Lauter tun

Lauter tun

A lauter tun is the traditional vessel used for separation of the extracted wort. While the basic principle of its operation has remained the same since its first use, technological advances have led to better designed lauter tuns capable of quicker and more complete extraction of the sugars from the grain.

The false bottom in a lauter tun has thin (0.7 to 1.1 mm) slits to hold back the solids and allow liquids to pass through. The solids, not the false bottom, form a filtration medium and hold back small solids, allowing the otherwise cloudy mash to run out of the lauter tun as a clear liquid. The false bottom of a lauter tun is today made of wedge wire, which can provide a free-flow surface of up to 12% of the bottom of the tun.

The run off tubes should be evenly distributed across the bottom, with one tube servicing about 1 m² of area. Typically these tubes have a wide, shallow cone around them to prevent drastic forces from compacting the grain directly above the outlet. In the past the run-off tubes flowed through swan-neck valves into a wort collection grant. While visually stunning, this system led to a lot of oxygen uptake. Such a system has mostly been replaced either by a central wort-collection vessel or the arrangement of outlet ports into concentric zones, with each zone having a ring-shaped collection pipe. Brewhouses in plain public view, particularly those in brewpubs, often maintain the swan-neck valves and grant for their visual effect.

A quality lauter tun has rotating rake arms with a central drive unit. Depending on the size of the lauter tun, there can be between two and six rake arms. Cutting blades hang from these arms. The blade is usually wavy and has a plough-like foot. Each blade has its own path around the tun and the whole rake assembly can be raised and lowered. Attached to each of these arms is a flap which can be raised and lowered for pushing the spent grains out of the tun. The brewer, or better yet an automated system, can raise and lower the rake arms depending on the turbidity (cloudiness) of the run-off, and the tightness of the grain bed, as measured by the pressure difference between the top and bottom of the grain bed.

There must be a system for introducing sparge water into the lauter tun. Most systems have a ring of spray heads that insure an even and gentle introduction of the sparge water. The watering system should not beat down on the grain bed and form a channel.

Large breweries have self-closing inlets on the bottom of the tun through which the mash is transferred to the lauter tun, and one outlet, also on the bottom of the tun, into which the spent grains fall after lautering is complete. Craft breweries often have manways on the side of the mash tun for spent grain removal, which then must be helped along to a large extent by the brewer.

Some small breweries use a combination mash/lauter tun, in which the rake system cannot be implemented because the mixing mechanism for mashing is of higher importance. The stirring blades can be used as an ersatz rake, but typically they cannot be moved up and down, and would disturb the bed too much were they used deep in the grain bed.

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