To Circulate (your mash) Or Not! That is the Question

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Ron Reyes (Papa Piggy), Jan 23, 2019.

  1. Ron Reyes (Papa Piggy)

    Ron Reyes (Papa Piggy) Active Member

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    So Im upgrading from a 10 gallon cooler HLT and Mash Tun set up to 3 direct heated stainless pots. I dont like how the side walls in the coolers warp. I cant help but think infections are looming. And I brew in Canada out in the cold so I want to have better control with temps.

    I know many of us like to nerd out with gadgets etc. Its fun. Im the same way with my musical gear.
    I have pumps so I can do a circulation but other than a few efficiency points is it really worth it? Does a possibility of a clearer wort translate to a better beer?
     
  2. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    As my wife annoyingly keeps asking lately, does it spark joy?

    Sounds like it will and you'll get a bonus kick to your efficiency.
     
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  3. HighVoltageMan!

    HighVoltageMan! Well-Known Member

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    In a nutshell, it's worth it. I have a RIMS system and I wouldn't mash any other way. The benefits are:
    • Consistent temperature throughout the grain bed, varying less than 1/2 degree F.
    • Consistent pH throughout the bed
    • When you add salts or acids they are mixed into the bed evenly
    • When properly designed, very tight temperature control
    • Higher efficiency
    • Clearer wort
    • More consistent batch to batch results, more reproducible results
    There may be more, but this is what I can think of on the top of my head. I brew in Minnesota out in my unheated garage. This Friday I plan to brew, expected high 2F. By the time I mash it will be below 0F. I insulated the mash tun and at that those low temperatures, it works beautifully.
     
  4. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    ^^^All that! :)
    Pumping won't do you any good without some sort of set up to control temp - ideally HERMS or RIMS. I actually did it on a 5-gallon-batch scale with an Inkbird-controlled hot plate under my mash tun. Since the footprint of the hot plate sat under the false bottom and the wort was always moving, I never had anything burn or stick. I was able to hold temp very throughout the mash. Raising temp with heat alone was too slow, so I used boiling water infusions to raise temps for step mashes.
    Now I have a PID-controlled HLT with a HERMS tube where the mash runs. Very nice way to brew.
    Another thing you have to get figured out is a decent sparge arm. You need to be able to distribute the returning wort evenly across the grain bed so the grain bed says intact. Early on in the mash it's less important, but as you get to mash out, lauter and sparge, it matters more.
     
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  5. Ron Reyes (Papa Piggy)

    Ron Reyes (Papa Piggy) Active Member

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  6. Ron Reyes (Papa Piggy)

    Ron Reyes (Papa Piggy) Active Member

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    Oh boy this is what im afraid of. Honestly i dont see that level of sophisticated equipment in my set up any time soon. I was hoping to aim for something like whats explained in this video starting at around the 12 minute mark.
     
  7. HighVoltageMan!

    HighVoltageMan! Well-Known Member

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    I don't know why you would need to start out with a full blown RIMS/HERMS with a PID controller. You could start in a "manual mode" and adjust the flame on either the HLT or mash tun. The downside is a lot of baby sitting.

    JA mention returning through a sparge arm and these guys do that too, but I use a 1/2" return line that's long enough to wrap about 3/4 the way around the outside of the mash tun to create a whirlpool action in the mash. I always meant to add a sparge arm, but I never got around to it. I use sort of a batch sparging method and sparge arm was always a nice idea, but i worked around it. One of the advantages of returning with a whirlpool hose is that the wort isn't aerated in the mash and there is minimal splashing.
     
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  8. Mark Farrall

    Mark Farrall Well-Known Member

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    Hmm, that's giving me ideas. I'm starting out with electric by buying a simple element and one of those light dimmer type things - https://www.banggood.com/4000W-AC-2...Speed-Motor-Temperature-Dimmer-p-1131863.html. That should give me simple manual temperature control for mash and boil. I like the idea of manual at the moment as it'll make it easier for me to stir the mash more often as I'll already be there.

    I was then thinking the next step was going to be more complex than I really wanted to get into, but that example shows that it may not be that hard to get a basic system without complex controllers and probes.
     
  9. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    My first recirc system was hillbilly as hell and it worked great. I ran out of the mash tun pot (with a false bottom and using BIAB bag as a liner) and back through a fitting that I installed in the lid of the pot and into a properly sized colander hanging from the rim of the pot. And, as mentioned, had a hot plate under the mash tun that I could control with an Inkbird. For sparging, I'd switch the pump intake to another pot that held the proper amount of 170 degree sparge water and put a saucer into the colander to further break up the water flow and drip it slow while I drained out into my boil kettle sitting on the propane burner.
    All that's really required besides your boil kettle is at least one pot with a false bottom and a ball valve that's big enough to hold your biggest grain bill and around 2 qts per lb (assuming that you do a mash-out). My 32 quart stainless turkey fryer from Academy worked great for that. For a sparge vessel, I used a 3.5 gallon stainless pot that I got in a cheap set from Harbor Freight and started a siphon to run into the pump. You could river the sparge into the mash tun from a simple igloo cooler if you wanted.
    With a little ingenuity and resourcefulness, you can set up a very effective system without breaking the bank. ;)
     

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