Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Brewery Equipment: Mash/Lauter Tun

After we had completed a couple extract brews, I started looking around for some Kegs. I called Stone Brewery but their warehouse guy was out. I called Bevmo and they suggested I call one of the Distributors in the area. So I called Mesa Distributors and the guy there was very cool and said I could purchase a used Keg for $50. I read on someone's site that the best way to cut a keg open was with a dremel tool and a reinforced cutting disc, both of which I have so I drew a circle on the top of the keg and started cutting. 45 minutes and 7 discs later the top was open.

I ordered a false bottom kit from an online homebrew supply store in Colorado for $75, purchased a 7/8 drill bit from sears for $25, drilled a hole near the bottom and tried it out.

I leaked quite a bit, so I worked the valve a bit more and got the leak down to less than 4 ounces per hour and called it good. I may have someone weld a fixture on at some point in the future.

While I was doing a test run boil, I noticed that the bottom flange was glowing red hot and decided to make a little heat exchanger. I purchased 25ft of copper tubing, soldered a hose fitting on one end and a ball valve spigot on the other and now when I am filling the mash tun or the hot liquor tank while the burner is going it raises the water temperature ~70 degrees, which shortens the time it takes to boil significantly.

I created the sparge coil out of that same copper by sealing one end and drilling 1/16" holes in the bottom. The center of the coil is a bit lower than the edge to encourage the water to travel the entire distance of the coil so I can get an even distribution of water dripping onto the mash while sparging. Because copper is so expensive, the cost of the sparge coil and the heat exchanger with all the fittings came to $110.

I created the mash paddle out of oak since I couldn't find any maple at my local Home Depot and I was too lazy to try to find a hardwood supplier. I drilled 5 2" holes in it with a forstner bit, cut a handle into it with my skilsaw and then rounded it off all the edges with my router.

I picked up the burner from Northern Brewer for $90. The burners I have seen elsewhere don't have a large enough platform for a keg. Hydrowbrew sells a burner table for $150 that would work better, it has 2 heads and is just the right height, but I found that out after I had already purchased this one. It puts out a lot of heat over a large area and brings the heat up quickly.

I noticed from my page tracker that this is the most popular page, so I thought I would update it a bit. I cut open another keg for a boil kettle, and found a much faster way to open it. Have a look for some tips.

The heat exchanger was not a good idea. It is too easy to forget to dis-connect the hose during a busy brew, resulting in a blown hose from the expansion caused by the heat. I don't use it any more.

I insulated the keg a couple weeks later with great results.

Finally, I have read elsewhere that some kegs don't have drain holes drilled in the bottom flange. Several people have had the flange explode! So if your flange doesn't have a few small holes in it, drill them or you may have some shrapnel to deal with!

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