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Don_Coyote

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I've been using a cobbled together BrewinaBag system for close to a decade now. I like the minimalist equipment approach, but the amorphous bag shape inevitably results in a mess. I came across the big baskets online and figured it was a worthy upgrade for hot side equipment. Ordered it and then realized the extra height would prohibit mashing in my old 7.5 gal kettle, and fell down a rabbit link looking for a new kettle.

Main thing I'm confused by here is the recommendations to go 10 or 15 gallons on the kettle to make 5 gallon batches. I have been maxed out on high gravity batches with the 7.5 and have occasional boil overs when starting if not careful, but the kettle is wider than it is tall. I can't imagine an 8.5 with 1.2 h/w ratio would not eliminate this worry? Would a triclad bottom make the boil more or less predictable?

I gather the other consideration is usage as a mash tun. I'm looking at all the formulas for water usage and the reliable sources seem deal with regular sparging. My interpreted numbers have a 15 lb recipe using just under 8.5 gallons of water, so I can see a 10 gal kettle being needed for full volume mash, but not seeing any utility for 15 gallons. Personally I'm dealing with a lot of bicarbonate in my water so would favor a thicker mash and prefer the added efficiency of dunk sparging, so seems like even the 10 gallons would again be unneeded.

In fact more than unneeded, with my current setup I've found that I don't need to worry about maintaining mash temp if there is no head space in the kettle. Seems like 10 and especially 15 gallon kettles would mean a lot more futzing with the mash to keep a steady temp. Would the thicker walls of a 10 gal Spike kettle ease this concern? Even if my mash volume for a normal recipe would be around 5 or 6 gallons?

My other concern is the mash/hop bucket. The one I got has 300 micron mesh. I've heard this can cause convection flow problems with boiling water wanting to go up and around the bucket. I plan to stick to whole hops so thinking 600 micron would work fine as a filter and produce better fluid exchange. Should I rethink that assumption?
 
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Don_Coyote

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Forgot another question that popped up. I saw a few references to 1.2:1 as a good ratio for a brew kettle. Consensus here in another thread was that number was picked arbitrarily by Blichman. I kind of like the evaporation rate of my .8:1 kettle letting me use more mash/sparge water while boiling down high gravity batches. Not needing to fit this in with 2 other kettles, are there other significant advantages to the taller kettle? Seems I'd want the biggest diameter that fits my burner well...
 

Nick&Worty

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Just my 2 cents, but I use a Spike+ 10 gallon for BIAB. I think the triclad helps. IMO the main reasons to consider 15vs10 are that while a 10 gal kettle will help you brew 5 gallon batches of most standard beers, this is not always the case. For example, the stout I make requires me to split it in 2 2.5gal batches because my 10’gal kettle would certainly not accommodate 28+ lbs of grain. One day...
 

odie

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you need 3x batch size to cover all BIAB scenarios. That 8.5 gal water for your 15# recipe is really much bigger size the grain has volume in addition to the water. and 15# is not a high gravity beer. There are recipes out there with 25# of grain or even more. plus stirring the mash you need some free space anyway.
 

marc1

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I've been using a cobbled together BrewinaBag system for close to a decade now. I like the minimalist equipment approach, but the amorphous bag shape inevitably results in a mess. I came across the big baskets online and figured it was a worthy upgrade for hot side equipment. Ordered it and then realized the extra height would prohibit mashing in my old 7.5 gal kettle, and fell down a rabbit link looking for a new kettle.

Main thing I'm confused by here is the recommendations to go 10 or 15 gallons on the kettle to make 5 gallon batches. I have been maxed out on high gravity batches with the 7.5 and have occasional boil overs when starting if not careful, but the kettle is wider than it is tall. I can't imagine an 8.5 with 1.2 h/w ratio would not eliminate this worry? Would a triclad bottom make the boil more or less predictable?

I gather the other consideration is usage as a mash tun. I'm looking at all the formulas for water usage and the reliable sources seem deal with regular sparging. My interpreted numbers have a 15 lb recipe using just under 8.5 gallons of water, so I can see a 10 gal kettle being needed for full volume mash, but not seeing any utility for 15 gallons. Personally I'm dealing with a lot of bicarbonate in my water so would favor a thicker mash and prefer the added efficiency of dunk sparging, so seems like even the 10 gallons would again be unneeded.

In fact more than unneeded, with my current setup I've found that I don't need to worry about maintaining mash temp if there is no head space in the kettle. Seems like 10 and especially 15 gallon kettles would mean a lot more futzing with the mash to keep a steady temp. Would the thicker walls of a 10 gal Spike kettle ease this concern? Even if my mash volume for a normal recipe would be around 5 or 6 gallons?

My other concern is the mash/hop bucket. The one I got has 300 micron mesh. I've heard this can cause convection flow problems with boiling water wanting to go up and around the bucket. I plan to stick to whole hops so thinking 600 micron would work fine as a filter and produce better fluid exchange. Should I rethink that assumption?
Can you explain why bicarbonate in your water would affect your mash thickness? If you are adjusting for pH with lactic or phosphoric acid, the thickness is irrelevant. If your water has a lot of alkalinity you would want to take care of that with acid for the sparge, anyway, wouldn't you? What am I missing?

Thanks!
 

ChiknNutz

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you need 3x batch size to cover all BIAB scenarios. That 8.5 gal water for your 15# recipe is really much bigger size the grain has volume in addition to the water. and 15# is not a high gravity beer. There are recipes out there with 25# of grain or even more. plus stirring the mash you need some free space anyway.
Agreed. I just moved up to a 15G kettle in order to make higher ABV beers. With my 10G kettle, I maxed out at about 14 or 15# of grain using full volume BIAB. I plan to make an Imperial Stout that uses nearly 30# of grain, impossible with my current kettle and full volume process.
 
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Don_Coyote

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Can you explain why bicarbonate in your water would affect your mash thickness? If you are adjusting for pH with lactic or phosphoric acid, the thickness is irrelevant. If your water has a lot of alkalinity you would want to take care of that with acid for the sparge, anyway, wouldn't you? What am I missing?
There are numerous ways to deal with high bicarbonate levels. I'm trying dilution along with acidulated and dark malts to see if I can reach a good mash pH without more direct chemical manipulation. Mashing thicker (than full volume but still thinner than a 'normal' tun/sparge ratio) means less of the bicarbonates will be present for the mash, yet good quantities of the other naturally occuring ions and minerals will be maintained and introduced after the dunk sparge. It also makes (relatively) high ABV recipes easily fit in a 10G kettle, if my calculations are close.

I haven't come across what you are talking about with acid in the sparge though...
 

marc1

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There are numerous ways to deal with high bicarbonate levels. I'm trying dilution along with acidulated and dark malts to see if I can reach a good mash pH without more direct chemical manipulation. Mashing thicker (than full volume but still thinner than a 'normal' tun/sparge ratio) means less of the bicarbonates will be present for the mash, yet good quantities of the other naturally occuring ions and minerals will be maintained and introduced after the dunk sparge. It also makes (relatively) high ABV recipes easily fit in a 10G kettle, if my calculations are close.

I haven't come across what you are talking about with acid in the sparge though...
This makes sense now that I see you're trying to brew without adding salts or acids.

I don't know how you sparge, but if you sparge hot, then alkalinity in the sparge water can raise the pH enough to potentially extract tannins. I also don't know how much alkalinity you have, but if it's really high it could also effect your kettle pH if you are only addressing it in the mash.

Here's some older threads on it:

If you haven't noticed tannins then it probably isn't a problem.
 

Bobby_M

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10 is just barely large enough but that really comes down to how much loss you incur along the way from kettle to package. I plan to lose 1 gallon to trub in the fermenter. That's 5g + 1 gallon. I plan to leave 1 gallon in the kettle after whirlpool to put very clean wort into the fermenter. That's now 7 gallons at the end of the boil. You see where this is going. If you put 100% of the post boil wort into the fermenter and you don't mind 4.5 gallons in the bottles/keg then you can get away with a 10. I use a 15 because I don't like cutting it close and it's what, $25-30 more for a 15?
 
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Don_Coyote

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This makes sense now that I see you're trying to brew without adding salts or acids.

I don't know how you sparge, but if you sparge hot, then alkalinity in the sparge water can raise the pH enough to potentially extract tannins. I also don't know how much alkalinity you have, but if it's really high it could also effect your kettle pH if you are only addressing it in the mash.

Here's some older threads on it:

If you haven't noticed tannins then it probably isn't a problem.
I've tried a few mash outs with the dunk water temp up there but never noticed a difference. From what I've been reading about BIAB mash out is superfluous in most cases. So dunk sparging at the same temp as the mash should keep tannins from being a problem?

I just did my first batch with the water at my new residence. It was about 15% lower BH efficiency than I had been getting. I thought of looking at the local well report. I'm not sure what this means exactly, but CaCO3 is reported twice, first as "Alkalinity" at 352Mg/L and then again as "Hardness" at 401Mg/L. Either way it seems the most likely culprit, although I'm not very methodical in my process. I haven't bottled it yet so don't know about taste, but prefer to start with minimal adjustments to the water and see what I can come up with...
 

McKnuckle

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That's an outrageous amount of residual alkalinity, which, if unchecked, will produce a very high mash pH. And it would be hard to counter it with acid and remain below the taste threshold. This could easily be responsible for your lower efficiency. I'd be surprised if it tastes good, especially if it's a pale beer. But you'll have to be the judge.
 

marc1

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I've tried a few mash outs with the dunk water temp up there but never noticed a difference. From what I've been reading about BIAB mash out is superfluous in most cases. So dunk sparging at the same temp as the mash should keep tannins from being a problem?
That's my understanding of it. I dunk sparge with room temp water.

I just did my first batch with the water at my new residence. It was about 15% lower BH efficiency than I had been getting. I thought of looking at the local well report. I'm not sure what this means exactly, but CaCO3 is reported twice, first as "Alkalinity" at 352Mg/L and then again as "Hardness" at 401Mg/L. Either way it seems the most likely culprit, although I'm not very methodical in my process. I haven't bottled it yet so don't know about taste, but prefer to start with minimal adjustments to the water and see what I can come up with...
That's a lot of alkalinity. That water would be a good candidate for an RO system, or heavy dilution with RO/distilled.

Try running your recipe with your water through some mash pH software. It could be very high.
 

marc1

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Try running your recipe with your water through some mash pH software. It could be very high.
Actually I'm really curious - I'll run it through one if you can give me the specifics.

I need the following for your water in ppm:
Calcium
Magnesium
Sodium
Chloride
Sulfate
Alkalinity

Also:
Grain bill in pounds, with Lovibond color of the various grains

Mash water volume
Sparge water volume
Cooled post boil volume
 
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Don_Coyote

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I feel like I'm being asked to have an ultrasound on my wife to determine my child's gender. :) If something is going to make it come out with two heads or three arms it would be good to have warning, but I'd prefer to taste it and see how it goes from there. If you are in South Central Wisconsin in a couple months, you'd be more than welcome to share and opinion...
 
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