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Old 05-17-2010, 04:43 PM   #1
chs9
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Default My First All-Grain Setup - please comment

I've been surfing these forums and doing some heavy research for a couple weeks now trying to figure out what exactly I want in my all grain set up. I've made some decisions, but still am unclear on a few points. Any suggestions or anything are totally welcome. I live in a small town and don't know anybody who all grain brews to witness in operation before I build so I'd really appreciate a few pointers. Just to be clear - I've never all grain brewed, not even BIAB.

The Goal -

I want to do 5 gallon all grain batches, but am planning on building a system capable of doing 10. By the end of the summer (maybe more realistically by December) I want to have a steel brew tree welded together, but until then I'm going to be using my stoop and the ground to get some gravity flow. I'm starting with keggle HLT and BK and intending on using a cooler MLT.

The Equipment -

So, I've got 2 unconverted SS coors kegs, the kind where the walls aren't quite vertical but bowed out a little. I'm planning on using one as the HLT and one as the BK. For the MLT, I have Igloo 10 gal coolers (the yellow round coolers with the red lid) available at my local hardware store, as well as the full walmart assortment of rectangular coolers available in town. I can always go up to Albuquerque, but I'd prefer not to. I don't have equipment capable of welding SS available to me, so all fittings will be weldless from bargainfittings.com.

The Questions -

1. Is it necessary to install a ball valve in the BK? If so, why?

2. Since this will eventually be a brewtree, where do you think sightglasses and thermometers are absolutely needed, a convenience, or unnecessary? Where will I want the thermometers, height-wise?

3. Are there any problems using a 10 gal igloo cylinder cooler for a MLT? Would you suggest something different? Does anyone have experience applying the bargainfitting.com cooler conversion kit (or their own conversion) to one of these? It probably won't be large enough for 10 gal batches, but the impression I get is that cylinder is the way to go for a cooler MLT for 5 gal batches. I'm willing to build a larger one for 10 gal batches when it's time to move up.

4. I intend on batch sparging, but I'd like to keep my equipment capable of handling any hardware additions required for other techniques. Is there anything I should look out for here, IE anything I should NOT do to my MLT or HLT that would prohibit another sparging technique in the future?

5. Anything I should watch out for, add or omit for the bargainfittings.com SS fitting kits for the keggles or cooler? I get enough arsenic in my drinking water that I don't want to bother with Pb from brass (pickled or no). I'm ok with the increased cost.

6. Would you suggest buying fittings from another distributor?

Alright, that's all for now. I've done a lot of reading and surfing to try to figure this stuff out, but these are things I haven't been able to solve and it's getting near keg conversion time. Feel free to comment on any component of my plan, not just my questions.

Thanks for reading (and replies!) of course

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Old 05-17-2010, 05:10 PM   #2
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1. Is it necessary to install a ball valve in the BK? If so, why? The ball valve is a matter of convienence. Your chilled wort could be siphoned into your fermenter. I assume that you are using an immersion chiller. I don't think it is wise or safe to siphon wort at boiling temperatures.

2. Since this will eventually be a brewtree, where do you think sightglasses and thermometers are absolutely needed, a convenience, or unnecessary? Where will I want the thermometers, height-wise? Thermometers and sight glasses are not an absolute necessity but are very convienent to have. A long stemmed thermometer placed in a vessel works as well as a thermometer threaded into your vessel, in some cases it is better to be able to measure temperature in mutiple positions inside the vessel. A measureing stick for measureing volume works as well as a sight glass but the sight glass is just more convienent.

3. Are there any problems using a 10 gal igloo cylinder cooler for a MLT? Would you suggest something different? Does anyone have experience applying the bargainfitting.com cooler conversion kit (or their own conversion) to one of these? It probably won't be large enough for 10 gal batches, but the impression I get is that cylinder is the way to go for a cooler MLT for 5 gal batches. I'm willing to build a larger one for 10 gal batches when it's time to move up. I have no experience with coolers as Mash Tuns as I use a 15.5 gallon insulated Keggle.

4. I intend on batch sparging, but I'd like to keep my equipment capable of handling any hardware additions required for other techniques. Is there anything I should look out for here, IE anything I should NOT do to my MLT or HLT that would prohibit another sparging technique in the future? I don't believe you need any different equipment for batch or fly sparging.

5. Anything I should watch out for, add or omit for the bargainfittings.com SS fitting kits for the keggles or cooler? I get enough arsenic in my drinking water that I don't want to bother with Pb from brass (pickled or no). I'm ok with the increased cost. Brass has been used in domestic water systems for years. Pickling the brass will prevent any surface lead from getting into your beer but if you feel that strongly go with Stainless Steel.

6. Would you suggest buying fittings from another distributor? I have heard he is a very good vendor but of course that choice is up to you.

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Old 05-17-2010, 05:16 PM   #3
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The 10 gallon igloos are very popular check this sticky:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/project-locator-69953/

For project ideas, there is also a 10 gallon igloo build.

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Old 05-17-2010, 05:17 PM   #4
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1) No it's not necessary but it makes life easier getting the wort into the fermenter. You can use an autosiphon but only do that if the wort is already cooled, they get very fragile when exposed to heat.
2) Do you really want to climb a ladder to check the liquid level in your HLT up in the air? The combo themometer sight glass kits will save a hole and be less parts to buy.
3) the 10g cooler will be fine for high and low gravity 5g batches and normal gravity 10g batches.
4) You can buy a false bottom for the cooler and they work well with batch or fly. I use a stainless braid in a loop for batch. This is easy to change out later. They work great for batch and I have gotten decent results with fly as well.
5) Bargain fittings is a reputable seller and buy the stainless if you can afford it, you won't regret the few extra dollars spent on it.
6) maybe if it's cheaper but I doubt you'll find all the stuff you need at another place for the price (consider shipping costs as well)
Check out my brew tree link in my signature below. I'm very happy with it but plan to go all electric eventually and now that I've added a pump, I am going to lower the top 2 tiers so my mash tun is more accessible but I can still gravity feed from the HLT.
Consider offsetting the HLT away from the BK, it gets in the way and I would prefer to have clear overhead access to the BK.

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Old 05-17-2010, 06:48 PM   #5
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Thanks for the quick replies.

1. That makes sense, I guess I was a little worried about all the trub coming out. Do you use some kind of manifold or something to keep the trub out, or is it not something you worry about?

2. The impression I'm getting is that I should put sightglass/thermometers on the MLT and HLT. The combo ones are a good idea. I don't see how a thermometer is necessary on the BK since all I'll need to know is whether it's boiling or not boiling - correct? A sight glass would probably be good on the BK too.

3. Sounds like I'm going with the igloo cooler, thanks. if anyone has had any problems with that particular cooler, I'm still interested to hear about it.

I'll check my local hardware store for the SS ball valves and see if I can't them a bit cheaper, but otherwise I'm going with bargain fittings.

Thanks for the stand advice, I'll keep that in mind.

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Old 05-17-2010, 07:28 PM   #6
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You most likely wont find the ss at a local hardware store most only carry brass which works fine. There is a thread in the link I posted about converting an igloo to a MLT

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Old 05-17-2010, 08:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chs9 View Post
1. That makes sense, I guess I was a little worried about all the trub coming out. Do you use some kind of manifold or something to keep the trub out, or is it not something you worry about?
Some people place a dip tube on the inside of the valve manifold to 'scoop' the wort off the bottom outer edge.. the theory being that a good whirlpool action will move the trub to the center of the bottom, leaving the side-angled dip tube clear. I have not had success with that method, so I strain my wort with a kitchen strainer (sanitized, of course) into the fermentor... no manifold or anything necessary.
Quote:
2. The impression I'm getting is that I should put sightglass/thermometers on the MLT and HLT. The combo ones are a good idea. I don't see how a thermometer is necessary on the BK since all I'll need to know is whether it's boiling or not boiling - correct? A sight glass would probably be good on the BK too.
Correct - no need for any of that in your BK. No need in your MLT or HLT, in my opinion, either. Keep it simple... dip a thermometer in there for a few seconds if you NEED to.
Quote:
3. Sounds like I'm going with the igloo cooler, thanks. if anyone has had any problems with that particular cooler, I'm still interested to hear about it.
They are all the same. Using hot liquid in them voids warranty (whatever) due to the insulation expanding and potentially cracking inside. You will hear all kinds of nasty noises the first time you fill it with some 180 degree water.... don't worry about it, it's fine.
Quote:
I'll check my local hardware store for the SS ball valves and see if I can't them a bit cheaper, but otherwise I'm going with bargain fittings.
there are no 'cheap' SS fittings, in my opinion... they're pretty expensive everywhere - and Lowes / Home Depot pretty much don't carry them at all. there is also absolutely no advantage to using them, if you have any brass anywhere in your system... It's all or nothing (unless you think the term 'a little bit of cancer' means anything, lol). Just kidding about the cancer... people have had brass fittings in their homes for decades.
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