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Old 08-07-2011, 02:01 AM   #1
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Default SMBO Rocks!!! Now, need advice on a cooler MLT!

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!

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Old 08-07-2011, 02:33 AM   #2
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Brass contains trace amounts of lead which leach into your wort unless you clean it off prior to install/ first use. Research this method as I cannot remember how to do it. Other than that they are fairly similar except brass can react with certain cleaners so you have to be careful. In theory you don't even need a bulkhead. My cooler stock drain hole is about 5/16 diameter so I I took 3/8 OD tubing and heated it in hot soapy water, shoved it through and put a PVC ball valve on the out side. 12$ mash tun from an old cooler I had laying around. I get 80% eff. And can brew anything I want. Works well and ive seen a bunch of other ag guys do it too.
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Old 08-07-2011, 02:42 AM   #3
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Old 08-07-2011, 04:05 AM   #4
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It's referred to as "pickling" the brass. As I recall, we used a 50:50 mix of white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, with just a few minutes soak time. I have brass fittings on my mash tun. We treated them this way a couple of years ago. I suspect it was overkill. There is just not all that much surface from which to leach lead, and the lead concentration in the brass can't be all that high. However, I'm not a toxicologist, so we played by the rules and pickled ours.

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Old 08-07-2011, 04:22 AM   #5
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If you batch sparge the shape of the cooler is irrelevant.

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Old 08-07-2011, 08:32 PM   #6
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OK, thanks for the advice... Going by what was clarified here, and the info I've already gleaned from both this site and from reading Palmer, I went out shopping today.

I as actually surprised at how few coolers I was able to find; seems everyone's just about sold out and not restocking this late in the season. However, HD did have the 10 gallon round beverage cooler on sale for $40, so I picked that up along with almost everything I needed to assemble the valve and filter screen.

The only thing I can't yet find (granted, I've only looked a couple places) is a stainless steel washer (or washers) of a sufficiently large inner diameter. I was able to find 1/2" SS fender washers, but I need 5/8. I'm going to take a look at another place or two this week and, if I can't find any, I'll pick up a decent 5/8 bit and drill these washers out.

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Old 08-08-2011, 02:19 AM   #7
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Order it online from ebay if you can't find it elsewhere. You'll have to wait a few days but better than purchasing an expensive bit just for one project ya know? Heck order a few of them they fit over the nipple a lot better than the fender washers recommended in various posts for the outside washer...not sure why this is since they are both 5/8 supposedly

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Old 08-08-2011, 04:51 AM   #8
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I had to order stainless steel washers from McMaster Carr. I tried drilling out some stainless steel washers I found at Menards, and even with a drill press and vice that did not go well. No doubt a skilled machinist could make easy work of it, but the washers at MMC were much less costly than machine lathe time, or a lathe!

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Old 08-08-2011, 01:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cosper123 View Post
Order it online from ebay if you can't find it elsewhere. You'll have to wait a few days but better than purchasing an expensive bit just for one project ya know? Heck order a few of them they fit over the nipple a lot better than the fender washers recommended in various posts for the outside washer...not sure why this is since they are both 5/8 supposedly
A few of _what_ fit better than fender washers? Not sure what you're recommending here, but I'd definitely like to know my options...
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Old 08-08-2011, 03:28 PM   #10
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I used a lathe at work to drill out some SS washers.

Planning on soldering them to a nut or something to make a "real" bulkhead fitting as soon as I can find some liquid flux.

For now they work fine stacked up on my cooler with an O-ring.

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