From the HBD Archive
From: lbr@gatech.edu
Subject: Re: BrewCo Boiler
Date: 1989-04-13 15:34:55 GMT

In #123 Eric Henchal <henchal@wrair.ARPA> wrote:
> I recently bought a BrewCo Boiler....

I tried to reach you by e-mail but it failed.

I have had one of these since the fall. I bought it from BrewCo.
I bought a three prong 240V plug (small, intended for air conditioner)
and put an outlet on my range for it: the "hot" plugs are perpendicular
instead of parallel so there's no way to plug in a normal appliance).
There is a separate fuse at the outlet, since the circut breaker is 50 amps.

> 1. The manufacturers indicate that grain:water ratios as much as
> 4 lbs grain: 1 gal water are NOT recommended with the BrewCo
> Boiler. I usually use 1 lb grain to 1 quart water....

I use a thin mash: 10 lbs of grain in 3 imperial gallons. That's about
1.4 U.S. quarts of water per pound of grain. I get good conversion.

> 2. The manufacture also warns about scorching the grain at high
> grain to water combinations, and recommend the use of a grain
> bag. Is this commonly done? Does the bag/grain sit on the
> element? Do I have to fit in a false bottom? Can scorching be
> avoided merely by frequent stirring?

I don't have a grain bag, but may get one. It certainly could not
sit on the element: the thing is at least 1700 watts, and has only one
"speed." (The low settings of the thermostat change the on/off cycling,
not the power.) I think the grain bag is suspended from the top by
strings.

Scorching can be avoided by frequent stirring. I use a large oak paddle.
The element appears to have a safety cutoff as well as the thermostat
cycling. If you do scorch the grain badly, the element may cut off
for about five minutes. Keep the element clean: I let mine get blackened
and it didn't work well for a while. Use trisodium phosphate (TSP),
available in hardware stores, to clean the element. (Greg Noonan recommends
this and it works well.)

> 3. I notice that the boiler has a "drum tap" on the side. If I
> use a grain bag and false bottom, is it possible to sparge the
> grain in the mash-tun?

I think so, but I've not done it. I transfer the mash to a picnic cooler
fitted with a 1/4" copper tube with kerfs cut in it. Sparging without
a grain bag won't work, though; the grains clog the tap.

> Any recommendations will be greatly appreciated.

Mashing:

I mash free in the thing; I've considered using a bag but haven't done
it yet. I'm curious about this. Does the grain bag sit in a water bath?

I had hoped that I could do a step infusion mash with it, but the element
cannot raise the temperature from 120 to 150 without scorching and
kicking out (see above). The problem is that it applies an incredible
amount of energy right at the element. The boost from 153 to 167 (to
kill off the enzymes) works fine if I stir. Go figure.

I heat my mash water to 135 (I think, I'll check my notes) and mix in
the grain. It stabilizes in the low 120s and requires little or no
heat during the protein rest. I then do a docoction on the kitchen
range to raise to about 153. (That is, I boil about a quarter of the
mash.) It will hold your mash temperature fine--my setting is 4.1.
Beware that tiny changes in the thermostat (4.1 to 4.3, say) will mean
3 to 5 degrees F!

If you're using pale ale malt and omitting the protein rest, you can do
the mash entirely in the thing, but you still need an auxiliary sparging
system unless you have a grain bag.

Boiling:

It works well for boiling the wort, though it could be larger. I fill
it to the 5 imperial gallon mark and watch it carefully for the first
5 minutes of boiling. I have to hand-cycle the thermostat to avoid
boil overs. After about 5 minutes enough protein has broken down that
I can leave it on "9" and it cycles about 4 to 1 on/off, keeping a
rolling boil when on.

Dave Line (Big Book of Brewing) indicates that you can drain through the
spent hops and out the tap, but it clogs up and runs too slowly. I now
siphon the hot wort to the cooling vessel, and drain a small amount thru
the tap. (I use mostly leaf hops.) I tried dropping my cooling coils
(thru which I run cold water) into the BrewCo, but the trub collected on the
heating element, which is well above the floor of the thing, and I wasted a
lot of wort when I siphoned the wort off the trub.

If you do buy and try a grain bag, let me know how it turns out. I've worked
hard this winter on improving my beer; I'd now like to simplify things.

Len Reed
gatech!holos0!lbr
holos0!lbr@gatech.edu

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