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Old 02-19-2007, 05:09 PM   #1
cpbergie
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Default How few grains with 5 Gallon cooler MLT?

My plan was to convert a 3 gallon cooler to a MLT, but I think I may just go ahead and get a 5 gallon one. I dont have much experience with all-grain, so I will be easing into it.

Anyone know what the minimum amount of grains i would be ok with when using the 5 gallon. My problem is I cant do full boils yet, right now I am boiling 3.5 gallons.

Any thoughts, suggestions?

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Old 02-19-2007, 05:18 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpbergie
My plan was to convert a 3 gallon cooler to a MLT, but I think I may just go ahead and get a 5 gallon one. I dont have much experience with all-grain, so I will be easing into it.

Anyone know what the minimum amount of grains i would be ok with when using the 5 gallon. My problem is I cant do full boils yet, right now I am boiling 3.5 gallons.

Any thoughts, suggestions?
That is a good question that I don't think gets asked much.
I would say that the depth of the grain bed would be the biggest concern. I'm purely guessing here but I would say that it should be no less than 6 inches or so. I'm not sure the wort would clarify if it were much less than that.
Also, I might have some concerns with the tun holding temperature with a smaller mash. The more volume the slower the temp change.
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Old 02-19-2007, 05:21 PM   #3
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Buy a bigger kettle or turkey fryer set up first! Then you can do full boils with either extract, PM, or AG.

To answer your question, you could mash very small beers (or even partial mash) in a 5 gallon cooler, expecially if you're batch sparging.

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Old 02-19-2007, 05:24 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichBrewer
That is a good question that I don't think gets asked much.
I would say that the depth of the grain bed would be the biggest concern. I'm purely guessing here but I would say that it should be no less than 6 inches or so. I'm not sure the wort would clarify if it were much less than that.
Also, I might have some concerns with the tun holding temperature with a smaller mash. The more volume the slower the temp change.
If he's batch sparging with a SS braid, I bet he can get by with less than six inches of grain. The braid works really well in filtering out the particulate matter.

As to issue of the tun holding heat - make sure to preheat it with some very hot water ahead of time. If you're doing partial mashes, temperature control isn't QUITE as huge an issue than if you're doing AG (since most of the fermentables are coming from extract). If it's an issue, aim a little higher than you would otherwise and coast in to the finish.

EDIT: If you can only boil 3.5 gallons, I'd plan on doing partial mashes for the time being. You'll get much of the benefit of AG in terms of better control over ingredients, use of specialty malts, and hopefully a bit better flavor, but you won't have to worry about using huge amounts of pale malt to collect your fermentables. I'm usually collecting 6.5 or 7.0 gallons of wort for a 5-gallon batch.
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Old 02-19-2007, 05:27 PM   #5
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So is there really no happy medium between all grain and partial mash? I was kind of thinking about doing 6 lbs of grains, and say 5-6 lbs of extract, so i think i would need at least half the fermentables to come from the mash.

I agree that i need a bigger kettle, but a found a great deal on a 5 gallon cooler, but dont want to just let it sit there.

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Old 02-19-2007, 05:29 PM   #6
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Sure, you can decide how much comes from the mash and how much from extract. No problems there.

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Old 02-19-2007, 05:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpbergie
So is there really no happy medium between all grain and partial mash? I was kind of thinking about doing 6 lbs of grains, and say 5-6 lbs of extract, so i think i would need at least half the fermentables to come from the mash.

I agree that i need a bigger kettle, but a found a great deal on a 5 gallon cooler, but dont want to just let it sit there.
Partial mash IS the happy medium

My first mashes were all partial, although I was boiling more wort than you are. I'd use about eight pounds of grain, collect about four, four and half gallons of wort, and supplement with a few pounds of DME. Your plan sounds about right, although the fermentables you get from the grain will probably be closer to a third of the total, not half.
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Old 02-19-2007, 07:12 PM   #8
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If you're easing into all-grain via the partial mash route, then I'd suggest the five-gallon cooler/MLT. It should still give you ample grain-bed depth, and five-gallon rubbermaid coolers are *very* reasonable (I got one at Wal-Mart for $12; I'm sure someone has found one at Lowes for 6¢). The hardware to convert the cooler will cost the same, regardless of size.

In terms of potential for upgrading...a five-gallon cooler will still serve well you for a nice partial mash, but if you ever do move to full-boil capability and want to do a full mash, you could still use the five-gallon MLT for many all-grain beers. If you later decide to upgrade your MLT to a ten-gallon coooler, then your five-gallon one will still serve nicely as a hot liquor tun. Nothing wasted.

I've been brewing all-grain with a friend for years and not long ago built my own AG homebrewery. The difference in what you can make and what you can taste over "syrup beer" is amazing, and the equipment will actually pay for itself pretty quickly. You may not want to "ease into it" after a couple good PM batches

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Old 02-19-2007, 07:21 PM   #9
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Thanks for the advice. I will go with the 5 gallon cooler.

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Old 02-19-2007, 07:34 PM   #10
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I just did a small PM in a 5 gal. cooler. I only had 3 lbs. of grain, but it seemed to work fine. I am using stainless braid and batch sparging. I got about 70% efficiency which I am pretty happy about.

Next I will try my hand at an AG batch.

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