Despite the amusing name (at least to a Brit) the false bottom is a very useful piece of kit to the home brewer and can help you improve the quality of your final beer.
However, not all false bottoms are made equal, nor are they the only way to achieve the important goal of filtering out mashed grains from your wort rich in fermentable sugars.
So what do you need to know before you buy a false bottom for your mash tun?
It’s important to consider the design of your mash tun & to buy a false bottom which will fit flush to its bottom & not allow particles to pass through via the sides. Also, choose a strong material, especially when building a DIY false bottom. Domed false bottom models are more versatile.
I’ve been doing a lot of research recently into everything to do with all-grain brewing as I’m hoping to venture into this branch of homebrewing for the first time since relocating to Taiwan. My challenge is trying to make my small home brewery work for me, but I think you can benefit from my research too.
Do you really need a false bottom?
Let’s face it, many of the pieces of equipment that we homebrewers rely on are not ‘essential’ to brew beer. Our forefathers did the same task with a lot less, but perhaps the quality of their beer wasn’t on par with our own.
Nevertheless, when you are new to brewing you shouldn’t feel like you have to go out and invest hundreds or thousands of dollars into top of the range equipment. Sometimes it’s just a question of working with what you have.
This being said, I do feel that using a false bottom (or similar piece of kit) when brewing all-grain recipes is really going to help you on your brew day. Sure, you can produce a DIY version of the commercial models, but it would be a tough task to try and sparge your grain without some form of false bottom.
False bottoms versus Screens
Generally, a false bottom is a piece of kit which is associated with the mashing phase of a brew day, whereas a kettle screen, is fitted to a brew kettle before the boil. The former is a device which the grain bed is formed on as wort flows through it and the latter is a mesh filter which fits onto your ball valve spigot on the inside of the brew kettle
However, it’s entirely possible to use a kettle screen in your mash tun when using a false bottom which is raised up on legs. But this isn’t usually used with a domed false bottom. That’s simply because in most models of this false bottom there is a pick up tube that connects directly into the ball valve spigot via some form of tubing.
If you haven’t got a kettle screen, at least for your brew kettle, then you can check out the classic bazooka kettle screen on Amazon. It’s relatively inexpensive but can really revolutionize the clarity of your beer.
The best false bottoms to buy
Here are my recommendations for false bottoms that are currently on the market.
Domed false bottoms
Chill Passion Stainless Steel Domed False Bottom
This domed false bottom is a great piece of kit if you are just getting into all-grain brewing and is a relatively inexpensive addition to your brewing arsenal. You can get a 9-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch model depending on your needs and mash tun size. Check out the latest price and availability on amazon
Northern Brewer – Titan Stainless Steel Universal False Bottom
Northern Brewer are a powerhouse in brewing equipment and you really can’t go wrong with any of their products. This false bottom has a little bit more design in it than the other recommendations here and you can get an 11.5-inch, 15-inch, 17-inch to a 19-inch model.
Because of its design, it won’t move around at all when placed on the bottom of the mashing vessel and it also cuts down the dead space beneath it much more than other models. If you love Northern Brewer as much as I do, then check out this model over Amazon
HomeBrewStuff 12″ Stainless Domed False Bottom
I’m recommending this model because it has everything a beginner needs for their first real mashing experience, plus it already includes the tubing you need to connect the pick up tube to your built-in ball valve spigot.
This model is only sold in the 12-inch design, but it really is ideal for anyone who is using a classic round cooler as their DIY mash tun. You can read more about the unit for yourself over on Amazon.
Raised false bottoms
Bayou Classic 800-908 Stainless False Bottom
If you already have the Bayou 8-gallon kettle then this is the ideal false bottom for you so that you can use your existing kettle as a mash tun.
The false bottom is elevated on three sturdy legs so that the spigot channel doesn’t get clogged up. It also has a handle so that you can easily remove the spent grain after you have drained off your wort into another vessel. If you want to know more then head over to Amazon and check out the latest deals.
GasOne 30540 Stainless Steel S Gas One Beer Filter Pot False Bottom
If you need a bit more wiggle room with the diameter of your false bottom, then the GasOne 305 series is a good choice.
All models have 3-inch legs to raise the grain bed up as well as a handle for easy removal of the unit after use. The unit is strong and made of hard-wearing material so that it’ll last you a long time. For all the information and to make the right choice on which model to buy, head on over to Amazon for more details.
Below are three of the best bazooka screens on the market which can be used for your brew kettle and mash tun (if using a raised false bottom.
Podoy 6” Bazooka Screen
MRbrew 6” Kettle Tube Mash Tun Bazooka Screen
GasOne 30432 with 10″ Bazooka Screen
Best false bottom for a DIY mash tun
If you are going to buy a false bottom to fit into your already built DIY mash tun, then I recommend that you get a domed model. Something like the Northern Brewer Titan universal false bottom which is my favorite and can be found on Amazon for a steal.
Although you may have originally thought that your false bottom has to cover the entire footprint of the bottom of the mash tun, that’s not the case. You can still get good efficiency through a smaller false bottom which perhaps only covers the center of the mash tun.
I’m especially thinking about rectangular coolers which are really simple to repurpose as a mash tun but not so easy to shop for when it comes to false bottoms. There are, to my knowledge, very few rectangular-shaped false bottoms on the market, but a round and domed model with the right diameter to fit into your cooler/mash tun will do the job nicely.
Can you make your own false bottom?
Absolutely! if you have are quite good with your hands and have your own workshop, building your own false bottom is both affordable and perhaps the most logical way to add to your home brewery. This is also the case when you have repurposed, say, a cooler to act as your mash tun and no commercially available false bottoms fit its dimensions.
Things to bear in mind when building a DIY false bottom.
It seems obvious, but make sure that your DIY false bottom fits snuggly into the bottom of your mash tun. If you have sizeable gaps between the edge of your false bottom and the inside of your mash tun then it just won’t work. The grain will get through these gaps and your beer will never run clear enough to get the clarity levels you may want.
Before you cut anything, make sure you measure and then measure again, this way you aren’t going to make an oversight in the size of your mash tun or false bottom. You can use a cardboard template to get the exact shape of your cooler or mash tun’s bottom and then make your false bottom to that design.
However, if you are building a domed false bottom instead of a raised false bottom with legs, then having a tightly fitting unit doesn’t matter as long as it is flush to the bottom of the mash tun.
Make sure that you choose a material which is food grade and won’t leach any chemicals or unwanted flavors/aromas into your wort. Ideally, you should opt for a metal building material, something like stainless steel. However, any type of metal will probably be up to the job.
While it would be possible to recycle the lid of a plastic bucket for this job in some instances, I don’t know if you want to work with a material that isn’t as easily shaped and manipulated as metal. Remember that not only does it have to filter your wort but also support the weight of your mashed grains.
You can either reuse any stainless steel you may have around your workshop or buy pre-drilled sheet metal from your local hardware store.
Depending on whether you want to create a domed style false bottom with a piping system that runs into your ball valve spigot or a raised false bottom which lifts the grain bed above your spigot’s inlet.
From a design perspective, fitting legs or another system to raise the false bottom is more straight-forward, but a domed design may reduce the need to have a strong structure to support a heavy grain bill. Also, fitting a barbed elbow and pick up tube requires additional tools and skills.
The idea is to allow the sugary wort to flow through the false bottom while keeping the mashed grains out of your brew kettle. So, you want to have the holes small enough that they are permeable for the wort (and won’t get clogged) but not large enough to allow organic material to pass through.
If you can drill or buy pre-drilled metal using a drill bit between 1/16″- 1/8″ (1.58 mm 3.17 mm) then you shouldn’t have any issues getting good efficiency and avoiding excessive grain in your brew kettle.
Don’t forget to make sure your false bottom isn’t permanently fixed in your mash tun, you will need to removed after each mash and clean it.
If you aren’t building a domed false bottom with a handle-like pick up tube, then including some sort of handle into your design would be ideal. This way you don’t need to risk damaging your mash tun or false bottom every time you struggle to remove it.
When you buy anything, you have to, of course, cover the labor and other costs to produce and sell it. This is why recycling things or repurposing them can save you loads. Some interesting ideas are to use narrow-holed mesh metal sheets or even a pizza tray you can buy from your local supermarket.