Polar Ware False Bottom

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Steelers77

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So my friend bought a new Polarware Kettle with false bottom. I had the "pleasure" of brewing with it today, and had one hell of a time.

Can any of you give me some advise as to how to keep this thing from sticking. I have a cooler with manifold and have never had a stuck mash, I had his pot stick 4 times today. The false bottom just seems to plug up after about 2 min of recirculating. Does anyone else have this problem with their false bottom?

Thanks for any help.
 

samc

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No troubles with my FB in the MLT. What kind of crush on your grains? What about your qts/lbs ratio? Are you thin or thick mashing?

I usually do 1.5qts/lb and recirc the entire time. Malt conditioning (pre-wet grains) really improves the flow as well.
 
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Steelers77

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We used 1.25qt/lb conditioned the malt as I always do, crush is somewhat fine but not too bad. I did recirc the entire protein rest and most of the mash but the false bottom kept getting plugged. I guess stuck mash was the wrong discription.
 

Lil' Sparky

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Recirculate slowly. I've found this helps greatly. Pumping the mash at full flow will compact a mash and stop the flow in no time.

Also, stir every once in a while if you're recirculating throughout the mash rest. That can help, too.
 

Catt22

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Conditioning the malt helps a lot, but it's still possible to crush the malt to fine. I have a Polarware kettle with a FB for my mash tun. I direct fire and do a continuous circulation throughout the entire mash. Circulating too fast will inevitably cause the grain bed to compact resulting in greatly slowed circulation rate and possibly a completely stuck mash. IMO and experience, it's best to not pump faster than the wort would flow by gravity alone. There are two major factors to consider when doing the recirculation thing. One is that there is usually no way to know how much suction you are applying to the MT with the pump. The second is that the flow rate is very difficult to control with the common 1/4 turn ball valves. The ball valves are nowhere near linear and slight adjustments result in huge changes in flow rate. They lack the precision needed to properly control the flow. My solution to the first was to install a vacuum gage on the pump inlet to monitor the suction. This was a major improvement. I mitigated the ball valve issue by swapping it out for a gate valve. The gate valve requires 3-1/2 turns to fully open and, while technically not completely linear, it's very much more so than the ball valve and provides the precision control I needed. Both of these modifications were cheap and easy to do and the improvement was dramatic. With the vacuum gage, I can push the circulation rate much faster without fear. It also provides an early warning with enough time to take preventative measures. Usually the corrective action is simply backing off on the flow rate a little. Stuck mashes are pretty much a thing of the past for me.
 

ajf

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I have the same, but because of the excessive amount of space below the false bottom, I've never tried using it as a MLT. (I still use the cooler for that.)
Where the false bottom really pays off is in transferring to the fermenter. I use whole hops which act as a wonderful filter when draining from the kettle through the CFC.

-a.
 

Catt22

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I have the same, but because of the excessive amount of space below the false bottom, I've never tried using it as a MLT. (I still use the cooler for that.)
My 10 gallon Polarware kettle has about one gallon of space below the false bottom. I've been using it as a MT for nearly 10 years with excellent results. IMO, the volume below the false bottom is of no concern when using this kettle as a mash tun.
 
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Steelers77

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I conditioned my malt as I always do. I think my issue is with the acutal false bottom getting clogged. Seem like that was the real issue and so much the mash being stuck.
 

Catt22

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I conditioned my malt as I always do. I think my issue is with the acutal false bottom getting clogged. Seem like that was the real issue and so much the mash being stuck.
Yes, but the question is why is the FB getting clogged. Pumping too fast is likely the reason if the grist is not milled too finely. Too much suction on the FB would be my best guess.
 

Catt22

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What is your recirc rate? Qt/min
I haven't actually measured it lately and since I've started conditioning my malt I have been able to increase the rate significantly, but I would guess about one gallon per minute, maybe a little more. I recirc as fast as I can as I am direct firing the mash tun and this gives me faster temperature ramp ups. I increase the flow rate until I get just the slightest reading on the vacuum gage, maybe 1/2 psi. From that point I just glance at the gage occasionally and if it begins to creep up, I back off slightly on the flow rate. IMO, the ideal flow rate is near the same as you would have using gravity only. This would be similar to using a grant, but the key is knowing how much suction you are pulling. Without a gage or a sight tube ported below the FB, there's no way to know with any precision. The flow rate alone won't tell you how much suction you are applying.
 

ajf

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My 10 gallon Polarware kettle has about one gallon of space below the false bottom. I've been using it as a MT for nearly 10 years with excellent results. IMO, the volume below the false bottom is of no concern when using this kettle as a mash tun.
I'm not saying it can't be done, just that I've never tried it. As I usually mash at 1 qt / lb with about 10 lbs grain, and the mash thickness is critical for getting the results that I want, I would think 40% of strike water would have an affect on the mash. Again, I'm just saying "I think", not that I'm necessarily right.

Besides which, I need the kettle to heat up my sparge water during the mash.

-a.
 

Catt22

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I'm not saying it can't be done, just that I've never tried it. As I usually mash at 1 qt / lb with about 10 lbs grain, and the mash thickness is critical for getting the results that I want, I would think 40% of strike water would have an affect on the mash. Again, I'm just saying "I think", not that I'm necessarily right.

Besides which, I need the kettle to heat up my sparge water during the mash.

-a.
Well, I'm not saying that you should try it. Yes, if an extremely thick mash is what you are after, then it's probably not for you. BTW, what are the results that you want? I'm getting the results I want typically mashing with 1.25-1.5 quarts per lb. Just a week ago, I placed second in a major competition with 16 entries in the category, so I must be doing something right. Maybe I just got lucky. IMO, the volume below the FB is still a part of the mash and not a big negative for the Polarware kettle. I do a continuous recirculation with a pump, but in the past I have also done the recircluation manually. Regarding heating the sparge water in the kettle. I used to do that myself, then I would transfer the heated water to an elevated cooler for the sparge. Since then, I have switched to heating the sparge & strike water with a bucket heater in the cooler and on a timer. It's ready when I am and saves a huge amount of time. Saves some propane too.
 

ajf

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90% of my brews are special bitters or extra special bitters. They are traditionally mashed thick at a low temperature, and mashing thinner at a higher temperature gives a totally different profile. (I'm thinking about running some experiments to find out what effect the mash thickness and temperature has on attenuation, because brewing software seems to completely ignore this, and there is very little quantative information in the texts that I have read.) I heat the water on the kitchen stove (comes out of the household rather than the brewing budget). Heating the strike water gives me just enough time to unpack everything and mill the grains. I dough in and start the mash, then fill the kettle with the sparge water which I heat (again on the kitchen stove). The sparge water gets up to temperature just when the mash completes. I don't see how I could save any time on that, and I have a free hour to do other things during the mash.
I'd agree that the volume below the false bottom could be treated as part of the strike water if you recirculate, but I don't recirculate; partly because I'm too lazy to do it manually, and too cheap to invest in a pump. Without recirculation, there wouldn't be enough water above the false bottom to wet the grains.

I'm not in any way disagreeing with you, just saying that I don't think it would satisfy my requirements.

-a.
 

Catt22

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Please don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to argue with you either. What I'm really trying to do is let you know that you may be under utilizing your Polarware kettle. IMO, it's a well designed piece of brewing equipment and ranks among my prized brewing possessions.

I must agree that doing the recirculation manually is a lot of work and it was the main reason I eventually bought a pump.

IMO, the water/grain ratio is not all that critical and I also don't think it has much of an impact on attenuation. Anywhere between 1.25 and 2 quarts has worked very well for me. I'm sure there could be problems if one went too far either thick or thin. The mash temperature, OTOH, I feel is very critical to attenuation. I also think that getting the mash temperature right is the single most important aspect of AG brewing. It's also the most difficult thing to get a handle on. The biggest problem is that most of the common thermometers used are junk and unreliable. Then there's the challenge of actually placing the thermometer or probe where it counts. Only a very few brewers I know get this right. Most just rely on their uncalibrated crummy bi-metal dial thermometers and go with whatever it reads. It shows in the end product. It took me forever to get a good handle on my mash temps. I think I've got it down now after about nine years of brewing.
 

ajf

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I understand you completely. I know you're not arguing. You're pointing out that you're using yours differently than I'm using mine; and you think that I could benefit by adopting some different techniques. I appreciate your advice, and know that it's made with good intentions.
I also agree that it's a well designed piece of equipment, and it's going to outlast me.
The only area where there is any disagreement is that you do not believe that the water/grain ratio makes much difference, whereas I believe that it makes a great difference, and even there, I agree with your assumptions that anything between 1.25 and 2 qt / lb is going to work well and produce similar results. My findings are that there is a very big difference between 1 and 1.25 qt / lb.
In support of this belief, several people have reported that a thicker mash results in a more dextrinous wort, but nobody seems to quantify what a "thicker mash" or "more dextrinous" really means.
The closest quantification I have found is by Greg Noonan - New Brewing Lager Beers.
"Mash thickness also affects the fermentability of the wort. A thick mash (less than three-tenths of a gallon per pound of malt) induces the greatest overall extraction. A much thinner mash increases the proportion of maltose, and thus wort attenuation.
The reduction of the large starch chains in a thick mash at 155 to 158 degrees F, almost excludes any maltose formation whatsoever."
This description closely correlates with my experience, although I haven't tried a thick mash at such high temperatures; but is dismissed by most American brewers who never get thicker than 1.25 qt / lb
As for your comments on the mash temperature, I agree that it is difficult to determine when doughing in, especially with a thick mash. I hit my mash temps by calculating the strike water temp based on weight of grain, volume of strike water, and grain temp. (The MLT is pre-warmed to a known temp.) This does produce consistent results, but it took me a long while to have confidence in the calculations.
By the way, I've been brewing for 36 years, but I've only been doing AG for 17 years.:)

-a.
 

Catt22

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It's my understanding that more dextinous means more unfermentable sugars and the result will be more body in the finished beer. This may or may not be desirable depending on the style. It follows that a wort with a higher concentration of dextrins would necessarily be less fermentable with lower attenuation.

So, Noonan is saying he considers a thick mash to be 1.20 quarts of water or less per pound of grain and that this thicker mash will result in better extraction (efficiency). That may be true, but it's of no concern to me as I'm happy with my efficiency as is.

He goes on to say that a thinner mash will result in will increase the proportion of maltose which is the sugar of choice for the yeast from what I've read. Then he says this will result in a more fermentable wort and better attenuation.

It's no surprise when he says that a mash at 156-158 F "almost excludes any maltose formation whatsoever". Yeah, no ****.

So, seeing that most home brewers encounter problems with high FG's and not over attenuation, I would think that a thinner mash would help with this, not a thicker mash.
I think the temperature influence is pretty much generally understood by most home brewers. We know that the low end (149 F) produces a more fermentable wort and the higher end (158) more body. Nothing new there.

So, it seems the effect of running a thicker mash would be a somewhat better efficiency, more body and lower attenuation. Doesn't sound all that appealing to me. I've mashed very thick and very thin and have settled on what I think is somewhere between the two. Now I focus mostly on controlling the mash temps to get the body and attenuation I want. It's been working very well for me.

My mash procedure is typically to dough in relatively cold at 95 F. With my direct fired recirc system I can ramp up quickly to whatever stops I desired. I've found this to work better than trying to hit my saccharification temp right off the bat at mash in and it gives me a lot of flexibility in the mash schedule. I monitor the mash temp directly with a thermocouple thermometer and adjust as needed.

You obviously have much more brewing experience than I have. I've been at it for almost ten years and doing all grain for about nine years and eight months. I jumped right in to AG after only a few extract batches.

I'm not clear on why you would want less attenuation and more unfermentables in your finished beer. It's more often the other way around for me. I seldom have beers that ferment out too low. That's a rarity for me.
 

Lil' Sparky

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Cat, it's just the style that ajf is shooting for. Maybe it's not one that you're interested in brewing, but he is.

My experience has also been that the temperature of the mash seems to have much more influence on the final character of the beer than does water/grain ratio, but I can see how one might want to use thicker/thinner mashes to accentuate a specific style, or to help benefit their specific brewing requirements.

For me, using a full false bottom in a sanke MLT + recirculation kind of precludes very thick mashes like 1 qt/lb. You just have to have more volume in the MLT to account for the dead space and to help with recirculation.

Interesting discussion though. You guys carry on as required. :D
 

Catt22

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Sparky,

I picked up on that about the style, but thought that trying to control the body/dextrins/malty character by way of the mash thickness just didn't seem like the best way to get there.

Yes, doing a continuous recirc does require a somewhat thinner mash, but not excessively so IMO. I can manage at just above 1.25 quarts/lb. It also depends on the batch size as the volume below the FB is constant, whereas the total volume will vary a lot with batch size, so basically I can run a thicker mash with a larger batch size. I'm still not convinced that the mash thickness (within reason, of course) has a major influence on the finished beer. This is interesting though and I'd like to learn more about it. I just recently did my first real decoction which is supposed to enhance the body and malt character. Just kegged it this past weekend. My first impression is that, indeed, it is worth the effort. This is the opposite of what I've heard from a lot of others. I brewed a Maibock and it really is outstanding. Never did one before. I'm entering it in a Bock only competition coming up this weekend. I'll soon find out if it's as good as I think it is. Also, I haven't been all that into Bocks previously, but this one is changing my view on that.
 
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Steelers77

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I didn't know this was going to lead to a discussion on mashing preferences, Thanks for the input.

"So, seeing that most home brewers encounter problems with high FG's and not over attenuation, I would think that a thinner mash would help with this, not a thicker mash."

That's interesting because I think I have over attenuation more often than under attenuation, and I mash @ 1.25qt. Maybe I will increase to say 1.3 Qt and see where that gets me.

Once again thans for the help, I don't brew with his system often so It will be a trial by error.
 
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