A Tun of Fun

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend. I know I did…and here’s what I’m thankful for:

A few months ago we started Taft Canyon Brewers over a bottle of bourbon as an experiment to see if two guys who majored in their native tongue could figure out the art and science behind brewing beer. After some successful batches, our thirst for knowledge (and high quality home brew) began to grow. Deeper and deeper research lead us to recipes involving the mysterious MASH. Being the ambitious scholars we are, we studied the various steps involved in mashing grains and after much discussion, decided to skip it…home brewing is supposed to be fun right? Mashing uses terms like “sparge” and “vorlauf”, plus there was math involved!!! So we happily continued on in our mash ignorance and “steeped” our grains. Heck, so far so good.

But the seeds of all-grain brewing had started to germinate. So after many hours of ignoring my family to scour the internet for information around all-grain brewing and mashing, I decided to make the investment in a 10 gallon mash tun. Now, I could have just ordered one from the Internet and spent the Thanksgiving weekend with my family…but where’s the fun in that???
So after multiple trips to the hardware store (apparently not all 5/8″ stainless steel washers are created equal…), I am now the proud owner of a 10 gallon cooler converted to a Mash/Lauter Tun. Now it was time to try our hand at an all-grain recipe. The first lucky contestant for our Mash Tun – Taft Canyon’s own St. Brigid Red Ale – 11.5 ponds of grains and 2 ounces of hops…this is going to be interesting.


Home Depot Special – 10 gallon garage Mash Tun

For the mash, I pored 16 quarts of 170°f water into the tun, and then added the grains. a quick stir to get the grain wet, then covered and let rest for 60 minutes. Target mash temp was 154° and I figured the tun and grains would absorb about 15°…Of course I forgot to preheat the tun…Temp after 60 min was about 150° so I was not too far off. I then drained the wort into my brew pot and attempted a batch sparge with 20 quarts at 165°f. I poured the 20 quarts over the grains, gently stired, covered, and let the grains settle for about 10 minutes, and then drained into my pot. This made a lot of wort…too much for my pot, so I used about 6.5 gallons and put 1 gallon back into the tun.


11.5 pounds of grain in the tun after the mash…smelled like a brewery

After bringing the really full pot of wort to a boil, I added 1 oz of hop pellets…and had the first boil over of the night. The pot was just too full. I took the heat down to a low boil for another 50 minutes, and then added the final oz of hops and Irish Moss. After a full 60 minute boil, it was time for the handy dandy wort chiller to do its work.

All said and done, the original gravity was a bit lower than I was hoping for – target was 1.064 and it came out at 1.030. So, here are my thoughts:
1- I didn’t stir the grains enough at the start if the sparge. I did a fairly gentle stir, but didn’t make sure all the grains were stored up from the bottom to release the sugars

2- I might have drained both mash and sparge too fast. I pretty much opened the valve full blast.

3- Too much wort in the pot. I was never able to get to a good rapid boil, so the wort never really concentrated.


St Brigid Red Ale Original Gravity

I hope this red turns out, but I am already looking forward to trying this recipe again soon…with a couple modifications of course…

While I was wrestling with this red, Steve was brewing the next incarnation of the soon to be world famous Taft Canyon Hop Titties IPA.




Filed under Beer Recipes, Making Beer, Red Ale

7 responses to “A Tun of Fun

  1. colin

    Sounds like you did a single sparge (ie. you added all 20 qts of sparge water at once). You’ll get far better efficiency if you break the sparge out into at least two, maybe three, separate batches (hence the term batch sparge).

    • Thanks for the advice, Colin. I actually sparged three times: I removed half the grains and sparged them, then removed the other half and sparged them. Then I sparged the hops after the boil was over with room temp water (it just seemed like the prodent thing to do) to get my volume back up to 5 gallons before pitching the yeast. I was surprised to see the initial gravity was lower (1.090 in Batch 2 vs 1.125 in Batch 1) – but I was using a different burner and I think my boil was more rapid. I also switched out half the grains – went from 20L Crystal to British Crystal, which doesn’t seem like it would result in a gravity decline of that much. Could reducing the overall mash time to 45 minutes (versus 70 minutes in Batch 1) be the primary reason that the gravity is lower?

      • Colin

        I’m a bit confused, you removed the grains to sparge them? Typically, the grains are left in the mash tun (lauter tun at this point) for sparging. A basic procedure for batch sparging: mash between 148 and 158 for 60 min. (45 min. is fine too), then recirculate a quart of wort, drain wort into kettle, add half of sparge water at 168 F, stir and let stand for 10 min. Recirculate 1 qt, drain mash. Repeat with remaining sparge water. Using that method you should be able to hit 65% efficiency.
        What type of false bottom/manifold did you construct? The change in crystal malt should not have much effect on OG. At 45 min. as long as you were around 150 F you shaould have complete conversion, getting the sugar out is where you seem to have run into a problem.

      • keithapatt

        Thansk Colin. Looks like we are discussing two differnt mashes. Steve did a mash on the IPA the other night as well. This was done in the brew pot wrapped in a sleeping bag. The grains were then strained out and sparged.

        For the Red – thanks for the note on single vs. batch. So much info out there on the topic and it never hit me there was a difference. Now I know what the “batch” is all about. I did recirculate about 2 quarts from the mash drain, and then again from the sparge. I appreciate it and will give it a go on the next round.
        For the Tun, I have a braided stainless steel hose for the manifold.

      • My bad, gents – I thought Colin was referring to the Hop Titties IPA Version 2.

      • Since I don’t have a tun (although Keith just made one that we’ll be using going forward), I used a sieve to lift half the grains out of the kettle, then slowly poured a gallon of hot water over them. I then removed the rest of the grains and repeated. Am I an idiot?

  2. Colin

    Ahhhh… I didn’t realize we were talking about two different brews. Keith, sounds like you probably just need to separate your sparging into batches, two or three. Make sure the sparge water is hot (168-172 F) and hold a ten minute rest between batches.
    Steve, I didn’t see any details on your maching/sparging procedure. I’m not sure why your gravity was lower. Could just be a difference in final volume (how much water did you add to bring it to volume).

    Cheers and happy brewing,

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