If you are not learning to code then you should learn plumbing.
Read this to learn why you should not learn to code.
I didn’t know you had to learn some plumbing until I did my homemade mash tun.
Now you have an idea what I am talking about.
What is a Mash Tun?
A mash tun is a container that converts malted barley into liquid malt.
This liquid malt is boiled, fermented and boom you have beer.
There is a little bit more process and science about it.
Here are some cliff notes:
- Barley is grown
- They harvest it
- They take the barley grains and germinate the seeds up to a point
- This is called malted barley. This process convert starches into fermentable sugars.
- Boring chemical stuff here…blabla
- You put malted barley into a mash tun
- You add hot water
- Some stuff happens here. Chemical reactions…blabla
- Now you need to get the liquid out of the malt
- Now you have liquid malt
- This goes into a pot
- You boil it. Add hops and a bunch of special ingredients
- After boiling you cool the “wort”
- You add yeast
- Yeast ferments the wort
- Wait a few weeks
- Boom…beer…heaven on earth.
How to make a homemade Mash Tun
I guessed that you didn’t have the money or the space to buy an industrial mash tun.
Homemade beer aka homebrewing is usually done in batches of 5 gallons.
This produces about (40) 16 oz bottles of beer.
The reasons of homebrewing are beyond this article.
If you drink Miller Lite, stop reading. Go away now!
Building your own mash tun requires some skills:
- Familiarity with hand tools
- Basics of plumbing
Here are some pictures of what the mash tun looks like:
I was clueless about hand tools.
I used to call them those things you use to hang frames
My ignorance took me so far.
To build a mash tun you need the following:
- Screw driver, flat and phillips.
- Adjustable wrench
- Pipe wrench pliers
If you have never used these tools my recommendation is to go to the local hardware store and buy a set of tools that has one of everything.
Basics of Plumbing
To build your mash tun you also need:
- A cooler. About 50 quarts
- A brass MIP nipple 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inch
- (3) 1/2 inch brass barb MIP adapters
- A 1/2 inch FIP tee
- A stainless steel washing machine hose
- (2) stainless steel hose clamps
- A 1/2 inch brass ball valve
- No. 18 rubber washers
- Teflon tape
There are a lot of videos out there about building your own mash tun. These videos usually are a 5 min super simple video. I also watched the 15 minute extremely detailed video.
MIP Brass Nipple
I had no clue what MIP or FIP was.
MIP means Male Iron Pipe. Which means the threads are on the outside.
FIP means Female Iron Pipe. The threads are on the inside.
When I went to Home Depot I picked up a Brass MIP Nipple. Went to pay and the cashier said I couldn’t buy that item. There was lead on it.
I went to find the Home Depot “expert” and he said “It looks like this has lead. We cannot sell this. Actually I need to pull all this from the shelf”
Then he said “Buy the galvanized one”
I went home and did some research:
- Apparently “lead free” means that it should have less than 0.25% of lead
- Galvanized with brass don’t really match. Apparently.
Went to the home depot website and saw that the brass nipple I tried to buy was indeed lead free, cause it had less than 0.25% of lead.
I guess the “expert” at Home Depot had no clue about this.
When I went back to Home Depot. They put the stock back on the shelf.
The Brass MIP barb adapter
This one looks like this:
(3) of them.
One goes into each side of the hose and into the brass tee.
The FIP brass tee
The brass tee looks pale compared to the brass adapter.
It has 3 sides. All female (with the thread inside)
One side goes facing the hole, inside the cooler. After removing the plastic valve (whatever was there before).
The other two sides. Each goes into a barb adapter, which goes into a side of the hose.
Stainless steel hose
This hose is used as a filter. Since all the malted barley goes inside the cooler with hot water. The outer shelf stainless steel hose is used as a filter to let only the liquid malt out.
Cut both ends with a hand saw.
Ideally you should have a work bench with a vise.
Clamp the hose between the vise and use a square hand saw to cut the ends.
Otherwise it will be a pain. Like I did. I cut them by the end of a table with a small hand saw and my hands hurt afterwards.
The hose has these:
- A steel connector on each side
- Stainless steel outside
- Plastic inside
You only need the outside stainless steel.
After you cut off the steel connectors, you need to get the plastic hose from inside.
Following the videos. I did this:
With a plier take the plastic hose and pull it, while holding the stainless steel shell.
That didn’t work.
What did work:
I took a towel. And held the tip of the stainless steel shell. (If you do it with your hands you will stab your fingers).
Then with a plier I pulled the plastic out.
This took a minute.
I also followed the method of inserting a rolled stainless steel wire inside the steel hose. Wrapped the wire around a pencil and kept pushing the wire inside the steel hose. The wire inside the hose helps with the weight of the barley so it doesn’t crush the hose.
The ball valve
This has the threads inside. I guess it could be called a FIP brass ball valve.
When you turn it while looking inside, you will see there is a small ball that opens and closes.
This goes on the outside of the cooler.
No. 18 Rubber Washers
After a lot of trial and error, assembling the inside and outside of the cooler.
It would not stay tight.
I mean. When you turn the valve it should not move the whole assembly (nipple plus tee inside).
Something annoying at Home Depot was that these “experts” don’t know much about anything.
I asked for “gaskets” and “orings” and “washers”. I had to show them the nipple and specifically asked them what I wanted to do. Then they pointed me to an aisle.
When it is time to DIY things are different. Some things just don’t match.
In many of these videos you see that people use the “Coleman Xtreme 5”. And they say “Save the original washer that goes inside or…you are doomed”
In Miami. Around the Home Depot or Lowes hardware store. I didn’t find the cooler with the “spigot”.
I even asked if they had the “cooler with the spigot” and they replied “the what?”. To which I said “the square cooler with the plastic valve”. They looked at me as if I was from mars.
Then target had this whatever brand square cooler “with the spigot”. So I got that.
I followed the videos.
Whatched them over and over again.
I tried to put the original washer from the cooler but this wouldn’t keep the whole thing tight.
Metal with Metal Leaks
After some research I learned the (plumbing) obvious.
Metal with metal leaks.
You could go like this:
Metal with plastic with metal.
Male metal and teflon tape with female metal.
Put teflon tape around all male metal fittings
This worked for me:
On the outside:
- On the outside of the cooler I used the original washer from the outside
- Followed by a rubber washer
- Teflon tape on the outer side of the brass nippler
- Then ball valve
- Then teflon tape to the male side of the brass adapter
- Which screws into the ball valve
On the inside:
- Teflon tape on the outside of the nipple
- (3) rubber washers
- One stainless steel washer
- One more rubber washer
- Nipple screws into the brass tee
On the hose:
- Teflon tape to the brass adapter
- They go into each side of the hose
- Screwed into each side of the tee
All fittings are tighten with hand tools.
There are also things here and there that are only learned by experience:
- How to hold the tools
- How to mix tools
- How to connect things
It took me about 2 weeks to get out of my ignorance and I am pretty sure I know a few things more than most humans, including those that work at Home Depot.
Next Step: DIY Mashing