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Old 11-06-2012, 12:40 AM   #1
celo626
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Default All grain setup advice please

Long time reader, first time poster here. I recently switched to All Grain after brewing extract for several years. It's been quite an adventurous learning curve! I'm trying to figure out the best way to set up a gravity system based on the equipment I already have. Spending some extra money is not a problem. My biggest concern is buying something half decent only to realize I should have spent more money up front for a better system. I brew 5 gallon batches all the time. I'm forced to brew inside on an electric stove. I'm struggling with how to best utilize what I have. Thoughts?

I have a polar ware 8 gallon brew pot with spigot
I have a 10 gallon blichmann boilermaker brew kettle with the false, slotted bottom
I have a 10 gallon Rubbermaid cooler I bought tonight, so it's not converted to anything yet

At first, one would think that obviously the boilermaker should be my MLT, but I have a major issue: the temp readings from the "Brewmometer" vary wildly sometimes after stirring. The mash around the temp probe can be completely off from mash on the other side of the kettle. I also have to keep it direct fired to maintain heat in it, since it's not insulated. This can't be good!

Should I use the Rubbermaid as my hot liquor tank? Or should I convert it to a MLT?

Thoughts and opinions are appreciated.

Thanks!

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Old 11-06-2012, 04:42 AM   #2
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cooler= mash tun
8 gallon pot=hlt
blichmann= boil pot

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Old 11-06-2012, 04:49 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fat_Bastard View Post
cooler= mash tun
8 gallon pot=hlt
blichmann= boil pot
Yep for sure, what he said!
Really only logical thing to do!

Coolers make great MLT.

set up your 8 gallon with a sight glass

and the Blichmann, even with a single layer bottom, will make a great boil kettle.

Your set brother!

Cheers
Jay
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Old 11-06-2012, 08:29 AM   #4
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I'd also agree that's probably the best setup. The cooler will be best for maintaining temps, critical for the MLT. You'll be boiling 6.5 or so gallons of wort, so you'll need the 10 gallon Blingman to avoid boil overs. An 8 gallon HLT will be sufficient for pretty much anything in the 10-12LB's of grain or less recipes without a refill, and refilling will hardly be a pain as long as you know where your volumes are at. You'll definitely want a sightglass on your HLT for tracking your volumes into the mash, but a nearly free volume stick will work just as well with a little more labor.

Using the cooler as your HLT would limit your ability to accurately raise temps quickly for sparging and would also force you to maintain temps in a relatively lossy kettle.

Get a decent digital thermometer that can be calibrated at 32 degrees and use it almost exclusively (except for perhaps spot checking). CNC makes some decent models, BrewHardware sells a couple models which will do for about $20. With the Blingman as your BK, all you really care about is yeast pitching temps, which should get you close enough if you have a relative idea of how far off it is (compared to the digital) in the 60-70 degree range. Software and knowledge of your system will get your mash pretty darn close every time, but it's always important to check for minor adjustments, if necessary.

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Old 11-06-2012, 11:02 AM   #5
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Thanks for the insights, guys. I'll work on converting the cooler. I bought a Polder digital thermometer, which has zoned alarms. Figured that's best for the MLT. Maybe I'll drill a small hole in the cooler lid to snake the probe through. Seems a little pointless though if I then have to remove the lid to adjust temps... The woes of brew design'

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Old 11-06-2012, 12:53 PM   #6
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You do not need to constantly monitor your temps in a cooler. That is kinda the whole point of the cooler. It is insulated and should keep the temp pretty stready. As long as you hit you initial mash temp, you should be good to go.

And honestly, I wouldn't be buying anything else at this point. You've got the basics already, so I would knock out a couple batches so you will have the experience necessary to make informed buying decisions.

Also, I'd do some dry runs of the mechanics of a gravity system. eg put 5 gallons of cold water in that pot and lift it to head level. Then think if you want to do that with scalding hot water. Lots of brewers decide that unless they have pumps etc, they would rather be working at chair height even if it means having to move the tuns/kettles more often.

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Old 11-06-2012, 04:19 PM   #7
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I'd also agree you don't need to monitor the temps. You'll find that, if you pre-heat the cooler, you *might* lose a degree or two over 60 minutes, obviously depending much on ambient temps. (I lose about a 1/2-1 degree at around 60-65 ambient temp.) Another hole would reduce the cooler's ability to insulate. It's fully sufficient to pop the lid every 15-30 minutes, spot check your temps and let it rest, correcting only if you have a strange swing. (Which probably came from colder grain, colder outdoor temps or failure to pre-heat.) A digital thermometer will let you check those temps quickly, get in and get out, so you lose minimal temps.

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Old 11-06-2012, 07:40 PM   #8
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The problem with mounting a thermometer in a mash tun is that then you only know the temp in one spot. I prefer to use a thermometer that I can move around the tun to insure even temp distribution.

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Old 11-07-2012, 01:34 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Denny View Post
The problem with mounting a thermometer in a mash tun is that then you only know the temp in one spot. I prefer to use a thermometer that I can move around the tun to insure even temp distribution.
This is what I do. I have a Thermapen and I'll move it around in the tun and get a quick reading. I'll stir it, and check again, generally, I have less than 1-2 degree all around the mash tun at any point.
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Old 11-07-2012, 02:17 AM   #10
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Precisely the point with the fixed mount thermominator of the Blichmann. Only one point, and wildly fluctuating readings when stirred, or verified with a separate thermometer. I was hoping the insulated cooler mash tun would help to regulate and equalize the overall temp, and thus could stick a probe down the center... I can live with checking every 15-20 minutes, but that's what I did on the direct fire blichmann mash tun setup too.

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