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Old 02-25-2007, 06:53 PM   #1
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Default Steam mashing session #2. Success !

So I brewed a Corona clone lager last night using my modified steam mashing system. It worked very, very well. I watched a movie for most of the brew session.

If you recall, my last session had a number of problems. First of all the braid floated when used for steam injection. Secondly, the braid turned out to be plastic rather than SS.

So I purchased a new braid and bent a piece of copper welding wire to keep it a) open and b) at the bottom of the mash vessel.

http://picasaweb.google.com/beermeister1/SteamMashing/photo#5035553350469266114

http://picasaweb.google.com/beermeister1/SteamMashing/photo#5035553350469266130

http://picasaweb.google.com/beermeister1/SteamMashing/photo#5035553350469266146

The mash schedule for this beer called for 30 minutes at 122F, followed by an hour at 148-152F. The reason for the first step is that 25% of the grain bill was cracked corn and one needs all the enzyme power one can get to convert it to sugars.

The mash in was done as normal, 1.33Q of water mixed with the grain. The mash temp came out right on, so all I had to to was close the lid and wait.

Meanwhile, I set the pressure caner pressure to 15 PSI, turned up the heat and went back to watching the movie. Brewing is such hard work !

Here is a picture of the pressure control and the control valve on my caner.
http://picasaweb.google.com/beermeister1/SteamMashing/photo#5035553887340178178

If the fittings look ratty, its because they are used, from my spare parts bin. Now that I know this setup works, I'll rebuild it with nice shiny fittings. Note that the valve is missing its piece of rod that serves as the handle.

After a while the pressure in the caner builds up and it starts rattling the control weight. I turn the temp down to low and go back to watching my movie.

After a while at 122F, actually during a commercial, I opened the valve on the caner and steamed the mash up to 152F. It takes about 4-5 minutes, depending on how ferocious you want the bubbling to be. Good news, the braid no longer lifts up. Most of the steam still comes out near the entrance to the cooler, which means one needs to manual mix the mash to distribute the heat. No big deal, but its a place for improvement in future designs.

The recipe called for 1 hour, but I let it sit for longer while I was doing other things. I boosted the temp once to keep it above 148F. My total mash time was one movie errr... 2 hours long.

I really like the fact that coolers hold the heat so well. The fact that one doesn't need a HERMs pump running means that the system really doesn't need any attention while it is sitting. The worst that can happen is the temperature falls a bit to much and you have to boost it and add a bit of length to the mash session. This makes for very stress free mashing !

When the movie was done, I steamed the mash temp up to 170F for sparging. Again it only took a few minutes. Steam works very well for heating the mash.

Once the grain bed was up to 170F, I disconnected the caner and set it aside and used the steam hose to drain the bed into the boil kettle. I put a piece of tinfoil over the top of the bed and added a bit of 173F water. I collected a couple quarts of wort and poured it back over the bed. Then I ran the wort directly into the boil kettle.

I used this little device to control the flow rate. (I also have a pinch valve on the hose near the cooler port. )
http://picasaweb.google.com/beermeister1/SteamMashing/photo#5035553887340178194

http://picasaweb.google.com/beermeister1/SteamMashing/photo#5035553887340178210

You can buy these at an automotive parts store. They are inexpensive. They are used to pinch various hoses shut when working on a car.

The sparge is very leisurely as well because all you have to do is add water to the top of the grain bed every now and again.

After that it was the usual boil, chill and ferment. The whole brew session was smooth and painless. The sessions go really fast because just about everything runs hands off and the temp increases occur very quickly. Very low stress. In fact, I now plan my brew sessions to happen while I am doing things with family. We have dinner. I set everything and mash in and just leave it sit. Sometime during the evening I sneak away and boost the temp and leave it sit. After everyone has gone to bed I sparge, boil, cleanup and chill. The actual amount of time it takes is quite low.

I am very happy with how this works and how small batch/kitchen brewing works. Kitchen brewing will never replace full on brewing for me, but its a great process for doing test beers and small batches of specialty beers.

I've now done 4 AG brews in the last 4 weeks. 2 with the microwave and 2 with steam mashing. Steam mashing with a cooler is way, way better. I really like how one can have the steam all built up ready to go and when you want to heat the mash, you just open the valve. No worries about recirculation rates or having the HLT at the right temp or pump oxidation or wort burning or anything. Just open the valve and stir a bit.

Steam heating works so well that I'll be using the corny boiler on my full size brewing stand.


Edit: I forgot to mention the efficiency. I measured SG pre boil. I got 4 gallons of 1.042 wort from 6 pounds of grains. 4x42/6 = 28 points. Theoretical is 35 points so thats 80%. I'm doubting the volume part though... it might have been less than 4 gallons. And yet after I boiled, I still had 3.5 gallons, so... lets say 75% efficiency anyway.

I was surprised that the efficiency was that good with the braid. I was always worried that the wort wouldn't wash as well with the braid because it has so much less surface than would a false bottom. But it seems to work OK. I tasted the spent grains as we emptied the mash vessel and there was no sweetness even from the grains in the corners. So they must have washed OK. The other thing was that this recipe only uses a partial sparge to avoid picking up tannins. So the sparge water volume was less than 3 gallons. If any mash could have given low efficiency, it was this one. And yet it worked well.

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Old 02-25-2007, 07:08 PM   #2
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Sounds really cool. Do you have to stir the mash? I was going to add HERMS on to my system, but this seems like it would be a lot simpler and better at raising mash temperature.

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Old 02-25-2007, 07:25 PM   #3
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"Do you have to stir ?"

Well, the steam bubbles the mash really nicely. The problem with my system is that most of the steam is releasing right at the beginning of the braid. So that area heats up and mixes nicely and the rest of the mash stays the same. So I have to mix it while adding heat.

Now nothing would stop you from using a different braid setup or using a steam only manifold to get a better steam distribution. If you had a second steam only manifold, you could run a circulation pump to circulate the wort while heating and that would probably even things out pretty well.

Keep in mind that I only stirred while heating and once in a while when I checked the temp. Its certainly not a continuous thing.

I highly recommend using a cooler over a SS vessel and I recommend steam over RIMs or HERMs. My last system was HERMs.

See my post on building a corny steam boiler. I'll be using that on my full sized brew stand.

I didn't mention it, but I am very impressed with how little heat loss there is from the pressure cooker. Its got thick walls and once it gets up to temp it stays there with very little heat added. And when you turn the steam on, my special high temp hose is a good insulator and not a lot of heat is lost. The steam is still vapor when it enters the cooler, thats for sure. I was worried it was going to condense in the hose and I'd be injecting hot water, but that isn't the case.

It really works well.

BTW: for people doing small batches, you don't need anywhere near the size of pressure cooker I am using. A small one will work well. I might buy a small one just for this purpose. We already owned our pressure cooker so I just used it. I am only putting a few quarts of water in it when I use it, just enough to cover the bottom well.

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Old 02-25-2007, 10:07 PM   #4
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Hey Brewman -- this is REALLY cool. Glad to hear you got everything working.

I am curious -- do you think one could build a copper manifold (say using 3/8 or 1/2 inch copper pipe) to use in place of a SS braid, but on the inside of the pipes add a small copper steam manifold? That would ROCK.

Based on your comments about not needing a big pressure cooker, do you think one could use one the size you have for bigger batches (say 5 - 10 gallon)? I saw your cornie-keg conversion for steam mashing, but not all of us have your engineering skill to build something like that (especially to drill SS). It would be nice if one could use your simpler PC setup for larger batches.

One more question -- did you detect any effect of the heat on your cooler? Any warping or such?

Again, very neat. I am very intrigued by this system. Thanks for posting!

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Old 02-26-2007, 12:17 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyGuy
Hey Brewman -- this is REALLY cool. Glad to hear you got everything working.
Thanks FlyGuy !

Quote:
I am curious -- do you think one could build a copper manifold (say using 3/8 or 1/2 inch copper pipe) to use in place of a SS braid, but on the inside of the pipes add a small copper steam manifold? That would ROCK.
I haven't had time to think about this yet, but there are a whole range of possibilities here. Something like you mention is one option. Another is to build a manifold like I have in the 36Q cooler in my gallery and make one of the copper pipes a steam distribution manifold. I suspect one would only need 3 or so small holes to distribute the steam.

If I was going to play with this, I would get my pressure cooker, bring it up to 15 PSI and then pull the weight off and watch the steam blow down. Its quite a sight and it isn't dangerous like it sounds. Then you get some idea for what the steam flow looks like. Its kind of like a small air tank blowing down, only its steam, not air.

Quote:
Based on your comments about not needing a big pressure cooker, do you think one could use one the size you have for bigger batches (say 5 - 10 gallon)? I saw your cornie-keg conversion for steam mashing, but not all of us have your engineering skill to build something like that (especially to drill SS). It would be nice if one could use your simpler PC setup for larger batches.
Absolutely you could use the big pressure cooker for 5 to 10 gallon batches. It actually has more steam capacity than the 5 gallon corny kegs.

See my original post on this topic here.
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=18008
The calcs for a 5 gallon corny are in that thread and they apply to a 22Q (5.5 gallon) pressure cooker just as much. One can store a lot of energy in 5.5 gallons of superheated water at 15PSI.


I like the corny keg because I want my steam generation to run automatically under microcontroller control, so the 4.5KW electric element works pretty good for that. But the pressure cooker I have is rated for the same pressure (15PSI) and slightly more superheated water volume (22Q versus 20Q) so it will work just as well. The reason I don't use the corny for kitchen brewing is that it needs 220V and requires at least 15L of water to cover the element. By comparison, I only put 4Q of water in the pressure cooker for small batches.

The thing I love about steam is that it lets kitchen brewers do complex mash schedules without resorting to infusions or RIMS systems. During mashing I have 2 vessels on my stove. The HLT and the pressure cooker. Really simple.


Quote:
pOne more question -- did you detect any effect of the heat on your cooler? Any warping or such?
None. Steam is excellent at preventing hotspots. I mean the mash gets hotspots, like up to 75C when mash stepping if you don't stir, but that's it. Its very gentle. The steam bubbles the mash when it releases and spreads the heat to a large volume of mash. It really works well that way. If one could evenly release the steam in 8-10 places throughout the mash, it would be perfect. It might be possible to do this with a dedicated steam manifold with 8-10 small holes, like 30 thou or so. I dunno for sure... some testing is in order !

Quote:
Again, very neat. I am very intrigued by this system. Thanks for posting!
I'm just giving back to the hobby what it has given to me ! Post if you have more questions. I'm pretty stoked by the steam system. I love how I can kitchen brew multiple step mashes without infusing or reheating the mash outside the cooler.
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Old 03-25-2007, 02:10 PM   #6
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For anyone following this thread, I brewed my 3rd brew last night with the steam heated mash vessel. Again it worked very well.

Coolers make excellent mash vessels because they hold the heat so well.

And steam injection with a pressure cooker works excellent for heating the mash. I keep my pressure cooker heated up for the whole mash session. They have thick walls and hold the heat well. When I am not injecting, I kept the stove at a little less than medium and that was more than enough to keep the pressure up. A few minutes before I needed heat I put it on high so the steam pressues was bouncing the weight when I started injecting. Then I just opened the valve.

Now that I have some experience with it, I was opening the valve way further than before when injecting steam. One can heat a mash from 122F to 154F in just a couple minutes, easily.

The only thing I don't like about steam heating is that the heat release is pretty local and you have to stir the mash to even it out. The steam itself releases in bubbles and heats an area about 4 inches in diameter and 6 inches deep. Thats about half my cooler. If I didn't stir it, the mash temp in that area would get to 180F pretty quick. With some stirring the temps even out quite nicely.

I haven't attempted to build a steam distribution manifold. If one ever got something like that to work, mash steam heating would be perfect.

Its surprising the volume of steam one gets. Its like opening the valve on a small air compressor tank. The flow rate is pretty healthy.

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Old 03-25-2007, 03:10 PM   #7
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You might try using a tee fitting at the outlet of the cooler so you could insert a 1/4" copper tube drilled with 1/16" holes to distrubute the steam full length of the braid. This should help with the rumble and local overheating that you experience now.

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Old 03-25-2007, 04:20 PM   #8
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I'll probably put a dedicated steam manifold into my mash vessel. I'll play around with hole sizes and such and report back when I do.

Its no big deal like this, one just has to stir the mash. Don't lose sight of the advantages, like zero chance of scorching anything, very quick heat ups, simplicity, minimal wort movement, etc. It really works well.

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Old 03-25-2007, 04:45 PM   #9
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When you put the manifold in the mashtun would you try heating the strike water from cold to strike temp and post the results. Steam might be the answer to heating water in plastic coolers instead of keggles for strike and sparge water, as coolers are insulated.

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Old 03-25-2007, 04:57 PM   #10
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How about this for an idea.

Using a steam lance/wand/paddle to apply the heat and you can manually move it around the cooler and mix at the same time.

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