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Old 05-25-2009, 03:40 AM   #1
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Default Mike's Electric Indoor Brewhouse

Hello Everyone,

Just thought I would share some photos of my latest brewhouse setup that I am using. I am on an limited budget so I tried to maximize the value in everything I did. I also live in Canada so things are either more expensive here or I blow my budget on shipping costs.

Decision Making:

I started brewing on a turkey fryer burner fueled by propane but I decided to go to to electric for a few reasons. 1) I was spending too much on propane. 2) Brewing in the garage in the winter (with door open) still managed to set off my CO detector inside. 3) I didn't want to buy another burner and tank for HLT heating 4) I didn't have room to store a brewstand in my garage and I was tired of wasting time setting everything up for a brew day. 5) In the event that I want to fully automate a system, it should be a lot easier with electric.

I decided to do an indoor setup in my basement because I had easy access to power (dryer outlet 30A 240VAC), water and a drain line, and room to keep everything setup all of the time. Also with the cold winters it makes it much more nicer to brew indoors

Brew Setup:

Brewstand-
My brewstand is made out of simple spruce 2x4 and 2x6 lumber, screwed together and varnished/stained to give it some protection from any spills and to make clean up easier. My design has very little lumber waste (i.e. a 5ft cut will leave a 3ft cut left over that is used somewhere else. The brewstand is a 3 tier gravity system to save on the costs of a pump. The top tier is 5ft exactly off the ground so looking into the HLT requires a step stool, but is not normally required for a brew day. The bottom tier is the exact height to siphon the boil kettle into a carboy or plastic bucket.

Water Feed-
I took a water feed from my household piping upstream of my water softener and added a shutoff valve to completely isolate my brewhouse when the brew day is over (just in case). I used the PEX piping to go from the house to the brewstand to give a little bit of flexibility and movement (if needed). Once the pex reaches the brew stand, the rest of the piping is all copper and then line splits into two valves, one for the immersion chiller feed and the other to feed the activated carbon filter. I added the activated carbon filter to get rid of all of the chlorine in the city water. Downstream of the filter i have another valve that I use to throttle the flow to about 2L / minute to ensure that the filter is removing all of the chlorine and other nasties.

HLT-
The HLT is a Euro Sanke keg (50L) that has the top removed. The water from the water filter comes up the side and enters the top of the vessel. I just added a sight gauge from bobby_m (thanks!) and added level markings with my brother P-touch labeller to let me know how much volume is in my kettle. I used to have a calibrated spoon but the sight gauge works so much better - one of the better investments so far!. Inside the kettle is a 4500w water heater element. Thanks to the Pol for the ideas on how to install the element. On the electrical side of the water heater I have some 10/3 cable going to it and all of the connections are potted in epoxy. If you do this, make sure you have a good ground connection! 4500w is just about perfect for the HLT. I used to use a weldless bulkhead fitting for the HLT but I was having issues with the siphon not starting all of the time and wanted a way to completely drain the tank so I bought some MAPP gas and some cadmium free braze rod and brazed on a copper fitting onto the bottom of the keggle. After that was brazed and I had confidence in my welding, I then drilled the hole into the keggle from the outside (put the drill bit inside the fitting). After the hole was drilled I then soldered on the rest of the copper. I did the same thing for the boil kettle and looking back I should have done this from the begninning. The braze rod was $30 and I only used about 1/2 of it and the MAPP gas was about $10. So for $40 total I was able to get two fittings brazed on. I spent a lot more for the weldless fittings and now I can do my CIPs much more easier and the vessels will drain completely every time, which is essential if you never want to move vessels and just do CIPs (what I do now). Ideally I should have used a oxy/acetylene torch for the job as the MAPP gas was barely hot enough to do the job.

Mash Tun-
I already posed another article about this, but essentially my cooler was a 48qt walmart special for $20 and I have about another 10-20$ in copper to complete it. No weldless fittings were used. It turns out that copper tubing gives a really nice friction fit with the existing drain. I only do batch sparging so far and with my barley crusher with factory default settings I am able to get about 80-81% efficiency regularly on 1.050ish beers.

Kettle-
Same design as the HLT, except there is no sight glass. I just calibrated my stir spoon and this has been good enough for me so far.

Heat Exchanger-
To cool my wort I use a simple copper immersion chiller that hooks over the side of the boil kettle.

Lighting-
In addition to the range hood light, I bought a fluorescent light on sale for $17 and hung that at the correct height using chains

Exhaust-
Bought a Range hood off Kijiji locally for $10 and wired an extension cord into it that I can plug in to power it. I like being able to unplug it at the end of the day and completely isolate the power from it. The exhaust uses flexible ducting that goes into a piece of plexiglass with a hole cut in it for the flexible ducting. I can place this whole pane into the open window and then close the sliding pane to make a perfect seal. When I am done I remove the plexiglass and close the window. I didn't want to permanently modify my house for this

Drain-
For the drain for the system (boil kettle and IC) I have 1.5" ABS piping running from the brewstand to my floor drain.

Power-
I bought a "dryer repair kit" which is essentially a 6' cord with a dryer plug on the end. From there I go to a junction box which then connects to about 10m of 10/3 SJOOW cable to the brewstand power distribution junction box. When I want to brew I simply unplug the dryer and plug my brewstand in. At the end of the session I am able to completely isolate the system from power. It also saved me from permanently modifying my house

Control System-
The 240VAC comes from the dryer plug into another junction box mounted on the side of the brew stand. In there the power feeds (in parallel) two 40A SSRs which then go to each heating element (4500w HLT and 4500w BK). The control signals (what activates the SSRS) leave the junciton box on some cat3 cable (phone cable) through a connector to my Arduino. I use the Arduino microcontroller to run most of my system. With some simple push buttons and an LCD screen and the Ardunio controller I control the heating elements. The HLT has a temperature probe connected to the Arduino (using 2wire) to allow me to heat the strike or sparge water in the HLT to the exact temperature without going over.

The heating elements use PWM for control, or pulse-width-modulation. The logic I have written is very simple. For every 1 second, the heating element can be "on" for none, a portion or the whole time. If I tell the boil kettle to boil at 50% power, it is essentially switching the element on only for the first half second every second. The HLT works the same way except instead of using a power setpoint it uses a temperature setpoint and automatically adjusts the power to keep the hot liquor at the desired temperature.

The LCD screen has a mini menu structure that I can scroll through using the pushbuttons to enable/disable elements, buzzers, etc. My menu structure is the following:

KETTLE MENU
Enable
Power Level

HLT MENU (1/2)
Temperature
Enable
Setpoint

HLT MENU (2/2)
Priority
Beep at SP


It's super basic but it allows me to do the following:

Kettle:
Enable/disable heating
Adjust boiling power (I find that 60-70% is perfect for 6gal batches for proper DMS removal, could possibly go lower)

HLT:
Show me the current temperature
Enable/disable heating
Set the temperature that I want the water to heat to
Enable buzzer to go off when the HLT has reached it's setpoint (so I can do something else)
Set the priority of the elements (to BK or HLT).


Now the only important thing here is that with a dryer outlet I cannot run two 4500W elements at full power, so I added the ability to give priority to one element or the other. What this simply means is that if the HLT has priority and is requiring 60% power, it will be on for the first 0.6s out of the 1s cycle and the boil kettle can only get 0.4s remaining or 40%. This feature is needed if you want to start heating strike water for another batch when a first batch is boiling or if you want to start preheating the first runnings while you are keeping the sparge water at temperature.

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Old 05-25-2009, 03:41 AM   #2
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Lessons Learned:
1. Should have just brazed the fittings onto kettles from day #1 and not wasted time with weldless fittings. Since they are there already, might use them as CIP returns or something if I ever get a pump
2. Built first control system using 555 timers on a protype board. It's the cheapest way to control SSRS, but the problem is it is very hard and labour intensive to modify. The Ardunio is very cheap and is so easy to program and modify.
3. I haven't done this yet, but with my system the Arduino currently has no feedback on tank levels so you need to make sure that the heating elements are submerged at all times or they will burn out extremely fast. Also because of the curvature of the bottom of the sanke keg, with the element mounted as low as possible I still must have a minimum volume of 12-13L in the HLT. This means that for a 6 gal batch my mash thickness is somewhere between 3-3.2 L/kg of malt. People should keep this in mind when designing these systems
4. Should have used threaded valve on HLT drain. Using soldered valve makes disassembling system much more difficult.
5. Cheaped out at first and fed system with garden hose - bad decision - too many off flavours. All went away with PEX.



Cleaning
The mash tun is dumped into a bucket and then rinsed out into the boil kettle which is then drained. To clean my HLT I fill it to the brim with water and then add a few scoopfuls of oxiclean. I then turn on the element and set the temperature to 170 dF and let it sit for about an hour. Once it is finished, I drain the HLT into the mash tun and let it sit for another 10-20 minutes. After that I drain the mash tun into the boil kettle where I then turn on the heat element again to get some temperature back and then let the boil kettle sit for about 60 minutes and then the oxiclean is flushed down the drain. After that I have a small brush on a handle which I go over every inside surface. After the scrub I do the whole procedure again except this time with hot water to ensure that all of the oxiclean is rinsed away. I do this procedure every 3-4 batches and in between I just do hot water rinses.

Operational Notes:
I still prefer to siphon off the wort at the end of the boil with my autosiphon. I find that I can get the clearest wort this way with almost no trub into my fermenter. Once I get down to the trub, I then siphon off the rest of the wort though a towel into a seperate container to filter out the trub and then I take that filtered wort and freeze it for future starter use, making sure to boil it again on the stove before use. I typically do 24L batches which gives me about 20-22L into my fermenter and 2-4L for future starters, which eliminates my need to buy and stock LME or DME for starters.

Todo:
1. Properly house control system (arduino and LCD and keypad)
2. Develop data logging application for laptop that will save data from arduino
3. investigate level transmitters to automate filling of HLT and CIPs
4. Program in hop addition timers into Arduino and integrate with the buzzer.
5. Add another faucet to brew setup and a short garden hose with spray nozzle to make washing down inside of boil kettle and mash tun more user friendly.

pictures to follow:
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Old 05-25-2009, 03:44 AM   #3
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Old 05-25-2009, 03:47 AM   #4
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Old 05-25-2009, 03:19 PM   #5
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Very nice write up! i enjoyed reading through it. seems like a very nice, well thought out system! I especially like your boil kettle and HLT drains

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Old 05-25-2009, 03:45 PM   #6
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Fantastic work, Mike!

I especially love the fact you can share power between the HLT and BK. Now I have to rethink putting the brewery in the basement.

Cheers to you!

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Old 05-25-2009, 05:24 PM   #7
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just curious, how long does it take you to heat your HLT to temp? also, how long to get your wort to boil?

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Old 05-25-2009, 11:50 PM   #8
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After the final sparge, it takes at the most 15-20 minutes at 100% power level to get around 32L of wort in the kettle to boil. Once the wort starts to boil I set the boil kettle to about 60-70% power for the remainder.

To heat up my strike water (16L) it takes about 15-20 minutes to get to about 180 degrees F from about 50-60 degrees F.

I heat up my sparge water during the mash and it takes about 30 minutes to get to about 190 degrees F. I guess I could probably do as low as 30 minute mashes but since I do 60 minute mashes for all my beers I don't think my electric elements are the limiting factor.

Hope this helps.

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Old 05-26-2009, 12:45 AM   #9
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It sounds like your ready to start your brewing.
A few questions; on your fluorescent fixtures for only $17
I hope they have a ballast in them and not the "El Cheapos"
from HD or some other made in China import without a ballast
as tey will eat lamps.
The second thing with all the control building and setting up to have
it download, to me it would of been a cheaper and more funtional
deal to of purchased that new BCS 460 with probes a member had for
sale for a while intil it went for $150. That unit will up and down load
the set programs to your computer and cost $187 before shipping
and adding the probes. Someone got themself a great unit for a great
price. SSRT's order what you need as well a; hONEYWELL LLE305100 a LED liquid level sensor to control your liquid level preventing a dry heating element failure. A solid state no moving parts stainless steel photo transistor trigger with digital output. Just another idea to think about for your system. JMO's.

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Old 05-27-2009, 12:57 AM   #10
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Thanks for the hints - I already had the Arduino and the LCD screen was only $12 USD off e-bay and I had the temperature probes left over from school so the control system really didn't cost me that much really. If I was to do it over again, I would probably look into the brewtroller system as the controller is more powerful and has more I/O.

I'll look into the level sensors you mentioned!

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