Mash Tun Size

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jmtonkin

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I'm sure this has probably been asked a million and a half times, but I'm struggling to decipher all the information, and I need it in layman's terms and in one location.

I've done a few batches of extract brewing, and now I really want to get into all-grain. I've been reading and watching all the videos I can find on YouTube.

My question is this: will a 5 gallon mash tun be sufficient in size? All my batches have been 5 gallons, and I definitely do not anticipate going any bigger for quite a while. My understanding is that with a five gallon mash tun, I wouldn't be able to brew any high gravity beers. I've brewed one Hefe and a couple other wheat extracts, so I don't envision this being a huge problem.

I ordered a 48-quart rectangular cooler to convert to a mash tun, but after more reading, I realized that that may not have been the best decision. Evidently with 5-gallon batches, there is a risk of having too thin of a grain bed? I cancelled that order, and am now continuing in my research.

One final consideration: I am a fairly broke college student, and don't have a tremendous amount of money to invest in a huge cooler to convert to a mash tun. I do want to jump into all-grain, but I do not want to have to eat ramen for an entire month to be able to afford it. (I eat enough of that as it is!)

I know this post has a lot jammed into it, but I want to make sure that I've covered all my bases. Money isn't something I have the luxury of throwing around, so I want to make sure that this purchase will be a great investment!

Thanks all!


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dracus

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Buy your cooler at walmart, get a coleman extreeme. I have a 72qt but I do 10gallon brews. You don't need to go that large but the price difference is so small you might find its $10 more.

The cheapest way to make a mash tun is this...

http://hbd.org/cascade/dennybrew/

Don't get ahead of yourself though...to do all grain you're going to need:

10+ gallon kettle
a burner
wort chiller

You didn't mention having these in your original post.

No one should EVER have to eat ramen noodles ever...
 

fartinmartin

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If your hard up, as I have always been , just do the mash in a big 30L bucket, use a slotted pipe and syphon tube to get it out. I've done hundreds of brews this way. Insulate the bucket, that's under ,around, and over with old duvets, coats, towels. Nice gear is nice to have but not necessary. I loose about a degree during the hour mash, to get that you have to be doing the mash in the warm ambient about 17C, if your in a cold place it will be tough, but you can !
 
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jmtonkin

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Buy your cooler at walmart, get a coleman extreeme. I have a 72qt but I do 10gallon brews. You don't need to go that large but the price difference is so small you might find its $10 more.



The cheapest way to make a mash tun is this...



http://hbd.org/cascade/dennybrew/



Don't get ahead of yourself though...to do all grain you're going to need:



10+ gallon kettle

a burner

wort chiller



You didn't mention having these in your original post.



No one should EVER have to eat ramen noodles ever...

I ordered my first cooler through Walmart and will likely order my second one from there as well.

I have the burner and kettle covered! My family has an old turkey fryer that we never use, so I've liberated it.

The wort chiller is something that I'd need to invest in in the near future. With my extracts, I've been able to get them to around 80° in around 20 minutes, though.

To be honest, I don't mind ramen, but I don't love ramen. It can get old for sure.



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RM-MN

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You're the poster child for BIAB, with no-chill. You have the turkey fryer and with the addition of a paint strainer bag you are all set. you mash in the turkey fryer pot that is lined with the paint strainer bag and pull the bag of grains out when the mash period is over, letting it drip back into the pot. You can add a colander to help hold the bag of grains above the pot or put the colander into a separate bowl as you squeeze out all the wort and then dump the collected wort back into the pot. You'll have to control the heat VERY carefully as the wort approaches boil as the amount of water plus the hot break will tend to boil over. You might have to cut the heat and let the hot break settle a little or use a spray bottle of water to control the hot break. When your boil is over you can put a lid on the pot and let it chill on its own, dunk the pot into a tub of water, or if you have an HDPE plastic bucket fermenter you can pour the boiling liquid into that and let it cool.
 
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jmtonkin

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This may sound like a stupid question, but here goes nothing.

With one of my extracts, I steeped some specialty grains before the boil. How does this differ from the BIAB method? Other than the fact that I didn't use only grains, and I only steeped for 20 minutes.


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judsonp

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The only real differences between steeping and BIAB mashing are that the volumes of grain (and water) are larger and that you care about the temperature. (That is, you'd prefer to add your grains, end up at exactly the right temperature, and keep it that way for an hour.)
 
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jmtonkin

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I suppose that makes sense! Perhaps I'll try that, but I'd still like to get a mash tun.

It looks like, the more I research this, that the five gallon cooler would be big enough for me to brew five gallon batches. Taking into account that I will not be able to do any high gravity beers, of which I really don't intend on doing at this point.


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GrogNerd

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I went with the Coleman Extreme 70-quart cooler for my mash tun. only $40

no problem whatsoever with "thin grain bed"

I do put a layer of aluminum foil over the grain bed to 1) hold mash temps & 2) when I vorlauf, I poke holes in the foil so I don't disturb the grains
 
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jmtonkin

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Actually, I found this one that is 50-quarts and is square shaped. Would this one work better?

ImageUploadedByHome Brew1398357617.015115.jpgImageUploadedByHome Brew1398357632.396395.jpg

My only concern with that one is that the drain is on the back-side. Will that really matter?


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stpug

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Like RM-MN said, you really are a poster child for BIAB. Simple, low tech, low cost investment and the same great beer out the other end. Here's a quick rundown on it:
http://beersmith.com/blog/2009/04/14/brew-in-a-bag-biab-all-grain-beer-brewing/

As for a 5 gallon MLT: I use a 5 gallon water/beverage round cooler from HD. I think it cost $25 or so, maybe less. I've brewed everywhere from 2.9% to 10.4% ABV beers using it - I suspect this is a wide enough range for most folks. If you're really dying for the 15% barleywine then simply dial down the batch size to 3 gallons and you're set. Using a 5G cooler, you learn to become flexible with your water:grist ratio and use it to your advantage. I actually have a 10G water cooler with built manifold ready for testing - I just haven't had the desire to mess with a system that's not broken. I guess when I finally brew my RIS, barleywine, or parti-gyle bitters then I'll have to bust it out, otherwise I'm perfectly content with my 5G cooler.
 
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jmtonkin

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I went with the Coleman Extreme 70-quart cooler for my mash tun. only $40

no problem whatsoever with "thin grain bed"

I do put a layer of aluminum foil over the grain bed to 1) hold mash temps & 2) when I vorlauf, I poke holes in the foil so I don't disturb the grains

That's great to know! That would give me the flexibility to do 10-gallon batches if I ever get that far. I don't drink that much beer that fast, so 10-gallons is far more than I could handle. I suppose there is always the option to give some away...


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RM-MN

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I suppose that makes sense! Perhaps I'll try that, but I'd still like to get a mash tun.

It looks like, the more I research this, that the five gallon cooler would be big enough for me to brew five gallon batches. Taking into account that I will not be able to do any high gravity beers, of which I really don't intend on doing at this point.


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You're still young, there will be plenty of time to get the cooler mash tun later. For the $40 price tag that was quoted earlier, I can brew two 5 gallon batches of beer. (maybe more, depending on what style I go for)

I haven't tried to brew any high gravity beers with my setup but I accidentally made a 7% beer by following someone else's recipe when my system got way higher efficiency than theirs.
 
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jmtonkin

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You're still young, there will be plenty of time to get the cooler mash tun later. For the $40 price tag that was quoted earlier, I can brew two 5 gallon batches of beer. (maybe more, depending on what style I go for)

Well, count me sold. If I can save the $40 and use that to brew more, I'm sold. When put in those terms, it's hard to argue...I suppose it's all about perspective.


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GrogNerd

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advantage of mash tun over BIAB: is it worth $40 to you to keep consistent mash temps vs trying to maintain temps with a propane burner?

i pour in my strike water, hit my mash temp, close up the tun, walk away and one hour later mash is same temp (I might lose 1°), it is done and I'm on to sparge
 

tehnick

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advantage of mash tun over BIAB: is it worth $40 to you to keep consistent mash temps vs trying to maintain temps with a propane burner?

i pour in my strike water, hit my mash temp, close up the tun, walk away and one hour later mash is same temp (I might lose 1°), it is done and I'm on to sparge
This. You'll easily blow that "saved" $40 in propane trying to maintain constant temperature. You will also have to babysit the tun to make sure it keeps in range. I hit my strike, mash in, let temp settle, close the lid, walk away, and get other stuff done. Once the mash is over, brew on. I lose 1-2° at most. Usually only 1.
 

stpug

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You can always wrap your kettle with a blanket or two to keep the temps stable when BIABing. It's not rocket science.
 
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jmtonkin

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I'm assuming this is where the debate for mash tun and BIAB begins?

I'm just looking for the cheapest option that will enable me to brew some great all-grain beer. If it's a mash tun, great! (Though I still don't know what size.) If it's BIAB, great! I really don't care how I get there, I just want to get there in an inexpensive manner. Inexpensive, but that will allow for what I want to do. (Five-gallon medium range gravity. {Mine have always been right around 1.045})


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stpug

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Based on your criteria (cheapest option to brew all-grain beer), BIAB is the way to go. I recommend this way to you and I don't even do it :D. For the cost of a paint strainer bag ($2) and your muscles, you could be brewing this afternoon.
 
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jmtonkin

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Well, and the cost of ingredients! :p


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theck

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Bigger is better. I do 5 gallon AG beers and have the 52 quart cooler from Target, cheap and holds temps fine, but little on the small size. I've noticed that I come close to maxing it out with the bigger beers.
 

tehnick

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I'm assuming this is where the debate for mash tun and BIAB begins?

I'm just looking for the cheapest option that will enable me to brew some great all-grain beer. If it's a mash tun, great! (Though I still don't know what size.) If it's BIAB, great! I really don't care how I get there, I just want to get there in an inexpensive manner. Inexpensive, but that will allow for what I want to do. (Five-gallon medium range gravity. {Mine have always been right around 1.045})


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BIAB is cheaper, true. I just like getting other **** around the house done while my grains sit for 60-90 minutes. I don't need to wrap blankets and potentially have a fire hazard managing my mash. I don't want to unwrap a kettle, fire the gas to get temp, rewrap it, and fuss with having to potentially do it multiple times. I'm somewhat lazy and methodical.

My brew days are around 5 hours from start to cleaning everything up and pitching yeast. That's a decent chunk of time and I only have to dedicate about 3 hours of actual "labor" to it. I gotta keep SWMBO happy with other tasks around the house if I'm ignoring her to brew too. It's what works for me. I did partial mash before AG. I figured I'd do things the way I was shown, so it's personal preference.

Plus it's nice only losing around 1°F and not having to dick around with different variables for mash stability.
 

RM-MN

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BIAB is cheaper, true. I just like getting other **** around the house done while my grains sit for 60-90 minutes. I don't need to wrap blankets and potentially have a fire hazard managing my mash. I don't want to unwrap a kettle, fire the gas to get temp, rewrap it, and fuss with having to potentially do it multiple times. I'm somewhat lazy and methodical.

My brew days are around 5 hours from start to cleaning everything up and pitching yeast. That's a decent chunk of time and I only have to dedicate about 3 hours of actual "labor" to it. I gotta keep SWMBO happy with other tasks around the house if I'm ignoring her to brew too. It's what works for me. I did partial mash before AG. I figured I'd do things the way I was shown, so it's personal preference.

Plus it's nice only losing around 1°F and not having to dick around with different variables for mash stability.
I don't think you have much experience with BIAB. I mill my grains fine and only mash for 30 minutes max, usually less now that I have learned a bit more. I don't even insulate my pot anymore nor do I add heat. Instead of messing around with that mash tun and sparge, I finish my brew day in about 3 hours, including cleanup and storing my equipment. That leaves me with 2 hours less brew day and I can spend all of that with the SWMBO should I choose. The last brew day I even shortened that by using a 10 minute mash (not recommended unless you have lots of experience with BIAB) and no chill. That cut my entire brew day to 2 hrs, 10 minutes plus the 30 seconds later to pitch the yeast.
 

Zepth

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As for a 5 gallon MLT: I use a 5 gallon water/beverage round cooler from HD. I think it cost $25 or so, maybe less. I've brewed everywhere from 2.9% to 10.4% ABV beers using it - I suspect this is a wide enough range for most folks. If you're really dying for the 15% barleywine then simply dial down the batch size to 3 gallons and you're set.
+1. Was going to say a very similar thing about gravity and batch size. With that, I decided to be a big spender and get a 10g false bottom tun to make life as easy as possible and have the option for 5 gal high gravity brewing. A smaller or simpler tun would be fine for 90% of my brewing.
 

tehnick

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I don't think you have much experience with BIAB. I mill my grains fine and only mash for 30 minutes max, usually less now that I have learned a bit more. I don't even insulate my pot anymore nor do I add heat. Instead of messing around with that mash tun and sparge, I finish my brew day in about 3 hours, including cleanup and storing my equipment. That leaves me with 2 hours less brew day and I can spend all of that with the SWMBO should I choose. The last brew day I even shortened that by using a 10 minute mash (not recommended unless you have lots of experience with BIAB) and no chill. That cut my entire brew day to 2 hrs, 10 minutes plus the 30 seconds later to pitch the yeast.
You're right, I don't. It's not a method I care about. I learned a different way and I stick with what I know. Like I said, preference. My goal isn't to cut corners on my beer by finding a way to shorten the brew day. I've found ways to shorten certain tasks by creating a regimen, but brewing to me is a rite of passage and I feel the more time and care you put into your beer, the better it will be. You do things differently, that's fine. BIAB won't help me much professionally if I ever decide to go that route with brewing. That's why I do it my way, which is still a long shot from the ways of a production brewery.

I also like making big beers and I'm sorry, but I'm not fussing with up to 23# of grain in a bag that has absorbed even more water weight. That's a hazard waiting to happen.
 

MileHighBrewer

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Spend your money towards a bigger kettle if you don't already have at least a 10gal, 8gal MINIMUM if you are ok with babysitting boil overs. I did a hybrid BIAB/AG for a while with great success. I used a large mesh bag from the LHBS (morebeer sells them, like 5$) and I used the bag in a beverage cooler. This didn't require manifolds or a false bottom or anything, and I could still double grind the grain to get high efficiency and stable mash temps. Clean up was also super easy since it was all contained in the bag. Heat water, add to cooler (which also conveniently have gallon and quart marks inside) drop your bag in, dough in and stir, check temp, move on. I still had a ball valve installed. Open the valve, lift the bag up a big and voila, flow started. Sounds like you already have a smaller pot from doing partial mashes, use that pot to heat your sparge water. Dump that in the cooler, stir, wait 10 minutes, drain again, boil. Beer.
 
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