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General Category => Pimp My System => Topic started by: Rbalsinger on December 23, 2020, 12:21:23 PM

Title: DIY Brewery
Post by: Rbalsinger on December 23, 2020, 12:21:23 PM
Getting back to brewing again. This time I wanted some dedicated equipment and space. Getting setup in the basement. Have ventilation and CO alarm. Electric induction heat for HLT and Mash Tun paired with propane for the boil. I just couldn't get more than a gentle boil with the 1800 watt 120v induction heat.

Set up the 3 tier. I removed the burners for the top 2 tiers. The top tier converts easily from HLT to venting during the boil. Started the vent with some 4" duct and a 4" fan from a 90's desktop computer.
Paired that with some HVAC reducers. $$$ but I "knew a guy".
Hooked up an old power supply that matched the fan. Pushed the duct to an adjacent hot water tank flue. Voila!
The fan is noisy but i expect to have airbuds on like I do most days. Then I needed a better fermentation solution than I used before. I got a working but old and dirty water cooler from an abandoned storage unit. I took it apart and PBW'd the guts. I tried several configurations and ended up with this setup. Works like a charm. Hoping the compressor lasts. It has been fine for the past couple days. The fermenter is wrapped with 15 feet of 3/8" hose. I am running StarSan through the hoses for no particular reason. I only half filled the well in the cooler so the foam remains self contained. When I filled the well full. it foamed out wherever it could.

That thermometer is 20 years old!
Should be brewing English Ales by New Years. First batch will be some wort to can.
Hope these ideas do something for you'all.

Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Rbalsinger on December 23, 2020, 12:37:43 PM
I think I will replace the StarSan with RV antifreeze.
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: kramerog on December 23, 2020, 03:26:06 PM
Ingenious use of water cooler.
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Rbalsinger on December 27, 2020, 07:54:58 PM
So, I upgraded the chiller.

I am using RV antifreeze (alcohol & glycol; good to -50F. That is a burst temperature. It gets thick below -10 but will not burst) as the coolant and got the minimum temperature down to 26.8 before the compressor turns off. It is an old cooler and does not have an adjustable feature. I have ID'd the thermostat and could upgrade, but not at this point.

I set it up so that I can cool the fermenter and/or the Therminater by opening/closing CPVC valves.

So, here is my planned process overview.

HLT is plumbed to the Hot water tank (120F)
Induction heat under the HLT

Tier 2 is Mash Tun. False bottom and insulated Stainless. Induction under the mash.

Tier 3 is 8-gal boiler. A propane boiler vented to the roof.


When I transfer to the boiler, while it is heating, I can remove the HLT and induction and set 1pc vent Fan & Duct in place. It's that simple.
At the end of boil, whirlpool, and rest for 60 minutes or so.

I then connect via quick disconnect to the pump, chiller and into the CO2 purged fermenter.


After I rearrange the hoses, I pump out of the fermenter, to the chiller and back to the bottom of the fermenter using the CO2 charger to replace the atmosphere in the fermenter.


When I reach 59- or 60-degrees wort temp I oxygenate, pitch, and have a beer.

Any input would be appreciated. I hope to be able brew New Year's Eve. I ordered malt online after a couple of disappointing encounters with the local brew shop. That's another story.
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: reverseapachemaster on December 27, 2020, 09:09:52 PM
Far more advanced than my setup for sure.

If you find the fan too loud a good replacement would be the cloudline exhaust fans. I use one to vent my roaster and while the roaster is fairly loud the fan is almost completely silent.
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: denny on December 27, 2020, 09:12:55 PM
I applaud your creativity and skill.  You've also reminded me why I hate building equipment.
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Rbalsinger on December 27, 2020, 10:03:00 PM

Now all I have to do is actually make beer. 8)
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: waltsmalt on December 29, 2020, 02:03:56 PM
Did I misread something here, or are you boiling with propane indoors?  I saw a reference to induction, but I wasn’t sure. 
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Rbalsinger on December 29, 2020, 04:44:06 PM

I Bummed some old malt to run tests while waiting for mine to come this week from NB. The tests went so smooth I am going to drive to LHB shop to get 2 Omega British Ale VIII and go ahead and ferment.


CO alarm Floor mounted at foot of burner. Picture was taked 3/4 of the way through a 90 min rolling boil.


Fan and hood entirely lifts steam and compounds as well as some amount of air around the burner. Can't even smell the wort standing next to the pot.


Duct contains a fan. Didn't do the math but the exhaust test could blow out a match with the 4" duct work. It moves enough air to keep condensation from forming at the hood or in the duct work. Standing outside the house, you can smell wort, but you can't tell if it is from my house or the AB Columbus Brewery 1.5 miles away.


Duct joins the gas hot water flue and all collected vapors are carried to the roof outside.

Your results may vary.

Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: waltsmalt on December 30, 2020, 01:52:18 AM
That all makes sense.  Great to see you are being safe.
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Mt Brew Man on January 01, 2021, 05:17:16 PM
That's quite the setup Sir! You have obviously put the research in.

I'm working on setting up a brew room in my basement with a propane burner and ventilation system as well.

I have a few questions if you don't mind.

What is the BTU rating of your propane burner?

Is it high pressure or low pressure regulated?

Is it important to move as much air as you've described?

Last, but most important question... Have you made any brew yet?  ;)

One more thing, if you haven't noticed this is my first post here. My name is Robert and I live in the north Georgia mountains. Only made 2 batches so far, but looking forward to 100'ds more. Well actually, I'm really forward to drinking the brew more than the brewing, but I do enjoy the process of crafting a good beer. I've been making wine for almost 9 years now and just this year, have finally mustered up the courage to brew.

Anyway, glad to be here and looking forward to gaining some brewing knowledge from you more experienced brewers.

Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Rbalsinger on January 04, 2021, 12:41:43 PM

What is the BTU rating of your propane burner?

50,000 BTU

Is it high pressure or low pressure regulated?
Low. 5lb

Is it important to move as much air as you've described?
Seemed like more was better. I got a fan from an old computer board. There was a heat sink on the board that is the size of a ham sandwich. That puppy must have made some heat. You could put some old potentiometer on it if you wanted to slow it down IMO.

Last, but most important question... Have you made any brew yet?  ;)
I have a Best Bitter OG 1.044) in ferment now. Today I am supposed to get 3 batches of ingredients from NB. I will get some more going after that.

I've been making wine for almost 9 years now and just this year, have finally mustered up the courage to brew.
I plan to make wine for the first time this year. Any suggestions on where to start as far as kits, juice etc?
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: chinaski on January 06, 2021, 12:21:29 AM
Induction brewer here- please consider switching to electric!  I'd hate to read about a fellow brewer catching their house on fire and their insurance company not covering it!  220V can heat fast! 

Brew on!
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Mt Brew Man on January 06, 2021, 09:54:33 PM
Hi Rbalsinger,

Thanks for the answers.

As for your wine question. Kits are a great way to start since they come with everything you need, except for the equipment of course. Although some kits are better than others, they all use concentrated grape juice. They're not bad, it's just a lot better if you can get your hands on fresh grapes, or juice. IMHO, unconcentrated juice is a great way to go because the hard work is already done for you. On the other hand, if there is a vineyard nearby they may let you pick some grapes, or sell them in bulk. Crushing your own grapes by hand can be rather time-consuming, but if you have the time, starting from scratch this way will give you the best chance for producing an excellent wine. Just so know, one 5 gallon bucket packed full of grapes will make you about 1 gallon of wine, or 5 - 750ml bottles. For several years now I've been making wine from fruit I can harvest locally. One vineyard I've got grapes from has what's called a "Norton/Cynthiana" grape. It's become my favorite. But, I also make wine using apples from the local orchards. Blueberries make an awesome wine, as well as strawberries. So, you might want to try using fruit from your area. Of course, that is a seasonal thing. Having said all that, there's nothing like a finely aged wine made from grapes. You might have to figure out which one is going to tantalize your palate, but that's part of the fun.

On another note, chinaski may have a point about home insurance policies. A 5lb. pressure line is illegal in my state. Not sure about yours though. Anyway, that's why I'm planning on using a low-pressure system of 1/2 psi. This way I can tap into my existing 1/2" ID gas line. I've already installed a standard range hood with a 270 CFM rating. According to what I've read, this will keep everything within code. Unfortunately, I don't know if the low-pressure propane gas burner I ordered will work. Should be delivered tomorrow, so will test it out then. It's a 35,000 BTU burner and it is described as a low-pressure burner. The connections very much resemble a standard gas Bar-B-Que grill, which will run on 1/2 psi. So, I'm hopeful it will work. I'll keep you posted on that if you like.

Let me know if I can help in any way with your winemaking.

Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Rbalsinger on January 08, 2021, 12:28:33 PM
I use bottled LPG. Sounds like you are plumbing from a tank?
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: chinaski on January 08, 2021, 04:00:56 PM
Using bottled propane indoors is hazardous and wouldn't be "code" in any building situation that I know of- you'll notice that propane businesses won't let you bring tanks indoors.  Not that it cannot be done physically- it's just very risky.
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Mt Brew Man on January 10, 2021, 04:31:46 PM
Yes, I tapped into my main gas line (1/2 PSI) running across the basement ceiling. Yesterday I completed all connections using 5/8" OD flex copper as the last 20' for a total of 60' of 1/2" ID line. The first 40' is 1/2" black iron pipe. The 35,000 BTU low-pressure burner is hooked up and ready for use. I just need to complete the range hood exhaust duct and I'm ready to brew. This burner is very similar to a gas water heater burner, except that they are always vented to the exterior of a home. I feel confident that the 270 CFM range hood will provide enough air exhaust so that there are no worries as to heat build-up and CO in my brew room. Just so you know, I've tried high-pressure burners on a 1/2 psi system and they don't work. I was pleasantly surprised to find this burner online. Planning on brewing next week. Yahoo!

I'd send a pic of the burner but I can't figure out how to do that.
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Saccharomyces on January 31, 2021, 08:56:39 PM
Why didn't you consider running a 240VAC circuit to your brewery?  In my humble opinion, that is an order of magnitude simpler than running gas and several orders of magnitude safer.  Is your load center (breaker box) full?
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Mt Brew Man on February 01, 2021, 03:56:02 PM
I did consider a 240V burner, and yes, my panel is a bit full, and I'll admit electric is a bit safer than gas. However, one of the main reasons I went with gas was for the cost factor. I found a 240V 5500-watt single burner online and I think it was about $700.00. When you get into larger units, the price really jumps up because you step into the commercial units. There aren't many options when it comes to 240V single burners. The gas burner I bought from Northern Tool (Link below) is a 35,000 BTU burner, and to be honest, it does state for outdoor use only. It was the only low-pressure burner I could find. This is an important detail because any high-pressure burner would never work on 1/2" psi unless maybe the gas line was sized to make it so. But that might be impractical. At any rate, there are other factors that convinced me that gas would be a safe way to go. An average gas water heater can be 35,000 BTU. The ventless gas log fireplace in my living room is 36,000 BTU. I think for many gas ranges, if you were to turn on all 4 burners, you'd be close to this rating. Still, all gas water heaters are vented to the exterior of a home, so I felt that as long as I followed that requirement I'd be in good shape. The 270 CFM range hood did a great job of removing excess heat and water vapor. I just brewed my first batch in my brew room last weekend and had great results. The room temp actually never changed from 60° the entire time of brewing. The burner worked better than expected as well. I heated up 11 gallons to a simmer in 30 minutes. It reached a full rolling boil in about 45 minutes. I don't have much experience with brewing as of yet, but I thought that time frame wasn't too bad. I guess it should be noted though, the wort was 117° before the burner was turned on. In the end, I spent about $150.00 on the burner and parts together. So, not too bad on costs. I think it took about 2 hours of labor to get the burner setup, gas line run, shut off valve installed, and a supply line too. I've probably got about a day worth of work in the range hood. That was a royal pain in the butt to get installed. Now that all is set up and I got a brew day under my belt, I'm very pleased with the ease of just going to my basement, crushing the grain, and getting right to the brewing. I gotta say it's pretty darn convenient to brew inside.

Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Saccharomyces on February 02, 2021, 11:32:41 PM
Are you brewing 10-gallon batches?  If not, a 3500W induction cooktop is all that you need.  That setup only requires a 240VAC/20A circuit (i.e., 12-gauge wire and associated breaker).  It does not even require a GFCI breaker because the liquid is isolated from the power source.
Title: Re: DIY Brewery
Post by: Mt Brew Man on February 03, 2021, 02:27:21 PM
I was actually shooting for 12 gallons. But after sparging the 5th gallon and testing just that 5th gallon alone, I got an S.G. reading of 1.014. I thought sparging any more would give me a lower S.G. than desired. The original wort drained from the mash gave me an S.G. of 1.060. After transferring all original wort and all sparged wort, mixed together in the 15-gallon pot I got an S.G. of 1.044. Interestingly enough, after the wort cooled down overnight, the S.G. rose to 1.052 with an approximate volume of 9.5 gallons. For what's it worth, the wort in the 15-gallon pot was actually closer to 10.75 gallons prior to the boil. Not sure if that makes any difference or not.

True, a 3500-watt burner would have worked and you are spot-on with the wiring requirements. However, I performed a test on the induction range in my kitchen which has a 3700-watt burner. It took an hour and 15 minutes to get 8 gallons to a rolling boil. Not a huge time savings I'll admit, but I was trying from the get-go of this project to streamline my time as much as possible. That's why I kept coming back to a gas setup. Truth be said, if my only option was a high-pressure burner, I probably would have spent the extra $$$ and gone total electric. This is, of course, a small setup for brewing. I doubt it would be practical for someone wanting to brew, say, 20 gallons or more batches. Just not enough heat to get the job done.

Just so you know, I do have an 1800-watt induction burner that I used to get 3 gallons of water to a strike temp of 175° for sparging. That actually saved quite a bit of time. I filled that 5-gallon pot with 3 gallons of hot water from my faucet and it hit the strike temp in 10 minutes.

At this point, though a small setup, I figure I can brew every 3-4 weeks and have plenty of good ale on hand for myself, friends, and any passerby...  ;)