Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Igloo Cube Cooler Mash Tun

This post will describe how to make a mash tun out of an Igloo Cube cooler (could easily be modified for other coolers) for under $45. I purchased my cooler from Academy Sports & Outdoors for about $15. I think you can get the same cooler from Sams club, just check around. (When purchasing a cooler, make sure it has a standard 1/2" drain valve and enough volume to do the mash) The rest of my parts & (see image above) I purchased at Home Depot. Approximate total cost of the additional supplies was about $27. Unfortunately, you do have to purchase 10 feet of 1/2 PVC pipe (though you only need a few inches of it), but at least it's pretty cheap.

To start, remove the drain valve that came with the cooler:

Now, you want to assemble part of the valve to be inserted into the vacant valve hole. Insert the 3/8" barb into one end of the valve, and the brass nipple into the other end of the valve as shown below. Do not over tighten.


Now you will use the plastic and rubber washer from the original cooler valve, and the 1/2" Female APP (plastic 1/2" nut) to install the new valve on the cooler. Put the valve through the hole from the outside of the cooler, then put rubber/plastic washer, then the 1/2" female nut. Tighten the nut enough to create a seal so that the valve will not leak. The picture below on the left is the valve all put together off the cooler, the picture below on the right is the view from inside the cooler after the valve has been installed.



You have now installed the valve for your mash tun. The next step is to assemble and install the grain filter so you can remove the liquid from the cooler but keep the grain in!

To do that, take the 1/2" PVC pipe and cut 3 pieces, 1 piece 3/4" long and 2 pieces 1 3/4" long. Use a grinding stone or a piece of sandpaper to round the edges of one end of each of the long pieces to make getting the stainless steel braid easier to get on. As laid out in the parts list above, you will insert the 3 pieces of pipe into the 1/2" plastic T. Insert the 2 longer pieces opposite each other, and the smaller piece in the perpendicular part of the T as shown below. Note: DO NOT use any adhesive during assembly. This will allow you to easily disassemble later if required for easy cleaning.

Now, take the stainless steel braided hose and cut off each end (I used a pair of dikes) leaving only stainless braid, and the hose inside. Very carefully (to keep from getting cut by the stainless) remove the hose from inside the stainless braid. Now, take each end of the stainless braid and roll the jagged pieces inward to get rid of sharp edges. You are now ready to take the stainless braid and attach it to the plastic T. One end at a time, work the stainless over the 1/2" PVC pipe. Once you get it attached, you can shape the stainless braid as you wish to fit the bottom of your cooler.

Now, take your assembled T with stainless braid and attach to the end of the female nut on the inside of the cooler. Reminder, don't use any adhesive.


You now have a new Mash Tun! The nice thing about using the stainless braid is that it can be used for any shape cooler, even the round water coolers! If you wish, you can take some of the hose you removed from the inside of the stainless braid and create a down spout to control the wort when emptying the tun. The piece I cut fits nicely into the small compartment in the cooler lid when not in use. Here are some additional pictures of my tun!



I designed this mash tun to be easy to put together and not require any special skills or tools. It comes completely apart for easy cleaning and so far has done me well. When mashing small amounts of grain, you may want to 'pre warm' the cooler with hot water before putting in the grains and water for the mash to help maintain temp.

I hope this post helps in your transition into all grain brewing. Be sure to leave me a comment to ask any questions or let me know what you think of my mash tun plans (good or bad)! Special thanks to Robert Gulley for all of his help in figuring out how to get this built!

To use a copper manifold as a grain filter instead of stainless braid, please reference new post: Copper Grain Filter for Igloo Cube Cooler Mash Tun

32 comments:

Team High Kick said...

dude this is awesome, just what i was looking for. How about a cheap counter flow chiller? Maybe some simple keg to brew pot conversion instructions. You seem like you know what you are doing. thank you!
-Dookles

Nick said...

Hi-nice writeup!

One question: How is your heat loss with this when mashing?

I use one of these coolers and it's pretty bad...loses something like 10degrees over an hour mash.

I deconstructed the lid and filled it with spray insulation, but still loses a fair amount of heat-I've yet to try it with an actual mash, though (I used hot water for a test.

Thanks!

Josh said...

Nick,

I noticed some heat loss when using in the winter. If you wrap the cooler with a blanket, that helps some. Also, you can pre-warm your mash tun with hot water, drain, then add your mash water and grains which helps too. Doing these 2 things, I loose about one degree over an hour.

Also, when I first started all grain, I was a little dense and didn't realize I needed to account for temperature loss when first starting my mash. So, if you are mashing 12 lbs of grain (currently at room temp) with 14 qts of water, and you desired strike temp is 154 F, the water you add needs to be almost 168 F when you mash in.

Hope this helps - Josh

PremiumBitter said...

What kind of efficiencies do you get with this setup? I have a similar setup except I am using a bazooka screen (I get bad efficiency). I am thinking of a converting to a PVC-style setup like this.

Jason said...

josh looks great man. I just have one comment: if you use the empty stainless steel hose as your draining aparartus, as I see it, you're not doing much since there are as many holes in the bottom as there are on the top. And since there is no channel for the liquor to flow down you're still going to get the downspouts through the grist that you're looking to avoid. Best to go with a copper drain system or a PVC guy, to avoid the downspouts and increase your overall efficiency.

Cheers!

-Jason

ldavis said...

thanks so much for posting this. I just made a mash tun based on these plans, and it works really well. The parts list was very helpful, and I actually printed it out and took it with me to Lowe's.

I wouldn't have been able to figure this out on my own, really glad you took the time to put this together and share.

Josh said...

Guys, sorry it's been a while since I checked the comments on my older posts.....

Premium Bitter, using batch sparges I get about 65-68% efficiency with the stainless braid, and about 4 to 5 points better using the copper manifold posted. I did a fly sparge for my last brew and got about 78% efficiency using the copper. If you have the cash, I'd recommend copper, although the stainless is a lot easier to build.

Jason, in using the stainless braid as a filter, there still remains a channel within the braid for liquor/wort to flow. If you don't abuse it, the stainless still holds its round shape, just like copper or PVC. My average efficiency is a little lower than the few times I've used the copper manifold, but I have gotten efficiencies in the mid 70s using the stainless in the past. Also, if you don't have holes on the bottom of whatever manifold you are using, you are going to leave a fair amount of wort in the tun.

Idavis, glad someone was able to use the information to help them in their brewing. Good luck with the new tun!

rob said...

havent built mine yet....getting ready to head to the hardware store to buy the supplies...out of all the cooler mash tuns i've looked at i'm basing mine off of yours...looks to be very simple to find the parts and assemble....hopefully this will get me on the easy tack to all grain brewing!

Josh said...

Rob, good luck with your all grain brewing! - Josh

Gaz said...

Just as a heads up, the igloo cube cooler Josh used no longer has the 1/2" drain port in it - most distressed when I went to the local Target and found this out, and confirmed it on the igloo website.

*shakes fist* DAMN YOU, IGLOO!!!!

andy and renee said...

Used an igloo water cooler with the same type of design. I mash in two weeks, we'll see how it goes

rbclay said...

My square cooler that I want to convert is a Coleman. The valve outlet is 7/8". It fits the standard spigot you get at the LHBS for bottling buckets. Will your design fit this opening? I plan to make this using a homade bazooka-t setup.

andy and renee said...

the new igloo beverage cooler with the same braided ss mesh manifold worked very well. it should work with any cooler. a friend of mine use a coleman sub zero cooler with a single line of the braided ss mesh instead of a loop. he crimped and clamped the end and it worked very well.

rbclay said...

Is this a 10gallon cube cooler?

andy and renee said...

I used a round 10 gal beverage cooler shouldn't matter though my old mash tun was a rectangle coleman. same as my friend with zub zero. held temp very well. lower efficiency (sometimes 60%) but works well.

esteban said...

what do you do about stirring the mash? Wouldnt the mesh manifold go all over the place?

andy and renee said...

doesn't seem to bother it a bit....you dont have to dig all the way to the bottom. You can make a rigid manifold out of copper pipe and attach it the same way if you are too concerned about it. The mesh works fine. the weight of the grain keeps it on the bottom. you stir to make everything hydrated and to even the temp out. you can do all that with out scraping the bottom.

Nikko2000 said...

Hi There,

I am getting ready to build my mash tun soon using one of your setup's, but I'm undecided on which one. Which setup do you prefer between the stainless steel braided hose or the copper tubing? I will brew my first all grain after I complete my mash tun, therefore, I am not sure if I will be brewing via batch or fly sparging. Which setup do you think is better for me? Thanks in advance for your help. John

preston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
preston said...

I found this guide on Igloo cooler parts that you guys may be interested in.

Josh said...

Hey all! This design will work with any cooler that has a 1/2 inch drain port built in. The cube is nice because it doesn't create a mash with a wide, thin bed. So if you go with another style cooler, try to get one that is as close to cube/round in shape as possible. It does suck that the new igloo cube doesn't have a drain port in it, but you can always drill a 1/2 inch hole and build the same as this post indicates, you just won't have any of the original drain port parts to use.

Regarding the 7/8 inch spigot, you would have to check and see what valve parts you can get. I would assume you could do it, but you might have to do some adjusting on the pvc piece to get it downsized to 1/2 inch, or see if you can get a larger stainless braid.

You do have to be careful when stirring the mash not to beat up the braid. You get used to knowing where it is and how to work around it. For $10, it can easily be replaced from time to time. I really haven't seen much difference in efficiency between use of the stainless braid and the copper manifold. Probably just a personal preference on which you want to go with.

paul said...

I bought a Rubbermaid round at Home Depot with a 1/2" fitting. It appears to be a Home Depot sub-branded. I was looking around to make my own contraption from the 5 gallon Home Depot bucket when I found it. Seemed easier to modify. I just need to make sure I can add an airlock to the screw-top. Any suggestions to adding an airlock to the top? I want to use it to make mead without having to transfer it to a carboy. I'm trying to keep the costs down.

Also, do you think I need to add a copper spigot? Wouldn't the plastic spigot it came equipped with me sufficient for making mead?

rbclay said...

Paul- I don't recommend trying to use a cooler for a fermenter for several reasons. Coolers are great for mash/lauter tuns, as this threads original discussions are all about. A plastic bucket with a drilled lid for an airlock doesn't cost much. I think they even have a wider opening than a round cooler- better for stirring your mead. I wouldn't want to drill through a lid on a round cooler- not that it's difficult, just that it would ruin the lids original intent. I haven't bucked up for the round ones because I think they are expensive and I am making-do with what I have.

Josh said...

Paul, I agree with rbclay. If I were you, I'd get a fermentation bucket with lid. The only concern with long-term fermentation in a bucket is oxygen transfer through the plastic, which is why a lot of people use glass carboys when making mead or wine.

Do you have a recycling center near by? I recycle frequently, and my local center will let me take glass home. For long term storage, you may try to pick up some 1 gallon glass wine jugs for free. Just be certain to clean them well. When I reuse glass, I use a bottle brush or carboy brush and clean with dish detergent, then with bleach (one cup per gallon of water) and then finish up with non-scented oxy clean. Be sure to rinse very well between each step and you should be good to go!

Anonymous said...

Hi guys, I'm new here...just a question: is it safe to use a PVC Cooler for an high temperature mash? is there any risk of contamination?
Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Josh, Thanks for the easy to make setup. Including the part numbers was a big help so my trip to home depot didn't take too long.

jonathon_mullens said...

I really wish I would have found this article sooner. I was having issues trying to figure out what to do to seal up the hole that is left when you pull out the cooler fittings. This is some great stuff and will be using some of the same materials but not all. Thanks for the great information and making it simple to understand.

keener said...

I just got home with all the supplies to build a 10 gallon round mash tun. Everything seems to be going well until the last step. I can't seem to get the steel braid over the 1/2" cpvc that is connected to the tee piece. I can get it started but the braid always gets too thin to slide up the rest of the way onto the cpvc. Should I just use some steel clamps or is there a secret to getting them all the way on there? Any help would be great.

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