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Old 12-12-2008, 02:23 AM   #1
ChemE
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Default My Super Efficient 5-Gallon Mash Lauter Tun

Like most good engineers I'm enthralled by efficiency. I think it is the mental challenge of trying to squeeze every last drop of performance out of a minimal amount of materials that appeals to me. One of my all time favorite engineering quotes is:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
So motivation aside, I wanted to come up with the most efficient mash lauter tun I could. Design objectives were:

1) Accommodate 5 gallon all grain batches (except barleywine)
2) Provide good filter thickness even with low-gravity 2.25 gallon test batches
3) Minimize dead space so as not to reduce efficiency
4) Allow for fly sparging without exposing the mash to cold air
5) Allow for easy cleaning and maintenance
6) Rinse the grain bed as efficiently as possible in order to maximize efficiency

With my design objectives set, I went about educating myself and selecting a cooler which would meet my design constraints. How To Brew - Appendix D has some very good information on optimizing mash lauter tuns. I would have loved to have found a Coleman Xtreme or Ultimate Xtreme that fit the bill but these are all squat and wide. I really wanted something with a minimal footprint and good depth. My best option was a cheap no frills $20 cooler with questionable insulation shown below as the finished product.

The final product


I shot the lid full of great stuff and once it was dry, I cut the excess off and sealed the injection ports with white silicone caulk. This modification is nearly undetectable but helps the cooler maintain its temperature during mashing and sparging.

With that done, I set about making a copper manifold which would drain the cooler as close to completely as possible, maximized the number of slits, and minimized the distance that sugar from any one grain would have to travel to enter the manifold. This was the winning design. Nothing is soldered because there is absolutely no need and it would only complicate clean up at the end of the brew day.

Manifold as viewed from the top


Next order of business was coming up with a way to safely cut the slits very close together which was both neat and more importantly safe. After a few hours in the shop I came up with this jig for my jigsaw.

Jig used to cut slits in copper pipe


Jig in [simulated] action


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My Super Efficient 5-Gallon Mash Lauter TunGraduating CarboysLeaf Hop Absorption Measured
Primary - Bemused Bitter, Munich Saaz SMaSH
Secondary - Air
Bottled - Oatmeal Stout 2011, Apfelwein, Withdrawn Wheat, Bourbon Barrel Barleywine SMaSH, Christmas Ale 2010, Perplexed Pale Ale

Last edited by ChemE; 12-17-2008 at 02:36 PM. Reason: Originally said batch sparging in goal 3) rather than fly sparging - I blame 2 dead guy ales
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Old 12-12-2008, 02:25 AM   #2
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Now that I could safely and neatly cut slits at whatever spacing I wanted, I got to work cutting. A few hours later this is the result.

Bottom of manifold


Notice the flexible tubing which allows the manifold to connect to an internal nipple. This lets me place the manifold on the very bottom of the cooler and yet still take it in and out for easy cleaning. The manifold fits in the cooler so tightly that even the most vigorous and drunken stirring can't knock the manifold out of place or the hose loose from the nipple.

Manifold in MLT


During a few hydro tests, I let the MLT drain totally and then closed the valve and carefully poured off the remaining water into a Pyrex measuring cup. Average dead space without tilting the MLT was a scant 0.03 gallons. Perfect (or close at least).

Next I wanted to ensure that I could efficiently fly sparge without having to expose the mash to cold air. That and an integral sparge manifold is just easier to use as it is always set up and never in the way. This was easily constructed out of 1/2" CPVC and held in place by a ball valve on the top of the lid. Everything here is friction fit to allow for easy disassembly and cleaning.

MLT lid with integral sparge manifold


Top of MLT with ball valve inlet to sparge manifold



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My Super Efficient 5-Gallon Mash Lauter TunGraduating CarboysLeaf Hop Absorption Measured
Primary - Bemused Bitter, Munich Saaz SMaSH
Secondary - Air
Bottled - Oatmeal Stout 2011, Apfelwein, Withdrawn Wheat, Bourbon Barrel Barleywine SMaSH, Christmas Ale 2010, Perplexed Pale Ale

Last edited by ChemE; 12-12-2008 at 02:49 AM. Reason: idiotic spelling mistake; doh!
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Old 12-12-2008, 02:27 AM   #3
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HLT plumbed into the MLT


MLT fit into my compact three-tier brew system


So that's it. I'm still dialing in my process but the fist two batches I've brewed with this yielded brewhouse efficiencies of 86% and 92% with original gravities of 1.043 and 1.074 respectively. So clearly this equipment is able to deliver very good efficiency with big beers.
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My Super Efficient 5-Gallon Mash Lauter TunGraduating CarboysLeaf Hop Absorption Measured
Primary - Bemused Bitter, Munich Saaz SMaSH
Secondary - Air
Bottled - Oatmeal Stout 2011, Apfelwein, Withdrawn Wheat, Bourbon Barrel Barleywine SMaSH, Christmas Ale 2010, Perplexed Pale Ale
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Old 12-12-2008, 02:28 AM   #4
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WOW!!!!!!!!!!!

Some of us were discussing internal sparge manifolds on cooler lids over the summer, bud none of us did it...

you answered my question


Awesome!

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Old 12-12-2008, 02:30 AM   #5
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What capacity is that square cooler? It looks like a 5 gallon.

ANd you will put together a parts list won't you?

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Old 12-12-2008, 02:31 AM   #6
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Thanks Revvy. I read hundreds of threads here this summer as I was plotting and scheming so I would be willing to bet I pilfered the idea from one of you.

As any good engineer, I've already started a mental checklist of all the aspects of this project which could (and eventually will) be further optimized.

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My Super Efficient 5-Gallon Mash Lauter TunGraduating CarboysLeaf Hop Absorption Measured
Primary - Bemused Bitter, Munich Saaz SMaSH
Secondary - Air
Bottled - Oatmeal Stout 2011, Apfelwein, Withdrawn Wheat, Bourbon Barrel Barleywine SMaSH, Christmas Ale 2010, Perplexed Pale Ale
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Old 12-12-2008, 02:32 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revvy View Post
What capacity is that square cooler? It looks like a 5 gallon.

ANd you will put together a parts list won't you?
Yup, 5 gallons. Too bad Coleman doesn't make the Ultimate Xtremes in this aspect ratio and in 5 and 10 gallon volumes.
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My Super Efficient 5-Gallon Mash Lauter TunGraduating CarboysLeaf Hop Absorption Measured
Primary - Bemused Bitter, Munich Saaz SMaSH
Secondary - Air
Bottled - Oatmeal Stout 2011, Apfelwein, Withdrawn Wheat, Bourbon Barrel Barleywine SMaSH, Christmas Ale 2010, Perplexed Pale Ale
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Old 12-12-2008, 02:35 AM   #8
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holy crap, that is awesome!

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Old 12-12-2008, 04:40 AM   #9
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Do you have a parts list? Where did you get the cooler?

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Old 12-12-2008, 05:15 AM   #10
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sorry, I put the wrong picture up there. It's supposed to be the view of the manifold with the inside drain tube connected to it

So how do you only lose .03 gallons when you drain from the tun? The way you have the draining tube under the manifold makes it look like your manifold wouldn't be completely on the bottom of the cooler. Doesn't this matter?

Great work by the way!!



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