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Old 02-01-2011, 10:05 PM   #1
caldridge32
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Default Brew Setup Upgrades HELP

Before I start let me give you a little background.

Ive only been home brewing for close to 5 months now. However I took to home brewing like a fish to water. I'm a AG brewer and I have done just over 1 batch of brew a week since I started brewing. Ive brewed many different styles in many different ways. So now to the point of this post.

I'm currently in the process of beefing up my equipment from a 5 gallon setup to a 15-20 gallon setup. I have come to realize that this larger setup is going to present some different challenges for me then the 5 gallon. Almost anyone can move a 20-30 QT pot from the stove to lets say a tub or to the kitchen sink but moving a 25 gallon pot full of boiling liquid is almost impossible. This presented me with the excuse to be able to start drawing up a beer sculpture or something stationary to use on brew day that could handle a hefty work load. Ive run into a few problems or questions you might say with the bigger setup that I would like some help answering.

1) I currently use a 20ft immersion chiller to cool my wort. My question here is what is going to be the best way to go about changing the way i chill now. There is no way the current chiller I'm using will chill 15-20 gallons in a timely manner. So.. Do I add another 20ft or so to my current chiller or do I convert it to a counter flow chiller and hope I can just use a march pump to regulate the flow of wort enough to make it work properly.

2)Fermentation.... Is there any harm in splitting up a batch into multiple vessels? Any if so what are they?

3)Last thing is simple. I was wondering if anyone had any advice on using this big of a setup. All of my LHBS do not really have any good feedback as usual and no one else i know personally does anything bigger then 5 gallons. It would be nice for some feedback or things to watch out for from someone who has a setup bigger then 10-15 gallons.

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Old 02-01-2011, 10:14 PM   #2
BendBrewer
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You want to go to a 1/2 bbl system or use 15 gallon pots?

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Old 02-01-2011, 10:36 PM   #3
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1) I use an immersion chiller on 11-12 gallon batches. How cold your water is will play a major part in how long it will take to chill. I would think the water stays fairly cold in Michigan. If you agitate the IC or whirlpool during the chill it should be fast enough.

2) No harm in splitting up batches except that it can make yeast starters more cumbersome. Splitting a yeast starter to pitch equal amounts of yeast in multiple carboys would be a real PITA.. but it allows you to experiment to compare different yeasts on the same beer in different vessels. I really wish I could buy a Brewhemoth right now. 22 gallon conical for about $430 shipped is a screaming deal, but SWMBO isn't working right now and things are a little tight.

3) I do 10-12 gallon batches fairly regularly. My sig is way out of date. Plan your sculpture do be able to chill your boil and drain or pump to your fermenter without moving your boil kettle. Fermenters with over 10 gallons are very heavy, if you can pump to your fermenter or drain to it without having to move fermenter afterwards you will be happier.

You will save a ton of money buying base grains and hops in bulk. See if your local brew club ever does group buys for grain. Our local club is doing on this week and I'm getting 55# of premium Marris Otter for about 80 cents per pound, and 55# of german pilsen malt for about 75 cents per pound.

My BK is a 15.5 gallon keggle, FWIW. Foam control drops are your friend when boiling 14 gallons in a 15 gallon pot.

Good luck!

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Old 02-01-2011, 11:12 PM   #4
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I'm going to actually be using a 20 gallon brew kettle. I picked it up yesterday and its effen huge. Pumping to the fermentation vessel sounds like a really good idea thanks. Yes the water here in MI is extremely cold during winter and stays pretty cold year round actually. Thanks for all the advice so far

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Old 02-01-2011, 11:43 PM   #5
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Going from 5 gallon to 10 gallon batches is pretty straightforward.

Going to 15-20 gallon batches is more complicated. Especially 20 gallon batches. You're looking at 24-26 gallons pre-boil. That would require a 30 gallon brew kettle, minimum. For the mash tun, forget about a 60 quart square cooler, you're looking at another 20 or 30 gallon kettle. Then for the fermenter, unless you want to split your batch across 4 carboys, you're looking at a 27 gal conical.

IMO, you'd be better off sticking with half barrel (15.5 gal) batches. With 20 gallon batches, your cost and complexity will go way up.

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Old 02-01-2011, 11:54 PM   #6
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1. IMO, a CFC or plate chiller would be your best options for chilling. I prefer the CFC's over the plate chillers due to cleaning and clogging issues with the PC's, but that's just me.

2. Splitting batches into multiple fermenters is no problem at all. The same for splitting up yeast starters. I do both of these regularly.

3. Your 20 gallon kettle will limit your batch size to about 18 gallons unless you do a concentrated boil and dilute it at the end.

IMO, the mash and mash equipment is the heart of any home brewing system. IMO the two most important elements in home brewing are mash temperature control and fermentation temperature control. Get those right and you are most of the way home. The rest is child's play.

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