I made the oath I would jump to allgrain sometime in this lifetime. The hobbles always were that it was expensive to buy a "kit", so I got the brilliant idea to head over to Home Beer Depot and get the fitting myself. Since the valves are usually around $25 alone on the brewing sites, if I could do it for $25 total, I would consider it a success.
I made it all for $17.
I had bought an eight gallon gatoraide coolerhirez awhile ago on the ebay. I never got around to using it for beer. The previous owner had used it extensively and said the valve would need to be replaced. I picked it up for a penny + S&H. Getting the stupid valve for it would prove to be impossibly hard, so I just waysided it until the light bulb went on one day and I realized Home Depots plastic fittings were all food safe along with the sealant in the plumbing aisle. If you're playing along at home, now would be a good time to mention that the only food safe plumbing and sealer is the one in the plumbing aisle. Don't get tempted by the much cheaper pipes in the other aisles (landscaping), or you'll be wondering why your beer tastes like plastic. And, just to be safe, I plan on running boiling water through the whole thing anyway to make sure it's water tight and not going to taste like plastic.
A few notes on what we're building:
You can see the hirez here.
- Bazooka Screen, not false bottom.
- Brass is OK so long as it comes from the plumbing aisle.
- Plasic is OK so long as it comes from the plumbing aisle.
- Don't substitute things from gardening.
- We're going to use zip ties for fasteners.
Keeping that in mind, I came up with the following parts. It doesn't matter if you buy them at Home Depot, ACE, or Harbor Freight. They all should carry about the same stuff. Parts:
Why zip ties? They're not big enough to cause problems with being "food safe" or not, and I'm worried about making a "metal sandwich" and getting corrosion under there. With the zip ties, we avoid getting a metal sandwich and the possibility of making a battery by accident is reduced. Zip ties also are flexible. Remember, the seal doesn't have to be perfect and the goal is to smash grain on top, a bit of give in the plumbing will help eliminate grains being squished through your filter.
- WATTS PL-3042 Spigot. It has a quarter turn adjustment.
- WATTS A-758 Female Pipe Tee in 3/8th inch
- 2x Stainless steel lint trap. Stainless. Should come with two zip ties.
Other stuff that will help:
If you go to Home Depot the fittings are all color coded but be sure you match "universal" with "universal". Mixing universal with flared will result in cracked plastic and leakage. The flared ones are crap anyway and should be avoided. Teflon tape is optional, but since we're not running pressure here it shouldn't be required. The color for 3/8ths is green. If you're colorblind, just read the label. I like the quick disconnect spigots so I can just let them hang or attach whatever I want to it after the fact.
- Adjustable Wrench
- Zip ties
- Spare rubber washer
There will be a rubber gasket under the nuthirez which keeps the plastic spigot against the bulkhead of the cooler. I would leave it there. You will need an adjustable wrench to get the nut off, it's some stupid half size to keep people from messing with it, which is exactly what we intend to do.
Do yourself a huge favor and assemble the T junction first. Take your stainless lint traps, unroll them, then zip tie the open end to the T.hirez It doesn't have to be perfect, it just needs to be snug. Now hold the T portion against the rubber gasket, and screw your plastic spigot through the bulkhead (it will grab the gasket, but this isn't the thread, don't be fooled) and into the T. I suggest actually screwing the spigot on until it's all the way through the gasket, then putting the T against it and taking that up. Once it's snugged up, if the spigot is upside down, back it off. Don't try to tighten it until its right side up or you will either break the gasket, the bulkhead, or strip the plastic if it's made of plastic. Remember, we can always add teflon tape. You will notice the lint traps are flat, this isn't going to really work well. Take them along the edged side and press that flathirez so you have a box. We're not too worried about strength since the grain is going to be suspended above this in an oatmeal like solution.
If you've gotten this far, you're done. Admire your work, inside and outside. Make sure the zip ties are tight, fill it up with boiling water and let it sit for however long you feel is safe. Then drain the water through your spigot to get a feel of how far to open the valve for what flow rate. I would suggest making a mark with a black marker on the plastic for "recommended". Remember, the water is going to flow faster out of the valve than wort will. From here, you can pretty much take this project anywhere you want. If you have a box cooler, for instance, I would buy another few sets of lint trap screens, and a cross instead of a T fitting so you could have even more drainage. Instead of a pipe to the spigot, for instance, cut the end off the screen so you have a "screen pipe" and use that as your pipe. In fact, speaking of more drainage, the general comments were to get more draining. Expanding on the original design, I cut the ends off the previous screens to make them tubes, and added one more length of hose. While it's not Papizan's cross, it covers more of the bottom.
If you did this from Northern Brewer, it would cost $50 to $100 depending on if you bought the cooler from them, etc. For my project, the cooler was $5 from ebay, and the parts were an additional $17.
So what are we doing with it? Well, start with some recipes for all grain, and make sure you get cracked grain. Most places will do this for another 10 cents on the pound, so there's little reason to actually buy a mill. Now bring about five gallons of water up to the mashing temperature. If you really want the nuts and bolts of it, I suggest reading Palmer's How to Brew. We're going to borrow a diagram. You want the water somewhere between 148F and 158F. Get the pot of water there, then toss it into our mash/lauter tun and let it warm the tun up for 10 minutes or so. The higher the temperature, the less body the wort has, the dryer it tastes. The lower the temperature here, the more sugars it has, but too low and the wort will have no fermentable sugar and a thick body. Shoot for somewhere in between. Since we're trying to warm up the tun for minimal heat loss, I would suggest going for 160F or so and tossing in the water.
Once this is all good and warmed up, toss the water back into the kettle. The water will have lost heat, so bring it up to 165F. There's actually different effects you can get out of different "rests", but for the sake of keeping it simple for the first batch, 165F should get close. Remember, the grain is cool. Toss that grain into the pot. If you built my tun, you will need to seat the screens and pour grain around them. you want things evenly spaced between the walls and screens, you don't want the screens against the walls of the cooler. Once the tun is filled up, re-add the water. Get out a large spoon and stir it up. The grain and water mess should be like thick oatmeal. Have the water barely above the grain bed. Slam the lid on, things should be 158F or so (lower is better), and forget about it an hour. Measure the wort temp on the way out. It should be down to 150F or so. The coolers aren't 100% efficient, keep this in mind.
Now you need to get the actual wort out of the grains, and separate the sugars from the grains, which hopefully will have become soluble. To do this, we're going to turn to a device called a sparge arm, which delivers the hot liquor (water) into the grains to lauter (rinse) them. My sparge arm is a coffee lid. It just has to pour water into the grain slowly. Heat up more water (about two gallons) to 180F. Any more and you risk extracting tannins, any less and the sugar will gel and you'll get a stuck sparge. If you get a stuck sparge, your only option is to blow into your spigot. Slowly pour the hot water onto the coffee lid at the same rate you're letting wort out. No more than two gallons, and keep it going slowly. The faster it goes, the thinner the wort is, the more you need to collect. After the first liter or so, you will notice it runs significantly more clearly. You want to re-add all the nasty wort to the cooler, so you can collect sweet, clear wort.
From here you know what you're doing, go back to the top and start at step three. If you're saying "But I don't have a 10 gallon pot!", you collected too much wort. You want, at most, about 7 gallons, which will boil down to 5. If you're like me and you only have a six gallon kettle, you can use another kettle along side it. Just remember to stir them both, and add the hops to the larger. You can combine them later, in the fermenter.
Good luck, happy brewing.