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Author Topic: Expensive to restart from scratch  (Read 3589 times)

Offline kgs

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #30 on: October 16, 2020, 07:32:50 am »
When I started this hobby almost 12 years ago I observed that the de facto unit size was 5 gallons. I wondered how that came to be, and still do, but the answer is probably lost to time. (The size of a typical corny?) Anyway, a hobby designed around that much fluid weight is going to be more expensive than, say, if the default unit size was half that. Smaller batches have become more popular -- I'd almost go so far as to say "acceptable," since when I started there was a lot of emphasis on going bigger when you could -- but I wonder how gear would have evolved and what the demographics of homebrewing would look like if the implicit unit of production had been smaller.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #31 on: October 16, 2020, 08:04:42 am »
When I started this hobby almost 12 years ago I observed that the de facto unit size was 5 gallons. I wondered how that came to be, and still do, but the answer is probably lost to time. (The size of a typical corny?) Anyway, a hobby designed around that much fluid weight is going to be more expensive than, say, if the default unit size was half that. Smaller batches have become more popular -- I'd almost go so far as to say "acceptable," since when I started there was a lot of emphasis on going bigger when you could -- but I wonder how gear would have evolved and what the demographics of homebrewing would look like if the implicit unit of production had been smaller.

I think the size had to do with a number of things - typical size of a glass carboy (at the time) and the typical size of standard paint buckets, close to 2 cases of bottled beer (back in the days when cases of beer were probably more popular than six packs, at least where I grew up).

I did 1 gallon sizes solid for about 6 months and had a blast doing it. So easy to tote everything around. I could easily brew on my kitchen stove and chill quickly in my kitchen sink. Everything came up to temp so quickly and chilled so quickly. It was pretty funny because I have a MM 3.0 three roller grain mill with a hopper big enough to hold a low gravity 5 gallon batch (or close). So I basically pull the drill trigger for a second and the batch was ground.

If I hadn't gotten the BrewZilla I'd probably still be brewing 1-2 gallon batches.

Also, for years I was one of the guys stressing to go "bigger" and that 10-12 gallon batches were the way to go. Course I was a lot younger and still had friends. lol

Offline BrewBama

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Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #32 on: October 16, 2020, 08:22:42 am »
The five gallon batch is about right for me because, even though I am retired, I have to carve out time to brew. At five gallons that’s ~every three weeks which seems to be manageable.

Of course, that means I am drinking the same batch of beer for three weeks which is sometimes better than others.

If I brewed smaller batches I’d either have to brew more often (which I would enjoy — but would be difficult to manage) or drink less (I drink 1-3 beers per day now — which I enjoy).

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« Last Edit: October 16, 2020, 09:04:56 am by BrewBama »

Offline fredthecat

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #33 on: October 16, 2020, 11:05:40 am »
The five gallon batch is about right for me because, even though I am retired, I have to carve out time to brew. At five gallons that’s ~every three weeks which seems to be manageable.

Of course, that means I am drinking the same batch of beer for three weeks which is sometimes better than others.

If I brewed smaller batches I’d either have to brew more often (which I would enjoy — but would be difficult to manage) or drink less (I drink 1-3 beers per day now — which I enjoy).

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i always try to brew a whole bunch in succession so i can pick and choose from what i have.




just remembered another reason why i went smaller. my SWMBO hated my brewing for ridiculous reasons, so i was trying anything i could to shorten the process down as much as possible. meaning if she was gone for 2 or 3 hours i could brew and clean up in that time.





Offline Saccharomyces

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #34 on: October 17, 2020, 05:20:59 am »
The last brew house I built was a 3-gallon brew house (4.25 gallons at the beginning of the boil).  It was built around the reality that I would need to brew at least one time every month if I was going to manage to keep a yeast bank on agar slants alive while piggybacking subculturing on top making new starter from slant.  My kettle was 100% custom.  I started with a Vollrath Optio 27-quart induction-ready stock pot.  I had a local sanitary welder weld a stainless coupling for a ball 3/8" stainless ball valve.  A lot people do not realize that 3/8" used to be a very common ball valve size in the early days. Now, even a non-full-port 1/2" ball valve is not big enough for a lot of brewers and 10 gallons is the old 5 gallons.  I am building this brew house as a 3/5-gallon brew house. It uses 5 and 10-gallon Igloo coolers for mash/lauter tuns. The 5-gallon cooler will probably see most the most use. The 5-gallon industrial igloo cooler is much more compact than the 10-gallon industrial cooler.  It just limits the grain bill to no more than 13lbs (it is a tight 13lbs).

Speaking of coming to my senses, I scaled back my electrical install.  While I ruled out a full-on electric brewery, I really started to enjoy brewing with a 240V portable induction range at the end of my last pass through the hobby.  I had been using a 1800W portable induction range, so that I could keep the garage door shut in the winter.  It was barely enough to bring my starting volume of 4.25 gallons from mashout temperature up to boiling temperature with the lid on and it could only maintain a weak boil with the lid off, even with insulation. Now, a 3500W 240V portable induction range was a completely different animal.  It could bring 7 gallons up to a strong boil from mashout temperate in about 20 minutes and keep it there on reduced power with the lid off.  Brewing with a 240V induction range after brewing with an 1800W induction range was an eye-opening experience. 

Anyway, brewing with 240V was made possible due to the fact that the gremlins my ex-wife and I had been fighting with our double oven were due to the fact that the electrician who wired our house installed a 30A 4-wire circuit instead of a 40A 4-wire circuit.  It never dawned on me that a double oven required 40A service until my ex decided to get a new double oven and the guys who came out to take the pre-install measurements told us that we needed to have a 40A circuit installed.  I had local electrician that I had previously used to install a transfer switch install a new 40A circuit for the oven and reroute the existing 4-wire 30A circuit the to garage (I had him come back and upgrade the breaker to a 30 GFCI breaker).  The problem with a 30A 4-wire circuit is the huge NEMA 14-30R receptacle, which requires a 2-gang box and cover plate.   The receptacle is so big that it almost looks like a caricature.  Anyone who has ever plugged a dryer with a 4-prong plug in has seen how stupid big a NEMA 14-30R receptacle is compared to normal household receptacle (A 6-30R receptacle is huge as well).  Anyway, I had to fashion a NEMA 14-30P to NEMA 6-20R extension cord, so that I could use the 3500W induction range. I used a 2-gang weatherproof metal box, which allowed me use a simplex NEMA 6-20R receptacle and a switched NEMA 5-15R receptacle for my March pump (I needed to use the neutral wire for something :) ).  That experience drove home the huge cost and size increase going from 240V 20A to 240 30A.  A NEMA 6-20R receptacle is the same size as a standard household NEMA 5-15R or 5-20R receptacle and 12/2 NM cable (a.k.a. Romex) is almost half the cost of 10/2 NM cable.  Plugs and receptacles are also much cheaper.  One can run up to a 4500W element on a 20A circuit (not to exceed 3 hours continuous use at full current draw), so if one already has 120V 15 or 20A service in the area one wants to brew and one brews 10-gallon or smaller batches, one does need to install a 240V 4-wire circuit with a big honking NEMA 14-30R receptacle.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2020, 07:52:16 am by Saccharomyces »

Offline BrewBama

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #35 on: October 17, 2020, 07:04:51 am »
+1. I enjoy brewing on a 3.5kW induction cooktop.


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Offline erockrph

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #36 on: October 17, 2020, 12:03:14 pm »
When I started this hobby almost 12 years ago I observed that the de facto unit size was 5 gallons. I wondered how that came to be, and still do, but the answer is probably lost to time. (The size of a typical corny?) Anyway, a hobby designed around that much fluid weight is going to be more expensive than, say, if the default unit size was half that. Smaller batches have become more popular -- I'd almost go so far as to say "acceptable," since when I started there was a lot of emphasis on going bigger when you could -- but I wonder how gear would have evolved and what the demographics of homebrewing would look like if the implicit unit of production had been smaller.
I always assumed it was because corny kegs are 5 gallons, but I started about 10 years ago myself - well after this seemed to be standardized.
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Offline Saccharomyces

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #37 on: October 17, 2020, 02:41:36 pm »
I always assumed it was because corny kegs are 5 gallons, but I started about 10 years ago myself - well after this seemed to be standardized.

Kegging was still in its infancy in early 1993 when I started to brew.  As a community, I suspect that the 5-gallon batch can be attributed to Charlie P's use of 5-gallon glass carboys while formulating the recipes in The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, which used to be text with which most people started out.   Charlie taught an entire generation of amateur brewers how to brew.  Who, in turn, taught the next generation of brewers how to brew.  Without Charlie's book, this hobby would not be were it is today because brewing at the amateur level was very much a mad monk squad kind of thing. Sure, there were brewing clubs that were way ahead of the curve like the Falcons, but outside of those groups, brewing knowledge was very sparse.

Offline denny

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #38 on: October 17, 2020, 03:03:45 pm »
I always assumed it was because corny kegs are 5 gallons, but I started about 10 years ago myself - well after this seemed to be standardized.

Kegging was still in its infancy in early 1993 when I started to brew.  As a community, I suspect that the 5-gallon batch can be attributed to Charlie P's use of 5-gallon glass carboys while formulating the recipes in The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, which used to be text with which most people started out.   Charlie taught an entire generation of amateur brewers how to brew.  Who, in turn, taught the next generation of brewers how to brew.  Without Charlie's book, this hobby would not be were it is today because brewing at the amateur level was very much a mad monk squad kind of thing. Sure, there were brewing clubs that were way ahead of the curve like the Falcons, but outside of those groups, brewing knowledge was very sparse.

Don't forget, Charlie learned homebrewing from Fred Eckhart's book.  So maybe Fred was the genesis of carboy use.
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Offline Saccharomyces

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #39 on: October 17, 2020, 06:29:23 pm »
After weeks of measuring and remeasuring, scanning the wall with a nice stud finder and as well as a Walabot (a very cool device), I finally mustered the courage to drill a 5/8" hole through the band joist into the garage for mounting a surface mount 240V receptacle.  In a normal house, this task would have been trivial.  However this wall is a 6" plumbing wall that is loaded with plumbing and electrical runs.  To make matters worse, the builder decided to bump the wall out on the garage side of the wall 2" instead of making the laundry room on the other side of the wall 2" smaller.  What this design decision meant is that the wall studs do not stop at the floor.  Instead they go all of the way to bottom of the band joist were they meet a 2" x 1.5" bottom plate.  To increase the complexity of the job, where I drilled the hole is very close to two 200A load centers, so there are ton of wire runs coming together on the basement side of the hole. In essence, I had to miss a stud, a floor joist, plumbing, and several wires.  I wanted to drill from the basement side, but decided that drilling from the garage side was less risky.  I carefully drilled a 5/8" hole through the drywall, stuck a sharpie into the hole, and moved it around to see if I missed any obstacles during my scan of the wall.  Finding nothing, I decided to push forward and drill through the band joist, praying that I would miss the floor joist on the other side.  When I went downstairs to see where the bit came out, I was shocked to see that it was exactly where I wanted to be.  I showed it to my girlfriend. Her response, "How in the world did you do that?  That was like threading the eye of a needle."  The feeling of accomplishment quickly dissipated when she followed up with, "If had known what you were doing, I would have stopped you."  That is women for you. :) 
« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 08:48:52 am by Saccharomyces »

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #40 on: October 19, 2020, 09:20:40 pm »
This thread made me think about how much I've spent on brewing. I have a fairly rudimentary setup but I'm probably around $1000-1500 over eleven years on equipment which I don't think is too extravagant. In the next year or so I plan to convert part of the basement to a bar which will have a beer engine, several taps and plumbed for a sink which will probably be several times what I've spent on homebrewing.

If I was jumping into the hobby with the knowledge I have and planning to brew the beers I brew I'd strongly consider one of the newer all-in-one systems although I'd probably need a large back up kettle for turbid mashes. I still do a fair number of one gallon batches so not sure if any of those systems reliably produce batches that small.
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Offline Saccharomyces

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #41 on: October 25, 2020, 10:59:46 am »
If I was jumping into the hobby with the knowledge I have and planning to brew the beers I brew I'd strongly consider one of the newer all-in-one systems although I'd probably need a large back up kettle for turbid mashes. I still do a fair number of one gallon batches so not sure if any of those systems reliably produce batches that small.

I had already purchased two kettles and a couple of beverage coolers before I considered all-in-one brewing. If the garage had 240VAC service when we did our inspection, I probably would have gone with an all-in-one, but I knew that 120VAC service is slow to heat from previously using a portable 1800W induction cooktop for boils with a starting volume of 4.25 gallons.  Upgrading my old garage to 240VAC was an eye-opening experience.

That being said, I finally finished installing 240VAC service to the new garage,  I was stuck in analysis paralysis between installing a NEMA 6-20 (240/20A 3-wire),  NEMA 14-20 (120-240/20A 4-wire), or a NEMA 14-30 (120-240/30A) circuit in the garage.  I purchased 240VAC GFI breakers for both 20 and 30A service.  In the end, I went with the NEMA 14-30 topology.  As much as I dislike the size of the receptacle and plug, going with a NEMA 14-30 circuit meant that I would never need to modify it because I do not see myself needing an element larger than 5500W and my preference is for using an induction cooktop because having an element inside of a kettle makes using an immersion chiller a challenge.  MoreBeer has solved that problem with their SlingBlade elements, but that would leave me in a single-source situation.   Plus, I prefer the simplicity of induction brewing.

Anyway for anyone who is contemplating installing their own NEMA 14-30 circuit, working with 10/3 Romex is no fun.  It is unbelievably stiff compared to 14/2, 12/2, and even 12/3 Romex.  Modern 10/3 Romex almost looks like a caricature compared to the 14/2 and 12/2 runs one finds in one's house.  Modern 10/3 Romex is flat whereas the 10/3 Romex that was used for the clothes dryer run when this house was built is round, making modern Romex wider and significantly more difficult to pull without kinking.  I had to deal with routing it through a tight area near the load center.

This run was the first circuit I have ever wired with the 200A main breaker on.  While the 200A breaker kills power to all of other other breakers, one still has to be cognizant that the two 200A hot legs and the center tap coming from the meter are still hot.  The only way to turn them off is at the meter.  I watched the master electrician who wired my garage for 240VAC service wire the breaker into the box hot, so I knew how to do it.  Plus, if I had killed service to the panel, I would have lost all of my lighting sources while still having to deal with the 200A hot legs. The important thing to remember is to never stick both hands inside of the load center to avoid allowing current to make a path through one's heart. Also the two hots and the white neutral are wired into the breaker before it is snapped into the load center. The ground wire carries no current, so it can be wired into the ground or the ground/neutral bus with the panel hot (I wired the ground from the run and the neutral from the breaker before seating the breaker).  One just needs to be careful. The neutral (white pigtail) from the breaker is wired into the neutral bus or ground/neutral bus. The breaker should be snapped into the load center in the "off" position. It should remain in the off position until the breaker is fully seated.  My load centers are from the Square D QO series.  The GFI version of a two-pole 30A breaker is significantly wider than the non-GFI two-pole 30A breaker, so this difference needs to be taken into account when cutting the black, red, and white wire from the 10/3 Romex run.  As I mentioned, 10-gauge wires are stiff; therefore, they are not as easy to move around as 14 or even 12-gauge wires when seating the breaker in the load center.

By the way, the reason why the neutral wire has to be connected to a GFI breaker is because the breaker contains a current sensing inductive circuit that checks for current imbalance through the conductors, which means that there is an alternate path to ground; hence, the name Ground Fault Interruptor.  The two hot legs are 180 degrees out of phase, which means that the currents flowing through them sum to zero.  If we were to wire the white wire to the ground/neutral bus, the GFI circuit would trip every time we used a 120VAC device connected to one of the two hots and the neutral because there would be no out of phase current to cancel the extra current draw on one of the hot legs.  The neutral (white wire) acts as the out of phase current path on a 120VAC circuit.  All three wire pass through the inductive circuit; therefore, as long as the currents flowing through all three wires sum to zero, we are golden.

Offline waltsmalt

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #42 on: October 25, 2020, 01:21:20 pm »
Fun to read through all the responses.  I have four hobbies (in order or importance to me): playing hockey, fishing, brewing, and BBQ.  What I love about all four is that you get exposed to all kinds of people and the friendships you make as a result.  Plus, all four overlap at times.  Are they all expensive and suck me into bad purchases at time?  Of course.  But, I’ve been able to age with all four and some I get to share with my two sons which is priceless.  So, here’s to all the bad purchases!

Offline GrumpyWally

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #43 on: November 13, 2020, 01:02:15 pm »
My roggenbier turned out pretty dang fantastic. 

Please tell us about your Roggenbier.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Expensive to restart from scratch
« Reply #44 on: November 13, 2020, 05:51:39 pm »
My roggenbier turned out pretty dang fantastic. 

Please tell us about your Roggenbier.

Creamy, medium-bodied, moderate clove with very low banana, just the way I like it.  It didn't turn out as dark as I expected, next time I think I would increase the Carafa to 9 grams.

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