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Instead of only offering the parts we used in our build we will offer alternatives so you can build your mashtun exactly how you need it and within your budget.
The cooler makes a great base for a mashtun because they are typically insulated well, fairly cheap to purchase, readily available at most hardware stores, and pretty easy to work with! Homebrewers have been using coolers of all types and sizes but below are our two preferences. The main difference between the two is the Rubbermaid cooler has a screw on lid which is NOT insulated, and the Igloo cooler has a push top that IS insulated. Both work well overall and comes down to personal preference.
We typically will suggest a 3 piece ball valve just because that's all we have used. They are easy to take apart, clean, and never had any issues with them. One benefit to the Blichmann ball valve (other than it being a fairly local company in our home state) is that your able to purchase rebuild kits. This is specially useful for ball valves used with propane where the seals can heat up and deform (causing leaks). For the mashtun though, this isn't an issue and either choice should work fine.
The false bottom in the mashtun is used to separate the grain from the wort. It creates a void which typically fills with wort where the pickup tube will "pick up" the wort from. The difference between the two options below is a full kit the comes with a ball valve, tube, and bulkhead versus just the false bottom. We have done both, and the Brewhardware.com kit is by far much easier to work with as it just comes with everything you need.
NOTE: The brewhardware kit is specific to either the Igloo or the Rubbermaid cooler.
Additionally option 3 below is a braided steel wire (Toilet Water Supply). This is our original "false bottom" and worked great while we started. To install one you cut both ends, rip out the rubber tube on the inside and your left with a steel braid that wont let the smallest of particles through to your boil kettle.
If your not purchasing the Brewhardware kit above you will need to purchase a bulkhead to use. I will note that depending on the kit you purchase and the type of cooler, this can be tricky. This method may take many tries of extra washers here or extra O-Rings there. This is why we typically recommend the Brewhardware kit. If your adventurous, check the options below:
Note: Some of the kits below will come with hose barbs and ball valves. If that's the case there is no need to purchase one from the options above.
The optional mashtun mounted thermometer has its pros and cons. Its nice to be able to read the temperature by just glancing at it and not having to open the lid each time. It can be a pain to work around while mashing in. To us the Pros outweigh the Cons but these are just a few things to consider when deciding. We even went as far as to cut a hole out for the thermometer so its "inlayed" (check out the video above).
Alright, we get it. Some of us are just not as handy with tools, or just lack the time to invest in building one. Here are some links to mashtuns ready for you to put together.