Foam and Plastic, and Toxins

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rodwha

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I’ve regained my desire to brew after a long trip through California, but I’m going smaller.

Currently I have a 10 gal water cooler mash tun, but I’ve modified a little 2 gal jug I have to use now by opening up the spigot port to allow a bottling bucket spigot. The lid is just a thin piece of plastic and it loses heat rapidly (I’ve used this once on my first partial mash) so I cut some foam from packaging of some sort to fit within the lid.

Though the foam under the lid won’t have straight up contact there will be plenty of condensation falling back off of it. Would this be a toxin hazard? And what of the spigot handling the extreme heat of preheating the tun?
 

SanPancho

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Hard to say anything without knowing what kind of plastic you’re working with- hpde, ldpe, pp, etc.

As for foam- wrap it in aluminum foil and there’ll be no contact
 
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rodwha

rodwha

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Ultimately I think I’ll get another 3 gal jug as it has a proper lid and would maybe allow me to transfer my manifold over from my 10 gal tun. I certainly prefer for things to look nice, but I won’t mind hobbling something together to get started again.
 

IslandLizard

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The smaller your mash vessel the harder it will be to keep the temps anywhere near where you want them to be, due to lack of thermal mass.

If you're going to brew small 1-2 gallon batches, mash in a metal kettle/kitchen pot, that has a lid and stick that inside a warmed up, but turned off oven. I used to do mini mashes like that for several years, living in a rental.

Some modern ovens have a well working thermostat and can be set and kept at a decent stable temp. A convection oven would be the best as it recirculates the hot air. Alas, most don't do that very well at lower temps, in the range we typically use for mashing. :(
But... you'll learn that 1 minute on may raise the temps of your 2 gallon mash inside the pot by 2 degrees. ;) Or just pull it out, give it a stir, and return.

Otherwise, place your mash vessel/jug inside an insulated cooler or so, and add hot water around it to create a water jacket. Keep a lid on it to keep the heat in.
 
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rodwha

rodwha

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Excellent advice! I hadn’t thought about the oven trick but do recall reading about it a dozen years or so ago when I was getting started. This is the simplest solution so I think I’ll try it.

I’d have to go through my notes to see, but the first time I used the little jug it lost a lot of temp. I figure most of it was through the thin plastic lid.
 

IslandLizard

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Excellent advice! I hadn’t thought about the oven trick but do recall reading about it a dozen years or so ago when I was getting started. This is the simplest solution so I think I’ll try it.

I’d have to go through my notes to see, but the first time I used the little jug it lost a lot of temp. I figure most of it was through the thin plastic lid.
It gets even better, using the oven: It's suddenly become fairly easy to do step mashes that way, or a mashout. You do need to stir and check the temps, or have a probe inside the mash. You'll get a good feel for it after a few times.

Just be aware the "outside" of the mash, closer to the kettle walls or bottom, will heat up faster than the center. ;)
 
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rodwha

rodwha

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It gets even better, using the oven: It's suddenly become fairly easy to do step mashes that way, or a mashout. You do need to stir and check the temps, or have a probe inside the mash. You'll get a good feel for it after a few times.

Just be aware the "outside" of the mash, closer to the kettle walls or bottom, will heat up faster than the center. ;)

Thanks for the heads up! I do have several thermometers but it sounds like my digital BBQ one would be best so as not to need to open the door.

I must admit that deep down I prefer a more proper mash tun, and am still contemplating a 3 gal jug mash tun, but I certainly like that it wastes no water on preheating the mash tun. Living in TX where we’re often in a drought has always made me feel a bit bad for wasting so much water. I bought a little pond water pump and hooked it up to my wort chiller so as to cut down on my usage (waste).
 
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