First all grain - trashcan used as insulation!

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So I did an extract kit three weeks ago and it is decent. I took those learnings and studied hard and was able to brew my first all grain beer last night.

I don’t have great equipment at this time, just a brew keggle and turkey frier but I made up for it with determination (and a few homebrews).

long story short, I inverted a 55gal trash bin over my keggle, thus making it into a cooler. Temp dropped from 153 after grain add to 145 in 32 minutes. I reheated slowly (15 min), then covered again for 20 min. Final temp was 145.


I used distilled water built with gypsum and calcium chloride

5lb white wheat
6lb pale 2-row

1oz saaz 3.2% - 60 min bittering
1 oz simcoe 13.6% - 5min aromatic/flavor
1.035 pre boil
1.042 post boil (not the best convo)

adjusted ph to 5.6 with baking soda.

The wort tasted so good I could drink it by the glass.

pitched dry K97 in aerated wort.

12 hours into fermentation and we are almost to the blowoff tube!
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cajunrph

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I wrap the kettle in thick towels, two around the kettle and one over the top. I also make an aluminum foil cap, using the lid as a template, and push it down to the level of the grains to reduce heat loss due to headspace. It held without a single degree drop over 60 minutes. Granted I live on the Texas Gulf coast and it is hot as hades now. The trash can doesn't seem to offer much insulation.
 

NTBeer

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Nice. Most insulation comes from keeping the air around a vessel from circulating, so the trash can should be fine. However, it looks to me like the keggle is on the ground? If so, putting it on something to insulate the bottom ( scrap lumber, a towel) will significantly cut your heat loss.
 
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Nice. Most insulation comes from keeping the air around a vessel from circulating, so the trash can should be fine. However, it looks to me like the keggle is on the ground? If so, putting it on something to insulate the bottom ( scrap lumber, a towel) will significantly cut your heat loss.
It is sitting on a brick patio exactly where my burner was. Basically the cement was preheated to about 150. You are right that it is pulling out some heat though. Eventually ill move to an igloo.
 
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I wrap the kettle in thick towels, two around the kettle and one over the top. I also make an aluminum foil cap, using the lid as a template, and push it down to the level of the grains to reduce heat loss due to headspace. It held without a single degree drop over 60 minutes. Granted I live on the Texas Gulf coast and it is hot as hades now. The trash can doesn't seem to offer much insulation.
the air space is the insulation, but this was truly a case of “I want to brew now and will make this work “. Future brews will likely be in a 10 gal igloo.
 

cajunrph

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the air space is the insulation, but this was truly a case of “I want to brew now and will make this work “. Future brews will likely be in a 10 gal igloo.
True air space is an insulator. But you dropped 7 degrees in 32 minutes. My towels dropped zero over an hour. Something is up with your setup. Simple wrap it with towels and make a cap. You won't have to deal with anything else. But part of the fun in brewing is making your equipment. So brew as you see fit.
 
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True air space is an insulator. But you dropped 7 degrees in 32 minutes. My towels dropped zero over an hour. Something is up with your setup. Simple wrap it with towels and make a cap. You won't have to deal with anything else. But part of the fun in brewing is making your equipment. So brew as you see fit.
I guess I should have been even more clear that this was a total macgyver, make what I have work brew night.

My education said this should work ok, and now I know to what extent. Not bad and certainly doable if someone wanted to experiment without investment.
 
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Why did you do this?
I started with distilled water that was incredibly acid. I did not catch it till the end so I compensated the only way I knew how. I put it in the water spreadsheet and I think I’m ok with sodium still under 150ppm.

did I screw up?
 

Gnomebrewer

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Acidic distilled water? My understanding of using distilled water is because it has 0 salts and a ph of 7. Not sure where you are getting your water, but I'd ask some questions. :mug:
Unopened, pure distilled water should have a pH around 7, but once it's open to the air CO2 dissolves into it creating Carbonic acid. It often has a pH down to the mid 5's, but has such a small buffering capacity that the acid is negligible. Hence we don't worry about the actual pH of brewing water, just the alkalinity.

I started with distilled water that was incredibly acid. I did not catch it till the end so I compensated the only way I knew how. I put it in the water spreadsheet and I think I’m ok with sodium still under 150ppm.
As above, it wasn't 'incredibly acid', it had a pH in the acid range but a very, very small amount of acidity. It's extremely rare that you need to add baking soda (or other base) to beer. How much baking soda did you add? 150ppm Sodium is a lot of baking soda! We normally aim for a pH around 5.4 in the mash (sometimes down to 5.2 for pale beers, up to 5.6 for dark beers, but there are exceptions) and the post boil pH is normally lower. 5.6 is high for post boil, and might limit the break (cloudy beer).

did I screw up?
A bit of a boo-boo, not a screw up. You'll still have beer.
 

cajunrph

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@Gnomebrewer, can you please explain the difference between PH and Alkalinity to a social worker. LOL Thanks
Ph is the scale from 0-14 we measure how acidic or alkaline (sometimes referred to as basic) a solution is. Ph less than 7 are acidic, Ph above 7 are alkaline. Alkalinity refers to the ability of a solution to resist acidification or the buffering ability of the solution.
 

bracconiere

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Ph is the scale from 0-14 we measure how acidic or alkaline (sometimes referred to as basic) a solution is. Ph less than 7 are acidic, Ph above 7 are alkaline. Alkalinity refers to the ability of a solution to resist acidification or the buffering ability of the solution.

hmm, i'd just describe it as something that really wants to recieve or get rid of Hydrogen atoms.....acid gives them like a teenage boy at prom, alkalines takes them like a dirty slut....he did say like a social worker?
 

DuncB

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I think we are going to have to bring more social responsibility, human rights, social justice and respect for diversities into the explanation. Tricky as the acid is generous with the hydrogen ions and the alkali a thief. But lets not be judgemental here.
 

Gnomebrewer

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Ph is the scale from 0-14 we measure how acidic or alkaline (sometimes referred to as basic) a solution is. Ph less than 7 are acidic, Ph above 7 are alkaline. Alkalinity refers to the ability of a solution to resist acidification or the buffering ability of the solution.
Yep.
But pH can go below 0 and above 14, even though we normally say the scale is from 0 to 14.

So, (for example) two sets of water could both have a pH of 8, one with lots of bicarbonate and one with hardly any. The water with lots of bicarbonate will need a lot more acid to get it into the range we want for brewing than the one with not much bicarbonate because it has more buffering capacity (more stuff trying to hold it around that pH 8 mark). It is said to have more alkalinity, even though the pH was the same as the other water.

Distilled water has no buffering capacity to resist pH change, so a tiny bit of dissolved CO2 (which becomes Carbonic acid) shifts the pH down, even though there is hardly any acid so a tiny amount of a base (alkaline substance) will shift the pH upwards.
 

CascadesBrewer

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long story short, I inverted a 55gal trash bin over my keggle, thus making it into a cooler. Temp dropped from 153 after grain add to 145 in 32 minutes. I reheated slowly (15 min), then covered again for 20 min. Final temp was 145.
What size batch did you have there? Honestly I would be surprised that your batch would drop that much just sitting out uncovered. I wrap my 10 gallon kettle with a sleeping bag, and the temp drops ~2F over a 60 minute mash even on a cool day. I just open it once at 30 mins for a stir and pH reading.

In any case, I don't view maintaining mash temp as that that critical. With today's malts, your mash was probably mostly done at 30 minutes. Trying to heat a mash with a propane burner is much more likely to cause issues than solve them. My suggestion would be to wrap up your kettle with a blanket from around the house and relax during the mash.
 

cmac62

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Thanks folks, that makes sense on the Alkalinity front. Generally, the more dissolved salts in the water the higher the alkalinity, obviously this depends on what specific salts are in there. :mug:
 

DuncB

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Yes base salts will increase the pH and acid salts reduce pH. So very salt dependent. But also ingredient dependent, ie acid malts, or dark malts will lower pH of your grist much more than a really pale malt.
 

RufusBrewer

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The volume of air between you kettle and the trash can will get warmer. The heat gets drawn from the mash and kettle. The air temp will rise until the air and mash are the same temp.

Of course the can reduces the amount of new cold air introduced. So the can is better than nothing.

But better insulation, close to the kettle, reducing the volume if air will be much more effective.
 

wilserbrewer

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Back to the trash insulation…this is a valid approach, but I feel you need to strike high and anticipate temp losses. From your temps you mashed at the low end and let fall….
You can get away with minimal insulation, just anticipate the temp loss and let it roll so you are in the middle of the sweet zone temp wise.
Mash 158-148 plus minus cheers
 
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Back to the trash insulation…this is a valid approach, but I feel you need to strike high and anticipate temp losses. From your temps you mashed at the low end and let fall….
You can get away with minimal insulation, just anticipate the temp loss and let it roll so you are in the middle of the sweet zone temp wise.
Mash 158-148 plus minus cheers
I sm armed with a great deal of book knowledge and very little practical experience. I read that there was concern of enzyme deactivation over 153?
 
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Thank you all for your responses!

I did this and posted here for others benefit as I never have seen trashcan insulation. It’s not a great solution, but if you are like me and like to try things (all grain) before investing in equipment, it’s good enough. With insulation under the pot and sleeping bags over the trashcan, I think you could get this setup consistently working.

If you don’t already own a clean, unused trash can, don’t do this. I happened to have one I used for winemaking. Making the trashcan work woukd be more expensive than building a proper mashtun from a 10 gallon drink cooler, which is what I will be building and running from here on out.

Note: I am on day 4 of fermentation and activity has significantly slowed. The k97 yeast is an absolute monster top fermenter.
 

CascadesBrewer

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I sm armed with a great deal of book knowledge and very little practical experience. I read that there was concern of enzyme deactivation over 153?
Personally, I would not mash in at 158F unless I really wanted to drive a high final gravity (a low fermentability wort). At warmer temps, the Beta Amylase (the ones that work best at lower temps and produce simple sugars) denature quickly. So by the time your wort temps dropped down to lower temps, Beta Amylase would not be around.

In my experience, the mash temps for the first 15 minutes are the most important. It might vary some by process and grain crush (I do BIAB with a fine crush). I want to do an experiment, but I believe there would be little or no difference in character or gravity between mashing in at 153F and either holding at 153F, or letting the temp drop to 143F over an hour.
 

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Air is an insulator in the sense that it is not a conductor. But it is not a very good insulator. There is a reason we do not leave an air space between your drywall and the outside wall. Instead they fill in the space with . . . . . wait for it . . . . insulating material.
 
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Air is an insulator in the sense that it is not a conductor. But it is not a very good insulator. There is a reason we do not leave an air space between your drywall and the outside wall. Instead they fill in the space with . . . . . wait for it . . . . insulating material.
insulation materials are…. Wait for it….. filled with air.
 

RufusBrewer

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Still air, your system had flowing air, which is a conductor. Air is an insulator if it is static and not flowing into and out of the system.
Exactly. If air was a good insulator, you would not need the garbage can Without the garbage can, you would be surrounding your kettle with virtually an infinite amount of "insulation." How well is that going to work?

Hence my original comment that the garbage can is better than nothing.

But it is fairly easy and cheap to get more effective insulation.
 

jerrylotto

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Personally, I would not mash in at 158F unless I really wanted to drive a high final gravity (a low fermentability wort). At warmer temps, the Beta Amylase (the ones that work best at lower temps and produce simple sugars) denature quickly. So by the time your wort temps dropped down to lower temps, Beta Amylase would not be around.

In my experience, the mash temps for the first 15 minutes are the most important. It might vary some by process and grain crush (I do BIAB with a fine crush). I want to do an experiment, but I believe there would be little or no difference in character or gravity between mashing in at 153F and either holding at 153F, or letting the temp drop to 143F over an hour.
We just had this conversation in a thread on historical mash profiles and while beta would denature pretty quickly at that temperature, the difference between these two scenarios would be more time for alpha amylase to work efficiently. Since alpha can eventually produce maltose, holding at 153 F (or even 158F) for more than an hour would probably produce a more fermentable wort.
 
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Air is an insulator in the sense that it is not a conductor. But it is not a very good insulator. There is a reason we do not leave an air space between your drywall and the outside wall. Instead they fill in the space with . . . . . wait for it . . . . insulating material.
This is why I leave the trash in the can. It provides more than just air to insulate 😄😄
 
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jerrylotto

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Before I built my keezer, I used a trash can full of water to float my fermentation bucket in. The water bath maintained a nice even temperature for the initial exothermic fermentation period. With an immersion heater or a propane burner you could probably use the same technique to keep your mash at a nice constant temperature but I would use a metal can for that :cool:. I also have a large (30 gal) brewing pot that my normal brewing kettle (15 gal) fits into. After the boil I use the large pot with ice water to cool my wort.
 
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It’s young (1week grain to glass) so there is more yeast on the nose than I’d like…. I expect that to clear out in a week or so.

She went all the way to 1.010 in 4 days. Cold crash for a day and kegged. Crisp wheat beer with zero off flavors.

the other three gallons are sitting on 5lbs fresh picked, frozen and puréed blueberries…. I hear I won’t get much flavor off them, but hoping for aroma. The color is bussin….

trashcan may not be ideal, but it absolutely worked!

cheers!
 

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