Wednesday 25 October 2023

KegLand - Sergeant Sparge Head - Wort Spreader/Aerator - Hands on Review

KegLand have recently released the Sergeant Sparge Head - a wort sprinkler aimed to integrate with their range of BrewZilla all-in-one brewing systems.

Sergeant Sparge Head assembled and connected to our recirculation hose

To be honest, we're surprised it's taken KegLand this long to design and release this product as most other all-in-one brewing systems feature some sort of mechanism to help evenly spread the wort over the mash bed when recirculating.

The BrewZilla systems do include a perforated top plate which sits on top of the mash bed to ultimately try and achieve the same thing, but in our experience with our BrewZilla 3.1.1 brewing system we found this top plate would sink and ultimately compact the grain bed which can potentially have a negative impact on mash efficiency as it reduces the ability of wort to recirculate back through it. It can also make it difficult to retrieve and take out this top plate to stir your grain bed during the mash (which is something we like to do) if it has been sunk down well below the top wort level with ~65°C wort above it.

So what is the Sergeant Sparge Head exactly? It's essentially a threaded plastic tube which attaches to the output hose of your re-circulation pipe. The wort travels down through the tube, and hits the round diffusion disc at the end which then redirects and distributes the wort outwards, spreading it evenly across the grain bed.

Failure to use some sort of method to distribute the wort like this can result in "channeling", where the wort being recirculated creates a path or channel through the grain bed which results in a drastic loss of efficiency since the recirculating wort isn't coming into contact and wetting all the grain within the grain bed. Less wetted grain means less starches converted to sugars, which means less efficiency. Got it? Good.

Packaging is minimal, but is all you need

Like with many KegLand products, packaging is minimal and Sergeant Sparge Head is no exception, coming in a simple plastic bag. Included in the pack is a 1/2" diameter threaded body which is 50mm in length, a 12.7mm stainless barb tail with a seal which is what essentially connects the sparge head to the output hose of your recirculation pipe, and lastly a 1/2" stainless steel retaining nut to hold it in place.

The 3 key components of the Sargeant Sparge Head

With only three components it takes seconds to assemble, and connects very easily to the 10mm ID diameter silicone hose included with the BrewZilla systems.

The threaded body also means that an additional locking nut (not included) can be threaded onto the sparge head to adjust it's height and secure it to the centre hole on the lid of the BrewZilla units.

10mm Internal Diameter (ID) silicone hose fits perfectly to the Sergeant Sparge Head

Speaking of silicone hoses, one slight issue we discovered is that if the silicone hose you're using isn't perfectly straight, the sparge head won't sit level resulting in an annoying off-centered spread of wort. We had a small roll of 10mm ID silicone hose that we'd purchased some time ago, and since it comes packaged in a coil the curve of this coil persisted after being cut. Surely there's a way to straighten these hoses out, however something like the Stainless Flexi Arm from Kegland would be a really good addition with the Sergeant so you can set and angle it exactly how you want it. We can see a purchase of one of these in our immediate future.

We performed some initial testing using water in our BrewZilla - check out the video below which demonstrates the different spray patterns depending on the flow rate set by the ball valve on the recirculation pipe/arm. Note the annoying curve in the hose as we previously mentioned.

We also gave the Sergeant a go in a recent brew, and after cutting a much shorter piece of hose to have the sparge head sitting just above the level of the grain bed we found it worked really well and did exactly what it was supposed to do. 

A shorter length of hose also meant there wasn't as much bend in it so we could get it a little closer to straight and into the centre of the grain bed. We typically recirculate quite slowly and this batch had a high amount of wheat so we couldn't open the recirculation flow rate right up, but for us it was definitely an improvement over the top plate, or using nothing at all and having to secure the hose to the side of the BrewZilla some how to prevent any channeling from occurring.

The sparge head is versatile too, with another couple of potential uses in addition to wort recirculation. Firstly, you could also use the Sergeant Sparge Head when transferring to your fermenter to help aerate your wort. How effective this would be in actually introducing oxygen into your wort is debatable, as is the requirement for aeration and oxygen of wort in the first place (if you're not using liquid yeast) - but that's a discussion for another day. We certainly agree that it could be used for this purpose and you certainly wouldn't cause any harm or detriment to your wort by doing so when transferring to the fermenter.

The other additional use would be when sparging to help distribute your sparge water evenly over the grain bed to prevent channeling like we've talked about with wort recirculation. This is great in theory, however you would need a recirculation arm extension or other method to hold the sparge head in place when the grain basket is lifted on your BrewZilla, since the included recirculation arm isn't high enough to allow this.

If you're using an all-in-one brewing system like the BrewZilla and don't have something like this already to aid in recirculating or sparging, we think it's well worth considering. It would also be compatible with other brewing systems so long as you can connect a suitably sized hose to it, so don't think you have to have a BrewZilla to be able to use it.

At only AU$9.95 from the KegLand website, the Sergeant Sparge Head Wort Spreader and Aerator is a worthwhile and cost-effective upgrade, and in our opinion is definitely a better option than using the stainless top plate that comes with the BrewZilla systems. We also prefer it to using no top plate and having to fix the recirculation hose above the grain bed to get the wort flowing around evenly over it without creating a hole or channel through it.

We'd also highly recommend the flexi arm to be used in conjunction with it so you can angle and set the sparge head exactly where you want it, though you can definitely use it with some good old silicone hose if you have some already available.

Related Articles

No comments:

Post a Comment