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Old 02-09-2012, 03:14 AM   #1
slim chillingsworth
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Default Timed electricity powered hot liquor tank or mash tun

Hello

I have had it in my head for a while that one of the biggest improvements I could imagine for my brewery is to wake up on brewday with water heated and ready to mash in. It could save me about an hour and a half and make the first part of the day much quicker to set up and walk away from to make my breakfast and go get ice for cooling (pumped through my plate chiller; see a trend towards time-saving?)

Finally I've had an idea. I'm thinking an electric element hooked up to a timer could do the trick. If I fill my HLT or MT with filtered water the night before and determine through testing how long it takes to get to strike temp, I can set a timer to turn it on with enough time before I want to start brewing to be ready to mash in first thing. I'm even considering one of those wireless probe thermometers if I can find one with a range that will reach my bedroom.

So here are my questions that I'm tossing around before I draw up plans...

1. HLT or MT?
The only threads I've seen regarding a heating element in a mash tun are from people looking for direct fire for step mashing. This will not be me. I don't step mash, haven't in 5 years of brewing, and don't imagine I ever will. I will only be heating strike water. There is no risk of scorching grain. There are, however, a couple of concerns. Will the heating element be a danger to the plastic in my Coleman 70qt cooler? Will it get in the way of stirring up the mash?
Putting it in the HLT (keggle) avoids those concerns as well as allowing me to use electricity to heat my sparge water, but my main concern is having to calculate the heat loss going into the MT. I've always pre-heated my MT to avoid this. I know BeerSmith can probably do this fairly easily and trial and error will prove it out, but having the heat directly in the MT would simplify it. Furthermore, from a design standpoint, I feel like mounting the element in a cooler will be much simpler than in the kettle.
I know there is also the heat stick option, but that involves the issue of mounting in the HLT while still being able to cover the top of the keggle to keep debris out. And no way a heat stick is going in a plastic cooler unsupervised.

2. Is this safe?
Brewery is outside and away from anything especially flamable. Everything would be contained in metal if in the HLT, probably another tick in the positive for that option. The element probably won't be on for more than an hour before I'm outside paying attention to it. Any other concerns?

3. Will a timer be consistent enough?
Obviously this being outside will mean drastically different heat times seasonally. I'm thinking I can come close enough to compensating for this to make up for the difference in price between a $10 timer and a $50 temp controller (both if I still want it automated). And it's not like over or undershooting my strike temps will be hard to fix before I mash in. Anything I might be overlooking?


OK HBT community, help me hammer out the plan here.



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Old 02-09-2012, 04:03 AM   #2
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Hi - this is exactly what I've been doing for a few years now - and I love it - its shaved a good 45 minutes off my brew day. I did a write up on my club's site here for my first iteration here: http://www.garagebrewers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1910

Initially I attached a heatstick to a lid and heated my strike & sparge water in my kettle - just pumped the water into the mashtun & HLT as part of my process. Now, I have a larger HLT (rectangular picnic cooler) w/ an electric element mounted inside. It doesn't involve any pumping, so its a little easier than what I was doing previously.

I use a timer w/ a love control - the love control is there just to keep it from getting too hot in the HLT - I generally dont want it going above 170.



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Old 02-09-2012, 11:53 AM   #3
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I am personally not in favor of putting a heating element in a plastic cooler and then running it unattended. My system uses a 5500 watt RIMS unit to heat the strike circulated from the mash tun to the pump to the rims back to the mash tun. I have no concerns about the stainless steel rims unit with the heating element. If something really goes wrong (pump stops, hose leaks) I will only loose the heating element and trip a circuit breaker.

If the element were directly in a plastic container I might start a fire before the element fails. Not a good idea if unattended.

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Old 02-09-2012, 01:16 PM   #4
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Yeah the more I think about it the more I feel like the mash tun has too many concerns.

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Old 02-09-2012, 01:20 PM   #5
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Instead of a timer, what about a smaller element with a Johnson Controller that you just set for 180 and walk away? That's what I had initially before I upgraded- a 1500 w element in a cooler with the Johnson controller and a stirring motor.

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Old 02-09-2012, 02:04 PM   #6
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I would think that using a cheap aquarium air pump would be a great automated method of stirring your HLT. You could just wire it in with your timer or temp controller so that it would run only when the heating element is heating.

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Old 02-09-2012, 02:24 PM   #7
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I built a BCS-460 controlled eHERMS and this is basically what I do. My HLT is a 5 gallon Rubbermaid cooler with a heating element and I have a standalone heat exchanger (HEX) made from a 2 gallon Rubbermaid cooler (also with a heating element). The night before brew day I fill both vessels with water and bring them up to my set temps. I then kill the process. There's a bit of temperature loss through the night, but not too much. I've programmed another process that's just a timer. Once it reaches 0:00, it spawns my brewing process which brings the HLT and HEX back up to my set temps. So I kick off the timer process before I go to bed so that it starts reheating my HLT and HEX about 30 minutes before I plan to start brewing in the morning.



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