Pimp my System: The Electric Brewery
Here is an introduction to The Electric Brewery. Designed and built over the span of a year, Kal wanted a truly unique all-grain homebrew set-up. This is what Kal had to say about his one-of-a-kind system:
I've been brewing on and off since the late 1980's, first with malt extract kits (with mixed results) and then later with 100% wort kits that required no boiling at all. Bored with the limited styles available, in the Fall of 2008 I decided to spread my wings and graduate to an all-grain setup where I could be 100% in control of the final product.
My all-grain brewery had to meet the following criteria:
- 100% electric for indoor brewing
- Safe, easy, and enjoyable to use
- Not limit the brewer in any way
- Provide for extremely repeatable and consistent results
- Use industrial quality parts that last (all stainless steel & limit the use of plastics)
After failing to find a commercially available setup that met these criteria, I decided to design and build my own from the ground up. It took over a 12 month period between 2008 and 2009 to complete. Pictures were taken throughout so that I could eventually document the whole process on my TheElectricBrewery.com website so that other brewers could build their own.
The resulting brewing system is a 20 gallon all-grain 100% electric setup that uses all industrial grade components and achieves a consistent 95% brewhouse efficiency. Mash temperature is maintained using a 50 foot HERMS coil in the hot liquor tank, step mashing is also possible.
Other features include:
- Two pumps with stainless steel heads for recirculation
- A convoluted counterflow chiller for cooling the wort quickly to yeast pitching temperatures
- The control panel is my own custom design and features three PIDs, a timer, alarms and safety features such as a ‘safe start interlock’ which ensures the panel cannot be turned on if certain safe start up conditions are not met
- Power is supplied to the brewery components through the control panel using a standard 240V/30A dryer outlet which helps keep costs low and makes the system somewhat portable.
Like many first time all-grain brewers the inaugural batch was a hoppy American IPA, brewed on August 21, 2009. It turned out perfectly!
Brewing for me is not about saving money, it's about the art or craft of making beer and being able to call it my own. This is one of the few things in life where I can point to something and proudly say "I made that".
Here are a few questions & answers regarding The Electric Brewery:
How long does it take to brew beer with your setup?
Similar to other all-grain home brewing setups (gas or electric), it takes anywhere from 5-8 hours to produce the sugary-sweet malt/hop liquid called 'wort'. This is what our Electric Brewery produces. Yeast is then added and left to ferment this wort into beer (1-3 weeks typically). The beer is then kegged and left for 2 weeks to carbonate under pressure from CO2. Lagers and stronger ales may be left to age or condition for a month or more to smooth out the flavors. Every beer is different!
How much electricity does it take to brew beer with your setup?
We've never measured but it is not much. Probably similar to what it takes to run your clothes dryer for a load or two. It is considerably less expensive than using propane or gas (no tanks to fill!).
Do you have any videos of the entire setup running?
We are working on adding more videos to our TheElectricBrewery.com YouTube channel. Complete instructions on using the brewery along with videos are being worked on and will be added in the future.
How do you serve your beer?
Our beer is kept in stainless steel Cornelius kegs (old soda kegs) that are popular with home brewers. The beer is served on taps in our basement bar where we typically have four styles on tap at any given time. A C02 tank is used to dispense and carbonate the beer.
What kind of beers do you brew? What have you brewed?
We've brewed various styles of beer from 3% Ordinary Bitters to 12% Barley Wines. All our beers are brewed with fresh (sometimes organic) ingredients, and are created to be full-flavored. No shortcuts, no compromises.
Below is short list of the beers we've brewed in the first two years (in chronological order from first to last). We typically brew about once a month.
- American IPA (7.4% ABV, 60 IBU, 13 SRM)
- Organic Lager (5% ABV, 17 IBU, 4 SRM)
- Blonde Ale (5.2% ABV, 17 IBU, 4 SRM)
- Munich Helles (4.8% ABV, 17 IBU, 4 SRM)
- Vienna Lager (5.0% ABV, 23 IBU, 11 SRM)
- American Pale Ale - 100% Cascade hops (5.4% ABV, 38 IBU, 7 SRM)
- Hefeweizen (5.0% ABV, 11 IBU, 3 SRM)
- Munich Helles (5.5% ABV, 19 IBU, 5 SRM)
- American Barley Wine (12% ABV, 101 IBU, 16 SRM)
- American Wheat (4.8% ABV, 11 IBU, 3 SRM)
- Organic German Lager (5.2% ABV, 21 IBU, 3 SRM)
- Cream Ale (4.4% ABV, 11 IBU, 2 SRM)
(ABV = alcohol by volume, IBU = bitterness level, SRM = color where lower is lighter)
For more, you can visit Kal's website @ http://www.theelectricbrewery.com for more photos, products, recipes and step-by-step instructions on how to create your own brewery!
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