We’re closing in on December, and I’ve put my brewing rig through a pretty rigorous testing period so far this year. I’ve made some minor adjustments, but all-in-all, I’m quite happy with what I’ve got after a minimal investment.
After my second all grain batch, I wrote about my dual 7-Gallon bucket sparge system, aka Papazian’s Zapap Lauter Tun system. Like I said then, I already had the buckets, and all I needed was about 45 minutes, some patience, and a small diameter drill bit.
- Take 1 bottling bucket with a spicket. Do nothing to this bucket.
- Take one regular “fermenting” bucket, or any food grade bucket that will fit inside of the bottling bucket.
- Drill lots of holes in the bottom of the “regular” bucket. As many as you can without connecting the holes.
- Put the bucket full of holes inside the bottling bucket, and use this to sparge your mash.
- You can use your boil pot as a mash tun. I have a stainless steel boil pot, and in 40 degree temps, I’ve lost less than 10 degrees over the course of an hour mash, which is fine for most homebrewers. The more water you can add to your mash volume, the better your efficiency will be. I’ve been trying for a ratio of .4 Gallons/lb of grain.
- After your mash, use a small pot to scoop transfer your mash to your Zapap Lauter Tun until you have a small enough volume left that you can easily dump it.
- If your liquid level gets close to the top of the bottling bucket, let your first runnings drain into a separate pot before you transfer the rest of your mash to your bucket system. This is highly likely when your grain weight is over 16 lbs.
- I use a third bucket full of sparge water to sparge with from a second tier above my Zapap bucket system. You can do this however you like.
This system has been able to handle everything I’ve thrown at it (albeit sometimes messy), including an American Barleywine, a scotch ale wee-heavy, and a double (10-Gallon) batch. Not that more room wouldn’t have improved my efficiency or made some of those jobs a little bit easier, but I was able to push through.
On a “normal” batch, say with a total grain bill between 10-16 pounds, I can usually hit about 75% efficiency. Occasionally higher, but I can usually count on that. Not bad for a free* lauter tun and minimal effort of assembly. The larger batches, the ones that were 22 pounds of grain and higher, had lower efficiencies (around 65%), mostly due to a lower water to grain ratio in my mash, but also due to a more compacted grain bed, and thus less efficient sparge.
I do have aspirations to make large batches more efficient, and to improve the efficiency of my smaller batches, but for anyone looking to get a foot in the door of all grain brewing, I couldn’t advocate more for the Zapap Lauter Tun. It’s been well worth it.