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Easy Steam Infusion Mash System

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FlyGuy

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Recent discussions of step mashing and decoctions got me thinking about ways to use my 10 gal Rubbermaid MLT (see myconstruction here) for multi-step mashes. A typical way to multi-step would be to heat the mash with a burner, but clearly that isn’t possible with a plastic cooler (one big drawback). Other options include raising the temperature of the mash using decoctions or additional infusions of boiling water, neither of which appealed to me.

So I thought I would try to design a steam infusion system based on the success of brewman !’s SIMS (thread 1, thread 2) and the info in this other article. Brewman! was kind enough to help me with design and testing of the system (thanks brewman!). Overall, this was an easy system to build, and I had fairly good success in a water-heating trial (details below).

Here is what I built:



 
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FlyGuy

FlyGuy

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• pressure cooker ($19.99 for a 1.5 gal/5.5L cooker, the MINIMUM size I would recommend)
• 1/4" x 1/8" tube/MIP angle valve ($3.95 – Watts A-41)
• 2' @ 3/8" copper tubing for a manifold ($2.40)
• 1/4" copper T-junction ($0.49)
• 6' @ 1/4" ID x 7/16” OD crush-resistant, high temp. silicone tubing ($10.14 – McMaster Carr # 3184K1)
• hose clamp ($0.99; optional)

Total cost: $37.96 Canadian, or about $30 USD
 
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FlyGuy

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[Disclaimer: Although this worked for me, I do not recommend tampering or modifying a pressure cooker in any way. Modifying or removing safety devices on a pressure cooker can lead to explosion and possible injury. Blah, blah, blah...]

Pressure cooker: Pretty much any decent size pressure cooker (use AT LEAST a 1.5 gal unit) will work, although I wish I had gone with a much bigger unit (see below). If you are lucky, you might be able to unscrew one of the fittings on your pot, insert a tee junction, and run attach your valve to the pot this way (worked for brewman !; see here). The fittings on my pot were too small, so I tapped a 1/8” NPT thread into the lid, and screwed in my valve to control the flow of steam. Works perfectly. I also added a 3 inch piece of 1/4" copper tubing to the valve (it has a built in 1/4" compression fitting) to attach the tubing. A 3/8" inch hose clamp would be a good idea – mine held without it…. until I kinked the silicone tubing and it blew the hose right off the pot!

Steam manifold: I bent 3/8" tubing around a small pot to form a loop. I sweated a T junction to complete the loop. I then drilled about eight 1/16" holes in the tubing with a drill to allow the steam to escape. The silicone tubing can be stretched over the end of the T junction, and mine was snug enough that it did not require a hose clamp. A small thumb clamp can be added to the hose if you want to stop the flow of steam at the manifold end (useful to prevent backflow when the steam flow is stopped at the pot).

 
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FlyGuy

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To test the system, I heated 5 gallons of water from 122 degrees F to 152 F. Using only steam for heat, I was able to raise the temperature of the water in the cooler in about 15 minutes. I was a bit disappointed, since Brewman was able to heat water with his system at about twice that speed.

I did some trial and error with finer hose (1/8" silicone tubing), and a manifold made from smaller 1/4" copper tubing (see below). While the smaller diameter tubing and manifold increased the pressure of the steam injection, it did little to change the heating times (in fact it took longer).



I discussed this with Brewman across multiple, multiple PMs :) and we decided that the bottleneck in my system was the heat source. Through some fancy calculations based on heat transfer in the cooler, Brewman calculated that I was delivering the equivalent of 2.4 kw of energy with this system, which is approximately the output of the burner on my stove. We also decided that a larger pot, which holds a greater volume of water, would be able to deliver more heat to the manifold because it has a greater capacity to store energy in the form of heat and pressure. I confirmed this with my system – I had an initial rise in temperature that was very fast for the first few minutes of steam injection, and then the heating dropped to a lower but consistent rate (apparently as the pressure in my pot dropped and the stored energy was transferred). Brewman’s system was presumably more efficient because he has a 4.5 gallon pressure cooker that can store 4 times the heat.

Bottom line: If you want faster heating, a larger pressure cooker and/or a hotter heat source (e.g., a gas burner??) is necessary. However, the heating time in my system seems reasonable for achieving a multi-step mash. I am going to try one tonight when I brew an AG hefe-weizen recipe, and I will report back with my success.
 

fifelee

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Nice. I will do this. Oh yes I will. It shall be done. Thanks for doing all the hardwork.
 
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kladue said:
For those folks doing recirculating systems inject the steam into the wort and give up the stirring and get the same step times.
That's exactly why I'm going to start steam mashing. Steam through a well built manifold should agitate the wort enough to avoid stirring. The parts are starting to arrive for a corny-sized steam vessel (see brewman's thread). My next brew will be steam powered!
 

brewman !

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Good writeup, Flyguy !

Brewman’s system was presumably more efficient because he has a 4.5 gallon pressure cooker that can store 4 times the heat.
My system isn't more efficient, my system just stores more heat until you open the valve.

Saturated water at 15PSI is 240F. When you open the valve the pressure drops and the water flashes to steam, down to 212F. The more liquid water you have at 240F, the more steam energy you have stored. In fact, a 20Q pressure canner at 240F has enough energy stored to raise a typical 5 gallon mash 30F all by itself. How fast that happens depends on how far you open the valve and how much bubbling, etc you want in your mash.

As I've mentioned before, due to viscosity reasons, mash heats easier than water. The steam bubbles in water tend to be big and they take a long time to collapse. The heat gets released when the bubbles collapse. Thus a mash tends to heat better with steam than does water. So Flyguy, heating your mash may work better than heating plain water.

I found I really had to keep the steam flow rate down when heating with water. If I turned it up too much, the bubbles wouldn't break until the surface and the steam energy was released to the headspace above the water. I haven't had any problem like that with steam heating the mash. I'll be very interested to hear how you make out heating your mash tonight !

Flyguy: were the holes in your manifold really 11/32 ? (Larger than 1/4" ?) Or might have they been say 11/64 ? Did steam come out of all the holes or just one ?

Aside: I calculated 2.4KW based on heating 5 gallons 30 degrees F in 10 minutes.

I can't wait to hear how your mash goes tonight. Don't forget to stir !
 
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FlyGuy

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Brewman ! -- as before, thanks for your knowledge and sage advice. I am hopeful that you are correct and that the system works well for my mash. Am going to start in an hour or so (once my work is finished).

As for the manifold holes, yes that was a typo -- 11/32 should have been 1/16. Just a slip of the fingers -- DUH. Don't know where I came up with that figure!!! :drunk:

I have corrected it in my original post so it now reads 1/16" holes. Thanks for spotting that.
 

brewman !

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I also added a 3 inch piece of 1/4" copper tubing to the valve (it has a built in 1/4" compression fitting) to attach the tubing. A 3/8" inch hose clamp would be a good idea – mine held without it…. until I kinked the silicone tubing and it blew the hose right off the pot!
Not to take away from anything that Flyguy has done, but one should really use a regular hose nipple to prevent such hose slippage. I use a 1/4" hose nipple and my hose stays on with no problems, even if I dead end pressurize the hose. I can also work it off when I need to.

The hose slipping off is one of the few things that could be potentially dangerous about this setup. Spending an extra $1 for a nipple minimizes that risk.
 

brewman !

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No prob, Flyguy !

BTW... I'd love to brew a hefe... are you freezing some yeast ? Is that a starter I see going on your counter ? Care to swap a Wyeast 3942 for a hefe yeast ?
 
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FlyGuy

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brewman ! said:
No prob, Flyguy !

BTW... I'd love to brew a hefe... are you freezing some yeast ? Is that a starter I see going on your counter ? Care to swap a Wyeast 3942 for a hefe yeast ?
Yep, that is the Wyeast weizen yeast building-up on the counter. I am going to freeze some very soon. I would be happy to swap! A wit beer is on my list of 'brews to do'!

Also, regarding the use of a barb to hold the hose. I completely agree. However, the angle valve I used terminates in a hose connection, not a MIP connection. The nuts on the hose connection aren't NPT threads, so you can't get a barb connector that will fit. That's why I used the 1/4" copper tubing.

In all honesty, while a barb and hose clamp would be best, there is no way that the hose would ever come off that piece of copper tubing if it were clamped down right. Even without the clamp, it only came off once when I blocked the flow of steam through the tube (and it got blocked multiple times before this happened). But I agree - better safe than sorry.
 
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FlyGuy

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olllllo said:
mmmm. Beef beer.
LOL - you caught it! I looked at the photo, too, and wondered if anyone would notice. It does look a lot like B E E R though, unless you look carefully.... :D
 
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I have the same thermo. I set mine to Pork just for laffs.
I wanted to post something just so I could follow this thread. Very interesting.

Good luck on this project.
 

brewman !

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Flyguy... does steam come out all of the holes in the manifold or just one/a few ? I'd like to know what kind of steam distribution you get and how your mash is for temp hot spots.

If people are wanting to use steam with a recirculating system, like a HERMs or a RIMS, you could probably inject steam into the recirculating line after the pump. Inject it right into the circulating wort. It would bubble in the line a bit, but as long as the line was long enough the wort would absorb the heat and the bubble would collapse.

My regular brew rig was a HERMs system. I'll be using it with steam when I resurrect it this fall.

The thing I worry about with injecting steam into the line is overheating the wort. And then you always have to worry about having a high enough wort flow rate so as not to over heat it. With direct injection, you don't have to worry about that or hot wort aeration.
 

Bsquared

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This is a great thread, I like the Idea of using steam. Back in the day I worked in a Coffee shop and the espresso machines used steam to heat the milk, and as long as you did not run the steam too long you did not have a problem for burning the milk. The espresso machines used steam wands with a nossil on the end.

Do you think if you had four steam wands in each corner you might increase the efficiency of the steam manifold?

I am really intrigued about the Steam/HERMS Idea, I've been putting one together for a While in my spare time and an almost done. I had this idea though, if you modified a counter flow chiller so you run steam through it, instead of cold water, to heat the wort. As well though I guess It would make most sense to use a heat exchange plate...Hmm

any thoughts
 

brewman !

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I guess you could run the steam through the center coil of a counterflow chiller. It would exchange the heat. Some liquid would condense in the coil, but it could be blown out or just leave it drip out, no harm done.

I was thinking of injecting the steam right into the wort as it was being pumped.

You have to remember that the steam is damn hot, like maybe hot enough to kill the enzymes in the wort. The heat needs to be spread out over a bunch of wort (or mash) or you could have some problems.

I think the beauty of injecting the steam right in the mash is you don't have to pump it - at all. No chance of getting the mash too hot with injecting straight in and no chance of mash aeration issues either.

I know I complained about stirring, but you only have to do that while you are adding heat. Once the heat is added, if you are using a cooler, you close the lid and go watch TV. There is really nothing to do except check the thermometer a few times. And there is no wort outside the cooler cooling off either.

Steam mashing has been the easiest mashes I have ever done.
 
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FlyGuy

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brewman ! said:
Flyguy... does steam come out all of the holes in the manifold or just one/a few ? I'd like to know what kind of steam distribution you get and how your mash is for temp hot spots.
Yes, all the holes have a relatively fine mist of bubbles coming out of them. I started with only three holes, then added one or two at a time until I no longer had 'big' bubbles.

The thing I worry about with injecting steam into the line is overheating the wort. And then you always have to worry about having a high enough wort flow rate so as not to over heat it. With direct injection, you don't have to worry about that or hot wort aeration.
Well, that's the one good thing about my 'lightweight' system is that there is very little chance of scorching. I can put my hand in the water about 1/4" from the vents in the manifold before I can feel the direct heat of the steam (although I DEFINITELY felt it when I put my finger over a venting hole). Even the copper manifold stays relatively cool. However, I did notice a tiny bit of warped/melted/scorched plastic on the bottom of the cooler directly under the T connection in the manifold right where the steam line comes in.
 

kladue

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Having built and operated a steam injection to circulating wort system, temperature control is as easy as monitoring mixed flow temperature and controlling steam input. Normal flow rate through swagelok tee mixer with a SS screen wire steam diffuser is .83 gpm and water into steam generator is .05 gpm. Having used a pressure cooker and noted the limitations in output, time to steam, and no way to monitor water level and refill under pressure. Have went on to build a continous flow heater/boiler to heat strike water/ make steam for wort heating/ and heat sparge water for fly sparging. With this setup and small volume of water in the coils of the boiler it can reach steam output in about 45-60 seconds, strike and sparge water temps in about 90 seconds. The temperature control is by varying the burner flame since there is no flow control valve in the boiler outlet to cause pressure buildup or explosion. Have tested boiler fittings and coils to 250 PSI and have dry fired to coils to orange heat and fired pump at .25 gpm with cold water to see how the SS tubing held up to abuse, was dissapointed as nothing blew up or leaked.
 
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FlyGuy

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Yes, success! I posted my results and some pictures to the AG forum here.

Overall, the system worked far better than I expected. It only took 12 minutes to heat 14 lbs of grist in 4.5 gallons of water from 122F to 152F. I probably could have gone faster, too. Brewman - you were right about mash heating faster than water. You were also right about stirring -- I was getting lots of hot and cold pockets initally, but a bit of stirring fixed that. I am wondering now if I had stirred my water in my initial tests whether it would have sped up the heating.

Regardless, this system worked really well -- I love it. It is just really simple and really easy to work with. What a great solution to step-mashing in a cooler! Thanks to brewman ! for the idea and all the help with the design.

:mug:
 

bradsul

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FlyGuy said:
...Overall, the system worked far better than I expected. It only took 12 minutes to heat 14 lbs of grist in 4.5 gallons of water from 122F to 152F. I probably could have gone faster, too. Brewman - you were right about mash heating faster than water. You were also right about stirring -- I was getting lots of hot and cold pockets initally, but a bit of stirring fixed that. I am wondering now if I had stirred my water in my initial tests whether it would have sped up the heating...
Did you do anything special to avoid overshooting your target mash temp? Or just a thermometer following your mash paddle while you stirred? I'm very interested in this rig as I've been having chill-haze problems since going AG and I've heard a protein rest can help with that.

My source is Dave Miller's book on that and it's fairly out of date. To be honest I haven't done any further research yet so that may no longer be the case. I've been doing hefe's lately and a protein rest seems like a good idea regardless.
 
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No, I just got lucky and shut it down at the right time for both steps, after watching my thermometer. But the nice thing about this system is that the steam is instant-on, and instant-off. A gas burner would be similar, I suppose. Anyways, you can play it safe by shutting down a little below your target, then give another blast of steam to raise it up if necessary. The valve is also reasonably adjustable, so you could also simply reduce the steam flow when you get near your temp.
 
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FlyGuy

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I gotta say -- for a $30 add-on to a cheap cooler MLT system, this works very well. You don't need multiple burners and pots and pumps and stands and all that jazz. See my pics here to see how everything can be done in the kitchen on a stove top. The only PITA was the split-boil in two pots, but that wasn't too bad. I will eventually upgrade to a keggle and a single burner system for heating water and bioling the wort.
 

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*laughs Good stuff ! Glad to hear it worked for you, Flyguy !

You just confirmed that steam works better in mash than in water. With water the steam bubbles go straight to the surface. Mash is much thicker and it slows down the bubbles, causing them to break in the mash, releasing their heat. I bet a thick mash would be even better than a thin one.

BTW: Flyguys heating times would have been faster if he had a larger pressure cooker.

One way to get around the hot spots and stirring would be to recirculate the wort while heating. I was thinking about it last night and I'm going to continue injecting steam straight into the mash. On my full size brew system, I'll probably recirc while heating with a pump. If that eliminates the hotspots, this setup is pretty darn good as far as I am concerned.

Like Flyguy said, you don't have to worry about temp overshoots with steam. Just turn off the flow.
 

brewman !

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That was your first AG, right Flyguy ? Congrats are in order ! Welcome to the AG club.
 
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FlyGuy

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brewman ! said:
That was your first AG, right Flyguy ? Congrats are in order ! Welcome to the AG club.
That was my first real AG batch, yes. And my first 5 gallon batch in the new MLT setup. Thanks!
 

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You realize there is almost no beer you can't make now, right ? AG + step mashes + liquid yeast = brew just about anything, just like the big boys do. Make it as dry, sweet, malty, clean, hoppy, as you want. Mash any grain, any way. Its a pretty heady stuff when you stop and think about it.

Can you tell I'm still smacking my lips from that Cranberry Ale ? *grin
 
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FlyGuy

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Yep, things have come a long way for me since brewing from no-boil wort kits only 6 months ago! I'm excited! I have a huge list of beers I want to brew next.

So many brews, so little time....

:)
 

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This has been a phenomenal thread and I just wanted to ask you a couple questions about your steam mash setup.

First, do you also use the pressure cooker to heat your sparge water in a cooler? If the steam was capable of getting water to ~170F, then you wouldn't need a burner under the HLT, right?

Second, if I was to modify your 10 gal cooler MLT conversion with a copper manifold rather than SS braid, would you expect that it would be pretty easy to connect the steam inlet to that manifold, then disconnect it later during sparging?

Thanks for all the info. I want to start AG this summer and it seems that this is the easiest way.
 
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FlyGuy

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GoBrewers said:
First, do you also use the pressure cooker to heat your sparge water in a cooler? If the steam was capable of getting water to ~170F, then you wouldn't need a burner under the HLT, right?
In theory, you could do this. But it is more efficient to heat your sparge water directly on the burner during the mash. That is why I have the second cooler as a hot liquor tank - it holds heated water to free up the burner later. At the end of the mash, my water is pre-heated and waiting to go in the HLT while the pressure cooker heats up on the burner.

Or, if you want to do everything on the stove-top (like I did for my first trial), you will have burners for everything simultaneously. That' s a nice part about this system -- you only need one burner/propane tank OR you can do everything indoors. That's important for me since it gets too cold to use my propane cooker on the deck in Canada in the winter. :eek:

Second, if I was to modify your 10 gal cooler MLT conversion with a copper manifold rather than SS braid, would you expect that it would be pretty easy to connect the steam inlet to that manifold, then disconnect it later during sparging?
I thought about this a fair bit, but couldn't figure out how it would work. Disconnecting the manifold is tricky since it is stuck way down in the tun below all the grist. Honestly, my KISS solution worked so well, that I just gave up on the idea of an integreated manifold. Plus, a SS braid works REALLY well, and I didn't want to give that up.

Thanks for all the info. I want to start AG this summer and it seems that this is the easiest way.
You bet -- my pleasure. And you are right -- it doesn't get any easier (or cheaper) than this! Anyone can do a full all-grain system with full multi-step mash capabilities for well under $200 with a highly portable, adaptable system.

I have to admit that I drool over the big 3 kettle, 3 burner, brew sculptured systems that a lot of guys use. But there are some big advantages to a cooler- and steam-based system like this (cost, portability, ease of use, etc.). I really don't see myself changing much in my system in the future. It is just so simple and easy and efficient.

:mug:
 

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By making this modification to a pressure cooker, would I be correct in that you could still use the pressure cooker to cook and or can with?

This is a great idea either way! I cannot wait to get into all grain brewing!
Ray
 
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Yes, absolutely. I also use it as a home 'autoclave' for sterilizing my yeast freezing equipment, and for canning wort for making starters. Works great.
 

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How do you prevent the pressure from escaping when using it as a normal pressure cooker? Is there a valve I'm not seeing?

-D
 
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FlyGuy

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Yes, there is a needle/angle valve installed on the pot. If you look at the third picture in the thread (under the title Parts List), you can see it. It is brass and I tapped and threaded it right into the lid of the pot. Sometimes, if you are lucky, your pressure relief valve might be the same thread, so you can insert a tee and run the needle/angle valve off it.
 
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