Upgrading from BIAB Advice Wanted

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H.woodrow

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Context: I've got a 10 gal kettle and I'm shooting for 5 gal batches for my corny kegs. I've also been on a brewing hiatus of about a year so I'm about out of the loop.

I've been doing BIAB for a while, but want to take the next step. I'm a big DIY guy both for the process and the price.

(1) What do you guys recommend on building a mash tun, saw this one but didn't know if it's missing any elements or if there are better (read: cheaper) ways.
(2) What do you guys recommend for a kettle, keeping existing kettle? retrofitting it? or building / buying a new one?
(3) I've also want to get a gas burner / stand, any recs on building (or buying because I figure that's not something to mess with)?
 

madscientist451

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I started out BIAB, then got the round cooler mash tun and did fly sparging and batch sparging, now I'm back to BIAB, which I'm going to stick with, although I may drag the mash tun out to make some barley wines. So I guess what I'm saying is that a "system" to make wort doesn't always translate to what you really want: BETTER BEER. My 2 cents: spend your cash on kegging equipment, a chest freezer for the kegs and another chest freezer to ferment the beer in.
 

Sammy86

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(1) What do you guys recommend on building a mash tun, saw this one but didn't know if it's missing any elements or if there are better (read: cheaper) ways.
(2) What do you guys recommend for a kettle, keeping existing kettle? retrofitting it? or building / buying a new one?
(3) I've also want to get a gas burner / stand, any recs on building (or buying because I figure that's not something to mess with)?
If you really want to upgrade to a cooler mash tun the one you linked will do just fine. I used the same one for all grain for 5 years then made the switch to an all in one system. Life has never been better beer wise here at my house!

However, If i were you i would stick with it and maybe go EBIAB or like @madscientist451 said save your money and get some chest freezers...nothing like making your own lagers.
 

Golddiggie

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Years ago I went from BIAB (stove top) to cooler mash tun, then to keggle mash tun and finally ended up with a Spike+ system (bought the MT first, then got the HTL and BK). I'm finding it's a LOT easier working with my current setup, including the Electric Brewing Supply 50amp control panel (PID not LCD). I already had the pumps, plate chiller and most of the other items. Including the brew stand that had two propane burners installed (were removed and sold once I switched to electric).

Mash tuns don't (typically) get a heating element installed in them. That's where either a HERMS coil or RIMS setup comes into play (I'm using HERMS).

I always had to struggle to either get the mash temp to be where I wanted it (for the entire mash time) when using a cooler or had a hard time getting to sparge temperatures. I no longer have any such issues.

IF you need to go for cheap, then a cooler is OK. Just be aware of the shortcomings inherit in that mode. The boards are filled with people having leaking cooler mash tuns (at the installed valve) for all kinds of reasons. Depending on your screening method/hardware, that can create additional issues. You could always try to use a nylon mesh bag in the cooler (depending on which one you use).

Personally, I'm a LOT happier with the three vessel, electric, system I currently have. With my last batch I hit the highest efficiency level ever in a batch (90%) and want to see what I get for different grist compositions next. I suspect I'll hit a higher level with the next brewing of my recipes (different levels expected between the pale ales versus stouts/porters) due to being able to perform a constant recirculation mash. All while maintaining the exact mash temperature I want for the recipe. With the HERMS (or even a RIMS) setup, elevating to sparge temp (without going over) is easy. I do NOT regret moving away from propane burners which was always more difficult to hit temps without going over. I also didn't direct fire my keggle MT due to problems that created.

As with most things home brewing. Ask 10 different people something, you'll get at least 10 different methods (or at least versions of methods).
 

Bobby_M

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Years ago I went from BIAB (stove top) to cooler mash tun, then to keggle mash tun and finally ended up with a Spike+ system (bought the MT first, then got the HTL and BK). I'm finding it's a LOT easier working with my current setup, including the Electric Brewing Supply 50amp control panel (PID not LCD). I already had the pumps, plate chiller and most of the other items. Including the brew stand that had two propane burners installed (were removed and sold once I switched to electric).

Mash tuns don't (typically) get a heating element installed in them. That's where either a HERMS coil or RIMS setup comes into play (I'm using HERMS).

I always had to struggle to either get the mash temp to be where I wanted it (for the entire mash time) when using a cooler or had a hard time getting to sparge temperatures. I no longer have any such issues.

IF you need to go for cheap, then a cooler is OK. Just be aware of the shortcomings inherit in that mode. The boards are filled with people having leaking cooler mash tuns (at the installed valve) for all kinds of reasons. Depending on your screening method/hardware, that can create additional issues. You could always try to use a nylon mesh bag in the cooler (depending on which one you use).

Personally, I'm a LOT happier with the three vessel, electric, system I currently have. With my last batch I hit the highest efficiency level ever in a batch (90%) and want to see what I get for different grist compositions next. I suspect I'll hit a higher level with the next brewing of my recipes (different levels expected between the pale ales versus stouts/porters) due to being able to perform a constant recirculation mash. All while maintaining the exact mash temperature I want for the recipe. With the HERMS (or even a RIMS) setup, elevating to sparge temp (without going over) is easy. I do NOT regret moving away from propane burners which was always more difficult to hit temps without going over. I also didn't direct fire my keggle MT due to problems that created.

As with most things home brewing. Ask 10 different people something, you'll get at least 10 different methods (or at least versions of methods).
I certainly don't intend to recreate any of the any BIAB vs 3vessel threads out there, which is why I specifically asked what "UPGRADE" the OP was expecting to achieve. For example, if the OP said "I want to shorten my brew day", I would say that is not going to happen as BIAB is demonstrably faster than 3 vessel brewing.

See, here's the bias that you have. You switched from a stovetop BIAB system with poor temp control to a cooler with even worse temp control, to finally an electric system with good temp control. I would argue that the biggest improvements you achieved is the electric heat and the solid temp control. That was achievable in a single vessel as well, but you bypassed that option. I'm not suggesting that YOU are oblivious to that solution, but beginners reading this may think you have to go to a 3 vessel system to get the same end.

You mentioned high efficiency but I do want to warn others that chasing high efficiency is often counter productive if you're not extremely careful with your pH during the sparge. You can get lucky and have water that doesn't creep the mid/latter sparge pH up over 6 but that would definitely be getting lucky especially on light color beers. You can acidify your sparge water to counter this, but without doing it you're at risk of some astringent beers. I am well in control of my pH on every batch and even then, the quality of my beer has never been better doing 70% (brewhouse) efficient full volume mashes. 20% additional efficiency is not worth the equipment and time investment required, nor the risk of oversparge pH conditions (in my opinion).

My system cost me about 1/3rd (almost 1/4) the cost of a Spike Trio system and I have perfect temp control and batch times well under 4 hours including cleaning. I can step mash faster than any external RIMS or HERMS also. The one price I pay is about 10-20% hit in extraction efficiency and I welcome that tradeoff.
 
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