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stuck mash #3,000,000

PostPosted: Sat Nov 21, 2009 6:27 pm
by alms66
Well, looks like I'll be starting the boil at midnight if I'm lucky, yet again. Insomnia has it's advantages sometimes...

So, anyway I'm done trying to make this false bottom work and have been looking into other options. It seems to me that the best option is going to be a stainless steel braid with a copper tube inserted to prevent crushing. Is anybody using that setup right now? I'd like to try it before wasting any time or money on switching to it, because if I get a stuck mash with that too, I'll be done with all-grain. It's just not worth it to me.

Other suggestions welcome.

PostPosted: Sat Nov 21, 2009 6:35 pm
by yeastmeister
You can borrow mine. No copper tube, but I have no problems with it.

PostPosted: Sun Nov 22, 2009 5:40 am
by Mob_Barley
I went back and looked at the first post when you had a stuck sparge. It got me thinking again. You have probably checked out many or all of these things, but take a look at them again. Here are the things that can likely cause the mash to stick:

Milling too fine (getting too much flour). If you are using a drill, try going half speed. You don't have to get it done in thirty seconds. Have someone check your milled grain to get another set of eyes on the problem.

Look for a restriction in the flow from the bottom of the mash tun to the end of the hose. Make sure the ball valve is full port. ie. if you have a 1/2" ball valve, the opening inside is 1/2". There are many that are not full port, you will see a much smaller hole through the valve if it is not.

I'm assuming the false bottom is stainless, if it is one of the plastic ones, it may be floating and allowing too much grain below and into the outflow, clogging up the whole flow line.

Are you having any problems when you recirculate prior to draining? Again, run about an inch of water above the top of the grain bed before you recirculate so it floats. Do this even if you batch sparge.

Do you have a drop from the height of the false bottom to the end of the hose coming off the ball valve? You have to get the wort flowing and keep it flowing. If you don't have enough drop, the wort may not want to flow. Try raising your mash tun at least 6" or more above your kettle. I usually just get a spring loaded clamp, like a big clothes pin, and clip the end of the hose on the top rim of my kettle. If you are connecting your hose to a valve in the bottom of the kettle (the valve there may not be full port either), you may try disconnecting the hose there, and clamping it to the top lip of your kettle so there is no restrictions.

I don't know if you fly sparge or batch sparge. The tendency when batch sparging is to try and drain the mash tun too quickly. Allow the wort to "trickle" out of the end of the hose from the mash tun if you are fly sparging, or just drain much more slowly if you are batch sparging. Trying to drain too fast can cause the grain bed to compact.

If you don't have a sight glass I'd get one. This way you can monitor the level of the wort inside the mash tun to see if it's draining too quickly. When fly sparging, you can see when the wort is draining faster than the sparge water is going in (compacting the grain bed). Use a dry erase marker to mark the wort level when you start a fly sparge, then adjust the inflow of sparge water and outflow of wort to try and maintain the level (don't mark until you have an inch or two of water above the grain bed).

Any of these things could be the culprit. I'd check the ball valve first. Then check the hose between the ell on the false bottom, and the ball valve to make sure there is no restrictions like a kink or hose clamp that is too close to the end of the barbed fitting or something like that. I know it must be frustrating, but there is a simple explanation for your problems, because I and many other brewers have the same set-up as you and don't have any problems. We all have different ball valves though, and we all sparge differently. I'f you don't have a gap tool to check the gap on your barley crusher, get one at an auto parts place. Set it back to factory default of .039 inch using the .025 and .014 "blades" in the wrench. Tighten the gap adjustment screws until you feel resistance but can still push and pull the gap tool in and out of the rollers. Mill some grain and recheck the gaps to make sure they didn't change (if they do, send the mill back to BC and get another one).

If all this fails, let me know and I'll come by and watch you brew one day. Maybe we can find the problem. This should be fun, not an exercise in frustration.

PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:34 pm
by GuitarLord5000
I feel for you, man. I can't imagine having to routinely deal with a stuck mash. It sure seems like it would take all of the fun out of brewing.

I was supposed to be leaving for work early tomorrow morning, but it looks like I may have been granted a short reprieve. I have a homemade five gallon cooler tun with stainless braid (no copper tube) that I've used for a couple dozen batches of beer that I'm now using as a HLT. I'd be willing to let you use it as well as my grain mill while I'm offshore if you'd like to give it a try. You may not get great efficiency on this setup, but I've never had a stuck mash with this tun using the rather coarse crush that my grain mill is set for. As long as you aren't using wheat or rye flour in the grain bill, I'm reasonably sure I can guarantee a non-stuck mash using this equipment.

Let me know.


PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 7:11 pm
by alms66
The good news is that the boil started at 7pm and I was done with everything, including cleanup for midnight. I ended up blowing back through the hose and closing the valve at the same time. Then, with everything cleared - hopefully, I started the process of opening the valve again. I did it a few times, still got nothing, so I took a break and came post here. When I got back to the tun, it was flowing well. But that doesn't change anything at this point. Two hours of trying to get it to flow only to have it start flowing mysteriously after I walk away just pisses me off more.

I can say with 100% certainty that it's not a milling problem. My roller spacing was at .039 and I got a stuck mash, it was at .050 and I got a stuck mash, this time I increased it to a .065 and still got a stuck mash. Most people report no problems at the default .039 spacing. It simply can't be the problem at this point.

In fact, out of all the things listed, nothing seems likely at this point in the process. I've checked and rechecked just about everything. Remember I did 8-10 (don't recall the exact number) flawless batches with the exact same setup, minus the mill I now have. Nothing else has changed and every batch after those first run of flawless batches has resulted in a stuck mash. That, as far as I can tell, leaves only one possibility, which is that I attempt to drain too quickly. However, I know that's not the problem, because I've known that's the only thing that can be the problem since I started having problems - so I avoid it by going ridiculously slow with it. Slower than I did with the first batches I had no problems with.

Every time the problem started as soon as I open the valve. I always crack it slowly and very slowly work up to fully open. Still, each time there was either absolutely nothing that came out or it would come out so slowly that it would take far too many hours to drain the tun at that rate. There simply are no good explanations at this point as far as I can see and I'm done with it.

PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 9:07 pm
by Imakewort
sorry to hear your done with all grain, i used to have a few stuck mashes and tried everything, eventually found out it was my false bottom the holes were to small and when the gravity went up to a certain point no or very little flow, this usually happened half way thru the transfer to the BK. I switched to a different mesh for the false bottom and problem cured.
You never did mention what kind of false bottom you are using?aybe your done with it but lets see if we can solve this problem to help some one in the future.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 9:23 am
by aleguy
Redtail has the same setup, and he told me he couldn't even bring himself to sell it because it was so bad. If you have checked to make sure the holes are not plugged with the strange, clear gelatinous film that I sometimes find in my slotted pipe manifold, and it still won't flow, I think it's time to try another rig.
Please don't let equipment problems stop you from brewing. The club is here to help with any problems you may have. It's always good to ask questions before you build or buy anything else, chances are someone in the club already has experience with whatever you're considering.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 3:10 pm
by aleguy
I don't know if this helps, but Buddy and Yeasty just had a stuck Roggenbier. They ended up throwing it out.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 3:15 pm
by GuitarLord5000
alms66 wrote:There simply are no good explanations at this point as far as I can see and I'm done with it.

Good deal! With that many stuck mashes, you should be done with that tun. So, PM me with your address, and I'll get my tun to you asap. I think it's high time to try something different.


PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 8:53 pm
by Imakewort
i agree the best plan now is to look at other peoples systems that work and copy there's. that is the best advice to give to all brewers deciding to build a system, no need the reinvent the wheel.
When most of us started brewing in Lafayette there where no systems to copy from so we had to design our own systems, I would say to all new brewers is to decide what kind of system you would like to end up with, find some one locally who has one that works and copy there's and save yourself a lot of money and frustration.
if you decide to go high end system like a rims consider buying a turn key system it would probably be cheaper in the long run and guaranteed to work first time, and save you a lot of frustration.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 8:14 am
by aleguy
Don't just decide what kind of system you want and copy the same one of someone in the club. Most of us are more than happy to have someone come over for a brew session. Look at as many different peoples' systems as you can before deciding what you want.
Get the word out about what you're looking for. A lot of people have old equipment they no longer use, or they know where and/or how to find what you are most likely looking for. The one thing I'm almost certain of is that a turn-key system will cost a whole lot more and probably not be the best system for most people.
Half the fun of home brewing is building your own custom equipment. It is less expensive. You usually end up with better stuff, and you don't have to come up with all the money up front. Like me, you can build a super automated RIMS a little bit at a time (if you have the patience.) I have looked at everyone's system, taken the best ideas from all of them, solved some of the common problems and added newly available technology and some ideas of my own.
My own RIMS is only about half finished, but when it is done, it will represent the highest evolution of the RIMS to date. I will be extremely happy when people pick up the ball and run with their own systems and make mine look antiquated and funky by comparison.
In short, look around and see what's out there before you make up your mind.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 9:27 am
by Mob_Barley
If you had quite a few batches that worked fine but all of a sudden didn't, something had to change. Did you pull the false bottom out or your mash tun and scrub it down with a wire brush? Just thinking there may be a very fine build-up of some kind on under-side of screen that you can't see. Spend a little while and scrub top and bottom, and while you are at it, pull the brass elbow apart and ream it out, change the small hose to the valve, etc. See if that helps.

Here is another issue you can check out. It is possible that the bottom of your cooler has warped and is allowing grains to bypass the false bottom and plug the lines. You might try using your setup in someone else's borrowed cooler and see if you still get a stuck mash. If not, just get another cooler. Or better yet, swap out your coolers. Just set-up your HLT as your MLT with the false bottom, and try another mash.

I'm all for upgrading your system, but for science's sake, it might be nice to find out what is causing your problem so it won't happen to someone else.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 2:11 pm
by yeastmeister
I'll say it again, my cooler setup has been used by multiple people in the club and is available for loan. Its never failed anyone as far as I know.

Agreed, let us know when your brewing next, we can show up and hopefully determine your problem. If its me, I can even bring an extra cooler tun to see if its your tun, or the crush. Whatever you do, don't give up yet. Once you get something that works, all grain is easy, and cheaper. You've gone this far, give us a chance to brew with you and see if we can diagnose your problem.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 5:02 pm
by aleguy