How To: Hot Liquor Tank Fly Sparge

March 2, 2008 at 8:09 am 5 comments

A note on the following: I don’t actually endorse this anymore. I’ve quit using this setup because it didn’t work all that well. The reasons are as follows:

1) Under the assumption that we are attempting to fly sparge,  sparge water will be coming out extremely slowly, and therefore the 3/4 inch pipe is both humongous and unnecessary.

2) I no longer believe in a strict fly sparge. What I do now is still kind of like a fly sparge, but is a bit if a batch sparge as well. Basically I’ll turn on the sparge water until it rises an inch or three above the grain bed. Then I’ll flip it off and let it drain until it is pretty close to grain bed level again, and then I will flip on the sparge water again and fill it more.

3) I have never had any issues with channeling or a stuck sparge. Ever. So I just let the water drip on in, not worrying terribly much about disturbing the grain bed. I use a stationary sparge arm assembly just to make myself feel better about getting the water gingerly on top of the grain. I’ve also seen it done by just piping a hose into a small tupperware that is sitting in the grain bed so as not to disturb things, and that works great too, and is free, as long as you have a small plastic container.

BUT, IF YOU MUST: here is the original post…

I keep saying that my all-grain setup is complete, but really it is an unending process of moving from ‘usable’ to ‘awesome’. So the improvement today before I do my first all-grain batch tomorrow (Clementine’s Molasses Porter), is a fly sparge system.

Fly sparging (as opposed to batch sparging) is where you have a constant stream of sparge water going in to the mash tun and match that rate out of the mash tun into your boil kettle.

Batch sparging on the other hand is adding a measured amount of liquid and then draining it, then adding more as necessary, and draining that.

Here’s what it looks like:

Fly Sparger

Here’s How I did it:

First I collected the parts:

  • A big pot (mine is 6 gallons)
  • Pipemaster 3/4″ ball valve*
  • 2 Pipemaster 3/4″ connectors – one for CPVC and one for galvanized pipe
  • about 5′ of 3/4″ CPVC
  • CPVC cleaner, glue
  • a 7/8″ I.D.(inside diameter) o-ring (the fatter, the better)
  • a 3/4″ galvanized stainless steel elbow or straight piece with a female thread on one side – I change this because galvanized steel is not good to use, it rusts. You can still use the pipemaster steel connector on it though.
  • 3/4″ CPVC connectors
    • 5 elbows
    • 1 ‘T’

*the pipemaster is the coolest valve I have seen for this type of project. It has a bunch of different ends (one for copper, PVC, CPVC, steel, etc) you put on either side so that you can have CPVC out on one end and galvanized pipe on the other. Ingenious! I got it at Lowes.

**A note on materials: I used the aluminum stock pot because I have it. Aluminum is not as terrible as people think and I have no problem using it for my sparge water. CPVC is good up to 200° and so it is fine for everything up to boiling, and sparge water doesn’t go hotter than 180°. Stainless steel and copper are both good, galvanized is not, it rusts (although it is used for water lines, so I’m not sure how that works).

The first thing I did was construct the CPVC aparatus. To do this, I placed the mash tun where it would sit (on the counter) and the hot water tank where it would sit (on the fridge). Then I measured out the horizontal distance to the edge of the mash tun and the verticle distance to just inside the mash tun. Here is where the two tanks sit ands where the sparge pipe needs to connect (from the metal top pot to the cooler):
fridge and countertop

These measurements were used to cut pieces of CPVC. remember to subtract the extra 1/2″ or so on each end that has an elbow or ‘T’ as these add length to the total end dimensions.

I then measured the inside of the mash tun to see how big to make the square part that actually releases the sparge water (for a 5 gallon cooler it ends up being a 6″ square). I cut out all the lengths together and dry fit them together to make sure I did it all right.Here is the dry fit all put together:

dry fit sparger

Now that everything looks good, I got ready to make it permanent. First, spread a little of the cleaner on both sides that will be glued, then put some CPVC glue on one side all the way around and shove the other end in until it won’t go any further. Do this for all of the joints. On the end that goes into the hot water pot, you glue on the special pipemaster CPVC connector. MAKE SURE YOU PUT THE NUT ON THE CPVC SIDE OF THE FITTING. I forgot, and it cost me a second trip to Lowes to pick up a $0.25 coupling so I could cut the CPVC and put the nut on. Here’s what not to do:


The next thing to do is cut the hole in your hot water pot. because I got the stainless steel elbow, I had to measure up to se where to drill the hole:

Inside the hot liquor tank

I marked the top of the elbow and added 1/4″ to have a bit of clearance on the bottom. Then drill a hole big enough to fit the steel pipemaster adapter through. After drilling, you will need to sand or file the hole to get it smooth so it wont chop off your finger. Then all you need to do is stick the pipemaster through the hole and put on the o-ring, then screw on the elbow:

hot water pot hole

inside outside view

The last step is to drill holes into the bottom square portion of the CPVC. I drilled holes straigth down and at 90 degrees both inward and ouward:

sparger holes

That’s all there is to it! Enjoy! You could build an apparatus that went over the top of your pot and down to the mash tun (think siphon), but that wouldn’t be nearly as cool. It’d keep your pot in one piece though.


Entry filed under: Brewing Gadgets. Tags: , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Updates «  |  March 11, 2008 at 1:14 am

    […] 11, 2008 · No Comments I’ve added a note the the Fly Sparge HowTo Post. This was because I used galvanized steel on the sparge tank and I really shouldn’t. So […]

  • 2. Tom  |  June 28, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    “galvanized is not, it rusts (although it is used for water lines, so I’m not sure how that works).”

    It works by rusting inside and we drink it. I just ripped out about half of the pipe in my house. It’s NASY inside. Totally built up with rust. Stay away from galvanized.

  • 3. Stainless tanks  |  December 3, 2009 at 5:37 am

    cool that must be really long pipes and i could never cut a peice of metal like you u must be an expert at doing that.

  • 4. jesse  |  October 4, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    as soon as i seen the picture, i wanted to warn you… that 90 degree street elbow is actually BLACK MALLEABLE. that fitting should be used for you gas line.

    i dont know whats in the black fitting but there are tons of impurities compared to stainless steel 304/316.

    good luck and cheers!

    by the way, nice method of brewing. i might have to try something like that

    • 5. Alex  |  October 24, 2010 at 2:27 pm

      Yeah, I don’t use this setup anymore for a variety of reasons. I recently started batch sparging. There was an article in BYO or Zymurgy (can’t remember which) that talked about how a batch sparge is much quicker and you don’t drop efficiency more than a couple of points. It’s true! Much simpler, just as good.


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