Quantcast

All grain - best route for cheap equipment

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

Lost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2005
Messages
594
Reaction score
7
Location
Tampa
I'm considering all grain but I have two concerns
1. apartment (no space, tiny kitchen but do have outdoor patio)
2. poor college kid

I'm considering the cooler option but I do already have a plastic primary bucket and a bottling bucket so I could do as papazian suggests and drill holes in it to make a false bottom of sorts. Of course I'd have to but a new primary but hey.. it's a good time to upgrade to glass. The problem is, how then do I keep the mash at 150 for an hour? Could I just add hot water every so often and keep the lid on? Does anyone have any experience with this approach - the plastic ought to insulate fairly well but obviously not as well as a cooler. I could even try insulating the outer bucket. Is it worth trying? The buckets are 5 or 6 gallons, would this leave enough space for grain + water for a 5 gallon batch?

The other monetary concern is, of course, the kettle. Right now I have a 16 quart ceramic pot which is only big enough (and just barely) for a concentrated wort. Anyone know where I could find a large stainless kettle (preferably with spigot) for cheap? How bad is aluminum?

Basically, how can I get into all grain without dropping a cool grand on a 3 tier stainless keg setup?

Thanks
 

vtfan99

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jun 6, 2005
Messages
364
Reaction score
6
Location
Williamsburg, Va
First, get a cooler. I got a rectangular one for 14 bucks at Kmart. Go to your LHBS and get a plastic spigot to replace the spigot in the cooler. Next, drop 5 bucks or so for a 5 foot piece of copper tubing. Fashion this into a manifold for the cooler by bending it, crimping one end, and cutting many slots with a hacksaw (or some other tool). Don't destroy your buckets. You will find them very useful.

As for the kettle, look for aluminum as its much cheaper. The Aluminum vs stainless steel debate will rage on forever, so go with your wallet on this. The other option, if available, is to scrounge for an old keg. Pay about 60 bucks to have the top cut off and a hole drilled/welded for a spigot. If you have a local brewery, call them up and tell them what you're doing. The guy here sold me a keg for 25 bucks.

Go to HD or Lowes and get yourself a coil of copper tubing (3/8") about 10 feet of 1/2 vinyl tubing, a couple of hose clamps and a barbed 1/2" to 3/4" hose adaptor.....now you have an immersion chiller....probably run you about 35 bucks, depending on the length of the coil.

I just went all grain myself. Cost me about 300 bucks and thats cause I did get a few fancy items. You certainly dont need to spend a grand (although you easily could).
 

Turricaine

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2005
Messages
205
Reaction score
1
Location
Leicester
I followed the instructions on the top of this website page:
http://www.art-of-brewing.co.uk/acatalog/intro.html
In the e-book by JP he states that the rotating sparge arm is not really needed. So if you were looking to cut back on costs you could omit this. I have one already though and think it is an interesting concept. The wort cooler is definately needed. Even if it is just a bunch of coiled copper piping it comes in handy and was not just designed to sponge your money. The hop strainer device is probably the least useful of the lot. Im not sure if it is even needed.

^Then again I think it is actually needed. I just want to add that you can dump ice in the hot wort to bring down the temperature to pitch the yeast. Ofcourse you could just leave the batch for 12 hours but you might find that you think that is a bit grim. So the way to cut costs is to do away with the copper. It is basically your call. All my parts cost me £200 which is not really an earth-shattering amount to spend really. Although it would be xpensive if I had to replace it.
 
OP
L

Lost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2005
Messages
594
Reaction score
7
Location
Tampa
I've found a 5 gallon rubbermaid cooler with lid.. so I think I may just have everything I need short of a boiling kettle. I can build a sparge arm from some vinyl or copper tubing with a few holes punched in it and use the bottling bucket for the sparge tank and a manifold is fairly easy to construct as well. Here's the big question though: how bad would it be to boil the wort in two separate pots one at a time? Obviously the specific gravity of the wort in each pot might vary though I could correct for this by putting the mash and sparge in one bucket (primary) and then gently cross mixing so as to minimize HSA and then siphoning into the two kettles. Then sanitize the primary and get it ready for the boiled wort additions. Obviously the hops would have to be halved (half for each batch). On the upside I could chill the wort faster this way with my handy dandy new immersion chiller (copper tubing from lowes wrapped around a paint can) since each batch would be about 2 - 2.5 gallons rather than the full 4 - 5.

Is this a terrible idea? I'm just hesitant to use aluminum and don't have the cash to go SS (this is a relatively new hobby and the startup costs are fairly sizeable though the payout tastes pretty good).
 

Born Brewing Co.

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 1, 2005
Messages
228
Reaction score
1
Location
Sycamore, IL
If you have a 6-7 gallon aluminum kettle, go ahead and use it. The effects from alluminum are nill, certainly less than the troubles of having to boil two brew kettles. JMO.
 
OP
L

Lost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2005
Messages
594
Reaction score
7
Location
Tampa
Well I now have 2 3 gallon pots (1 ceramic, 1 SS). I think I will use aluminum after checking the Palmer how to book to see what his thoughts were. I'll be on the lookout for a new or used turkey fryer but I think I'll just try my first all grain batch in two pots and see how bad the hassle is.. maybe I can live with it until I get some cash for a fryer.

On a side note, do the fryer's have spigot's on them? I can get a keg for $20 (recycling center) but don't want to deal with siphoning, pouring, or adding a spigot. Seems like it might be a bad idea to try pouring 15 gallons of hot liquid and siphoning would take too long.. I maybe wrong though. How necessary is a spigot?

Lastly, anyone have some receipes for a nice malty stout (not too bitter though - maybe more like a sweet stout as that was my last batch and I think it was the best stout I've had yet). I may just use the receipe in the Palmer book - anyone tried it? I understand that carapils adds a bit of a creamness to the brew, how much should I consider adding to a 5 gallon receipe? I'd like to replicate that guiness creaminess you get from the tap...
 
OP
L

Lost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2005
Messages
594
Reaction score
7
Location
Tampa
Thanks for the receipes! I do have an autosiphon actually.. don't think I could live without it. Anyone use an easymasher? Is it wise to apply direct heat to the mash to achieve the correct protein rest temps? Will I burn the mash this way? I imagine I'd have to stir.. HSA? I'm wondering if I do by a keg and gas heater or turkey fryer if I could cook the mash in the keg/fryer as well or if the cooler is a better option. Either way I do have a cooler and I will need to by some sort of large kettle for the wort boil so I could go either route just as easily at this point. I just need to know for what i should build the manifold/false bottom (cooler or kettle). Opinions anyone?

By the way, y'all have been so helpful - with all your advice this transition may be much easier than I originally anticipated.
 

vtfan99

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jun 6, 2005
Messages
364
Reaction score
6
Location
Williamsburg, Va
Its been my experience that you don't need to worry about HSA until after the boil. I think a cooler is easier to maintain temperature, since that is the point of a cooler. If you are planning to mainly do step mashes, then a cooler may not be the best option as you will have to draw off portions of the mash to reheat....or add water. I use a cooler and do single step infusion mashes. A cooler works great..only loses a couple of degrees in an hour.
 

Wayne Havens

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2005
Messages
100
Reaction score
0
Location
Houston, Texas
You can get false bottoms for your cooler here. Looks like the stainless steel ones are not much more than phil's which are plastic.
 

Turricaine

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2005
Messages
205
Reaction score
1
Location
Leicester
I'm still not sure I fully understand the concept of a false bottom. I use a mashing bag for my grains and I have not encountered a problem yet with ths set-up.
 

Turricaine

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2005
Messages
205
Reaction score
1
Location
Leicester
It is like a fishing net to catch the grains. You drape this over the top of the thermostaically controlled boiler and then it has a cord so that you can fasten it. Then you add the water and grains.

So it is like a semi-permiable membrane so that all the sugars and other goodies can drain through whilst all the junk stays on the other side.

The only problem is that once secured and the mash is drained, you need another source of heat to do the sparging with the rotating sparge arm.

So, I have another polypropylene fermenter with a tap. To this I add boiling water from an ordinary kettle until I have collected around three gallons.

So it is like a three stage set-up in the sparge step. But fo me this evolution and it is something that I just grew into.

One 5 gallon fermenter with hot water.
One 5 gallon fermenter carrying suspended grains.
One 5 gallon fermenter to collect wort.
 
OP
L

Lost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2005
Messages
594
Reaction score
7
Location
Tampa
Turricane,
A false bottom accomplishes the same thing as a manifold. It is simply a means of allowing the wort to drain from the grain bed while leaving as much grain/husks/nasties behind as possible. A false bottom is a bit more efficient than a manifold and would seem to be easier to clean. A false bottom must sit snug against the wall of the lauter tun (cooler) to prevent the water from draining along the cooler walls and not through the grainbed. Thus a circular cooler is the way to go if you plan to use a false bottom. The false bottom itself is just a plate of metal or plastic with a lot of tiny holes punched in it (like a strainer or colander but it is a bit flatter) and it sits maybe an inch or so above the base of the cooler so that the wort can drain through the grains and collect below the grain bed where it is then drained from the cooler via the drain valve. edit: to clarify - the false bottom itself has a drain on it (a elbow fitting) and you attach your drain line to this fitting. I think the only reason you'd need to step up to a false bottom or manifold is if you were going all grain. I don't know about the size of your bag but mine sure won't hold 10 lbs of grain. I imagine the extraction efficiency of a mashing bag isn't ideal either.. this would certainly be an issue if you were using only grains as they would be the only source of fermentables. Of course I may also be talking out my butt.. maybe someone with a bit more know how will chime in here...

BTW my old mashing bag doesn't have a string or anything.. it's just a nylon tea bag of sorts. I usually zip tie it shut and throw it in the water.. let sit for half an hour or so, dunk it a few times and then pour some sparge water on it (use another pot to heat some sparge water while you're letting the specialty grains steep).
 

Turricaine

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2005
Messages
205
Reaction score
1
Location
Leicester
Ok, thanks for the information. I had always suspected that this was the case, but I needed information from folks who have actually used it because I was under the impression that having a false bottom might mean having to sabbotage a 5 gallon plastic fermenter. You are right about the mash-bag being a little bit more difficult to use as I learnt from an ill experience yesterday.
 
OP
L

Lost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 2, 2005
Messages
594
Reaction score
7
Location
Tampa
Incidently, I did my first all grain batch about a week ago. I made a few mistakes but nothing big so the end product should be good... I'll have a taste when it goes into the secondary in two days.

I used qbrew to tweak a receipe for a red ale. I don't have the receipe in front of me now but I believe it was 8lbs 2 row, 2lbs munich, .25lbs choclate malt. I used chinook for bittering and added either cascade or columbus (can't remember which) for 17 min and added the other for 5 min... I'll dry hop with .5 oz of fuggles. I calculated the reciepe based on 65% efficiency (figured I'd screw something up) but actually hit 75% or better. Thus the beer will be 6% alcohol or a bit higher. OG was somewhere between 1.065 and 1.07 and projected IBUs were 23 or 24.

Now, the problems:
-Boiled too vigorously so the hops stuck to the side of the pot (at least I didn't have a boil over). BTW I used a 7.5gal aluminum pot and propane burner (turkey fryer).
-Infusioned mashed for 75 min in 5 gal gott cooler with copper manifold (worked good) but sparged a bit hot (some spots hit 185 for a few secs before I could grab the stir spoon and add cool water). Next time I'll heat a small pot of 190 F water for mashout and a larger pot of 170 F water for sparging. Hopefully beer is not astringent - I guess I'll find out exactly how that tastes if the beer ends up astringent tasting.
-I ran out of ice water to run through my immersion cooler so the beer had to sit to cool from 90 F to 80 F but it went from boiling to 90 F in a matter of minutes. BTW I put ice water in my bottling bucket, elevate it, and hook my immersion chiller too it and place the outlet tube from the chiller in a bucket on the floor - nice setup IMO.
- And perhaps my biggest concern: the aluminum pot was nice and shiny when I got it so I washed it good, boiled some water in it, and cooked it in the oven at 350 F as Palmer suggests to create a oxidized protective coating but when I transferred the wort the pot was a dark gunmetal grey color so I'm a bit worried my beer might taste like a tin can. I'll keep my fingers crossed on this one.

On a side note, I'm not sure about this dry hopping business - should I put the whole hops in a grain bag or just throw them in the carboy? Oh, and I know I'll get crap for this but after all the thought and work that went into this I used plain old nottingham dry yeast...
 

Rhoobarb

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2005
Messages
3,553
Reaction score
20
Location
Gainesville
Lost said:
...sparged a bit hot (some spots hit 185 for a few secs before I could grab the stir spoon and add cool water). ...
Someone here suggested having a bag of ice handy to toss ice cubes into 'to hot' mash or sparge water and I've been doing that.

Lost said:
...when I transferred the wort the pot was a dark gunmetal grey color ....
Not to worry; so was mine. No off flavors, whatsoever, after three AG sessions.

Lost said:
... should I ... just throw them in the carboy? ...
That's what I do, with both pellets and now, whole hops. Clean up is not a problem with either type. Whole will soak up a bit of your beer, but I feel you get more aroma. Just my opinion.

Lost said:
... I used plain old nottingham dry yeast...
Blasphemy! ;) But when you get the chance, try a liquid yeast starter sometime; if for no other reason, than to broaden your brewing horizons and taste differences. I love the White Labs liquids.
 

Daneaux

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 26, 2005
Messages
62
Reaction score
0
Location
Lake County Florida
There are many ways to mash and sparge. I am drinking my 12 percent Imperial Stout right now that I used Charlies bucket sparge system. It took me a good half hour of drilling to finish approx. thousands of holes. It works flawless and it took me one batch to perfect the leave a couple inches in the original bucket to create a false bottom and not get stuck grains. As for the cooler if you dont have one I put my money into a turkey fryer kit and the kettle was perfect. I raise the temps. to 168 or so and add the grains( this imperial is about 14 lbs ) to the water which will bring it to my projected 158 and I let it set with a sanitized thermometer in it and if it needs heat I turn on the burner and slowly let it raise for a minute untill it is perfect. I stir it as well to mix the heat evenly from the bottom. Once it has had time to do its job I put the grains in the Holey Bucket Sparge thingy ma bob. Bring water to 170 and slowly sparge the grains. This will fill the inner wall of the two buckets and once it reaches to top I open the spigot and let it drain. The trick is not to let it run dry and stop it so it can build a inch or so and there it is. I also use the Holey Buckety to drain my hops at the end and here I am telling you this as I am drinking the fruits of Charlies cheap holey bucket system. This beer is flawless.
 
Top