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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Equipment/Sanitation > HERMS/RIMS vs upgrading mash tun
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Old 12-06-2011, 03:45 PM   #1
t_met
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Default HERMS/RIMS vs upgrading mash tun

I've been contemplating adding a HERMS or RIMS add on to my brew system. This would include a PID/control panel for controlling.

However before taking this leap. I'm second guessing if this is the path I want.

Let me first describe my current system. Two propane burners for HLT and BK. Cooler mash tun. I don't have a dedicated brew stand, instead I use mix of saw horses & cinder blocks. I typically do batch sparging. I recently added a pump primarily to reduce lifting things/boiling things high above ground. Since I use a cooler MT, there is some playing with strike water to get the right temperatures.

I'm looking long term here, so I understand that there are ways to manually control HERMS/RIMS. However, to go the minimally automated HERMS/RIMS it would probably cost around $200-400. This is not to debate that I can do it cheaper, but more if this is the path I should take. I like the idea of getting the strike water close to desired temperature and using HEX to narrow it down.

I just wanted to hear what others had to say about spending my money elsewhere. Particularly if I should instead invest in using a direct fire MT, or if should spend it on a dedicated brew stand.

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Old 12-06-2011, 04:05 PM   #2
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Tough call, here's what I did when I asked the same question.

I have a similar setup: propane HLT and BK. I added a pump and HERMS to the HLT before I really knew that the cooler MT held it's temp very well. I have the 48qt cube. I also put a Ranco on the cooler so it would recirculate the mash if the temp dipped. So far, I only see a dip of 1-2 degrees over 90 min, so no need for the HERMS for keeping the temp up. It took a good number of batches to really dial in the strike water, but the crucial step is to get the cooler hot before adding the grain. That means a higher strike temp and letting it sit for 5-10 mins and adjusting down (easier to cool than heat in the cooler) with cool water before adding the grain. After a few batches, the temp is dialed in, and now Beersmith is actually giving me the right numbers for once.

Where the HERMS is really nice is recirculating the mash for the ramp up to 168F. This gets the vorlauf done at the same time. It's not automatic, no, but the whole mash to boil takes like 2 steps: strike and turn the pump on to ramp.

So in my case, I see no need for a fired MT. If you've got a pump, you can make a 1 tier stand (I just use one of those metal racks for a baker's rack. Perfect size). The MT out goes to the pump, up through the copper pipe in the HLT and back into the MT with silicone hose, then when the cooler reaches 168F (usually 10-15 mins), I change the coupler on the pump-in to the HLT out, and run 170F water from the HLT back through the copper inside of it, cleaning it out in the process, and fly sparge trickling out the mash into the BK. I know you do batch sparges, but this fly sparge works well too.

That said, my vote is getting the copper coil inside the HLT, but not neccesarily for an automated HERMS. Maybe cost you $100 for the fittings and pipe to do it right. To fly sparge, al you would need is a PVC manifold in the MT.

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Old 12-06-2011, 07:40 PM   #3
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i would go HERMS simply to stop fiddling with water temperatures. wether or not that is more important than buying a dedicated stand for everything is up to you.

a direct fired mash tun means you will need to be there to direct fire it when necessary, or to spend more than $200-400 for an automated burner setup. i like being able to punch in a number on my control panel and walk away for however long i want. i normally get up early in the morning, fill my HLT and recirculate that thru my HERMS to heat to strike temperature. whenever i want to start the mash, i just dump in however much water i need, hook the hoses up to the MT, set the temperature, and come back in an hour. change the temp to mashout at the end, and then come back whenever i want to sparge and start a boil. i cant tell you how nice it is not having to constantly watch the pot to know that its an exact temperature.

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Old 12-07-2011, 04:22 AM   #4
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I built a BCS controlled eHERMS with a standalone heat exchanger (HEX). It works really well for me, so I dig it. I recirculate during the entire mash and the heating element in the HEX kicks on to maintain or increase temps.

One thing to consider, HERMS/RIMS systems tend to respond a bit slower to temperature increases than direct fired MT's. If you have plans to do a lot of step mashes, it might make more sense to go with a direct fired MT.

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Old 12-07-2011, 01:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PoppinCaps View Post
the crucial step is to get the cooler hot before adding the grain. That means a higher strike temp and letting it sit for 5-10 mins and adjusting down (easier to cool than heat in the cooler) with cool water before adding the grain.
That's what I currently do. The last two brews I over corrected, which led to frustration and leading me down this path.

Quote:
Originally Posted by audger View Post
I normally get up early in the morning, fill my HLT and recirculate that thru my HERMS to heat to strike temperature. whenever i want to start the mash, i just dump in however much water i need, hook the hoses up to the MT, set the temperature, and come back in an hour.
This is exactly why I was thinking of going this path.


Quote:
Originally Posted by microbusbrewery View Post
I built a BCS controlled eHERMS with a standalone heat exchanger (HEX). ........

One thing to consider, HERMS/RIMS systems tend to respond a bit slower to temperature increases than direct fired MT's. If you have plans to do a lot of step mashes, it might make more sense to go with a direct fired MT.
Actually your standalone and a few others were some of my inspiration. I want to keep my HLT a separate boil vessel because I often do Partigyle sessions and need the second kettle. Several years back when I first looked at HERMs I didn't like the idea of having the HEX components the HLT, especially when figuring out PIDs/heating elements while still wanting to use it on the propane burners. There are others that do propane and automation, but I'm not comfortable with automating and gas.
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