Need to find a better way for All-Grain

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stealthfixr

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Hello, I am a returning brewer after a lay off of a few years. I am actually deployed with the US military overseas for a year and I've been brewing here with great results via Midwest Supplies extract kits. I would like to return to all-grain brewing when I get home, but I would like to find a better way to do it.

I went with the 10gal Gott cooler and single infusion mashing before. I found that hitting my mash temperature was hard to get right--easy to miss on either side. My efficiency was relatively low, but some of that may have been the local brew shop's miller being set too wide. The beer wasn't appreciably better than extract, but I never made a 'bad' all-grain batch.

I was thinking that something that allowed me to recirculate and add heat directly may be the way to go. I have considered a Northern Brewer Megapot and a 3500W induction plate for step mashing, but still a little leery of using the induction plate. I could just get my Gott going again with a milling machine of my own and add ice watch/boiling water as needed to hit temps. I just thought step mashing may be a good option. I have also thought of turning my HLT into a manual RIMS setup with the Gott cooler as the mash tun, and a recirculating pump in between. BIAB is also a possibility, but I know little about it other than the basics. The High Gravity electric BIAB system looks very close to what I am after, but not at $1100!

Question is: what is a best 'bang for your buck' time wise, all-grain mashing method that is reliable in terms of results and such? Any and all advice welcome, and thank you ahead of time for your suggestions.
 

wickman6

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I use a 40 qt rectangle cooler with a homemade manifold for mashing. I like it because I have the space to add boiling/cold water to dial in my mash temps. After a few batches however, I usually hit my temps rather easily as I have gotten used to my process.

I have step mashed in it by infusions of water, but only a couple times. To be quite honest, it works pretty good that way too. I may just biab in my kettle for step mashes in the future. I haven't really decided yet.
 

helibrewer

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I use a 50' copper coil inside my cooler and circulate water from my HLT through it for heating my MLT. A controller cycles my pump to maintain temps. You don't have to control the HLT just keep it hotter than the MLT. This way, my wort isn't circulating around for an hour or more and nothing but water is being pumped (easy clean up). I have a second pump that recirculates the mash for the last 20-30 minutes for clarifying.
 

RM-MN

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Question is: what is a best 'bang for your buck' time wise, all-grain mashing method that is reliable in terms of results and such? Any and all advice welcome, and thank you ahead of time for your suggestions.
You may not be ready to hear this but BIAB fits your requirement. I have a 30 at turkey fryer, a cheap Corona mill, a paint strainer bag, and a bath towel. I can hit my mash in temperature within a degree, keep the temp within a couple degrees for an hour (not necessary, conversion doesn't take that long), and get about 80% efficiency. All that for under $100.
 

solbes

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Agree with RM-MN above with cheap BIAB setups. I hit 70% eff with a max grain bill (13.5 lbs), about 80% with an 11 lb grain bill, and 87% with a small 8 lb grain bill. All this in a small 7.5 gallon turkey fryer pot. I usually drip sparge up to my pre-boil volumes. It's not as sexy as a 3 tier stand system with fly sparge, but it takes an hour or two off the brew day with less equipment to buy/clean as well.

Sounds like the next thing you need is a grain mill. That alone is probably your #1 opportunity in efficiency.
 

inhousebrew

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Sounds like the next thing you need is a grain mill. That alone is probably your #1 opportunity in efficiency.
I'll second this advice. Before dropping money on a fancy new pot or an entirely new system I'd get a grain mill. You can also purchase grain in bulk to save money as a side benefit to increased efficiency. You should be able to get higher efficiency with a single infusion batch sparging setup in a cooler.

How were you determining your stike water temps? I'd get you're hands on some brewing software to do that for you as your next step. Once you have these two things, if you still want to upgrade I'd say go for it.
 

toddh

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I had the same issues with cooler mashing until I read from someone on here to add the strike water to the cooler at a higher temp than strike and stir it until it gets to target strike temp (about 12 degrees higher than mash temp) and then add grain. Now I hit my temps (within a degree) every time. Also, crushing my own grain made a huge difference in efficiency. No need to buy any additional equipment other than the grain mill and just changing technique. My 2 cents.
Forgot to add: you have to preheat your mash tun! I usually heat up 3 gallons to about 170, add to tun, and leave in until strike water is ready...
 

Xpertskir

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Hitting mash temps takes a little practice but my idiot proof way might be of help.

1. Use a calculator such as http://www.rackers.org/calcs.shtml

2. Add 5 or so degrees to the temp they gave you, more if its cold outside.

3. Stir until the temperature comes down to where you want it. You can always add some cold water to bring the temp down, but I would do it slowly with lots of stirring.

Always have a gallon or so of backup water boiling JIC you need to adjust upward.


Since you have the 10 gallon MLT(I do too) you probably want to mash on the thin side to decrease head space which will help you to better maintain those temps. Just make sure you are leaving yourself enough sparge water for efficiency sake.


Dont let the BIAB talk you into abandoning equipment you already have. The fact that you have the equipment means that BIAB's biggest pro, cheapness, is not of your concern.
 

PhelanKA7

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Agreed with the preheating of your MLT. The first time I did all-grain I overshot my temps by about 8 degrees and very nearly ruined my beer. Ever since then I preheated and have never been off by more than a single degree.
 

mike_in_ak

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Gonna try this. Been having the same problem as OP.


toddh said:
I had the same issues with cooler mashing until I read from someone on here to add the strike water to the cooler at a higher temp than strike and stir it until it gets to target strike temp (about 12 degrees higher than mash temp) and then add grain. Now I hit my temps (within a degree) every time. Also, crushing my own grain made a huge difference in efficiency. No need to buy any additional equipment other than the grain mill and just changing technique. My 2 cents.
Forgot to add: you have to preheat your mash tun! I usually heat up 3 gallons to about 170, add to tun, and leave in until strike water is ready...
 

wickman6

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I had the same issues with cooler mashing until I read from someone on here to add the strike water to the cooler at a higher temp than strike and stir it until it gets to target strike temp (about 12 degrees higher than mash temp) and then add grain. Now I hit my temps (within a degree) every time. Also, crushing my own grain made a huge difference in efficiency. No need to buy any additional equipment other than the grain mill and just changing technique. My 2 cents.
Forgot to add: you have to preheat your mash tun! I usually heat up 3 gallons to about 170, add to tun, and leave in until strike water is ready...
This is exactly what I do too.
 

shadows69

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15 degrees above temp in winter with gain in, 11 degrees above temp in summer with grain in. Never a problem. No per heating either. However, the cooler must be at room temp or above and some of the temp depends on how big your grain bill is. Now that I said that I'm going to jinx myself, I can feel it coming....lol
 

pwkblue

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if you want easy cheap all grain...I love the deathbrewer method of mash in a bag. It works great for small to medium size grain bills. I have gone as high as 15lbs...but it is ideal for anything 12lbs or less....I am pretty much spot on 75% efficiency everytime...but can take it to just over 80% if I try.
 

thadass

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if you want easy cheap all grain...I love the deathbrewer method of mash in a bag. It works great for small to medium size grain bills. I have gone as high as 15lbs...but it is ideal for anything 12lbs or less....I am pretty much spot on 75% efficiency everytime...but can take it to just over 80% if I try.
Not that we brew-in-a-baggers aren't vocal enough about loving how we do things, but I'll second (or third) this idea. I've only done 4 all-grain batches now, but with an 8 gallon kettle and some bags I've hit about 80% efficiency on all of them, even using the mill at my LHBS (although I double-milled my grains). I dunk sparge in a bucket with water I've heated with my heat stick (a second smaller kettle, ala deathbrewer, would work great as well). It's inexpensive, easy as heck, and gives great control over temperature.
 
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stealthfixr

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Interesting ideas, everyone. And, the mashing ideas with my existing cooler is perhaps something to try. In the past, the grain always went in first, then the strike water in one big pour. I think I was 4F off the first time, and 2-3F off just about every time after that. I never considered putting the water in first and letting it cool to strike temperature--plus preheating the MLT while you are at it. I had one brewing disaster where I disconnected my false bottom with my mash paddle--that was not fun. I will use SS hose clamps in the future.

I am surprised to hear some of you BIAB'ers saying that you are hitting at/above 70% efficiency. What little I've read about it led me to believe that 60% was more likely. Would a recirculating BIAB lead to higher efficiency as well?

I am not trolling for "BIAB vs. Cooler" responses, but what would be some of the Pros & Cons for each? I don't mind buying new equipment (for either method) if the payoff in ease of use or repeatability will be there.

Thanks,
Mark
 

woknblues

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My first BIAB hit 80%. I have settled around 75% now after a few sessions under my belt.

There is no cheaper and easier and faster way to all grain IMO. Take the idea further and look into "no chill". Your brew day will be quick, calm and clean.

There are many other BIAB resources on the web. Easy to find. The Australians have pretty much been credited with this "new" method, having done it in some fashion for 20 years+. Same with no chill.

The efficiency mostly has to do with the crush. Go fine! Remember there are no stuck sparges in BIAB!
 

woknblues

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To give you an example of time spent in BIAB my last 5 gallon batch went like this


20 minutes to heat strike water
60 minute mash
10 minute mashout* (experimental, and didn't help my efficiency at all, still 75%)
90 minute boil
5 minute drain and seal no chill.
20 minute clean up.

3:25 minutes. I could probably reduce my boils and will not be doing a mashout again, so I really think BIAB is a 3 hour day for most styles.
 

BigRedHopHead

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#1 get a corona mill. Ebay has them for 30-40$ shipped and google "ugly junk corona mill" for an exhaustive thread on how to set them up correctly. I did 34 AG batches last year with this type of mill with great results.
#2 get a SS Tube filter (aka the bazooka tube) for your cooler. Better yet get a rectangular cooler with the filter tube. Should be about 30-40$. I found the toilet supply line to be a real PITA. For $10 the SS kettle tube will last longer and not need the fuss.
#3 preheat the cooler with about 168-170 degree water for about 10 min before adding grain. It is always easier to stir more to bring the temp down than it is to bring it up. I end up stirring the mash for 5-10 minutes until I hit target temp. Sometimes I may add some ice cubes to help speed up the process, but rarely. Just stir until you get the temp down. Close up the cooler, and stir gently at 20, and 40 minutes. After 60 you should be good to drain. Google "Denny Conn" for a great resource on single infusion batch sparging.
 

Xpertskir

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I am not trolling for "BIAB vs. Cooler" responses, but what would be some of the Pros & Cons for each? I don't mind buying new equipment (for either method) if the payoff in ease of use or repeatability will be there.

Thanks,
Mark
Lots of threads on this and many more answers than this but....

BIAB

pros
less equipment to move around on brew day and store after brew day
less equipment to buy

Cons
Lifting 20 plus lbs of 170 Dg grain dripping with sticky wort
harder to maintain mash temps
~lower efficiency
compelled to make annoying posts in ANY AG thread about how great BIAB is despite what the OP is asking




2 or 3 Vessel

Pros
more flexibility
~better efficiency
partygyle possibility
stacking batches for multi batch days
you get to buy more stuff

Cons
you have to buy more stuff
more equipment to move around/store
stuck sparges
 

Xpertskir

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To give you an example of time spent in BIAB my last 5 gallon batch went like this


20 minutes to heat strike water
60 minute mash
10 minute mashout* (experimental, and didn't help my efficiency at all, still 75%)
90 minute boil
5 minute drain and seal no chill.
20 minute clean up.

3:25 minutes. I could probably reduce my boils and will not be doing a mashout again, so I really think BIAB is a 3 hour day for most styles.
I do a 3 vessel day in that time, BTW
 

wickman6

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I'm sure I'm not the first to do this, but I found a workaround for the biab lifting/holding/squeezing dilemma. I use my fry basket that came with my kettle. It goes in first, then the bag and finally the grain. When its time to lift, I raise the basket and wedge it over the kettle kinda sideways and press the top of the grain with a lid from another pot. I'd post a pic, but phone won't cooperate. Maybe I can upload one when I get home.

Anyway, there's no sore shoulders involved.
 

Milan37

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Lots of threads on this and many more answers than this but....

BIAB

pros
less equipment to move around on brew day and store after brew day
less equipment to buy

Cons
Lifting 20 plus lbs of 170 Dg grain dripping with sticky wort
harder to maintain mash temps
~lower efficiency
compelled to make annoying posts in ANY AG thread about how great BIAB is despite what the OP is asking




2 or 3 Vessel

Pros
more flexibility
~better efficiency
partygyle possibility
stacking batches for multi batch days
you get to buy more stuff

Cons
you have to buy more stuff
more equipment to move around/store
stuck sparges
LOL...is there anything funnier (or sadder?) than defensiveness cloaked in condescension?
 

solbes

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Xpertskir,

BIAB is something the OP asked about. Reread his message. I don't believe changing methods will solve his issues, but I don't see the discussion as a side topic either.
 

Matt3989

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LOL...is there anything funnier (or sadder?) than defensiveness cloaked in condescension?
LOL... Only trolls who manage to be defensive and condescending, while at the same time, not contributing.

As for the OP, since you already have the gear, and your main concern was hitting your mash temps correctly. I would recommend sticking with your current set up, but making a few adjustments like pre heating your cooler (I just fill mine with hot water right from a utility sink, it comes out at 140, put in a few gallons and let it sit while I heat my strike water). Heating the cooler with the strike water is really the part that varies the most, grain is more predictable. So a smaller temperature gap to overcome is really helpful.

Then using a calc from online, and taking good notes each brew session, I hit them temps I want without a problem everytime. I brewed on Sunday, outside at about 45° and after an hour mash with 13lbs of grain in a 10 gallon cooler I only lost 1° F.
 

grathan

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Yeah defintely pre-heat the mash tun and keep track of ambient temp, and grain temp.

As far as efficiency goes, I doubt a 6 degrees off is gonna effect anything. You should know the ph of your mash if your gonna do all-grain.
 

Xpertskir

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Xpertskir,

BIAB is something the OP asked about. Reread his message. I don't believe changing methods will solve his issues, but I don't see the discussion as a side topic either.
You are right, he did ask about it.

That comment about BIABers making out of place replies was more about other threads, and if you look around it is quite pervasive.

Good luck OP with whatever you decide. It will take a few brew days to figure out your system but once you do repeatability is pretty easy.

Biggest piece of advice is to build in ways to correct your temperature(ie boiling water or ice on stand by) because no one is going to perfectly hit their mash temp right of the bat every time.
 

pwkblue

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jeesh...the OP asked about a better way to do all grain.

Just my opinion, but for lower gravity beers...certainly any grain bill under 10lbs...there is no better way than the deathbrewer method...which is essentially Stove Top...Mash in a Bag! The only extra equipment is a large nylon bag for $5 or less. I hit and control my mash temps exactly....and hold them by placing my mash pot in the oven. As an example...I brewed last night: 12 lbs at mash temp of 151....put in oven, and went to the gym....came back 80 minutes later...mash temp 151! I calculated at 82% but the extra mash time bumped my to 86%

to me that is a "better way" and fully related to the OP
 

WyomingBrewer

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I use a cooler with a stainless stell mesh from a water line and an on-line calculator for temps. Always within 2 degrees of what is calculated. Here is the calculator I use. Love this thing.

http://www.brew365.com/mash_sparge_water_calculator.php

I usually up my mash thickness to half the total volume and sparge with the other half. 80% plus effeciency. Since you have the equipment already I see no need to get anything else.
 
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stealthfixr

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I had not considered BIAB much until reading some of the replies here. My next USAF job will limit my free time quite a bit, but I would still like to all-grain brew. It seems to me BIAB might be a time saver as compared to the three tier system I was doing before with Gott coolers. While it would be nice to reutilize those coolers, BIAB does look a lot simpler at the cost of mash efficiency.

If the cost was not considered, and 220V/30A service not a problem (and unfortunately it is), what do you think about the new High Gravity eBIAB system? Anyone used it?

How easy/hard is it to step mash using direct fire and a clad bottom like a 10gal Megapot? Any experience there?
 

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I love my RIMS system. The consistency and ease of use can't be beat. I don't care if I miss my mash temp by a couple degrees because it will quickly and automatically be corrected. I was able to set up a RIMS system for about $300. If that is within your budget then it is well worth considering. You just need a pump, heat stick, PID (with thermocoupler), and appropriate tubing.
 

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I have a rather easy setup, Home Depot round 10gal cooler and a SS false bottom. Something that helps is to fill it up with hot water 2h before mashing, so it heats up the walls. Doing it this way, I am able to measure the exact amount of heat I lose on the mash, it's always been consistent at 12F, so I just heat up the mash water 12F higher than I want. I've been getting at the very least 75% efficiency. At some point I'd like to get a RIMS setup, but not ready to drop the $$ on that yet.
 

RM-MN

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I had not considered BIAB much until reading some of the replies here. My next USAF job will limit my free time quite a bit, but I would still like to all-grain brew. It seems to me BIAB might be a time saver as compared to the three tier system I was doing before with Gott coolers. While it would be nice to reutilize those coolers, BIAB does look a lot simpler at the cost of mash efficiency.

If the cost was not considered, and 220V/30A service not a problem (and unfortunately it is), what do you think about the new High Gravity eBIAB system? Anyone used it?

How easy/hard is it to step mash using direct fire and a clad bottom like a 10gal Megapot? Any experience there?
Yeah, it's hard to deal with the 80 to 85% efficiency with BIAB when you are used to 70 to 75% efficiency of the confentional tun.:D
 
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stealthfixr

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Yeah, it's hard to deal with the 80 to 85% efficiency with BIAB when you are used to 70 to 75% efficiency of the confentional tun.:D
Is that kind of efficiency unusually high for BIAB? I've been reading to expect around 65%. What kind of setup do you use?
 

RM-MN

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I and a number of others on here that do BIAB have been getting that efficiency pretty regularly. The key seems to be the crush or grind of the grain. I have a Corona style mill and set it to where the plates rub when there is no grain in it. I heat my water to strike temperature in a turkey fryer pot on my kitchen stove, turn off the heat and drop the bag in. Then I stir the grains in making sure I have no dough balls, put the lid on, and wrap the whole thing in a bath towel which keeps the temperature within a degree or 2 for the hour mash (I'm beginning to think I don't need that long since another BIAB brewer says he gets conversion in half that amount of time). Pull the bag of grains out and drain/squeeze the wort out and I'm at 80%. Do a dunk/pour through sparge to get the volume if I'm short and the efficiency goes up to about 85%.
 
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I love my RIMS system. The consistency and ease of use can't be beat. I don't care if I miss my mash temp by a couple degrees because it will quickly and automatically be corrected. I was able to set up a RIMS system for about $300. If that is within your budget then it is well worth considering. You just need a pump, heat stick, PID (with thermocoupler), and appropriate tubing.
What were the most valuable resources you found when building your RIMS system? I'm also looking at going that route eventually. There's a ton of info out there on it, would be great to weed through it a bit. Cheers.
 

bbrim

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Aussie:
It is hard to answer this. I did a little research here and there and then tried to piece it together on my own. There were some mishaps. I wish I would have been more thorough in drawing my diagrams and figuring out what hard I would need. Because I went with soft silicone tubing that disconnects I needed quick connects. I finally found camlocks and they are awesome. I had PID issues at first (I tried to buy a cheap one) and ended up going with Auber. Their equipment is top notch. Those were the main difficulties. Their is a post about a portable toolbox RIMS tube floating around that shows a pretty simple approach to the heat stick. Good luck with everything.
 
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bbrim said:
Aussie:
It is hard to answer this. I did a little research here and there and then tried to piece it together on my own. There were some mishaps. I wish I would have been more thorough in drawing my diagrams and figuring out what hard I would need. Because I went with soft silicone tubing that disconnects I needed quick connects. I finally found camlocks and they are awesome. I had PID issues at first (I tried to buy a cheap one) and ended up going with Auber. Their equipment is top notch. Those were the main difficulties. Their is a post about a portable toolbox RIMS tube floating around that shows a pretty simple approach to the heat stick. Good luck with everything.
Thanks! Very helpful, good to learn about others experiences to make things smoother. Cheers!
 
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stealthfixr

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I've boiled down the options some thanks to everyone's responses here. I am now thinking of these all-grain brweing methods:

1) Buy High Gravity eBIAB and be done with it. Pro: good, easy & quick. Con: more than I would like to spend (more correctly--more than my wife would LIKE me to spend ;)).

2) Buy a 10gal Megapot for a MLT, recirculate via March/Chugger and use direct-fire propane & a RIMS tube for raising and holding temps, respectively. Use one of my Gott coolers with a 110V heating element added for a HLT. Pro: cheaper, conceptually seems like it should work well for either BIAB, step mashing or infusion mashing. Cons: more complicated than #1 and the whole RIMS tube concept a new one for me.

3) Single infusion mash with my existing Gott coolers -BUT- convert the HLT with a 110V heating element and use a temp controller I already have to maintain temps. Maybe buy the Megapot for a boil kettle.

3a) Same as #3 above, except add a thermowell to the Gott HLT as well as the 110V heating element & temp controller. Then add a heat exhanger (copper coil) to the HLT and reciculate the mash for temperature stability and raising to the mash-out.​
Which do you all think will product the best results with the least fuss, money being a consideration but not the main decision driver? Being overseas with the military until June give me a little time to think about this!
 

Ragtop232

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Just my opinion, but it's hard to beat the convenience, immediacy and quality of #1. I have the EBC SV control unit on a system I sourced and put together and it is fantastic. Of course I'm not a DIY'er either.

Jim
 
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