Originally Posted by Seamonkey
Hey there, I'm quite green to homebrewing but looking to change all that before I kick off this planet!
I'm going to be making a mash tun out of a cooler this weekend and I'm wondering, is a manifold really necessary at the bottom?
With these new coolers that have a recessed area at the drain plug to ensure maximum draining, can't I simply use a few layers of stainless steel screen secured over the brass piece on the inside of the cooler? Just seems much simpler and easier to clean.
Manifolds are definitely not necessary, but if you build the right one, it can be nice. Personally I made one myself for my round cooler, and I like it because I can either batch sparge or fly sparge depending on time restraints.
Instead of just putting the screen over the brass nipple, I would suggest just buying a washing machine stainless steel braided hose (you can find this at any hardware store with a plumbing section). See FlyGuy's 10 gallon MLT conversion thread (use the search bar at the top left of the forum window). He shows you exactly how to do the conversion and there's a healthy ongoing discussion on there. There are other MLT conversion threads on here so just give a look in the DIY section.
However, if you ever wish to move to fly or continuous sparging, you WILL need a manifold. A lot of very experienced homebrewers still batch sparge and say they will NEVER go to fly sparging due to the (debatably) unnecessary effort and time for what they believe to be very little gain. The manifold is necessary when fly sparging because slow drainage causes channeling to occur in areas where the water has a shorter path to travel. This leaves parts of the grainbed to be less rinsed than others, reducing efficiency. On the other hand, since you drain so quickly with a batch sparge, channeling is not a problem.
Take a look around and do a little research, it really depends on how much time and effort you'd like to invest.