Maxing out a 54 quart cooler using batch sparge!

With all of the hop talk going on right now I couldn't resist brewing up a nice Hoppy ale. I was considering an Ordinary Bitter as it's a style that I've never done. It seemed like everything was in line for that brew. The project OG was 1.032 with projected ABV at 3.2%. It was going to represent the fact that my wife and I have made it to a huge benchmark in the pregnancy of our first child. We've made it to 32 weeks. 32 weeks is huge because "little P" should now have fully developed lungs. Huge sigh of relief! Unfortunately 3.2% abv isn't huge, and didn't really seem like a good representation of the "little lion man's" achievement of cooking for 32 whole weeks. I decided instead to do something worthy of this little man...so I went for a beer that I thought would max out my system as he is currently trying to max our Melissa's belly.    Know, if I was doing a 5 gallon batch, that would be a big as beer. But I've been contemplating lately on how big a beer can I do, on my equipment, with my process of batch sparging, in a 10 gallon batch. I've tried to speculate, looked online for calculators, asked Denny Conn himself on a forum, all to no avail. I really didn't know how far I could push this system.  I decided the only way to find out is to just go for it.   I know I can do a small beer like the Patersbier I did, but that only had 18 lbs of grains. I like my beers to have around 20-25+ lbs of grain typically. I'm talking in the 5-6% range depending on mash temp, and efficiency, and yeast attenuation. So, here is my system.

  • 54 quart Igloo cooler (Mash Tun)
  • Keggle for boil (Boil Kettle)
The most important part of this list is the 54 quart cooler.   I decided to brew up a 10 gallon batch of the GF Hop Head Red clone that I brewed up this spring.  That thing was damn tasty and I wouldn't mind 10 gallons hanging around.  I mashed it a bit higher hoping for a thicker mouthfeel and that was about the only change I'm going to make.   This beer has almost 26 lbs of grain and should be around a 6% beer.   I decided that I'd just max out the mash tun and fill it to the brim in the mash and the sparge.  I ended up collecting about 10.5 gallons for my boil.  So....close, right?.   I ended up adding 2 more gallons and double sparging.   Oops...guess this beer was too big for my system.  I'm thinking that my systems is probably maxed out at about 21-22 lbs of grain.   Sure, I could graduate to fly sparging, then I could probably do a 1080+ beer on this system, but I still like the - "set it and forget it" - of batch sparging.    Can anyone out there convince me to make the leap to fly sparging? Or, should I just buy a bigger cooler?  120 quart maybe?

Reaping Night- Red Ale (GF Hop Head Red Clone)

Green Flash Hop Head Red Ale Clone (10 gallon)
% LB OZ Malt or Fermentable
62% 16 0 American Two-row Pale
23% 6 0 Munich Malt
8% 2 0 Flaked Oats
2% 0 8 American Crystal 120L
2% 0 8 American Crystal 40L
2% 0 8 American Crystal 80L
0% 0 2 Chocolate Malt
     25lb 10oz
Original Gravity
1.052 (actual ?)  I dropped my hydrometer
Final Gravity
14° SRM / 27° EBC
(Copper to Red/Lt. Brown)

60 mins 2.0 Chinook
10 mins 1.0 Amarillo
5 mins 1.0 Amarillo
1 min 2.0 Amarillo
dry hop 6.0 Amarillo

63.7 IBU 

***Stay tuned for many new upgrades to my brew house, tap room, and also for my hop harvest!
***If you've read The Dark Tower series then you may recognize the name of this beer.   If you haven't read The Dark Tower series by Steven King....I'd highly recommend it.   The Reaping Night is basically a reference to the party of the Harvest!

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