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Old 01-15-2013, 12:51 PM   #1
stealthfixr
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Default Need to find a better way for All-Grain

Hello, I am a returning brewer after a lay off of a few years. I am actually deployed with the US military overseas for a year and I've been brewing here with great results via Midwest Supplies extract kits. I would like to return to all-grain brewing when I get home, but I would like to find a better way to do it.

I went with the 10gal Gott cooler and single infusion mashing before. I found that hitting my mash temperature was hard to get right--easy to miss on either side. My efficiency was relatively low, but some of that may have been the local brew shop's miller being set too wide. The beer wasn't appreciably better than extract, but I never made a 'bad' all-grain batch.

I was thinking that something that allowed me to recirculate and add heat directly may be the way to go. I have considered a Northern Brewer Megapot and a 3500W induction plate for step mashing, but still a little leery of using the induction plate. I could just get my Gott going again with a milling machine of my own and add ice watch/boiling water as needed to hit temps. I just thought step mashing may be a good option. I have also thought of turning my HLT into a manual RIMS setup with the Gott cooler as the mash tun, and a recirculating pump in between. BIAB is also a possibility, but I know little about it other than the basics. The High Gravity electric BIAB system looks very close to what I am after, but not at $1100!

Question is: what is a best 'bang for your buck' time wise, all-grain mashing method that is reliable in terms of results and such? Any and all advice welcome, and thank you ahead of time for your suggestions.

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Old 01-15-2013, 01:00 PM   #2
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I use a 40 qt rectangle cooler with a homemade manifold for mashing. I like it because I have the space to add boiling/cold water to dial in my mash temps. After a few batches however, I usually hit my temps rather easily as I have gotten used to my process.

I have step mashed in it by infusions of water, but only a couple times. To be quite honest, it works pretty good that way too. I may just biab in my kettle for step mashes in the future. I haven't really decided yet.

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Old 01-15-2013, 01:08 PM   #3
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I use a 50' copper coil inside my cooler and circulate water from my HLT through it for heating my MLT. A controller cycles my pump to maintain temps. You don't have to control the HLT just keep it hotter than the MLT. This way, my wort isn't circulating around for an hour or more and nothing but water is being pumped (easy clean up). I have a second pump that recirculates the mash for the last 20-30 minutes for clarifying.

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Old 01-15-2013, 01:10 PM   #4
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Quote:
Question is: what is a best 'bang for your buck' time wise, all-grain mashing method that is reliable in terms of results and such? Any and all advice welcome, and thank you ahead of time for your suggestions.
You may not be ready to hear this but BIAB fits your requirement. I have a 30 at turkey fryer, a cheap Corona mill, a paint strainer bag, and a bath towel. I can hit my mash in temperature within a degree, keep the temp within a couple degrees for an hour (not necessary, conversion doesn't take that long), and get about 80% efficiency. All that for under $100.
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Old 01-15-2013, 01:20 PM   #5
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Agree with RM-MN above with cheap BIAB setups. I hit 70% eff with a max grain bill (13.5 lbs), about 80% with an 11 lb grain bill, and 87% with a small 8 lb grain bill. All this in a small 7.5 gallon turkey fryer pot. I usually drip sparge up to my pre-boil volumes. It's not as sexy as a 3 tier stand system with fly sparge, but it takes an hour or two off the brew day with less equipment to buy/clean as well.

Sounds like the next thing you need is a grain mill. That alone is probably your #1 opportunity in efficiency.

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Old 01-15-2013, 01:37 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by solbes View Post
Sounds like the next thing you need is a grain mill. That alone is probably your #1 opportunity in efficiency.
I'll second this advice. Before dropping money on a fancy new pot or an entirely new system I'd get a grain mill. You can also purchase grain in bulk to save money as a side benefit to increased efficiency. You should be able to get higher efficiency with a single infusion batch sparging setup in a cooler.

How were you determining your stike water temps? I'd get you're hands on some brewing software to do that for you as your next step. Once you have these two things, if you still want to upgrade I'd say go for it.
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Old 01-15-2013, 01:59 PM   #7
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I had the same issues with cooler mashing until I read from someone on here to add the strike water to the cooler at a higher temp than strike and stir it until it gets to target strike temp (about 12 degrees higher than mash temp) and then add grain. Now I hit my temps (within a degree) every time. Also, crushing my own grain made a huge difference in efficiency. No need to buy any additional equipment other than the grain mill and just changing technique. My 2 cents.
Forgot to add: you have to preheat your mash tun! I usually heat up 3 gallons to about 170, add to tun, and leave in until strike water is ready...

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Old 01-15-2013, 02:05 PM   #8
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Hitting mash temps takes a little practice but my idiot proof way might be of help.

1. Use a calculator such as http://www.rackers.org/calcs.shtml

2. Add 5 or so degrees to the temp they gave you, more if its cold outside.

3. Stir until the temperature comes down to where you want it. You can always add some cold water to bring the temp down, but I would do it slowly with lots of stirring.

Always have a gallon or so of backup water boiling JIC you need to adjust upward.


Since you have the 10 gallon MLT(I do too) you probably want to mash on the thin side to decrease head space which will help you to better maintain those temps. Just make sure you are leaving yourself enough sparge water for efficiency sake.


Dont let the BIAB talk you into abandoning equipment you already have. The fact that you have the equipment means that BIAB's biggest pro, cheapness, is not of your concern.

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Old 01-15-2013, 02:17 PM   #9
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Agreed with the preheating of your MLT. The first time I did all-grain I overshot my temps by about 8 degrees and very nearly ruined my beer. Ever since then I preheated and have never been off by more than a single degree.

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Old 01-15-2013, 02:19 PM   #10
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Gonna try this. Been having the same problem as OP.


Quote:
Originally Posted by toddh
I had the same issues with cooler mashing until I read from someone on here to add the strike water to the cooler at a higher temp than strike and stir it until it gets to target strike temp (about 12 degrees higher than mash temp) and then add grain. Now I hit my temps (within a degree) every time. Also, crushing my own grain made a huge difference in efficiency. No need to buy any additional equipment other than the grain mill and just changing technique. My 2 cents.
Forgot to add: you have to preheat your mash tun! I usually heat up 3 gallons to about 170, add to tun, and leave in until strike water is ready...
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