Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

Mash Return Manifold w/ tension rod

06 Jun

This is my idea for an adjustable mash return manifold that can sit inside the cooler with the lid on.

First, some background…

I have messed around with a few different variations for returning wort to the mash during recirculation.

Version 1: Rest it on top

First I created a short, copper manifold with four outlets and hoped that it would “rest” on top of the grain bed during recirculation. This worked OK, but I found that the manifold would often not lay flat, which resulted in one outlet outputting most of the return while others did very little. I would try to adjust this during recirculation but it was hard to get it right. Plus I had to keep monitoring the progress to make sure it wasn’t way off.

Version 2: Long, vertical pipe

Next, I tried a long, vertical pipe with the same manifold on the bottom and a 1/2″ barb at the top. The plan was to adjust its height by clamping it through a wooden lid that sat on top of the cooler. This helped to keep the return more even, BUT, it meant that I could not easily look inside to check the flow while the clamp was on. I had to remove the clamp to remove the top. Plus the long vertical piece was hard to manage during setup, breakdown, and cleaning.

Version Null: Old School

At one point, I did away with the manifold completely and went back to recirculating with a pyrex measuring glass and carefully pouring the return on top of the mash. This was tedious and also had the downside of messing up my grain bed, which did not help with runoff or clarity. This setup also meant that I could not constantly recirculate as is done in a RIMS set up. I didn’t have a heating element anyway, so this was not a big deal at the time.

Version 3 & 4: Cut a hole in the mash tun

The addition of a RIMS heating element (details in another post) meant that I once again needed some sort of return option to constantly recirculate the wort.

The next idea was to use a hose, fed through the wall of the cooler, much like the Blichmann Auto Sparge. The problems with this, though, were 1) depending on the liquid level, the return would generate varying amounts of pressure and would adversely affect the grain bed by creating craters where the liquid came out of the hose; and, 2) when it was working well, the return would create a whirlpool effect and the wort would be sucked more from the sides than the center. Because of this last problem, I had different temp regions in the mash, indicating it was not draining evenly.

I then decided I should once again try the manifold and attach it to the hose that was now in the cooler. Luckily I was able to use the same 4-outlet manifold I created initially. I just cut off the long piece and attached some other parts to it. I again wanted to be able to adjust the height of the manifold so that it was always just under the liquid level. At first I did this with a clamp and a wooden rod. But this did not allow me to put the top on the mash tun, which meant I was losing heat. Not terrible in a RIMS set up with a heating element, but not ideal.

Version 5: What about a tension rod??

So, I had an idea to affix the manifold to a small tension rod that could be put inside the cooler and stay in place with…tension. I knew Bed Bath and Beyond sold tension rods, but I did not think I would find one that fit inside the cooler. They all seemed to be made for full-sized windows. When I got to BB&B, though, I was happy to see they had a 7″ model. These are not listed on the website, you have to go into the shop to find them. Once I had the tension rod, it was just a matter of attaching some clamps and such to affix the manifold. See the results in the gallery. Now I can adjust the manifold to any height and still keep the lid on. When I need to look inside to check flow, I just remove the lid.

I have not yet brewed with this return manifold; however, I do not see any reason why it wouldn’t work great. The only problem I can foresee is that heat and condensation, coupled with the weight of liquid running through the manifold, might cause the tension rod to slip a bit. But I should be able to tighten it to get around this. Or the tension rod might rust all to hell from the heat and steam. We shall see.