Hello fell beer lovers,
I am a working on building a homebrew system and am running into a few forks in the decision making and could use some extra guidance from the experts.
I am ensuring that I build a quality system that will last me a long time, including satisfying increased skill levels down the road. Currently I will be setting up equipment and brewing outside, and breaking down and storing when i'm finished, although in the future i would like to build a more permanent system when my living conditions permit. I plan on doing 5 gallon batches for now, but will eventually want to be able to go up to 10 gallon, so I'm shooting for mostly equipment that could satisfy both. I am going all-grain right off the bat and so far I have acquired:
1 15 Gallon SS Brewtech Brew Kettle
1 10 Gallon SS Brewtech Infussion Mash Tun
1 7 Gallon SS Brewtech Conical Fermentor
1 Blichmann Riptide Pump
1 Bayou Classic Burner
I wasn't quite planning on going to a HERMS or a RIMS system just yet, but as I look into wort recirculation more, it seems like it might be worth it to go straight to one of those mash recirc systems. My original plan was to get the vorlauf/recirculation manifold fitting from SS Brewtech to clarify at the end of the mash and then use the recirculation manifold to sparge as well, just from a raised position instead of sitting on the grain bed. (Please let me know if that sounds like a bad idea).
I also haven't gotten a kettle for a HLT yet which is why I'm maybe reconsidering and jumping straight to HERMS or RIMS. I've seen the 9.25 gallon Digi Boil Electric Kettle and figured the electric kettle might be convienient for Strike and Sparge water, but have also been considering getting another 15 gallon Brewtech Kettle (or possibly larger to accommodate future larger batches). The thing I'm not sure of with the kettle is if I want to make it into a HERMS system, am I going to have to drill additional fittings, because I would rather just purchase an appropriate kettle to fit this need than make any modifications.
I'm also trying to decide which method of wort chilling will be best. I'm partial to the plate chiller because of the small footprint and great results, but have read that cleaning can be a pain. Is it mostly a matter of personal preference between immersion chiller, counterflow chiller, and plate chiller?
Thank you all for your years of experience and insight, I look forward to diving into this hobby and making some tasty beverages soon! I will probably have many more questions along the way.