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jeremyjsutton 12-30-2012 08:49 PM

Advice Sought: Budget brewer re-evaluating my all-grain equipment
Hi all. I am a 5-gallon all-grain home brewer who enjoys BIG beers. It seems as though I have outgrown my current home brewing configuration.

Here's the caveat before I proceed, I am also a public school teacher so I brew on a budget. I am a DIY, scavenger, and a thrift seeker, ie flea markets and hand-me-downs for parts.

My current equipment:

* 5-gallon Igloo Mash Tun with false bottom and swing-arm sparge
* high pressure propane stove
* 7.5 gallon stainless steel pot
* crap load of carboys and bottles

* I also have a new triple gravity sculpture my father-in-law welded and built for me, which I plan to begin using.

With my current set-up I have hit 80-85% efficiency from time-to-time. I have been very happy with myself in this regard and have become comfortable/confident with my set-up.

Here's where I am at.

*** What mash tun set-up do I go with? ***
My immediate thought is to jump to a 10-gallon Igloo (yes a bit more spendy than Home Depot's but more efficient at heat retention) and to re-use my plumbing from my current mash tun. I am a fan of fly sparging and the circular coolers are great for that, but I also worry about grain weight and drain off clogging.

*** Fly sparge life? ***
My fly sparge was bought in 1994 or so and does not consistently spin, but I have heard with smaller amounts of water, ie 5 gallons or so it will not always spin. Thoughts?

*** Stainless steel pot and gravity ***
I have a friend who welds and said he would weld a ball valve tap set-up to my 7.5 gallon pot. For the DIY approach, any recommendations on instructions?

Today my mash tun could not hold the 17.5 lbs of grain and water. Furthermore, the run-off from the cooler was a slow drip. It should have been much faster. The fly sparge arm moved intermittently. I feel quite discouraged and hope the magic of the homebrew Gods will save my imperial stout.

**** What I would love ****
Is for pictures of your budget set-up ands and recommendations on how to improve my current set=up.

Many thanks,


pzack 12-30-2012 09:38 PM

1 Attachment(s)
15gal polar ware from McMaster
10 gal Gatorade cooler
10 gal ss stockpot
And a partridge in a pear tree

Don't be discouraged! Sounds like you are on the right track!!

Transamguy77 12-30-2012 10:16 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Attachment 91225

Here is my DIY rig, I am a mechanic by trade and a hobby welder, I scored the metal from our scrap at work, all the kegs have weldless fittings, the ball valves were from my LHBS and the sight glass kits and thermometers are from bobby m at Brewhardware. I found the burners on eBay for $16 a piece, the plumbing and ball valves at lowes and hard fuel line from the manifold to the burners. I have a few hundred dollars in this setup as you see it I've made 12 gallon batches so your 5 gallon big beers would not be a problem at all. Keep moving forward don't give up.

jeremyjsutton 12-31-2012 01:24 AM

Thx all.

I welcome as many ideas as I can get.

Day just took a turn for the worst. The White Labs Irish Ale yeast starter I made smells of vinegar and my wife says it tastes sour. I am drinking the mash and my taste buds are not calibrated enough.

I suspect I have my first contantmentated batch of beer yet.

Should have smelled the yeast before I pitched it.

Concho 12-31-2012 01:46 AM

Just throwing this out there, but do you have a NG line you can tap into. If so, converting to NG could save you some bucks for the equipment, instead of paying to refill the propane.

wiggybrewer 12-31-2012 02:23 AM

IMO Batch sparge, Way more easy.

Concho 12-31-2012 02:31 AM

Oh, switch over to a picnic cooler with manifold to get the bigger grain bill. You can get a bigger cooler for the buck and keep the rest of the equipment the same, unless you want to upgrade those.

bob352 12-31-2012 03:06 AM


Originally Posted by jeremyjsutton (Post 4729352)
Today my mash tun could not hold the 17.5 lbs of grain and water. Furthermore, the run-off from the cooler was a slow drip. It should have been much faster. The fly sparge arm moved intermittently.

You might want to address the slow drip from the mash first.
Sounds like a poor crush or maybe adjuncts messing up the grain bed.
You should not have this problem with your equipment.

As someone else suggested, consider switching to batch sparging.
It will save you money by not replacing your fly sparge arm.
And I found it made my brew day a little simpler.

jeremyjsutton 12-31-2012 03:36 AM

May have jumped gun after researching more on yeast starters - this was my first today. It may not be containmentaded.

bvn 12-31-2012 08:47 AM

I use a Coleman 36 qt Extreme cooler for my mash tun, 2" thick walls. Since most mash rests are ~30 min (step mashing) there is no problem, I just made an Imperial Porter where the alpha amylase step was 75 min. with no measurable drop in temp.

The grain bill was about 15 lbs. The beta amylase mash was 18 qt for 5 gallons.

The Coleman is where I store my beer gear when not in use. I also have a separate lautering tun (where I store my dry hopping funnel and siphon hoses between uses). My main "problem" is raising the temp between steps (saccharification to conversion). I use decoction but I am still struggling with a reliable, repeatable method. The formula does not work for me mostly because there is not enough liquid in the draw to bring it to a full boil.

I also use a crab pot burner for strike, sparge and boil. It is converted to NG

Re: the skunked batch. Bad yeast tastes like mold. Vinegar is alcohol plus oxygen. I reuse my yeast strains. 3 generations is about it - before it goes local (wild). Most of the yeast reuse is for baking bread - in the form of making biga which is added as the liquid part of the dough. I really dislike sourdough breads :-) Come to think of it, Lactobacillus is also sour, maybe the bacteria conquered the yeast?

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