So I got a big old monster cooler for my mashing. Installed a sight tube and a temperature gauge as well as drilled a bulkhead for my drain and screen.
It's a thing of beauty. However, it's too damn big. I generally brew 5.5 gallon batches and the thing has too much headspace and a poorly insulated lid so frankly I cannot control the temperature inside. I start at my strike temp of say, 168 and dough in, then I watch in dismay as the mash temperature drops, slowly at first then consistently to around 140. There seems to be very little I can do about it. I've insulated, tried to put the mash tun in a heated room etc. but I consistently lose all my heat.
Therefore... I am going to plug in a march pump and route wort through the old HERM coil immersed in the hot liquor tank. I haven't bought any PIDs or anything. at first I will be happily sipping beer and manually running the pump whenever my mash tun indicates that the temperature is slipping. I plan on keeping the liquor tank around 160 or 165 and the sincere hope is that I can better control the temperature in my mash until I am ready to drop the long green on a control panel to manage the pump and liquor tank as well as mash temperature.
I suppose it just means more time for me to sit and drink beer. My brews have been fine, but I can't hit the consistency I want with my OG and FG readings. So... Off I go to the next step in madness.