I did my first all grain brew on Sunday, and I thought I had all my ducks somewhat in a row, but unfortunately I didn't. I'm limited by equipment and I thought that I should do my first all grain with 17 lbs of grain and 5 lbs of pumpkin. Well, that high gravity bomb I was looking for ended up being the issue. Here's the rig I was working with:
This was the plan, anyway. I had to improvise mid-brew.
-5 gallong igloo HLT (converted, and butchered by yours truly, didn't leak
when testing with cold water, but gushed with 168 deg. sparge water.
-7.5 gallon mash tun (used a stockpot, which I then would pour into lauter tun)
-10 gallon igloo cooler converted with SS false bottom for lautering.
-7.5 gallon boil kettle (the same one I used to mash, cleaned out while lautering)
-Turkey Fryer propane burner.
-Two stockpots on the stove that I was continually heating up at different times just to make sure I had enough water if **** hit the fan.
Here were the problems. Mashing in the 7.5 G stockpot adding heat for acid, protein, and sugar rest was near impossible. I know a lot of people on these forums prefer the simplicity of a single-temp mash, but I really wanted to do a protein rest since I had 6-row and a lot of pumpkin. Furthermore, I'm interested in experimenting in mashing unusual starches for unique effects. Most of which are starches that probably shouldn't be used in beer, but hey, I'll try anything once. or twice....well three times maybe before I give up.
The amount of grains I had made it impossible to add enough water to raise the temperature, because I would have had wayyyy to much water and grain for a 5 gallon batch, that is, with 17 lbs, and then the pumpkin, just too much volume.
So, naturally I couldn't hit the target numbers consistently in the 7.5 G stockpot mashing on the burner, so I had a shoddy protein rest, had to skip the acid rest (I know, I could have used water salts and such, but I figure, hey, if the belgians didn't have it, why the heck do I need it?
Furthermore, the temp varied throughout the pot, and some grain got scorched on the bottom. I got frustrated and decided to use my lauter tun for the sugar rest, dumping it all in on top of the false bottom and a little water I put down to cushion the grain bed a little when I carefully poured.
Thus is the next problem. I didn't have a good enough seal with the false bottom around the bottom of the cooler, and looking back now, I'm sure I clogged it up right away. Not to mention I had a terrible protein rest in the mash tun, anyway, which would have led to a stuck sparge, would I been able to sparge in the first place.
The sugar rest was successful, so then I went to sparge, and my garbage job on the HLT allowed for a leak, but hey, good thing I had those extra pots. No biggie. Unfortunately, the whole bottom of the lauter tun was clogged, so I had to resort to a no-sparge, killing my efficiency and I ended up with 1.070 OG instead of the 1.100 or so I was looking for. Anywho, everything went great from there, except I had a half a carboy of sediment, which isn't surprising, since I had all these issues in the first place.
Now, the solution that I have is this. Buy two, 20 gallon kettles, one fitted with a false bottom and one fitted with a hop-back. The former would be my mash tun, the latter my boil kettle.
I need a 20 gallon because I'm into the higher gravity brews, and if I'm doing a normal gravity, it would be nice to do a 10 gallon batch. A ten gallon would start with like 13 gallons, 14 maybe, and I like headspace. I don't wanna bellyache over boilovers and such.
Now, I can ditch my current HLT that I messed up beyond repair, and use the 10 gallon cooler that I've been using for lautering as my new, improved, 10gallon HLT. I know it works, it's great. New. Shiny.
I have enough ********* on the burner to heat the 20 gallon mash tun, which is equipped with a ball valve and temp gauge, and I can mash in that. With enough head space, I can control with additions of hot water, as well as using the burner for controlled temp increases to the seperate steps in the step-mash.
I can empty the mash into my awaiting boil kettle, fitted with the hop back, and make the switch. Kettle on the burner, mash tun to cleaning area. I don't have the dough to buy a seperate burner, so I'll have to do a little heavy lifting. When I'm rich, I'll get one of those beer sculptures with pumps and stuff.
From there on out it's peaches n' cream. The best deal I've found so far on the kettles are from High Gravity Homebrew.
Any suggestions? Am I on the right track? Any help you guys could offer would be great, it should be noted again that I need a system that I can do step mashing. I like mashing weird stuff that will need protein rests, and I like the control it offers. Also, I have only like 1000 bucks to work with, so, with 2 new kettles, a wort chiller (yeah, that's overdue) a long mash paddle, I'm just about at a grand.
Thanks so much in advance guys,