Pimp My System: Pat's Homebrew Rig
- Triangular design
- 20-gallon boil kettle
- 12-gallon HLT
- 10-gallon cooler MLT with false bottom
- 1500 watt 110v RIMS tube w/ PID controller for MLT
- Honeywell furnace valve w/ PID controller for HLT
- Digital timer; 25' counter flow chiller
I've been brewing for just over a year now. My original plan to was to stick with extract brews for a few years and then maybe move to all-grain. Those plans went out the window when I hooked up with the Northern Kentucky Homebrewers Guild (NKHG). The NKHG members showed me that it was possible to combine my fascination with gadgets with my desire to learn to brew great beer.
My brew rig evolved way past the point I ever thought it would and at a much faster rate than I thought possible. The fun and fellowship of planning and building it along with other NKHG members was the best part (besides the great beer consumed in the process).
I started my rig about the same time as a couple of other guild members and we worked pretty closely on the design and construction, but not surprisingly we went in different directions on several features. I wanted something that was modular that I could expand with as I gain brewing experience. I am almost sad that it is complete, but then again, a brew rig is never really done, is it? I already have plans to make some pretty major changes to the layout to make it more efficient.
Another fun part of the build was pulling together the knowledge and materials to put everything together. I am an engineer by education and actually enjoyed the planning and details, deciding on features and building it myself.
The components for my rig came from all over the place. The steel (2"x 2"x 1/4" wall) came from safety railing that was removed from a factory that was shutting down. I got fittings and other parts from some of the wonderful online retailers that cater to homebrewers. I scrounged my workshop for parts from old projects and odds and ends that I have picked up over the years. EBay also turned out to be a good source of components once I knew what I was looking for. The stand itself is built like a tank and weighs almost as much, but it is still mobile enough to cart to our club's monthly brew outs.
I enlisted some guys from work to weld the stand. Made out of 1/4" wall 2" x 2" tubing the stand weighs a ton, but I did drill and tap holes to mount everything to it. The worst part of building the stand itself was grinding off the yellow paint from the salvaged safety railing that it was made from. By far, the most fun part was designing and building the control panel.
I wanted my stand to control temperatures and make repeatability easier, so I wanted to be able to control HLT and mash temperatures. I decided to use a furnace valve controlled by a PID for the HLT. Brew days are much easier if you never have to worry about your strike or sparge water being at the right temperature.
For the mash tun, I decided to use a RIMS system to maintain mash temp. My system is a 1/5" stainless tube with a 1500 watt water heater element controlled by another PID. I added a digital timer to the mix too. Researching online, I found good examples of how other people had built similar projects, but in the end, it was up to me to put everything together. I was lucky to work with a good electronics technician who checked everything out when I was done. It turned out to be a great winter project.
How do you use it?
I am still a new brewer, and as such, I am still learning the basics of brewing. I love my rig. Building it has been half the fun, but most of all, I love that I have control over temperatures and don't have to worry about missing mash temps or not having strike or sparge water at temperature. The two-tier triangular design is easy to move around and offers good access to controls, valves and hoses.
What do you enjoy brewing on your system?
I have three taps in my keezer. One tap is always my IPA, which I've named Angel Sweat. It began as a Bells Two Hearted clone, but has evolved to suit my taste. One tap always has something to entice a non-craft beer drinker. Currently that is a Belgian pale ale. The third tap usually has something that I am experimenting with or just want to brew.
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