Pimp My System: Northwestern Brew Baron
This is the Great Northwestern Brew Baron. At the heart of this HERMS is the Blichmann Therminator which is used not only for cooling the boil, but heating the mash as necessary by transferring heat from the HLT to the Mash Tun using two 809 March Pumps. All of the water side is hard piped using 1/2" Copper which use 1/2" Cam Lock fittings to connect to all the hoses. The kettles also use the same 1/2" Cam Locks.The kettles are all keggles with welded fittings for sanitation. The Mash Tun and HLT have welded in Thermowells for the Ranco Temp Probes. The HLT Controller kicks on and off the solenoid valve for the propane, and the Mash Tun Controller kicks on and off the two pumps. The HLT is equipped with a sight glass and a thru wall thermometer, and the Mash Tun has the same thermometer along with a False Bottom w/ Pick Up tube and a vorlauf with a clip on sparge ring adapter. Hope you all like it and I hope it gives your guys some ideas for your own system.
Before I built the Control Box everything was manually operated including push button ignition. Since then the propane system has been upgraded to a pilot light solenoid system and everything can run either on automatic through the ETC's or manually.
Vorlauf Tube w/ Sparge Ring attached
Flase Bottom, Thermowell and Thermometer probe
Diverter Panel during construction back when each burner was push button ignited.
Now, if you're feeling adventurous and want to build it...
- Angle Grinder w/ Skinny Wheels, and Flap Disks
- Propane or MAPP Torch
- Solder, flux, emery cloth, and a tubing cutter
- Drill and various bits
- Screw Drivers, Crescent Wrenches, Channel Locks, Vice Grips, Needle Nose Pliers
- 60' of 1 1/2" Angle Iron
- 1' x 4' Piece of expanded metal
- 17" x 8" piece of Diamond Plate
- 17" x 17" piece of Diamond Plate
- 4 Casters
- Blichmann Therminator
- 2 March 809 Pumps
- 2 55,000 BTU Bayou Classic burners (1 cup, 1 banjo)
- 2 Ranco ETC's (1 single stage, 1 dual stage)
- 1 Bayou Classic 0-30 psi adjustable propane regulator.
- 2 1/4" solenoid valves.
- 2 1/4" needle valves
- 2 1/4" gate valves
- 3 1/2 bbl Kegs
- 3 1/2" SS Full Couplers
- 2 1/2" SS Half Couplers
- 1 Morebeer Flase Bottom Conversion Kit
- 1 Morebeer Sparge ring
- 2 Morebeer Thermometers (1 2", 1 6")
- 1 16" Sight Glass
Start by cutting your angle iron
The top plate measures 17" x 51" and is divided into three sections by two dividers made by taking two pieces of angle iron to make a "t" so the keg will be boxed in and supported all the way around. The rear uprights I measured at 30". When welding your top plate to the uprights make sure the channels in the top plate are up. This allows the keg to sit securely in the channel and will not slip off the top of the brew stand.
The front table piece is 12" X 51" and sits 12" below the top of the stand. The expanded metal is used for the bench piece. The front table piece provides the front uprights. Once this has been welded up, measure and weld the lower supports. After this the burner bar goes in. Use 2 small chunks of angle iron to provide a third side on the ends so the burner bar will sit upright. I positioned it so that the open side was facing the rear. This way the hoses will run out the back to the burners and will allows you easy access to the pilot lights and flow control valves.
The system uses 1/2" copper pipe. Follow the diagram on how to plumb this together. For connection to the Therminator, camlocks, and pumps, I used ½" pipe to ½" FPT. Unions are used inline with the pumps for easy pump removal.
I had three hoses made that run from the regulator to the manifold and to each of the burners. The hoses are 16" x ¼" hose with 1/4 " MPT ends. The manifold is made from ½" copper pipe, with three "T's", one elbow and 5 ¼" FPT to ½" soldered ftting. Refer to the propane diagram for specific layout. On each of the pilot valves, there is a fitting (1/4" MPT to ¼" compression) to a piece of copper tubing bent to reach 3/8" from the burner. Take a pair of needle nose pliers and pinch the end of the tubing to create a small nozzle (about the size of a pin head) so that the propane will create a flame a little bigger than the size of a bic lighter. On the main burner port, thread in the solenoid valve, followed by the gate valve. This acts as your flow control for each of the burners. I do find that I have to adjust the kettle flame to bring it to a boil faster, turning it down once a boil has been achieved. (NOTE: when building your own propane system, make sure to leak test every thing by pressuring the system with air to more than what you would ever run propane at and using a squirt bottle hit each joint and connection. If it bubbles fix it)
Now the electrical panel
This is the trickiest part of the build. I actually had to have my electrician buddy wire it for me (for safety concerns). Start with a 12 x 12 box with at least 12 spots on a termination block. Afix the Ranco temp controllers to the front cover of the box by bolting through the back cover. Use silicone to seal the controllers to the box. Drill holes for 5 switches, two single pole single throw and 3 dual pole dual throw. Now following the schematic for the electrical diagram wire up the box accordingly.
Legally procure three 1/2 bbl kegs and either using a sanke tap relieve the pressure on the keg. After doing so cut the tops out of two of the kegs using an angle grinder with a cutting wheel using the upper chime of the keg as a guide to get your cut as perfect as possible. Use of a plasma cutter will also suffice. Cutting the third keg is a bit different. This is for the Hot Liquor Tank. Because it only hold water and because I didn't want a whole lot of heat to escape, I only cut a hole with a 6" diameter. Using the tap well and a string as a guide, mark your hole, and with the angle grinder or plasma cutter, cut your hole. After using an angle grinder with a flapper disc to clean up the edges, you're ready to move on to the next step. Starting with a center punch, mark a spot 3/4" up from the bottom chime weld and drill out with a 1/4 " bit. If you the ability to do so, use a 1" knockout punch to pop the hole out. If not use a 1" hole saw and carefully drill out the hole in the side of all three kegs. On the Mash Tun and the HLT repeat the procedure vertically from your bottom hole about half way up the keg. These are the thermometer ports. Half way in between these two holes drill another 1/4" hole. This is for your thermowell. The mash tun gets another 1" hole at the top chime weld for another 1/2" SS Full Coupler for a Morebeer sparge ring, which also doubles as a vorlauf tube when the ring is not attached. The last two holes are on the HLT. The first is a 5/8" hole in the top of the the HLT for the water recirc pipe to fit into, and the next is a 3/8" hole along the bottom chime weld 90 degrees along the tangent from the pick up hole for the sight glass. Now usually with some coaxing of homebrew, you should be able to get a local fabricator to weld your fittings on, of not you'll have to use weldless fittings (yuck). On all three vessels the bottom hole gets a 1/2" SS Full Coupler, welded half way in/out. The two top holes get 1/2" SS Half Couplers for Thermometers, and the two middle holes get Thermowells by using 3" of 1/4" SS Pipe with the tip welded shut and welded to the inside of the keg.
The pick ups
The mash tun uses Morebeers false bottom conversion kit. This kit includes the valve, coupler, compression fitting, pick up tube, and false bottom. Once installed you should see the need to cut down the pick up tube a bit as it is designed to fit a majority of different kettles of varying valve height. The kettle gets a 1/2" SS elbow coming off the coupler, going into a 1/2" MPT to 1/2" compression fitting, then into 1/2" copper tubing bent to fit along the tangent of the kettle. You can adjust the pick up height after whirlpooling and place it right next to the hop mass. The HLT gets a very simple pick up. Coming off the coupler is a straight 1/2" MPT to 1/2" compression fitting going to a 1/2" piece of copper tubing bent downward touching the bottom of the kettle to pick up all the water out of it.
Do a "dry run" with water to check everything over and to remove the flux on the inside of the plumbing system. This will also help you figure out your system before you get into it during an actual brew. Make sure to keep an eye on your valves. If you're not careful you could over fill your HLT, or be running cold water through your sparge. It has happened to me from time to time.
Hopefully this how to has helped you put together your new Brew Baron, and you will start successfully be brewing 10 gallons semi automatically!!!