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Old 08-01-2012, 02:44 AM   #21
KeythL
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...For sparging water, I don't need a huge cooler, correct? I'd only need something around 5g? In addition, it does NOT need to be fitted with any special valve accessories--it can be just a plain igloo/rubbermaid round cooler?...
You can definitely get started with just two coolers. I think a 5 gallon cooler for use as a Hot Liquor Tank (HLT), i.e. your sparge water, is going to be very limiting if your kettle is a 15.5 Gallon Keggle. You could do medium strength 5 gallon batches, but you'd be better off with a 10 gallon if you're only going to have two coolers for mashing and lautering and you want to do heavier beers. there's no way you could do a double batch with a 5 gallon cooler.

I'd add a braid and a valve to both my primary and secondary coolers from the get go(it only costs about $20 to convert a cooler) you can batch sparge without having a ball valve\braid on each but to fly sparge you really need to be able to control the flow rate on both.

If you don't already have a brewing software package, download brew mate (it's free) and run some sample recipes through it, it has a tool to calculate strike water and sparge water based on your target volume and grain bill. That will show you how limiting a 5 gallon cooler will be (of course 5 gallon coolers are dirt cheap so there's no reason not to have one...it makes making small batches easier).

Looks like you've got enough of an idea to get dangerous , have fun.

Keyth
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Old 08-01-2012, 01:33 PM   #22
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So much to mull over! I think I got it-- sorry for all the questions, but you guys are an AWESOME resource! Here's my last bit and I think I'll have narrowed down what I need (not completely, but I'm on the right path).

For sparging water, I don't need a huge cooler, correct? I'd only need something around 5g? In addition, it does NOT need to be fitted with any special valve accessories--it can be just a plain igloo/rubbermaid round cooler?

For my mash tun: I'm planning on doing mostly 5g batches, but higher gravity beers (I LOVE IPA's and higher ABV belgians). I may do the occasional 10g batch as well, and chances are I'd be shooting for a higher alcohol percentage as well. Mostly, though, it's going to be 5g batches. Would it make more sense for me to get the 62qt cooler, or the 10 gallon igloo? I feel like the 10 gallon may be more convenient but offer less flexibility?

And just to make sure I'm on the same page, I only need TWO coolers, correct? One for mashing/sparging, and one to hold the sparge water? As I understand it, I heat up water in the keggle to mash with. While the conversion is happening, I heat up more water in the keggle for the sparging water and transfer that. After I drain the wort from the mash tun into the keggle, I sparge with both coolers and that ultimately gets transferred into the keggle. Is that correct?

Thank you all very much!
If your going to fly sparge, then yes, two coolers would get the job done. If your going to batch sparge, you can get by with 1 cooler and 1 pot and 1 bucket.
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Old 08-01-2012, 06:35 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by KeythL View Post
You can definitely get started with just two coolers. I think a 5 gallon cooler for use as a Hot Liquor Tank (HLT), i.e. your sparge water, is going to be very limiting if your kettle is a 15.5 Gallon Keggle. You could do medium strength 5 gallon batches, but you'd be better off with a 10 gallon if you're only going to have two coolers for mashing and lautering and you want to do heavier beers. there's no way you could do a double batch with a 5 gallon cooler.

I'd add a braid and a valve to both my primary and secondary coolers from the get go(it only costs about $20 to convert a cooler) you can batch sparge without having a ball valve\braid on each but to fly sparge you really need to be able to control the flow rate on both.

If you don't already have a brewing software package, download brew mate (it's free) and run some sample recipes through it, it has a tool to calculate strike water and sparge water based on your target volume and grain bill. That will show you how limiting a 5 gallon cooler will be (of course 5 gallon coolers are dirt cheap so there's no reason not to have one...it makes making small batches easier).

Looks like you've got enough of an idea to get dangerous , have fun.

Keyth
Thanks for all the help! From what I've gathered, this leaves me with about 2 (probably plenty more) options for what I want to do/would be best for me.

1) Buy two 10-Gallon round coolers. Convert one into my MLT, using one of the conversion kits and either buy a false bottom or SS braiding. Make the second one my HLT for sparging. Buy a fly sparge setup, and sparge into my keggle.

2) Buy one 10 gallon cooler as my HLT, leave it alone, and convert a 62qt cooler into my MLT (with the same kit, probably using SS braiding). Batch sparge (since I wasn't able to find much information on fly sparging in a rectangular cooler) into the Keggle as before.

This may get into a debate of fly vs batch sparging. I've heard of a few drawbacks for both cases. Option 1 is great because of even distribution of the sparge water, but if I want to do 10 gallon batches or high gravity 5gallon batches, space might be an issue... correct?

Option 2 is great because of all the available space in the MLT, I save money on batch sparging, but the from what I read the efficiency may be lower, and if I do lighter 5 gallon batches the grain bed might not be deep enough. Also makes fly sparging harder if I did want to do that, correct?

At this point, I can get the equipment for option 2 at a lower price. Are these observations correct? What system do you think is better suited given all my prior posts?
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Old 08-02-2012, 12:39 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by dkziemann View Post
Thanks for all the help! From what I've gathered, this leaves me with about 2 (probably plenty more) options for what I want to do/would be best for me.

1) Buy two 10-Gallon round coolers. Convert one into my MLT, using one of the conversion kits and either buy a false bottom or SS braiding. Make the second one my HLT for sparging. Buy a fly sparge setup, and sparge into my keggle.

2) Buy one 10 gallon cooler as my HLT, leave it alone, and convert a 62qt cooler into my MLT (with the same kit, probably using SS braiding). Batch sparge (since I wasn't able to find much information on fly sparging in a rectangular cooler) into the Keggle as before.

This may get into a debate of fly vs batch sparging. I've heard of a few drawbacks for both cases. Option 1 is great because of even distribution of the sparge water, but if I want to do 10 gallon batches or high gravity 5gallon batches, space might be an issue... correct?

Option 2 is great because of all the available space in the MLT, I save money on batch sparging, but the from what I read the efficiency may be lower, and if I do lighter 5 gallon batches the grain bed might not be deep enough. Also makes fly sparging harder if I did want to do that, correct?

At this point, I can get the equipment for option 2 at a lower price. Are these observations correct? What system do you think is better suited given all my prior posts?
I agree that option 2 affords you the most flexibility and the lowest initial cost. I would still add a braid\valve to the round cooler.

Whether you end up batch sparging or fly sparging the goal is the same, consistency. Every setup is going to behave differently, and you simply need to learn your system by brewing a few batches. If you have 70% efficiency or 85% it doesn't really matter as long as you know what to expect and can adjust your recipes accordingly.

I hope you saw my fly sparge picture, it really is that simple, I have a spare false bottom that I use on top of the grain bed so the incoming sparge water doesn't disturb the bed, but I could have just as easily used a piece of aluminum foil and poked some holes in it. I simply match my flow rates and keep 1~2 inches of sparge water above the grain bed as I fill my boil kettle with the wort from the mash tun, when I get within a gallon (small cooler as mash-tun) or a gallon and a half (large cooler as mash-tun) of my pre-boil volume I shut off the sparge water. I'll need to re calculate this as I've recently upgraded to a 15.5 Kettle. Start out batch sparging, if you like your efficiency, stick with it, if you decide you need to tweak things, give it a try (round or rectangular cooler, false-bottom, manifold, or SS Braid doesn't really matter if you keep the flow rate so you don't disturb the grain bed, others of course will disagree vehemently).

Try not to get upset if you do find you've ended up waisting a little money because you bought something you don't use, hopefully my and other's advise will aid you in not buying something that doesn't work for your set up that you end up having to repurchase\upgrade just to get started.

Keyth
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Old 08-02-2012, 04:14 AM   #25
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You have been more than helpful, and I think this answers everything! I need to send you my first all grain beer!!

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