SS Brewtech 10 Gallon InfuSsion Mash Tun Review

After having done four batches on my SS Brewtech mash tun I can give it a fair review.

I had been using the same 10 gallon orange cooler for a hell of a long time, over ten years! I had the bulkhead super solid and leak free, and a hard-piped false bottom to avoid suction collapse, and it always worked well and retained heat.  It’s kind of dingy and one wall is heat-buckled but considering my brewstand is made out of bed frames aesthetics isn’t a big priority for my homebrewing.

I bought the SS mash tun mostly out of curiosity, to see if an engineered $400 stainless cooler would be any better than a $40 plastic one.  The short answer is that yes, it is better, but not hugely so.  In my opinion there aren’t any clear-cut differences that make this product a clear winner over a much cheaper plastic option; that decision will come down to your and your budget.  I’ll discuss those differences below in order of importance to me.

Lautering – How well does it strain out your wort?

My cooler takes 2 gallons of vorlauf before the runoff is clear enough to start filling the kettle.  The first gallon is pretty chunky with the second having a few bits of grain and murk.

Because the SS’s false bottom has a silicone gasket around its circumference I hoped that my vorlaufing would be reduced; perhaps no grain would make it under the false bottom at all!  Well sadly it still takes about 2 gallons to get clear enough runoff.  And again, the first half is fairly chunky.  I’m not complaining about this, just noting that it behaves the same as my cooler setup.

Otherwise lautering works equally well as in my plastic cooler.  I have not seen any difference in mash efficiency.  I do need to blow into my runoff hose to get it going whereas I’ve never needed to do that with the plastic cooler.

Heat Retention

Heat retention is important to infusion mashers!  When I first got the stainless tun I ran some experiments on it to find its heat capacity and heat loss coefficient using Bjorn Jansson’s mash physics process.

Here are my results, with the jist being that after 40 minutes the plastic and stainless coolers each lost about the same amount of temperature but for different reasons.  Stainless soaks up more initial heat (Heat Capacity) but retains it better over time (Heat Loss Coefficient); plastic is the opposite.  Each lost 7 degrees over 40 minutes.

T0 (F) T5 (F) T40 (F) Delta T (F) Heat Capacity (kJ/K) Time Calibration Heat Loss Coeff. (W/K)
Plastic 148.1 144.7 141.1 -7 2.988 43391.5 1.6123
Stainless 147.7 143.2 140.4 -7.3 3.955 54968.3 1.2903

So again, there is a wash when comparing the two mash tuns.

Cleanability

Finally, a clear winner for the SS product!  I love how the false bottom slips in with no fittings to undo.  And stainless is much easier to clean that porous plastic.

Usability during the mash

As compared to the plastic cooler, the stainless tun is better in these ways:

  • The lid is really easy to use; no threading

And it is worse than the plastic tun in these ways:

  • The rubber feet will pop out if you drag the tun across a surface (SS provides an extra foot with the tun because they know you’ll eventually loose one)
  • It is heavy!  It’s a lot harder to carry a tun full of wet grain when that mash tun is made of metal.  It weighs 33 pounds just by itself!  A 10 gallon cooler weighs about 11 pounds.

I’m not sure if this is the right section to mention this, but the thermometer that comes with the tun is not great.  I did a bunch of boiling water testing with all my various thermometers and the LCD thermometer was consistently 2 degrees Fahrenheit below what it should have been.  My cheap instant-read thermometer was pretty damn close to perfect!  Because the SS thermometer doesn’t offer a calibration option it’s now sitting in my “extra brewing stuff” shoebox, and I’m thinking about how to plug up the thermowell hole in the mash tun.

Overall Value & Conclusion

This product gets a 5/10 from me.  I’m glad that a few manufacturers are offering stainless mash tuns to us homebrewers, but those products aren’t leaps and bounds better than what we’ve historically used.

I think that the stainless tun is a good choice if you don’t already have a plastic tun built and don’t mind spending some money.  You won’t have to mess around with perfecting your bulkhead, and you won’t ever have to worry about plastic leaching into your homebrew.  While this isn’t a big personal concern for me, it’s always raised one of my eyebrows.

Durability and chemical inertness are what make it better than a plastic mash tun, you just need to decide how much money that’s worth to you.

Segment Calculation Google Sheet Document

Who doesn’t enjoy simple geometry and spreadsheets?  I made my own segment calculation spreadsheet just to get a better understanding of segmented turning.  I’m not doing anything particularly complex so it was a fun little undertaking.

Here’s a link to the spreadsheet with some inner and outer radii already filled in.  Feel free to make a copy of it (in the File menu) for your own project!

The inner and outer radii that you determine from your profile drawing go right into the spreadsheet.  I should clarify that the inner radius does not determine the inside face of the segment, it is where the inside wall of your vessel will be.  As you can see from the drawing, there is some extra material between the inside faces of the segments and the vessel.  So you should notice that your calculated segment widths are a touch wider than the vessel wall thickness.

Like many Imperial system users, I can easily “think” in inches but prefer accurate measurements in metric, so I have the spreadsheet inputs in inches and its outputs in both inches and millimeters.

I’ve also included a “Done?” column so that you can track your progress on a printed copy.

Angle Setup Blocks for Making Wedgie Setup Templates

Jerry Bennett’s Wedgie Sled is a wonderfully simple and elegant solution to the problem of cranking out trapezoids for segmented turning.  If you’re not familiar with his idea,  visit his site and watch his video series.

The only hard part is what to do about setting the angle between the two fences; here are a few options:

  • Buy angle setup blocks – Jerry has them available but they are expensive!
  • Use a digital protractor – I tried iGaging’s protractor but it’s not accurate enough for this application.  A resolution of 1/2 degree just isn’t good enough.
  • Make your own – but how??

The problem with making your own is that the angle temple needs to be quite accurate!  The template’s error will be compounded by each segment in your ring; this is the basis for the “5-cut test” for squaring up a table saw miter fence.

IMG_20180306_195140The route I went with was to use machinist’s setup blocks to create my wedgie sled angle templates.  I got this cheap set off of Amazon, whose smallest angle is 0.25°, and biggest is 30°.  One can set up a wide variety of angles by stacking up two or more blocks.

Making the Template

I made my template out of a 3/4″ thick piece of MDF, although in the photos below I have the cut setup demonstrated with a piece of plywood.

The goal is to make a triangle with one angle being 360/n, where n is the number of segments in your ring.  I was doing 16 segment rings so my n was 22.5°.  And if you dust off your High School geometry, a little application of like triangles will show you that the angle between the two wedgie fences equals the included angle of each segment – very simple!

In the photos below I have three stacked angle blocks to get my cut: 20°, 2°, and 0.5°.  It’s very important work off of a clean edge so that no fuzzies throw off your work.  Here was my sequence:

  1. Cut one edge of the board to clean it up
  2. Rotate the board 90° clockwise so that the clean edge is against the miter fence – Take another light cut to clean up that edge
  3. Add the angle blocks, creating as wide of a triangle as you can.
    1. Take your time with setting up this cut!  Be extra sure that your clamping mechanism doesn’t move the work.

Extra credit can be earned by “squaring up” the triangle – making its two short ends parallel so that you can set up your wedgie sled fairly square to the blade.  To do this, I used a half-angle setup, 11.25° and a little square.  If your wedgie sled is skewed a bit, your pieces will still have perfectly accurate sides but the inside and outside faces will be skewed a bit.

Results

Using the template block is pretty easy, just smush your fences against it and tighten them up!  The other photos are my rings, all of which were one-shot affairs: all the segments were cut & glued in one sequence.  No half-rings or sanding needed.