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General Category => Equipment and Software => Topic started by: gmac on June 12, 2012, 09:28:13 PM

Title: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: gmac on June 12, 2012, 09:28:13 PM
So my wife and I are buying a new house on a couple acres.  The property has a heated garage with water that she is more than willing to let me turn into "the Brewery".  Right now I'm batch sparging with a 50qt cooler and boiling with a 15 gal pot that lets me do up to 10 gal batches.  I can keep up OK with that but there are often times that I'd like to have more capacity so that I don't have to brew some styles as frequently.  I do go through a good amount of beer and I have a few friends who've been very kind to us over the years that I'd be more than happy to supply beer to (for free - let's leave the legalities debate out of this).  Also, I'd like to go to bigger kegs just to reduce the amount of washing etc.

So, where do I start?  I've got some cash earmarked for this but I don't want to over or under due this project.  Is a 1 barrel system overkill for a home brewer?  I have no experience with pumps etc.  I batch and boil.  Should I just get a bigger cooler and a bigger pot and stick with what I'm doing?  I really want to get some bigger fermenters but I have no idea what or how many.  Almost all my beers are ales although I may lager more in the future. 

I guess I just have this big empty space coming that seems perfect for a brewery and I don't have a clue where to start.  Help!
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: Slowbrew on June 12, 2012, 09:40:00 PM
You may want to start by working backwards from the question of "how much beer do I really need to brew to keep up?".  If you can firm up that number then work back to "how often can brew?".  At that point you will have a good idea of what size system to think about.  IMHO

I've wondered about a 55 gallon drum brewery sometimes.  Then I realize what my wife's reaction would be.   ;D

Paul
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: gmac on June 12, 2012, 10:01:10 PM
Well, lets think about it a bit.
Depending on the beer, I can easily go through a cornie keg per week.  Of course, this isn't all going through my liver.  My wife enjoys beer as much as I do and I often have friends stopping by for a beer or two so it's hard to say for sure exactly how much per week/month.  APA's go fast, saisons go fast, smoked porters go slowly.  This week, I'll probably brew 25 gals of homebrew because we've been busy prepping our house for sale and we're short on our favourite styles. 

I have a very flexible work schedule which allows me to brew most of the time but I would say I've brewed at least once per week for the last 18 months or so.  As I said, I have some friends who I'm going to set up with CO2 systems so that I can provide them with beer too.  This is in return for all the favours they've done for me over the years.  Let's assume 2 cornies per month for each of them.  What does that give us?  Let's say 30 gals per month on average with some upside for parties etc.  Part of my problem is a lack of forecasting for future brews.  For example, in order to try to keep the beer clear, I don't touch the cornies once they are in the freezer.  So I'm often surprised when they blow and have no replacement of a favourite ready.  I do try to be more regular now but it's not working perfectly yet.  Also, I find that I have  hard time letting things lager an appropriate amount of time because I'm out of a style I want.  So, I'd really like to go to a system where I have 3 or 4 cornies at a time and then when I'm down to the last one, I can brew again.

Not really answering your question but my intent is to put in a "permanent" system so I'm not carrying the pots and cooler in and out all the time.  Just not sure how much to spend and how big to go.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: weithman5 on June 12, 2012, 10:30:53 PM
hate to be a spoil sport here, and it sounds like quite a bit is going to others, but the professional (used loosely) cringes just a bit.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: gmac on June 12, 2012, 10:37:52 PM
Well, I love to brew and I love to share my beer with friends so I'm OK with that.  If I could sell it legally from home I would but since that will never be an option and I don't have the cash to start a brew pub I guess I'll have to keep being generous.  Believe me, I'm not getting taken advantage of.  But, I can see your point.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: boapiu on June 12, 2012, 10:47:48 PM
The latest BYO has an add for the Ruby Street Brewing Mega Ruby. It is capable of 20 gallon batches, featuring 30 gallon kettles. I covet this and have slowly been adapting my home made brew stand into something that looks like their product. Of course, I have very limited space.
If I were you and had such seemingly limitless possibilities, I would scourge the NET for examples of systems, brew sheds, etc, etc and realize your dream.

One such link is http://www.brewzilla.nl/?brewhalla

Lots of examples of brewing rigs. Good luck.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: euge on June 12, 2012, 11:02:18 PM
If you want to move up you could probably get a bbl conical and then use half-barrel kegs (16gals).

Then a DIY walk in cooler and maybe a fridge to hold the kegs.

You'll need a bigger kettle of course. And a large mashtun- maybe 120 qt. 
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: weithman5 on June 12, 2012, 11:25:00 PM
Well, I love to brew and I love to share my beer with friends so I'm OK with that.  If I could sell it legally from home I would but since that will never be an option and I don't have the cash to start a brew pub I guess I'll have to keep being generous.  Believe me, I'm not getting taken advantage of.  But, I can see your point.

trust me, i am fine with you giving much away,
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: gsandel on June 12, 2012, 11:38:59 PM
Stout Tanks has 1-3 bbl almost turnkey systems, I think.  I think that 1 bbl would be acceptable for a homebrewer....like any professional brewery start up, bigger is better (you will be sorry you didn't, especially if you are currently brewing all the time and want to enjoy some other things in life).  You can always brew less than the capacity....but for the $$$ you might just reconsider opening the professional brewery.

For full disclosure:  Me, I have a 20 gallon HLT from Stout (which I love) with the HERMS coil and a single March pump (with a funky manifold to make all the magic happen without too much tomfoolery) for my 1/2 bbl keggles/MT.  I do two brews a day when I do get around to brewing.  The large HLT makes it possible to go back to back.

g

Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: nateo on June 13, 2012, 12:04:38 AM
If I had a bunch of space, and I were going to live somewhere for a long time (I have the first, but not the second), I would look into having a bunch of barrels/carboys. I'd still probably do small batches (5-10 gallons), but I'd like to be able to bulk-age beers for as long as I want without time/space constraints.

FWIW when I first moved here and had disposable income and lots of space, I got a big kettle, and a pump, and outdoor burner and new MLT. I still use the MLT all the time, but I hardly use my big kettle or pump anymore. It turns out I didn't actually want to brew 10-gal batches consistently, so now I'm back inside on the stovetop for most of my (20L) brews.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on June 13, 2012, 12:40:29 AM
Blichmann has some big stuff that some nanos use.

More beer has the big tippy dump system.

Other suggestions above.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: denny on June 13, 2012, 01:16:28 AM
Somebody say 55 gal. barrels?

http://www.skotrat.com/skot/equipment/Brew_Rig_Pics/

http://www.skotrat.com/go/default/brewing-info/keg-conversion-101/
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: dak0415 on June 13, 2012, 12:30:01 PM
Well, not to be the buzzkill (pun intended), isn't the legal limit 200 gallons per year for a household with 2 or more adults?
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on June 13, 2012, 12:49:04 PM
Well, not to be the buzzkill (pun intended), isn't the legal limit 200 gallons per year for a household with 2 or more adults?

That is true for US homebrewers. The OP is from Ontario, Canada. What is the legal limit there?
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: gmac on June 13, 2012, 12:52:12 PM
Well, not to be the buzzkill (pun intended), isn't the legal limit 200 gallons per year for a household with 2 or more adults?

Good point but that only applies to the US.  I've searched the Alcohol and Gaming Commission website multiple times and I've never been able to find anything that stipulates a maximum volume for homebrewers in Ontario.  The only information I've ever found is on the www.agco.on.ca site where it states:

"You may make beer or wine at home as long as it is only for your personal consumption or to be given away free of charge.  Homemade (or U-Brew) beer or wine may not be sold or used commercially."
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: kylekohlmorgen on June 13, 2012, 01:34:20 PM
Somebody say 55 gal. barrels?

http://www.skotrat.com/skot/equipment/Brew_Rig_Pics/

http://www.skotrat.com/go/default/brewing-info/keg-conversion-101/

THAT is pretty sweet...
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: Slowbrew on June 13, 2012, 02:13:21 PM
Well, not to be the buzzkill (pun intended), isn't the legal limit 200 gallons per year for a household with 2 or more adults?

Good point but that only applies to the US.  I've searched the Alcohol and Gaming Commission website multiple times and I've never been able to find anything that stipulates a maximum volume for homebrewers in Ontario.  The only information I've ever found is on the www.agco.on.ca site where it states:

"You may make beer or wine at home as long as it is only for your personal consumption or to be given away free of charge.  Homemade (or U-Brew) beer or wine may not be sold or used commercially."

You can assume that we will never see that kind of freedom here in the "Land of the Free".  Sorry.  That's how brewing laws really should be, in my humble opinion.

Knowing that, I'd design something in the 1bbl range.  Full batches for the house beers and .25 or .5 batches for not so popular ones. 

Paul
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: gmac on June 13, 2012, 02:59:52 PM
What do you guys think about a 100 qt batch sparge system?  I've never done anything but batch sparge and to be honest, I'm apprehensive about pumps etc.  I know they work fine, I've just never used them so I'm unsure.

I can do a relatively good strength 10 gal batch in my 52 qt (blue) cooler.  I saw some 120 qt ones on line but they seem to be out of stock so it looks like 100 is the biggest.  That would get me to 20 gals pretty easily (I mash at 1.5L/lb approx for 10 gal batches, 2L/lb for 5 gal).  If I was to buy two of them, I could get to 1 bbl pretty easily but how would the cost compare (approx $200) to pumps, mash tun etc.  I have to think it would be a much cheaper option (assuming I can get blue ones).  I'm very happy with my results to date so I don't know if I'd change it at all.  I like the barrels that Denny posted too and if I can get one, I think it would make a decent brew pot.  I'd have to either elevate it somehow or get a pump to transfer the wort and after reading other posts about chillers, I would imagine I'd need to go with a recirculating chiller to try to get that much wort cooled in a decent amount of time.  (How do big breweries chill larger volumes of wort?)

Then, there is the nagging question of fermenters...
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: denny on June 13, 2012, 03:40:11 PM
Graham, I batch sparge large and/or high gravity batches using a 152 qt. cooler.  It works fine.  The only drawback, if you can call it that, is that I use so much mash water that most of those batches turn out to be no sparge.  That gives me the opportunity to do partigyle batches, too.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: bluesman on June 13, 2012, 04:41:48 PM
Graham, I batch sparge large and/or high gravity batches using a 152 qt. cooler.  It works fine.  The only drawback, if you can call it that, is that I use so much mash water that most of those batches turn out to be no sparge.  That gives me the opportunity to do partigyle batches, too.

I've been eying up a 150qt Igloo cooler at Sam's Club for $69.99 for this very purpose. :)
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: gmac on June 13, 2012, 04:44:55 PM
Igloo makes a 250 qt. Only $750 in their online store.
I think two 100's will do better for me.
I'd be all over that 150 if there was a SAMs club near here.
I also like the idea of two so I can do 1/2 batches and keep a decent grain bed depth

Denny. Why do you use so much water in the mash?  Wouldn't the ratio be the same?
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: denny on June 13, 2012, 05:39:08 PM
Igloo makes a 250 qt. Only $750 in their online store.
I think two 100's will do better for me.
I'd be all over that 150 if there was a SAMs club near here.
I also like the idea of two so I can do 1/2 batches and keep a decent grain bed depth

Denny. Why do you use so much water in the mash?  Wouldn't the ratio be the same?

It's the same ratio, but the overall amount is much greater when you use 75 lb. of grain per batch!
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: gmac on June 13, 2012, 07:54:37 PM
Igloo makes a 250 qt. Only $750 in their online store.
I think two 100's will do better for me.
I'd be all over that 150 if there was a SAMs club near here.
I also like the idea of two so I can do 1/2 batches and keep a decent grain bed depth

Denny. Why do you use so much water in the mash?  Wouldn't the ratio be the same?

It's the same ratio, but the overall amount is much greater when you use 75 lb. of grain per batch!

I understand that you're scaling up everything accordingly but where you lost me is where you ended up as a no-sparge. I guess if you were making the same amount of 2X strength wort it would make sense but I am thinking I'd be ramping up everything else in conjunction.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: denny on June 13, 2012, 08:53:27 PM
Igloo makes a 250 qt. Only $750 in their online store.
I think two 100's will do better for me.
I'd be all over that 150 if there was a SAMs club near here.
I also like the idea of two so I can do 1/2 batches and keep a decent grain bed depth

Denny. Why do you use so much water in the mash?  Wouldn't the ratio be the same?

It's the same ratio, but the overall amount is much greater when you use 75 lb. of grain per batch!

I understand that you're scaling up everything accordingly but where you lost me is where you ended up as a no-sparge. I guess if you were making the same amount of 2X strength wort it would make sense but I am thinking I'd be ramping up everything else in conjunction.

It may work out like that because all I ever use it for is 10 gal. batches of 1.100 BW.  I'll try to remember to pull out my notes and give you an example.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: tschmidlin on June 15, 2012, 08:44:03 AM
I did some 20 gallon batches recently, and batch sparged.  The biggest problem I had was having enough hot water on hand, I just didn't have the vessels to heat it all so things went pretty slowly :)
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: gmac on June 15, 2012, 02:01:00 PM
Something I've been wondering lately is how hot the water really needs to be to sparge.  Since you are washing the sugar out of the grain, not converting the starch what is the issue with using warm water, not hot.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: realbeerguy on June 15, 2012, 02:17:15 PM
As someone previously said, work backwards.  You can brew a metric ton of beer, but do you have the fermentation space?
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: morticaixavier on June 15, 2012, 02:51:38 PM
Something I've been wondering lately is how hot the water really needs to be to sparge.  Since you are washing the sugar out of the grain, not converting the starch what is the issue with using warm water, not hot.

I think Denny talked about cold sparging and said he only saw a little drop in lauter efficiency. so yeah it should work, if you have a hot water on demand system you could for sure use that to sparge!
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: majorvices on June 15, 2012, 04:18:56 PM
I love my 40-45 gallon pilot system down at the brewery. It's also electric, which is awesome. I can post some pics if you like.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: denny on June 15, 2012, 04:21:50 PM
Something I've been wondering lately is how hot the water really needs to be to sparge.  Since you are washing the sugar out of the grain, not converting the starch what is the issue with using warm water, not hot.

I think Denny talked about cold sparging and said he only saw a little drop in lauter efficiency. so yeah it should work, if you have a hot water on demand system you could for sure use that to sparge!

Kai actually did an experiment by sparging with room temp water and didn't find any negative effect on efficiency.  My lone experiment showed me the same thing.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: bluesman on June 15, 2012, 04:32:35 PM
Something I've been wondering lately is how hot the water really needs to be to sparge.  Since you are washing the sugar out of the grain, not converting the starch what is the issue with using warm water, not hot.

I think Denny talked about cold sparging and said he only saw a little drop in lauter efficiency. so yeah it should work, if you have a hot water on demand system you could for sure use that to sparge!

Kai actually did an experiment by sparging with room temp water and didn't find any negative effect on efficiency.  My lone experiment showed me the same thing.

Speaking of Kai...have you heard from him lately?

I wonder if he'll be in Seattle.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: denny on June 15, 2012, 05:14:15 PM

Speaking of Kai...have you heard from him lately?

I wonder if he'll be in Seattle.

Nope, haven't heard a word.  I hope he'll be in Seattle, but since we haven't heard anything form him, I kinda doubt it.
Title: Re: How big for a homebrewer?
Post by: gmac on June 15, 2012, 05:19:40 PM
Re: Kai - I've been wondering the same thing.  Never met him but appreciated the advice.

Re: Fermenters - yes, I'm thinking about that and how much I can ferment/store at any one time.  I realize that without appropriate sized tanks, it's sort of useless.  Right now it's fermenters that are my problem.  I am thinking of buying sanke kegs for storing the finished beer.  I'm becoming disenchanted with cleaning cornies.  I realize that I'd then need some specialized cleaning equipment for them.  Since I'm starting from scratch and I've got lots of time to dream, I figured I may as well get started dreaming.  The reason I asked the question on size is so that I don't over do things in my enthusiasm so I welcome the reality checks.

Re: Major - I'd love to see some pictures of your smaller system.