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Heating elements in the mash tun

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  • Heating elements in the mash tun

    Hello everyone,

    I am actually discussing with a manufacturer for the future setup of my brewery.
    Having a pretty limited budget, in order to be able to step mash, the manufacturer purposed me to install an element under the screen in the mash tun. This is actually the system I use in my GrainFather to perform my test batches, but I wonder if this would work on a 7BBL system.
    I would slowly but constantly recirculate during the heating phases, but I have concerns about the good temperature homogeneity. Would a rake be necessary?
    Does anyone have a similar setup? Any power recommendation concerning the element(s)?

    Last edited by Guiche; 03-21-2020, 12:29 PM.

  • #2
    While adding a port for heating elements below the false bottom isn't going to cost you much, I don't think it will benefit you much either. You only "turn over" 1 or maybe 2 times during a normal vorlauff in a large system. That isn't going to give it enough opportunity to heat evenly, unless you're really cooking the wort that's below the mash tun. I know this because many years ago we tried having a large RIMs system on old electric brew house, and it didn't work. Fortunately that was also a low investment.

    Steam jackets are about the only way to go for heating the mash tun.


    • #3
      On our 3bbl electric setup with rims we recirculate our mash at between 4 and 5 gpm (measured with a flowmeter) this flow speed depends on the amount of surface area the false bottom or "screen" has... our Rims works very effectively to hold mash temps and even step mash with our uninsulated mash tun. on a 7bbl system you would likely be able to recirc without channeling as high 7gpm meaning you could reheat 420 gallons of mash liquid during a 60 minute mash which should be enough to hold mash temps regardless of whether its with a rims tube or elements directly under the mash... Personally I think a rims tube would be a more cost effective solution. Ours uses two long heating elements. and at 4gpm I can raise mash temps almost 10 degrees in one pass with ULWD elements turned down to 80% power output at max power to lower the watt density further and prevent denaturing of enzymes. We average 86% brewhouse efficiency this way and do step mash often. again this is on a 3bbl setup and I do not know what the actual flowrate would be on a 7bbl falsebottom and grainbed. the faster you try to recirc the more likely you will get channeling and poor efficiency as a result.
      Last edited by augiedoggy; 03-22-2020, 07:22 AM.


      • #4
        Hi guys,

        Thanks for your answers and sorry for the delayed response.

        Your thoughts cross mine, I was pretty concerned about channeling and thus a pretty low efficiency or homogeneity. This process works great on a small scale system (I refine my core range recipes on a Grainfather actually) but I have some doubts it would on a bigger scale.
        Do you think a low voltage element plus a rake in the mash tun could help?
        I asked the manufacturer his opinion on this situation and eventually will request a quote for a steam heated system, but I’m afraid this would be out of budget.

        One of the last system I’ve been brewing with consisted of an agitated mash tun with direct fire heating, it worked pretty fine (except a tremendous shear force on the mash). I still have some hope concerning a similar solution.

        Greetings from sunny South France!


        • #5
          Why bother?

          Don't know what you are specifically trying to accomplish with heating mash; there are several other mashing regimens that can raise mash temperatures without steam/elements in the mash/lauter tun. If you absolutely MUST have an entire mash temperature raise, then consider the popular mash mixer/kettle & lauter tun with separate whirlpool. Not very expensive and easy to do upward infusions, decoction, and other mashing techniques. I wouldn't ever put elements/steam in a combination mash/lauter tun. There's a reason it's not very common. Keep it simple. Technique is more important than equipment--never mind recipe.
          Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--


          • #6
            Got it. I'll try to find different ways.
            Actually being from Belgium and having this Belgian education of brewing, I'm afraid to be limited compared to what I've experienced before.
            For sure, a steam jacketed mash/boiler and lauter system would be way more adapted to my plans, except my budget doesn't follow.


            • #7
              Not that expensive....

              Most small 10hl breweries in Europe seem to be of this design: Steam jacketed mash mixer/kettle, non-motorized & non-jacketed lauter tun, and simple single-walled whirlpool. Works fantastic. Only real issue is if you are really pushing beer at more than 3 brews/day on it. And with acquisitions, mergers, failures, and virus-related business woes in Western Europe, seems that a used system should be easy to find and inexpensive as well. Best of luck!
              Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--


              • #8
                Sure, you could insert heating elements under the screen in the tun. But you probably won't be capable of controlling and modulating power to the elements since it sounds as if they would be too separated from the temperature sensor. For precise control during heating, having that sensor near the heat source is important for avoiding wort overheating and enzyme denaturing.

                Sure, mixing a mash is one way to redistribute heat in a grist. But its a comparatively poor mechanism to move the media (grist) for heat redistribution. Instead, its far easier and more effective to move the wort to redistribute heat and improve homogeneity.
                Engineering Consultant


                • #9
                  I think there is a point of diminishing returns here depending on size... 5bbl falls at the crossover point where mechanical raking starts to have merit for smaller systems the majority of the nanobreweries ive visited seems to have great results with herms or rims as do we. I performed a stepmash today and noticed it too 17 minutes to step my entire 3bbl mash 10 degrees with my rims and this is without any denaturing of enzymes.. as I mentioned earlier you might want to purchase a flowmeter and see what the flow rate for recirculation would be with your false bottom, that will determine how quickly you will turn over your entire mash. different folks here have different experience with drastically different systems that they base their comments on. If it were my 5bbl MT I would insulate it and look into a rims. From years of reading in the home brewing forums My thoughts on elements under the false bottom are that it will be a bad idea for multiple reasons Ive seen complained of there like scorching from proteins settling on the elements due to inadequate flow and localized boiling.
                  Last edited by augiedoggy; 03-29-2020, 06:19 PM.


                  • #10
                    Definitely you guys ended up to convince me. I've started checking around for used steam brewhouses. Clearly, they won't as cheap as the modified infusion system (roughly twice the price) but I'll make concessions on other points.
                    Thanks for your help!


                    • #11
                      There are other ways...

                      There are dozens of mash techniques that you can use on an unheated mash/lauter tun system that aren't just straightforward single temperature infusions. But if you must have a full-batch upward infusion, then I'd recommend a used 10hl steam system. Especially in Europe!
                      Phillip Kelm--Palau Brewing Company Manager--


                      • #12
                        So many gold medal lagers are produced w single infusion on 5-15bbl systems. Avoid elements under your false bottom. Instead use a wort grant and Rims system and practice on a few pilsners. If you are passionate about step mashing and have the money keep your eye out in the months to come. Lots of equipment is coming up for sale.