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My mash tun and re-circulation setup

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GreenEnvy22

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Hi all,
I've been brewing all grain for a few years and decided to upgrade some of my equipment. Still using a basic 8-gallon boiler on kitchen gas stove for boiling.
For mashing, I had been using a 48qt rectangular coleman cooler, with a CPVC manifold I built.
I've replaced this with a 10 gallon igloo cooler, with a false bottom. I added a bit of silicone tubing to the bottom pickup of the false bottom, so less than a cup of liquid is left in the cooler after draining. Did a trial run of a west coast IPA this week and it worked great. I actually got sidetracked canning salsa and tomato sauce with my wife for a while so the grains mashed for almost 2 hours, but still only about 1.5 degree F drop in that time.

Now I'm adding a recirculation pump. I cutup my old CPVC manifold from the bottom of the old mash tun, and will use that as a manifold on top of the grain bed when recirculating. I't got slits cut in it, but also open ended elbows on tips incase slits plug up. I have a small 2GPM pump.
For maintaining heat, I plan on using my copper cooling coil. I will immerse this in a pot of water, with the recirc pump moving the wort through the coil. And have a sous vide heater/pump in the pot set to maintain my mash temp, so a HERMS style I guess.
My plan for the return line of the recirc pump is to drill a hole near the top of the cooler, rather than in the lid, so I can still remove the lid easily. I'll make a bulkhead passthrough there.

The last photo is the manifold I made, and just tested it via gravity feed from the mash tun.

Anyone see any problems with this setup?
Thanks!
 

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Jtvann

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What's your purpose for wanting to recirculate?

It sounds like you had an ideal system before hand. One main reason to recirculate is temperature maintenance. Losing only 1.5 degrees in 2 hours is about as good as it gets.

I'd bet that you'll actually lose more heat, struggle with temp maintenance more from pumping liquid around.

Experiment with it. In theory everything you've set up will work fine. In practice, it might take some effort to nail down.
 
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GreenEnvy22

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I haven't been hitting my expected efficiency, and this will also result in cleaner wort.
But a lot of it is probably me just wanting to try something new. It was always in the plan when I switched to this style of mash tun.
 

ITV

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I have done a similar setup except I am using a RIMS type setup: Sous Vide with 10 Gallon Cooler Mash Tun

I noticed much clearer beer with the constant mash recirculating and "improved" quality. I used quotes because it may just be my perception, however other taste testers have really enjoyed my recent brews.

I recommend that you give your system a trial run with water to see how you are able to maintain temperatures. You may want to change the temp setpoint on your sous vide to see how fast/slow the temps respond.

I am not a fan of trickling wort back on the top of the mash to avoid oxygenating the wort. This might not be a problem if you can lower the manifold just above the wort level.

I would like to see some photos of your copper coil HERMS setup.
 

Jtvann

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Wort for sure comes through cleaner. As to whether that affects the end product, I dont know. I never saw a difference.
 
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GreenEnvy22

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So this worked really well! For the first time, I wasn't below my target OG, I actually was above. The recipe called for an OG of 1.052-1.053, but I wound up with 1.056. I did do a quick test run just with some hot water beforehand and it worked, so did it for real.
Wort is very clear, and temp stayed rock solid for the hour long mash. I set the sous vide 0.5F hotter than my target (so 153.5), and that seemed to keep it just where I wanted it.
For improvements, I'm going to try to adapt my manifold to float on the surface, will just need some lighter silicon tubing so it doesn't tip it. I also will hookup my voltage regulator so I can lower the voltage (12v) to the pump and slow down the flow. I used a valve after the pump but doing that causes the pump more stress, so will try the voltage.

The two beers in first photo are the Scottish ale I did today (left), and the IPA I did a few days ago is on the right.
2nd Photo is when i was sparging.
Last one is while mashing, I forgot to take detailed photos. On the left you can see a kitchen pot, the coil is in there, and the sous-vide is circulating and heating the water.

I also realized I can't do 6 gallon batches, my 8G boiler isnt' big enough. After sparging I had about 7.5 gallons in it, was worried it would boil over, so i split it into two pots (and did half of hops in each). Combined them at the end again for cooling it down. I do have a couple 50L beer kegs, so I may adapt one of those into a boiler.
For cooling I have a pond pump I toss in my pool, and circulate that water through my coil. Pool is a bit warm so it took a few hours to get down to pitching temp, but it's easy :)
 

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ITV

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Glad to hear that you had suscess with your sous vide setup. The clearer beer should be very noticable when you pour a glass of the finished beer.

I would suggest a larger pot for your sous vide setup to give some stability to the sous vide.

My next brew will be a 10 gallon batch with my concocted RIMS sous vide setup. I am not sure that I will get the same results with a 10 gallon batch but I won't know until I try.
 
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