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Old 03-01-2010, 02:02 PM   #1
Marsdude
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Default All grain equipment advice needed

I am still new at brewing, just finished my fourth batch (extract). I want to be able to do some all grain batches. After searching the forums I have a few questions.

Boil pot: can I use an 8 gal. pot or will I need a 10 gal? If I am correct I will need to start with appx. 6.5 gal. at the beginning of the boil to have 5 gal. when finished - correct?

Mash Tun: Since I have a rectangular cooler I have decided to use that. I also have enough copper pipe and fittings in the shop to do the manifold. I do have some questions about that. I will not solder the fittings so I can take them apart for cleaning. I will slot the pipe with a dremel - is it best for the slots to be on the top, side, or the bottom? Will I have a problem with a stuck mash with this setup.

Software: Do I need something like BeerSmith or can I just follow a recipe in the beginning?

Efficiency: I keep reading posts about the "efficiency" of the process. How is that measured? Do I even care for my first couple of brews?

Thanks for any help....

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Old 03-01-2010, 02:18 PM   #2
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Brewpot, you can get away with a 32qt but you will not be able to handle higher gravity beers and will have to watch it like a hawk or bad boil overs will be your punishment. 40 qt is better and IMO 50 qt is best as there are no limitations to five gallon batches.

Solder your manifold as it coming apart under a grain bed would suck big time. I made my manifold into two pieces that when put together fit into my igloo so that cooler walls hold it together making it impossible to come apart on me. I have never found a buildup of any sort of nastiness inside the piping. The extremely small amount of zinc that may escape the solder will be taken up by the yeast as nutrient...not as good as zinc sulfate but nothing to worry about.

I have never used BeerSmith and have made countless brews of my own design. Online calculators are a big help though...as is BrewPal for your iPhone if you got one.

You should care about efficiency to a point. It is dependent upon many things such as grain crush quality, water temperature, how you sparge, manifold design, etc. If you start by fly sparging I would assume a higher efficiency than if you start by batch sparging. However, once you get the hang of the technique you can be highly efficient with batch sparging.

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Old 03-01-2010, 02:35 PM   #3
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Bigger the brew pot the better, but if you have an 8 gal already no need to replace. Efficiency helps adjust recipes to be accurate, not necessarily gonna make bad beer not paying attention to it. Also helps cost on grain bill, but grain is cheap. Software for me is nice cause it has formulas built into it, don't need to do any fancy math that i wouldn't do anyways (IBU, calories, efficiency, attenuation, % down to the tenth, etc.).

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Old 03-01-2010, 04:40 PM   #4
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I generally need about 7.7 gallons to finish at 5.5 gallons after a 90 minute boil. If you can't perform a 90 minute boil you may be unable to give pils malts a proper "hot break."

You want your slots on the bottom. Will you have problems with a stuck mash? Probably not if you drain slow enough (you'll also get better efficiency too).

Software: I wouldn't buy beersmith when you can make your own spreadsheet that does the same thing. Following a recipe is probably fine but you will need to figure out your efficiency and water losses after your first couple batches. It seems everyone experiences different results here and they both will contribute to the amount of grain and water you will need.

Efficiency: Yes! Your first couple batches are especially important because here you will be figuring out for future brews what efficiency to assume when you're adjusting a recipe (or making one up).

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Old 03-01-2010, 05:34 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bensiff View Post
Brewpot, you can get away with a 32qt but you will not be able to handle higher gravity beers and will have to watch it like a hawk or bad boil overs will be your punishment. 40 qt is better and IMO 50 qt is best as there are no limitations to five gallon batches.
Can you explain this part? Why would a higher gravity beer need a larger pot. Isn't your pre-boil volume the same irregardless of gravity?
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Old 03-01-2010, 08:34 PM   #6
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I have used an 8 gallon pot for several 5 gallon boils. The biggest problem you will encounter is boil overs. There are a few ways to help prevent them. First never put the lid on or even partially cover the pot with the lid. Leaving the lid off allows the DMS (dimethylsulfide) to escape. It also allows the pot to dissipate heat and not build pressure. Second, if before the cold break the boil begins to reach the top of the pot remove the pot from the heat for a few seconds. This will slow the boil and let the boil collapse slightly. Third if you don't have fermcap available keep 3 or 4 pennies handy. When the boil begins to reach the top of the pot use the fermcap or throw the pennies in. The copper coating on the pennies will help coagulate the protein and reduce the foaming in your boil.

I also found with an 8 gallon pot it was easier for me to wait until after the hot break and add my hops then. Typically this meant 45 minutes in the boil for the hops and I increased the amount of hops compared to using a 60 minute boil. I did this because hops can contribute to the amount of foaming before the hot break.

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Old 03-01-2010, 09:04 PM   #7
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I also use an 8 gallon pot to make 5.5 gallon batches. As long as you pay attention there is no reason you should have a boil over. Like oceanselv stated, fermcap can help quite a bit. Also, keep the lid off and watch the heat for the first few minutes of the boil and when you add hops.

I don't see how the gravity factors in. That's the part that doesn't make sense to me. I find the risk of boil overs to be about the same in a low gravity boil as with something higher gravity.

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Old 03-01-2010, 09:39 PM   #8
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Quote:
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Can you explain this part? Why would a higher gravity beer need a larger pot. Isn't your pre-boil volume the same irregardless of gravity?
You have to sparge more to get your grains rinsed with higher gravity beers so you end up with more wort requiring a longer boil. There are ways around this such as adding more grains, this will give you higher gravity runnings at the cost of lower efficiencies if you are limited in how much you can boil. You can also add DME to make up some points. I personally like to keep my efficiency consistent and use a 50 qt pot that is capable of boiling off a few gallons an hour if need be.
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Old 03-01-2010, 10:23 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bensiff View Post
You have to sparge more to get your grains rinsed with higher gravity beers so you end up with more wort requiring a longer boil. There are ways around this such as adding more grains, this will give you higher gravity runnings at the cost of lower efficiencies if you are limited in how much you can boil. You can also add DME to make up some points. I personally like to keep my efficiency consistent and use a 50 qt pot that is capable of boiling off a few gallons an hour if need be.
In that case I would just mash more grain. I don't have the time to waste boiling for hours and hours. My method is to only use enough sparge to make my 6.7 gallon pre-boil volume and do a 60 min boil. + propane is expensive.
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Old 03-01-2010, 11:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maida7 View Post
In that case I would just mash more grain. I don't have the time to waste boiling for hours and hours. My method is to only use enough sparge to make my 6.7 gallon pre-boil volume and do a 60 min boil. + propane is expensive.
If you don't have enough BTU's or a wide enough pot to get the surface area to boil down faster a big brew can take a long time. For me keeping my efficiency consistent is part of keeping my overrall brew consistent so I don't mind collecting 9 gallons and doing a 90 minute boil to get to my 6 gallon mark. As well, I'm on the flip side as I don't have the capacity to mash a ton of grain in my 5 gallon igloo...I have a new 60 qt kettle to be my new boil kettle so the 50 qt can be turned into a new mash tun, but I have been too busy and feeling poor lately to do what I need to get things set up.
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