Cooler or keg for mash tun?

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Big10Seaner

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I'm in the process of figuring out my all grain setup. I'm thinking of a 3 tier gravity setup. I already have 2 kegs, one of them already converted to a keggle and was planning on using the other for the sparge water. I'm stuck on deciding if I want to go with a cooler or another keg for a mash tun. What are the positives/negatives of them? Does a converted keg lose heat faster than a cooler (seems like it would)?
 

squiggy

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I used to use a keg and switched to a cooler. the keg just lost too much heat, it did not matter how hard I tried to insulate it.
 

Bobby_M

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I currently only lose 1.5F in my keg insulated with two layers of reflectix but that's with a 90F ambient temp. I assume it will be worse in the winter.

The only benefits to a keg based MLT is the option to direct heat it (and to heat strike water directly in it) and the fact that it fits nicely with two other keg based vessels.

Coolers are nice in that they hold temp a long time but you'd need to use a HERMS or infusions to step your temps up. If you don't care about step mashing, which I think is unnecessary in so many cases, the cooler is ideal. Once you learn to account for heat absorption, you can nail your temps every time. It's also a lot easier to carry over to your compost pile and dump out. Try that with a keg.
 

menschmaschine

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As long as you're comfortable cooking in plastic, whichever you choose, you'll likely get better efficiency with a cylindrical mash tun and false bottom, especially if you plan to fly-sparge.
 

ohiobrewtus

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As Bobby alluded to, it really depends on what you plan on brewing. If most of your beers are single infusion then I'd recommend going with a cooler. If you're going to be doing a lot of step mashing you may want to think about a direct fired keg, but even with a cooler you can still step mash (BeerSmith does all the calculations for you).
 
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Big10Seaner

Big10Seaner

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ohiobrewtus,

After the world beard championships are over, are you going to trim your beard?;) I imagine it's hard not getting hair into the kettle
 

Displaced MassHole

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+1 for an insulated keg. I orginally went with the 10gal cooler setup from Morebeer thinking it would be my final setup........I guess not. I'm putting a brutus ten together and really want the ability to do step infusions without adding hot water to raise the temp.
 

jcb317

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I would recommend the cooler. It will hold temp well w/o modification, and is pretty inexpensive and easy to convert into a MT. The main reason I personally would not want to use a keggle for a MT is because i already do not like cleaning out the boil kettle keggle i have, i cant imagine how much more of a pain it would be cleaning all the grain out with the lip on top of the keg and all, but thats just me.
 

jds

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[gearhead mode]
Why not both? I have a 5 gallon cooler that I use for single infusion on smaller batches. I'm getting ready to convert a keg for mashing large batches, high-gravity, and step mashing.
[/gearhead mode]
 

Reverend JC

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Odd.

I use a Keggle for my mash tun and cover the top with a lid i make from tin foil evertime i brew. It loses maybe 1 degree and that is in a house that is kept at 70 degrees year round.
 

crispy275

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I have used my 15.5g barrel for 13 years, and while I have to hit it with flame every 5-10 minutes in the cooler days to keep it within 1o or 2o degrees, I find I enjoy this tinkering quite a bit. I also have my March pump running throughout the mash process, which equalizes the heat very well, and makes for some very clear wort. I used to wrap the barrel with the shiny unsulation, but in time I gave up on that and just used a little more gas. A tech note, I always heat up the mash slow and low. My barrel has a thermoprobe entrance both above and below the false bottom screen. I find this very important, because if I just rely on the one above the screen, i coul overheat the 1+ gallons of wort below the screen and not realize it until I have potentially overheated the entire mash. My two cents. Oh, and i use a dolly to wheel my spent grains to the garden ;-)
 

Lil' Sparky

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I have used my 15.5g barrel for 13 years, and while I have to hit it with flame every 5-10 minutes in the cooler days to keep it within 1o or 2o degrees, I find I enjoy this tinkering quite a bit. I also have my March pump running throughout the mash process, which equalizes the heat very well, and makes for some very clear wort. I used to wrap the barrel with the shiny unsulation, but in time I gave up on that and just used a little more gas. A tech note, I always heat up the mash slow and low. My barrel has a thermoprobe entrance both above and below the false bottom screen. I find this very important, because if I just rely on the one above the screen, i coul overheat the 1+ gallons of wort below the screen and not realize it until I have potentially overheated the entire mash. My two cents. Oh, and i use a dolly to wheel my spent grains to the garden ;-)
GREAT 1st post - welcome aboard!


I like my keg MLT because it's shiny. :D
 
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i'd like to preface my comment by stating that I've done exactly 2 AG brews since conversion, and therefore am clearly an expert.

If I had a bogillion dollars, I'd make the coolest polished and chrome full tilt, gas powered a$$ kicker of a 44 magnum Big Block Tunnel Ram, Dual Dominator, scared children, wild women make'n, brew sculpture known to man...The type that that Turns atheists into Christians and Christians into Brewers, but I'd still have both a 5 and a 10 gallon round cooler with copper manifold for the mash tun.
 

thedude123

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Would someone briefly explain step mashing to me? I am thinking of doing a 3 kegs system in the near future as well.
 

DeathBrewer

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different kegs have different thickness. my friend doesn't even lose 1°F in a 60 minute mash.

i lose 10°F over an hour unless i pay attention and reheat every 20-30 minutes. i've tried insulating lightly, but it just never works out. i'm looking into getting some heavy insulation and making a jacket.

of course, his keg is MUCH heavier ;)
 

Bytor1100

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I currently use a cooler, but have 3 other kegs that are already converted that I could use for a mash tun. I really don't want to mess with using one of them for a mash tun so I will probably make an electric steam infusion cylinder with another keg I have, for when I want to do more than a single infusion. That way I can keep the ease, and temp. stability of the cooler, and still have a relatively easy way of increasing the grain bed temp.
 
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Big10Seaner

Big10Seaner

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I'll probably convert one of the kegs for a mash tun, but still buy a 10 gal cooler as well for partial mashes. Is it better to get a false bottom for the cooler or can I get by with the SS braid?
 

jds

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I'll probably convert one of the kegs for a mash tun, but still buy a 10 gal cooler as well for partial mashes. Is it better to get a false bottom for the cooler or can I get by with the SS braid?
I use a braid in my cooler, and it works great. If you plan to fly sparge, a manifold or false bottom would probably be a better option.
 

Bobby_M

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I think 10gal is overkill for a partial mash unless you're talking about a 30 gallon batch size. I guess I just don't understand ever going back to partial mash once you're all grain. It's an expensive step back.
 

ohiobrewtus

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ohiobrewtus,

After the world beard championships are over, are you going to trim your beard?;) I imagine it's hard not getting hair into the kettle
No way. SWMBO loves the way it tickles out 8 inches on each side of my face. :D
 
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