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Old 04-17-2011, 02:08 PM   #1
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Default Mash Temp Regulation

Does anyone else have difficulty with this? I'm using a Coleman Xtreme cooler, and the issue isn't with keeping temp up once it's stabilized, but for some reason, I'm having some difficulty figuring out how to accurately hit my desired mash temp...

I've only on my 3rd AG batch, and maybe I just don't have my system dialed in yet...today, as an example, I calculated my strike temp as 176*F (based on the grain temp of 64*F, which is the temp in my garage where the grain has been stored for > 24 hrs, and 14.5 lbs of grain) The temp seemed to stabilize at 160*F rather than the desired temp of 155*F After stirring the mash with the tun open for about 15 min, I became concerned that it wasn't starting to cool off very fast, so I added some cold water, but then I undershot, and ended up at 148*F.

I've made a practice of pre-heating the cooler with the hottest water from my tap (presumably a fixed value as I've not changed the water temp on my hot water heater). I figured this would make my tun's thermal mass relatively stable from batch to batch...How do you actually calculate the thermal mass?

Does the ambient temp have much of a role? On my other batches I've had more of an issue with coming in a little *under* where I wanted to be (never off by as big of a difference as today). Both of the other batches were brewed when it was a bit colder out...

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Old 04-17-2011, 03:13 PM   #2
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I use software and always hit mine fine. Heat water a bit above your mash in temp..let the temp drop to your mash in temp. Mix and than wait 10 minutes, re mix and check temp. It takes a few minutes for the mash to settle..so if you check them temp right after you mix the grain in you will get a range of temps..mix and wait and recheck in 5 to 10 minutes. If you continue to be 5 degrees above your mash than just adjust your intitial temp to hit your target.

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Old 04-17-2011, 03:15 PM   #3
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I had that problem using a cooler that was only 1/2 full. Went to a 5 gal igloo and can hold with in 1 degree for 90 min. It's filled to the very top with 11 pounds of grain.

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Old 04-17-2011, 03:25 PM   #4
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I use a 52qt Coleman Xtreme as a mash tun, and I use Beersmith Software. I have all of my equipment set up in the program, and when taking the grain temp and tun temp into consideration, BS gives me a extremely close strike water temp. However, I do heat my water up about 5° hotter than what BS says before adding it to my MLT.

As asn example, if my strike water temp from BS is 167°f, then I'll heat up to around 172°f-ish, I pour all of my strike water into the MLT, close the lid, and let it sit for about 10 minutes before doughing in. When I add my grain, I dump it all in at once, and stir, stir, stir for 5-10 minutes ensuring any doughballs are eliminated.

Taking your example into consideration, I think that preheating your MLT with the hottest tap water available, may not be the best way to go about it. If your tap water temp is much cooler than your actual strike water temp, then your MLT will still be sucking some of the heat out of your strike water before equilibrium occurs. And it seems like a waste of water, unless you are using that tap water for something productive afterwards . If you just heat up your strike water as normal, make it a little hotter than what your calculations say, allow your tun to preheat for bout 5-10minutes befoer doughing in, I think you'll be okay.

Take note though, the strike temp (IMO) givres you some leeway to stir, obviously there will be some heat loss as you are breaking up doughballs and ensuring your mash is thoroughly infused.

Ambient temps may play a small role in how much heat you lose over the 60 minute mash, but I think with the Coleman Extreme coolers it is anegligible amount, when ambient is ~80°f I don't even lose a degree, but when it is chilly outside, or really breezy, it seems like I can lose about a degree over the hour.

Stirring is the best way to cool off your mash, by bringing the hot part of the mash from the bottom of the tunto the top to dissipate heat, and gently stirring the top after doing so, it may take a few minutes, but it has worked well for me when I am a few degrees over. Adding water can be tricky because of the volume it takes to actually drop the temperature, and it creates cool spots when not thoroughly mixed.

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Old 04-17-2011, 04:35 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jbt View Post
I had that problem using a cooler that was only 1/2 full. Went to a 5 gal igloo and can hold with in 1 degree for 90 min. It's filled to the very top with 11 pounds of grain.
While this may seem like a solution, I'm not buying it. I call it coincedence, and more likely that the new cooler insulated better.

I use a coleman xtreme 72qt cooler. Rarely do i have it filled above halfway. I usually hit my mash temps dead on. Here's a trick: Preheat the tun. I fill my MLT with the hottest tap water while I am setting up my brewing and keep it closed. Once I am ready, I empty the tap water and keep the tun shut until its time to dough in. Also, I use a calculator that takes the grain temp and target mash temp into account and tells me what temp whatever volume i have needs to be. (Brewzor calculator app for androids)
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Old 04-17-2011, 09:06 PM   #6
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While this may seem like a solution, I'm not buying it. I call it coincedence, and more likely that the new cooler insulated better.

This maybe. I'm not arguing the point was just my experience.
I also have a 52qt extreme. I made about 30 batches with the 52qt and probably about 12 with the 5gal. And I can tell you from my experience that in "my process" the 5gal was effortless to hold temp..

I also heat my strike water about 8-10 degrees above my strike temp, pour it into the tun and close the lid for 15min. Then I open it up and stir until I reach strike temp then dough in.


Schnitzengiggle Great explanation!!
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Old 04-18-2011, 12:33 PM   #7
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Thank you all for the replies...

@ Schnitzengiggle -- I think that I may start foregoing the pre-heating step, but not for the exact reasons you suggest. I'm sure that if my tun is cooler than the hot water, I'll be pulling less heat out of the strike water than I would otherwise (especially if the tun was on my deck at 45*F like it was the night before last!). If stirring is the best way to cool the temp, it sure seems slow! It seemed to me that the Coleman Xtreme was so efficient at holding heat, that even with the lid open, and me actively stirring for a full 15 min, the temp was holding rock solid at 160*F! I definitely started freaking out a little, and that's when I added the cold water...I added a little, and it dropped to 157*, a little more (about the same amount) and it plummeted to 148*F...

@NuclearRich -- I think I may start doing what you and Schnitzengiggle suggest, and putting the strike water in to the tun a little hot, stirring to get the strike temp where it needs to be, then adding the grain to it. At risk of introducing a separate debate to the thread, I had been putting all the grain in, then adding the strike water. I have seen other threads debating this issue, and from what I can tell, there's no hard reason why one way or the other should be considered best practice...I think in my case though, going to the water first way may help me learn how to regulate my tun's temperatures.

@Jbt -- I agree that the issue is not the holding temp part...It's just getting the right temp to hold! Once I equalize to a given temp, the cooler is rock solid at keeping that temp for the full duration of the mash.

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Old 04-20-2011, 11:55 AM   #8
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I brewed this winter in temps close to freezing, so the ambient temps are as close to being able to affect my temps as possible. However, the MLT held strong. When I first started the all-grain process, it took some dialing in for "my process", which it probably will for you as well. Give your thermometer a couple minutes to equalize (as well as the temps in your mash to equalize after your dough-in); I found that the temps swing widely if you are too nervous and keep checking it.
Brewing software has really helped me, because it makes calculating the temps really easy and takes into account the temp of the grain (15lbs of 45dF vs 9lbs of 70dF grain makes a difference). Even with these calculations, I still felt like I was undershooting the mash temps by a few degrees, so I figured it was from the MLT temp and took that into account by preheating the tun.
All of this was made possible by the great notes and advice found within the pages of these books we call HBT threads.
Good luck, I am sure you will dial it in sooner than later.

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I thought that meant people were getting frustrated with their brews. Like- OH NO my beer is infected RHWAHAHRBLABLE!!!! OR- My beer pours all foamy RDWHAHBLARABBLE
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Old 04-20-2011, 12:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
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... it took some dialing in for "my process", which it probably will for you as well.
This is what I figured...

Quote:
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Give your thermometer a couple minutes to equalize (as well as the temps in your mash to equalize after your dough-in); I found that the temps swing widely if you are too nervous and keep checking it.
Yes, the nervous factor is there...which is why I freaked out and added water (twice...) I think I'm going to invest in a digital thermometer recommended on another thread so I can get a more instantaneous reading, and also not have to open the tun to get a reading.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NuclearRich View Post
Brewing software has really helped me, because it makes calculating the temps really easy and takes into account the temp of the grain (15lbs of 45dF vs 9lbs of 70dF grain makes a difference). Even with these calculations, I still felt like I was undershooting the mash temps by a few degrees, so I figured it was from the MLT temp and took that into account by preheating the tun.
I do use software (ProMash), and I agree it's way easier...I'm still planning on trying to figure out how to calculate a better number/correction factor for my tun's thermal mass. I think once I get a different thermometer, I'll also check to see how accurate my estimated grain temp has been....
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Old 04-20-2011, 03:06 PM   #10
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This is what I figured...



Yes, the nervous factor is there...which is why I freaked out and added water (twice...) I think I'm going to invest in a digital thermometer recommended on another thread so I can get a more instantaneous reading, and also not have to open the tun to get a reading.
That's an awesome price... it seems to have at least a few positive reviews here based on the searching I did. I struggle with mash temps as well, and I'm going back and forth on ordering something like this or just biting the bullet and picking up a Thermapen. I'd love to hear your thoughts if/when you get this, particularly in the construction of the probe.
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