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Building a Mash Lauter Tun Copper Manifold

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

There are three main categories for mash tun manifolds: Wire mesh tubing, Copper or CPVC manifold, and a false bottom. This article will explain how to build a copper manifold and hopefully save you a few trips to the hardware store.

A copper manifold installed in the bottom of the cooler will allow wort to drain evenly without clogging or picking up the husks from the grain. First buy your cooler and install the bulkhead valve. Then you can start thinking about the design of your manifold and how many elbows, T’s, and other parts you will need. For this one, it was about seven feet of 1/2″ copper tubing, 5 elbows and 7 T’s. Do not solder the joints, you will want to be able to disassemble and clean it out. One thing I found out about the copper parts is, some are setup to slide over the 1/2″ pipe, and others are exactly the same diameter as the 1/2″ pipe. Make sure to note this when picking up the materials (get the ones that slide over, these are the larger kind). On my first manifold, after I got home I had accidental wound up with a few elbows that wouldn’t side over the pipe.

The finished copper manifold:
mash tun copper manifold

To cut the pipe to length I used a hack saw. I removed the burrs with a file and washed all the parts with a scouring pad and warm water. When everything fit together I then made the slits in the bottom.

Slit Detail:
mash tun copper manifold slits

For cutting the slits, my band saw came in handy. The slits are about ½ inch apart and go half way through the pipe. Be careful using power tools for this and make sure you have not been drinking alcohol before hand! I spent some time deburring the inside of the pipes to get off all the residual copper bits. Banging it on the garage floor a few times removed the last hanging pieces.

Completed Underside:
empty mash tun

Each cooler is going to be a little different and there is no perfect design. The main thing is to shoot for even drainage. Secondly, try to minimize the amount of wort left behind inside the cooler after it drains. This is called dead space. There is always loss of sugars due to dead space. The kettle has the same issue. All home brewers have some dead space and it is not a big deal. Recipe software will compensate for you.

CPVC is another option for this style of manifold.  Lots of people use CPVC as you can find by googling CPVC mash tun. Do not weld the CPVC either since it also needs to be disassembled for cleaning.

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  1. 18 Responses to “Building a Mash Lauter Tun Copper Manifold”

  2. Howdy,
    How do you connect the manifold to the valve outlet?
    Most excellent job on the website – and I mean it! Lots of good info and well written!
    Cheers!

    By Octavius on Aug 16, 2009

  3. The copper pipping leading out of the manifold slides inside the collar – as if you were going to weld it together. Do not weld anything so you can take it apart for cleaning. One time when I was stirring I bumped it and almost had a stuck sparge, so be careful about that.

    By Larry on Aug 17, 2009

  4. Larry,
    Thanks for the info.
    I was thinking of setting it up and then drilling a hole through the collar/pipe for a small SS self-tapping screw – as insurance against it coming apart. Then again, it needs to be air-tight otherwise the syphoning action will be broken. Hmm.
    Cheers!

    By Octavius on Aug 18, 2009

  5. I think you are good because it uses gravity to drain, not a syphon. The wort seeks the lowest point naturally. Good luck with it!

    By Larry on Aug 18, 2009

  6. What size cooler did you use. What size batches do you do and do you have a 4 inch grain bed. what efficiency do you usually get.

    By Shanell on Aug 26, 2009

  7. It is a 48 quart cooler. It works for 5 gallon batches. I get a 3-4″ grain bed for 9lb of grain.

    In terms of efficiency, at first I got 60% but now I’m getting ~70% which is low but it doesn’t bother me. Adjusting the grind, getting a good digital thermometer, and tailoring the water chemistry with brewing salts have helped. One thing that is not great about this design is the amount of dead space – that plays into efficiency because of the loss of sugars.

    Check out the BIAB article on this site for another approach: http://www.brewersfriend.com/2009/06/20/brew-in-a-bag-biab-all-grain-brewing-method/

    By admin on Aug 27, 2009

  8. What did you use to connect the manifold to the outlet/ball valve?

    By Shanell on Sep 1, 2009

  9. There is a pipe nipple through the wall of the cooler. Check out our article on the bulkhead valve: http://www.brewersfriend.com/2009/01/12/bulkhead-for-cooler-style-mash-lauter-tun/

    By Larry on Sep 1, 2009

  10. I am sorry what connects the nipple to the manifold. Is it a tee or an elbow?

    By Shanell on Sep 2, 2009

  11. A part I don’t know the name of, would describe as “copper thread to 1/2″ converter” is screwed into the pipe nipple on the inside, leaving a 1/2″ stub on the inside. There is a little elbow on the manifold that slides inside that, thus making the connection. Nothing is welded together so it can be taken apart for cleaning, but be careful not to bump it when stirring.

    By Larry on Sep 5, 2009

  12. I was thinking about doing exactly this – except I thought about the manifold slipping off causing a stuck sparge. I was planning on connecting the manifold to the pipe nipple with a short length of flexible hose. Any reason that this wouldn’t work? Could the hose have problems sitting in 150 degree water? I thought I could use two hose clamps – one on the manifold and one on the pipe nipple – then no worries.

    By David on Jan 27, 2012

  13. Since we’re on the subject of breaking it down and cleaning it… Is there a best way to clean copper pipe? I don’t want any nasty products of oxidation or aging copper in my beer

    By David on Jan 27, 2012

  14. As long as you don’t push the manifold off while stirring you won’t have a problem. Once I bumped it off but I was able to reach in a reset the pipe. 150F is pretty warm though for bare skin.

    Hoses are generally NOT food safe. Think of what water tastes like coming out of a garden hose that has been sitting in the sun. Rubber comes to mind. You could probably get away with a stainless steel set screw if you are really worried about it.

    As for cleaning copper, detergent is what I use (PBW or just soap and water). Stay away from bleach solutions.
    For complete details, see what Mr. Palmer has to say:
    http://www.howtobrew.com/section1/chapter2-2-2.html

    By Larry on Jan 28, 2012

  15. Hi,

    I have built a round copper manifold and I am now wondering how to remove the burrs inside the curved pipe.

    What did you do to get the burrs out (other than banging it on the garage floor :-) )

    Thanks,
    Bob

    By Bob Evans on Jan 30, 2012

  16. Banged it on the garage step ;)

    I have a stiff brush that fit down there and got most of it out. A long file would work, maybe even a dowel with sand paper on it.

    By Larry on Jan 30, 2012

  17. Hi,
    “Street Tee” copper fittings http://img1.fastenal.com/productimages/0450396_hr4c.jpg

    will allow the tubes to be placed closer together allowing room for more tubes.
    Will adding more tubes improve efficiency?

    By Ted on Jul 8, 2012

  18. It might help with avoiding a stuck sparge, but I doubt it would impact efficiency.

    By Larry on Jul 9, 2012

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