Mash Tun brewers: looking for some tips

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bjhbrew

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All right, I'll try to keep this post from turning into a novel but I've tried a lot of different approaches to brewing and I'm looking for advice in regards to making my brew day more problem free. Like others, my progression in this hobby has left me with a closet full of equipment that allows me to brew in almost any configuration (batch sparge, fly sparge, ebiab, 1 vessel, 2 vessel, etc) while I enjoy having the ability to change things up I'd also like to focus on picking 1 method that I use primarily and get it dialled in. Currently I'm set up to do single vessel recirculating EBIAB in a 15G spike kettle; it works pretty good but there's a few things I don't like about it so I'd like to re-integrate my mash tun. I could either use a 10G round cooler which I have or a 10G stainless kettle with RIMS tube which I also have; I'm leaning towards the cooler for simplicity and the ability to walk away without concern of maintaining flow. I would be interested to hear opinions on which vessel others would choose for the mash tun but for now I focus on planning around the cooler. I'd like to know what folks are using for a false bottom that reliably lauters without getting stuck. Back when I used my cooler MT I would have problems all the time with a slow or stuck lauter using the false bottom that came with it. I think this happens because a little grain gets sucked under the edges because it floats up or doesn't sit flat; I noticed too that the elbow on the top of the false bottom is a pretty small diameter. I'd like to be able to mash without the mesh bag if possible and I do want to be able to fly sparge so I think that means I need to stay with the false bottom versus say a bazooka tube. So, what would you do? Go with the cooler? Recirculate in a kettle? I've gone back and forth so many times that I really just need to decide and make it work!
 

Murph4231

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Sounds like you have experience with the cooler. You may be on to something regarding the ID of the elbow you mentioned. I would swap it out with a larger elbow to see if that helps. Additionally you may want to try adding some rice hulls to your grain bill. Their main purpose is to help prevent the malted grains from being able to cake together causing the mash to stick. However, IMO, a proper insulated mash tun with a HERMS coil works best when coupled with a proper false bottom and rice hulls.

Questions to ask yourself.
1- are you stirring during mash?
2- are your grains properly ground?
3- are you sparging too fast?
4- are you using the correct water to grain ratio?

These are but a few issues to eliminate. I would evaluate the processes you go through and compare them to recipe instructions and or information available here. If your grains are fresh and properly ground, you are adding the correct amount of water, you are occasionally stirring during the mash and you add rice hulls, you shouldn't be experiencing stuck mashes.
 
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bjhbrew

bjhbrew

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Okay, some good questions there. I actually just brewed yesterday using the cooler for the first time in a while. I aimed for a mash thickness of about 1.5 quarts per pound (I say about because I use metric units) I milled at 0.035" (barley crusher) and used my wilser brew bag although as I said I'd like to actually avoid the bag if I can. This was an oatmeal stout so I can see how that would be naturally gummy, the oats were 10% of the grist but this is a one off situation ) I don't brew with oats a lot. I stirred at the start of the mash, at the midpoint and one more time at the end before vorlauf. I used my pump to recirculate at the end of a 60 minute mash (just to vorlauf) I started the flow very slow and gradually increased and it seemed to be working fine but all of a sudden it was all just sucked down tight and nothing was flowing. I ended up having to lift the bag and physically squeeze to get things going. Ultimately I got things going, with a very slow pump speed I was able to transfer over the first runnings dump in my sparge water mix it all up and transfer that over too but it probably took 45 minutes just in lautering. One thing here that I haven't tried is rice hulls; is that something that you would just buy in bulk and add to grists that contain gummy adjuncts?
 

Velnerj

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I've had bad experiences with mash in a bag in a round cooler. It seems the bag (at least the one I used) wouldn't drain fast enough through my false bottom and created a vacuum of sorts that would severely slow or stop the lautering. Whenever I pulled up the bag there would be a a lot of suction built up. And create a sticky mess!

I ended up going back to my braided filter and making my grain mill gap bigger. Seemed to work fine with a mash with oats, flaked Barley and rye.
 
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bjhbrew

bjhbrew

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Sounds exactly like what I had happen yesterday. I haven’t actually tried a braid before; am I right that with a braid I won’t be able to fly sparge?
I've had bad experiences with mash in a bag in a round cooler. It seems the bag (at least the one I used) wouldn't drain fast enough through my false bottom and created a vacuum of sorts that would severely slow or stop the lautering. Whenever I pulled up the bag there would be a a lot of suction built up. And create a sticky mess!
 

Murph4231

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Sounds exactly like what I had happen yesterday. I haven’t actually tried a braid before; am I right that with a braid I won’t be able to fly sparge?
IMO a braid would be more problematic in your case. I think you should add rice hulls to help prevent the stuck mash. It sounds like you stirred but maybe a couple more times may have helped. And 1.5 qts water to lb of grain is sufficient. I prefer my grain to be cracked well with a small amount of flour. (Larger gap) As long as your grain isn't too floury that shouldn't be the problem. As @Velnerj related, it may be the tight mess of your bag. And he milled larger on subsequent brews. Try adding rice hulls and see if that helps.
 
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bjhbrew

bjhbrew

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Sounds like rice hulls would be an easy addition to try, I’ll grab some for my next batch. I’m pretty sure my bag is the 200 micron so pretty tight; that said it flows fine when I use it for single vessel ebiab.


Might be helpful to know what you don't like about it.

:mug:
I’ll try to answer this; the main issue has to do with the amount of wort under the brew hardware false bottom I use. In order to clear the element and recirculation port the false bottom sits with almost 4G underneath. I recirculate so all the wort participates in the mash but with that much dead space I find my ability to do higher gravity or smaller batches it’s no longer an option. This is exaggerated by the fact that I use a stream slayer so I have very low boil off so less water in the mash. I like that with a mash tun I can mash at any thickness no matter the batch size or gravity as long as everything physically fits. So, Idk if I can figure out a way to reduce dead space that would be a more viable option.
 

micraftbeer

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Seems like you're probably using the wrong tool for the job. Looking at BrewHardware false bottoms up on stilts, they seem like they're targeted to eBIAB- doing FULL VOLUME mash. If you're not looking to do full volume mash and want to sparge, then you can move to a different BrewHardware kit (10g Cooler to Mash Tun Conversion Kit - Cooler NOT included), which is a conversion kit for 10-gallon cooler and incorporates a false bottom/dome with a center pickup.

I've mashed with this sort of false bottom setup in a Chapman thermobarrel mash tun as well as an AIH cooler mash tun, and had no issues. You may still benefit from some rice hulls to keep bits from passing through the holes.

Also, I mashed in a cooler using the bazooka screen and always undershot my OG by like 5-10 gravity points. First time it happened, I thought surely it was a fluke. But when I tried it on another batch later, I had the same experience. Maybe those induce channeling in the grain bed and that's the problem, I don't know. I just know from my experience, I would avoid trying to use a bazooka screen as a replacement for a false bottom.
 
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bjhbrew

bjhbrew

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Yes, the BrewHardware false bottom I described is one that I only use when doing recirculating ebiab. When doing so I do mash with the full volume but what I was trying to say is that depending on the batch size or the gravity I might end up with a very thick mash in the bag above the false bottom because so much of the wort is below the false bottom. I would like to move the false bottom down but the recirculation port gets in the way unfortunately. I took a look at the cooler false bottom and that looks like it could work well to pass the few grains that make it under the false bottom as the inside diameter of the elbow is much larger. I'd like to give that one a try.
 

Bobby_M

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Shoot over a picture of your internals without the false bottom in place and one with it in place. I may have an idea for lowering that false bottom. I've done it for a lot of locals.

I'd give up my eBIAB system when you pry it out of my cold dead hands.
 
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bjhbrew

bjhbrew

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Haha, thanks for offering to help Bobby. I’ll try to post some pictures:

15608013-F1C0-4AF6-8FA5-D75C741DBC0E.jpeg
F8E75B80-57EA-45D5-A3C3-54690FF2DFCC.jpeg
C4C5D6F1-8F32-449D-80B5-9324AAF5FF02.jpeg

My mistakes was having spike weld the recirculation port too high, I now know that it could have been at the same height as the drain. As it is I have the bolts for the false bottom at the full length they came as. I do like to recirculate the wort under the false bottom as well as over the top of the grain as I’ve seen on BrewHardware. Otherwise, I’d just omit the recirc port and lower the false bottom.
 

madscientist451

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I milled at 0.035" (barley crusher) and used my wilser brew bag although as I said I'd like to actually avoid the bag if I can.
I ended up having to lift the bag and physically squeeze to get things going. Ultimately I got things going, with a very slow pump speed I was able to transfer over the first runnings dump in my sparge water mix it all up and transfer that over too but it probably took 45 minutes just in lautering.
So the bag is sitting on the bottom of the cooler? I did the bag in a cooler method for years without issues and used a cheap vegetable steamer I got at Goodwill for $3 to keep the bag off the bottom of the cooler.
But lately, I've downsized and simplified. skip the mash tun and brew smaller BIAB batches on the stove. I Pull the bag and do a dunk sparge in a side pot. The "Brew day" takes about 3 hours, but most of the time I can do other things during that time because I'm not watching over transfers and re-circulation.
So the thread started with the statement that the goal was to make the brewing process more problem free. I seldom have problems because I've simplified my brewing process and eliminated the steps where problems were occurring. I also have less stuff to get out, clean up and put away. The down side is that I'm not brewing 10 gallon batches. Also, if you have a lot of cash tied up in a "system" I realize its hard to just let it collect dust, it seems like a waste. I haven't tossed out my 15 gallon keggle, thinking I'll go back to it someday, but for now I'm sticking with simple, problem-free, small batch BIAB brewing.
 
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bjhbrew

bjhbrew

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I want to thank you all for taking the time to give me some ideas and feedback. I guess bottom line I have several different options going forward. I find the smaller batch concept to be quite appealing but at the same time I would feel like I was letting my large kettle and controller go to waste. I actually put a ton of time and effort into building up my recirculating ebiab rig and should probably just try to tweak that into something I enjoy. I do like the idea of having a mash tun on standby that I can use for larger batches or higher gravity batches that need to be sparged so I’ll check out some better options for a high flowing false bottom.
 

Bobby_M

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The real question is if you were to lower the BIAB false bottom to just UNDER the whirlpool fitting, would it still be clearing the top of the element?

The reason I say that is that you can easily cut a few of the welded wires to make an opening for the whirlpool fitting to stay above but the opening of the whirlpool be under the FB. I've done that in many cases with all different brand kettles all due to the same mistaken port location.

I'm very firmly a believer in single vessel eBIAB.
 
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bjhbrew

bjhbrew

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Bobby, that's sort of the idea that I had as well. It's close, I'll have to take a few measurements to see if I could get that to work. How would you get the discharge to be below the FB though? Would I need a custom bent tube that bent downward and then to the side? Another idea I had was to swap the tube I have in there now with your spincycle shorty. If I clipped some of the wires on the FB I could probably bend a section of the outer rim inward enough with a ball peen hammer to create a gap that allows me to slide it past the spincycle. The only problem there is that the discharge might not be low enough to really mix the heated area below which is the whole point of having it. What do you think of that idea? Maybe a bit extreme but I'm tempted to just sell my kettle as an electric boil kettle and start over with your purpose built kettle. If I can get this to work properly I agree that the single vessel would be the way to go.
 
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bjhbrew

bjhbrew

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Ok, looking again I don't think I could quite fit the FB under the Recirculation port as it is now. But, the more I think about it a spincycle aimed slightly downward should cause some mixing in the heated area under the FB. This of course is dependant on me being able to bend the outer rim of the FB inward a little at the area that the spincycle would sit.
 

Brewer Mike

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I'm fairly new to AG brewing. I thought I was upgrading from a screen to a false bottom. After three stuck mashes in a row i decided to try a CPVC manifold. It cost like $8 to throw together and worked like a champ. Only one brew since I built it, though.
 

Dr_Jeff

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I'm fairly new to AG brewing. I thought I was upgrading from a screen to a false bottom. After three stuck mashes in a row i decided to try a CPVC manifold. It cost like $8 to throw together and worked like a champ. Only one brew since I built it, though.
I've used a CPVC manifold in a cooler that I got at a second hand store for a couple of bucks for ~10 years, it works fine.
 
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bjhbrew

bjhbrew

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You know I never really thought about trying a pvc manifold. Thanks for the suggestion.

Just as a little update to the thread I’ve decided to continue using my ebiab kettle for most of my brewing but I still want to have the ability to use a mash tun for big grain bills or when brewing outdoors with a friend. So I bought a different recirculation port to hopefully allow me to reducethe dead space in my ebiab kettle. And for the mash tun I bought a high flow elbow for my dimes false bottom and a high flow weld less bulkhead to hopefully avoid the issue of grain getting stuck and causing a stuck runoff. All of the parts came from brewhardware.com; I’ll update the thread when I see how they work out.
 
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If you try the cPVC manifold make sure you use the 'cPVC' and not just PVC. It's my understanding that regular PVC will give off a lot of chemicals at mash temps. It's made for cold water and non-potable applications.
 

Bobby_M

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Bobby, that's sort of the idea that I had as well. It's close, I'll have to take a few measurements to see if I could get that to work. How would you get the discharge to be below the FB though? Would I need a custom bent tube that bent downward and then to the side? Another idea I had was to swap the tube I have in there now with your spincycle shorty. If I clipped some of the wires on the FB I could probably bend a section of the outer rim inward enough with a ball peen hammer to create a gap that allows me to slide it past the spincycle. The only problem there is that the discharge might not be low enough to really mix the heated area below which is the whole point of having it. What do you think of that idea? Maybe a bit extreme but I'm tempted to just sell my kettle as an electric boil kettle and start over with your purpose built kettle. If I can get this to work properly I agree that the single vessel would be the way to go.
You don't need to notch the rim. A hole where you tilt the edge down and under it before levering it flat on the bottom works fine. It's hard to describe but easy to do. You put the hole between two leg locations so that those two legs act as the pivot point.

I envision that the spike tube would do it, the whirlpool would just be facing downward at an angle but it would still function fine. Alternatively I could make you a spincycle shorty with a very short L shaped tube to drop straight down and then turn horizontal with a little hook but not too big that the hole in the FB would need to be too big.

This example is the only pic I could find quickly and it's a TC port, not threaded but it gives you the idea.

1633313895099.png
 
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bjhbrew

bjhbrew

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@Bobby_M thanks for the picture and description. I’ve sent you a PM.
 
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