5 or 10 gallon cooler?

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5 or 10 gallon cooler?

Postby cyto » Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:15 pm

After 10 years of extract brewing I have decided to try all grain. I am going to make my own mash tun from a beverage cooler. I wanted to get a ten gallon but no one seems to carry those locally.

Will a 5 gallon cooler do the job for 5 gallon batches of finished beer, mostly stouts?

Any additional advice would also be appreciated.

Thanks

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RE: 5 or 10 gallon cooler?

Postby wottaguy » Sat Mar 15, 2008 9:22 am

Hi cyto,

If you are talking about the round rubbermaid type coolers, I would go with a 10 gallon one. This would allow you to do bigger batches or even to do split batches, and getting 2 different beers in one session is always fun to do and getting 2 brews from 1 session is always a good thing!

Try going to Home Depot...they had them on sale there (last week and around here), for 39.99. I was tempted to get one for myself, but the wifey was giving me that "don't you dare as*&^le" look. That changed my mind fast...LOL!!

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Postby slothrob » Sat Mar 15, 2008 1:37 pm

A 5 gallon is what I use. It will hold about 12.5# of grain, which is sufficient for up to 5 gallons of a 1.065 beer at around 75% efficiency. If you Batch Sparge, as I do, you will need to use 2 sparges above 1.050 (or so) to hit your preboil volume.

I make mostly 1.035-1.050 beers, so it's a good size for me.
When I make BIG beers, I make smaller batches which still allows me to use the same cooler.

A nice alternative to the 10 gallon round cooler is the 48 qt Igloo Ice Cube cooler. It goes for about $15-30 at places like Target and WalMart, depending on if you catch it on sale. The people that use them really like them and they can be used for batch of fly sparging.
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Think I'll build a 5 gallon Mash Tun

Postby Bryon » Sat Mar 22, 2008 4:16 pm

I just picked up a used 5 gallon Gatorade cooler for $3 on Craig's list. My plan is to do a conversion and use it for batch sparging. I've never made an all grain beer, just intermediate recipe kits wuth extract and some grains to steep in a cheese cloth. I'm thinking a 5 gallon will do for my first try at this...

Do you recommend a false bottom or should I go the mesh hose method?
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Think I'll build a 5 gallon Mash Tun

Postby bfabre » Sat Mar 22, 2008 7:05 pm

Do you recommend a false bottom or should I go the mesh hose method?

False bottom
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RE: Think I'll build a 5 gallon Mash Tun...

Postby wottaguy » Sat Mar 22, 2008 10:14 pm

Hi bryon...

<snip Do you recommend a false bottom or should I go the mesh hose method?>

I have used the 5 gallon round cooler with both a fales bottom and a SS braid hose and I do prefer the braided hose over the false bottom as it is less expensive and available to be purchased either at Lowes or Home Depot.
If you go this route, I would recommend a 3 to 5 foot piece crimped on one end and coiled on the bottom of the cooler. My friend still uses this set up and always gets 82% efficency from it. It also allows for easy cleanup and allows him to perform a fly sparge OR a batch sparge. The efficencies come in close either way but mostly he fly-sparges with it.

You decide what's best for you....maybe try both methods out...then make up your mind.

Hope this helps!

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Beverage Coolers are only necessary for fly sparging

Postby billvelek » Sat Mar 22, 2008 10:22 pm

In my opinion, circular beverage coolers are only preferrable for fly-sparging systems because while they accommodate a rotating sparge arm better than a rectangular cooler, they are typically smaller and seem to be relatively more expensive than regular ice chests. Of course, it is still possible to use the latter for fly-sparging, too, such as rigging up something like a rectangular baking pan or tray that sits on top and has hundreds of tiny holes punched in it, or just sprinkling on top of the grain bed.

If anyone decides to batch sparge, I think you will like a rectangular ice chest better. Most of them can easily be found in 48 quarts or larger (12+ gallons), which is very handy if you decide that you want to try partigyles. I have a 48 quart size, and I have mashed 26 pounds of grist at one time.

Cheers.

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Think I'll build a 5 gallon Mash Tun

Postby bfabre » Sat Mar 22, 2008 11:27 pm

I spoke too soon. Bill and wottaguy are correct, Do what works best for you.
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Postby Bryon » Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:28 pm

Well I appreciate the advice... I think, once I get some free time, I'll try the SS braid. At the very least it feels more in line with the DIY spirit of the project. If I find it to be a pain in the neck, I could always pickup a false bottom and retool... I'll try to post an update here when I move forward, or you could always check my blog periodically if you're curious or have additional points of advice! Thanks!!!
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false bottom is probably best for circular beverage cooler

Postby billvelek » Mon Mar 24, 2008 2:35 am

Although I have never used one, I would imagine that a false bottom would be best for a circular beverage cooler, especially for fly sparging, although I don't necessary have any strong disagreement with wottaguy; I think he is probably correct that a hose coiled on the bottom will probably be sufficient _enough_, but let me explain my reasoning.

If you fly sparge, it is important that sparge water filter through your grain bed about as evenly as is possible; if you do not drain as equally as possible across the entire bottom of your tun, you will probably experience a degree of channeling, which is where there is more sparge water flowing through a particular section of grains than through others, and the result is that sugars are washed unevenly and some are left behind, thereby lowering efficiency. Because of the risk of channeling, brewers who use manifolds (networks of tubing) should pay special attention to their design to try to drain evenly across the bottom, and I think that this also applies when you use braided hose; it if is not correctly positioned and long enough to coil around enough to spread out evenly enough over the entire bottom of your tun, you are still going to experience channeling. Now, comparing that to a false bottom, when you use a PROPER false bottom -- meaning that the volume beneath it can drain fast enough that the bed can essentially "drip" through the bottom, ideally -- then it should cause drainage from the grain bed to be evenly distributed across the entire bottom of the tun so that if you have an even distribution of sparge water by using a rotating sparge arm, then you shouldn't have any channeling or efficiency problems.

With batch sparging, it doesn't matter what you use on the bottom or how it is positioned, except for the speed with which it will permit drainage and possibly avoid stuck sparges. I think you can _perhaps_ compare the surface area of a braided hose with the surface area of a false bottom to get some rough idea, although I think you need to also consider the degree of permeability of each material. Although I have no idea of how permeable my braid is, it is 1/2" diameter x 10' long which gives it a surface area of 188.5 square inches, which is equal to a simple flat false bottom of equal permeability of 60" in diameter, or ... if the false bottom has a diameter of 12", it would need to be 5 times a permeable.

If you purchase braid reinforced water hose, this is how I removed mine: use a hack saw to cut off both ends. Peel back one end until you have about a half-inch of rubber hose exposed; clamp it to something with a vise-grip or clamp (I used a bench vise). Then, starting at the end closest to the vise, stroke the braid toward the free end. You are trying to create loseness in the braid by pressing on it to expand it's diameter and then spread that expansion along the hose. If you just grab the other end and pull on it, you will NEVER get it off because pulling on it tightens it around the hose. At the very beginning of EACH stroke, tighten your grip to cause compression, but then relax your grip and smoothly stroke the entire length of the hose. I didn't seem to be making a lot of progress at first, but all of a sudden it all loosened up pretty well and came right off. Then I just plugged one end with a piece of wooden dowel.

Cheers.

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RE: Think I'll build a 5 gallon Mash Tun...

Postby wottaguy » Mon Mar 24, 2008 7:46 am

Hi all...

I can only speak of my direct experiences with both setups, and personally, I would go with the SS braided coil. This will allow you the flexibility to perform fly or batch sparges without eating up your hard earned cash. It is only through mine and my circle of local brewers experience with both setups that I pass on our observations. The reader will have to decide for themsleves. The only constant that I have come to know of in the homebrewing world, is that there are many avenues that one can take to obtain a goal, and what ever works for you and makes you happy, must be the correct way. We all have our different styles of brewing, and that is what makes this such a great hobby!

Now...onward to another batch...!! :)

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Postby miles » Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:33 pm

I personally have had very good luck using the stainless braid for the filter media in my mash tun. Regarding the size of cooler to use, 10 gallon water coolers, or 48 qt or larger cube coolers allow room for high gravity 5 gallon brews but have room for more. In addition, since they are more vertical in nature than the rectangle coolers, they help to keep your grain bed deeper which is recommended for efficient mashes.

I personally use an Igloo Cooler for my mash tun. If interested you can see details of what I built here: [url]http://brewtech.blogspot.com/2007/01/igloo-cube-cooler-mash-tun.html[/url]
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Re: RE: Think I'll build a 5 gallon Mash Tun...

Postby billvelek » Fri Jul 18, 2008 12:40 pm

wottaguy wrote:I can only speak of my direct experiences with both setups, and personally, I would go with the SS braided coil. This will allow you the flexibility to perform fly or batch sparges without eating up your hard earned cash. ... snip
Although I have never fly sparged, it is my understanding from a number of reliable sources, including John Palmer's "How to Brew" IIRC, that without the use of a false bottom or a properly designed manifold (tubing matrix), channeling will occur; this means that more of the sparge water flows more quickly through certain portions of the grain bed than others, i.e., the filtering of sparge water through the grain is not uniform. This hurts efficiency. Unless SS braid is somehow anchored or fastened to something in a proper configuration, channelling is almost certain to occur; therefore, it is my opinion that SS braid is ideal for batch sparging but is not a good choice for fly sparging unless it is somehow stabilized. I have considered doing that (wiring it to a sheet of copper or aluminum) for the purpose of trying fly sparging, but it seems like that would be a lot of work and I'm already very satisfied with batch sparging. Of course, that is not to say that you can't use braid for fly-sparging, and it would be a good way to try to find out if you want to bother with that method before going to the trouble of building a manifold. I'd try both methods with the braid, and then if I decided to stick with fly-sparging, I'd replace the braid with a proper false bottom or manifold and save the braid for some other use. Just my two cents.

miles wrote:snip ... Regarding the size of cooler to use, 10 gallon water coolers, or 48 qt or larger cube coolers allow room for high gravity 5 gallon brews but have room for more. In addition, since they are more vertical in nature than the rectangle coolers, they help to keep your grain bed deeper which is recommended for efficient mashes.
Depth of the grain bed is, in my opinion, important only if you are fly sparging, and has nothing at all to do with batch sparging. Other then that, I have both ice chests and can easily use one or the other since my SS braid will just as easily coil in either one, and my drain hose slips in the same way and is then sealed with a couple of turns of teflon tape (pipe thread tape). I prefer to use the rectangular one because it gives me a little bit more room for stirring at dough-in as well as for each batch sparge (stirring is crucial to batch sparging efficiency). I have mashed 26 pounds of grain at one time in my 48 quart rectangular cooler, with enough room to spare for stirring, and that is enough grain for a batch of the heaviest barleywine you'd ever want or even a three batch partigyle, of which I have done a number. But typically, I will do double-batch partigyles, and as a matter of fact I'm planning to start one in a few minutes.

Cheers.

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