My wife Lori and I built our own brewing system last summer. It builds on our original homebrew system (10G rubbermaid cooler mash tun, 7.5G kettle) and techniques that we have learned. Previously, we were constantly lifting buckets, kettles, and mash tuns full of liquid several times during a brew session. Everyone loves a new gadget, but we also wanted our brewing to remain hands-on as much as possible while removing grunt work.
So looking to use the techniques we were used to, not wanting to buy a pump, and wanting to be able to get it out under my garage door left us with one option—build a 2.5 tier brew system. The mash tun sits on a winch operated lift so that all liquid movement is done by gravity. I believe its the first of its kind. I’ve seen kettles and hot liquor tanks that raise, but not mash tuns (I didn’t to an exhaustive search though).
The Pulley System
The base is a wood frame glued together with dowels in the joints for strength. In the corner is a 3″X3″ post that rides in the corner of the metal supports. I found the large turnbuckles and used them to stabilize the joint between the shelf and the post. They are definitely stronger than needed, but they also look really cool and industrial. At the top of the post is a stainless steel eye bolt screwed into a 3″ top plate (normally used to attach table legs to tables). A wood block with roller bearings is attached to the top of the post and rides on the back side of the vertical supports. These are attached with bolts that run through a gap between the two supports. This roller block keeps the weight of the mash tun from making the whole shelf tip forward when in the air.
Rope attached to the eye bolt runs up over this pulley set that I made. I designed the whole system to fit under my garage door (the table has casters on the legs), and so I needed small wheels so that it would not be too tall. The pulley wheels are actually replacement wheels for a sliding glass door, which are cheap and surprisingly high quality with steel bearings. I mounted them in a channel cut from some scrap metal (also left over from that desk).
The rope runs over the top and down to the table. Three pulleys mounted on the table direct the rope to the winch, mounted on the side below the hot liquor tank. The ratchet on the winch holds the mash tun in the air when draining.