Turn extract setup to AG cheap and efficiently?

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kjackson82

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Ok, i am wanting to move to AG with a few rules in mind.
1) No buying equipment that won't get used when AG setup is final.
2) Can't afford to come off large sums of money at the moment. Piecing
things together and ingenuity.

With that said, I have the skill sets of welding stainless w/access to a welder, electrical/electronics/controls knowledge and redneck engineering. I know on this journey to my end goal that i might not have the most desired setup during each phase of the upgrade but with a 7 month old and the price of diapers, i've got to move slow and try for steady. I do have access to a lot of parts from work due to food processing equipment constantly getting upgraded which includes temp controllers, rtd, stainless fittings (including tri clover), etc... So here it goes!

Current Inventory:
2) 5g stainless steel kettles, no fittings at moment.
1) gas burner (dual jet)
1) homemade wort chiller (copper tubing)

Future Goal:
Fully Automated Electric HERMS.

Upcoming Purchasing/Building Plans
1) Will be purchasing a 10g boil kettle.
1) Looking into making a MT out of 10g igloo cooler.

So the first purchase will be the 10g kettle. I don't mind this one bit seeing as it will get plenty of use for years. The second plan so far is to make a MT out of a 10g Igloo cooler. I am working on the pricing of the whole thing and if it isn't too bad then i can wrap my head around it as well. I will just engineer it so i only remove the dispensing valve and NOT put anymore holes in it. So, as i am researching the cost of building the Igloo MT, i have made an initial layout.

Version 1 Layout.jpg

I am working up the instructions/steps and will post as soon as i get them completed or run into a wall and need help getting past it.
 

billl

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For the cost of a grain bag, you could go immediately do 3 gallon BIAB all grain batches in your 5 gallon kettle.

With a 10g kettle and a bad, you could do 5 gallon BIAB batches. Just mash in the kettle and use your old 5g to heat some sparge water.

Those would be the cheapest and most efficient ways to get to AG from where you are. If you want to convert a cooler for the long run, that is a great idea, but you can get started without one.
 

brewcephus

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I recently(this past saturday in fact) purchased all of the parts to make a 10g cooler mash tun at Lowe's for <$60. This was mostly due to finding a cooler on sale for $25. I got everything at Lowe's except the fender washer's. I used this link as a guide to what I wanted to do. He has all of the parts listed, with part # where available, and it really helps out to get exactly what you need.
 

agrazela

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For the cost of a grain bag, you could go immediately do 3 gallon BIAB all grain batches in your 5 gallon kettle.
Not to hijack the thread, but is a 5-gal kettle really big enough to do a 3-gal BIAB?

(I'm looking to start doing some low start-up cost 3-gal AG batches myself, and I figured I'd need to use at least a 6.5-gal bucket w/spigot and a fly-sparge technique?)
 

rekoob

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I was brewing for a LONG time before i made the jump, don't know why I waited, guess it was a money thing and I had in mind what I wanted in the end, as you do.
I just gathered parts over what seems to be years before I had everything I needed to start building my brew stand.
You know what you want in the end, whenever that is, so purchase items that you will use to get you there. if what's in your mind as the final product (if that's possible) is a single tier 10 gal system all direct fired then don't wast the time with the cooler.
Like mentioned above, you can go to AG right now with BIAB, find a MT of your liking along the way to go to the next step.
Anyway, you get the idea, little here and there and soon you will be looking for the metal for the stand.
Good luck.
 
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kjackson82

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For the cost of a grain bag, you could go immediately do 3 gallon BIAB all grain batches in your 5 gallon kettle.

With a 10g kettle and a bad, you could do 5 gallon BIAB batches. Just mash in the kettle and use your old 5g to heat some sparge water.

Those would be the cheapest and most efficient ways to get to AG from where you are. If you want to convert a cooler for the long run, that is a great idea, but you can get started without one.
Doing the 10g BIAB may be where i end up in one of the phases.

Updated diagram. I believe i can get 9 gallons of strike/sparge water in the two 5g stainless kettles which from what i've read so far, will be plenty for most recipes. I will need to add an element and PID to heat the water to temp and hold (i hate trying to maintain temps on my gas burner and the element and PID will go to end goal too).

So far here is what i got.

Version 2 Layout.jpg

Step 1

Heat Pot 1 to temp while circulating Pot 2 through coil to heat both.

Connecting 1 to 10 and 2 to 9.

Step 2

Pour grains in MT and pour in strike water from Pot 2.

Connecting 10 to 5 and leaving 2 to 9.

Step 3

After mash time, batch sparge from Pot 1.

Connecting 9 to 12 and leaving 10 to 5.

Now I'm stuck. With one pump it leaves me with gravity feeding wort from MT to boil kettle. Not sure how well this would work? Any thoughts?
 

billl

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"Not to hijack the thread, but is a 5-gal kettle really big enough to do a 3-gal BIAB?"

Yep. Just heat your sparge water in another pot.

"I believe i can get 9 gallons of strike/sparge water in the two 5g stainless kettles which from what i've read so far, will be plenty for most recipes."

No problem at all. You could even do it with just 1 of the 5g kettles. You are going to dump the strike water into your tun to start the mash. Then it's empty and you have an hour to bring your sparge water up to temp.
 
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kjackson82

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billl said:
"Not to hijack the thread, but is a 5-gal kettle really big enough to do a 3-gal BIAB?" Yep. Just heat your sparge water in another pot. "I believe i can get 9 gallons of strike/sparge water in the two 5g stainless kettles which from what i've read so far, will be plenty for most recipes." No problem at all. You could even do it with just 1 of the 5g kettles. You are going to dump the strike water into your tun to start the mash. Then it's empty and you have an hour to bring your sparge water up to temp.
What about recirculating the strike water to maintain temp? I could do that with the setup and help regulate everything correct?.. Would it be recommended?
 

ong

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I've been doing 6 gallon BIAB batches in a 10 gallon pot for years now. I figured I would get some big elaborate setup at some point, but for the life of me I can't imagine why now. This method is so easy, and I make such good beer consistently, that I've resigned myself to spending less money! People come over expecting to see some elaborate brew room, and it's just a pot and some carboys. I DID get a propane burner to speed things up, but even that was a very optional accessory.
 

billl

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"What about recirculating the strike water to maintain temp? I could do that with the setup and help regulate everything correct?.. Would it be recommended?"

If you are mashing in a cooler, you absolutely do not have to recirculate anything or heat the tun. A cooler will hold mash temps within about a degree over an hour. Add water, add grain, stir a bunch, put on the lid and walk away. It can really be that simple. If you BIAB, you might need to insulate the kettle or hit it with some heat occasionally to maintain temps.

I was under the impression you were asking about how to make a simple and cheap transition. If you want to add pumps, controllers, automation etc hey, nothing wrong with that. I would advise you to start with the simple version though and knock out a few batches. That will give you a chance to learn what things might make your brew day easier/faster/more enjoyable.
 
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kjackson82

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I was under the impression you were asking about how to make a simple and cheap transition. If you want to add pumps, controllers, automation etc hey, nothing wrong with that. I would advise you to start with the simple version though and knock out a few batches. That will give you a chance to learn what things might make your brew day easier/faster/more enjoyable.
I just can't find away around the pump. Trying to heat both 5g pots, transferring without having to build a tier to hold the 2 5g pots and trying to cool the wort.

Thoughts?
 

billl

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You seem to want to make this more complicated then it has to be. Pick up the pot and pour the water in. If the weight is too much, use a container to scoop a gallon or 2 out before dumping in the rest.

And again, you don't need 2 5g pots.

As an example, this is what I do with just 1 boil kettle and 1 tun.

Heat strike water in a kettle. Add strike water to tun, stir, put lid on tun. Fill kettle back up with sparge water and heat.

When the mash is done, drain wort into a bucket/fementer. Dump sparge water from the kettle to the tun, stir. Dump the wort from the bucket into the kettle and start the flame. Drain the tun into the bucket. Dump the bucket into the kettle.
 
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kjackson82

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billl said:
You seem to want to make this more complicated then it has to be. Pick up the pot and pour the water in. If the weight is too much, use a container to scoop a gallon or 2 out before dumping in the rest. And again, you don't need 2 5g pots. As an example, this is what I do with just 1 boil kettle and 1 tun. Heat strike water in a kettle. Add strike water to tun, stir, put lid on tun. Fill kettle back up with sparge water and heat. When the mash is done, drain wort into a bucket/fementer. Dump sparge water from the kettle to the tun, stir. Dump the wort from the bucket into the kettle and start the flame. Drain the tun into the bucket. Dump the bucket into the kettle.
So what size kettle do you brew you 5g AG in? What volume do you typically have in the kettle before the boil?
 

billl

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I have a 9 gallon kettle. For a 60 minute boil, I start just shy of 7 gallons. For a 90 minute, I start at 7.5. I shoot for 5.5 gallons into the fermenter, so the rest is going to boiloff and absorption by hops.

If I was buying now, I'd get a 10G kettle just so I wouldn't have to watch it quite as close for boil overs.
 

broadbill

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I think buying a 10-15 gallon kettle is worth the money, regardless of how far you take this.

I have a 15 keggle, but heat strike and sparge water in a 6 gallon pot and use a cooler mash tun. I can do step mashes, mash-outs and batch sparges on this. I can collect the runnings in the 15 gal and start heating to a boil immediately.

I use a pump to push the wort through a CFC and into a fermenter but an immersion chiller is a much easier option to start. In fact, I may ditch the CFC at some point...

This sort of setup is more than serviceable for 90% of homebrewers out there. It does revolve around having a 10 gallon kettle though.
 
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kjackson82

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broadbill said:
I think buying a 10-15 gallon kettle is worth the money, regardless of how far you take this. I have a 15 keggle, but heat strike and sparge water in a 6 gallon pot and use a cooler mash tun. I can do step mashes, mash-outs and batch sparges on this. I can collect the runnings in the 15 gal and start heating to a boil immediately. I use a pump to push the wort through a CFC and into a fermenter but an immersion chiller is a much easier option to start. In fact, I may ditch the CFC at some point... This sort of setup is more than serviceable for 90% of homebrewers out there. It does revolve around having a 10 gallon kettle though.
Yeah I am debating on going on with a 15g or sticking with a 10. I've tried to locate some kegs to make some keggles but they are hard to come by around here . I got the "it's kind of theft to have them" from one of the brew stores. So what should I do ? I haven't found one aspect of brewing that I don't like , so I don't see myself ever giving it up!
 
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kjackson82

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After much thought I'm gonna stick with a 10g kettle. I would have a lot to do to make storage for 10g batches so the 15g may come eventually but not right now. One of my objectives of brewing is split some batches and ferment at different temps, under and over pitching, learn to carb with other methods other then sugar and other things that would help me learn the off flavors of brewing mishaps.

So on to the MT. I've seen the typical round igloo styles and some rectangular coolers with the stainless hose braid. Is there any advantage or disadvantage of either? I've got a couple rectangular coolers already that I could use but with a pretty low cost I could swing the round igloo if needed. One thought on this is in a round one you would have more grain packed into a smaller area rather than the rectangle cooler having a thinner grain bed so more surface area of grain touching water.
 

billl

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If you are going to batch sparge, either works perfectly fine. You stir everything up, so it doesn't really matter how deep the grain bed is.

If you want to fly sparge, the taller cooler will make it easier. A thin grain bed and a large area to sprinkle the water over make it harder to get uniform flow throughout.
 
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kjackson82

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If you are going to batch sparge, either works perfectly fine. You stir everything up, so it doesn't really matter how deep the grain bed is.

If you want to fly sparge, the taller cooler will make it easier. A thin grain bed and a large area to sprinkle the water over make it harder to get uniform flow throughout.
Ok, so the taller cooler would allow me to go either way? I love leaving options for on down the road so taller cooler it is!
 

broadbill

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Ok, so the taller cooler would allow me to go either way? I love leaving options for on down the road so taller cooler it is!
If you want to leave your options open, I would go for a 15 g kettle instead of a 10g...more room to prevent boilover, leaves the option to do 10 gallon batches, probably not going to be that much more money over a 10 gallon, etc.
 
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kjackson82

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broadbill said:
If you want to leave your options open, I would go for a 15 g kettle instead of a 10g...more room to prevent boilover, leaves the option to do 10 gallon batches, probably not going to be that much more money over a 10 gallon, etc.
The only drawback is some of the cheaper kettles seem to have large diameter vs height. Leaving more surface area of wort to air which creates more boil off. I did notice that pots like the mega pot were taller though. And maybe the boil off isn't as bad as I think it is. Especially with me being in the Deep South with high humidity. Can't speak from experience though.
 

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I went through some of the process you are going to go and went the hard and in the end more expensive. I would buy a 15 gallon pot at the very start. The 10 gallon cooler will work great and will last you awhile and you will learn what works for you and what doesn't. When the cooler gets old and possibly warped you will either buy a new one and transfer your hardware or go another route that fits you better. I have two 5 gallon pots and an 8 gallon pot I need to sell. They are to small.
 

broadbill

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The only drawback is some of the cheaper kettles seem to have large diameter vs height. Leaving more surface area of wort to air which creates more boil off. I did notice that pots like the mega pot were taller though. And maybe the boil off isn't as bad as I think it is. Especially with me being in the Deep South with high humidity. Can't speak from experience though.
Boil off is an easy fix, and and not even be noticeable in the geometries you are talking about. I'd still go 15g...better to have it and not need it...
 

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