Author Topic: Mash recirculation  (Read 4968 times)

Offline qm3k

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Mash recirculation
« on: May 12, 2013, 11:49:48 AM »
Hi all,

I have been toying around with doing a continuous recirculation on my next mash. I have the tools necessary to pull this off (pump, etc.) but it's a far cry from a actual RIMS system. I have been brewing for a long time and would like to start working toward repeatability in my product. I use a direct-fired mash tun rather than a cooler and do prefer it for many reasons, but holding the mash temp can be challenging. I am thinking that a RIMS type system would help in this regard and would allow me to keep the mash temp more steady. However, with my current setup I would still have to do a lot of this manually. I have no temperature controllers or automated burners.

He anyone tried recirculating the mash while monitoring the temp and manually firing the burner when needed, and has this allowed you to maintain tighter control over the mash temp? Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks!

P.S. I always manage to get a fine beer out of my current process. I simply want to start reducing certain variables so that I can repeat results from batch to batch...my current mash temp swings don't harm the beer in any noticeable way, but as it is I'll never be able to duplicate the result from batch to batch.

Offline aschecte

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Re: Mash recirculation
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2013, 01:37:45 PM »
HMMMM..... can it be done with manual temp monitoring ..... sure... but it's going to be a heck of a lot more difficult and you may or may not depending on where you take your readings truly be holding your mash temps where you want them to be.

I struggle with some areas in my brewing but electrically and control building is not one of them. For about $80 or so you can get a ranco ETC-1000 or a Johnson A-419 and you can just hard wire the water heater element to either the 240 or 110v schematic, then you have a probe that will monitor your temps very accurately and will be fully automated and on the female side plug in a lamp or alarm of sorts so you actually know how often the RIMS is actually being utilized.

Just my .02 but if I was going to build and use a RIMS I would automate it at least minimum to the degree I just mentioned. Myself personally I have a full brewtus 20 system that is fully automated and also have a basic 10 gallon ultra manual system and 9 out of 10 times I and the exact opposite I like my basic cooler system and consistently hit 85% eff. every time.

Either way best of luck.
don't worry I'll drink it !!

Offline jjflash

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Re: Mash recirculation
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2013, 03:37:07 PM »
Before I automated, I used a Blichmann kettle on my kitchen gas stove, wort continuously circulated by a March pump back into the mash. Used one of those aeration tips to disperse the wort over the grain bed. Work very well with tight temperature control and manually adjusting flame.
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Offline dean_palmer

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Re: Mash recirculation
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2013, 02:07:53 PM »
I did a manually controlled recirculating mash system with propane burners for many years before building my RIMS system. It wasn't too tough to manually add heat as needed and keep the temps pretty accurate. It took some learning the system however. The next step was wiring the RIMS tube into a Ranco controller and that worked for another few years. Now I've gone full electric.

You'll find that doing it manually, and with a n that can be placed over the mash tun when not heating directly, yo don't lose a lot of heat, and a little added fire goes a long way. Most of the time my propane burner was on very low when adding heat, and of course the recirculation never stopped.

Offline amico414

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Mash recirculation
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2013, 08:53:09 PM »
Similar to Dean I've been using a March pump and propane burner to apply heat and recirculate wort during the mash. I use a 15 gallon Blichmann tun and a digital thermometer with probe and I've observed 2 things:

1. The thermometer and Brewmometer generally read nearly identical readings throughout the mash.

2. Applying too much heat (for instance when I'm raising the temp for mash out) can cause the wort to boil under the false bottom, which leads to severe pump cavitation and little to no flow rate from the pump. So keeping the flame low and not trying to push the temp up too quickly are key.

I've also observed that as the mash progresses and it gets stickier I have to reduce the pumping rate to make sure I'm getting good circulation through the mash and good flow through the pump.

All in all I've had good results and with the exception of really cold brew days (I brew in my garage) the grain bed holds the heat pretty well and not much heating is needed throughout the mashing process. I've even been playing around with temperature mashing with good results.

I'll eventually switch this all over to an electric RIMS setup but until I can finance that this is working well.

Offline Hydro

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Re: Mash recirculation
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2013, 08:34:18 AM »
I have been using a direct fired recirculating mash for almost a year.  I have not fully automated my system yet.  I have built my setup along the line of the Brutus 10 model, although I am using a 4 burner setup. I need to build the control panel and hook up thermal wells to my system.  My system is: 1 - Hot laquer pot, 2 - false bottom 15 gal sanke kegs for mash tuns or for a second boil pot if needed.  1 - 20 gal boil.  I am using 3 recirculating pumps and moniter temp via temperature gagues mounted on the side of the pots and at the surface of each mash tun. 

Consistancy is a matter of paying attention to the details and variables which you encounter in the brewing process.  With a direct fired recirculating mash it is important to keep the wart continously flowing and the burners to either low or to off.  The beauty about it is that you can work with your mash to achieve the optimum efficiency.  The grist has the sugars, it is up to the mashing process to extract them.  One thing which I noticed is that the color extraction has also increased. So I am having to reduce some of the roasted grains because my SRM has been coming out darker then what I planned for.

Cheers
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Hydro

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2. American Amber Ale
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Offline jeffy

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Re: Mash recirculation
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2013, 10:22:09 AM »
I have a very old, maybe one of the original SABCO Brew Magic rigs which I have modified a bit over the years.  I stopped using the electric heater element because if the pump should stop working it's certain to scorch any wort that is in the system at the time. 
Keeping a very low flame under the mash tun and recirculating continually, it maintains temperatures very well.

Hydro: "One thing which I noticed is that the color extraction has also increased."  Lately I have been mashing all of the diastatic malts for the length of the mash rest and then adding any color and roast malts just before mash out.  This should not only make your mash more consistent, but keep the color where you want it.
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
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Offline Hydro

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Re: Mash recirculation
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2013, 03:53:42 PM »
Jeff, Thanks for your input.    Your comments are also, indirectly supported by Gordon Strong in his book, Brewing better Beer.  I am looking forward to trying this during my next brew.  Do you use brew in a bag for the colored grains?  To help control the SRM?
For the Love of Beer,
Hydro

On Tap Now:
1. Irish Red Ale
2. American Amber Ale
3. Kolsch
4. Scotch Ale
5. Strong Scotch Ale
6. Key Lime Pie (11%) Chilled to 29 deg. F. you can not even taste the alcohol.

It is time to start brewing again.

Offline jeffy

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Re: Mash recirculation
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2013, 04:10:33 PM »
Jeff, Thanks for your input.    Your comments are also, indirectly supported by Gordon Strong in his book, Brewing better Beer.  I am looking forward to trying this during my next brew.  Do you use brew in a bag for the colored grains?  To help control the SRM?
Yes, I credit Gordon Strong with that idea.  No, I just add the grains on to the top of the mash bed when I get ready to raise the temp to mash out, then sparge.  The recirculation is continuous and the temp is raised by slightly increasing the flame under the mash tun.
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
Homebrewing since 1990
AHA member since 1991, now a lifetime member
BJCP judge since 1995

Offline wsoublo

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Re: Mash recirculation
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2013, 06:57:38 AM »
OP:  I have tried this a few times, but I just stick to single infusion mashes now and vorlauf around 10 minutes after I'm ready to to mash out.

I stopped recircing with a direct fired propane burner because I found it led to really inconsistent temperatures in the mash, disrupted my grain bed and generally led to great swings when try to correct my mash temps.  This was probably due to my inadequate mash return line;  I was using a high-temp silicone tubing attached to the top of the tun.

Some-what Off-Topic, but relevant: I've a few questions for you guys that are still recircing using direct fire propane burners. 

1) How frequrently are you stirring the mash to ensure uniform temperature?
2) What method are you using to return the wort?  I feel this is probably one of the most important aspects in being successful, and the reason I discontinued recircing because I wasn't satisfied with my results.
3) If you're step mashing, how many degrees/minute are you raising the temperature?
« Last Edit: June 05, 2013, 06:59:18 AM by wsoublo »

Offline Pi

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Re: Mash recirculation
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2013, 01:36:51 PM »
Stirring the mash is not a good idea if you are looking for consistency. I introduces oxygen to your mash, which , i think makes the finished product unstable, loosing flavors prematurely.
I built a RIMS and get excellent results. I built a heat source using a piece of 1.5" copper pipe; a hot water heater element and a PID/relay from Omega engineering. Set and forget till its time to raise to your next rest, never overshoot your mash temp.
A good read can be found at theelectricbrewery.com. The author discusses building an electric HERMS, but you can modify to RIMS and has plenty of other ideas you might find helpful.
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Offline wsoublo

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Re: Mash recirculation
« Reply #11 on: June 05, 2013, 05:20:29 PM »
Stirring the mash is not a good idea if you are looking for consistency. I introduces oxygen to your mash, which , i think makes the finished product unstable, loosing flavors prematurely.
I built a RIMS and get excellent results. I built a heat source using a piece of 1.5" copper pipe; a hot water heater element and a PID/relay from Omega engineering. Set and forget till its time to raise to your next rest, never overshoot your mash temp.
A good read can be found at theelectricbrewery.com. The author discusses building an electric HERMS, but you can modify to RIMS and has plenty of other ideas you might find helpful.

Thanks for the link.  Eventually, I may consider an automated mash system, but I'm not really interested in using a HERMES/RIMS at the moment because I primarily do single infusions.  I think an automated system would be great for multi step infusions. 

How do you return the wort to your mash tun after it leaves the heating tube, and how fast can you ramp temps from a sach rest to mash out?

I find if I don't stir, I don't get uniform temp over the mash tun.  Plus, I only stir for a minute or so, not the entire mash duration.  Also, I don't worry about oxidation during the mash because dissolved oxygen is lower at mashing temperatures, the low mash pH environment should help minimize any potential oxidative effects, and the boil will essentially remove most of the dissolved oxgen, which doesn't leave a lot of residence time for the oxygen to start oxidizing compounds.

Offline Pi

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Re: Mash recirculation
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2013, 12:49:04 PM »
I made a sort of "H"-shaped thing out of CPVC that sits on the grain bed. I put elbows at the 4 ends of the H which directs the flow up and the sweet wort just comes out the ends without splashing. I generally have a thin mash (1.4-1.5 qts/lb) so the H stays submerged even during sparge (I like to fly sparge).
Electric Brewery just lays the hose on top of the grain bed, but i found i get uneven heat that way.
One other note, if you are using your pump to vorlauf, dont run it full on. it will suck wort faster thanit can filter back thru the grain bed resulting in a very stuck mash. Rather throttle back to about 1/2-2/3rds flow, and shut the valve completely before turning off the pump otherwise the wort in the line backflushes and youll get crumbs in your runoff.
I'll try emailing you a couple pictures since i have not gotten a handle on posting images here yet
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Offline phunhog

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Re: Mash recirculation
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2013, 08:43:04 PM »
I recirculate (at least part of the time) with a direct fired MLT. It does take some time to dial it in but now that I have....I don't really see the need to automate it.  You are only talking about an hour MAX...I found that I get almost all of my conversion in 45 minutes.  I usually have to turn on the pump and burner 2x during a standard mash. I do stir my mash about every 15 minutes just to make sure there is even mixing but in theory it shouldn't be necessary.  Now I look at my mash temps in relative terms....152ish ;D. I don't sweat a degree in either direction during my mash.  In fact I usually will start the mash 1 degree higher than my intended rest temp and won't turn on the burner/pump until it falls more than 1 degree below.  My theory is that it all averages out in the end ;)