Pimp My System: Justin's Brew Stand
The inspiration for building this stand came from an article in the May/June 2013 issue of Zymurgy, written by Drew Beechum. I was so stoked when I saw that article! I am very handy when it comes to construction, but have no idea how to weld. The bolt together design was instrumental in my decision to start this project. The basic design of the stand sparked the ideas of how I wanted to make it my own. I've had several "redneck rigs" in the past and was currently using wood stands (stupid, right?) as of that Zymurgy issue. The availability of the materials and streamlined footprint of this new brew system were what enticed me to move forward.
Mr. Beechum's build featured an HLT tower and another single platform for his mash tun and kettle. My system is all gravity fed, so I needed to modify his design slightly to have three tiers on the stand.
I started designing it from the bottom up. I measured the height of my tallest fermenter as I wanted the valve on my kettle a few inches higher than the carboy. I started there and then worked my way up from the kettle, to mash tun and finally the HLT.
I made sure between each step that I accounted for the actual location of the valves on my equipment, this was key so you don't end up with your mash tun higher than the valve on your kettle! Mr. Beechum gives a detailed write up on how to work with the strut material. Definitely go the chop saw route, it makes cutting the strut very easy.
Once I figured out how to use the spring nuts properly, tightening the L brackets and corner brackets was easy. They are rounded on two opposite corners and the other two opposite corners are square, so as you turn it, it locks itself inside the strut. You can use regular 1/2" nuts in a few spots, but spring nuts were usually needed.
On all the outside corners, where an L bracket was on the opposing side, shorter bolts were needed. I found some 15/16" bolts that worked perfectly. Otherwise you have two 1 1/2" bolts intersecting, which kept you from be able to tighten the bracket down. As with framing, keeping it level is not really required during construction, just keep all your measurements equal, and final adjustments can be made later.
I designed the mash tun to be several inches away from the HLT burner so it wouldn't melt.
Joining the strut using the brackets designed for it was very simple. Most of the time, I had the brackets lined right up with the oval holes. I did have to pre-drill a few times, though. I had to pre-drill when mounting the bottom rails, using the two hole 90 brackets. I cut two 24" sections of the strut to use as the actual rails. I found four locking casters that had a single bolt for attaching. I opted for those, as they slid right through the strut and bolted on in just a few seconds.
Mounting the burners was surprisingly simple! Basically, it was a coincidence that the widescreens on my burners were right around the same width as the inside of the areas where I needed them. I simply removed the legs from the Blichmann burner and cut the legs off of my Banjo burner. Then, I pre-drilled through the windscreens and mounted them with bolts and screws. A friend gave me a small section of diamond plate, so I made that my mash tun platform and the lower platform where I keep my propane.
For kicks, I mounted a small cutoff of the strut to the stand which perfectly houses my mash paddle! Also, the crossbar on the MLT platform was added so I can pick up the rear end of my cooler and pitch it so more wort flows into the kettle, as the tun empties. I've been using a 10-year-old roll of clear tape to prop my cooler for the last three and a half years, so as you can imagine, this is something simple that really helps!
I spent roughly $350 on everything, less the diamond plate.
This is working out great for me. Just what I wanted! Everything is so compact being on one stand. My propane tanks fit on the bottom shelf, the burners are already "set up", all I have to do is roll this thing out back and it's time to brew! No, my cooler didn't melt on the maiden voyage, or any time since then! All my distances were properly spaced everything works like a champ. I won't be replacing this stand anytime soon!