Recirc eBIAB Improvements: Whirpool Recirc, New Mill, Temp Probe, New Bag?

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

tennesseean_87

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2011
Messages
1,808
Reaction score
253
Location
Albuquerque
I've got some leftover xmas money and birthday money sort of burning a hole in my pocket and I feel like upgrading stuff, but I don't think I can swing all the stuff I want and still afford ingredients (I need a new sack of 2Row ATM!). For that reason, I'm a bit stuck (pun intended) on what I want to upgrade now and how I want to upgrade it. I don't want to blow money on unnecessary bling, but I also try to adhere to buy-once-cry-once unless that's way too expensive to do.

Problem: my recirculating eBIAB recirculation rate is slow. This leads to hot spots, maybe some reduced efficiency, inability to quickly step mash, and need to babysit the kettle during the mash to make sure the recirc isn't stuck leading to element dry-fire. I want to fix this.

Possible solutions:

1. New Bag

I need a new bag anyway, since a few holes have crept into my old one. I'm gonna try a better, conico-cylindrical design to get as much surface area as possible without having the bag be so big as to stick to the walls, which IME seems to prevent recirculation through those portions of the bag. I'm hoping this will at least help a little. Feel free to weigh in on this, but I'll be going DIY, material is already in hand.

2. Mill/Crush

Before I was doing recirc, I tried to crush really tight, and it worked in my old ghetto fly-sparge system, but took forever. I could try loosening my crush some to see how that helps, but I'm wondering if finally graduating from a Corona Ugly Junk (c) is in order. Will I get a better crush with more intact hulls and less bag-plugging flour with a roller mill? I'm thinking so.

The next question becomes Which mill to get? Tons of people are happy with their Barley Crushers and Cereal Killers. Some love expensive 3-rollers. The debates I've researched seem to fall into a number of binaries that aren't all easily combined in a single mill.
a. Bearings vs. bushings--get a CK!
b. 2 vs. 3 roller--many people people seem to find 2 sufficient, but will 3 give me an edge in my particular context of trying to maximize hull preservation for best recirculation possible? @kal seems to do fine with a wider gap on the BC in his 3 vessel recirc rig, but is that due to the rest of his setup and won't translate to my specific context?
c. geared vs. non-geared--many seem to be fine with ungeared, but I've also read complaints pop up.
d. roller material--monster supposedly has better steel, they also have the pro-series ($$$$), some other mills have stainless (worse durability, but good corrosion resistance if I ever more out of the desert), etc.

so the options seem to be:
CK--via sale at AIH for a great price, has bearings, and includes hopper and base, but maybe a pain to get the blue film off of. Not geared, maybe doesn't get the (questionable?) benefit of third roller.
MM2--on sale at MoreBeer for little more than the CK, 'better quality/USA made', better steel on rollers?; but would have to build a base and hopper, has bushings instead of bearings, only 2 rollers
MightyMill3--3 rollers, seems to be similar/made by same factory as CK, and GEARED!; but probably harder to adjust, a bit more spendy, and has 304SS rollers (softer and less wear resistant, right?)
MMRPro--bigger rollers of hardened steel that should last me forever, but no third roller or hopper.
Other 3 rollers like Monster and Crankenstein--getting really expensive, don't have hopper, and use bushings, but geared and detent adjustments available.

I don't mind spending a bit more for quality and durability and not having to bother with slipping rollers not feeding, and especially if that third roller will get me better recirc filtration from more intact husks. I've read many of the debates, but I'm particularly interested in how a certain type of mill might help for recirculation through a bag, hence placing my thread here.

3. Probe placement

I've been putting my probe in a water-filled thermowell in the return manifold on top of the grain bed. Kal has his on a T coming out of the kettle and into the pump, but he's got a HERMS setup, whereas I'm direct-firing, so that may be different. @Bobby_M has his in the bottom of the kettle, and that's a little more relevant to my application. If I do move my probe, where should I put it? As you'll see below, I'm thinking of re-plumbing my pump anyway, and if I put it in a T or cross, now is the time to do it.

4. Whirlpool port/return

This will take some work, but may go a decent way to solving my issues. Bobby has done this setup, and I'm pretty convinced to give it a shot. Depending on the answer to 3. I would run a cross or T out of my pump with hoses to the top recirc and whirlpool return to split movement inside the bag and outside. This would probably let me push my element harder without scorching due to more liquid movement, and help eliminate cold and hot spots in the kettle. I even wonder if the turbulence would help the bag not get plugged so easily. Even if the other 'fixes' don't let me recirc quicker, I won't have the issue with the bag filling up. This is something I may want to do anyway, but may be less urgent/necessary if the above steps can get me a faster recirculation. The second port also might be useful as a bleeder valve, since I sometimes have issues with pump priming (this was the first upgrade I thought about, then decided I might as well add the whirlpool port if I were going to do that.

Question: Which of the above solutions are best for my problem? If a cheaper mill is sufficient, I may be able to do all of it at once, but I don't want to blow $100 I could have put toward a nicer one with a little more saving. Anyone with a similar setup find a Corona works fine, or will replacement be a big step forward that may let me put off drilling and re-plumbing my kettle? Or should I do the plumbing first to solve my issue, and may upgrade my mill down the road? Any comments on the usefulness of any upgrade and particularly on which mill may best suit the needs of a recirculating BIAB brewer who brews once or twice a month would be appreciated!
 

wilserbrewer

BIAB Expert Tailor
HBT Sponsor
Joined
May 25, 2007
Messages
11,268
Reaction score
2,861
Location
New Jersey
What kind of false bottom are you running?
A BIAB false bottom from brew hardware might improve your recirc rate due to much greater “open area”.

I used a corona for years, then purchased a 3 roller kegco mill…frankly not much difference in the crush that either puts out..jme

Interesting idea about undersizing the bag to not have it sit against the kettle walls, but this will further reduce volume in the bag / total volume.
 

matt_m

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Messages
1,317
Reaction score
623
No offense meant to Wilserbrewer but I've been really happy with the 400 micron bag I got from Brew Bag for recirc. I've never used theirs and haven't shopped for a bag for a couple years so they may offer similar. Wheat beers are about the only thing I have to keep an eye on.

I use a 3-roller Monster Mill set at 0.035. I'm happy with the mill but it can occasionally stick. The fix for me was loosening the bolts for the end plates so they float just slightly. I'd probably get the geared one today. I previously had a Cereal Killer. There's no comparison.

I use a Brew Hardware false bottom, and have followed Bobby's lead on using line lock for the top recirc below the wort surface and the lower through the whirlpool. I consistently see tight temperature control with about 3 degrees difference between what the probe reads near the element and what I have read with a good thermometer in the middle of the mash.
 
OP
OP
tennesseean_87

tennesseean_87

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2011
Messages
1,808
Reaction score
253
Location
Albuquerque
I'll answer the replies first and give some updates.

What kind of false bottom are you running?
A BIAB false bottom from brew hardware might improve your recirc rate due to much greater “open area”.

I used a corona for years, then purchased a 3 roller kegco mill…frankly not much difference in the crush that either puts out..jme

Interesting idea about undersizing the bag to not have it sit against the kettle walls, but this will further reduce volume in the bag / total volume.

No FB for me. I'm not sure how one would give greater open area. Do you mean by keeping the bag off the bottom so the flow is not restricted there? That's actually the logic I'm using with a slightly smaller bag than kettle--keep it a smidge off the walls all around to improve flow. My thought is that the reduced area in the bag will be minimal and might be somewhat compensated for by not having deadspace under a false bottom. Am I right in thinking that what you're doing with the bottom, I'm doing with the sides? That is, increasing flow, but introducing deadspace.

Interesting to hear the experience with the mill.

No offense meant to Wilserbrewer but I've been really happy with the 400 micron bag I got from Brew Bag for recirc. I've never used theirs and haven't shopped for a bag for a couple years so they may offer similar. Wheat beers are about the only thing I have to keep an eye on.

I use a 3-roller Monster Mill set at 0.035. I'm happy with the mill but it can occasionally stick. The fix for me was loosening the bolts for the end plates so they float just slightly. I'd probably get the geared one today. I previously had a Cereal Killer. There's no comparison.

I use a Brew Hardware false bottom, and have followed Bobby's lead on using line lock for the top recirc below the wort surface and the lower through the whirlpool. I consistently see tight temperature control with about 3 degrees difference between what the probe reads near the element and what I have read with a good thermometer in the middle of the mash.

I have some bag material already that I plan to use. I'm not sure of the size of holes, so we'll see how it goes.

Good to hear another mill opinion, albeit a different one than above! I want the 3 roller geared C&S, but don't have the $$$ at the moment. I don't know if that's just wanting nice stuff, or if there is a slight advantage to it that may be particularly beneficial to this sort of setup, but not to a 3 vessel brewer or non-circulating BIAB brewer.

Updates:

So I went ahead and replumbed with a whirlpool return and put the probe in a cross right after the pump. With the ability to whirlpool, the flow rate will be greatly increased, so this should provide much more immediate feedback to the PID. The fact that probe won't be slightly insulated by a thermowell should help, as should the shorter distance form the element to the new location. I think this should be a great help in stabilizing temperature in the mash and solve most of my issues.

I still need to make the bag. Taking into account some of the points above, I'll try to make it as big as possible without directly contacting the walls. I think an improved shape will help compared to what I've been using will also fill out the bottom space more, so there will be less dead space outside of the bag.

As mentioned earlier in this post, I don't have the coin at the moment to upgrade my mill. Maybe the appeal of a fancy, blingy geared mill will wear off if the upgrades I've made help me out. If I'm still not completely satisfied, I may save up for a bit.

I hope I remember to update once I get a few brews in.
 

jwill911

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 12, 2021
Messages
128
Reaction score
407
I went from extract brewing to the Brew Hardware Premium eBIAB system and I'm really happy with it. It has all the things you mentioned and what others have mentioned; temp probe below the false bottom, recirculating pump with edge pickup, a mini ball lock after the "T" to divert circulating wort to 1/2" silicone tubing directed to lid with lock line.
I also bought the Monster Mill 3 roller, I do a double crush at .032 then at .025. I've been thinking of buying another bag from Wilserbrewer as mine seems too big with a lot of material moving around in the kettle. I really like single vessel BIAB as it fits my brew space I had no interest in going with a three vessel system and have no space for it.
 

k-os

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 4, 2019
Messages
382
Reaction score
216
Location
Wisconsin
We had a club member order the Cereal Killer from AiH and received the Northern Brewer Hullwrecker. Same thing happened to a user on Reddit. I imagine that now that Norther Brewer's parent company owns AiH they are working on consolidating inventory/options between the two sites. They are exactly the same mill, but the Hullwrecker has the Northern Brewer branding and a slightly better crank handle. I believe there is still a 20% off coupon code for AiH so you can essentially get the Hullwrecker for $80.
 

odie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2016
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
1,088
Location
CC, TX
No FB? well there's your problem right there. Get a FB. Period. You want a little cavity under the bag for the wort to flow into and go out the port to recirc.

Forget a smaller bag. You DO NOT want any space or gap between the kettle sides if at all possible. You want that wort to all flow down thru the grain bed and not around it.
 
OP
OP
tennesseean_87

tennesseean_87

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2011
Messages
1,808
Reaction score
253
Location
Albuquerque
No FB? well there's your problem right there. Get a FB. Period. You want a little cavity under the bag for the wort to flow into and go out the port to recirc.

Forget a smaller bag. You DO NOT want any space or gap between the kettle sides if at all possible. You want that wort to all flow down thru the grain bed and not around it.
Can you explain the benefit? Why do you need a cavity under the bag? I think my current bag which is a very simple design maybe is accomplishing the same thing in how it tapers toward the bottom. Why do you need the cavity there? My current return manifold sits in the middle of the bag, so the recirc is not flowing over the top of the grain bed and out the sides. Maybe a different setup would flow that way. Is there a different reason? I'm wanting to increase filtering/flowing area in order to increase flow rate, unlike a 'malt pipe' or whatever is in some baskets where they only flow out from the bottom. IME, this is what happens when the bag hits the outside walls.
 

odie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2016
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
1,088
Location
CC, TX
well in your OP it's not clear exactly what your current setup is. A clear, concise description of your system up front and how it works would better help us visualize your process.

I can make some "assumptions" as to what your system looks like but a generic "my rate is slow, I want to fix this" is kinda hard to address without clearly knowing what you are doing now.

there are a thousand ways to make wort...
 
OP
OP
tennesseean_87

tennesseean_87

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2011
Messages
1,808
Reaction score
253
Location
Albuquerque
well in your OP it's not clear exactly what your current setup is. A clear, concise description of your system up front and how it works would better help us visualize your process.

I can make some "assumptions" as to what your system looks like but a generic "my rate is slow, I want to fix this" is kinda hard to address without clearly knowing what you are doing now.

there are a thousand ways to make wort...

Recirc eBIAB with homemade voile bag. It's small than the kettle diameter, and made by folding the bag over and sewing in a U shape.
Corona mill
15 gallon kettle
5.5kw ripple element
Auber PID
march pump
pickup from the side/front
return manifold in the bag is CPVC rod with holes drilled in the sides (bottom plugged) so recirculation returns to the center of the mash
recently installed whirlpool port for simultaneous recirc through mash and under bag (haven't brewed yet).

Anything I'm missing?

Questions at this point are bag shape/use of FB, and possible benefit of new mill, particularly 3-roller.
 

odie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2016
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
1,088
Location
CC, TX
what's key IMO is not the brands and such but the architecture of the grain bed and how it flows. It's not the rate/speed of flow but "how" it flows. Does it flow completely and evenly through the grain bed. You want maximum interaction between wort and grain.

What it sounds like is you basically have the bag suspended in the kettle, not touching anything. Great for filtering, bad for mixing.

Wort takes the path of least resistance. The return, while inserted into the middle of the grain bed, is simply going to flow up to the surface and then out the sides of the bag at the top of the grain bed and run down the outside.

What you have is a quicksand trap. The water does not want to flow down thru the compacted grain below but will easily "float" the grain above as it flows up and out. Just like how quicksand forms.

If you have a full size bag that fully conforms to the kettle sides and supported by a FB, all the wort must travel thru the grain bed down and exist at the FB. There is no shortcut or other passage. The wort must flow thru the entire grain bed.

The speed of the recirc is not really important so long as it's complete. You really are not going to have big temp differences if you have already reached mash temps before adding the grain. Hint...a simple reflective wrap around the kettle does wonders for heat retention. Plus you will likely reach full conversion faster than you think with BIAB.

Recirc speed is really only critical if you are using the element at the same time. If the pump out runs the mash flow then you will dry fire the element. My recirc pump is tiny.
 

odie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2016
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
1,088
Location
CC, TX
oh...the mill doesn't matter...any old mill will work if it produces a nice tight BIAB crush.

some are just easier to use.

but yeah...I'd ditch that corona just because I like easier.
 
OP
OP
tennesseean_87

tennesseean_87

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2011
Messages
1,808
Reaction score
253
Location
Albuquerque
what's key IMO is not the brands and such but the architecture of the grain bed and how it flows. It's not the rate/speed of flow but "how" it flows. Does it flow completely and evenly through the grain bed. You want maximum interaction between wort and grain.

What it sounds like is you basically have the bag suspended in the kettle, not touching anything. Great for filtering, bad for mixing.

Wort takes the path of least resistance. The return, while inserted into the middle of the grain bed, is simply going to flow up to the surface and then out the sides of the bag at the top of the grain bed and run down the outside.

What you have is a quicksand trap. The water does not want to flow down thru the compacted grain below but will easily "float" the grain above as it flows up and out. Just like how quicksand forms.

If you have a full size bag that fully conforms to the kettle sides and supported by a FB, all the wort must travel thru the grain bed down and exist at the FB. There is no shortcut or other passage. The wort must flow thru the entire grain bed.

The speed of the recirc is not really important so long as it's complete. You really are not going to have big temp differences if you have already reached mash temps before adding the grain. Hint...a simple reflective wrap around the kettle does wonders for heat retention. Plus you will likely reach full conversion faster than you think with BIAB.

Recirc speed is really only critical if you are using the element at the same time. If the pump out runs the mash flow then you will dry fire the element. My recirc pump is tiny.

So as mentioned above, I am using the element to maintain mash temp and to do step mashes from time to time. For this reason a decent flow rate is mandatory. That's why I need to maintain a decent rate of recirculation either through the grain or at least mixing under the grain bed. I'm also not doing a 'tight BIAB' crush, so as to help with recirc rate. Some have noticed they get better efficiency on a recirculating BIAB with a looser crush that helps recirc rate improve--hence my wondering if a mill will improve that by keeping the husks more intact.

I do have a reflective wrap (3 layers, because that's how much it came with). I'm thinking that with my current setup, I'm getting some flow at least through the grain bed. If I can get faster flow by pushing recirc out the sides, too, it will only help without having to babysit to make sure there is no dry-fire.
 

odie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2016
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
1,088
Location
CC, TX
How I envision what you are doing...I don't think you are going to get the step mashing that you think you are getting. The wort that is getting temp increases is the same wort that is mostly flowing out the top of the grain bed and not getting thru and heating the grain below.

With a normal crush and full bag with FB...I bet your flow rate will be plenty good.

I do a tight crush and small 12v fountain pump and it brings heat up plenty fast on a 1500w 120v element. A tiny fountain pump moves more wort than you might think. It's only a 5 gal system...not a 3bbl nano brewery
 
OP
OP
tennesseean_87

tennesseean_87

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2011
Messages
1,808
Reaction score
253
Location
Albuquerque
I don't think it's mostly flowing out the top, but I'm not sure how I would determine if it is or not. Even whatever is going out the top is having to flow up through the grain to some extent.
 

odie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2016
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
1,088
Location
CC, TX
well it's all brown water so kinda hard to follow it.

does it make beer? Do you hit your conversion targets? It's working.

Like a said ...a thousand ways to make wort. I can't tell you how much I've changed up and tweaked my system the last 2-3 years after doing it same way for 20 years.
 

Bobby_M

Vendor and Brewer
HBT Sponsor
Joined
Aug 3, 2006
Messages
26,277
Reaction score
6,116
Location
Whitehouse Station
recently installed whirlpool port for simultaneous recirc through mash and under bag (haven't brewed yet).



Questions at this point are bag shape/use of FB, and possible benefit of new mill, particularly 3-roller.
You should have a major improvement after the whirlpool is invoked.

It's hard to know if a false bottom with help you but if the bag is at all getting wrapped around the element, I'd say it would help. IF the conical shape of your bag, and keeping all the slack out, approximates the same function then it would not help.
 
OP
OP
tennesseean_87

tennesseean_87

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2011
Messages
1,808
Reaction score
253
Location
Albuquerque
You should have a major improvement after the whirlpool is invoked.

It's hard to know if a false bottom with help you but if the bag is at all getting wrapped around the element, I'd say it would help. IF the conical shape of your bag, and keeping all the slack out, approximates the same function then it would not help.
Thanks for the input. I suspected that adding the whirlpool would make the biggest difference and so tackled that first. I appreciate seeing your video/posts about that.

I guess I'll have to see about the bag. I'm about to make a new one, so I'm planning to make it different from what I've been using. I have element contact, but not enough loose material to get wrapped around. I gather that the worry here is enveloping the element in grain and not having flow around the element to disperse heat. I'll have to consider that when making my bag and fitting it for height.
 

DuncB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2019
Messages
2,409
Reaction score
1,397
Location
Paremata New Zealand
@tennesseean_87
I've got an all in one brew system so metal bag essentially. I put a T on the recirculation to a whirlpool that I run concurrently with the recirculation onto the top of the grains.
The mash tun has a temp probe at the bottom of the kettle and I added one in as close to outflow onto grains as possible, I now see a 0.3 celsius difference from base reading to top of grain with my modifications.
I insulated the kettle with high density foam and the lid and the pipework.
I crush pretty fine and finally I added a much better temp controller smartpid rather than the simple thermostatic on off type it had before. THere is very little overshoot or undershoot.
Now mash efficiency is at 89% which is a big improvement and the whole system is a lot more stable and doesn't need watching like a hawk and constant fiddling.
They have all caused marginal gains, I'm not sure perforating the side of my malt pipe like the latest grainfather and brewzillas malt pipes would make much difference ie modifying my " bag ". There's no going back once you've drilled a hundred holes is there in the side of your malt pipe.

I'd insulate if you haven't done it yet, the whirlpool also cut down my kettle losses and improved hop utilisation over hop spider ( i think ). Good mixing of the wort with the whirlpool has helped but I have guaranteed space with a metal bag and I regularly use glucanase instead of hulls to ensure a good flow throughout the mash.
I suppose you could look at one of those metal mesh bags as a further alternative.
Watching with interest.
 

doug293cz

BIABer, Beer Math Nerd, ePanel Designer, Pilot
Staff member
Mod
HBT Supporter
Joined
May 14, 2014
Messages
13,262
Reaction score
10,060
Location
Renton
I'm not sure perforating the side of my malt pipe like the latest grainfather and brewzillas malt pipes would make much difference ie modifying my " bag ". There's no going back once you've drilled a hundred holes is there in the side of your malt pipe.
Interestingly, Anvil has removed the holes in the lower wall of their malt pipes in there latest versions. Their "Small Batch Adapter" was basically a sleeve that blocked the holes in the mash pipe. Maybe holes in the side of the pipe aren't such a good idea.

Brew on :mug:
 

DuncB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2019
Messages
2,409
Reaction score
1,397
Location
Paremata New Zealand
@doug293cz
Certainly taking account of your advice an a previous thread about dead space between the malt pipe and kettle wall lead me to the whirlpool mixing modification. I didn't have much luck with the lift wriggle up and down and replace of the malt pipe to mix the dead space, the bottom of the malt pipe got pushed up and then a load of grain fell out. Keeping more records throughout the brew has allowed me to see what makes a difference, thank you.
I get more than adequate flow through the grain bed with the glucanase even with a very fine crush so more holes would make that worse I expect.

Maybe a holey malt pipe will just be a passing fad, time will tell.
 

doug293cz

BIABer, Beer Math Nerd, ePanel Designer, Pilot
Staff member
Mod
HBT Supporter
Joined
May 14, 2014
Messages
13,262
Reaction score
10,060
Location
Renton
@doug293cz
Certainly taking account of your advice an a previous thread about dead space between the malt pipe and kettle wall lead me to the whirlpool mixing modification. I didn't have much luck with the lift wriggle up and down and replace of the malt pipe to mix the dead space, the bottom of the malt pipe got pushed up and then a load of grain fell out. Keeping more records throughout the brew has allowed me to see what makes a difference, thank you.
I get more than adequate flow through the grain bed with the glucanase even with a very fine crush so more holes would make that worse I expect.

Maybe a holey malt pipe will just be a passing fad, time will tell.
Yeah, if the bottom of the malt pipe is not attached to the side wall, then lifting and lowering the malt pipe can lead to the problem you had. I wasn't aware that there were malt pipe designs like that.

Brew on :mug:
 

Dancy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2018
Messages
319
Reaction score
237
The new Version 2 of Brewers Edge Mash & Boil added more holes on the side of the malt pipe in the bottom section.
 

Attachments

  • A167BAF1-F325-44FF-9166-F3EE46AC2636.jpeg
    A167BAF1-F325-44FF-9166-F3EE46AC2636.jpeg
    160.1 KB · Views: 0

odie

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 18, 2016
Messages
1,968
Reaction score
1,088
Location
CC, TX
I think any holes in the sides is counter productive. You want all the wort to travel thru the entire depth of the grain bed and exit the bottom if you are going to recirc or sparge.
 
Top