Direct fire mashtuns..

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AGBrewer

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With direct fired mlt I never miss a mash temp, mash outs and step mashing are a breeze.
 

mattm3

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Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Why not direct fire? It seems to me it would be easier to maintain the temperature. Why do people use coolers instead?

I'm getting ready to do my first AG batch. I did a partial mash on my last batch. I used my boil kettle on the electric stove and held the temperature that way. Then I ladled the the grains and water into a bucket with holes in the bottom placed inside another bucket with a spigot. I was careful to keep the grains floating. Then I sparged and collected everything back in the brew pot.

I'm getting a larger pot and an outdoor propane cooker. I plan on using the same technique, i.e. direct fire mash into my double bucket sparging system.

Does this make sense and does it work? What advantages are there to the cooler method?

(sorry to hijack the thread but it's the same question more or less.)
 

SuperiorBrew

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AGBrewer said:
With direct fired mlt I never miss a mash temp, mash outs and step mashing are a breeze.
+1
I love it, I have not had a single issue with it. (AKA no scorching)
 

Sea

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Direct firing works great, but I think a lot of us don't mess with it because you have to be very careful not to scorch the bottom of the mash. That being said, I plan on doing it soon.
 

beeraggie

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I currently use a "cooler" but I am moving to a direct fire. I want to have more control for protein rest ect...
 

FlyGuy

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I think coolers are popular because they are cheap, they don't require a second burner/stand/etc., they hold temps REALLY well, and they are light and easy to move around and store.

I made up a really simple steam injection system for my cooler MLT that gives you all the advantages of direct firing, but you retain all the advantages of the cooler. For me, it is almost necessary because I can't brew outdoors in the winter (feels like 8 months of the year up here in Canada!) and I needed something that I could use in my kitchen. In some ways, it is the best of both worlds, and cost me all of $35 to make. Details are in my signature. :mug:
 

Kaiser

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Unless, I have a thermostat and automated mixer on a direct fired mash tun, I'm planning to stick with the cooler. I feel that the cooler requires much less attention to keep the rest temperatures and I don't have to worry about stirring.

I can precisely hit my sacc temps if I dough in below that rest and increase the temp with boiling water additions.

But I never mashed direct fired, so you may prove me wrong.

Kai
 

menschmaschine

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I have a direct-heat MLT (keggle). Overall I like it, but I've overshot my temps a couple times when correcting mash temp or stepping up. I think it's relatively easy to overshoot. It has resulted in high FGs (stuck fermentations) on 2 batches of mine. But I'll still use it. I'll just get better at not overshooting temps.
 

the_bird

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I've thought about "upgrading" to direct-fired, and if I ever build a sculpture this will be incorporated into the design - but for now, I can usually hit mash temps for single infusion mashed balls-on. I haven't tried step-mashing with the cooler (other than decoctions), but generally step-mashing's unneccesary.
 

Lil' Sparky

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menschmaschine said:
I have a direct-heat MLT (keggle). Overall I like it, but I've overshot my temps a couple times when correcting mash temp or stepping up. I think it's relatively easy to overshoot. It has resulted in high FGs (stuck fermentations) on 2 batches of mine. But I'll still use it. I'll just get better at not overshooting temps.
You're right, overshooting your temps on steps is easy if you're not careful. Keep the flame low and don't try to raise the temp too fast. If you're not recirculation, you have to make sure you keep stirring really good.
 

CBBaron

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Direct fired: Pros - Easy to adjust mash temps for step mashes, mash out, etc, temp adjustments
Cons - Expensive for kettle, and burner
Chance of scorching wort
Usually requires oversite during mash to maintain temps
Cooler: Pros - Cheap, maintains temps, efficient
Cons - Requires infusion of decotion to change mash temps​

I use a cooler because I like keeping my brewing simple and it is inexpensive. I think I will even stick with a cooler when I build a tiered brew stand because I don't currently see the need for step mashing, and if I did I could still do infusion steps.

Craig
 

Bobby_M

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I've got the process down using a cooler and once you do, it's dough in and walk away for 60 minutes. It is very efficient because you don't need to use any more energy.

In a direct fire, you can do stepped mashes but I don't think anyone has been able to insulate it well enough for it to hold heat like a good cooler. I plan to recirculate, but i'm anticipating a drawn out learning curve in the process.
 

Evan!

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I mash exclusively with a direct-fired kettle. I've gotta say, I love it. The control that I have is amazing. As for the whole "set it and forget it" mentality of coolers, well, I don't usually have anything more pressing to do except clean equipment and measure hops, both of which are easily done with direct-fired. You just have to check on it every 15 minutes or so. I have had great results with stepped mashes, too, and I can't imagine step-mashing in a cooler unless it's a decoction---which is a huge PITA most of the time.
 

Lil' Sparky

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I really do like the dough in and walk away nature of a cooler. With a keg MLT I don't lose much heat on a warm/hot day, but I have had problems maintaining temp when it's cold and windy. I haven't insulated it, but I think it would be a worthwhile addition.

I like being able to heat the strike water in the MLT with a direct-fired setup. I think that's convenient.

I haven't mastered the direct-fired recirculation steps with my setup. I've had 2 times when I had a little scorching, but it was because the mash started to stick or my pump started to cavitate and I didn't know it. I use a partial false bottom and I think I may either try a full false bottom or a dual SS braid like this to see if I can get better flow with a finer crush and eliminate stuck sparges.

braid design.JPG

With any setup, you're making trade offs, but I think cooler MLT + HERMS may be the best compromise (of course I've never tried that setup).
 

bobwantbeer

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mattm3 said:
Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Why not direct fire? It seems to me it would be easier to maintain the temperature. Why do people use coolers instead?

Hey man I'm not made out of direct fire MLT's. I work at a California Pizza Kitchen for Christs sake. Plus I live at my parents house and can't over burden them with a three tier bad ass home brew set up in their basement. I'm testing their patience as it is. I dropped a carboy full of sanitizer into the basement utility sink a couple of days ago and it went through it like a battering ram. But one day I'll be directly heating multiple mashes at once while I simultaneously create multiple batches of homebrew.
 

CBBaron

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Evan! said:
I mash exclusively with a direct-fired kettle. I've gotta say, I love it. The control that I have is amazing. As for the whole "set it and forget it" mentality of coolers, well, I don't usually have anything more pressing to do except clean equipment and measure hops, both of which are easily done with direct-fired. You just have to check on it every 15 minutes or so. I have had great results with stepped mashes, too, and I can't imagine step-mashing in a cooler unless it's a decoction---which is a huge PITA most of the time.
I very seldom have a free day to brew, so my mash time is usually filled with other projects like getting my daughter breakfast or doing dishes, etc. I really appreciate the "set and forget" mash.
As for step mashing, it is easy to do with infusions. Your brewing software can do the calculations for temps and volumes. As long as you have sufficient space in your tun infusions are not a problem. You just need to start out thick if your first step is a low temp like a protein rest so you don't get too thin by the time you get to mashout. Its not the same control as a direct fired MLT but it is not difficult. For most beers steps are not necessary so I don't worry about it.

Craig
 

RLinNH

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I also have been looking into direct Fire type Mash Tuns. Personally, I like the Sabco one, but it sure as hell is pricey. Anywho, what sells me on them is having the option of doing Step Mashes. I figure if you take care and pay attention to what's going on inside the Tun, you should be fine. Yuh, I think I just talked myself into it.:mug:
 

Wables

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I used a cooler for 20 some AG batches with good results. I switched to a heated keggle MLT with a false bottom a few weeks ago, and I really like it. When I am not heating my MLT, I keep it wrapped in closed cell foam sleeping mat (Walmart camping section, $6) and a 1" foam cover. I have seen no heat loss until I start recirculating. It is a simple process:

1) Heat up the water in the MLT (no preheating necessary)
2) Dough in and wrap the MLT
3) Start the recirc pump @ 30 minutes, run through a simple 2 wing sparge arm
4) Put the heat on low @ 50 minutes
5) Sparge when the tun hits 168 (75 minutes), sparge with the method of your choice.

One thing that I have noticed is that the wort is very clear with the 45 minutes of recirculation. There is also the "bling factor". I love the way my 2 tiered setup looks with 3 kegs. With the false bottom and pump suction, my batch sparging is much faster than using just gravity and a manifold in a cooler. All in all, I am glad I added a pump and heated MLT to my setup. I am more confident with my temperatures, as I can always adjust, and I am not lifting gallons and gallons of 180 degree water.
 
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aekdbbop

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when using a direct fire mashtun, do any of you keep the insulation on during fire on? or do you slip it on when mashing in?
 

jdoiv

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You could try using a water heater blanket. You only really need to insulate the top 2/3rds of the tun as this is where most of the heat will get lost. If you don't turn the heat all the way up, you shouldn't need to remove it. I've been meaning to do this with my set up, but just haven't gotten around to it.

Another idea is to use the reflectix insulation. It's basically foil covered air bubbles. No fiberglass to catch fire. Lowes carries it and it's what I used for me fermentation closet.
 
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aekdbbop

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and that stuff is flame retardant? or just shouldnt be an issue since it is higher up?
 

Desert_Sky

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i went back and forth for the longest time. Do I do a HERMS or direct fire. I've decided that I do want to option to do step mashing, so I had to choose one method that I felt comfortable with. To me, direct fire is just a bit simpler IMO than building and running a some sort of HERMS system. .....nothing against any of you who may run one

But I'm sitting here with my plans for a Brutus Ten clone and am ready to take them to the welder tomorrow for an estimate. Hopefully it won't be too long until I can report back with my "experienced" views on direct fired MTs
 

Brewiz

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I just made my boil kettle into my MLT, added insulation from Home Depot and Hi-Temp tape, used it twice now with no problems loss 1 degree in a hour. I heat my strike water then add the grain....
 
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aekdbbop

aekdbbop

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Brewiz said:
I just made my boil kettle into my MLT, added insulation from Lowes and Hi-Temp tape, used it twice now with no problems loss 1 degree in a hour. I heat my strike water then add the grain....

awesome man, that is what i wanted to hear. How much did that insulation run you?
 

Brewiz

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The insulation was about $20.00 and the tape was about the same, the tape is suppose to take up 250 degrees. I actually got them at Home Depot not Lowes.
 
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is that the tape on the outside of both the hlt and the mlt? I would like to use a black color if i could instead of a metallic.
 

Brewiz

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aekdbbop said:
is that the tape on the outside of both the hlt and the mlt? I would like to use a black color if i could instead of a metallic.
It's actually at the top and bottom of the insulation to seal it to the keg. The insulation is silver too.
 

WhatsOnTap

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Hey guys,

I've been running a direct-fire system that has worked fantastic so far (and I feel guilty now for not posting on it sooner). I heat my mash in a 21 qt. enamel coated canner, then found that it will conveniently fit in a large, very thick walled styrofoam cooler that I got from Omaha Steaks last summer. It doesn't even drop a degree in 1 hr., and I can do step mashes - with the same set it & forget it benefits of a cooler MLT. I can run my electronic thermo with this setup, too. Mash-outs are a snap, and then I dump it into a food grade bucket that I fitted with a ball-valve and SS braid (this too fits in my cooler). I can then heat the sparge water in the canner while waiting to mash out. I can sparge back into the canner and heat the first runnings for the boil. Drain off the second runnings and you're on to the boil. There's your CHEAP way to direct fire mash. I have 20 bucks into the canner, and 30 into the Lauter Tun.

WOT
 
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