The building never stops…

So I must admit, it has been an extremely busy month since the new year arrived, so I apologize for the tardiness of this post.  That being said, the electric brewery building is up and running.  While it is far from complete, and there are still several hurdles to overcome, I think now is an appropriate point to pause, look at what I have finished so far and explain the process I have gone through, the problems I have encountered, and the next set of steps necessary to finish the system.

When creating a system from the ground up like this I think it is imperative to take it slow and step by step.  If you build the entire thing without testing it along the way then it becomes extremely difficult to troubleshoot any issues you may encounter.  Keeping this in mind, I have chosen to not only test each item that I get for the system, but also to brew a batch every time I add a new element.  I would say this is tedious but the fact is any time you can give yourself a reason to brew then….you win!

One of the first pieces of equipment I needed to figure out was the chugger pumps.  Pumps are a a key component not only in an electric system but in any sort of system that you would like to eliminate the amount of tedious labor that is needed during a brewing session.  Pumps can be used to move water or wort between kettles, to fermenters, or to recirculate the wort.  Regardless of what they are being used for, they save a ton of time and effort when it comes to moving around liquids.  They also make it possible to move liquids without the need of gravity.  For the most part as homebrewers, we are used to having everything being pushed using gravity.  Racking canes, auto-siphons, even direct pours require one vessel being higher than the other in order to create the flow of liquid.
While gravity fed systems work great, they require more space, more labor on the part of the beer maker, and more often then not extra cleanup, sanitation and stress.  Using the pumps to move water and wort removes the need for a tiered system and ultimately allows the brewer to setup his equipment with more flexibility in terms of space and different levels required.

Before even attempting to use the pumps while making a batch of beer, the first thing I wanted to do was a bit of a “wet run” filling up one kettle with water and attempting to simply transfer the water from one vessel to the other using the pump.  By doing this I was able to test the preliminary setup for any sort of issues including pressure, leaky valves and anything else that could ultimately become an issue while brewing.  The video below shows this quick practice run.  You may notice a couple of leaks coming from the first kettle’s valve, this situation was easily remedied with the use of a thicker o-ring and a couple layers of teflon tape.

The chugger pump… Snaplock on the in with a ball valve to control the flow rate on the “out” side

Now that I had figured out the pump, I felt pretty good adding it to the system and moving forward with the construction of the first version of the system.  The first version of the system consists of 2- 15 gallon kettles, a single pump, and a plate chiller with a thrumometer.  This first version will still run on propane as I want to work out all the kinks with this equipment before beginning to factor in electricity.

For the mash tun I chose a 15-gallon Blichmann Boilermaker.  While this particular system is fairly expensive, it has everything that I was looking for in terms of a mash tun, a sight glass, welded ball valve, brewmometer and an amazing false bottom/manifold hybrid.  The falsey is the star of this pot.  Its design is nearly impossible to get stuck, yet it filters so efficiently that a vorleuf is almost unnecessary.  Once I have the recirculation system built I won’t need to vorleuf my runnings at all.

A look at the MLT

A look at the unique design of the false bottom/manifold hybrid

For my boil kettle and HLT I am using another 15 gallon kettle also with a brewmometer and and kettle valve.  As a frame I am using my two tear burner as stands for the kettles.

The kettle currently doubling as an HLT and boil kettle.

The first 3 batches that I brewed using this system went pretty smoothly.  The pump makes transitioning between kettles, quicker, more sanitary and less labor intensive.  Furthermore my efficiency has jumped up nearly 7% per batch.  Normally with my previous system I averaged about 65% efficiency while batch sparging.  Now with the new Blichmann MLT my efficiency is closer to 72% each batch.  That is pretty good for a simple batch sparge, and, that efficiency comes before the recirculation and temp control system installation which will make my efficiency even better.

Here’s the temporary setup. It will be adjusted and assembled as it is finished.

After doing a couple batches with this setup I added in the chill plate and thrumometer.  I must say that so far this may be my favorite part of the whole system.  Watching my wort cool to pitching temps in 7 minutes is awesome.  With one pass through the chiller the thrumometer was reading 72, meaning that the wort cooled from a boil to 72 degrees in about 7 minutes.

A look at the thrumometer

The chill plate with both snap lock connections in place.

Through the first few batches, this first build of the new system has been great.  Aside from the great brewhouse efficiency increase, the time required to brew a batch is also much more manageable, with the system capable of completing a batch in about 3 hours.

I have had some issues during the process but for the most part they centered around minor leaks from different connections along the system.  The second phase of construction will consist of mounting the first pump and building a stationary tubing system for its role in the system.  I haven’t quite decided if I want to use copper tubing for the system or, high-temp tubing wrapped in some sort of PVC-like casing.  Once I finish that I will order the heating elements as I already have the PID Controller ready to go.

Anyways as you can see the system is slowly coming together.  I am excited to try the first test batches brewed on it which currently consist of an Imperial Pale Ale and a Gose.

It’s good to be posting again, I’m currently working on another 5 Must Drinks Beers entry so stay tuned!!!!



Categories: Beer, Brew Tech

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