It’s been a long time coming, but it is finally done!
I used to brew in an open garage with a propane burner – rain or shine – in Georgia. Water was nice and soft, summers were miserable, but I didn’t care; I was making beer! Moved to Ohio a few years back and haven’t brewed since. Having kids and all – little to no time to brew. Kids are 2 and 4 now – time to get back at it!
It all started as just plans to add a sink in the basement with the thought that I’d brew as usual – in the garage with my trusty ol’ bayou burner, and schlep the chilled wort down to the basement, as I did in Georgia, to pitch and aerate, then into the chill chest to ferment ‘til done, also in the basement. Things didn’t go exactly as planned. Do they ever?
The plumbing and electrical were completely reworked in that first wall and it eventually turned into the highlight of the unfinished side of the basement. My wife helped with the design to be sure things looked good, and I did all the work myself to save money. When the wall was done, my wife said “Hey, why don’t you just complete the build to include a new basement brewery system?” I think she was tired of helping me schlep the carboy down to the basement and all that.
I thought; hmmm… a new electric basement build? She’s giving me the green light on this without me even having to ask?! Sweeeeeeet. I hopped online, did a bunch of research, and went nuts at a few vendor sites (High Gravity, SS Brewtech, Bargain Fittings, BrewHardware, etc.) and before I knew it, all was purchased and on its way! Then it hit me; I have no idea how to use any of this stuff!
As I was doing the wiring and installing hardware, I was also conducting several thought experiments to work through on paper the issues of getting this stuff dialed in. That proved to be very helpful because when I finally put power to the system for the very first time, everything worked perfectly. I then walked through the entire brewing process with just tap water in the kettles, heating the strike water, fly-sparging, boiling, chilling – it all worked flawlessly the first time. No grain, of course, it was just a trial run to see if the electrics and water handling systems were working as planned.
Ok, without further ado, here are some shots of the build. This spanned a few months as again, a 2- and 4-year old and a full-time job to boot – very little time to work on the brewery build.
Sink Wall – Before. This is where it all began…
Sink Wall – After. Was pretty proud of finally finishing this wall, but still had no idea what was to come…
Brewery Wall – Before. Had no idea I’d be putting anything in that area other than that treadmill you see on the left. I was starting to add some receptacles as there were very few in that space.
Water Softener and RO System Installed. We needed to do this anyway as our water was pretty hard. Figured I’d have the installers add a tap at my brewing sink to provide straight RO. Another line comes out of the RO system and goes to a cartridge that adds minerals back in for flavor – that line goes upstairs to the fridge in the kitchen for drinking water and ice production – my wife insisted on this part – if I was getting RO for the brewery, she was getting good drinking water for the kitchen.
Condensate Hood Installed. Had it custom-built for my space and ducted with 8” aluminum ducting – all rigid to stay to code, and a Vortex S-800 in-line blower (super quiet) with bleeder valves at the low points to periodically drain any condensate that collects in the ducting. Yes, it ducts outside. Hood has a full perimeter gutter and drain in the back-right corner, and lights mounted inside the hood so I can see what the heck I’m doing.
Brewery Wiring Completed. This took the longest because I really wanted to be sure I got it right without having to redo anything (measure twice, cut once, they say). Figured I’d use rigid conduit to be sure nothing would get damaged by unintentional contact with who knows what. The safety switch is there so I can isolate the 240 V circuit completely without having to go back to the main panel. It stays off when the system is not being used. The breaker in the main panel feeding this system is a 30 A GFCI so we’re good there. The 20 A receptacles in this unfinished area are all on the load side of a GFCI receptacle in compliance with code.
Table Arrived. This gives the space some boundaries finally. I can see how everything is going to line up on that wall.
The rest of the equipment arrived – getting closer…
Brewery System Completed. This is the money shot! All done and ready to go.
Completed Brewery Space. My wife insisted on having one shot that showed the brewery equipment AND our new sink! Well, here it is…
Did a test brew a few weeks ago and got 82% brewhouse efficiency (used to average around 74%). First time fly-sparging, also. System worked as expected and although there were still a few kinks to work out with logistics and timing, I think this first test brew went very well. Nailed most of my targets, except OG due to the unexpected efficiency (I blame the sparge – it went better than I expected). Still have a few tweaks to make in BS2 to account for volumes (tubing, pumps, HERMS coil, etc.) – they were close but could be closer. Suffice it to say; I’m very pleased.
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