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Old 12-21-2012, 04:24 AM   #1
Oct 2011
west lafayette, in
Posts: 111
Liked 5 Times on 4 Posts

Was in the search of adding some 5-10 gallon coolers to my setup to begin all-grain brewing. However, my father in-law dugup two 3 gallon igloo industrial coolers. So my thought is to go ahead and use these for some small batch brewing and learn the art. My questions.

1) Any recommendations for a false bottom or screen (any threads on a 3 gallon cooler)? Also on a stainless ball valve and spigot?
2) How many gallons on average could I make with this setup?
3) Any recommendations for fermenting? Currently I have two 6.5 and two five gallon carboys. Should I invest in a couple 3 gallons or 1 gallons (split up the wort) or something else?
4) Smaller batch brewing can I still do my normal 5 gallon yeast starter?

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Old 12-21-2012, 04:33 AM   #2
hillhousesawdustco's Avatar
Jan 2011
up near babb, mt
Posts: 646
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This isn't precisely an answer to your question (welcome to HBT, right?) but you could still do low OG five gallon batches with a single cooler or "normal" beers using both coolers. You could also make some no-doubt-stellar partial mash batches with a single 3 gallon cooler. You would simply use as much grain as possible in a 3g cooler and then make up the rest of your gravity with dried or liquid malt extract. There are lots of great software options out there to help you with this sort of thing (I use beersmith). Great beer and no need to buy extra, smaller fermentors.

As far as a false bottom, there are probably machined options available but it would probably be easiest and cheapest to just got with a wire mesh braid or copper/pvc with slits in it. There are tons of posts on HBT illustrating how to do that for any mash tun size. Once you get used to all-grain you can spend the money you save on upping to a ten gallon tun with a machined false bottom

You will probably need a smaller yeast starter- check out mrmalty.com for calculations. For most applications you could probably just use a single dried packet or smack pack for almost any non-crazy-high-og beer and get good results.

I'm sure others will chime in with more technical responses, but I'd say keep it super simple and cheap, see if you like the increase in time/effort required for all grain and then you'll know just what to do when you upgrade!

edit: i get my SS fittings from bargainfittings.com, as do a lot of folks here. You'd be just fine with brass for application if you want to save some money, but you could always transfer the SS ball valve/etc to a bigger mash tun in the future

Reason: forgotsies

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Old 12-21-2012, 04:38 AM   #3
Dec 2012
Posts: 25

1) I think the easiest way to make your own false bottom would be to make a copper or cpvc manifold. If the cooler is round you can just get 8 45 degree corners (for cpvc) and make an octagon shape ( a square would work fine as well) or bend copper tubing into a circle that fits the bottom. Then put a T with a piece of tubing that goes to the valve. You can either cut slots or drill holes for drainage. I used a setup like this on a 5 gallon igloo.
Stainless steel ball valves are hard to find at a hardware store but they do have brass ones. Your lhbs should have a SS valve though.

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Old 12-21-2012, 04:41 AM   #4
lupulin shift victim
chickypad's Avatar
Jul 2010
SF Peninsula
Posts: 5,175
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I do small all grain batches in a 3g gatorade cooler lined with a paint strainer bag so no modifications (my valve is the kind that will flip and stay open, if I didn't have that I would want a ball valve). I can get 7.5 lbs grain in there and get about 77% efficiency batch sparging, so that's good for up to about a 1.070 beer 3 gallon or 1.085 on a 2.5 gal batch.

Your 5 gallon carboys would be okay for primary. I got a 4.25 gallon bucket with lid for free from a donut shop - creme filling and frosting comes in those things. Then I use a 3 gallon keg or 3 gallon better bottle if I'm going to lager or something more extended.

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Old 12-21-2012, 04:42 AM   #5
Dec 2012
Posts: 25

2) you could probably only do 3 gal batches unless you do partial mash and add extract.

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