DIY mash/lauter tun build – assembly

by Daniel on April 22, 2012

If you have read my post with a shopping list of the parts needed to build a mash/lauter tun (MLT) with a 10 gallon picnic cooler, you’re now ready for the assembly.  You need to have two wrenches, at least one 3/4″ wrench, and a second the same size or adjustable in order to tighten these parts together.

Preparation:

  1. MLT assembly 3

    removing the stainless braid from the hose

    Remove the plastic spigot from your cooler.  Use a wrench to hold the plastic nut on the inside and then remove the spigot on the outside.  Remove everything except for the inner rubber seal/grommet.  If you bought new from Home Depot, you’ll have a white rubber grommet.  The used one I bought had no seal, so I purchased a grommet from ACE Hardware for cheap (see previous post).

  2. Optional:  Make a mix of hydrogen peroxide & vinegar 1:2 ratio and soak all the brass parts in it (see prev post) in order to remove trace amounts of lead and such. 5 minutes is all you need.
  3. Wrap all threaded ends of your parts with a few wraps teflon tape – do this in a clockwise fashion so that when screwing a part on, it is with the grain of the tape.
  4. If you haven’t already, use a hacksaw to cut the ends of your stainless steel supply hose off (I had the guys at Home Depot do this for me).  Grab one end of the stainless steel braid with needle nose pliers and PUSH toward the other end of the hose, it should begin to slide off quite easily.  If you pull, it’s like a Chinese finger trap and you’ll just ruin the braid.

Assembly:

  1. Apply some keg lube (food grade petroleum jelly) to the grommet and then pass the brass nipple through the hole.  The lube makes it easy for the nipple to fit through.  Oh yes, I said it.

    MLT assembly 1

    grommet and brass nipple

  2. On the inside, slide the stainless steel washer over the nipple.
  3. Screw the female-female coupler onto the nipple also on the inside (see photo below) – you can’t tighten this fully until you’ve attached the ball valve on the outside (step 5)
  4. Externally, add the 3 fender washers to act as spacers which will allow a tight fit of the ball valve.

    MLT assembly 2

    adding fender washers and ball valve

  5. Attach the ball valve, followed by the male barb connecter.

    MLT assembly 4

    ball valve & male barb

  6. Tighten the outside and inside parts simultaneously with your wrenches until very snug.
  7. Continue internal assembly: attach brass “tee” to the coupler, tightening so that the arms of the tee are horizontal.

    MLT assembly 5

    tee attached to coupler

  8. Attach female barb connectors to each end of the tee.

    MLT assembly 6

    barbs attached

  9. Make a circle with the stainless steel braid with one end on each female barb connector.  Tie down with zip-ties.  (Stainless steel hose clamps often still corrode because the screw part is not stainless).

    MLT assembly 7

    completed false bottom assembly

  10. Test!  Make sure the ball valve is closed, add water and let sit to check for leaking.  Then open to make sure it drains properly.

Happy brewing!  Check out my other easy DIY projects here.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Preamble October 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Hey, thanks for posting this! I followed your directions and made a mash tun and I also used your recipe and step by step instructions to make my first all grain batch. I decided to switch to all grain after years of being disappointed with my extract brews that nearly all had the infamous “twang”.

Everything went real smooth but I have one question. During the boil (before starting the hop additions) I started to get what I can only describe as egg drop soup effect. Skim particles floating about for nearly the entire boil. They seemed to filter out after I strained the cooled wort. Did you experience this with your boil?

Thanks again for posting this.

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Daniel October 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Hi Paul, thanks for the comment. I’m glad to hear you finally took the leap–you won’t regret it! You have an excellent question. What you are experiencing as the “egg drop soup effect” is what is called the hot break. As the wort begins to boil, proteins in the wort start to coagulate (clump up). At first the coagulation forms foam (why you have to watch for boil overs at this critical time). However, once the “hot break” point is reached, these coagulated proteins have reached large enough size that they fall back down into the wort. This gives the wort the “egg drop soup” appearance as you describe.

The reason you may not have experienced this before when doing extract only brewing is that in the process of the companies producing the extracts, they perform a boil and reach the hot break, so that has already occurred before you even start your boil, thus it’s often not seen. The hot break which forms this egg drop soup is actually a good thing that you want to see. The hot break proteins that coagulate and fall out of your wort can contribute to haze and flavor issues down the road. So when you cool your wort and transfer to your primary, just make sure you leave all the particles that have settled to the bottom and you’re good to go!

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Jamie December 25, 2012 at 7:10 am

Easy to follow instructions, thanks for posting this. Quick question, do you think that you can effectively fly sparge since the steel braid forms a loop? Thanks.

-Jamie

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Daniel December 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Hi Jamie, thank you, and good question. I have fly sparged with this setup successfully. The loop provides much better surface area and even distribution of water flow through the grain. Just make sure to keep your flow rate slow – sparging should take at least 40 minutes if you really want to extract as much sugar as possible from the grain. It’s worth the extra time. Good luck!

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Mike January 7, 2013 at 7:56 am

Thanks for the instructions. Did you put Teflon tape around the ends of the SS Braid, or did you just use 2 zip ties on each end?

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Daniel January 7, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Hi Mike, thanks for the comment! I did not put any Teflon tape around the ends of the SS Braid, I just used 2 zip ties per side.

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Preamble January 29, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Hey Daniel, just wanted to let you know that the recipe turned out absolutely wonderful! By far the best batch I’ve ever brewed. I am one that likes to allow plenty of time for conditioning and carbonation so I’ve only sampled one bottle just yesterday of my first batch that I brewed in October.
I also used the loop tubing in the mash tun and I’ve brewed 5 different recipes so far and have not had one even close to being stuck.
Thanks again

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Daniel January 30, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Hey Paul, it’s great to hear that the mash tun is working great for you as did the recipe. Keep it up!

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Giles April 4, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Daniel, great post. REALLY clarified some stuff for me. My big question is: will this work for the 5 gallon coolers, too? The spigot hole is large enough for a 1/2″ nipple to fit through with no wiggle. If I do the grommet and 3/8″ nipple, is that going to create good seal?

I’ve already built a CPVC manifold, I’m just trying to figure out how to put all of this together without having to buy too many other parts.

Reply

Daniel April 5, 2013 at 12:50 am

Hi Giles,
I’m glad to hear that my post helped you! Yes, I believe this all works for the 5 gallon coolers as well. I definitely recommend the grommet & 3/8″ nipple as this will secure a good seal for you so you don’t get any leaks. I’d love to see pictures of your final product with the CPVC manifold if you’re willing to email me when you’re done, as I could share it on the post as another option for the build. Let me know how it turns out!

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Giles April 5, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I’ll definitely try to shoot you some pictures! I got the idea from this forum on Homebrew Talk, if that helps: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/efficient-octagonal-cpvc-manifold-rubbermaids-268491/

One of the posters said he gets 75% efficiency from it.

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Michael April 12, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Daniel:

Thanks for the instructions! This cooler turned out really well with some simple mods. I used the Home Depot 10 Gallon Rubbermaid. I had to add an extra two washers on the outside and one extra on the inside. I also had to flip the ball valve upside down, because the plastic around the inlet hits the valve when right side up, not allowing a full close.

Other than that, I am super excited to try this out on the May4th National Brew Day as my first leap into AG brewing! Thanks again for the instructions.

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Daniel April 13, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Thanks Michael! I’m glad the build worked for you, let me know how your first AG brew turns out.

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Michael May 4, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Daniel:

First AG in the primary today. The mash/lauter tun you advised building here worked great! I will be sure to share your page with others. Also, thanks for the step-by-step first AG brew instructions. I used those today and subbed my own steps for the Pointer’s Proper for AHA Brew Day today. Thanks again!

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Daniel May 4, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Thanks Michael, I’m honored that you’re so pleased with my instructions and I’m glad they worked so well for you. I cant wait to hear how the beer tastes! I’m curious: Did you have to modify the various water amounts much for your batch? Did you measure/hit your OG & FG?

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Michael May 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Yes. I was using about 8 lbs of grain in my batch. Therefore, I increased to an overall water usage of about 7.5 gal. Using about 2.75 for mash and 4.75 for sparge. I initially was worried about collecting more than the recommended 6.25 gal of wort, but noticed only about 1 gal left in the m/l tun. I collected just over 7 gal of wort and was able to hit the accurate OG/FG.

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Paul September 6, 2013 at 8:36 am

Thanks for this article! I used your instructions and built my own. Brew day was Sunday and everything went great with my first all grain brew.

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Daniel September 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Paul, I’m so glad to hear it, thanks for the comment!

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Bill November 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Hello Daniel,
Thanks for the info!
My question is how has the braid held up over time. Does it get crushed or otherwise mangled by cleaning?
Thanks
bill

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Daniel November 8, 2013 at 12:23 am

Hi Bill, great question. I found the braid can get a little pinched in places over time, mainly due to stirring up the mash with my big stainless steel spoon, but it still held up this whole time and never had problems sparging. When I built one for my friend, I added some bendable stainless steel wire that I coiled around the whole thing to protect it from this issue. But like I said, even when it gets some wear and tear, it still holds up fine.

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Bill November 8, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Hello Daniel,
I was thinking of using copper tubing inside the braid. I would use a dremel to cut slots horizontally in various places to allow flow from anywhere along the tube. This might be unnecessary.

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JTW December 5, 2013 at 1:01 am

No leaks! Home Depot 10 gallon. Took me a few hours start to finish – had to redo the whole valve connection a few times. But it worked great on the first test with water. Ready for brew day! Great approach to building a mach tun. THANKS!

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Paul December 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Great ideas; I read Palmer’s book and another about building a MLT, and now after reading your posts, I’m going to try it this weekend. One question, how do you clean the braid? Are you removing it from the brass fittings?

Thanks very much

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Daniel December 16, 2013 at 12:58 am

Thanks Paul! At the end of brew day, I first rinse the majority of the grain out with water. Then I just put some hot water & oxy clean in, rinse it around again, and then drain through the spigot. The braid cleans out very well with this method still after many brews!

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Kid Dynamite January 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm

howdy – thanks for this HowTo…

stupid question: the stainless steel braid is porous?

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Daniel January 25, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Hey, no problem – yes, it’s pourous to allow the wort to seep through and sift out the grain to keep it in the mash tun.

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Kid Dynamite January 27, 2014 at 5:01 pm

thanks. I built this today. I was really wavering between the 5G cooler and the 10G… everyone always says “go bigger, you will not regret it,” but I brew mostly 2.5G batches, and the 10G cooler is a pain in the butt in terms of not fitting under my faucet, cleaning etc… I went with it anyway…

I must be a plumbing idiot, because I had major trouble getting the ball valve and the coupling to thread onto the nipple. each only threaded down like 1/4 inch or less, compared to the female barb connecters which easily threaded all the way onto the tee…. I dunno what I did wrong, but I just added extra washers and I don’t think it’s leaking…

ps – the first Ace hardware I went to had 5/8 stainless steel washers, so that was lucky…

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Daniel January 31, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Glad to hear the build went okay. I’m wondering if you just got a brass nipple that was just slightly off when made, or the ball valve. It should go on further than that. Weird. I’m glad to hear there’s no leaks and that you found SS washers though, nice!

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Rich March 2, 2014 at 10:47 am

Hi, thanks for the instruct able. I got this built and just made my first all-grain batch. I used the 10-gal beverage cooler (blue Igloo).

One thing I ran into was my mash lost 7 degrees over 90 minutes. I did a little research and it turns out some of the beverage coolers have hollow lids, no insulation to them. I could literally put my hand on the lid and feel the heat radiating out.

The fix most people are employing is to drill 2-3 holes in the top of the lid and then use the spray foam to fill the hollow cavity with the expanding foam. By drilling the holes on the outside of the lid it prevents the foam from being exposed to the moisture inside the tun and possibly leaching anything into the mash.

I think I am also going to apply the spray foam on the inside cavity portion of the lid but seal it with an epoxy resin that will make it water-proof and then the moisture shouldn’t be an issue anymore.

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Daniel March 8, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Wow, thanks Rich, I didn’t know that was an issue with some coolers, thanks for sharing the solution!

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Rich March 29, 2014 at 7:55 am

Just made my second batch which is the first with the insulated lid, didn’t lose any heat this time.

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Matt LaBoone March 30, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Just finished making this and your guide was super helpful! Thanks for posting all the specific item numbers, that helped a lot. I went to Home Depot and had to click the link you had for the gasket to be able to find it. I was actually able to find the right size stainless washer at Home Depot, but it was in a kit for a large bolt with a bunch of other stuff I didn’t need, worth it not to drive around town though. I also used an Igloo brand cooler (orange and white), and the original valve and hole in it were for a 1/2″ valve. With the washers and gaskets it sealed up great with the 3/8″ pieces though. Thanks again!

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