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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > All Grain & Partial Mash Brewing > Will a 5 gallon MLT be sufficient?
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Old 11-16-2011, 02:29 PM   #1
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Default Will a 5 gallon MLT be sufficient?

So I just started extract brewing but I already want to move to AG. I was talking to a friend that brews and uses a 5 gallon igloo MLT and said I should be on the lookout for one on Craigslist. I found one really cheap but after reading some threads here I am a little concerned it won't be big enough as I want to brew some big beers.

A lot of people here suggest that 5 gallon igloos are too small for high gravity 5 gallon batches, my friend has been saying that it works fine as long as you can deal with low efficiency. I didn't see anyone else really talk about using a lower efficiency in 5 gallon igloos to get higher gravity, everyone said you need a bigger MLT, so I thought I would ask: would it be worth the extra money for a new 10 gallon or would a second hand 5 gallon work?

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Old 11-16-2011, 02:37 PM   #2
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At 1.25 qts/pound, a five-gal can hold, maybe 12 pounds of grain (more if you do 1 qt/ pound.). That's enough if you plan on doing 6-ish ABV beers. Anything higher gravity, and you'll need a bigger MLT.

I use a 5-gal, but that's only because I do small batches. When I get the 5-gal batch setup, I'll def get a 10 gal cooler.

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Old 11-16-2011, 02:38 PM   #3
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I started off six months ago with a ten gallon and am baffled at how I could possibly make do with half the space. Even with some overhead in there it gives me the wiggle room if I need to adjust temps.

Wait it out. No matter how cheap it is I would say it's money you'll eventually consider a loss as you will want to go to ten gallons.

Think of it this way; low efficiency means wasted grains. In a short span of time what you've paid for grains that were wasted due to low efficiency will make up the difference between a five and ten gallon cooler.

BTW...I don't do all crazy high-gravity beers. I've done some small, some big and all have been great in it.

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Old 11-16-2011, 02:43 PM   #4
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When I switched over I went for the 10 gallon right away. Even with an average 1.040-1.060 beer I'm usually starting with 4 gallons of water, add grain and it's almost up to the 6 gallon mark. My feeling was it gives you more flexibility and you know you'll eventually want to do a RIS or barleywine. I got mine on sale at Home Depot 10-Gallon Water Cooler Orange Jug-FG1610HDORAN at The Home Depot

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Old 11-16-2011, 02:47 PM   #5
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That's kind of what i was thinking, if it costs, let's say a dollar, more per batch in grain it won't take long for the 10 gallon to pay for itself considering they can be ordered from walmart or target for like $40 but my friend insists it isn't necessary. I also feel like low efficiency like that would make it harder to brew consistently but I'm still pretty new to this so I am not sure.

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Old 11-16-2011, 02:47 PM   #6
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I've used my 5 gallon cooler for 5 years, on 5 gallon batches and have never had a problem. At 1.25 it actually holds nearly 13 pounds of grain. Since most of my grainbills run between 10 and 14 pounds, I have no problem. for 14 pounds I just use about a 1.15 quarts/pound mash dillution. Or for 15pounds I go with a 1 quart/gallon.

14 pounds of 2-row in a 5 gallon batch gives you a 1.076 OG so it's not a small beer.

I rarely need a larger mash tun. If I'm making a bigger beer I'm often doing a 2.5 gallon batch instead of a 5 gallon one and those 14 pounds would then make a beer with an og of 1.151..... If I do want to make a 5 gallon batch of a big beer, or a larger than 5 gallon batch, I have a TON of homebrewing buddies, with all sorts of systems and sizes of mash tuns, and they'd let me use their geer. and if it's a barleywine or something like that, we're all brewing together then anyway, or hanging out.

I really don't have the space for a 10 gallon cooler, and like I said, in 5 years of using my 5 I've never had the need to go with a bigger one for more than a 1 shot deal. I maybe brew 1 huge beer a year anyway.

Other folks have other opinions, but in truth, you can make a lot of beer in a 5 gallon cooler.

If you wanna be realistic and practical and it not just be about the biggest toys, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions.

1) Am I ever going to brew larger than 5 gallon batches?
2) Are the majority if not all of my batches going to have an og higher than 1.076 (14 pounds of grain?)
3) Do I have the money or the storage space for a larger one?

It really comes down to those questions. In my case all three of those were no.

You could also add a fourth question- If I need to brew bigger once in awhile can I lay my hands on a bigger cooler. My Answer to that was yes.

So to me, a larger cooler was overkill, in light of living in a loft and not having much storage, nor having a realistic need for a larger one.

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Old 11-16-2011, 02:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skarekrough View Post
I
Think of it this way; low efficiency means wasted grains. In a short span of time what you've paid for grains that were wasted due to low efficiency will make up the difference between a five and ten gallon cooler.
What low efficiency? I'm getting over 80% with my little 5 gallon cooler......Now that I have a barley crusher it may even be higher. But since day 1 I got between 75 and 80%.

It ain't the size of your cooler, it's your grain crush and how it works with your braid or false bottom that determines your efficiency......
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Old 11-16-2011, 02:59 PM   #8
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There is no reason to use a 5g igloo. A 10G is pretty much required for a 5G batch. The difference in price is about $25, which is cheaper than buying twice. Get the 10G.

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Old 11-16-2011, 03:04 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revvy View Post
I've used my 5 gallon cooler for 5 years, on 5 gallon batches and have never had a problem. At 1.25 it actually holds nearly 13 pounds of grain. Since most of my grainbills run between 10 and 14 pounds, I have no problem. for 14 pounds I just use about a 1.15 quarts/pound mash dillution. Or for 15pounds I go with a 1 quart/gallon.

14 pounds of 2-row in a 5 gallon batch gives you a 1.076 OG so it's not a small beer.

I rarely need a larger mash tun. If I'm making a bigger beer I'm often doing a 2.5 gallon batch instead of a 5 gallon one and those 14 pounds would then make a beer with an og of 1.151..... If I do want to make a 5 gallon batch of a big beer, or a larger than 5 gallon batch, I have a TON of homebrewing buddies, with all sorts of systems and sizes of mash tuns, and they'd let me use their geer. and if it's a barleywine or something like that, we're all brewing together then anyway, or hanging out.

I really don't have the space for a 10 gallon cooler, and like I said, in 5 years of using my 5 I've never had the need to go with a bigger one for more than a 1 shot deal. I maybe brew 1 huge beer a year anyway.

Other folks have other opinions, but in truth, you can make a lot of beer in a 5 gallon cooler.
Sure...and if you were hell-bent on it you could probably make beer with a coffee mug and a zippo. That doesn't make the process any easier.

I understand the situation that you're lacking space for a ten gallon cooler. And that's a perfectly valid reason.

However the OP is inclined to go smaller for the sake of saving some cash, which is something that is going to come out in the wash over a VERY short span of time with low efficiency. A larger cooler is going to give him more room for temp adjustment, something that we all find ourselves fretting over as we get started with AG and even as we progress. Less frustration and more chance of great success is what will make an enthusiastic homebrewer!

You can make alot of beer in a five gallon. But when you're talking about efficiency you can make more in a ten! The process will also be more forgiving as well, especially for a newb.
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Old 11-16-2011, 03:10 PM   #10
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A 10G is pretty much required for a 5G batch.
Not it's NOT required, it might be preferred but to tell someone it's required, is bad advice....I Just showed how it's not required.... If someone is only going to make beers below 1.076, and 5 gallon batches, then a 5 gallon is sufficient. Stating an opinion is one thing, but saying something like that is not a fact....and shouldn't be posed as one to a beginner.
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