Temperature Control / Mash

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Temperature Control / Mash

Postby billd220 » Fri Apr 11, 2008 7:13 pm

How can you control the temperature of the mash with a cooler? If I notice the temp dropping there isn't much that can be done with a plastic cooler. If I mash in a pot or on the stove then I can add heat if the temp starts to drop. I'd like to start using my cooler for this step but I worry that I wont be able to control it.

How do you guys do it?
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Postby Legman » Fri Apr 11, 2008 7:33 pm

I've been doing partial mashes in my brew pot on the stove. I just watch the temp and adjust as necessary. My mashes usually consist of about 4 pounds of grain and so far its been working pretty good.
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heat

Postby slothrob » Sat Apr 12, 2008 5:46 am

In a cooler, if the heat capacity is taken into consideration it's at room temperature, then there shouldn't be much of a temperature drop. I've been caught a couple times by using a cold cooler that was stored on my cellar. That problem can be prevented if you put some hot water in the tun to warm it up first.

If the temp does drop too low, you can try a hot water infusion to bring it up. That's all I had to do the few times I was caught.

My brew buddy uses a heat stick to raise the temp. His is a home-made job built from a water heating element, but you could try a bucket heater if you're not as handy as he is..
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Temp will drop a little bit ... but that's okay

Postby billvelek » Sun Apr 13, 2008 2:45 am

First, in order to minimize the immediate impact of the cooler upon temperature, you can either fill it with hot water first at the target temp and then dump the water out after the cooler has warmed up, and replace it with your mash, or else you can use brewing software like BeerToolsPro which takes into consideration the thermal mass of the ice chest when calculating how hot to make the strike water.

Second, without recirculating the wort -- as in a RIMS or HERMS -- and without either infusions of additional hot water or decoctions (removing part of the mash, heating it on the stove, and returning it to the mash tun), it is pretty much impossible to maintain a constant temperature in an ice chest. Some ice chests are probably better than others, and you can wrap additional insulation around them like a sleeping bag, but my Coleman ice chest drops only about 4 degree F over the course of a 45 minute mash, which is satisfactory to me. If my intended mash temp is actually 152F, I can set an initial target of 154F and by the end of the mash it will have dropped to 150F -- which is an average of 152F and close enough for me.

Third, when you move to all grains rather than partial mashes, and especially if you do big beers, 10 gallon batches, or partigyles, you really don't have much choice but to move onto an ice chest. I use a 48 quart ice chest that I come very close to filling sometimes -- like with 26 pounds of grain or a bit more. Unless you want to use multiple pots, or a converted keg, or a very expensive 12 gallon pot or larger, the best method is an ice chest. On top of that, my ice chest mass tun has a drain on the bottom for lautering; you probably pour your grains into a bag or into a filter of some type to separate the wort from the grains, but that isn't so easy with a pot containing 26 pounds of grains plus water.

Hope that helps.

Cheers.

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Re: Temperature Control / Mash

Postby Bob57702 » Mon Apr 14, 2008 1:55 pm

The one thng not mentined is a heatstick. A homemade device consisting of a 120VAC hot water heater element on the end of a sink drain pipe wired into an exstention cord. There's a bit more to it than that so do a Web search for one if you're interested. Personally I stopped using one and just do decoctions to step my mash. A lot safer and less burning of the mash.

Something else I did that helped a lot was a little more insulation. I have a 48qt Igloo Ice Cube standard cooler. These coolers, like most standard coolers, have no insulation in the lids. So I drilled a 1/4" hole into each corner and got some small bolts that fit snug in them. I then filled the lid with spray foam insulation and used the bolts to plug the holes for a couple days. My MLT now only drops 1F to 2F in an hour if preheated.
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Re: Temperature Control / Mash

Postby billvelek » Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:40 pm

Bob57702 wrote:The one thng not mentined is a heatstick.
The reason I didn't mention it is because I'm not sure how safe it is to put a heating element into a plastic ice chest, plus I'm not sure how well the heat would spread through a thick mash, as opposed to a liquid. I've never used one, but the times I've heard them mentioned was only with respect to heating water or boiling wort. I suppose you could use the heat stick to 'stir' the mash and thereby avoid melting plastic or scorching the grain, but who want to stir their mash for 5 minutes straight. Besides that, you need to keep your lid off of your tun to stir, so you would be fighting against yourself. I'd much rather scoop some out into a pot and set it on the stove.

At any rate, yes, a heat stick could be used, too.

Cheers.

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Re: Temperature Control / Mash

Postby Bob57702 » Mon Apr 14, 2008 4:17 pm

billvelek wrote:The reason I didn't mention it is because I'm not sure how safe it is


I agree thus a part of why I quit. That and the fact the element burned out. Besides I prefer to do decoction and using Beertools Pro I can usually hit my target temp dead on.
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Decoction calculations by BTP?

Postby billvelek » Mon Apr 14, 2008 4:42 pm

As a rule, I don't do decoctions because they are a bit of a mess; I've done a few of them, but seldom do stepped-mashes and when I do I usually just infuse hot water. I seem to recall that someone else indicated that they use BTP for decoctions, but since I can't start my program anymore (haven't taken the time to try to load it on my wife's laptop yet) ... I can't check to see how that is done. Is it an easy and direct process, or do you need to 'trick' BTP into it in a roundabout way? Just curious.

Cheers.

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Re: Temperature Control / Mash

Postby Bob57702 » Mon Apr 14, 2008 5:21 pm

It can't be easier. You add the step to the schedule, enter your target temp, and it tells you how much to boil.
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heat stick

Postby slothrob » Mon Apr 14, 2008 11:04 pm

A heat stick works fine to raise the temperature of the mash in a cooler, which is why I mentioned it above. :wink:
My Brewbuddy uses one all the time without any damage to the cooler or any sign of scorched wort that I can notice. You can't take it out of the liquid while it's plugged in, though, or it'll burn out.
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Re: heat stick

Postby billvelek » Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:49 pm

slothrob wrote:A heat stick works fine to raise the temperature of the mash in a cooler, which is why I mentioned it above. :wink:
My Brewbuddy uses one all the time without any damage to the cooler or any sign of scorched wort that I can notice. You can't take it out of the liquid while it's plugged in, though, or it'll burn out.
Yeah, I forgot about reading your post by the time I made my comment, so I wasn't trying to argue with you. Since I've never used one, it just intuitively seems like a bad idea it if is going to touch plastic. So, is the answer one of the following:

1. He positions it somehow so that the heating element doesn't touch plastic, or

2. As long as there is liquid to boil, that process will dissipate heat quickly enough from the heating element that it can't melt the plastic?

As an aside, I would imagine that heat density of a heating element isn't that important for the short length of time it would be used to step up a mash temp, as compared to actually boiling with one for 90 minutes or more. With long exposure, too high a heat density is bound to cause some carmelization.

Cheers.

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heat stick

Postby slothrob » Thu Apr 17, 2008 8:38 am

My friend just stirs the mash with the heat stick to raise the temperature. I believe it's a low density element. It touches the plastic, but doesn't rest in one spot. It doesn't seem to leave any marks on the plastic. I would say there are no obvious signs of caramelization, but he's never done a split batch to test that. We just made a pale Belgian with just Pilsner Malt, and it came out a beautiful golden color.

I never use a heat stick myself. I rely on infusions and decoctions. But I'd say that my friend makes better beer than I do.
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Re: heat stick

Postby billvelek » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:51 am

slothrob wrote:My friend just stirs the mash with the heat stick to raise the temperature. I believe it's a low density element. It touches the plastic, but doesn't rest in one spot. It doesn't seem to leave any marks on the plastic. I would say there are no obvious signs of caramelization ... snip
Stirring with it will definitely avoid the potential problems of damage to plastic, carmelization, or uneven heat distribution, but it sounds very tedious to me. I have considered playing around with steam injection, using steam from my pressure cooker/canner, but have just never found the time to rig up any sort of rudimentary calandria, and don't find it very compelling given that I rarely do any stepped mashes and rarely mashout, either.

Cheers.

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heat stick

Postby slothrob » Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:28 am

It's not too tedious for say a 5°F temperature adjustment on a 12# grain bill. Only takes a few minutes. It certainly could get pretty tedious if you were trying to use it to step from a protein rest to a sac. rest. I suppose you could leave the heat stick in place and recirculate the wort with a pump to get a similar effect. He really just uses the stick to make mash temperature adjustments if he falls a little low of his target.

I'm pretty content with simple infusions and an occasional decoction, though. An elaborate or automated system would be a nice toy, but I kind of like my simple and cheap system. Nothing to really break down, explode or electrocute me.
Last edited by slothrob on Mon May 12, 2008 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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try this

Postby johnnynothumb » Mon May 12, 2008 5:31 pm

A Friend suggested to me that I run a continuous recirculation
I did a American wheat beer Sat and was able to maintain 120*(10min),144*(30min),155*(30min),170*(15min) Using a march pump to circulate wort in the cooler to the hot liquor and back again
using short bursts of heat when in rest the grain easily maintained an even range of temperature
with this process And no sparge my efficiency is calculated by beer tools @70.1%
I started @10:30 was pitched and was cleaned up at 2:15
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