What I want

Here is what I think I’m going to shoot for… I’m close to jumping into all grain and I’m going to upgrade my setup one piece at a time with a big picture goal for the future.

I’m planning on using my old aluminum 5 gal pot for my HLT and my heat source will be NG 10-jet burner from Bayou, which will be my first purchase of many to come. Then followed by a large S.S. pot somewhere around 15Gal, and a 2 tier brew stand or something that I weld up myself, and on and on and on…

From what I’ve seen this is not a popular setup.

What are your thoughts?


So I just glanced at that and didn’t really read it but you are looking at a PID controlled pump that turns on and off to maintain the temperature of the mash. And the pump pumps the water through the coil which is in the mash? Is that what I was reading? Because if so that seems awfully messy trying to clean out coil in the mash when all is said and done. I think most people do it the reverse, pump the wort from the mash through the coil in the HLT which is controlled by the PID and a heating element.

I just finished building a recirculating electric BIAB setup and I learned everything from the electrical section at homebrewtalk. Not to pimp another website, but there is a lot of action with a lot of people that know what they are talking about on this subject. I suggest checking that out.

Either one of these, the first being the electrical section and the second automated:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f170/ http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f235/

I’m by no means an expert but let me know if you have any questions.

I was thinking that there would be hot/cold spots in the mash with the coin in the grain.

Like inhousebrew, the coil being in the HLT and recirculating the wort into it may be a better option.

[quote=“Nighthawk”]I was thinking that there would be hot/cold spots in the mash with the coin in the grain.
[/quote]Yeah and that’s what the author is trying to avoid from his experience with a direct fired mash tun. A RIMS seems much more efficient to me however the author is against it:[quote] I looked into brewing using a re-circulated infusion mash (RIMS). However, I could never get comfortable with the idea of pumping hot wort around for a whole hour or more. Under the stress of a centrifugal pump, I believe any oxygen in solution will react to oxidize the wort. Also, mashing enzymes are much more heat sensitive in a thin mash, and that is exactly the kind of environment that enzymes are exposed to when wort is being re-circulated through a heater element outside of the mash tun.[/quote]I could see over heating the mash if you were pumping it through an in-line, direct contact immersion heater but pumping it through a coil in a tank of water a few degrees warmer than your target temperature seems reasonable to me.

My advice to the OP would be to get the burner and the 15 gallon pot, use your 5 gallon pot for the HLT , convert an old cooler into a mash tun for cheap and do a few batch sparge batches to get familiar with all grain brewing. This will save you $$ up front since you won’t need the other pot, copper, pump, PID, thermocouple, etc, you can add that stuff later if you want.

The few things I was thinking of,

How efficient is the RIMS setup, when using the HLT full of hot water? I just thought that the flow rate wouldn’t keep up with the cooling rate of the mash tun.

The coil in the mash tun would be removable for cleaning, and I thought about maintaining a closer temp and then cranking it to 170 at the end.

Again nothing is set in stone as I have nothing yet, I most likely will be doing the insulated cooler in the beginning to keep cost’s down for now.

I will most likely build a nice metal stand with wheels this summer because I can, but I will keep the future in mind as far as upgrades.

Again if the only downside to the coil in mash tun is cleanup I don’t think it will be a problem. As for hot spots you could say the same with RIMS setup as well, there will always be a transition of warm/cool.

With this setup depending on what I buy, I may have to make do with only one good burner to begin with, which may be a pain but depending on how much money I have to invest it may be all I can do. I currently am pinched for money and sometimes feel like I may never have what I want so who knows what the future holds, but I’m doing my homework now so I’m prepared if I see a great deal.

Also, if temp’s are kept close to mash temps does it matter which way you go?

What if you have a failure in the system somewhere? I would rather have hot water than hot wort, but chances are slim for massive failure.

Another thing I was thinking of which may make things more difficult to make, what if I was to make a shield that would protect the coils from direct contact with the grains, I would imagine drilling holes to allow the wort to flow around but basically make a false “basket” that is wrapped with heating coils. Again the two would need to be able to be separated for cleaning but I think this would be a good setup.

The idea of the coils appeals to me because you enlarge the heating source or surface instead of heating small amounts and hoping it warms the rest… you are able to directly control the temp in the mash tun, not by guessing how much warmer it needs to be to maintain temp. The rate that it cools will be variable because I’ll be outside in an un-controlled environment and that makes the PID helpful to have because it learns how well the system works to maintain or change the temp and adjust’s by itself.

So I don’t have to be spot on with the water temp thus eliminating the need for another controller, just as long as I’m close this system would still work.

One other thing I thought of is that I don’t have to be worried as much about flow rate, just pick a rate and let it go… the PID learns and does the rest for you… no float switches which most don’t use, and no need to worry about sprinkling the wort at a rate that doesn’t pack the grains or blast holes in the bed if great care is not taken.

Please continue to let me know what your thoughts are… I love feedback and problem solving because I can take idea’s and run with them to fit my needs and ability to make it work.

Again more thinking out…

If i’m going to just shield the coils why not just wrap the outside of the mash tun with the coils, only thing I can think of is you lose to much efficiency because the wort doesn’t come into contact with any of the coils.


You’re not going to have hot and cold spots with the RIMS or HERMS systems because you are pumping the wort back and forth which is constantly mixing with the grain. The pumps pump more liquid than you think so you are not just heating a small amount and hoping the rest warms up. The march pumps pull six gallons a minute and even my cheap pump pulls 2.5 or something like that so with RIMS or HERMS you are pretty much pulling and heating the entire wort to a constant temp every minute or two. Very efficient.

I think I see where you are going with the shield idea but the wort won’t actually be flowing or moving anywhere so you will again just be heating the wort that is inside of the shield. Furthermore, I don’t think the coil clean up is the only problem as I think it is more likely that you will get an uneven temp your way because the wort is not moving so depending on where you are taking your temp reading you might get different reading. For example, in the center of the mashtun furthest from the coil it may be cooler than directly next to it. When recirculating wort you can take the temp of the wort coming out which is constantly mixing and distributing an even temperature. I personal would not, and do not, worry about hotside aeration so I wouldn’t let that be the determining factor in what you decide to do.

All this said, get the 15 gallon kettle and get started on batch sparging. Who know, maybe you’ll love that and be satisfied. I was and the only reason I built my other setup was so I could brew inside in the winter but I plan on going back to the cooler method when it’s nice out.

Chances are I will be with the cooler and 15Gal kettle for a while, I really don’t have much money to invest.

It will be a close my eyes and sign/click to buy the 15 Gallon kettle, let a lone finding an affordable cooler and setting it up as a mash tun.

As for the RIMS setup, it does make sense what you are saying about the wort not moving around. But what about cleaning the inside of the tubing?

And does the pump itself ever add anything unwanted to the wort? What about maintaining prime on the pump? I’ve heard of some people losing their prime and having issues with that.

Also what is the controller of the wort temp, how do you maintain a constant temp with great accuracy?

Again thanks for feedback. You almost have me sold on going with RIMS… for my long term goal setup that is.

Well, I think what you want is a HERMS setup which would be the same idea you have proposed except with the coil in the HLT instead of the mashtun. For more on the difference between RIMS and HERMS check out this:

http://www.brewersfriend.com/2009/02/22 ... and-herms/

For cleaning the tubing you can just blast some PBW through it or even just boiling water with the pump.

As for pumps you need a food safe pump that can handle hot temps. Food safe is the key here and so long as you get the right one it won’t add anything unwanted. Here is a link to a cheaper one which is basically the same as the one I have:


As for priming it is pretty easy, you just have to have the pump be able to fill with wort before you turn it on to get all the air out. If you want to limit the flow do so after it comes out of the pump, not coming into it and you shouldn’t have any issues.

This is all going to be pretty pricey so I’d do some more research, think about it and then start to accumulate parts. A good PID to begin with is $45 plus some for a RTD or Termocoupler temp probe ($10-40 more) plus the pump and the coils and this and that… It adds up so figure out what you want, create a parts list, think it over and start going.

I would really recommend those links to homebrewtalk. As much as I love the Northern Brewer forum there just isn’t a ton of discussion revolving around this kind of stuff.

[quote=“inhousebrew”] For more on the difference between RIMS and HERMS check out this:

http://www.brewersfriend.com/2009/02/22 ... and-herms/[/quote]Thanks for that link, I'd always assumed a RIMS circulated through a coil too.

The OP also needs to keep in mind that there’s really no need to do step mashes these days with the highly modified malt available. It may help out a little but it isn’t worth the extra cost over a cooler batch sparge set up.

[quote=“amxman”]It will be a close my eyes and sign/click to buy the 15 Gallon kettle, let a lone finding an affordable cooler and setting it up as a mash tun.[/quote]Don’t close your eyes, there’s a lot of good bargains on 15 gallon aluminum pots. I bought this one for about $65 shipped, it’s around $72 shipped these days:
There’s also WaresDirect.com
WaresDirect.com is for sale | HugeDomains
, got to watch their shipping though. This is about the best time of the year to score a cooler, they’ll start going up in a month or so, check out Wal Mart or your local home stores.

I have an aluminum pot now, I think I have oxidization on it like it should so I don’t add to my wort, but that “black” layer went away the first batch of extract I put through it, and never returned. I have a slight ring of “black” left from my original water boil of 4 gallons. Can the oxidization still be there even though its not black?

This is why I’m looking to get away from aluminum, even though its cheap.


I believe John Palmer discusses the aluminum vs stainless debate in “How to Brew”. The on-line version is great, but is not the latest edition, so some of his guidance may have changed: http://www.howtobrew.com/intro.html.

I use a HERMS setup: 10-gallon igloo water cooler lined with a homemade BIAB bag; Pump; 8-gallon home-built electric boil kettle (Google Electric Brewery). The electric kettle works as the hot water bath for my heat exchanger, a 25-foot coil of 3/8 inch copper; generally I preheat my strike water and use the water bath to maintain my mash temp, although I can also do step mashes. I keep the water bath at or below 160 F to avoid denaturing the enzymes. I run my electric kettle at 240 V initially to heat the water, then switch to 120 V, controlled by a digital thermostat to maintain a constant step temp.

The continuous recirculation produces a clear wort and a constant temperature. I have used a similar system by siphoning the wort through the water bath. It involved a lot of collecting and re-pouring, but gravity is cheap and absolutely reliable…

Bottom line: If you start with a cooler and a brew kettle, you can add the refinements as you can afford them. Heat your strike water in the kettle, scoop into the cooler, add grain, mash, run off a bit to clear the wort, pour it back in the top, then drain to your kettle and boil. If your kettle is too small for 5-gallon batches, make smaller batches. Use one of the free spreadsheets available on-line to calculate your strike temperature and volume. Read Palmer.

Another thought: read Denny’s thoughts at http://hbd.org/cascade/dennybrew/.