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Old 11-01-2011, 12:03 AM   #1
Lyikos
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Default cooler choice for diy mash tun

How can I tell if a cooler will tolerate the heat of mashing, without bending or leaking melted plastic into my beer? I have an opprotunity to get a 5 gal igloo cooler on the cheap, and was wondering if that was safe. I examined several coolers at wal mart but none said anything about heat on labels.

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Old 11-01-2011, 12:12 AM   #2
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I bought the cheap, red 48 qt cooler at walmart. No problems with heating water or off flavors from it. Also keeps mash temp great, hardly loses any heat. I also throw a beach towel over the lid since that's where you feel the most heat escape, so maybe that helps. Only problem I can think of is it doesn't have a drain hole so you have to drill a hole in it.

Edit: It's this one http://www.walmart.com/ip/Igloo-Island-Breeze-48-Quart-Cooler/16437961

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Old 11-01-2011, 12:16 AM   #3
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If you don't see yourself going to 10 gallon batches, you will be fine. The towel over the lid is a good idea too.

Just don't heat your strike water over 180 degrees and you won't deal with the warping that happens when noobs put boiling water in their cooler HLTs.

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Old 11-01-2011, 01:02 AM   #4
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I've yet to see a single one rated for heat. I've also yet to hear of one turning into a molten puddle of goo when hit with warm water...I think practically all of them are HDPE or PP.

In any case, any cooler should work, and listen to EdWort, nothing over 180F.

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Old 11-01-2011, 02:12 AM   #5
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Thanks for the replies. After reading the walmart cooler page I decided against the used igloo in favor of this
http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=16437964&findingMethod=rr

Its already got a hole and is big enough to double as fermentation chamber when I need to temp control it.

Anyone uses one of these and has pointers on how to modify it?

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Old 11-01-2011, 02:43 AM   #6
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out of curiosity, are there any negative side effects to adding 180F+ water to a cooler, other than simply warping the plastic? I like to pre-heat my cooler with a ~1.5 gallons of hot water (then dump this water down the sink) prior to adding my strike water. So far I've just been guessing when the water is "hot enough but not too hot"...but if there's the potential to leach stuff out of the plastic and into the mash, I will put my thermometer to use in the future.

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Old 11-01-2011, 03:12 AM   #7
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I'm not sure if there's a leeching problem....my guess is "no", but I'm not sure.

I've never understood the preheating method people use. Me, I just add all my strike water to my cooler at ~8-10 degrees higher than desired strike temp, close the lid, and wait five minutes. Then I open it, and see if I'm at strike temp. If I am, good for me. Usually I'm slightly high, so I just leave the lid open and stir for a few minutes, and the temps come down...then I just dump in the grain.

This way my cooler is never "too hot" or "too cold", always just right .

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Old 11-01-2011, 04:10 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shortyjacobs View Post
I've never understood the preheating method people use.
I guess my reasoning for preheating is that I can just dump some hot water into the cooler while heating my strike water, and let it sit without paying any attention to it. Then I can dump that hot water out and add my strike water/grain immediately and it usually comes out pretty close.

However, maneuvering/dumping the cooler is quite a hassle, so I think next time I'm going to give your method a try...seems a little simpler, and to be honest it sounds like it's probably more consistent from batch to batch.


As to Lyikos question about coolers: I use a 48 quart cooler similar to the shape/design of the one you linked to. Modification is pretty simple...the plug/fitting just unscrews, and you can put your fittings in the same hole. I saved and reused the original gasket that was on the fitting.

A few good reads for modifications:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Converting_a_cooler_to_a_mash_tun

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f11/no-leak-mlt-bulkhead-design-87197/
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Old 11-01-2011, 04:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EdWort View Post
If you don't see yourself going to 10 gallon batches, you will be fine. The towel over the lid is a good idea too.

Just don't heat your strike water over 180 degrees and you won't deal with the warping that happens when noobs put boiling water in their cooler HLTs.
i have had slight warping in my orange home depot cooler over time. It is slight but its there. I never put boiling water in mine - I think this is the result of brewing in the winter mostly but this is just a theory. I think adding strike water to a below 32 degree cooler is enough to distort the plastic. that being said there has been no cracking yet....but I will be switching to a keg mash tun as soon as I get my electric set up going.

My 2 cents: get a 10 gallon round cooler .
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