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Old 12-05-2011, 07:10 PM   #1
s2cmpugh
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Default 5 or 10 gallon mash tun?

Good day everyone. I'm starting to gather the extra equipment needed for all grain, but I'm not sure how big of a mash tun I should make or purchase. Most of beers I enjoy are below 1.080 for OG, so I'm not sure if that makes a difference. I only plan on brewing 5 gallon batches, but what size mash tun should I purchase?

Thanks for your help!

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Old 12-05-2011, 07:16 PM   #2
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What size to build? Pretty much the biggest one you can afford/fit. I wouldn't go smaller than the 10 gallon MLT. Even at 1.080. That's almost 15# of grain. At 1.25 qt/# your looking at almost 6 gallons of space. You'll never regret going for the 10 gallons.

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Old 12-05-2011, 07:21 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Hammy71 View Post
What size to build? Pretty much the biggest one you can afford/fit. I wouldn't go smaller than the 10 gallon MLT. Even at 1.080. That's almost 15# of grain. At 1.25 qt/# your looking at almost 6 gallons of space. You'll never regret going for the 10 gallons.

Green Bay Rackers--Mash Calculators (Third Calculator Down - Can I Mash It?)
I agree with this. I just did my first all-grain batch yesterday using a 5 gallon MLT I got on craigslist and I already can see where I'll need a 10 gallon mash tun moving forward.
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Old 12-05-2011, 07:21 PM   #4
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People always say bigger is better. But I don't believe it's as cut and dried as that.

I've used my 5 gallon cooler for 5 years, on 5 gallon batches and have never had a problem. At 1.25 it actually holds nearly 13 pounds of grain. Since most of my grainbills run between 10 and 14 pounds, I have no problem. for 14 pounds I just use about a 1.15 quarts/pound mash dillution. Or for 15pounds I go with a 1 quart/gallon.

14 pounds of 2-row in a 5 gallon batch gives you a 1.076 OG so it's not a small beer.

I rarely need a larger mash tun. If I'm making a bigger beer I'm often doing a 2.5 gallon batch instead of a 5 gallon one and those 14 pounds would then make a beer with an og of 1.151..... If I do want to make a 5 gallon batch of a big beer, or a larger than 5 gallon batch, I have a TON of homebrewing buddies, with all sorts of systems and sizes of mash tuns, and they'd let me use their geer. and if it's a barleywine or something like that, we're all brewing together then anyway, or hanging out.

I really don't have the space for a 10 gallon cooler, and like I said, in 5 years of using my 5 I've never had the need to go with a bigger one for more than a 1 shot deal. I maybe brew 1 huge beer a year anyway.

Other folks have other opinions, but in truth, you can make a lot of beer in a 5 gallon cooler.

If you wanna be realistic and practical and it not just be about the biggest toys, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions.

1) Am I ever going to brew larger than 5 gallon batches?
2) Are the majority if not all of my batches going to have an og higher than 1.076 (14 pounds of grain?)
3) Do I have the money or the storage space for a larger one?

It really comes down to those questions. In my case all three of those were no.

You could also add a fourth question- If I need to brew bigger once in awhile can I lay my hands on a bigger cooler. My Answer to that was yes.

So to me, a larger cooler was overkill, in light of living in a loft and not having much storage, nor having a realistic need for a larger one.

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Old 12-05-2011, 07:29 PM   #5
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If you really are brewing only beers 1.080 and under, the 5 gallon cooler is probably best. I say this mostly because of headspace - the less of it, the better it holds the temp. If you ever decided you really wanted to do a huge beer you could just mash your specialty grains and as much base malt as it would hold, and make up the difference with DME. No shame in that.

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Old 12-05-2011, 07:49 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Revvy View Post
People always say bigger is better. But I don't believe it's as cut and dried as that.
+1

I use a 5 gallon round cooler. It handles up to 12 lbs of grain pretty easily, or up to 14 in a pinch. I also have a 15 gallon rectangular cooler for the occasional big beer. The round cooler has a false bottom. The rectangular cooler has a bazooka screen. Both have stainless valves. The smaller cooler, as configured, cost a little more than the bigger cooler.

I like using the 5 gallon round cooler way more than the rectangular cooler. It's easier to clean. The false bottom seems to work better than the bazooka screen. I seem to get better efficiency with it, for whatever reason. The temp hardly changes in a one hour mash. All things considered it's easier to use.

If I had to choose one I'd go with the 5 gallon round. In the few instances where it wasn't big enough for the job I'd figure out a work around; such as the aforementioned extract addition, which I've been known to do.
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Old 12-05-2011, 07:59 PM   #7
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I found that the first few batches of beer in my cooler MLT, I had problems hitting my target temp and had to add water to adjust the temp. If you are at 12 lbs of grain in a five gallon MLT, you do not have room to do that. I have also found that I get much better efficiency with a ratio closer to 1.5 quarts per pound of grain, and that further limits your capacity. I had a five gallon, and in four batches had to upgrade for these and other reasons. You will not be sorry if you go straight to a 10 gallon.

As for headspace and temperature retention, you will have no problem with a 10 gallon at any size batch. Yesterday I did a batch with 15 lbs of grain - so just over half full - while it was 40 degrees outside. It only lost 1 degree of temperature in an hour, and I opened and stirred it several times.

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Old 12-05-2011, 08:15 PM   #8
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Most of my batches are between 10 and 14 lbs in a 10G cooler MLT. I definitely appreciate the extra space, especially for decoction mashes and the option to do a no-sparge lauter.

Plus, a fermenter won't fit in a 5G cooler:

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Old 12-05-2011, 08:27 PM   #9
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FWIW - I originally bought a 5 gallon cooler but returned it for a 10 gallon the same day deciding I wanted the option in the future to brew 10 gallon batches or bigger beers. I am so glad I did get the bigger one. I haven't had any problem with loosing too much heat on smaller batches. I just always make sure to wrap it in a blanket. 90% of my beers are under 1.070 but I like to have the extra space to have the option to brew a DIPA if I want. I have only done one big brew but was so glad I had the option. Also, in a recent BYO they talked about the benefits of a no sparge method where you just add your entire water amount to your mash. This is supposed to give you a much better malt flavor. There is no way you could do that in a 5 gallon tun.

For me it is all about the options to brew whatever beer I want. The only way to get that is a 10 gallon tun.

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Old 12-05-2011, 08:43 PM   #10
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Why not shoot for the possible future? I can't see any reason not to go with a 10 gallon. So many people start with the smaller and later go bigger, everything from kettles to MLT's. I got a 10 gallon and so far haven't done anything over a 10.5lb bill but I have no problems hitting and maintaining my temps and I have room for larger grain bills, and as mentioned, adjustment water if ever necessary.


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