Mash Tun vs. Brew Kettle (What Is a Mash Tun?)

Homebrew beer is becoming more and more popular, and for a good reason. Costs add up quickly with commercial beer, and brewing from home is easy once you get the hang of the equipment. The mash tun and the brew kettle are two pieces of equipment that are often confused. 

A mash tun is a vessel used to mix the malt and water. This process produces a thick liquid similar to the consistency of a smoothie. The wort also develops in the mash tun. On the other hand, a brew kettle is used to boil the wort, and additional ingredients are added to the mixture. 

This article will take an in-depth look at the differences between these two pieces of equipment. We’ll look at the pros and cons and cover the best option for you to use. 

Is a Mash Tun and a Brew Kettle the Same Thing? 

Mash tuns aren’t the same thing as brew kettles. While similar, these two have a few differences – the primary being that a mash tun is most often used to mix the grains with water, while a brew kettle is made specifically for boiling the wort. 

The wort isn’t boiled in the mash tun. This can be a little confusing upfront because it is produced in the mash tun and is often released through the bottom of the machine. 

Let’s look at some pros and cons of both to help you see the differences. 

Mash Tun

Pros

  • They can be used to mash the grains – a useful feature.
  • There are fewer steps involved to get to the final product. 
  • The mash tun is multifunctional. 

Cons

  • Mash tuns are expensive.
  • Mash tuns can require more space than brew kettles.

Brew Kettle

Pros

  • They boil the wort quickly and efficiently. 
  • They keep the wort at a consistent temperature.
  • They are less expensive than a mash tun. 

Cons

  • It can react badly with the wort
  • They sometimes require extra maintenance. 

Both mash tuns and brew kettles have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to keep in mind that these machines are built for different jobs. 

What Is a Mash Tun and How Does It Work?

A mash tun allows you to mix together the grains and water for your homebrew. Through this process, the sugar is extracted from the grains. 

For this to occur, the grains must be soaked in the water for some time – usually no more than ninety minutes. The water must be kept between 155 and 168 °Fahrenheit (68.33 and 75.56 °Celcius) initially. This allows the process of extraction to begin. 

Any high-quality mash tun will be insulated. This helps to keep the temperature somewhat consistent and encourages the sugars to ferment without outside influences. 

Once the grain ferments, the mash tun then releases the sugary liquid, known as wort, into a different container. This isn’t the case with all mash tuns, but most do. This is known as a false bottom and is enormously helpful in the brewing process.

Many times, the mash is confused with wort. However, they aren’t the same thing. Check out this article for an explanation if you’re a bit confused.

While a mash tun is typically used to combine grains and water, other options can combine the two. You can use household items like an ice cooler to go through the same process. However, the problem is that it won’t be insulated enough to keep the temperature consistent. You’ll need to frequently add new water to the cooler. 

You can also perform the process in a pot. However, with a pot, the temperature is likely too high too fast. You’ll need to pay careful attention if you choose to do it this way.

For more info about using a brew kettle to mash, check out this article

Overall, your best option is to use a mash tun. They’re made for mixing grains and water and typically have all the necessities to keep your mash perfect and develop the wort. 

For more information about mash, check out the video below. 

What Is a Brew Kettle and How Does It Work?

Beer kettles are an essential part of homebrewing. After the wort has been separated from the grains, it must be boiled to continue the fermentation process. 

Brew kettles are crucial because they keep the wort at specific temperatures and the pressure at the perfect amount. 

Brew kettles come in various sizes, but typically you’ll need one that holds at least five gallons (18.93 liters) of liquid. This is because the average yield of wort is around this amount. It’s recommended that you go up to about six gallons (22.71 liters) instead. 

The kettles can be made from various metals, but most often, they are made from aluminum. This is one of the best metals for a brew kettle because it transfers heat evenly. This is essential for the wort. If heat is transferred unevenly, it can result in a wort that isn’t evenly flavored or fermented.

Brew kettles work similarly to a regular pot. The wort is placed in them, boiled for a time, and later removed and placed into a fermentor. During the boiling process, the brew kettle also helps evenly distribute additional flavors you’ve added to the brew, such as hops. 

Hops are traditionally added to beer to enhance bitterness but can be made without it. For more information, take a look at this article

Are Brew Kettles and Mash Tuns Interchangeable? 

Brew kettles and mash tuns aren’t typically interchangeable, but there are instances where you can put specific grains in the brew kettle. 

There are many grains that you can use for homebrew. For a full breakdown, check out this article.

Mash tuns won’t work in the same way as a brew kettle. Their job is to combine the grains and water – essentially to produce the wort by extracting the sugars from the grains. The devices aren’t built to support the higher temperatures needed for boiling the wort. 

Brew kettles, however, can sometimes be used to make the mash. This process works much the same way as using a mash tun. This can only be done with certain brew kettles, however. 

Conclusion

Mash tuns and brew kettles serve two different purposes. 

The purpose of a mash tun is to mix the grains with the water and heat to the point where the sugars begin to be released. Once the wort is developed, it is typically removed through an open bottom compartment. 

A brew kettle heats the wort to the temperatures needed to sterilize it and prepare it for fermentation. The boiling process develops the yeast, which is later placed in a fermentor to continue the process. 

Mash tuns and brew kettles have differences and, in general, should not be used interchangeably.

About HomeBrewAdvice

Hello, my name is Simon. Together with a group of writers I write about brewing beer and making wine. We all share a passion for the great things in life, such as making stuff from scratch.

The business of HomeBrewAdvice is to bring you great information, stories and product reviews from brewing at home, and making wine


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