Author Topic: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality  (Read 674 times)

Offline Saccharomyces

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Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« on: September 15, 2020, 11:19:48 PM »
I have been thinking about about brewery simplification as I plan to build out my new brew house.  The major advantage of a simple brew house is that is that it is easier to clean because there is less to clean.   I look at modern setups with specialized brew sculptures and multiple pumps, especially the more complex electric brewery setups, and say "no, just no."  I am certain that their designers enjoy these breweries very much, but there is something to be said about keeping things simple. Denny's batch sparging method is an example of keeping things simple.  One does not even need a proper hot liquor back for a batch-sparged brewery and BIAB takes brew house simplification to a new high.  My SNS starter method is also an example of keeping things simple.  Granted, with each simplification, there are trade-offs, usually the loss of efficiency or the ability to fine tune.  However, brewing at the amateur level should be fun.  Having to worry about complex control panels and multiple pumps failing (or a stir plate malfunctioning) is not aligned with the RDWHAHB ethos started by Charlie P. On the other hand, I can admire such a brewery from afar. There are guys I know that I met a few years after I started brewing who are still using the same setup they used back in the 90s. Granted, parts have been replaced with better parts, but they are okay with keeping things simple.  These guys all brew excellent beer.

The first craft brewery I saw up close and personal was the Wild Goose brewery when it was in Cambridge, Maryland.  That was an Alan Pugsley installed Peter Austin and Partners-designed English-style craft brewery (the same "Ringwood" brewery design was employed at many early East Coast microbreweries with the difference being merely scale).  The kettle was direct-fired and bricked-in to preserve heat.  I believe that the hot liquor back was also direct fired.  Heated water from the plate heat exchanger was pumped into the hot liquor back, preserving thermal capacity for the next brew.  All of the fermentation vessels were open (I was shocked when I saw 25 and 50 bbl fermentation vessels that were open to the atmosphere).   Advanced amateur brew houses today are much more complex than these brew houses, but they do not brew any better beer, which brings me around to question, how do we simplify out of control complexity without sacrificing quality?  I would appreciate the members of this forum sharing any techniques that they have created to simplify their brew houses.  There is beauty in simplicity.  Niklaus Wirth, the designer of the Pascal and Modula languages, said make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.  I fairly certain that between us we can design an elegant, fully functional, but simple brew house.

Offline narvin

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2020, 11:26:26 PM »
Personally, I think electric is so much simpler than gas.  No extra heat generated, complete digital control, (almost) 100 % efficiency in heat transfer, no worry about wind, flame, or carbon monoxide, no running out of fuel... I could go on and on.  You don’t need a complex control panel or recirculating system for small batches.

Offline majorvices

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2020, 12:35:19 AM »
I got a BrewZilla electric brewhouse last year for my birthday and I love it. Super simple, super easy to clean. I got the 35L because I only really do 5-6 gallon batches any more, and since it is 110 I can just plug it in wherever. For me it saves a ton of time and makes the brew day simple, easy and - gosh darnit - fun!

Doing complex stepmashes and/or holding the temp steady is a pretty cool. Being able to have your water times to be hot when you wake up or gethome from work saves lots of time. The little internal pump is sweet and the multiple screens give a very clear vorlauf. It's so easy to clean, put back together and store as basically one piece that takes up very little space.

I freaking love it.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 12:39:36 AM by majorvices »

Offline pete b

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2020, 12:42:57 AM »
I am very interested in this as I have a goal of finally making a dedicated brewery this winter.
I too see the possibility in a simple electric system. The anvil foundry systems as a part of a simple brewery seem appealing and affordable.
I am thinking of the concept of “simple” in terms of the brewing process and not necessarily the simplicity of the individual units. For example I brew with a very simple system: two roller grain mill with hopper, cooler mash tun, turkey fryer style propane burner, 15 gallon boil kettle, plastic bucket fermenters, kegs and homemade kegerator. The not so simple part is that all these pieces of equipment and ingredients are in the cellar and sheds and I need to bring them outside to brew with the propane burner, clean and sanitize without the benefit of nearby sink and running water, and the get the wort back down to the cellar where I ferment.
In the next couple years I hope to build a barn with a brewery and perhaps a commercial kitchen. For now I want to build a simple brewery in my cellar.
The challenges: I need to get a 240 outlet for the heat source. This would also enable distilling. I would like to bring in hot and cold running water. I have a SS commercial kitchen sink to use. I will need to pump the drain up to the septic. I think if I find solutions to those problems I am all set, it’s just a matter of smart use of space.
I am also interested in how folks have incorporated low oxygen techniques in simple systems, such as closed transfers.
I hope lots of people respond with descriptions and pics of their own set ups, thanks for starting this thread Saccharomyces.
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Offline TeeDubb

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2020, 04:13:17 AM »
I think I've been on the same quest due to limited brew and storage space. I essentially made my own version of the Brewzilla a few years before it came on the market. RO water gets collected from the built-in system in the kitchen the day before. Then its BIAB, 8 gal kettle (a bit undersized), electric heating element and a pump to recirculate the mash. I use a home-made PID controller to run the mash and boil. I always batch-sparge and I just use a sous-vide stick in a stock pot to pre-heat the sparge water. A bucket collects the first run sweet wort and then I recombine with the sparge / 2nd run in the kettle.

I have used a counter-flow chiller and I hate cleaning it and messing with all the hoses. Lately, I have skipped chilling and just let things sit in the fermenter to cool over night (no issues yet on 2 batches). I have thought about going back to an old school immersion chiller or getting a new boil kettle with an integral cooling jacket (Brewha). Maybe it's a worthy upgrade when I get a larger kettle.

So, to do this challenge scientifically, we would need to establish parameters for beer quality and then trade those vs. criteria for the equipment (speed / brew time, cost, space needed, flexibility, power needs, safety, etc.)  It feels impossible since each of us may weigh the importance of each of these in a different way. It is pretty hard to beat the simplicity of a cooler type mash tun and a kettle.

BTW - thank you Saccharomyces for the SNS starter method. I've never looked back and that saved time and space too!
« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 04:47:18 AM by TeeDubb »

Offline lupulus

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2020, 12:00:49 PM »
The most simple and elegant method for homebrewing is electric BIAB kettle RIMS.
Pros:
Price is relatively low even with best quality components because one kettle, one pump, simplest controller are needed
One kettle to clean
Fine temp control and step mash
Can reach pro level attenuations
Can get very clean wort
Compatible with low oxygen mashing
No sparge - less tannin extraction even than pros
Easy to clean - empty bag to recycle (or trash )
All components can be bought separately (and there are many commercial variations as well)
Can be used with counter flow, plate or immersion chillers
Can be used indoors
Cons ??:
High gravity beers (bag can be batch sparged but more equipment needed)
220 highly desirable



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« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 12:03:26 PM by lupulus »
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Offline lupulus

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2020, 12:16:25 PM »
Minor side comments
I don't subscribe to the RDWHAHB ethos. Nothing wrong with it, but it's not me; I prefer continuous improvement (six sigma and others). It's a personality trait.
 I do subscribe to the KISS ethos though .
Did Denny invent the batch-sparge method? I wasn't aware.

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Offline majorvices

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2020, 01:58:38 PM »
Minor side comments
I don't subscribe to the RDWHAHB ethos. Nothing wrong with it, but it's not me; I prefer continuous improvement (six sigma and others). It's a personality trait.
 I do subscribe to the KISS ethos though .
Did Denny invent the batch-sparge method? I wasn't aware.

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He didn't "invent it" but made it popular (the first article i saw was in BYO many years ago) and gave the step by step application on how to use tools we have at our disposal (stainless steel braid, for intance).

I agree with your strive for constant improvement, it wouldn't be fun otherwise. I think the RDW mantra is for beginners who need to not stress about making mistakes.

Offline denny

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2020, 02:48:22 PM »
I have been thinking about about brewery simplification as I plan to build out my new brew house.  The major advantage of a simple brew house is that is that it is easier to clean because there is less to clean.   I look at modern setups with specialized brew sculptures and multiple pumps, especially the more complex electric brewery setups, and say "no, just no."  I am certain that their designers enjoy these breweries very much, but there is something to be said about keeping things simple. Denny's batch sparging method is an example of keeping things simple.  One does not even need a proper hot liquor back for a batch-sparged brewery and BIAB takes brew house simplification to a new high.  My SNS starter method is also an example of keeping things simple.  Granted, with each simplification, there are trade-offs, usually the loss of efficiency or the ability to fine tune.  However, brewing at the amateur level should be fun.  Having to worry about complex control panels and multiple pumps failing (or a stir plate malfunctioning) is not aligned with the RDWHAHB ethos started by Charlie P. On the other hand, I can admire such a brewery from afar. There are guys I know that I met a few years after I started brewing who are still using the same setup they used back in the 90s. Granted, parts have been replaced with better parts, but they are okay with keeping things simple.  These guys all brew excellent beer.

The first craft brewery I saw up close and personal was the Wild Goose brewery when it was in Cambridge, Maryland.  That was an Alan Pugsley installed Peter Austin and Partners-designed English-style craft brewery (the same "Ringwood" brewery design was employed at many early East Coast microbreweries with the difference being merely scale).  The kettle was direct-fired and bricked-in to preserve heat.  I believe that the hot liquor back was also direct fired.  Heated water from the plate heat exchanger was pumped into the hot liquor back, preserving thermal capacity for the next brew.  All of the fermentation vessels were open (I was shocked when I saw 25 and 50 bbl fermentation vessels that were open to the atmosphere).   Advanced amateur brew houses today are much more complex than these brew houses, but they do not brew any better beer, which brings me around to question, how do we simplify out of control complexity without sacrificing quality?  I would appreciate the members of this forum sharing any techniques that they have created to simplify their brew houses.  There is beauty in simplicity.  Niklaus Wirth, the designer of the Pascal and Modula languages, said make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.  I fairly certain that between us we can design an elegant, fully functional, but simple brew house.

You know that Drew and I wrote a book about that, right?
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline denny

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2020, 02:50:18 PM »
Minor side comments
I don't subscribe to the RDWHAHB ethos. Nothing wrong with it, but it's not me; I prefer continuous improvement (six sigma and others). It's a personality trait.
 I do subscribe to the KISS ethos though .
Did Denny invent the batch-sparge method? I wasn't aware.

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I absolutely did not.  I popularized it via an article in BYO after I read Geroge Fix's comments about it.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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Offline denny

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2020, 02:54:25 PM »
Minor side comments
I don't subscribe to the RDWHAHB ethos. Nothing wrong with it, but it's not me; I prefer continuous improvement (six sigma and others). It's a personality trait.
 I do subscribe to the KISS ethos though .
Did Denny invent the batch-sparge method? I wasn't aware.

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

He didn't "invent it" but made it popular (the first article i saw was in BYO many years ago) and gave the step by step application on how to use tools we have at our disposal (stainless steel braid, for intance).

I agree with your strive for constant improvement, it wouldn't be fun otherwise. I think the RDW mantra is for beginners who need to not stress about making mistakes.

I've gotta disagree with that last sentence Keith. For the first 20 years I brewed, I stringently strove for continual improvement.  Eventually I realised that stressing over homebrewjngwas a waste of my time and mental energy.  I finally came to the realization that it's only beer and that stressing over beer was stupid.  Beet coesnt want to be taken seriously...it wants to be shared, enjoyed, laughed over and about.  That changed my homebrewing life. Now, enjoyment is my goal and the beer is secondary to that.
Life begins at 60.....1.060, that is!

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"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

Offline BrewBama

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Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2020, 02:54:42 PM »
If I was starting over I would get one of the all-in-one coffee urn-style systems. Electric is definitely the way to go.

However, each of these all-in-one systems rely on a computer to operate.  There is something to be said about the ability to brew without a computer.

The ability to heat water, add it to grain, hold a mash temp, vorlauf, lauter, sparge, repeat even when the computer (or in my case the PID) fails, is a plus for me.


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« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 02:58:07 PM by BrewBama »
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Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2020, 04:17:45 PM »
I agree with having fun as Denny says.  But I think most of us want to brew good beer, so it takes a while to get to the point where fun becomes most important to a Brew day, because you typically stress about the final outcome, until you can ride the bike no-handed.

I think the Anvil Foundry is still very much a manual approach for an all-in-one, but I like the switchable 120/240 volt aspect - I use 240 in the garage and 120 in the kitchen in the winter.  I can recirc, but rarely do anymore....easier And less cleaning equals more fun.

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Offline mainebrewer

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2020, 04:46:26 PM »
Minor side comments
I don't subscribe to the RDWHAHB ethos. Nothing wrong with it, but it's not me; I prefer continuous improvement (six sigma and others). It's a personality trait.
 I do subscribe to the KISS ethos though .
Did Denny invent the batch-sparge method? I wasn't aware.

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

He didn't "invent it" but made it popular (the first article i saw was in BYO many years ago) and gave the step by step application on how to use tools we have at our disposal (stainless steel braid, for intance).

I agree with your strive for constant improvement, it wouldn't be fun otherwise. I think the RDW mantra is for beginners who need to not stress about making mistakes.

I've gotta disagree with that last sentence Keith. For the first 20 years I brewed, I stringently strove for continual improvement.  Eventually I realised that stressing over homebrewjngwas a waste of my time and mental energy.  I finally came to the realization that it's only beer and that stressing over beer was stupid.  Beet coesnt want to be taken seriously...it wants to be shared, enjoyed, laughed over and about.  That changed my homebrewing life. Now, enjoyment is my goal and the beer is secondary to that.

For some, me included, sweating the details, tweaking the processes and incorporating best brewing practices (within the constraints of whatever brewing system we use) is what makes the hobby fun. If you're having fun, there's no stress.  :)
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Offline BrewBama

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Re: Techniques for simplifying brewing without sacrificing quality
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2020, 05:16:56 PM »

I think the Anvil Foundry is still very much a manual approach for an all-in-one, ...

I didn’t know that.

... If you're having fun, there's no stress.  :)

Cheers to that!


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