Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com

New Process

I’m thinking about moving from infusion mashing in a cooler to mashing in a kettle over heat. Anyone experienced with this have any pointers?

Do you have enough temperature control on the stove or propane burner, meaning do you find that you can hold the temperature within a narrow range?

Since I’m not planning to invest in a kettle/false bottom/ball valve set up right now, I will still use my cooler for lautering/sparging. Should I have any concern about hot-side aeration transferring the hot mash to the cooler?

I’m planning on something similar, and my research indicates that recirculating the mash/wort is critical. That being said, I want to recirculate the wort from the mash tun via an immersion chiller submerged in a keggle of hot water on the burner. I’m looking for feedback on this simple recirculation procedure as well.
Thanks !

My MT is a keg with false bottom, so I recirculate when the heat is on to avoid burning and heat evenly. No pump yet, so I use a pitcher. With a flat bottom kettle you could just stir. Why do you want to mash in a kettle instead of your cooler? I have to constantly monitor mine, especially in the winter. I am looking into insulating, though.

I feel like I would have more control of the mash process, given that I can heat the mash without water additions. With that being said, I am worried about aerating the hot wort transferring from kettle to lauter tun and I am worried about the ability to control the temperature precisely. The cooler has the obvious advantage of holding the temperature steady over the rest period, but I just don’t feel that infusions give me great temperature accuracy. Does the mash also act a little like a heat sink by resisting some temperature change or is it prone to a lot of variation in this process?

You’re going to get people on both sides of the Hot Side Aeration argument. For single-infusion mashes, I’d just use the cooler. When you’re doing multiple temperature rests, consider decoction mashing; it’s going to save you from worrying about recirculation. It seems to me that mashing with a direct-fired kettle is going to cause you more worry than convenience at this point.

You could also keep the cooler and build a heat stick. There was a thread a couple of weeks ago about these and I would like one to use with my cooler. I will see if I can figure out how to post a link to that thread. viewtopic.php?f=5&t=105516&p=933367&hilit=heat+stick#p933367 Hope that worked.

Are you using a spreadsheet or software to calculate your volumes and temps?

If you use your strike water to preheat the MT and make sure the MT is at the right temp before adding the grain, you can have the mash a couple degrees above the desired temp. Wait five minutes, stir again, check your pH, and it will have settled right where you want it. Wrap the MT with some insulation and it shouldn’t lose more than 1-2F over the next hour.

The more water you use, the greater thermal mass you will have, helping to keep the mash temp constant – mashing thinner makes the process easier. To shift the temp up, use boiling water – it’s helpful to have a couple gallons boiling on the side when you’re mashing in so you can make quick, low-volume adjustments.

shadetree, I am using a combination of Beersmith and Tastybrew for my volumes and temps, but find that if I blindly follow the calculators, I am low by as much as 4 degrees. In Beersmith, I can probably help this by adjusting my equipment profile a little, but until I get that nailed down, I am going to shoot high and stir to cool down.

Definitely one thing I love about mashing in the cooler is the temperature stability. Last weekend, my mash started at 154.5 and ended at 153, including a late dark malt addition.

I have an electric kettle in the kitchen that I keep around during brewing for those adjustments, hoping that if I miss, it is by a small enough margin that 2 quarts of boiling water corrects. But, you’re right, I would feel even better having a couple gallons ready to go. It’s not like I won’t use it, since whatever’s left over after mash-in can be used for late dark malt addition and mash-out.

That’s the easy way to go, IME - a couple times doing this and you’ll be able to dial in the strike temp, but I’d rather be a couple degrees warm than cold.

If you want to do more during the mashing process and want to add to your beers’ flavor, I would recommend decoction. Sure its not push button, but if you have time, do it. I do and I don’t regret it. This may start a decoction debate, but have no fear, some do it for a reason. Maybe the reason isn’t there, maybe it is. I think you are ready to try something new and this is where I would recommend you go.

Thanks, I am planning to do a decoction with my next batch. I don’t see a whole lot of negatives, besides extra time. And I think a fellow poster said it best with, 'if I cared about spending too much time, I wouldn’t home brew."

[quote=“pduppel”]I’m thinking about moving from infusion mashing in a cooler to mashing in a kettle over heat. Anyone experienced with this have any pointers?[/quote]I used to do that a long time ago, before modern conveniences like cooler mashing, weldless fittings and toilet braids were “discovered”… and I sparged in a two-bucket zapap wrapped in water heater insulation.
It was arduous and messy, required an extra piece of bulky equipment, made for a longer brewday, and I was constantly getting hot mash on my hands during transfer. It was almost impossible to direct heat tweak the mash temp without overshooting. But it was fun, it worked well and I was making great beer. And, except if decocting, I will never go back… cooler infusions are so much simpler.
+1 to Shadetree’s extra boiling water suggestion.

I have a direct fired kettle with a recirculation line. Recirc is essential to a direct fired kettle, and maybe even heat sticks if you have them in the mash.

Consider an inline heat stick controlled by a PID, or look at the D.I.T.C.H.E.S. system with a laptop control.

This is kind of overkill, but you could probably use some of the wiring diagrams:

Against my tendencies to tinker around with things and get a bunch of new toys, I think I am going to stick to the cooler, plus some decoctions. It’s kind of a catch-22; nice, efficient, easy-to-use equipment can make brewing easier, and I’m sure, a better end product. On the other hand, I think I should stick to a more basic set-up until I can really nail recipes with what I have.

Sounds like a plan. You can also do step mashes by adding hot water. I am currently doing quite a bit of no-sparge brewing which gives me the water volume to do any kind of step mash regimen I want. I typically wind up with the amount of water I want pre-boil, after accounting for the loss to the grain. My mash ratio is generally in the 3.5qt/lb range when all additions are made, you do have to have a large enough MLT for that volume. And I do let the mash go longer to get complete conversion, 90min is enough to get there.

Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com