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RIMS-Recirculation Infusion Mashing System

Bottling/Keg Cleaning Manifold


Hot Liquor Tank - provides hot water or liquor with potential energy and the right chemicals to the brewing process. 1/2 bbl keg were cutout from SABCO Industries, Inc.   I did not have the money to buy the very nice stainless steel fitted pre-made kegs, so I opted for the kegs with just the tops cutout, and I did the rest of the work saving plenty of money.   Do not attempt to cut your own hole in the top, unless you have proper tools, and proper training. SABCO will do it much better than you can.   



Mash Tun -  is where your saccharification and your sparging occurs.  In the case of a RIMS this is where you are re-circulating.   Start your design with a false bottom!  I do not not have one, and instead I built a copper piece with holes punched throughout the design.  The false bottom, will cost a few bones, but in the long run, you will get better flow, and you will not have to worry about burning your grains on the bottom of your tun. Years after writing this, I have come back and finally added a false bottom, and cleaned up the bottom of my mash-tun where all that scorching had been occurring. However, it musst be mentioned that the typical ones you see, do not completely move grain off the bottom of the keg, so heat will still be an issue.  Low flame, and recirc is the best you can do. This is why I moved my wort chiller to the hot liquor tank and use it as a wort heater. This minimizes my dependence upon bottom heat. Instead of using an electric heater in the recirc line I went with the heater exchanger method.  There is no chance at all of scorching the beer, as it is very easy to maintain the temperature of the hot liquor tank, due it its large volume. 

Remember to sparge at a higher temperature, because this will lower the viscosity, and allow for better flow.  If you are not getting good flow, you are still gelling, and you need more time. Invest some time and thought into getting a sparge line that will spray over a wide surface area, on not channel through your grains.  This is the single biggest area that you can make a positive effect on your beer.  

If you are doing a RIMS, make sure that your pump can be removed and inserted into the system, easily.  I didn't do that, and after three batches my pump failed, and now it is going to require cutting and welding to get my pump out, instead of just having the pump connect into the system.

Kettle or Copper -  is where you boil your wort, add hops, and perform your cooling once you are done with your boiling.  I did not add a temp guage here, since I know the temp that the wort boils, however, one thing to possibly consider is what the temp is when it is cooling down.  I touch the keg to get an idea.  I also touch the heat exchanger exit line, to feel the temperature. 

Heat Exchanger -  is used to rapidly cool the wort when you stop boiling.  You want to get the temperature down as quickly as possible.  Many shops sell a cross flow heat exchanger in which a copper hose is inserted into a hose and water flows around the copper piping.  I however, wanted to save some money, so I simply have a copper tube wound in a circular manner where water comes in one side, through the coil (submerged in wort) and then out the other side of the coil to a garden hose.  

I use the exit line to clean all my equipment while I am boiling my wort in the copper. This way, when I am done, everything is clean except my kettle, saving time.  Remember to put your heat exchanger into the beer while it is boiling, so that it sterilizes itself.

Through proper routing of piping and hoses, you can also put the heat exchanger in the hot liquor tank and circulate from the mash-tun through the recirc, but instead of going straight to the sparging arm in the mash-tun, route the piping through the heat exchanger in the hot liquor tank, and then back to the mash-tun.  This will eliminate all your heat losses during recirc, and will allow for the returning wort to be precisely the temperature you want coming back in. This will allow you to use less heat on the bottom of the mash- tun, which will minimize your chances of scorching the grain bed.

Burners -  I went with Bayou Classic that I picked up from Home Depot,  Lowe's, Target, Wall Mart, Ace Hardware, or any other store of your choosing.    

Bayou Classic Stainless Steel Patio Stove






Bayou Classic Burner

One thing that I would have liked to have done was have all three of my burners come off of a single tank through an assembly.  That is what is so fun about building these systems. You are only limited by your imagination, your bottom line, and your time.  I personally use two bottles between three tiers, so I must transfer my connection (not a bid deal), unless I am doing a single infusion, in which case I am fine.

Ball Valve  -  fittings will take you from the inside of your vessel to the outside, with you only needing to drill a hole with a hole saw.  You could buy just the bulkhead fitting and then buy these exact valves from a hardware store, and save money, but with everything that I was doing, I didn't want to take a chance, and I have been happy with the results of the kit.

Weld-B-Gone™ kettle conversion kit



RIMS Piping

You must get wort from the bottom of your mash-tun to the top w/o spraying, w/o channelling, and w/o burning your grains.  This is harder than it looks.  You can increase dramatically the efficiency of your brew house, saving you valuable time and money, if you can do this.  

I included a filter, with isolation valves, and the ability to use the pump to clean the system after brewing.  I can also bypass the filter during recirculation operations, if I so chose.  

Don't forget to include drains, so that you can properly clean and dry the system.  The recirculation is connected to the header, so that fresh water from a hose can be brought in for cleaning, and also for the initial filling the the liquor tank.  

When you get clogged, you can bring C02 from the manifold, in through the outlet of the mash (backwards) unclogging the recirculation.  This is very important to note that this is not air, as that would be very bad for the wort.  When not in use, the piping holds CO2 on the system.

The manifold was a separate piece that was welded together at 90 degrees to the RIMS at the end.  There is an isolation valve to keep the systems separated.


Portable Tower

Perlick tower, with drip tray and drain to a bottle for tailgating, etc. The benefit here is that the tower can easily be moved as needed, and not be stuck on the fridge.





C02 Purge

Having many different paths for wort, water, and C02 is a good idea. It is possible with a little thought, to use C02 to purge your system after recirc, such that no air comes in contact with the hot wort. The C02 can also be used to push the wort stuck in the RIMS piping back into the mash-tun.  Therefore, preventing wort from just sitting there and cooling off.  Additionally a stuck mash can be cleared with the C02.  

Later in the process, when the heat exhanger is moved to the kettle, I can pass water through the inside of the heat exchanger (where the wort was passed previously) w/o removing any pipes or connections--instead just changing the position of a few valves.

Your system should be capable of filling water to all three kegs, recirculating, purging, and cleaning in place, counter-pressure bottling, keg cleaning.  

The system should be capable of operation using only gravity, in the event of a pump failure.


Temperature Computations for Mashing

The rate of change of temperature of your mash is directly proportional to the temperature difference between the mash and the ambient, and inversely proportional to the mass effected.

The easiest method for figuring out what your temperature will be at any given time, is to use a difference equation of the form:

Eq. 1.1      Tn - T0 = K t (T0 - S)


 Tn is Temperature after n minutes

T0 is the initial temperature

t is time, in minutes

K is a time constant you are going to determine with data

S is the ambient temperature.

It is easiest to do this for a given mash size, say, if you are going to be making 5 gallons, or 10 gallons or whatever (because K will be dependent upon the amount of grain, and your system). So, you could compute a K for 5 gallon and 10 gallon.

Here are the actual numbers from the above system, w/o grain, and with 3 gallons of water, and the thermal mass of the mash-tun (and you don't have to weigh anything).

Eq 1.1a     K = (Tn-T0)/(t(T0-S))

So, I started with a mash of 160F, and 15 minutes later had 145F, when it was 50F outside.

T0 = 160F, T15 = 145F, t = 15 minutes, S = 50F.

Solving for K yields

k = ((145F-160F)/15m) / (160F - 50F)  =  -(15F /15m) /(110F) =  -1/110 = -0.00909/m

Eq. 1.2      Tn = T0 (1 + Kt) -KSt

So, your equation 1.2 is the one that you want to use. This applies to any system in the world, with any starting temp, and any ambient temp, and any amount of mass.

So, substituting my K (for this amount of grain, water, etc) yielded me:

Tn = T0 (1 -0.00909t) +0.00909St  

So, what would my temperature be after 22 minutes, if I started with 160F, and the ambient was 50F?


Tn = 160F(1- 0.00909(22m))+ 0.00909/m (50F) 22m = 128F + 10F = 138F.  Great, that is what I measured during my experiment.

However, the more likely manner in which you would use eq. 1.2 would be in trying to figure out how long it would take for you mash to hit a certain temperature. For instance, if I want to recirc my mash to 160F, and then recirc again, when the temp gets to 150F, I would like to know how long that will be:

Solving equation 1.2 for time t yields:

Eq. 1.3   t =  (Tn - T0) /(K (T0-S)) 

So, for me, it was (155F - 160F)/(-0.00909(160F-50F)) = -5F/(-1F/m) = 5 minutes.

So, equation 1.2 and 1.3 are very useful, and can be determined every time you brew.

Based on this real data, I spent the evening cladding my mash-tun, now that I no longer use direct heat (see above, the heat exchanger in the hot liquor tank, with a recirc back to the mash-tun). I also added a lid, to slow the heat loss out of the top. So, next time I take this data,  the mash-tun will maintain better temps.

Figure 1. Temp over time, for varying ambient temp


Temperature Profile After Insulating Mash Tun


So, lets see what happens to the same system above, after cladding the mash-tun with a thick water heater blanket, and add some grain mass. 

Eq 1.1a     K = (Tn-T0)/(t(T0-S))

So, I started with a mash of 160F, and 15 minutes later had 145F, when it was 50F outside.

T0 = 151F, T60 = 144F, t = 60 minutes, S = 52F.

Solving for K yields

k = ((144F-151F)/60m) / (151F - 52F)  =  -(7F /60m) /(99F) =  = -0.00118/m

This is a very small fraction of the value before, so this is going to have a much slower temperature drop.  

Substituting k into equation 1.1 above, and solving for varying ambient temperatures, yields the much improved temperature profile shown below 

Figure 2. Temp over time, for varying ambient temp with insulated mash-tun


Question:  If I were to do a protein rest with the below equipment, at 70F ambient, with an initial 

temperature of 122F, what would be the temperature after 60 minutes?


Answer:  Substituting for Equation 1.2      Tn = T0 (1 + Kt) -KSt

K = -0.00118/m, t = 60 m, S = 70 F, T0 = 122 F.

T60 = 122F ( 1 + -0.00118/m * 60 m) - (-0.00118/m)*70F * 60 m 

T60 = 113.37 F + 4.95F = 118.3 F.  

So, we would lose only 4F over the hour.     

Figure 3. Temp over time, for varying ambient temp with insulated mash-tun (Protein Rest)


Question:  How long would it take for temp to go from 123 F to 117 F on a 75 F day?

Answer:  Substituting for Equation 1.3   t =  (Tn - T0) /(K (T0-S)) 

Tn = 117 F,  T0 = 123 F , K = -0.00118/m, S = 75 F.

t = (117 F - 123 F) / [(-0.00118/m)* (123 F - 75 F)] =   -6 F / -0.05664 F/m  = 105 minutes, or 1 hour 45 minutes.

Incidentally, the non insulated mash-tun, would have taken less than 14 minutes to do the same.


Insulated HERMS

As you can see, just a minimal effort of adding a water heater blanket to the mash-tun made a huge difference.  The heat exchanger is shown sticking out of the hot liquor tank.  Also, if you look closely you will see 1/2 pipe insulation, on all the recirculation piping. 


Latest revision. Since there no longer is the CIP filter, the recirculation line has been simplified to a single pass, and all the valving, piping, etc. removed to lower losses (heat and head loss). The drain has been moved to the low point in the system as well.  The recirculation line still connects to the water/c02/air header, with isolation valves on both the HLT and Pump side, so that dead space wort can be put into the mash-tun, using C02, after recirculation is complete.



Close up of the recirculation pump piping. Pump in low spot, more straight pipe at the output of the pump and far fewer bends and twists, and dead spots to collect wort. This particular style of pump can be removed without disconnecting it from the piping, with just 4 screws. 







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Last modified: August 29, 2015