So, I was at the beach today with SMBO, talking about the next brew she has requested (a Pumpkin Ale). I'm already borrowing a buddy's 10 gallon kettle, since I don't think I'll get all the pumpkin and a full boil to fit into my 7 gallon pot. And I told SWMBO that I was thinking, since I was already borrowing the kettle, maybe I should borrow his MLT as well and go for my first "solo" AG brew (I've done several AG brews with this buddy, but only extracts and a single PM at my place so far). She looks at me, and says "well, why don't you just pick up a cooler and make your own mash tun?" Win!
So, I've been poring over the material all evening here on HBT, and I've come up with some really useful info, and a lot of conflicting info. I'm hoping someone can help me clarify a thing or three.
First off, I plan for the forseeable future to be sticking to 5 gallon brews - mostly of what I'd consider "average" gravities (1.40 - 1.65ish), with the occasional foray into bigger beers (I'd really love to get a good RIS going sooner or later). This at least gives a good gauge of the size I'd need - I'm thinking in the 40-48qt range would work - someone please correct me if I'm wrong!!!
Next question, is on the shape of the cooler. I know a lot of people use the round beverage coolers, and that's in fact all I have hands-on experience using so far. However, I'm seeing a BIG cost difference, not to mention availability difference, going with a 40-48qt rectangular cooler over a 10G round beverage cooler. I seem to find opinions on both sides of the argument, so I'm basically going with the assumption that the shape is mostly a matter of personal preference and availability. If there's some compelling arguments to the contrary, can someone point me to them?
Last up is fittings... I'm pretty sure I'll wind up going with a mesh braid instead of a false bottom (I plan to batch sparge, not fly sparge, if that would influence this decision), though I may consider a copper manifold instead - still have to decide on that bit. But what I'm really concerned with are the bulkhead and ball valves themselves. What's the main difference between going with stainless fittings over brass? I'm pretty sure I remember reading that brass can leech into your wort, but it's fairly easy to treat it to avoid that particular problem. There's a pretty drastic difference in cost between brass and stainless, and I'm willing to make the extra investment if it's warranted - but I'd rather save my money for brews or other brewery related projects if I can.
Thanks in advance!