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Old 03-15-2012, 01:25 PM   #1
Calichusetts
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Default $700+ to go to 5 Gallon setup...help please

So my wife gave me the freedom to go to 5 gallon and buy anything I wanted. She even recommended the blichmann kit form midwest which is about $800.

Now no flaming, but I LOVE 1 gallon! I don't have to go outside, I use 16oz bottles and get a 6-pack, which makes bottling a dream! Carboys are easy to carry and fit in my minifridge for lagering and crashing,etc.

So I am still hesitant to go to 5 gallons (10 gallon kettles) and will most likely move up to 22oz bottles when I do and use the kettle for 3 gallon batches to start off I of course have my eyes on the "top-line" blichmann but I think the blichmann are just too expensive and maybe overpriced. Its more of an opportunity cost issue for me, I can buy kettles and much more with $700 but if they are really worth it I will consider them. So here is the breakdown of what I want:

8-10 gallon boil kettles...two of them with false bottoms...I like the blichmann idea of a snap in dip tube but is it really necessary? I have 10 thumbs so unless its super easy to install (no drilling for me...might as well get blichmann) I want it to come with the kettle. I'll use one as a mash tun and the other as my HLT/boil kettle...I have pots to capture the wort after the first runnings so two should do. And this way I could "upgrade" with another kettle and do double batches at once later in life.

I do not want a a sight gauge (my only issue with blichmann)...I think they are useless and would rather have a lower thermometer to ensure even heating than a sight gauge (I've heard bad things about the thermometer placement with almost all kettles...is this correct that they are generally too high?). I also think auto-sparge, sparge arms are unecessary. I will be batch sparging like I still do

Obviously I will have to buy new carboys, burners and tubing so hopefully the kettles can come in at 500-600, that would be great. I have looked at polarware, megapot, boilermaker, morebeer. So just looking for input or any companies that are often overlooked or less known who can help with this. I've read many reviews but have virtually no experience with these batch sizes and kettles. Wrapping my head around weldless and welded fittings so please help here...leaking issues, etc.

Thanks guys...looking forward to your input...links are encouraged! Really appreciate what you can bring to the table.

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Old 03-15-2012, 01:52 PM   #2
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Go 10 gallon, and keg.

52 bottles = 1 keg.

Go big or go home.

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Old 03-15-2012, 01:56 PM   #3
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Couple quick thoughts from a guy who started off small over 2 years ago and has been buying/upgrading stuff ever since:

- when you go up to bigger batches, site gauges are very handy; I could see how your mini-batches don't require them, but once you start measuing things in 4-8 gallon sizes for strike/sparge/runoff/etc., you will appreciate them

- Blichmanns are nice but can eat up your total budget real quick....there are many vendors out there now with great prices on kettles and other vendors with great accessories so you can build your own from the ground up

- save some cash for other thing by using a cooler for your MLT. I know they aren't fancy or cool & shiney, but they have always worked so well for me. Put the savings towards a nicer BK, a BK and a HLT, a chiller, etc.

- Start saving for a kegging system. Eventually you will take the plunge and you will want at least 5 gallons every time you brew. So the more you save on equipment now.....

Just my 2 cents obviously

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Old 03-15-2012, 02:23 PM   #4
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Thanks guys...sort of avoided the cooler MLT subconciously...my only reasoning is that instead of doing decoctions or step mashes...you can direct fire it on a stove/burner and be lazy...but it would save some money.

What do you guys have for kettles?

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Old 03-15-2012, 02:28 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calichusetts View Post
Thanks guys...sort of avoided the cooler MLT subconciously...my only reasoning is that instead of doing decoctions or step mashes...you can direct fire it on a stove/burner and be lazy...but it would save some money.

What do you guys have for kettles?
Well, you can't do decoctions in your MLT. But you can do step mashes by direct firing your kettle MLT. I almost never do step mashes, and if I do, I do a decoction so that's not an issue for me. But I do ramp to mash out temps with my HERMs. This is in a cooler MLT, and I'm building a keg MLT now for bigger batches.

One thing about using kettles for an MLT is that while it looks nice, it doesn't maintain heat that well so it needs to be insulated or something like a HERMS used. Kettles lose heat.

Anyway, that's a choice that is up to you. I just thought I'd point that out because it's something to think about.
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Old 03-15-2012, 02:35 PM   #6
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Just gunna put this here...

www.spikebrewing.com

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Old 03-15-2012, 02:37 PM   #7
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Shop around, you should be able to get good 10 gallon pots with valve, thermometer and sight gauge for less that $200.

I bought two very heavy duty 10 gallon pots off Craigslist for $100. I added kettle valve kits from Northern Brewer to both. I made one into a HLT with a sight gauge from brewhardware.com, Bobby_m. I use a converted 10 gallon Rubbermaid cooler as my mash tun.

I have spent about $1100 on my equipment, total since day 1. Since July first, I now have made 19 batches.

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Old 03-15-2012, 02:44 PM   #8
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I'm kind of curious as to why you seem so set against drilling yourself. From personal experience, with the correct tool - use a good corded or cordless drill and a _good_ step bit - not the cheap step bit from bargain fittings, but drop $40 on a nice Irwin bit - you can drill a perfect hole in 5 minutes, easy. And that opens up a lot of options - you can pick up an 10 gallon bayou classic stainless steel pot for $70 or $80 from amazon and then take your pick of fittings from bobby_m or bargainfittings.com, place them where you want them on your kettle, and come in well under the price tag of the Blichmann when all is said an done.

Also, I'll second the 10 gallon cooler MLT route. Especially if you're batch sparging, you can put together an MLT for $70 or $80 right there, including your bulkhead, valve, and bazooka screen.

But try to think of all the things you'll need to go 5 gallons:
- HLT
- MLT
- BK
- Burner (2 of these can be very nice so you can fire your HLT and BK at the same time)
- Pump (definitely optional, but at least one of these can make your brew day much easier)
- Some sort of chiller if you don't already have one (again, optional - an ice bath can still work for 5 gallon batches if you have a sink large enough to hold your kettle, don't let anyone tell you otherwise)
- Larger fermenters, like you've already mentioned
- More / new hose, etc

Looking at it that way, especially if you're looking at Blichmann gear, $700 is going to disappear quicker than you'll be able to check things off the list! DIY can be your friend!

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Old 03-15-2012, 03:08 PM   #9
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Thanks so much guys...and gal

I guess I will get a cooler...again, I have a lot of experience brewing, just none with this type of equipment so I I might have my mind in a wrong place on things.

@Dustbow...I use a foot-long lab thermometer as my "sight gauge" right now. After filling with water once I simply write down where the water level is compared to the temp reading. How "tall" are kettles above the false bottom in general? In other words, I would just slide down my thermometer until I hit the false bottom and take readings from there. Its insanely accurate for my 1 gallon system...I get within 1/10 of a quart of my intended fermentation volume. I also use spring water, premeasured so I know exactly how much is going in my strike and sparge. I figure the first batch will get me a good idea of boil-off and I can adjust from there, does humidity and seasons affect this to a large degree?

@Yooper...brain fart on the decoctions but I am super lazy when it comes to steps...and I do like the pilsner recipe I created with three steps. I guess when you do 40 batches on a stove that you can keep on low or easily heat up, you get a little lazy.

@Stratslinger...I am pretty handy but I would freak out if I ever messed up creating my equipment...in otherwords paying $100 more and knowing I have a "perfect" setup is maybe worth it for peace of mind, then messing up. I've read a lot of leaking threads on here from the DIYers...majority? Minority? Whats the consensus?

Thanks for the list...I had most of that in my mental list but that helps a lot.

Anything else I am missing? I have this crazy idea to use a manifold and a "looser" false bottom to ensure I don't get stuck sparges but get nicer clarity...useless, unecessary or worth trying?


EDIT-- @Spike, thanks for the link, I've peaked through your stuff before researching this but I have to check it out again

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Old 03-15-2012, 03:29 PM   #10
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Well, I guess I'm only a sample size of 1, with a total of 4 fittings... But two of them were perfect with no adjustment required, the other two only took very minor adjustment, and no leaks (in one case I overtightened, in another I had undertightened - both simple fixes). Now, it remains to be seen what happens once they come up to temperature, so talk to me again after Saturday!

In my case, I went with old kegs that were acquired from friends / family. They cost me nothing but the time I spent cleaning the dang things (they were old and a mess, and one of them is more than a little banged up), so no loss other than my time if I goofed on any of my holes.

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