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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Equipment/Sanitation > My Top Tier Review
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Old 05-02-2010, 10:06 PM   #1
bobbytuck
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Default My Blichmann Top Tier Review

(I posted a slightly different version of this on a different forum -- but I'm posting it here because I thought folks might be interested. I didn't see many reviews of the TopTier -- and I wish I'd seen something like this when I was thinking about brew structures.)

Purchase

I bought it last Wednesday and it was delivered Friday. This isn't a full review since I'm waiting on a few parts that were mistakenly left out of the delivery. (No big deal -- very small parts -- and Blichmann was apologetic about the omission.)

Overall, I like this this thing very much -- and I was putting it together, I was liking it more and more. First impression: it's big and frigging solid. The pictures don't really do it justice. I mean, it's gotta be solid if it's going to support 30-gallon kettles, but I was surprised at the weight of the thing overall. Very nice. FedEx guy wondered what the heck was in the boxes.

My Brewery

I've got an all-electric HERMS brewery with 3 15-gallon kettles (1 polarware, 2 Blichmann -- sold some Leica lenses to get the $$$ for the kettles). I assembled it several weeks ago and have been brewing on some cinderblocks and an iron table -- so I was looking for some sort of structure that's not so make-shift. I work 12-14 hour days -- 5 days a week -- so with the job and the commute, all I wanted to do was brew -- not talk to welders or learn welding. I'd like to learn welding, sure -- especially after researching the possibilities for a brew stand, but I didn't see having much time for it.

Anyway, I pulled the trigger on the TopTier last week and ordered it from Rebel Brewing with free shipping. I ordered it late on Wednesday, and by Friday it was at my doorstep. Very cool.

I ordered the basic stand, three shelving units, two march pump brackets, a therminator bracket, and a pair of utility shelves. Total cost: around $800. Expensive? Yes. Cool as building your own? No. But it's solid as hell, looks nice, and was at my doorstep in less than 48 hours. Can't beat that. (Didn't order any burners -- but I see that the propane valve is include with the main unit, as well as some basic hardware to attach the manifold. As everybody knows, you need to get your own piping if you choose to go with burners -- but this is a plus and makes it much more flexible.)

The parts mistakenly left out were the brackets for the main shelves. No big deal. I emailed Blichmann, and they'll be FedEx'd on Monday. I'm disappointed I couldn't put everything together today -- but that's fine. I'll finish it up next Saturday, re-cut my hoses and attach fittings, and be brewing (I'm guessing) by noon or so on Saturday.

Out of the Box

I spent about an hour and half this morning assembling the four legs and installing them onto the tier. I suspect one could do it in about an hour, but I had to run to Ace for the proper wrench. Tools required are minimal -- a good wrench set is pretty much all you need. You might want some saw horses or some kind of support for propping the main tier horizontally while you attach the legs. All the hardware comes in one of the two (or in my case, three) boxes. Instructions are exactly like all the other Blichmann instructions -- brief, direct, but effective.

Anyway, I attached the hardware to the legs, rested the main tier horizontally on two sets of cinder blocks, and was able to attach the legs with ease. It's key that the end of the steel tier itself rest on your concrete or sidewalk surface so that the tier holds most of the weight and the legs are there for support and stability. I thought I'd need a helper to get everything leveled, but it was very easy to do.

That's when I realized the brackets were missing, so I had to wait on the rest of the assembly -- but it looks like it will be very easy -- an hour or two tops. Then I'll configure everything.

In my current setup, I pump and recirculate from HLT to MLT, gravity feed from MLT to BK, and then pump BK through Therminator into fermenter. So my plan is to keep this essential workflow by mounting the HLT and BK parallel to each other at the bottom of the TopTier and then mount the MLT high. Not at the tippy top -- but attach to front face of the four-face tier, and then have the HLT attach low on the left side and the BK low to the right.

The main idea with the TopTier is to keep the center of gravity as low as possible -- so this configuration should work for me. Obviously, the Top Tier is great for an all-gravity brewer, too -- no pumps needed. I've got a step stool which I know now will get some use to monitor the mash, but it won't be as high as I feared. I'm 6', the main tier is 6' -- and even with the four legs (with adjustable levelers and wheels) -- the whole thing stands 6' exactly since the end of the tier needs to rest flat on the surface. So -- for me -- it's going to work out great.

Stuff I don't like:

- Not much, really. Just that while it can be moved, it's very, very heavy. It makes an awful, awful racket when tipped back and moving on its plastic wheels. (And I'm not using burners. I imagine the burners would add significant weight to the thing.) So while it's mobile, it's not necessarily portable. Not a bad thing -- but I can't really move thing out of my garage to at 5:30am in the morning to start a brewday due to the noise. (My driveway is old asphalt -- so maybe on smooth concrete it's a bit quieter.)

- It'd be nice to have sort of cover included. I may leave this thing out -- covered -- but put my kettles away. Not sure yet. But it'd be nice to have a cover (or an option for a cover) and simply leave it out like a grill. (Or maybe I'll just leave it out over a brew weekend -- put it away Sunday evening.)

Stuff I like:

- Built rock solid. Even though I'm not 100% finished, I've leveled the thing and can see that it's not going to move at all with the kettles and hardware hanging off the tiers.

- It's pretty quick to put together. Need a good wrench set, a couple of supports/saw horses, a level, a tape measure (to measure the placement of the legs once they're attached -- 1.5" up from the end of the tier in order to make sure the end of the tier stays on the ground), and you're good to go.

- The utility shelves look cool -- I ordered two -- and will work to hold my pump/heat control panel and my two Ranco units (1 for HLT heat, 1 for mash pump). I also ordered a couple pump brackets and a therminator bracket. Not sure if I'm going to mount my second pump and therminator -- but I'll figure it out once I get used to the workflow.

Conclusion

I like it -- and as soon as I get the missing pieces, I'll finish it out. It's a good purchase. Is it as cool as building your own? No -- but as I say, I'd rather spend my very limited time-off making beer!

It's going to work great for me!

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Old 05-02-2010, 11:56 PM   #2
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Here's some shots of my current setup (with cinderblocks and table) -- and then a shot of the Top Tier and legs (waiting on hardware to mount shelves on the Top Tier).

Not much to see with the Top Tier yet, but I'll post pics as I get my gear set up.

BTW -- the wheels aren't on the Top Tier in this photo. After I took the photo, I attached the wheels on two of the four legs. The wheels stick out parallel with the ground so it's easy to tip the structure and either push or pull it where you want to go.

photo1.jpg   photo2.jpg   photo3.jpg  
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Old 05-03-2010, 01:26 AM   #3
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Thats going to be sweet, wish i could afford those kettles. Built my own 3 tier out of scrap extruded aluminum from a junk table saw that had two sliding tables from work. Are those caters on that tree?

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Old 05-10-2010, 02:44 AM   #4
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Here's a couple of additional pictures of the Top Tier as I'm building it. Blichmann sent the missing brackets (FedEx'd them overnight), and I finally got a chance today to put everything together.

My build of the TopTier includes two utility shelves (in addition to the three main shelves for my electric kettles) and two pump brackets.

photo1.jpg   photo2.jpg   photo3.jpg  
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Old 05-10-2010, 02:56 AM   #5
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In the first photo, you see the arrangement of my eHERMS: HLT on top, MLT middle, BK low.

I put one utility shelf up high (beside the HLT) and one low (by the pumps) for my hopback and for the control panel for my pumps and heating elements. You can't see it very well, but the second and third photo includes the two mounted march pumps to the right.

Overall, the Top Tier is *very* substantial. It's big and rock steady. I'll need a step stool to fill the HLT, but I can see into the MLT and BK without a problem.

The shelves and utility shelves slide neatly into the slots and the march pump brackets come with mounting pieces to mount the pumps but also came with metal covers for the open grills in the back of the pumps -- a nice touch.

Overall, it took me about 1.5 hours to assemble the base and legs and then another 2.5 to 3 hours to assemble the shelves, pump brackets, and utility shelves. The trick was fitting everything together in an arrangement that made sense for my workflow and that kept one pump beneath the HLT and MLT and the second pump beneath the BK.

Moving the unit is easier than I thought. I wrapped the two sets of pump cords around the util shelves, removed the kettles, and tipped the whole structure back on its wheels. It moves very easily. It's big and heavy -- but it rolls fine. Just a bit noisy. As I said above, it's more "mobile" than "portable." It can be moved -- and it can be moved by one person -- but I'm thinking about getting some sort of cover to leave it out on the weekends (minus the kettles) just to make it easier to make Saturday and Sunday batches back to back.

Next weekend, I'm going to recut a couple of the hoses and figure out how to attach my Ranco controllers and control panel. Then I'll make sure the pumps work okay -- adjust things if necessary -- and give everything a test run and a good clean. The utility shelves can support up to 50 pounds. The main shelves can support up to 30 gallon kettles. I'm using 15 gallon kettles in the photos above.

I bought a Therminator bracket, too, but I realized it's probably best to simply leave it on the ground -- pump from the BK (or BK+hopback) into the chiller and fermenter.

Plus, I can gravity from the BK into the hopback if I set the Hopback on the lower util shelf and then pump out of the hopback into the Therminator.

What's nice is that the whole thing can be assembled by one person -- shelves, brackets, legs, the whole deal. It's a little tricky to slot the shelving into the tier slots, but it can be done fairly quickly. It took inserting and un-inserting the shelving several times to figure out the arrangement for everything -- probably 45 mins or so of fiddling to figure out what needs to be where based on my workflow.

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Old 05-10-2010, 11:17 AM   #6
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I saw one all set up at a home brew store and it is extremely solid. It is a great option for someone who does not want to or can not build their own sculpture. Best of luck with it. A set of levable locking casters would be a nice feature if you plan on moving it often and would probably be alot less noisey.

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Old 05-11-2010, 02:07 PM   #7
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Lookin' Good!

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Old 06-15-2010, 12:31 AM   #8
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Default great review

Hey, thanks for the review. I've been trying to decide which type of sculpture I will eventually buy, and that is pretty nice. I'm also in the "would rather brew than build" category. Of course, truth be known, it's really "small projects become huge projects and cost me more money than if I had just bought the darn thing..." category.

Anyway, great review. Let us know how your beer is turning out. I am still using a couple of 10 gallon Gotts to mash in. I might just get the stand, initially, and then move up to burners, etc, over time. Makes it more palatable to the wife, if you know what I mean.

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Old 08-18-2010, 05:40 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sawdustguy View Post
A set of levable locking casters would be a nice feature if you plan on moving it often and would probably be alot less noisey.
It has leveling feet on each leg. It's 1/2-13 thread, so its easy to adjust the level once you placed the stand where you brew. I bring the stand out the driveway in front of the garage, level with the feet, and brew away. This stand is pretty sweet. I've had mine for about a year now, and I have to say it's pretty awesome to have the adjust-ability of the burners. I have changed levels, and axial positions of each of the burners. I have to say, even for gravity feed, the best position for the burners is HLT upper right, MLT middle left, and BK front. It wouldn't matter if the HLT and MLT were switched (right side left side), but this is how mine is. Also, as far as elevation is concerned, keep the BK as low as possible, MLT just a few inches below the full volume level in the BK, and the HLT an inch above the highest wort level in the MLT. This makes it easier to fill the HLT w/out goofy filling pipe, and doughing in is done just above waist level. Also, when you finish sparging, the liquid level in the MLT is still several inches from the bottom of the pot, so the HLT doesn't have to be that high. Once I get really gutsy, I plan to keep the MLT and BK on the same level.
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Old 12-09-2010, 05:13 PM   #10
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Does anybody know what the channel size is on the TopTier? Width? Depth? I am trying to buy mounting brackets for a RIMS Tube but I do not yet have the stand as it will be 6 months before have somewhere to put it so don't know what size brackets to buy.

THX,

-J

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