that is an interesting thought. And I just happen to own a pressure cooker, a big one.

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Old 12-15-2006, 11:38 PM   #5
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Seems that running a coil of copper in the mash and adding hot water would be fine as long as you stir the mash and your grain bed is deep enough to allow decent transfer. I wouldn't worry about channeling because if you're recirculating the wort anyway you could just run it through a heat exchanger.

You could also make a stirring paddle out of cpvc or a similar material put the water heater element in the tube and add a little sand to act as a heat sink. This should prevent scorching and your stirring with the heater will prevent hot spots.

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Old 12-16-2006, 12:32 AM   #6
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Quote:
Seems that running a coil of copper in the mash and adding hot water would be fine as long as you stir the mash and your grain bed is deep enough to allow decent transfer.
I was thinking of putting the coil on the bottom of the tun. I was going to make it 1 flat coil, so that it wouldnt get in the way of stirring. Under or above a false bottom is an interesting question. I haven't figured that out yet.

Quote:
I wouldn't worry about channeling because if you're recirculating the wort anyway you could just run it through a heat exchanger.
Yes, one in the water heater vessel to boot.

The thing I like about putting a coil in the tun is that the mash can be heated without recirculating.

Has anyone measured the temperatures at various depths in a stationary grain bed or a recirculating grain bed ? Thinking about it a bit, conventional HERMS circulating is kind of backwards. Heat rises and the wort will be warmest when it first enters the vessel and it will cool as it works its way down. The bottom of the mash might be fairly cold compared to the top.

I'm now thinking that I would put a coil in the bottom of the mash vessel and set a pump up to circulate. So the system would have 2 pumps. I would probably put a couple thermistors in the bed at different depths and run circulation only if there is a big temperature difference. If the temp in the bed is consistent, just add heat with the coil. Maybe one wouldn't need to circulate while mashing at all, just stir it once in a while.

I like the idea of the cooler water bath. One could take it further and put a Sanke keg inside a slightly larger plastic bucket and do a water bath that way too.

Quote:
You could also make a stirring paddle out of cpvc or a similar material put the water heater element in the tube and add a little sand to act as a heat sink. This should prevent scorching and your stirring with the heater will prevent hot spots.
That is an interesting but complicated idea. Let me think about it.

I really like the idea of having a water buffer because water conducts heat and prevents hot spots and you can be assured the wort will never touch anything hotter than boiling at ambient temps, ie 212F.
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Old 12-16-2006, 12:43 AM   #7
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check this one out: http://www.speidel-behaelter.de/anleit/engl/braumeng.pdf

This is a German RMS where the malt sits in a perforated vessel and the heating element is outside that perforated vessel submersed in the wort.

Kai

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Old 12-16-2006, 01:01 AM   #8
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That is a pretty interesting machine. I'd swear it has roots as a coffee perk. Nothing wrong with that.

Note how big the element is. Looks like 2.5 turns ! McMasterCarr sells elements like that. I'd still be a bit worried about it scorching the wort, but maybe I am paranoid ? What does it take to scorch wort ?

Its made by a German company... they know a thing or two about beer !

Notice that Dave Miller's book is recommended. All Dave's lager recipes are multiple step. That machine could mash those recipes.

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Old 12-16-2006, 02:01 AM   #9
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I don't know what it takes to scorch wort, but I want to be careful. You could take the element size that they have in this machine as the lower limit for size since they must have done some experiments and/or calculations.

Another interesting concept, one that is also used by commercial breweries, is pumping the whole mash through an external heater. The problem with that approach is finding a foodgrade pump that can handle pumping a mash and is reasonably priced.

Kai

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Old 12-16-2006, 02:13 AM   #10
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I looked around a little more on their website and found this video: http://www.speidel-behaelter.de/Braumeister.WMV. But unfortunately there is no English version available.

Though it is a great idea, I feel that it has it's limitations. One of them is, that only one sparge is done and that the run-off is not clarified. But it could be used only as mash and lauter tun with a separate kettle for boiling.

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