Like the Mash Tun, the beer brewing Hot Liquor Tank has a bulkhead in place of the regular cooler spigot. This allows a full port ball valve to be installed. Water is sent to the Hot Liquor Tank where the temperature is maintained at a constant 180 degrees. This is accomplished by using a Ranco ETC temperature controller and a 1500 watt 120 volt hot water heater element. Since the design of this website, this tank has been upgraded to a 10 gallon Gott/Rubbermaid cooler from the 5 gallon cooler seen in the photo. All other elements remain the same, however. This allows me to have the proper amount of sparge water for larger recipes. The 5 gallon cooler just didn’t have enough capacity and required adding top up water to my boil kettle before the final boil. The 10 gallon cooler is the ideal size for the 5 gallon batches of beer that I make. I have found that depending upon the recipe, I can squeeze a 9.5 gallon batch out of this setup if I really try. The main deterrent to the full 10 gallon batch is not having quite enough sparge water.
The Heating Element
The homebrew beer brewing Hot Liquor Tank contains a 1500 watt 120 volt hot water heater element. It is mounted through a one inch hole in the bottom of the tank and is secured from the top with a cut off PVC coupler that happened to be the correct one inch straight threads needed for the element. It seems to withstand the heat without any problems. The element is grounded via a copper ring cut from a sheet of copper. It has a tab that extends out where a ground wire has been soldered. A picture of a similar ring was sent to me by CB and can be found here.
The Heat Exchange Coil
The lid for this tank is ported to allow each end of a 3/8″ x 50 foot copper coil to protrude. The coil acts as a heat exchanger when the hot wort from the Mash Tun is pumped through it to maintain the mash temperature. When heat is extracted from the water, the Ranco ETC turns on the hot water heater element to maintain the tank temperature. Temperature is monitored through the stainless steel thermowell (at top of photo). At the same time, a bathroom vent fan motor spins an impeller (bottom of photo) to improve heat transfer efficiency.
Hot Liquor Tank Wiring Diagram
I have attempted to draw a simple diagram that illustrates how I wired the components of the electrical portion of the Hot Liquor Tank. I assume no responsibility if you attempt to use this information on your system. This is just a guide. Make sure everything terminates in a GFI outlet and make sure everything is grounded to keep it safe. For most of the wiring, I bought extension cords that could handle the load of the Hot Water Heater Element and cut them to the necessary lengths. Use the excess wire to create any necessary jumpers. The light bulb in the diagram is a radio shack 120 volt mini-bulb and turns on anytime the heating element and fan are on. The advantage of this wiring is that the switch overrides the Ranco ETC so you can shut the Heating Element and fan off at any time. Do not attempt to use a larger heating element or you could ruin your Ranco ETC.
The Beer Brewing HLT Bottom
I have placed this picture here so that people who are interested can see how the Hot Water Heater Element is mounted in the bottom of the beer brewomg HLT. The large hole is drilled first with a hole saw bit. Be careful not to damage the inner plastic. Then, a second hole is drilled with a 1″ hole saw blade. As you can see, the wiring is routed between the inner and outer plastic pieces and exits from the side of the cooler. The bottom of the element is covered with a 1″ threaded PVC cap that has been sanded inside to provide a tight fit. Seal everything with silicon just to be safe.