Combination bazooka / manifold for a mashtun

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Combination bazooka / manifold for a mashtun

Postby billvelek » Wed Feb 14, 2007 2:57 pm

I'm moving my post over here from BeerToolsPro because it was off topic over there. My first attempt here didn't post for some reason, but I thought it did and then I exited the forum, so here goes again. :(

I'm using a 10' length of stainless steel mesh tubing, coiled in the bottom of my tun, to filter extract from my grain. My ice chest is rectangular and the SS tube is simply plugged on one end and the other end is connected onto a plastic tube which runs through the ice chest drain, easily sealed on the outside before each use with a short piece of teflon pipe-thread tape and a short narrow strip of duct tape on top of the teflon; it NEVER leaks, knock on wood. Since I batch sparge, how the tube is coiled in unimportant. I don't use any valves; the outside plastic tube is raised up and clamped by the ice chest handle until it needs to be lowered to drain the tun.

The reason I have such a long bazooka (which only cost $12.00) is that I had initially intended to build sort of a combination bazooka and manifold, but before I got around to it, I was so pleased with the results of my batch sparging that I never bothered. Still, I might decide to follow through with it if I ever find the spare time. This is what I had planned.

I have a thin panel of sturdy aluminum from the bottom of an old storm door; I planned to use either that or to purchase some copper flashing at the hardware store. Whichever I'd use, that would form a plate that would sit flush against the bottom of my ice chest. On top of that plate I planned to fasten my SS tubing, using copper wire that I would run through the plate. The SS tubing would be connected on both ends to a 'T' fitting that would lead through the drain of the ice chest. The purpose for fastening the SS tubing to the plate would be to keep it in a fixed configuration, snaking back and forth at a set spacing -- much like a 'manifold' -- for the purpose of fly sparging. Fastening it would also prevent it from being disturbed by any stirring.

I did have two concerns. First, whether there would be any problem, during the relatively short mash periods (I seldom go more than an hour), with galvanic (spelling?) corrosion due to dissimilar metals in a slightly acidic liquid; would the stainless mesh be ruined, and would it impart any metallic tastes to my beer? Second, cleaning could be more difficult, but I figured I could just squirt it off and dry it all in the oven and not worry if there is any residue remaining inside.

Now, I have pretty much concluded that my batch sparging is good enough because I can drain and sparge for a 5 gallon batch, including my vorlauf before each running, in a half hour or less -- easily -- and I get very clear runnings with close to 80% efficiency and I'm not really worrying about getting a few percentage points more. The extract usually runs out of my tun almost like I were just draining water from it, and even when slowed done by my wheat beer which used 25% baking flour, it never actually stuck completely, and I didn't use any rice hulls, either. Never a stuck sparge -- knock on wood again.

Anyway, would there be any foreseeable advantage to my building it so that I can fly sparge? Of course, I'd still be able to batch sparge with it. Any problems that anyone can think of with this design?

Cheers.

Bill Velek
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RE: Combination bazooka / manifold for a mashtun

Postby wottaguy » Thu Feb 22, 2007 8:23 am

Hi Bill,

Your design idea sounds interesting, but like you already said, you'll have to be careful about what kind of material you make the plate out of. Also, I would be concerned with the possibilty of some grains becoming trapped under the plate as well. It sounds like your SS "bazooka" is working really good for you and I am wondering why you would need a base plate at all just to perform a fly-sparge. It should work very well as it is. It sounds a lot of extra work to me and if you adhere to the addage, "if it aient broke, don't fix it", then I think I would rather spend my time honing my recipies and tweaking the system in different ways. I'd rather be brewing beer than fiddling around with hardware and such.

I'd like to thank you for your kind comments from another post about my blog and system. The system still needs some work, mainly I need to reconfigure the plumbing situation, and am thinking of adding a manifold with ball valves to direct the flow of liquids where it needs to be during the process.

Well, thats just my 2 cents worth..
Hope this helps!

Ron S
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Postby billvelek » Thu Feb 22, 2007 1:45 pm

Thanks for the reply, wottaguy. To respond to your questions and comments:

1. IF I ever do this, I've decided that I'd get a thin sheet of stainless steel to use as the base plate, and wire the mesh hose on with SS wire, too; that eliminates any concerns about galvanic corrosion.

2. The plate would be laid flush on the bottom of the tun with the hose on the upper side, and then the grain would be added. There should be no way for grain to get underneath the plate, and even if it did, the amount of deadspace it would create would be minimal.

3. The reasons I've considered attaching my hose to a base plate is that currently it just lays coiled loosely in the bottom; several times while stirring my mash, I've caught my paddle on it and pulled a loop to the surface, and then I just push it back down again. But I try to avoid that as much as possible, so I'm pretty sure that I am not stirring well near the bottom and am therefore probably not getting an even distribution of heat as quickly as I could, and am probably not mixing the sparge water as well to reach all of the sugars. I feel that if it were anchored on the bottom, it would be less worry and bother and I could probably mix things better. Secondly, I have never done a fly sparge ... ever ... and the loose configuration of my mesh hose does not matter for batch sparging. But you asked specifically about why I would need this for "fly" sparging, so I'll explain. Right now my wire mesh loops in an oval in the bottom of the tun and does not evenly distribute itself on the bottom because it just pretty much springs toward the outside when I try to do anything else with it. But during "fly" sparges, I have read from numerous reliable sources that a brewer should try to get some even covererage of the bottom of the tun for best efficiency. Mounting my wire mesh on a plate would do exactly that -- allow me to evenly space the loops and cover the middle and corners as much as the sides.

But more than likely, I think I'll probably just stick with my batch sparging and continue to be careful while stirring my mash unless I finally get around to building a RIMS or HERMS, in which case I would imagine that it might be important to drain runnings evenly ... but I don't know about that right now, either.

Cheers.

Bill Velek
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Another RE: Combination bazooka / manifold for a mashtun

Postby wottaguy » Thu Feb 22, 2007 8:27 pm

Bill,

You make a few valid points as far as the scientific side of lautering goes. I have probably read the same information that you have about the thermodynamics and liquid flows that should happen in order to maximize your runoffs and to attain the highest efficencies that can be obtained. This is a very interesting subject that is probably open for a lot of experimentation if one has the patience and time and know-how, and is probably more important to the very big batch brewers than the average homebrewer. But their are definatley lessons to be learned. I feel that it is probably more important for a home brewer to learn what his/her home brewery is capable of producing according to the individual brewer's equipment and processes and brewing style. All breweries are different and I applaud your efforts to continuously strive to make your brewing efforts and beer to the highest standards that you can get out of your equipment. I find myself on the same road, always trying to make the process more efficent and predictable and time saving. (am I ranting??? I just cracked a keg of an english bitter and had a few...ummmmmm!!!!}
The ways we as brewers go about doing certain things to arrive from point A to point B is an interesting one. But I have also learned that no amount of gadgetry or fancy apparatis will ever take the place of experience...and to get that level of experience, one must spend a lot of time brewing his craft.
I hope I made some sense cause this darn english summer ale is takin over....
Talk to ya later, and thanks for being such a good fellow brewer and friend.

Ron S
Visit my blog @ http://www.wottashomebrewblog.blogspot.com

On Tap:
HL Pale Ale
HL Lite Lager
Bottled:
HL Simcoe Pale Ale
HL Wizeguy Weizenbock
HL Reveur Saison
HL Dry Stout
HL Kentucky Common
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You made perfect sense

Postby billvelek » Fri Feb 23, 2007 11:49 am

I agree that there is no substitute for experience; a person could have all the fancy equipment in the world, but if it is used wrongly, or certain steps are skipped, etc., all due to lack of experience, then it does no good. On the other hand, while experience can't be substituted, neither can essential equipment; you need both, and the two go hand in hand. ('Essential' doesn't mean a RIMS, conical, flat-plate chiller, etc.) But sometimes fancy equipment can help to make brewing easier, and perhaps make a little bit better beer if it is used correctly. As I think I've said before, some folks are more 'gadget' freaks and tinkerers than others, but that doesn't have anything to do with whether they are good brewers or bad brewers, but I suspect if they are spending time making brewing equipement, they have most likely spent enough time brewing that they've gained a certain amount of experience, too.

Personally, I have quite a bit of experience in brewing ales, but have never lagered or kegged; they remain in the hopefully near future as we continue to empty the freezer I plan to convert. I also plan to do a keg conversion in the very near future, too, so that I can do 10 gallon batches when I want. I don't really consider any of that to be fancy equipment. But as far as my mashtun goes, I probably won't mess with it anytime soon since it's making great beer. The hose getting stirred up off the bottom by the paddle will be my biggest motivation.

As far as my other comment some posts ago about brewing to save money, there is nothing wrong with that but I just can't imagine that it is ever the primary motive for anyone. Surely they must primarily like brewing and the beer they can make, because if it becomes a labor that they do not enjoy, most could spend those six hours or so on a job to earn enough to pay for their beer. Actually, it doesn't matter what motivates people, and it's really no one else's business; personally, I brew because I like to and the savings are a fringe benefit but I'd still do this even if it cost more than good commercial beer.

Cheers.

Bill Velek
Visit www.tinyurl.com/bvelek - portal to my brewing sites: 3,100+ members on 'Grow-Hops', and 1,350+ brewers on my 'BrewingEquip' group.
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