MoreBeer VacuBrew review
I already posted this in the review section, but it wouldn't let me post pictures and it doesn't come up when you search for it
I've seen a few people looking for reviews on these and since I think I might be the only person who has one I thought I would go for it.
-8 gallon kettles (any bigger and it probably wouldn't fit on your stove)
-compact (takes up barely any room when not in use. perfect for an apartment which is who it is made for)
-Kettles hold heat incredibly well
-B3 customer support
-8 gallon kettles (brewing big beers can get a little tricky not overflowing your mash tun)
-complicated to use the first couple of times
-doesn't hold a vacuum (apparently B3 was shipped the wrong gaskets and are still waiting to receive the proper ones, but apparently they worked on their test system...not on mine or with any of the other lids I tried in the store)
From now on I'll explain the brew process with it since its a little different and that helps explain some of the other issues with the system.
The first step is to boil the water in your MLT. You have to remember to put the false bottom with a hose attached to it in before you mash in. While it's mashing I have the sparge water heating up next to it on the stove which helps keep the mash at the same temp. So this part works pretty standard except for remember the hose since it comes up through the grain instead of out the bottom like usual.
There are a ton of tubes to hook up to transfer from the HLT to the MLT to the BK. It was a bit confusing the first time but now its no big deal.
The system has a nice sparge arm that seems to work pretty well.
Since the gaskets don't work it's kind of a hassle to get the vacuum to actually work. This might be a little bit of overkill but it was the easiest way to insure that it actually held.
Once you get everything set up its time to turn the vacuum pump on. Mine happens to be incredibly crappy and won't start without me banging on it a bunch. The vacuum can be a little tricky. You have to start it out fast to make sure it is pulling from the MLT and the HLT. Also check that the vacuum is perfect. If it doesn't transfer from both within a minute or so something is up. Then crank the speed as low as you can otherwise the sparge will be done in about ten minutes. I can get it to about 40 min to an hour. The pump gets really loud when you crank the speed down. (I will be taking mine back to get a new one).
It is also important to check to make sure the vacuum is working properly because the BK lid will pop in if the vacuum is too strong. I'm not 100% sure what causes this for me, but it popped the handle off the lid (another thing which I will be taking back). I never had this issue until I started milling at home, so I don't know if I am milling too fine and creating a "stuck mash" (not sure that's possible under a vacuum) causing there to be unequal pressure in each kettle. Every time this has happened (I think 4 now) I have used belgian pilsner as the main malt, so this might also have something to do with it. Also the false bottom only covers about 1/2 of the bottom of the pot. I think if it covered the entire bottom it would work better.
Once you get your right amount of wort to boil, go ahead and take everything off and boil like normal. The hard part of course is that you can't tell how full any of the pots are except for the HLT, and since it's under a vacuum and the vacuum is so hard to create, I really don't like having to keep checking. Also because of the vacuum I can't start heating up the wort in the BK as I'm finishing up the sparge. It takes awhile to get 6.5-7 gallons boiling on a home stove.
After the boil transferring the wort to the carboy is once again done under vacuum. You run the wort through a cooler rather than cold water through a cooler in the wort. It is really narrow copper tubing so you have to be careful to not clog. Definitely use a hop bag if you have a considerable amount of hops.
I rigged up a kettle screen with a hop bag around it that I put the collection tube in in order to screen out the particles that would otherwise clog the chiller.
From there it is just getting it as cold as possible. It definitely uses a lot of ice and is a slow process (45 min or so) but it gets the job done. Just be sure to run star san through the chiller before and after chilling your wort, lots of stuff likes to stay in there and gets funky between brews.
The cooling set up.
It may sound like I'm ragging on the system a lot, but I truly am enjoying it. It is kind of a gimmicky idea like a lot of people have said, but it works for me. It really is designed for somebody who wants to go all-grain and doesn't have a lot of space inside or any outside space. There isn't really a reason to buy this if you can set up outside. There are definite things that need improvements, but what system doesn't have some draw backs. I've brewed on this less than ten times so I am still figuring some stuff out. I'm also lucky enough to live pretty close to morebeer. I also know that when I go in there with the broken parts they will replace them for me. They are willing to do anything to help and realize it's a new system that's got some kinks to iron out.
Overall it does it's job well and I have made some great beers and had a great time brewing, so there's not much more one can really ask for.
I have never heard of or seen a vacuum brew system.
First impression, its not for me, and it looks overly complicated and likely to fail.
To each his own though and it sounds like it is making beer for you.
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