Up to this point I have only been doing extract brewing. What that means is that I steep a very small amount of grains, much like one would make tea, then I take a malt powder or a syrup, and mix it with my water, add hops, boil for 60 minutes, adding hops when needed based on the recipe, then ferment the beer.
This isn't a bad way to do things, and I think I've made some damn tasty brews this way, but there are several reasons why most of my future brewing will be all-grain:
But, in order to switch to all grain brewing, I needed a mash and lauter tun. (To read a quick overview of homebrewing, see Wikipedia) I did mine as a batch-sparge on the cheap and easy a-la the Denny method.
I already had a rectangular cooler, so I used it. All I needed was a stainless steel braid from the outside of a toilet supply line, and some hose supplies. Total cost of the new supplies was about $7. Rock!
Here is the cooler with the attached items:
Here is a close-up of the braid going around the hose:
Here is a close-up of the hose clamp (my local homebrew store didn't have any valves in stock):
And here is the system after it processed my grains into sweet, sweet wort:
Cheap, easy, and I still have a usable cooler.
When the end of summer comes I may look for a larger, better insulating cooler, but for now, this system will do exactly what I need.