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First Brewday With Recirculated Biab Mash Approaches.

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Fat Bastard

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G'day.

We finished the controller today during some quiet time at work. The controller contains a PID and switch for the element and a speed control and powersupply for a little brown pump. It all seems to work correctly, and tomorrow I'll attempt to calibrate the PT100 to the PID with a heat source and the whacky-do thermal imaging camera we use at work. I'm pretty excited about the first brew but have some questions for the folks that already use a recirculated mash system.

My kettle is a 36 litre stockpot fitted with a bag rest and 2400w element. The space under the bag rest equates to approximately 7 litres. I have the fittings to plumb the PT100 into the outlet of the recirculation system, which seems to be regarded as the best location for it in a recirculating system.

I don't have a sightglass in the MLT/Kettle. I was planning to use the pump speed control to maintain a constant level of wort over the mash. Am I asking for a burned out element doing this?

In my solid sided BIAB system, I usually sparge with between 7 and 14 litres of 75c water, corrected for pH. Should I also recirculate the sparge, or just continue with what I have been doing and just gravity feed from my little Aldi urn?

The wort return I have made is an 'over the side' type with the outlet angled to provide a whirlpool effect. It's only a prototype in 1/2" copper at the moment, but I've trialled it using tap pressure, and it seems to work well enough with tea-leaves and rice. I can make a reducer to fit over the end to increase velocity of the return. What is most important here, the volume of the wort return or the velocity? I probably could do some hard sums and work this out for myself, but I'm lazy and being a toolmaker first and then engineer, prefer practical knowledge to theory anyday.

When doing the whirlpool, should I run it through the plate chiller before returning it to the kettle to leave the cold break behind? I'm also assuming that this would help forming a compact trub cone.

I'll do a grist-less run tomorrow night and provide some pictures to show off my handiwork.

Cheers,

FB.
 

kevin_smevin

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You need to do your whirlpool first, let it rest and then run it through the plate chiller. If you go from kettle through the plate chiller and then back to the kettle for whirlpool you are going to ruin your plate chiller by clogging it up with hops and hot break - you need to separate these from the wort prior to running through the plate chiller - hence whirlpooling prior to chilling. You will end up with cold break in your fermenter but this doesn't seem to have any adverse effects on flavour or fermentation in my experience.

As far as wort return goes, you want this to be as gentle as possible. Its important to have the grain bed at least 1-2 inches below the level of the wort - this way, the returning wort wont disturb the grain bed and you will get less channeling - results in a much more even and efficient mash. You really want to concentrate on returning your wort in such a way that it doesn't disturb the grain bed. Beerbelly wort return is a good method http://beerbelly.com.au/images/returndish_thumb.gif - might give you some ideas. Some people simply rest a bowl on their grain bed and return wort into that so it overflows.

G'day.

We finished the controller today during some quiet time at work. The controller contains a PID and switch for the element and a speed control and powersupply for a little brown pump. It all seems to work correctly, and tomorrow I'll attempt to calibrate the PT100 to the PID with a heat source and the whacky-do thermal imaging camera we use at work. I'm pretty excited about the first brew but have some questions for the folks that already use a recirculated mash system.

My kettle is a 36 litre stockpot fitted with a bag rest and 2400w element. The space under the bag rest equates to approximately 7 litres. I have the fittings to plumb the PT100 into the outlet of the recirculation system, which seems to be regarded as the best location for it in a recirculating system.

I don't have a sightglass in the MLT/Kettle. I was planning to use the pump speed control to maintain a constant level of wort over the mash. Am I asking for a burned out element doing this?

In my solid sided BIAB system, I usually sparge with between 7 and 14 litres of 75c water, corrected for pH. Should I also recirculate the sparge, or just continue with what I have been doing and just gravity feed from my little Aldi urn?

The wort return I have made is an 'over the side' type with the outlet angled to provide a whirlpool effect. It's only a prototype in 1/2" copper at the moment, but I've trialled it using tap pressure, and it seems to work well enough with tea-leaves and rice. I can make a reducer to fit over the end to increase velocity of the return. What is most important here, the volume of the wort return or the velocity? I probably could do some hard sums and work this out for myself, but I'm lazy and being a toolmaker first and then engineer, prefer practical knowledge to theory anyday.

When doing the whirlpool, should I run it through the plate chiller before returning it to the kettle to leave the cold break behind? I'm also assuming that this would help forming a compact trub cone.

I'll do a grist-less run tomorrow night and provide some pictures to show off my handiwork.

Cheers,

FB.
 

bignath

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As far as wort return goes, you want this to be as gentle as possible. Its important to have the grain bed at least 1-2 inches below the level of the wort - this way, the returning wort wont disturb the grain bed and you will get less channeling - results in a much more even and efficient mash. You really want to concentrate on returning your wort in such a way that it doesn't disturb the grain bed
Not sure i agree with this yyy, although i have no specific proof.

I would agree with this if it was a typical mash setup, but with BIAB, i reckon it's a smart idea to disturb the grain bed to get as much sugar out of the grain as possible.
I tend to think of acting as a crude "mash stirrer" if it comes back in and throws the mash around a bit.

Channeling won't be an issue as it's only going to be disturbed when the bag gets hoisted.

In a normal mash tun (esky or keg type arrangement) from a multiple vessel rig, i'd definitely endorse your comments though.
 

kevin_smevin

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Not sure i agree with this yyy, although i have no specific proof.

I would agree with this if it was a typical mash setup, but with BIAB, i reckon it's a smart idea to disturb the grain bed to get as much sugar out of the grain as possible.
I tend to think of acting as a crude "mash stirrer" if it comes back in and throws the mash around a bit.

Channeling won't be an issue as it's only going to be disturbed when the bag gets hoisted.

In a normal mash tun (esky or keg type arrangement) from a multiple vessel rig, i'd definitely endorse your comments though.
Good point. I guess i was more thinking of a HERMS style. I gues the only disadvantage the disturbing the grain bed then would be clarity of the wort - that's a whole other can of worms though
 

eamonnfoley

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How do you stop the bag getting sucked while pumping out the hopscreen/pickup/outlet? I imagine a stand wont be enough. I've had this problem while trying to recirc. What sort of setup do you have? I'm planning a similar system (control panel is already built) and was thinking of using a false bottom to spead the suction. But then oyu may have a problem when whirlpooling.
 

bignath

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I imagine a stand wont be enough.
Stand works well in my rig. Basket with a bag in it, remove basket for the boil.

Stand has 4 SS bolts in the base for legs to keep everything off of the element. Havent had any suction problems so far.
 

iralosavic

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How do you stop the bag getting sucked while pumping out the hopscreen/pickup/outlet? I imagine a stand wont be enough. I've had this problem while trying to recirc. What sort of setup do you have? I'm planning a similar system (control panel is already built) and was thinking of using a false bottom to spead the suction. But then oyu may have a problem when whirlpooling.
A solid false bottom that is removed before the boil when the grain bag is.
 

Fat Bastard

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You need to do your whirlpool first, let it rest and then run it through the plate chiller. If you go from kettle through the plate chiller and then back to the kettle for whirlpool you are going to ruin your plate chiller by clogging it up with hops and hot break - you need to separate these from the wort prior to running through the plate chiller - hence whirlpooling prior to chilling. You will end up with cold break in your fermenter but this doesn't seem to have any adverse effects on flavour or fermentation in my experience.

As far as wort return goes, you want this to be as gentle as possible. Its important to have the grain bed at least 1-2 inches below the level of the wort - this way, the returning wort wont disturb the grain bed and you will get less channeling - results in a much more even and efficient mash. You really want to concentrate on returning your wort in such a way that it doesn't disturb the grain bed. Beerbelly wort return is a good method http://beerbelly.com.au/images/returndish_thumb.gif - might give you some ideas. Some people simply rest a bowl on their grain bed and return wort into that so it overflows.
I've got a pretty effective screen for the outlet, and as will become clear further down the post, it's in fact a double screen! even before I could get a decent whirlpool going, it would prevent hotbreak from getting to the chiller. I probably won't be trying this now, I don't think the pump has enough guts to get a proper whirlpool going, although I'll have a crack at it tomorrow for curiosity's sake.

With the wort return, I saw a few posts here that recomended that the return should gently wash over the top of the grain bed, almost like a whirlpool. I can wind the pump back with my controller, so again, I'll see how it goes. Thanks for yer helpful reply!


How do you stop the bag getting sucked while pumping out the hopscreen/pickup/outlet? I imagine a stand wont be enough. I've had this problem while trying to recirc. What sort of setup do you have? I'm planning a similar system (control panel is already built) and was thinking of using a false bottom to spead the suction. But then oyu may have a problem when whirlpooling.

A solid false bottom that is removed before the boil when the grain bag is.
My false bottom is a perf stainless plate that almost (but not quite) covers the entire diameter of the base. I leave it in for the boil. In fact, I add an extra layer of stainless mesh that covers the entire base and lets the top part of the kettle work as a hop swimming pool. I've even left the bag out completely on a few brews, and it works exactly like the false bottom in a mash tun. I'm yet to work out what I hate more, digging the grist out so I can boil the wort, or wrestling a hot, sticky old bag. I don't lift the bag, I drain the wort to a second vessel then return to the kettle once the bag has been sparged and drained etc.

Will post some pics tomorrow. You need a degree in electrical engineering to figure this PID out!

Cheers all!

FB
 

Fat Bastard

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Longest Brewday ever!

Learned a whole bunch of new stuff, and I almost learned just how far I could throw a little brown pump!

The pump works. Too well. I found I couldn't wind it back far enough with the controller that the 'lecco boffins at work made me and it pulled wort out from under the bag faster than it could filter through the grain bed. Result; one lightly blackened element. Fortunately I caught it quickly and couldn't tatse any smoky or burnt tastes in the wort. Also because of this, I had my first ever stuck mash, which took nearly 2 hours to drain enough to sparge and loosen it up a bit. I'll need to re-jig the speed controller a bit so I can wind the flow rate right back.

I also found out that any restriction on the inlet is bad news, and that CPC high flow dry breaks are not really high flow. Result: First ever major wort spillage while I took the dry break out of the loop. I need to find some higher flowing dry breaks. Wort spillages are not an option in a rented flat shared with a cranky SWMBO.

Didn't get a chance to whirlpool with it, by the time that came around, I couldn't be arsed hooking the pump up again, and resorted to the swizzle stick. Maybe next time.

Apart from that, the controller works well, apart from the fact that I can't work out how to raise the high end of the range on the Omron E5-GN to over 100 degrees, but that should be an easy one to fix with some reading.

Anyway, here's what she looks like.The controller, not cranky SWMBO.



Pump, and last minute tower of fittings put together out of bits and pieces because the staino one I bought specially didn't work.


Wort return and cavitation foam caused by restriction in pump inlet. This pic was taken immediately after I removed the dry-break from the pump inlet line. The whirlpool effect looks promising for next time though.
 

Wolfy

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The pump works. Too well. I found I couldn't wind it back far enough with the controller that the 'lecco boffins at work made me and it pulled wort out from under the bag faster than it could filter through the grain bed.
What about putting a valve on the outlet of the pump and throttling it that way?
 

aaronpetersen

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The pump works. Too well. I found I couldn't wind it back far enough with the controller that the 'lecco boffins at work made me and it pulled wort out from under the bag faster than it could filter through the grain bed.
I suspect that the problem may be your bag and not the grain bed. I'm currently building a recirculating BIAB system and I've been doing a few tests. I found that the swiss voile weave was too fine and that it got clogged when recirculating, resulting in the problem you had. I have since switched to a BIAB bag I got from Grain and Grape, which has a more open weave, and that seems to have fixed the problem.
 

bignath

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FB,

i reckon youve just stumbled on the same problem i had with my maiden run on my single vessel rig a fortnight ago. I blew an element, and i initially thought it was just a dud element. But the more i think about it, i reckon my pump sucked all the wort out from underneath and returned it faster than it could drain back through, exposing the element above the wort and making it go bang.
I have a tap on the wort return but i had it wide open. I think this is the most important part of a recirculating electric vessel.

EDIT: Big +1 to the grain and grape bag. Definitely more open weave than swiss voile which should allow easier flow through the bed., but still closed enough to be effective.
 

Phoney

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So has there actually been any benefit to all of this at the end of the day over a traditional BIAB brewday?
 

iralosavic

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So has there actually been any benefit to all of this at the end of the day over a traditional BIAB brewday?
Well I imagine that the recirculation clears the wort up allowing for acid and protein rests without schorching the element - for a start.
 

Fat Bastard

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Nath, I remember your post on the blown element from a few weeks back. In the back of my mind I knew this could be a possibility, so I watched it like a hawk and caught it before it did any damage. It was very easy to spot when it happened, I got steam bubbles rising through the grainbed and the temp rose very fast (which fortunately shut the element off) It doesn't seem to have imparted any burnt taste to the wort, I even broke off a bit of the charcoal and tasted it and it tasted of nothing, so I think I'm lucky!

I'm actually off to spotlight to look for some other material today. We've got a suplier at work that does filter bags for some equipment we have, so I might give them a ring on Monday and see if I can get them to send me a bit of info. I still want to persevere with the solid sided bag thing, it seems to work well with my no-lift process. I've got a ball valve here, and I'll probably fit that to the outlet of the pump as well, even if the 'leccos can fix my speed controller to make the pump run slower.

As for advantages, yeah, apart from the rests, and clearer wort, I dunno. I thought I could use it for whirlpooling and pumping the wort from the MLT to the holding vessel while I convert it to Kettle mode and back again, but unless I can find some dry break fittings that flow more than 1/2" CPC couplers do, I'm probably stuffed for that. The idea was to be able to quickly change hoses without spilling wort everywhere, but without beaing able to do that, gravity feeding is less stuffing around.

Early days for this process yet, and if it only helps with rests and recirc, that has the potential to shave half an hour or more off the day because I'm not stirring like buggery while the temperature takes 30 minutes to ramp from 64-72c. Even though the day itself was fairly annoying, the wort I got was definately clearer, and the steps much faster than it would have been otherwise, so I'm happy about that, and it's worth persevering with to get the process dialled in.

Cheers,

FB
 

iralosavic

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Spotlight has Swiss Voille for $7pm. I'd save yourself the hassle and ask where it is before looking.
 

bignath

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Well I imagine that the recirculation clears the wort up allowing for acid and protein rests without schorching the element - for a start.
No not really. Whilst mashing and recirculating with the pump, yep it will create a clearer mash, but then it all gets stirred up again once you lift the bag. Not a concern for me in particular (i knew it wouldn't make a difference clarity wise before i went down this track with my build). Other's may find a different opinion of course.

The benefits are control over temp both with a static infusion mash, or over step mashing if you want to - just program the new temp into the stc and the pump and element take care of the rest.
Also, easier brewday than a 3v, less stuff to setup, less stuff to clean. No idea if it's easier than a regular BIAB as i've never done a bog standard one. Probably this method is a touch more harderer...

Nath, I remember your post on the blown element from a few weeks back. In the back of my mind I knew this could be a possibility, so I watched it like a hawk and caught it before it did any damage. It was very easy to spot when it happened, I got steam bubbles rising through the grainbed and the temp rose very fast (which fortunately shut the element off) It doesn't seem to have imparted any burnt taste to the wort, I even broke off a bit of the charcoal and tasted it and it tasted of nothing, so I think I'm lucky!
RIGHT! that makes complete sense what you've just described mate. I did notice a puff of steam come out of the lid toward the end of the mash on the brew that blew my element. Wasn't sure what it was, but it makes sense now. Similar result although i wasn't aware it was going to be a potential problem though so i wasn't looking out for anything of the ordinary.

So it seems like my problem can now be sorted very easily by actually using and adjusting the valve i built into the wort return line.....didn't use it that brewday, just left it wide open. Stupidly thought the only problem would potentially be a stuck mash, never considered the output speed would effect the pot sucking dry....oh well live and learn i guess.

New element, use my valve, all should be sweet for next brewday.

Sorry for hijacking FB, but i'm now pretty happy i know exactly where i went wrong last time.....

Happy brewing mate,

Nath
 

Fat Bastard

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Spotlight has Swiss Voille for $7pm. I'd save yourself the hassle and ask where it is before looking.
Found some more open weave voille in the curtain section. It even has a pocket that's designed for a curtain rod to go through, but would take a drawstring that's more appropriate to our purposes. Unfortunately they didn't have any rip-stop nylon or polyester in white to make the sides, but seeing as I've got plenty of cotton duck left, I'll probably just use that for a prototype.

Nath, not really a hijack! I've just fitted the valve to the pump and will leave it there, even if I get the speed controller working properly. Now I just need to sort out some proper high flow dry breaks and I'm in business. I suppose I could just use multigrips to squeeze the tube shut, but an old pair of multigrips is not really brewery bling now is it?
 

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