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Lost 08-02-2005 06:11 AM

All grain - best route for cheap equipment
I'm considering all grain but I have two concerns
1. apartment (no space, tiny kitchen but do have outdoor patio)
2. poor college kid

I'm considering the cooler option but I do already have a plastic primary bucket and a bottling bucket so I could do as papazian suggests and drill holes in it to make a false bottom of sorts. Of course I'd have to but a new primary but hey.. it's a good time to upgrade to glass. The problem is, how then do I keep the mash at 150 for an hour? Could I just add hot water every so often and keep the lid on? Does anyone have any experience with this approach - the plastic ought to insulate fairly well but obviously not as well as a cooler. I could even try insulating the outer bucket. Is it worth trying? The buckets are 5 or 6 gallons, would this leave enough space for grain + water for a 5 gallon batch?

The other monetary concern is, of course, the kettle. Right now I have a 16 quart ceramic pot which is only big enough (and just barely) for a concentrated wort. Anyone know where I could find a large stainless kettle (preferably with spigot) for cheap? How bad is aluminum?

Basically, how can I get into all grain without dropping a cool grand on a 3 tier stainless keg setup?


vtfan99 08-02-2005 06:39 AM

First, get a cooler. I got a rectangular one for 14 bucks at Kmart. Go to your LHBS and get a plastic spigot to replace the spigot in the cooler. Next, drop 5 bucks or so for a 5 foot piece of copper tubing. Fashion this into a manifold for the cooler by bending it, crimping one end, and cutting many slots with a hacksaw (or some other tool). Don't destroy your buckets. You will find them very useful.

As for the kettle, look for aluminum as its much cheaper. The Aluminum vs stainless steel debate will rage on forever, so go with your wallet on this. The other option, if available, is to scrounge for an old keg. Pay about 60 bucks to have the top cut off and a hole drilled/welded for a spigot. If you have a local brewery, call them up and tell them what you're doing. The guy here sold me a keg for 25 bucks.

Go to HD or Lowes and get yourself a coil of copper tubing (3/8") about 10 feet of 1/2 vinyl tubing, a couple of hose clamps and a barbed 1/2" to 3/4" hose adaptor.....now you have an immersion chiller....probably run you about 35 bucks, depending on the length of the coil.

I just went all grain myself. Cost me about 300 bucks and thats cause I did get a few fancy items. You certainly dont need to spend a grand (although you easily could).

Turricaine 08-02-2005 07:05 AM

I followed the instructions on the top of this website page:
In the e-book by JP he states that the rotating sparge arm is not really needed. So if you were looking to cut back on costs you could omit this. I have one already though and think it is an interesting concept. The wort cooler is definately needed. Even if it is just a bunch of coiled copper piping it comes in handy and was not just designed to sponge your money. The hop strainer device is probably the least useful of the lot. Im not sure if it is even needed.

^Then again I think it is actually needed. I just want to add that you can dump ice in the hot wort to bring down the temperature to pitch the yeast. Ofcourse you could just leave the batch for 12 hours but you might find that you think that is a bit grim. So the way to cut costs is to do away with the copper. It is basically your call. All my parts cost me 200 which is not really an earth-shattering amount to spend really. Although it would be xpensive if I had to replace it.

Lost 08-03-2005 03:29 AM

I've found a 5 gallon rubbermaid cooler with lid.. so I think I may just have everything I need short of a boiling kettle. I can build a sparge arm from some vinyl or copper tubing with a few holes punched in it and use the bottling bucket for the sparge tank and a manifold is fairly easy to construct as well. Here's the big question though: how bad would it be to boil the wort in two separate pots one at a time? Obviously the specific gravity of the wort in each pot might vary though I could correct for this by putting the mash and sparge in one bucket (primary) and then gently cross mixing so as to minimize HSA and then siphoning into the two kettles. Then sanitize the primary and get it ready for the boiled wort additions. Obviously the hops would have to be halved (half for each batch). On the upside I could chill the wort faster this way with my handy dandy new immersion chiller (copper tubing from lowes wrapped around a paint can) since each batch would be about 2 - 2.5 gallons rather than the full 4 - 5.

Is this a terrible idea? I'm just hesitant to use aluminum and don't have the cash to go SS (this is a relatively new hobby and the startup costs are fairly sizeable though the payout tastes pretty good).

Born Brewing Co. 08-03-2005 04:06 AM

If you have a 6-7 gallon aluminum kettle, go ahead and use it. The effects from alluminum are nill, certainly less than the troubles of having to boil two brew kettles. JMO.

Lost 08-05-2005 05:25 AM

Well I now have 2 3 gallon pots (1 ceramic, 1 SS). I think I will use aluminum after checking the Palmer how to book to see what his thoughts were. I'll be on the lookout for a new or used turkey fryer but I think I'll just try my first all grain batch in two pots and see how bad the hassle is.. maybe I can live with it until I get some cash for a fryer.

On a side note, do the fryer's have spigot's on them? I can get a keg for $20 (recycling center) but don't want to deal with siphoning, pouring, or adding a spigot. Seems like it might be a bad idea to try pouring 15 gallons of hot liquid and siphoning would take too long.. I maybe wrong though. How necessary is a spigot?

Lastly, anyone have some receipes for a nice malty stout (not too bitter though - maybe more like a sweet stout as that was my last batch and I think it was the best stout I've had yet). I may just use the receipe in the Palmer book - anyone tried it? I understand that carapils adds a bit of a creamness to the brew, how much should I consider adding to a 5 gallon receipe? I'd like to replicate that guiness creaminess you get from the tap...

Rhoobarb 08-05-2005 08:59 PM

The fryers normally don't have spigots on them. So, forget hassling with a spigot and use an Auto Siphon. They are about ten bucks and it is one of the easiest, most indepsensible tools I own.

As for recipes, there's a boatload here!

vtfan99 08-05-2005 11:44 PM

Another boatload of recipes here

Lost 08-06-2005 02:36 AM

Thanks for the receipes! I do have an autosiphon actually.. don't think I could live without it. Anyone use an easymasher? Is it wise to apply direct heat to the mash to achieve the correct protein rest temps? Will I burn the mash this way? I imagine I'd have to stir.. HSA? I'm wondering if I do by a keg and gas heater or turkey fryer if I could cook the mash in the keg/fryer as well or if the cooler is a better option. Either way I do have a cooler and I will need to by some sort of large kettle for the wort boil so I could go either route just as easily at this point. I just need to know for what i should build the manifold/false bottom (cooler or kettle). Opinions anyone?

By the way, y'all have been so helpful - with all your advice this transition may be much easier than I originally anticipated.

vtfan99 08-06-2005 02:43 AM

Its been my experience that you don't need to worry about HSA until after the boil. I think a cooler is easier to maintain temperature, since that is the point of a cooler. If you are planning to mainly do step mashes, then a cooler may not be the best option as you will have to draw off portions of the mash to reheat....or add water. I use a cooler and do single step infusion mashes. A cooler works great..only loses a couple of degrees in an hour.

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