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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: gmac on December 26, 2010, 06:36:57 PM

Title: Schematic
Post by: gmac on December 26, 2010, 06:36:57 PM
Can anyone post a general schematic of an enclosed home brewing system?  I'm looking for ideas and am going to start compiling materials in a week or so (just need some bigger kettles for now but eventually they would go into the system).  I've been checking out the "Pimp My System" posts and they look awesome but it's not always easy to tell where product flows, what are hot zones and what are cold zones etc. 

Some general questions.
What is better, a horizontal system with pumps or a vertical system? 
I'm leaning towards an Igloo cooler type infusion process rather than step mashing just because it seems easier but since I'm starting from scratch, what's better?
I have this crazy idea of incorporating some load cells so that I can weigh grain and water etc as I add it.  Does it need to be this precise? 
In the boiling kettle, would you include a cooling coil as an integral part or have a separate one for immersing?  Is it a pain to try to stir with a coil in that can't be removed?  I can see how it would be but hey, it's one less thing to have to move around.
Aluminum or stainless kettles?  Does it matter?

General advice would be appreciated.  I have the advantage of having a good friend (and main drinking buddy) who owns a machine shop so making/modifying stuff isn't a big deal.  His son is also an engineer so I am sure he can provide some helpful input as well.  Danger in this situation is making something over engineered, not under. 
Thanks
Graham
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: MDixon on December 28, 2010, 12:26:00 PM
Here's the skinny...it all depends upon whether you want to sit in a chair and watch the process or whether you want to brew. Both make beer. Neither makes better beer than another, in fact many people have a learning curve when they go for a bells and whistles system with pumps and whatnot and their process suffers till they get it all tacoed out.

I can take a coil of copper, a stopper, and a bottling bucket spigot along with a cooler and some foil and end up with beer. I once had this grand plan and started purchasing pieces for a system. That was about the same time I figured out I didn't need them, so I still make it in a cooler with a crappy coil...in fact I have two coolers with coils and also a coil for a bottling bucket so I can make three brews at the same time.
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: oscarvan on December 28, 2010, 02:45:09 PM
I'm with the KISS philosophy, at least for now. Building a gravity system. Pumps cost money, need cleaning and can break. Rather spend my money on good ingredients. The noob suggests you put a chair on a table and try a three tier gravity setup. See what you like.
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: gmac on December 28, 2010, 10:45:10 PM
OK, simple it is, at least for now. 
I'm probably getting in over my head but I've wanted to do all-grain for years and although I've only recently returned to homebrewing, I'm already thinking about going that way. 
I'll try the little table on the big table version in the basement and see how it goes.  One other question.
Does anyone use a square cooler instead of the Igloo type?  I have never seen the Igloo ones for sale around here but would a regular old chest cooler work instead?  I'm thinking just drill out that little plastic tap and put in a decent stopcock and screen.  You'd have to open the lid to sparge but so what?  Thoughts?
Thanks for the advice so far.
Graham
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: oscarvan on December 28, 2010, 11:18:16 PM
Denny uses a rectangular, I am following his lead. See the link to his website in his sig line....
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: Slowbrew on December 28, 2010, 11:29:21 PM
I've had a 5 gallon round and 10 gallon round cooler and curretnly use a 52qt. Coleman Extreme (rectangular) and they all worked fine.  The round ones hold temp a little better but not a great amount better.  Every choice has positves and negitives but most anything works.

Don't worry about being in over your head, all grain isn't that much more difficult thatn extract.

Welcome back to the obsession.

Paul
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: gmac on December 28, 2010, 11:34:49 PM
Thanks again.
I checked out Denny's site and that does look pretty simple although it probably won't get me onto the Pimp my System page.  I guess it may be more important to actually brew beer than look good doing it.

Looks like I am going shopping tomorrow for a cooler and some braided water line.  I still need to get a good big kettle instead of the one I'm borrowing from the local hall.  That's why I was thinking of starting to collect stuff now, because I need it.
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: MDixon on December 29, 2010, 01:23:15 PM
It all depends on your goal. If you like to drive around town in a top of the line Mercedes to go eat at the fancy restaurant and have to go into credit card debt to pay for the meal, or if you want to go there in your Ford and pay with your credit card knowing you can pay for the meal in cash if you wanted, or if you want to just get there however and be able to pay for the meal with cash. Either way you get a great meal...others just cost more ;)

I think my page is still linked in my sig, you might find some tidbits there. EDIT - over to the left, the thing that looks like a globe.
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: mthogan1997 on December 29, 2010, 02:16:47 PM
Several years ago I built a RIMS that was completely push-button. The only thing I had to do was put in the crushed grain and turn it on and then clean up. After about 6 months I realized that I hated brewing beer and dreaded every brew day because I only did the 2 activities that I hate -  crushing grain and cleaning.

I dismantled my system and am happily doing everything the hard way and enjoying the hobby again.
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: seajellie on December 29, 2010, 02:35:47 PM
If you haven't picked up your new cooler yet, be sure to check the dimensions of the plug before you buy, because it affects how you modify it.

MY 5 gallon round cooler has a weldless spigot on it, cost somewhere around 30$.

My 72 Q chest cooler has a thick wall which actually helped modify it. It uses a number three stopper and a plastic inline valve. Cost, somewhere around two bucks!
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: MDixon on December 29, 2010, 04:52:24 PM
My 72 Q chest cooler has a thick wall which actually helped modify it. It uses a number three stopper and a plastic inline valve. Cost, somewhere around two bucks!

My kinda conversion!
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: lazydog79 on January 03, 2011, 02:22:08 PM
I'd have to agree with the consensus here - KISS.  My setup is pretty rudimentary (here's a pic http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=640758&l=10df47a663&id=1077800222).  Like MDixon said, it's about how much money you want to lay into it.   Like a lot of hobbies, you can sink as much money into brewing as you want.  Sure, if I had a spare $4K laying around, I'd lay down a helluva pimp system.  As that's never going to happen, I'm going to stick with my system, which makes pretty danged good beer, if I do say so myself.  What really matters is the brewer running it.  It's like when I worked at a golf course in college.  This guy would come up with a brand new set of clubs - Calloway woods, Ping irons - probably dropped at least a grand on his clubs.  He would spend the whole duffing the ball 50 feet at a time.  Then, some old guy with a nasty old set of Spalding clubs comes up and annihilates the ball.  I'd rather be that guy!    8)
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: dbarber on January 03, 2011, 05:49:10 PM
I'd have to agree with the consensus here - KISS.  My setup is pretty rudimentary (here's a pic http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=640758&l=10df47a663&id=1077800222). 

It's nice to see someone else who uses saw horses in their brew setup.  ;D
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: lazydog79 on January 03, 2011, 06:00:56 PM
Some general questions.
I'm leaning towards an Igloo cooler type infusion process rather than step mashing just because it seems easier but since I'm starting from scratch, what's better?

In the boiling kettle, would you include a cooling coil as an integral part or have a separate one for immersing?

Aluminum or stainless kettles?  Does it matter?

FWIW, I like my chest cooler - holds temp for a 60-90 min mash just dandy.  If it's cold out, I will take the insurance and wrap it in a blanket, just to be safe.  I still do step mashes - just with infusions.  One of these days, I'm going to get around to converting my 7.5 gallon boiler (which I screwed up buying - should have gotten at least an 8 gallon) into a direct fired MLT, but I doubt I'll do that anytime soon.

I use an immersion chiller.  Never thought about building one in.  Easier to clean that way.  Mine works just fine - down to ferment temp in about 30-45 minutes with a pre-chill.

IMHO, Stainless is the only way to go.


And yep, the saw horses do the job!  I keep thinking I might build a fancy platform, but why waste the time?  Seems to work just fine right now.   ;)  That just like my efficiency.  I awhile back, I became obsessed with getting it higher, but I decided to leave well enough alone.  76-78% isn't all that bad after all; I almost never get a stuck sparge, and I'm consistent.  I hit my gravity targets within a point almost every time.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: dano14041 on January 03, 2011, 08:22:41 PM
I'd have to agree with the consensus here - KISS.  My setup is pretty rudimentary (here's a pic http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=640758&l=10df47a663&id=1077800222). 

It's nice to see someone else who uses saw horses in their brew setup.  ;D


Saw horses are great! I got a little fancy tho, and threw on a piece of plywood.  :D
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15193128@N02/5320733233/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/15193128@N02/5320733233/)
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: lazydog79 on January 03, 2011, 09:38:43 PM
I'd have to agree with the consensus here - KISS.  My setup is pretty rudimentary (here's a pic http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=640758&l=10df47a663&id=1077800222). 

It's nice to see someone else who uses saw horses in their brew setup.  ;D


Saw horses are great! I got a little fancy tho, and threw on a piece of plywood.  :D
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15193128@N02/5320733233/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/15193128@N02/5320733233/)

Yup, that looks about right!  Plywood - never thought of that ;)
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: denny on January 03, 2011, 10:41:16 PM
Thanks again.
I checked out Denny's site and that does look pretty simple although it probably won't get me onto the Pimp my System page.  I guess it may be more important to actually brew beer than look good doing it.

Hey, YOU can look good even if the setup doesn't!  :)  I'm in it to brew beer, not to impress people with how shiny my setup is!
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: kerneldustjacket on January 03, 2011, 11:47:48 PM
Similar to sawhorses, I use one of those folding wheeled scaffolding set-ups.

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1263552666831&set=a.1197312090858.2027612.1170159838


Hey, YOU can look good even if the setup doesn't!  :)

You might look good Denny, but you notice a lot of us use something other than our picture as an avatar.
No..wait...that logic falls apart when you look at oscarvan's avatar. ;D Well, just never mind then.

 ;) Just fooling with ya, oscarvan...your avatar is quite handsome.
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: timmyr on January 04, 2011, 01:47:28 AM
There are a ton of ways to equip yourself.  Do what suits you best and seek out the advice of those who have built similar or brewed on similar systems to what you think you want.  It is a truly iterative process.  I was partial mashing a couple years ago and moved to stainless....I ran into all sorts of unexpected speed bumps along the way, but am happy and have enjoyed the ride.  Its all about the journey.
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: dbarber on January 04, 2011, 08:18:50 PM
I'd have to agree with the consensus here - KISS.  My setup is pretty rudimentary (here's a pic http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=640758&l=10df47a663&id=1077800222). 

It's nice to see someone else who uses saw horses in their brew setup.  ;D


Saw horses are great! I got a little fancy tho, and threw on a piece of plywood.  :D
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15193128@N02/5320733233/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/15193128@N02/5320733233/)

The 4x4s under the cooler are a nice touch.   :D
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: dano14041 on January 04, 2011, 09:17:56 PM
I'd have to agree with the consensus here - KISS.  My setup is pretty rudimentary (here's a pic http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=640758&l=10df47a663&id=1077800222). 

It's nice to see someone else who uses saw horses in their brew setup.  ;D


Saw horses are great! I got a little fancy tho, and threw on a piece of plywood.  :D
http://www.flickr.com/photos/15193128@N02/5320733233/ (http://www.flickr.com/photos/15193128@N02/5320733233/)

The 4x4s under the cooler are a nice touch.   :D

I shortened the output hose and was able to do away with those unnecessary things. I do still put the 2x4 under the cooler when I am draining, just to make me feel like I am getting all I can out of there.  :D
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: skyler on January 09, 2011, 08:17:30 AM
One thing stuck out in the OP - don't use an aluminum kettle for your wort (though it should be ok for just heating water).
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: Kit B on January 10, 2011, 10:20:18 PM
One thing stuck out in the OP - don't use an aluminum kettle for your wort (though it should be ok for just heating water).

I disagree.
Aluminum is perfectly safe.
But, I do prefer stainless.
Just make sure to "season" your aluminum & don't scrub off the oxidation layer.
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: gmac on January 12, 2011, 04:41:10 PM
Please explain "seasoning" aluminum.  I did my last couple in aluminum.  I have to buy a couple new pots and I'll buy stainless if I can afford it.  I know it's better but price is a factor.
Thanks
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: Mark G on January 12, 2011, 05:25:53 PM
Boil water in the pot for an hour and it will leave an oxide layer on the surface of the aluminum. Then just never scrub hard enough in subsequent uses to remove the oxide layer. Stainless is nice, but aluminum is so much cheaper. I use a 10 gallon aluminum pot for my BK. I think I paid 40 bucks for it at an online restaurant supply store. And it is thick and solid. I'm pretty sure I could drop it from the roof of my house and it might dent, but I doubt it.
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: gmac on January 20, 2011, 07:16:08 PM
I've purchased my 52 L Coleman Extreme and the braided hose for the washing machine but I couldn't really find anything that would be a suitable fitting to connect the two and put a valve on the outside.  I know I read in another thread what someone did but I can't find it.  So, what parts do you recommend for putting it all together? 
Ideally, I'd like to find a piece of threaded tubing that I could put a gasket and washer on both sides and tighten it into the drain hole  but all I could find was regular black gas fittings or galvanized.  I'd prefer stainless or brass (thoughts?).  Pex fittings looked promising but expensive and I've never used the stuff.  Worse case, I solder some fittings onto a piece of copper tubing but I'm sure there is an easier way.
Thanks
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: weithman5 on January 20, 2011, 07:28:57 PM
i wouldn't worry about the threaded end. you will likely lose this getting the stainless braid off the inner hose anyway.  then just put the stainless braid on to a fitting with a small hose clamp. put this fitting to a rubber hose with another hose clamp then put this hose in a grommet that goes on the cooler where you have taken out the drain valve.
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: Hokerer on January 20, 2011, 07:36:05 PM
Or, don't even remove the drain valve.  On the eXtreme, the drain valve is about the perfect size to squeeze a piece of 3/8 clear vinyl tubing through.  Push the tubing through the drain hole from the outside and hose clamp the braid to the tubing (I put a short little piece of copper tubing (from an old sink feeder line) into the end of the tubing so I could tighten the clamp as hard as I wanted to without collapsing the tubing, but that's probably not really necessary).  If you want, you can add a little aquarium sealant where the tubing goes through the drain hole but lots of folks report that's not necessary either.  You can then add an inline valve to the tubing outside the cooler or, like I do, just raise the end of the tubing to shut off flow and lower the end when you want to drain.
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: gmac on March 08, 2011, 12:35:16 AM
Cooler is coming along.  I over did it as always with brass fittings and a tap and everything, had to get my friend to machine a couple parts for me but he gets paid in beer so its good.  I'll try to put on a picture.
Bought my kettle today.  Couldn't afford stainless.  Went with Aluminum so I will have to season it as described above.  Does it need to be full or just some water in it?  I sort of over did on the pot too.  I got a 60 quart pot which I think is 15 gallons (not sure if that is US or Imperial gallons).  Either way I have enough for a 10 gal batch when I get up to it.
Someday I hope to stop buying parts and actually make some beer...
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: Mark G on March 08, 2011, 04:42:35 AM
Cooler is coming along.  I over did it as always with brass fittings and a tap and everything, had to get my friend to machine a couple parts for me but he gets paid in beer so its good.  I'll try to put on a picture.
Bought my kettle today.  Couldn't afford stainless.  Went with Aluminum so I will have to season it as described above.  Does it need to be full or just some water in it?  I sort of over did on the pot too.  I got a 60 quart pot which I think is 15 gallons (not sure if that is US or Imperial gallons).  Either way I have enough for a 10 gal batch when I get up to it.
Someday I hope to stop buying parts and actually make some beer...
You won't think you overdid it as soon as you brew your first 10 gallon batch.

I'm not sure if you can get away with only filling the pot partway to season it. I filled mine all the way (or within a couple inches of the top) when I seasoned it. If anything, you can test it's performance on a burner to get that much liquid to a boil. You can also season it in the oven, but I don't know the details off the top of my head. I believe Palmer covers it in How To Brew, but I don't have my copy handy since I gave it to my brother to convert him to homebrewing.
Title: Re: Schematic
Post by: tubercle on March 08, 2011, 04:53:57 AM
but would a regular old chest cooler work instead? 

 Old? Mine is made of metal. Works like a charm.

Boil water in the pot for an hour and it will leave an oxide layer on the surface of the aluminum. Then just never scrub hard enough in subsequent uses to remove the oxide layer.

 Do this. Just boil some water, dump and turn upside down to store.
 I wipe mine down with a cloth after each use (sometimes days after the fact) rinse and store upside down to keep the vermin out and its ready for the next use. It has a beautiful dark gray patina from years of use. Its not like building a clock or something.