In the past weeks, I’ve worked on upgrading the brew pot with a whirlpool port and a sight glass. Given that my original pot had been a bit hacked up with my unprofessional attempts to drill holes with a step bit, I also purchased a new Bayou Classic Pot and re-drilled all the holes with a 21mm hole saw. Looks a lot cleaner now. I’ve added what I think will be the final upgrade to the pot: a Blichmann autosparge.
One issue with re-circulation is the potential for a stuck mash. The grain bed along with the fine mesh bag creates a barrier trough which liquid flows very slowly. Meanwhile, the pump is quickly removing liquid from under the bag and pumping it to the top of the pot. The flow rate from under the bag is greater than the flow rate out of the bag, creating a dry space around the heating element.
This generates two major problems. Firstly, if your pot is relatively small and the space below the bag is large, the pot can overflow. That mess will probably make you stop brewing for a year.
More importantly, the heating element is no longer submerged, and heat buildup will fry the heater. This is commonly referred to as “dry frying” the element.
The Blichmann autosoarge is a device that lets you control the flow of recirculating based on the level of liquid in the kettle. A floating device rests in the mash and pushes a valve shut should the liquid rise above a certain level. Just like your toilet tank!
The autosparge’s primary use is to control the sparse step in a multi vessel brewing setup. Water can leave the mash tun at the same speed as it comes in from the hot liquor tank, thanks to the flow control. In this case, I am using it as a fail safe device for hands off recirculation. Should the bottom of the kettle be depleted too quickly, the level of liquid at the top will rise and the autosparge will shut off the valve. Disaster averted. No more messing around with throttling pump valve and trying to get everything just right while hoping grain bed fluidity will cooperate while I am not looking.
To install the autosparge, a typical 13/16″ hole has to be drilled in the brew pot. I already have such a hole to fit the top of my sightglass. and it also doubles as a recirculation return
I could simply thread the autosparge directly into the tee on the other side of the pot, but this makes removing it more tedious. I need to be able to remove it easily because of how the grain bag fits in the pot. More on this later.
The simplest solution is to use a spare bulkhead I previously used on the lid of the pot for recirculation return. Having moved to the side of the pot, the bulkhead was no longer needed
The autosparge fits into the female NTP side of the bulkhead nicely. It is easy to remove and it can be tightened into place using the nut rather than screwing the unit itself tightly into the female port.
Here is the autosparge in action. The return is a gentle whirlpool regulated by the level of the wort.
I typically have open ended brew day where mashing can last anywhere from 1 hours to half a day. I need to be able to walk away from the mash and leave it be at constant temperature. For constant temperature, I need recirculation. And for recirculation to be hands off, I need a failsafe mechanism to avoid overflows and/or dry frying the heating element. The Blichmann autosparge is the final touch that makes it all happen.
It’s worth noting that a hole in the brew bag was required to make this work. I got some 1″ grommets and installed them over a hole with some epoxy glue.
Updated Brew Pot Part List
Here is the updated part list for the latest version of the pot.
Bed Bath & Beyond
|Bulkhead with mini dip tube||BrewHardware||19.00|
|Ball valve (whirlpool port)||Amazon||15.99|
|Ball valve (drain)||BrewHardware||17.99|
|1/2″ NPT Elbow||BrewHardware||3.50|
|1/2″ NPT Tee x 2||BrewHardware||8.00|
|1/2′ NTP Bulkhead||Amazon||4.00|
|1/2″ NPT Hose barb||came with ball valve||0.00|
|1/2″ Male Quick Disconnect||BrewHardware||5.99|