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Old 04-02-2012, 02:49 PM   #1
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Default What did I do wrong, or what is wrong with my setup?

I attempted my first all grain batch yesterday and it turned out to be a disaster. I ended up with a stuck sparge and nothing I tried fixed the problem. When I started to vorlauf the flow was at a trickle and I was able to collect about a cup or so, then nothing. I tried to blow back up…nothing. I stirred again…nothing. I added about a gallon of 168 degree water…nothing. I added my second infusion of batch sparge water, thinking I would go with a modified no sparge…nothing.

Desperation kicked in. I used a stainless steel strainer to start scooping out grain. I used a pitcher to collect wort and filter it through the strainer and into my brew pot. By then I realized I was seriously oxidizing the wort and was generally screwed. I tossed the whole mess.

Here is the process. I had 10.5 pounds of grain (9 pounds 2 row, ½ pound 10L, ½ pound Carapils, ½ pound Vienne). I added 3.5 gallons of 168 degree water to my mash tun and let it sit for 10 mins with the lid on so it would warm up. I mashed in and let it sit for 1 hour. I maintained 150-152 degrees. After an hour I attempted to vorlauf and the rest is described above.

Here is the set up. This is also where I think the problem is. I have a 10 gallon Rubbermaid cooler that has a 9 inch stainless steel false bottom. There is about a ½ - ¾ inch of dead space under the FB. I have high temp tubing connecting the false bottom to the bulkhead, secured by stainless steel hose clamps.

Any issue so far?

If I fill the cooler up with just water and drain, the flow isn’t that great to begin with. The water drains from under the FB, and has to go up through the elbow and across through the tubing and out the ball valve. Should there be a dip tube under the FB? Is the 9 inch FB too small? Anything I’m missing?

I appreciate the help.

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Old 04-02-2012, 02:53 PM   #2
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Perhaps the tubing is compressing under the weight of the grainbed and stopping the flow...

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Old 04-02-2012, 03:01 PM   #3
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The tubing is pretty sturdy. I can't collapse it be squeezing it by hand and it was tough to cut to size. This is what I'm using:

http://www.midwestsupplies.com/mash-tun-false-bottom-adapter-stainless.html

I would be surprised if that is it but I should probably test it by filling the tun with hot water to see if it softens up to the point of being collapsable.

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Old 04-02-2012, 03:02 PM   #4
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I don't have the same type of setup as you do but I can feel your frustration. Its a tough road sometimes.. but you will get it all sorted out in the end.

Some of the things that I do to help prevent a stuck mash (I've been there too. Who hasn't?)
1. Use some rice hulls. I sprinkle the bottom of my mash tun with some rice hulls to help prevent my manifold from plugging up. Rice hulls aren't necessary, but they are super cheap (99 cents for a lb) where I am.
2. Don't go crazy stirring. I find this can really mix things up to the point where the more fine particles end up clogging up the drainage paths.
3. Is your ball valve full-port? What I mean by that is some 1/2" ball valves are full-port which have a 1/2" hole in the ball; a non-full port 1/2" ball valve has a much smaller hole in the valve (maybe 3/8"). My first brew kettle came with a nice stainless steel ball valve, but it wasn't full-port. So I always had trouble draining my mash or the boil. I eventually swapped it for a cheap $8 brass full-port valve from home depot and it has eliminated any constriction problems all together.
4. Don't open your valve 100% when draining. Go slow at first. If you open full right away you can easily compact the grain onto your false bottom and get a stuck mash.

Good luck!

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Old 04-02-2012, 03:17 PM   #5
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You need a 12" false bottom for a 10g Rubbermaid cooler. The 9" is for the 5g coolers and will let grain in around the edges.

-a.

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Old 04-02-2012, 10:55 PM   #6
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If your FB is like mine, the elbow is 3/8" and not 1/2", so it's restricting the flow a bit there. I found a 1/2" elbow, but it sticks out higher above the FB, so I've not made us of it.

Also, I used a piece of silicone tubing to make a pickup tube to extend it from the bottom of the FB. With that in place, I ended up having to transfer all of my grain out of the mash tun into a kettle while I disassembled it. It sucked. No wait - it didn't. I mean... you get the idea.

Are you using quick disconnects? The ones I've seen had a plastic cross blocking the flow - many folks here recommend removing that bit. If you did have some grain make it into your tubing, it very well might have caught on that.

I'd also not worry about oxidation. You came that far - why not see it through? One other thing to try - you could get a grain bag (ala BIAB) and use that in your mash tun with FB (redundant, I know) as a test or added layer of protection.

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Old 04-03-2012, 01:44 AM   #7
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You are right. It is a 3/8" elbow. I hadn't thought of that.

I talked to the guys at Midwest today. This might have been just one of those things as my set up appears to be common. I think the grain bag idea as a precaution/ test is a good idea that I might try next time.

I'm also thinking about ditching the FB and going with a bazooka screen or some other stainless steel tubing, in at least a 1/2".

I appreciate the replies.

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Old 04-03-2012, 01:53 AM   #8
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I used a 'T' bazooka screen in a 10 gallon RubberMaid cooler mash tun that drains really well. I'm not currently using it (I have a converted keg mash tun these days) buy my brew-buddy uses it for his batches. I simply used 1/2" ID silicone tubing to connect the screen to a barb that goes into a coupling that then got to the ball valve. Hardest part was getting the cooler to not leak (wasn't that difficult). I used the hose to connect the bazooka screen so that it was as close to the center of the cooler bottom as possible.

I wouldn't get the straight bazooka screen if I was you (or to do it over again). It's simply too long to fit properly (at least as I had it). If you can get it fitted into the bulkhead, then it might work.

BTW, I use a Jaybird/NorCal 15" false bottom in my keg mash tun... As we tend to say in this neck of the woods... It's whicked pissah!!

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Old 04-03-2012, 01:58 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Opus_X View Post
You are right. It is a 3/8" elbow. I hadn't thought of that.

I talked to the guys at Midwest today. This might have been just one of those things as my set up appears to be common. I think the grain bag idea as a precaution/ test is a good idea that I might try next time.

I'm also thinking about ditching the FB and going with a bazooka screen or some other stainless steel tubing, in at least a 1/2".

I appreciate the replies.
I use the bazooka screen and have never had a stuck sparge, with at least a dozen all grain batches so far. I have deduced though that I am losing efficiency due to the possibility of channeling. I tried a batch sparge on my brew last weekend (as well as preheating my mash tun) and improved my efficiency by almost 10%
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