igloo cooler manifold question

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Zeppman

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hey everyone,

(I don't know all the technical terms, so bear with me..) I have a square shaped igloo cooler with the mesh braid for a filter (got it all from home depot). Right now, the fitting I have going through the wall of the cooler is only held in place by pressure from the wall... meaning I drilled the hole quite a bit smaller then the size of the valve that I have in there. I then forced the valve in, and it stays, and only leaks a few drops during each batch. The problem is that I'm always low on my OG. I would like to put in a copper lattice to replace the mesh. The problem is I don't know how to attach this to my valve. I figure I should also order some better fittings, (maybe from weldless fittings?)

Anyway, what can I do to improve my mash tun, and how? Thanks for your help.
 
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Zeppman

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Thanks, do you think I would have to weld the copper pieces in the manifold? I do not have the tools do that.
 

maida7

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Are you batch sparging or fly? A braid will only work well with batch sparging. You will not see much improvement from a fancy manifold unless your fly sparging.

An easy fix to getting a low OG is to simply use some more grain.

I recommend barginfittings.com. They have great bulkheads for converting a cooler to a mash tun. A good bulkhead is what you need to take care of your leak. From there you can add whatever manifold or braid will work well with your method of sparge.
 

DrawTap88

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+1 to both suggestions.

Go with the weldless options and you won't need anymore tools than two wrenches.
 
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Zeppman

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I batch sparge right now with the braid. Besides low OG, the other reason I want to go to the manifold is that my braid always seems to float off the bottom of the cooler after some stirring.
 

truckmann

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A braid will only work well with batch sparging.
I disagree with this. I have a braid and I fly sparge and routinely get efficiencies of 85+ so I would say the braid is working just fine. I tried out batch sparging a few times and saw no noticeable difference so I went back to fly sparging because it's easier with my setup.

my braid always seems to float off the bottom of the cooler after some stirring.
I solved this problem with my braid by using some stainless tubes I have to put around the braid and keep it weighted down in the mash.
 

Zacharomyces

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I don't think the braid is your problem. I would look at your grain crush and consider doing a mash out. As far as the braid floating, I had this problem and when I took a close look at the braid closely I found that it wasn't stainless steel, but some sort of plastic! Doh! If you do go with a weldless kit (which I would recommend), you can get a Beefier braid that is made for water heaters for about nine bucks and it rocks! Totally solid and no floating!
 
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Zeppman

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Zacharomyces, I was considering this

http://www.bargainfittings.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=44_35_47&product_id=96

if i didn't go the manifold route. Please explain, how does a mash out improve efficiency? My current method, in simple terms goes like this:

Add grain and 1.33qts per grain to cooler and achieve temp 150-154F and hold for 1 hour. I then drain completely, (recirculating one gal), and put on the burner. I then add about 2-3 gal of sparge water at 180F, stir, and let sit for about 20 min. Completely drain (recirculating 1st gal again), and add to boil pot. I then repeat that step once more. The vol of sparge water is dependent on the volume I get in the 1st runnings, and I split that amount to do two sparges. I always aim for 6.5 gal pre-boil to get about 5.5 gal after 1 hour of boiling.

Extra info: Every all grain beer I have made, with the exception of maybe 3, has a taste to it that I can not pinpoint. After looking up homebrew off flavor definitions, I believe it could be described as "astringent" but I am really not sure. Sometimes it is subtle, other times its over powering (for example, belgian blond I just made). No one else I know personally brews, or has any knowledge of brewing, so I don't know how I can fix this problem without a professional tasting it...

I do my best to keep fermentation temps at 65-70F.
 

Toecutter

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I have a rectangular cooler and made a custom copper manifold out of some extra 1/2" copper pipe I had in the garage. it works fantastic, and I have never had a stuck sparge or a clog. it is not welded.soldered, just fitted together. you can get a fitting for the front middle leg and attach a short piece of clear plastic hose that will attach to your bulkhead fitting.
 

DrawTap88

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if i didn't go the manifold route. Please explain, how does a mash out improve efficiency? My current method, in simple terms goes like this:

Add grain and 1.33qts per grain to cooler and achieve temp 150-154F and hold for 1 hour. I then drain completely, (recirculating one gal), and put on the burner. I then add about 2-3 gal of sparge water at 180F, stir, and let sit for about 20 min. Completely drain (recirculating 1st gal again), and add to boil pot. I then repeat that step once more. The vol of sparge water is dependent on the volume I get in the 1st runnings, and I split that amount to do two sparges. I always aim for 6.5 gal pre-boil to get about 5.5 gal after 1 hour of boiling.

Extra info: Every all grain beer I have made, with the exception of maybe 3, has a taste to it that I can not pinpoint. After looking up homebrew off flavor definitions, I believe it could be described as "astringent" but I am really not sure. Sometimes it is subtle, other times its over powering (for example, belgian blond I just made). No one else I know personally brews, or has any knowledge of brewing, so I don't know how I can fix this problem without a professional tasting it...
The thing that is jumping out at me which will solve your astringency problem is that your mash out/sparge water is too hot. 180 degree sparge water can extract some tannins, which leads to astringency. With that being said, make sure that they style of beer you're making dosen't include astringency as an associated flavor (IPAs and PAs are coming to mind off the top of my head).

Another thing that can help those astringent tannins leech into your beer is if the pH rises too much (above 5.7, I believe). Not sure how or why, but I just read that in the BJCP study guide.

As for the mash out question...Raising the temp of the mash and stiring a little before sparging helps to "loosen up" any sugars that might not otherwise be extracted. That will lead to an increase in efficiency.
 

Zacharomyces

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Drewtap is right on both counts. As far as your astringency issue, just back down a couple of degrees on your sparge water and see if that helps. 180 is just barely too hot, I get away with 175 all the time and no issues. The other thing that could cause astringency is over sparging, but it doesn't sound like you are doing that.
As far as your braid goes, I have one of these; http://www.bargainfittings.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=44_35_47&product_id=85
Then I have the jumbo stainless braid from a home water heater clamped onto it via worm clamps. I can post a photo of it if you would like.
 
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Zeppman

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Hey guys, thanks for the info.

Ok, so I get this straight. At the end of the 60 min. mash, I should raise the temperature of the mash slightly (how would you recommend me doing this since I can't add "direct heat" to the plastic cooler, with flame, etc...) and I should stir the grains a bit.

I thought I didn't want to disturb the grain bed so it sets up as a type of filter during the first runnings?

As soon as I get some spare time, I plan on ordering up the fitting kit and braid from bargainfittings.
 

maida7

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Hey guys, thanks for the info.

Ok, so I get this straight. At the end of the 60 min. mash, I should raise the temperature of the mash slightly (how would you recommend me doing this since I can't add "direct heat" to the plastic cooler, with flame, etc...) and I should stir the grains a bit.

I thought I didn't want to disturb the grain bed so it sets up as a type of filter during the first runnings?

As soon as I get some spare time, I plan on ordering up the fitting kit and braid from bargainfittings.
It's called a mash out. You attempt to raise the mash temp to 170F. The stops the conversion and makes it easier to lauter.

In a cooler the method is to add a quantity of boiling water. The quantity is calculated according to the mash temp and volume. A homebrew software such as Beersmith make these types of calculations much easier.

Another method is a decoction. where you pull out a portion of the mash, boil it and then return the boiling liquid to the mash.
 

truckmann

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Mash out is more difficult with a cooler type mash tun, but there are a couple of things that can be done. You can run a couple gallons of your mash off into a small pot and heat close to boiling then pour back into the mash to raise the temp. I also have been sparging with 190 deg water to help raise the temp in the mash and have had no problems with astringency or over sparging since my over all temp doesn't get over 170 degrees.

As for stirring, go ahead and stir away, at least before you start your run off into the boil kettle. When you vorlauf (recirculate) before running into your boil kettle you are establishing the grain filter bed. So just don't stir after that.
 

DrawTap88

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You could also just skip the mash out and go straight to sparging. In that case you wouldn't want to stir the mash up, but you would still want to vorlauf (recirculate) your first runnings.
 
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Zeppman

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A few things:

Boiling a certain amount of water and adding it to the mash won't extract tannins? Is the key just to keep the overall mash temp under 170?

What are the pros and cons of a mashout, since I'm hearing that I can either do a mash out, or skip it?

To confirm, if I mash out, I add a certain amount (calculated by a beer calculator) of boiling water, stir, let sit for x amount of time (what it this time?) recirculate the first gallon, and drain the entire first runnings. Should my sparge water still remain at 170F at this point?

Thanks for all the help guys. All of you and this forum are very appreciated.
 

truckmann

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Basically yes the goal is to get the mash to 170 degrees for a mash out. This works to denature the enzymes and should make it easier to get a clearer wort into the boil kettle. It's not absolutely necessary, but I think you will get better efficiency if you can manage it and I feel I get a cleaner beer in the end.

If you are able to add enough boiling water to get the mash up to 170 then you are correct that your sparge water only needs to be at 170. After you get the mash up to temp you only need to let it set 10-15 minutes although I don't really do that with my process.

As for recirculating don't pay so much attention to how much you recirculate as to what the wort looks like as you recirculate. Run the wort off somewhat slowly and keep recirculating until it is coming out fairly clear. It may take 10-15 minutes of recirculating to accomplish this. Then sparge the wort into your boil kettle slowly. With a fly sparge it should take a good 20-30 minutes to reach your pre-boil volume. Going slow helps wash all the sugars down and out of the grains.
 
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Zeppman

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Ok, thank you. Last question. When recirculating, why do I wait for the wort to run clear? I thought I wanted the sugars which darken the color of the wort, right? Isn't the first runnings supposed to be high in gravity? I typically only recirculated until I didn't see sediment flowing anymore....
 

truckmann

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Sorry, clear as in not opaque. It will still have whatever color your grains have imparted on it. So you are correct in recirculating until there is no longer any sediment.
 
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Zeppman

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Cool, I'll definitely be trying these new methods, and ordering new fittings and stainless steel braid. I'll give the "larger braid" another shot before trying to screw with a manifold.
 

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I know this a bit late to the conversation, but I've had exactly the same floating braid problem in the same or simliar cooler. So I thought I just walk thru my experiences.

Before getting into that I also had similar low OG and highly variable extract results several times using prepackaged and store crushed grains that have been completely resolved by crushing my own with either a well known adjustable in store crusher or my own adjusted Corona mill.

For my 50 qt. Igloo Ice Cube I made a 1/2" braid manifold the width of the cooler from a SS braided washing machine hose (real SS not the cheap big box store silver colored nylon braid knock offs) clamped onto a 1/2" copper stub soldered onto a coupling on the inside of the weldless bulkhead with a SS hose clamp and rubber stopper in the other end. The darn thing always floated up in the mash even though the plug itself would sink if dropped in alone. I solved this by basically weighting the braid down. Practically, I accomplished weighting the braid by swapping out the rubber stopper in the open end of the braid with a very short 1/2" SS bolt and another hose clamp. The braid never floated up again and worked well for several batches. Eventually, I figured out I was getting inconsistant extract efficiency though because of flow channeling. The braid wasn't stiff and could wind up twisted about pretty much anywhere at the bottom of the MT after stirring the mash, etc. So, in the end even though I solve the floating braid I didn't like it.

So now, I've switched to a ridgid 3/8" slotted copper manifold. I chose 3/8" for the manifold because a 1/2" tube mock I made from pipe scraps I had on hand looked like overkill for the size of the cooler and thought it might drain unevenly or too fast. I had the 3/8 copper tubing on hand and a mock up with few pieces of that looked much more evenly distributed. I found the 3/8 "T" and elbow fittings to go with the tube at Lowe's (the only place I could find without going to an online or pro supplier), but they're much more pricey than the ubiquidous 1/2" fittings. I cut the slots at 1/2" intervals with a thin Dremel cut off wheel as a hack saw blade is a bit too big of kerf for 3/8" tube.

The manifold works great, stays put, never clogs, and is even easy to clean, but if I had to do it all over again I'd probably do it in 1/2" at less than half the cost and put the $20premium for the 3/8" parts or so elsewhere in the brew rig.
 
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