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Hot Liquor Tank for All Grain Brewing

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Advanced all grain brewers use a Hot Liquor Tank to heat their strike and sparge water. The term Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) is a misnomer that comes from the commercial brewing world. The HLT never holds anything that has alcohol in it or sweet wort. A better name would be a hot water tank, or hot water pot. The HLT has a simple job. It is the container where the brewing water is heated to mash temperature. The HLT is also where brewing salts are added to the source water.

In a gravity fed system, the HLT is at the highest level, the mash tun is at mid level, and the boil kettle is at the lowest level. Each level has a ball valve to allow draining to the next level with ease. Advanced setups involving a pump, single tier, or HERMS will have a modified version of an HLT.

gravity brewing

1) Brewing water is heated in Hot Liquor Tank (HLT)
2) Mashing happens in Mash Lauter Tun (MLT)
3) Wort is drained into Boil Kettle (BK)

An HLT is a luxury for all grain brewers. Up until now, I was using a combination of a 20qt extract kettle and a 4 qt pot to heat my brewing water. This was based on a two-tier gravity system where the mash tun drained to my boil kettle. It works, but lifting 18qt of hot water is dicey. Now that I am going for a 3-tier gravity system in my brew shed I need the HLT.

Extract brewers do not have to worry about an HLT, since there is no mashing involved. Extract brewers should focus on building a mash tun first (bulkhead, mainfold ).

A complete HLT has the following:

  • Ball Valve: for easily draining the brewing water to the mash lauter tun.
  • Thermometer: used to tell how hot the water is that will be drained into the mash lauter tun. Get one that can be calibrated with a set screw.
  • Sight Gauge: tells how much water is in the HLT
  • Dip tube: allows you to drain to the bottom (see dip tube article).
  • Capacity: Anything bigger than your brew kettle is wasted. I went with the same size for looks. Depending on the strategy for mashing, going with a smaller HLT would be fine.

The HLT I selected is from MoreBeer
more beer logo

hot liquor tank brewing

hot liquor tank brewing

hot liquor tank brewing

hot liquor tank brewing

I wanted an all inclusive package that would be hassle free. I also wanted to match my existing brew kettle which is also from MoreBeer. I have been very happy with both! Morebeer custom welds the stainless steel ball valve, fits the sight gauge and thermometer before shipping. It took about 10 days for the HLT to arrive. I had to add my own dip tube, just like with my kettle. Manufacturers don’t seem to get the utility of a built in dip tube on such a heavy pot.

Other things to note:

  • When draining to your mash tun, make sure to use hosing rated for foods that can handle temperatures up to boiling.
  • Accurate water volume is critical for all grain brewing. Make sure to account for dead space in the HLT when marking off the water volume ticks. The sight gauge doesn’t come with marks on it. See this page for information about total water calculations.
  • The thermometer must be calibrated! Thankfully, MoreBeer HLT comes with a thermometer that can be adjusted. A poorly calibrated thermometer can lead to reduced brew house efficiency and differences in flavor and body if mash temperatures are wrong.

Morebeer.com gave BrewersFriend.com a $50 discount for writing this article.

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  1. 10 Responses to “Hot Liquor Tank for All Grain Brewing”

  2. Well, if you want to be really swanky, I’ve been extremely pleased with the tankless hot-water heater we use in our brewing set-up. It’s costly, no doubt about it, but the time savings is substantial. Commercial-grade heaters can provide water up to 180 degrees F, more than hot enough for an all-graim mash.

    To be fair, at the 5-gallon batch size, it’s a bit of a luxury, but if you want to scale to 10, 15, or 31 gallons, it’s much more of a necessity.

    By Chris Doggett on Feb 14, 2011

  3. Actually I believe that the tank-less is the best solution instead of the HLT. See link below. It is way more efficient than the propane burner, no screwing around with pots and the dangers there-in.

    http://www.eztankless.com/index.php/products/tankless-water-heaters/ez101-outdoor/

    By Carmon Madison on Feb 16, 2011

  4. For $145, seems like a great deal. I suppose 15 gallon kettles are dangerous if they fall. Mine will be chained to the wall for sure!

    The tankless water heater would require adding brewing salts to the mash tun, unless you had reservoir setup that would feed the tankless system. Working that out might take some doing but it could be a savings in terms of money and time. Accurately measuring water volumes would be an interesting challenge.

    By Larry on Feb 19, 2011

  5. So does this water heater get up to 180 as my understanding was that most residential tankless will not get hotter than 140 or so. If it gets up there I am definitely buying one

    By TrevorB on Feb 21, 2011

  6. I have an email into the sales department at eztankless but they have not yet responded. Stay tuned…

    By Larry on Feb 21, 2011

  7. Yes, they are capable of getting that hot. Put an inline filter before the tankless, mount it safely, set your temp before mashing by running water into a sink. Use a gallon measuring cup (or something similar) to put the right amount of hot water in the MLT. Viola!!! It also is good for preheating your MLT before mashing. Super solution!

    CAUTION: The EZ 101 is designed for outside use but sense most of us mash outside or away from the house, its a no brainer.

    By Carmon Madison on Feb 22, 2011

  8. The indoor units start at $475.

    By Larry on Feb 22, 2011

  9. I use a keggle for my HLT. While it does hold more water than I need for mash in or sparge, I like the extra capacity. I fill it and heat the water for cleaning. Nothing beats hot oxyclean water for easy clean up!

    By Cpt_Kirks on Mar 2, 2011

  10. Per EZTankless support “No, unfortunately there is no way to override the kill switch for 140F”. This response was for their EZ101 model, so unfortunately it doesn’t look like you can use that model in place of a traditional HLT.

    By BRO-CAL on Apr 3, 2012

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