Recirculation questions

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butterblum

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I have read some materials recently talking about people's recirculation methods actually seeming to be detrimental, not beneficial.
So how do you build a kettle with a useful recirculation function? Where do you put the temperature probe? What device do you use to evenly distribute the recirculated water throughout the grain bed without causing channeling?
Thanks
 

wilserbrewer

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Good question, pass the popcorn [emoji897]

Just kidding and sorry not to be of help, it’s just that opinions and methods vary so be prepared for a lengthy discussion.

There are tons of threads and posts devoted to this topic and the best method is still being debated.
 

jalc6927

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You can buy kettles already set up for this

And if you search you tube for brew boss, there’s a video showing his method
 

ODI3

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I really have no idea why people recirculate. More equipment to buy, more to clean, more potential issues with leaking, more temp loss through tubes. Potential for grain scorching from calvation and burning bags and burnt elements.

I wouldnt dare leave a recirc system un attended whereas i can leave my simple biab alone as long as i like.

For anyone thinking about recirc, i would HIGHLY RECOMMEND seeing one in action before spending the money.
 

jalc6927

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I really have no idea why people recirculate. More equipment to buy, more to clean, more potential issues with leaking, more temp loss through tubes. Potential for grain scorching from calvation and burning bags and burnt elements.

I wouldnt dare leave a recirc system un attended whereas i can leave my simple biab alone as long as i like.

For anyone thinking about recirc, i would HIGHLY RECOMMEND seeing one in action before spending the money.
Have you seen one in action? If not, you’ll see why your post is way off. The recirculating actually prevents the problems you say it creates
 

ODI3

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The simplest/safest method is single infusion. heat water to 8 degrees above target, turn off heat, add grain bill(10 gal grain bill causes 8 deg temp loss), insulate for an hour, pull bag and turn on heat to boil. My kettle loses 3 degrees over the hour. There is zero chance of scorching, less equipment and consistent. Although it does take a few batches to figure out the numbers.
Pumps pull water from bottom of kettle, under bag/basket. Which can cause calvation/compression of grain bill as well as channeling.

I have seen people burn bags and scorch grain from pumps. dry fire elements from baskets.
Wheat tends to cause this more often.

Im not trying to scare people off of the extra equipment, i just wanted to give my opinion. and also show that pumps and baskets isnt all benefit but rather has some drawbacks too.
 

wilserbrewer

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The use of a false bottom prevents those issues
Like the false bottoms I have seen that collapse due to stuck flow and pump suction?

I agree w/ ODI3, once batch size increases to 10 plus gallons, the greater mass of mash is much more temp stable and controlling temps becomes pretty simple w a single infusion.
 

jalc6927

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Which is entirely your opinion. Does it make it a fact? No

If you guys took some time to investigate some of these units you’ll see that you are way off in your assessments

The false bottom I use won’t get sucked down or damaged in any way

You guys can stick to your methods, but don’t criticize others because they don’t agree.

No snob zone
 

ODI3

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I was hoping for someone to respond using their experience and opinion on why their views differ from mine. While i have brewed a few times with pumps, baskets and automated systems I haven't ever owned any of these items. Ill outline my views of each of these items, if anyone wants they can respond on each specific item on how their view may differ.

Basket with bag inside:
this method offers more support for the bag but also has a higher chance of dry firing under the basket. To prevent this, I think its important to modify the basket to have as many holes in it as possible to allow for free flow of the liquid. the basket also changes the drainage characteristics. The bag when hanging tends to "self squeeze". the basket holds the form and doesnt squeeze the grain as much. Is this a useful characteristic to allow for rinsing of the grain while it hangs in the basket? Do people squeeze the grain afterwards, or in a different way?

Just mesh basket:
This is similar to above but instead of using the lining of a bag, they use metal screen mesh for the basket lining. Mesh will last longer but depending on the screen gauge may allow grain to get stuck in the mesh. I think the functionality is the same as above.

Just bag:
Just a bag is the cheapest option. It seems to me that the bag doesnt impede temp transfer throughout the kettle as much as the metal basket, but the bag may block the inlet if u want to use a pump to continually recirculate. I personally havent ever had a bag burn, but i dont turn on elements while mashing unless i raise the bag. One drawback is even the strongest bags tend to wear out quite quickly when grain bills excede 25 lbs.

Channeling:
When using a mashtun(tradional batch or fly sparging), channeling is quite a large issue due to a low water to grain ratio. The mash tends to be thick like porridge and making sure the hot water contacts the grain is more important. With BIAB the water to grain ratio is super high which makes the mash more of a soup then a thick porridge. As long as their is no dough balls and mash temp is correct, complete conversion is basically guaranteed.(I have heard it only actually takes like 10-15 min for full conversion in biab)

final result:
I like to reuse yeast and biab tends to leave alot of matter in the prefermented wort. While it seems that this extra material is useful for fermentation, i prefer to remove as much of it as i can to maximize my 6gal fermenter and keep the bottom yeast as clean as possible for reuse.

After mashing is complete, does anyone pull the bag/basket and recirculate into the basket to filter the wort?
 

Hwk-I-St8

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I was hoping for someone to respond using their experience and opinion on why their views differ from mine. While i have brewed a few times with pumps, baskets and automated systems I haven't ever owned any of these items. Ill outline my views of each of these items, if anyone wants they can respond on each specific item on how their view may differ.

Basket with bag inside:
this method offers more support for the bag but also has a higher chance of dry firing under the basket. To prevent this, I think its important to modify the basket to have as many holes in it as possible to allow for free flow of the liquid. the basket also changes the drainage characteristics. The bag when hanging tends to "self squeeze". the basket holds the form and doesnt squeeze the grain as much. Is this a useful characteristic to allow for rinsing of the grain while it hangs in the basket? Do people squeeze the grain afterwards, or in a different way?

Just mesh basket:
This is similar to above but instead of using the lining of a bag, they use metal screen mesh for the basket lining. Mesh will last longer but depending on the screen gauge may allow grain to get stuck in the mesh. I think the functionality is the same as above.

Just bag:
Just a bag is the cheapest option. It seems to me that the bag doesnt impede temp transfer throughout the kettle as much as the metal basket, but the bag may block the inlet if u want to use a pump to continually recirculate. I personally havent ever had a bag burn, but i dont turn on elements while mashing unless i raise the bag. One drawback is even the strongest bags tend to wear out quite quickly when grain bills excede 25 lbs.

Channeling:
When using a mashtun(tradional batch or fly sparging), channeling is quite a large issue due to a low water to grain ratio. The mash tends to be thick like porridge and making sure the hot water contacts the grain is more important. With BIAB the water to grain ratio is super high which makes the mash more of a soup then a thick porridge. As long as their is no dough balls and mash temp is correct, complete conversion is basically guaranteed.(I have heard it only actually takes like 10-15 min for full conversion in biab)

final result:
I like to reuse yeast and biab tends to leave alot of matter in the prefermented wort. While it seems that this extra material is useful for fermentation, i prefer to remove as much of it as i can to maximize my 6gal fermenter and keep the bottom yeast as clean as possible for reuse.

After mashing is complete, does anyone pull the bag/basket and recirculate into the basket to filter the wort?
I'm a bit confused. You've been posting anti-recirculation, but your "final result" paragraph seems to be an argument for recirculation given that recirculation can result in a wort that is more clear since it's effectively continuously vorlaufed. Also, with the Brew Boss system, people are reporting better efficiency with a courser crush, which also leads to clearer wort.

I've been researching the Brew Boss system recently and the dry firing of the heater element seems to be mostly tied to a crush that's too fine or running the pump too aggressively...two things that are easily avoided.

When I brew I want to be as precise as possible for mash temp since I'm frequently trying to achieve a specific effect. For example, I recently brewed a big stout and wanted a viscous mouthfeel, so I mashed at 158. I don't want that dropping to 154 or lower over the course of the mash (which was 90 min due to the huge grain bill).

Also, even with today's well-modified malts, I think some beers benefit from a step mash and recirculation with a quality heating element facilitates that nicely.

I currently mash in a cooler with a custom bag, but I plan to move to a single vessel solution, I want electric so I can brew indoors (Iowa winters are not conducive to brewing outdoors) and I will almost certainly buy or build a recirculating system. I use a pump anyway for whirlpooling my NEIPA hop additions and to expedite cooling with my immersion chiller, so much of the "extra equipment" is needed anyway.
 

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I recirculate because I step mash a lot, and don't want to go through the hassle with adding boiling water etc.

I use a Herms system on a no sparge setup. I do it because I step mash, I like clear wort, and I've done a (very) few tests which yielded me poorer extraction efficiency without recirculation in my setup. I'm also able to maintain mash temperatures down to 0.1-0.2C.
 

Lynchy217

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This is purely anecdotal, so take it for what it is. I got a pump to do whirlpool and to help with chilling, so for me there was no new equipment required. When I do a recirculation during mash (I use a steamer basket and a bag, since I want to keep the bag off of my elements, as I do active temperature control with a PID controller during mash) I generally get about 5-7% better efficiency than when I don't recirc. My electric kettle is not super well insulated, and I generally want my mash to be as precise as possible, so just hoping to not lose much heat doesn't seem appealing to me. I previously stirred during mash as well, so my heat loss was non-trivial. In my experience it's worth it, but if you're happy with the beer you make without it, then it might not be worth the extra equipment (assuming you don't already have a pump).

Also, if you don't use a basket, there's almost certainly no need for recirc.
 

tofuguy

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Here is why I do NOT do recirculation:
1. Higher Efficiencies.
2. Clearer Wort.

Here is why I DO recirculation:
1. Maintain mash temperature at the center and the outer regions of the mash without having to insulate my kettle.
2. So I can say F-it to strike water calculations! I recirculate my strike water as it heats up to the mash temperature +3 degrees. Once the temp is reached, shut off the pump, dough in, stir for 2 minutes. Wait another 2 minutes, turn on the pump, set the the EZBoil to my mash temperature, mow the lawn (Do something constructive), come back 1 hour later, mash complete.

I placed multiple thermometers around my mash (center and near kettle walls) when I was first calibrating it, I only saw temp swings of approximately 1 deg F on lab grade thermometers. Now like others said, this should only be done with a system using a PID. When I was using gas, this was not an option, so I used a cooler mash tun to main temp within 3 deg F throughout the mash.

With all of this, I feel recirculation can have benefits, but those benefits do not make better beer, only make certain steps easier.
 

mongoose33

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<snip>
As long as their is no dough balls and mash temp is correct, complete conversion is basically guaranteed.(I have heard it only actually takes like 10-15 min for full conversion in biab)
It can be fast, but that's dependent upon the crush. When I did BIAB I set my gap at .020, and conversion was typically 90 percent done by 15 minutes or so.

I've since been working to adopt LODO techniques, including a coarser crush. My new mill is a 3-roller mill and I have the gap set at .035. HOWEVER, I have lined my cooler mash tun with a Wilserbag, which makes it analogous to BIAB. Well, it is, just not in the kettle.

Anyway, with the coarser crush and larger particles, conversion takes about the whole hour. I get there, but it takes time for the starch to gelatinize and fully convert.

YMMV
 

Hwk-I-St8

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I was hoping for someone to respond using their experience and opinion on why their views differ from mine. While i have brewed a few times with pumps, baskets and automated systems I haven't ever owned any of these items. Ill outline my views of each of these items, if anyone wants they can respond on each specific item on how their view may differ.

Basket with bag inside:
this method offers more support for the bag but also has a higher chance of dry firing under the basket. To prevent this, I think its important to modify the basket to have as many holes in it as possible to allow for free flow of the liquid. the basket also changes the drainage characteristics. The bag when hanging tends to "self squeeze". the basket holds the form and doesnt squeeze the grain as much. Is this a useful characteristic to allow for rinsing of the grain while it hangs in the basket? Do people squeeze the grain afterwards, or in a different way?

Just mesh basket:
This is similar to above but instead of using the lining of a bag, they use metal screen mesh for the basket lining. Mesh will last longer but depending on the screen gauge may allow grain to get stuck in the mesh. I think the functionality is the same as above.

Just bag:
Just a bag is the cheapest option. It seems to me that the bag doesnt impede temp transfer throughout the kettle as much as the metal basket, but the bag may block the inlet if u want to use a pump to continually recirculate. I personally havent ever had a bag burn, but i dont turn on elements while mashing unless i raise the bag. One drawback is even the strongest bags tend to wear out quite quickly when grain bills excede 25 lbs.

Channeling:
When using a mashtun(tradional batch or fly sparging), channeling is quite a large issue due to a low water to grain ratio. The mash tends to be thick like porridge and making sure the hot water contacts the grain is more important. With BIAB the water to grain ratio is super high which makes the mash more of a soup then a thick porridge. As long as their is no dough balls and mash temp is correct, complete conversion is basically guaranteed.(I have heard it only actually takes like 10-15 min for full conversion in biab)

final result:
I like to reuse yeast and biab tends to leave alot of matter in the prefermented wort. While it seems that this extra material is useful for fermentation, i prefer to remove as much of it as i can to maximize my 6gal fermenter and keep the bottom yeast as clean as possible for reuse.

After mashing is complete, does anyone pull the bag/basket and recirculate into the basket to filter the wort?
The concept of channeling doesn't really exist when batch sparging.
 

LittleRiver

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I looked at recirculation systems, and decided against them. To me, insulating the kettle is the superior approach.

I use a remote probe thermometer to monitor the mash. Temperature stability has not been a problem with insulation, especially within the critical first 15-20 minutes when the majority of conversion occurs (I use a very fine crush).

Insulation is so simple there's basically nothing to go wrong. I don't have to worry about leaks, pump cavitation, electrical problems, controller issues, electrical problems, etc.

I don't hesitate to leave my insulated kettle unattended during the mash. I would be hesitant to leave a recirculation system unattended, for the reasons listed in the last paragraph.

When I'm done with the insulation I just put it away, I don't have to clean it.

Changing to recirculation would be a downgrade.
 

Hwk-I-St8

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I looked at recirculation systems, and decided against them. To me, insulating the kettle is the superior approach.

I use a remote probe thermometer to monitor the mash. Temperature stability has not been a problem with insulation, especially within the critical first 15-20 minutes when the majority of conversion occurs (I use a very fine crush).

Insulation is so simple there's basically nothing to go wrong. I don't have to worry about leaks, pump cavitation, electrical problems, controller issues, electrical problems, etc.

I don't hesitate to leave my insulated kettle unattended during the mash. I would be hesitant to leave a recirculation system unattended, for the reasons listed in the last paragraph.

When I'm done with the insulation I just put it away, I don't have to clean it.

Changing to recirculation would be a downgrade.
Even though I'm strongly considering a recirculating system, I'm inclined to agree that a KISS approach is sound thinking. I do have two caveats, however:

First, there's a brulosophy experiment that shows that squeezing the bag for BIAB can decrease clarity on the final beer. Not a big deal for daily drinking, but for competition, it's an issue. Why does this matter? I think recirculating can help produce a higher efficiency without squeezing and also produces a wort that's more clear. Just my (perhaps wrong) intuition, but if crystal clear beer is a priority, you might have better luck with the filtration you get from a recirculating rig.

Second, and far more important to me, is the ease of step mashing. I have several recipes that call for step mashing and doing that with BIAB and boiling water additions can be a hassle at best, impossible at worst (depending on grain bill). With a recirculating system controlled by a PID...piece of cake.

If single infusion is all you plan to do, and if super precision on mash temp isn't a must (as far as loss of heat and potential stratification), there's really no need to waste time and money on the recirculating system.
 

LittleRiver

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...there's a brulosophy experiment that shows that squeezing the bag for BIAB can decrease clarity on the final beer. ... for competition, it's an issue. .... if crystal clear beer is a priority, you might have better luck with the filtration you get from a recirculating rig.
If I was concerned about clarity for a competition I would probably try finings or filtering before I tried a recirculation system.

I don't squeeze, and I don't use finings. I do try to use good technique, and I cold crash. I'm very pleased with my clarity.

Second, and far more important to me, is the ease of step mashing. I have several recipes that call for step mashing and doing that with BIAB and boiling water additions can be a hassle at best, impossible at worst (depending on grain bill). With a recirculating system controlled by a PID...piece of cake.
I could see the benefit if you do a lot of step mashing. I have great admiration for the old masters who created and mastered the technique without any of our modern gear.

If single infusion is all you plan to do, and if super precision on mash temp isn't a must (as far as loss of heat and potential stratification), there's really no need to waste time and money on the recirculating system.
I'm unconvinced that super precision is ever a "must" regarding mash temp.
 

Hwk-I-St8

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If I was concerned about clarity for a competition I would probably try finings or filtering before I tried a recirculation system.

I don't squeeze, and I don't use finings. I do try to use good technique, and I cold crash. I'm very pleased with my clarity.



I could see the benefit if you do a lot of step mashing. I have great admiration for the old masters who created and mastered the technique without any of our modern gear.



I'm unconvinced that super precision is ever a "must" regarding mash temp.
The brulosophy experiment did use finings.
 

LittleRiver

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I know, he seems to be big fan of gelatin. I enjoy reading his experiments.

I'm sure you have read the one where he tests a moderate (4deg F) difference in mash temperature. That experiment is one of the reasons I said earlier that I'm unconvinced that super accurate temp control is necessary.

I think a lot of folks just like to geek out with hardware (self included sometimes). There's nothing wrong with that, but there is what seems to be a semi pervasive impression among brewers that all that hardware and precision is inherently "better".

Beer that is skillfully produced without all that gear says otherwise.
 

4of7

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I have read some materials recently talking about people's recirculation methods actually seeming to be detrimental, not beneficial.
So how do you build a kettle with a useful recirculation function? Where do you put the temperature probe? What device do you use to evenly distribute the recirculated water throughout the grain bed without causing channeling?
Thanks
I do a 2 vessel system. Mash tun with false bottom and two bags The other kettle I will use for the heat and recirculationIMG_20180311_163342.jpg
 

Smellyglove

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I know, he seems to be big fan of gelatin. I enjoy reading his experiments.

I'm sure you have read the one where he tests a moderate (4deg F) difference in mash temperature. That experiment is one of the reasons I said earlier that I'm unconvinced that super accurate temp control is necessary.

I think a lot of folks just like to geek out with hardware (self included sometimes). There's nothing wrong with that, but there is what seems to be a semi pervasive impression among brewers that all that hardware and precision is inherently "better".

Beer that is skillfully produced without all that gear says otherwise.
Only setting I would worry about temp precision is in a setting where one operates at the edge of gelatinization temperature.
 

4of7

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Like the false tbottoms I have seen that collapse due to stuck flow and pump suction?

I agree w/ ODI3, once batch size increases to 10 plus gallons, the greater mass of mash is much more temp stable and controlling temps becomes pretty simple w a single infusion.
Beer Troll asking.. the false bottom just collapse ?
 

4of7

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Beer Troll.my mash tun with full volume of water 12 gallon and 23lb of grain in two bags during recirculation might collapse the false bottom. I am calling Bobby for my refund.lol
 

4of7

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Which is entirely your opinion. Does it make it a fact? No

If you guys took some time to investigate some of these units you’ll see that you are way off in your assessments

The false bottom I use won’t get sucked down or damaged in any way

You guys can stick to your methods, but don’t criticize others because they don’t agree.

No snob zone
...Beer Troll .. Stay strong and Brew on.. it is about beer.. I agree with you
 

4of7

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The simplest/safest method is single infusion. heat water to 8 degrees above target, turn off heat, add grain bill(10 gal grain bill causes 8 deg temp loss), insulate for an hour, pull bag and turn on heat to boil. My kettle loses 3 degrees over the hour. There is zero chance of scorching, less equipment and consistent. Although it does take a few batches to figure out the numbers.
Pumps pull water from bottom of kettle, under bag/basket. Which can cause calvation/compression of grain bill as well as channeling.

I have seen people burn bags and scorch grain from pumps. dry fire elements from baskets.
Wheat tends to cause this more often.

Im not trying to scare people off of the extra equipment, i just wanted to give my opinion. and also show that pumps and baskets isnt all benefit but rather has some drawbacks too.
Beer Troll asking.. I am pumping to the bottom and pulling out the top..am I doing something. Wrong ?
 

4of7

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I really have no idea why people recirculate. More equipment to buy, more to clean, more potential issues with leaking, more temp loss through tubes. Potential for grain scorching from calvation and burning bags and burnt elements.

I wouldnt dare leave a recirc system un attended whereas i can leave my simple biab alone as long as i like.

For anyone thinking about recirc, i would HIGHLY RECOMMEND seeing one in action before spending the money.
I agree with you about it costs extra to buy mash tun and
The simplest/safest method is single infusion. heat water to 8 degrees above target, turn off heat, add grain bill(10 gal grain bill causes 8 deg temp loss), insulate for an hour, pull bag and turn on heat to boil. My kettle loses 3 degrees over the hour. There is zero chance of scorching, less equipment and consistent. Although it does take a few batches to figure out the numbers.
Pumps pull water from bottom of kettle, under bag/basket. Which can cause calvation/compression of grain bill as well as channeling.

I have seen people burn bags and scorch grain from pumps. dry fire elements from baskets.
Wheat tends to cause this more often.

Im not trying to scare people off of the extra equipment, i just wanted to give my opinion. and also show that pumps and baskets isnt all benefit but rather has some drawbacks too.
Beer Troll agrees with you about leaving unattended.
I just turn off the pumps or control box
 

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Maybe its my set up...or that fact that I really don't overly concern myself with some measurements. I make my wort on an infrared cooktop in my basement and I find that turning the heat off or even to low keeps a nice steady temp for the 1 hour mashing...I have two to three gallons of water on another burner that I heat to 10 to 20 degrees above mash out temp that I then pour all at once into mash to raise to resting temp, pull the BIAG up through a pulley, tie it off on a cleat and then grab both sides of the bag and with an up and down motion "roll" the grains in the bag for about 30 to 45 seconds to release any remaining water then release the cleat and lower the bag into the now empty other pot. I compare the contents to the 7 gal mark on the inside of the pot and adjust my boiling pre addition time accordingly.
 
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