So...finally have these things going...hopefully I'm using them correctly
Let's Build a Frickin' Mash Tun!
February 6, 2014
It’s time to get all home improvement-y today, and show you how to make a mash tun (if you’re too young to know why Home Improvement or Al Borland are significant I hate your freakin’ face). This is the foundation of your all grain brewing arsenal, and making sure of your tun is in good order is essential to a successful all grain beer. It’s allot easier than you might imagine although this post is going to be lengthier than most previous entries. So exhale, give your pint some love and let’s do this.
Everything you need to make a mash tun can be found at Home Depot or Lowes, and all your supplies should be around $50 (that’s assuming you are going for a 10 gallon setup, if you are going to go for a 5 gallon then it should be even less). You will need: An insulated water cooler (again either 5 or 10 gallon depending on the rest of your brewing setup) one 4 foot length of ½ inch pvc pipe, three ½ inch slip caps, one ½ inch pvc cross tee (the cheap one, not the super expensive version that looks exactly the same…yeah that’s a thing), four ½ inch silicone washers, one ½ inch PVC Solvent socket ball valve, one ½ inch threaded 90 degree barbed spigot and one straight barbed spigot. I’ve included everything in half inch measurements but make sure that is the correct size for the spigot opening on your water cooler before buying anything (I assume that’s kind of a given, but you never know). You will also need a drill with the smallest bit you can find (usually 1/16 inch) and a dremel tool or saw for cutting.
Once you’re done shopping for mash tun stuff and you’ve had a pint or two, it’s time to get started. First, you need to remove the spigot that came with the water cooler and toss it (or not, maybe you’re into hoarding useless parts of things, whatever bakes your cookie homeslice, I'm not here to judge). Next, fit two of the silicon washers on the threaded section of your straight barbed spigot and fit the same end through the spigot opening on the inside of the cooler. Fit your remaining silicon washers on the threaded section of the spigot that is protruding out of the spigot opening and screw on the ball valve. Screw the 90 degree spigot in on the other side of the valve and boosh, your spigot fixture is done.
Next, you need to measure the inner diameter of the cooler so you can determine the measurements for cutting your pvc. You will need to deduct the length of the center of the cross tree from your measurement (I recommend sliding the cross tree onto the end of your pvc pipe and measuring how far in it goes….mind out of the gutter with that whole sentence). You will need to cut your pvc into four equal sections for each entry on the cross tree, so measure up and sharpie that (technical terms, I know). After you cut the pvc sections, assemble them with your cross tree and slip caps and make sure it fits snugly in the cooler with the spigot assembly. After you make any adjustments to the size of your pvc sections (or if you have to recut them, there is a reason I’m recommending a 4 foot length afterall…) it’s time to break out the drill.
Use your wee drill bit (yup I said “wee”…its part of my vernacular, deal with it) to drill several holes in each of the pvc sections you cut. Keep in mind that this is the filter by which the wort will be passing, so make sure you have enough holes drilled to allow for a large volume of liquid to pass through while still being able to filter out the solid grain elements. You will probably notice the huge mess that this makes, which is also why it’s crucial to remove any stray pieces of pvc that are clinging to the holes you’ve drilled and wash them thoroughly, along with all of the other parts of the tun. Everything washed? Did you put it back together? Congrats, you just made a mash tun!
I’ve posted some pictures for this on the Flickr (see I told you I’d do that, hooray for follow through!) so you can have some visual reverence and see what I have on my kitchen counter. I will be posting more details on the actual use of a mash tun when I make my next beer for this month, in the interim you can impress someone with this nugget of homebrewing how-to (now re-read this post and take a sip for every use of the word “Spigot”).
What I was drinking during this post: Powder Hound Winter Ale by Big Sky Brewing Co.