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Old 02-27-2011, 06:55 PM   #1
billk911
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Default Stainless steel mash tun help

I just purchased a brewing system from a guy who sadly passed away. I have 2 large (15 gallon ) stainless pots and one pot around 8 gallons furnished with a false bottom to be used as my mash tun. Will putting a couple of rounds of reflective insulation around the outside be good enough to hold heat? I think not but I would like someone elses opinion. What else could I do to maintain the mash temp besides putting a flame to it? I was thinking of making an insulated box to go around the mash tun. Opinions?



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Old 02-27-2011, 07:06 PM   #2
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Do you know what a decoction is? You remove a bit of the wort and heat it and then return it to the mash to raise it's temperature. It's usually used to do a multi-step mash but there isn't any reason it couldn't be used to maintain the mash temp. A sleeping bag or winter coat wrapped around the kettle will help a great deal. Make sure you cover the lid too.



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Old 02-27-2011, 07:18 PM   #3
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Depending on the temperature where you'll be brewing, you might need more insulation than just reflective... Reflective will help keep it warm, don't get me wrong, but you might need more during the colder months...

If you have a heavy blanket you can use to wrap it up during the cooler/colder months, then I would test with that. You could always wrap it in insulation, fill it up with as much water as you can (get to the fill level you expect to need) get it up to mash temp (what you typically use) and see how long it holds it. Adjust things as you need to, for what's insulating it, to make sure you can hold your temp range for the desired amount of time. If you can hold the temp range for at least 45-60 minutes, I'd say you'll be good. If you need to apply heat after just 15-20 minutes, then increase what you have helping insulate it.

I see it as being better to insulate the mash/sparge vessels a bit more than less. It's easier to let a little heat out than to try and fire more in (with direct heat, or with flame)... I've not brewed with anyone using an electric system, so that could be different. Although I would imagine you wouldn't want to power up those elements while you're mashing since you could scorch/burn grain that's in contact with them (or too close)... Again, I've not used an electric system, so my thoughts on how it works could be off there.

I'm thinking about eventually building a brew setup that would use a double jacketed mash tun/kettle... Something where water of the right temperature would be between the mash tun walls, and the outside air... I would imagine that would help keep the mash tun at the desired temperature longer. Of course, it's probably overkill for a home brewer, but you can always think of something (even if you never make it)... It would probably need to be built by a machine shop, so that everything is welded up properly (especially if I go with stainless inside)...

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Old 02-27-2011, 07:29 PM   #4
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The stainless MLT is meant to be used with direct heat for holding and raising the mash temperature. If you're using gas, that insulation will melt. Even if you're using an electric burner you have to be careful with the type of insulation you use. If you have no intention of direct heating, get a cooler.

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Old 02-27-2011, 07:39 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnOldUR View Post
The stainless MLT is meant to be used with direct heat for holding and raising the mash temperature. If you're using gas, that insulation will melt. Even if you're using an electric burner you have to be careful with the type of insulation you use. If you have no intention of direct heating, get a cooler.
That's odd since I have my kettle wrapped in reflective insulation (from Lowe's, adhesive backed) that has no melting issues at all. I did leave about 1" from the bottom of the pot, before starting the insulation though. I've used it on my kitchen stove to boil in without any melting of the insulation. With a propane burner, you might want a little more space before you wrap it, like perhaps above the ball valve...

My pots are aluminum (4mm thick) so I would imagine they're transferring more heat to the insulation than SS would... Although the 4mm of thickness could balance that out.

You CAN get very high heat tolerant insulation if you want to be sure it won't melt. Basically, it's used more in the automotive arena than in home brewing. But, as with so many things, it can be adapted to fit our needs. Things that are used to insulate header pipes would have more than enough tolerance for use. You'll need to figure out how to get it to stay on the pot (perhaps high heat tolerant glue would work)... Of course, TEST with the insulation before you start brewing with it. Do so outside (especially if using a propane burner) so that you have less to worry about. Best in a well ventilated place too (especially the first time you fire with the insulation on it)...
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Old 02-27-2011, 07:47 PM   #6
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My whole point here is I do not want to have to put more heat to it. I know that I could put heat to it if I want to ( which I may have to do ) but I would rather not. I like the idea of wrapping the pot with a sleeping bag. If I would have to put heat to it that would probably require me to buy another propane heater.

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Old 02-27-2011, 07:49 PM   #7
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Flexible Foil-Faced Bubble-Wrap Insulation



  • Temperature Range: -60° to +180° F
  • Heat Flow Rate (K-factor): 0.24 Btu/hr. x in./sq. ft. @ 75° F
  • Density: Not rated
  • Color: Silver


Quote:
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That's odd since I have my kettle wrapped in reflective insulation . . . I've used it on my kitchen stove to boil in without any melting of the insulation.
If your comfortable breathing the fumes from overheated plastic. Good for you.
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Old 02-27-2011, 08:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
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My whole point here is I do not want to have to put more heat to it.
You could look into a MONSTER MASH TUN INSULATOR.
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Old 02-27-2011, 08:01 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnOldUR View Post

Flexible Foil-Faced Bubble-Wrap Insulation

  • Temperature Range: -60° to +180° F
  • Heat Flow Rate (K-factor): 0.24 Btu/hr. x in./sq. ft. @ 75° F
  • Density: Not rated
  • Color: Silver

If your comfortable breathing the fumes from overheated plastic. Good for you.
NOT, really, what I'm using... Besides, with the 180F upper end listing (what's the point where it actually STARTS to break down? Bet it's a good deal above 180F) it would be fine for wrapping a metal mash tun... Since chances are you won't be going over 180F in that even during a sparge... Use it OUTSIDE, and those fumes are a lot less to worry about.

First time I put heat to my kettle with the wrapping, I did have windows open.. I always have a vent going too (part of the issue with brewing in an apartment)... Air exchange rate: HIGH...

There ARE insulation wraps, many listed on amazon's site, that won't have any issue with high temperatures. Consider how HOT header pipes get... This stuff is made to keep the heat within those. Plus, you can get other insulation made to go between the engine and firewall, keeping heat OUT of the cab... Also high temp tolerant above the range of our needs. Consider how HOT race engines get... 'nuf said...

You can find the right product to do the job, it just takes a little looking, to find it...

Whatever you end up using, just test it before you use it the first time... I would also get a thermometer that has a probe that goes into the MLT/kettle, with a display outside, so that you can monitor temps WITHOUT having to open it up, or pull the insulation off of it... Especially during the cooler/colder months...
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Old 02-27-2011, 08:31 PM   #10
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I do have it set up with a thermometer outside ot the mash tun. I have seen guys use heat with the bubble wrap on but they have left the bottom couple inches open. I think the wrap + maybe something else wrapped around the outside would be fine. Also, in the colder times you can always bring the mash tun inside the house where it is a lot warmer ( I live in northern wisconsin ). I have always used the cooler as a mash tun but I could not pass up the deal I got. All 3 stainless pots with stainless ball valves, false bottom, temp gauges, and other bells and whistles. All this for $200. Needless to say I took the deal and changed my setup. Eventually I am going to set this system up with water pumps. I thank everyone for the input and welcome any more discussion on this. You all have been very helpfull.



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