From the HBD Archive
From: polstra!jdp@hplabs.HP.COM (John Polstra)
Subject: Re: Lauter-Tun advice
Date: 1989-11-30 18:28:46 GMT

In HBD #313, crawford.WBST129@Xerox.COM writes:
> I haven't had very good luck with my lauter-tun and would like to know if
> anyone has any ideas for a better lauter-tun than what I'm using, or maybe
> it's my technique and not the hardware that is the problem...

It sounds like you're using the hardware and technique described in
Papazian's book. That's what I do too, and over the last 15 mashes I
have found a few refinements that make it work a lot better for me than
it did at first.

(1) In his book, Papazian expresses a lot of concern about stuck runoff, and
much of his technique seems directed toward avoiding this potential
problem. In my experience stuck runoff has never been a problem, and I
think Papazian's method sacrifices a lot of extract potential in trying
to avoid it.

> I fill the buckets with 170 degree water until the level is above the
> bottom of the inner bucket and then add my grain.

Don't do that. Forget what Papzian says. Just pour the entire contents
of the mash tun directly into the lauter tun. You won't get a stuck
runoff, trust me. By filling with water up to the false bottom, you're
just diluting your runoff with a bunch of water which is not going to
contribute to your extract. (OK, sure you're recycling the runoff, but
still all this extra water is not going to be as effective as it should
be.)

(2) In addition to the perforated false bottom, I always use a grain bag.
This is a nylon bag with a mesh bottom, and it fits into your lauter tun
and rests on the false bottom. The mesh helps to keep kernels of grain
from clogging up the perforations, and thus further alleviates any
lingering worries about stuck runoff. Ask your homebrew supplier for
one, they're cheap. Some people just lay a layer of cheese cloth over
the false bottom. That should work ok, too.

(3) The nested bucket type of lauter tun can (depending on the shape of
your buckets) have much too much space below the false bottom. Ideally,
you want the false bottom to be just above the exit spigot. The spigot,
in turn, should be just high enough to be above most of the sediment
which is going to collect in the bottom. (Mine is about 1" above the
bottom, and I wish it were lower.) Remember, liquid that is not in
contact with the grains is not contributing to your extract.

I solved this problem by sawing off the top of my inner bucket, leaving
just the perforated bottom plus a couple inches of the bucket wall. I
then sawed a few V-shaped notches in the wall, and a U-shaped notch to
fit around the spigot. This new improved false bottom fits
(upside-down) into the outer bucket and is supported around the sides
by the notched walls of the former inner bucket. It works much better
than the old nested bucket did.

It's a good idea to tie a short loop of string through a couple of the
perforations in the center, so you'll have a handle to pull the false
bottom back out of the bucket when you're finished.

(4) I'm glad you're recycling the first extract. That's definitely a
Good Thing not only for extract efficiency but also for clarity. You
should recycle until the runoff is very clear. For me, that takes at
least two gallons of recycling.

(5) Make sure your sparge water and your grains in the lauter tun are
warm enough. Wrap a towel or something around the lauter tun to
insulate it. Keep the sparge water at the right temperature (168
degrees) and check it frequently. If the temperature gets too cold,
your extract efficiency will suffer. Don't let it get too hot, either,
or you'll get astringent flavors.

(6) The runoff from the lauter tun should be just a trickle. It should
take at least 10-12 minutes to collect a gallon. If you're sparging
faster than that, you're losing extract efficiency.

(7) Stop adding sparge water after you've collected about 5 gallons,
then let the rest of the liquids drain off of the grain. You'll
probably get another 1.5 gallons or so.

The basic idea is to avoid adding unnecessary water, and to keep as much
of the necessary water as possible in contact with the grains.

I hope these tips help. Happy sparging!

- John Polstra jdp@polstra.UUCP
Polstra & Co., Inc. ...{uunet,sun}!practic!polstra!jdp
Seattle, WA (206) 932-6482

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