Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com

AG Equipment strategy

I will be moving to all grain brewing relatively soon. I am fortunate that I can make my equipment choices based on long term strategy, rather than cost/budget. That said…

Once I start doing all grain, (starting with simpler processes, single infusions, etc), how long till I will be wanting the capability to do multi-rests and such? In other words, should I do a cooler mash tun or should I bite the bullet and get a kettle?

On the other hand, I am very comfortable with the idea of starting simple (cooler setup) and focusing on my brewing process and recipes. Then, in 12 months, making the investment into a kettle mash tun. But if I am going to want/desire/crave the enhanced options in less than 12 months, I might as well go with kettle now.

And, if you are wondering, I like to brew maltier beers. Ones that lend themselves to a multi-step mash…

So, what has your experience been? Did you start with one or the other? Are you still using it? Did you change equipment and how long after?

TL;DR - I need to get a mash tun. Will I regret going with a cooler based solution in the near future because of the lack of mashing flexibility?

Cheers,
glue

[quote=“glueslug”]I will be moving to all grain brewing relatively soon. I am fortunate that I can make my equipment choices based on long term strategy, rather than cost/budget. That said…

Once I start doing all grain, (starting with simpler processes, single infusions, etc), how long till I will be wanting the capability to do multi-rests and such? In other words, should I do a cooler mash tun or should I bite the bullet and get a kettle?

On the other hand, I am very comfortable with the idea of starting simple (cooler setup) and focusing on my brewing process and recipes. Then, in 12 months, making the investment into a kettle mash tun. But if I am going to want/desire/crave the enhanced options in less than 12 months, I might as well go with kettle now.

And, if you are wondering, I like to brew maltier beers. Ones that lend themselves to a multi-step mash…

So, what has your experience been? Did you start with one or the other? Are you still using it? Did you change equipment and how long after?

TL;DR - I need to get a mash tun. Will I regret going with a cooler based solution in the near future because of the lack of mashing flexibility?

Cheers,
glue[/quote]

I have used the Cheap’n’Easy cooler setup for 15 years and 446 batches (as of last Sunday!). I think you’re fooling yourself if you think a step mash will produce a maltier beer. I have done many step mashes and decoctions using the cooler, but I’ve pretty much stopped those since I didn’t find much, if any, value to the effort expended. IMO, you will not regret going with a cooler. I never have. In fact, I just built a new, larger one!

Excellent Denny, thank you!!! I always look forward to your responses!
Just FYI- for what its worth, my multi-rest comment comes from reading. John Palmer in particular makes a point of it in several of his writings.
“…a multi-rest mash will produce maltier tasting beers although they need a protein rest to fully realize their potential.”

Thanks again!
glue

[quote=“glueslug”]Excellent Denny, thank you!!! I always look forward to your responses!
Just FYI- for what its worth, my multi-rest comment comes from reading. John Palmer in particular makes a point of it in several of his writings.
“…a multi-rest mash will produce maltier tasting beers although they need a protein rest to fully realize their potential.”

Thanks again!
glue[/quote]

Excuse me…

[size=150]AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!
[/size]

OK, I feel better now. Maltier tasting? A protein rest??? Has John completely lost his mind?

[quote=“Denny”][quote=“glueslug”]Excellent Denny, thank you!!! I always look forward to your responses!
Just FYI- for what its worth, my multi-rest comment comes from reading. John Palmer in particular makes a point of it in several of his writings.
“…a multi-rest mash will produce maltier tasting beers although they need a protein rest to fully realize their potential.”

Thanks again!
glue[/quote]

Excuse me…

[size=150]AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!
[/size]

OK, I feel better now. Maltier tasting? A protein rest??? Has John completely lost his mind?[/quote]

To be fair it’s from the first edition online version so it’s possible he’s changed that in subsequent versions.

I did pull out my most recent print edition, and while it doesn’t have that exact phrase, it definitely hints at possibilities. For me, I had been reading both, and bouncing back between each simply reinforced the other… ack.

There can be differences in beer produced using multiple rests vs. single infusion, but I’m not sure how significant they really are when it comes to taste and you are using modern, fully converted malts. There is a very definite difference in conversion efficiency - for me I’ll go from a typical 80% to 85-90% by using a decoction instead of a single infusion, but other than knowing that so I can take it into account when planning my mash bill, I’m not sure it matters when it gets to the glass.

If you want to do multi-step mashes, I would still recommend a cooler. Decoctions aren’t so difficult to do once you get the hang of it. Controlling the temperature and making sure it is uniform within a kettle however is difficult to do, unless you plan to build a recirculating mash system with a pump and external controller…

Thank you, RC. Another vote for a cooler mash tun. Much appreciated!

About the only time I use a step mash is for Bavarian Weizens or Belgians where I want a phenolic - clove/banana - character. In that case I do a “ferulic acid” rest at about 110 F. You can get that temperature with Denny’s system; you just have to do a little arithmetic to adjust your infusions. BeerSmith has an infusion tool that will calculate your infusions if you don’t want to do the arithmetic yourself.

Whatever system you envision eventually, try Denny’s system first. It’s quick and easy. And, cheap.

I use the cooler MLT and mostly single infusion mashes myself. I love a British Bitter and get good malt flavor from floor-malted Maris Otter and British crystal.

You can use it in conjunction with a HERMS setup to do step mashes if you want. I think a cooler is superior to a kettle for a MLT since it is insulated and helps keep the temp steady. I’m still in the planning stages of a new setup, but I am leaning towards a cooler MLT, a grant and a small pump to circulate wort through an electricically heated HLT.

I use a 10 gal. Rubbermaid cooler from Home Depot and am happy with the results.

I’ve got a buddy who fly sparges using a converted keg as his MLT. He has trouble maintaining heat, although he can fire a burner under it and he wraps blankets around the keg. Last brew day he caught a blanket on fire. Between that and the extra time and effort his process takes, he’s leaning toward adopting the cooler method.

As long as you asked about equipment strategy I will offer the following.

As you develop your hobby try to anticipate to the best of your ability what future needs you may have. Once you begin thinking like that you will then anticipate the equipment you might need in two or three steps in the brewery development.

The benefit is you won’t be purchasing equipment twice. IE, if you think you are going to want to brew 10 gallon batches, get a boil kettle large enough even if you use it for a couple of years to make 5 gallon batches.

And always remember Craig’s list is your friend.

I have used a kettle with a burner to mash / lauter in my last two brews. Putting flame to the bottom of the kettle can produce temps 160 or greater down low while the mash up top may be 154. I’m going back to the cooler. My suggestion: go with a cooler to mash and kettle to boil, get Beersmith and maybe do a trial run with cheap grain to dial in your heat loss, wort loss, boil loss etc. I now use kettles for boiling and HLT, cooler for mash/ lauter tun.

[quote=“Beer Goggles”]I have used a kettle with a burner to mash / lauter in my last two brews. Putting flame to the bottom of the kettle can produce temps 160 or greater down low while the mash up top may be 154. I’m going back to the cooler. My suggestion: go with a cooler to mash and kettle to boil, get Beersmith and maybe do a trial run with cheap grain to dial in your heat loss, wort loss, boil loss etc. I now use kettles for boiling and HLT, cooler for mash/ lauter tun.[/quote

I’ve been doing BIAB which I really enjoy because it’s one less thing to haul out and then clean up. I brewed Denny’s Lake Waldo Amber yesterday and the grain bill is about the limit of my equipment for BIAB. I fired the burner for a mashout and when it seemed to be taking a long time to get the grain bed up to temp I decided F the mashout and pulled the bag. A temp check of the wort was much higher than what I got from the grain bed.

I’ll definitely drag out my cheap n’ easy mash tun cooler for the next beer I do with a grain bill over 10-12 pounds.

Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com