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Old 03-12-2009, 01:40 PM   #1
atl_sud
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Default MLT; cooler vs keg

Hopefully, this is in the correct forum. I currently batch sparge using an Ice Cube cooler for my MLT. Now that my 2 tier brew cart is set up I was wondering if I should to go with a 3 keg setup. What are the advantages of mashing in a keg?

BTW. I always do a single step mash.

Thanks,
T

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Old 03-12-2009, 01:48 PM   #2
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The first that I could think of is the ability to adjust temp without additional infusion or decoction. I've read that raising the mash to 168 F is useful to prevent the enzymes from working any longer but not sure what that translates to in finished beer. I've done this via stepped infusion and decoction but have abandoned it as I haven't been able to tell a difference. I use a converted cooler and this is one thing that I wish I could avoid but I do like the insulation and set and forget nature of the cooler. I haven't used kegs so I'm not sure but I'd think they would loose temp faster so you may have to keep a flame on them throughout the mash.

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Old 03-12-2009, 02:25 PM   #3
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A keg looks better, is more durable, and can be directly heated by an external heat source.

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Old 03-12-2009, 02:32 PM   #4
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I happen to like orange coolers, and they too can be temp controlled by an outside source.

You still have to infuse for a step mash, but who step mashes? You can easily mash out in a cooler without an infusion, it is called RIMS or HERMS.

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Old 03-12-2009, 02:39 PM   #5
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Keg Pros:
1. Looks cool.
2. Consistent form factor with HLT and BK.
3. Can be direct fired (I think this sounds a lot better then it is in practice).

Keg Cons:
1. Loses heat quickly.
2. Most insulation that you can put on cannot remain on during direct heating.
3. Realistically you should be recirculating with a pump during direct fire to prevent scorching...$$$.

Cooler Pros:
1. Holds temp really well.
2. Introduction of heat has to be done via infusion, steam, or heat exchange (HERMS/RIMS).
3. Light weight
4. Easy to clean.

Cooler Cons:
1. Not as purdy.
2. Needs to be kept at a safe distance from other burners.
3. Not as durable. After repeated heatings to 180F, the walls will eventually warp.


I've done the manual cooler based system before and I'm currently using a 3-keg single tier system. If I started all over again (and I might in the future), I'd go with a 2-cooler RIMS/HERMS with electric heat and a single kettle over a gas burner for boiling (See Pol's project). That's not to say I can't use kegs for this purpose, but I'd essentially turn them into expensive coolers by applying a huge amount of insulation to them (See Wortmonger's project). This has the advantage of a keg's durability with the heat retention of a cooler.

The ability to step mash was one of the experimental urges I had when designing my system. Like Pol suggests, it's kind of a fringe deal. I've step mashed exactly two batches (Belgian Wit and Lambic) and it's really questionable if it matters in the grand scheme of things. I think a RIMS with electric heat tube still retains this ability.

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Old 03-12-2009, 02:48 PM   #6
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Bobby is right... coolers are pretty nice when you consider thier utility. Kegs look pretty, but the purpose of the vessel is better served, IMHO, by a cooler.

You want to maintain temps.

You want something light weight (cleaning)

Affordability is a thought as well.

I have to admit, having coolers coupled with a fully electric heated HERMS is outstanding. Throw in an electric kettle and you are talking insane fun.

Temp. control is set and forget. Repeatability is a snap, it takes no thought.

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Old 03-12-2009, 02:59 PM   #7
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I really like my steam setup with the 10 gallon Coleman drink cooler. It is nice to not lose even 1º over a 60 minute rest.

It has worked well for me without any warping so far after 20+ batches. The hottest it gets is 170º at mashout.

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Old 03-12-2009, 03:02 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cookiebaggs View Post
I really like my steam setup with the 10 gallon Coleman drink cooler. It is nice to not lose even 1º over a 60 minute rest.

It has worked well for me without any warping so far after 20+ batches. The hottest it gets is 170º at mashout.
Exactly, you rarely get over 170-180F...

My mash thermometer varies +/- .4F during the mash, so a full swing of .8F... that is awsesome, and impossible in a kettle that loses so much heat through the sides and top (open)
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Old 03-12-2009, 03:24 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the great insight. I think I'll stick with the cooler setup considering how heavy 24 lbs of wet grain can be.

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Old 03-12-2009, 03:26 PM   #10
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With steam, I don't even pre-heat the MLT. I measure the grain temp and deliberately strike in 5-10 degrees lower than calculated and just steam fire to my first rest.

No overshooting.

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