So here I am. 9 months later. Tom and I embarked on our challenge/journey/quest with a standard beer kit. My first batch was an extract batch with steeping grains. This differs from a Partial Mash because I didn’t actually mash the grains to convert, I steeped the specialty grains to extract color and flavor. Then I relied on the DME or LME for creating my actual wort.
I brewed 4 batches this way. A Brown Ale, a Honey Peach Wheat, a Blonde Ale, and a Honey Blonde Ale. They all came out pretty good, and I really could have kept brewing like this. I had the equipment and I had my routine down. I skipped the bottling process altogether and built a keezer (another article on that to come) before my first batch was done, so I’ve always kegged my beer and force carbonated. I built a fermentation chamber using a mini fridge, some wood, and foam insulation. Life was good.
Then I got a year end bonus from work. And that little bit of extra money I had gave me an itch. What could I get for my brewery to make my beer better? I went back and forth on a lot of things. I read and researched for hours. I decided to make the move to all-grain brewing. I saw a lot of 2 and 3 tier systems with pots, coolers, pumps, control panels, and various other mechanical tidbits – and immediately decided I wasn’t ready for that. So I decided to do Brew in a Bag (BIAB). I ordered a 10 gallon stainless steel pot, made a recipe in BeerSmith2, and went to the Bearded Brewer to buy my ingredients. I picked up a mesh type bag for my grain and brought it all home. I have to admit – 12 lbs of grain was pretty intimidating, but with the ease of BIAB brewing – it was a simple step up from the extract brewing I was already doing. Instead of “steeping” 2 or 3 lbs of grain at 155 degrees for 20-30 minutes, I was now mashing 12 lbs of grain at 152 degrees for 60 minutes. Once the grain was pulled, instead of adding extract and proceeding with a 60 minute boil and hop schedule, I was just boiling the wort I created from the mash. Everything was still done in one pot.
I’ll admit, I had a couple of challenges at first. There were the temp issues I wrote about, a couple of batches that didn’t hit the mark, and a batch that was just a disaster. But – there were successes. I pretty much tweaked my Blonde Ale recipe to near perfection and won 2nd place in my local homebrew competition. I have made some really good beer, and fine tuned my brew day. Then I got the itch again…
My Blonde Ale won 2nd place. What would push it to 1st? I made a decent Summer APA, but had a little bit of clarity issues that gave it a pithy taste. How could I improve that? In doing even more reading and research, I read a couple of articles on No Sparge brewing. I’m not going to get into what sparging is in this article, or what the difference is with no sparge methods. What I will say, is it looked like a natural progression from my BIAB to a method that had better efficiency, produced clearer and better beer (hopefully), and satisfied my desire to build/buy shiny new things.
It was my birthday recently, and I’m not ashamed to admit I received some gift money. As I’ll be 40 next year, I can safely assume this will be the last year that happens. I also did a major garage/office cleanup and sold a bunch of stuff on Craigslist. I did all this with a goal in mind – make a 10 gallon Mash/Lauter Tun (MLT) to try 2 vessel brewing. Here was my shopping list according to my research:
- 10 gallon round cooler
- Ball valve for cooler
- False Bottom
- Ball valve for my 10 gallon pot
That’s it. That’s all I would need.
I spent a total of $180 on parts. I could have bought the MLT preassembled for $169.99 plus tax, but the extra ball valve was an additional $40, then there were extra silicone gaskets, tubing, and a step drill bit. That would have put me well over $200. So I save a few bucks and got to build something.
Dylan at the Bearded Brewer offered to drill the hole in my stainless steel kettle for me as I was slightly afraid to mess that up. We knocked that out of the way, and even installed the ball valve while I was there. I bought the cooler at Home Depot on sale, and the rest of the parts from the LHBS. Then I went home and got to work.
First, I removed the spigot that came with the cooler:
Then I used the step drill bit to expand the existing hole to a 1″ diameter to fit the ball valve.
I used a silicone ring to level out the outside due to the off center hole that came from the factory, inserted the valve, then threaded the rubber gasket, washer, and nut on the inside.
I filled with water and tested for leaks, then proceeded to the false bottom installation. I threaded on the barb, slid the false bottom in, and attached the hose.
It was really that simple. I now had an MLT, a ball valve on my kettle for easy wort/water transfer, and was now ready to evolve my brew process.