Folks, it's time for me to climb on the Electric horse. I hate brewing outdoors using propane in a state that Has Real Seasons and with no garage to seek shelter in.
I'm going to need a bit of help as we go, for I have a deep fear of electrics, and will be battling some demons while I try to build this rig.
My current skill level? Well, I did build a 120mm fan based Stir Plate and it still works four years later, but it's far from perfect, and trying to wire it together was a test of my patience. I did also manage to wire up a light switch to a dryer motor to create my milling station ( http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/motorizing-maltmill-guidance-needed-79853/index2.html#post3694871
) which after 16 batches is still running great and has not caught fire or anything yet!
I do not have suitable electric outlets in what will eventually be my brew room. I have already talked to a local electrician/homebrewer about what it will take to upgrade my house's electric service (currently 100A, glass screw-in fuses) for at least 150A with breakers, if not 200A, and then additionally to run a new line into the brew room and set up a spa panel with GFCI. However, I am planning to wait on upgrading the electric until I have actually bought & built most of the gear (I don't want to spend a couple grand on electric service upgrade only to give up on the project!!).
So... let's talk about function. What do I want to control, and for what purpose?
1. I have a stand-alone pre-built Electric HLT from Brewmation which runs on 220V/30A. It has 2x 3000W elements, and holds 18 gallons, it has a temp probe and a liquid level safety switch, and is controlled by a Love controller. I have never used it, it is still new in box. I will need to decide if I want to have two outlets on my Spa Panel - one for the HLT and one for the Control Panel - or whether I want to plug the HLT *into* the Control Panel.
2. I plan to re-use my current Mash Tun, which is a 60qt, I think, rectangle Cooler with a stainless braid. I do not plan to add any electric components to the MLT - If I do any sort of temperature stepping, it will likely be by using a HEX coil and pumping wort through it. This is not a hard-set requirement, but I think I would eventually like to be able to step mash or mash out.
3. I plan to use a 60qt Aluminum Stockpot as my BK. I just picked up a spare. My "old" one is a Sam's Club/Thunder Group aluminum 60qt with straight edges and reasonably thin walls. I like how lightweight it is, and think I will probably keep using the "old" thin one as my Propane kettle.
My "new" kettle which is actually second-hand from a restaurant, is a Wear-Ever 60qt NSF-listed
with rolled top edges and much thicker walls. I like the idea of this being my electric vessel since it's already well battle-tested and I won't be lifting it during use.
4. I have one March pump right now. In a very long-term sense I would like to get a second pump, for convenience & ability to pump ice water & wort through CFC at the same time. This is not a priority - I would see adding that upgrade after having paid off most of the electric brewery purchases that I'll need to make during this project. But I need to buy the right busses, etc. to allow adding wiring at a later date, and layout the panel with a blank spot for later upgrade.
So, in terms of individual sub-projects that I need to devise a plan for, I need to.....
A. Buy components, cut holes in the kettle, mount, and test the:
i. BK Liquid out ball valve. This, I can do on my own. I promise.
ii. BK Electric element. What type, how many watts?
iii. BK Sight glass, IF desired.
iv. BK temp probe, IF desired. I plan to chill via CFC recirculating back into the kettle. I would like to add a temp probe so that I can monitor how far down my temps have come directly on the control panel (without using a $15 Wal-Mart temp probe or similar). It would not need to be a controlling temp sensor, just a read-only. I am not sure if that makes any difference in what electronic component to order, or whether it brings the price down at all.
In theory, after completing Step A, and getting the necessary electric service run into my brew room as well as spa panel/GFCI mounted in place, I could
feasibly brew beer by simply plugging the HLT and/or BK into the Spa Panel, bypassing any sort of control or monitoring. Right?
B. Make final decisions on what the Control Panel "will DO" or will have mounted on it -- and then begin buying components.
i. Main Power On switch + Main Power On indicator light.
ii. Boil Kettle On switch? Do I want a power % knob or controller?
iii. Do I want to build in a timer, even if the timer doesn't control anything? Incorporate an Alarm into the timer? No? Hm.....
iv. Pump 1 On/Off switch.
v. (space for later addition of Pump 2 On/Off switch)
vi. Temperature display for BK Temp Probe - no control, just a monitor
vii. Volts and/or Amps real time display? Just for monitoring system.
viii. Include a Power On/Off for the HLT and run both HLT+BK through Control Panel? OR, exclude HLT and simply remember (on my own) not to power on the HLT and the BK simultaneously?
ix. Do I want an eStop switch? or just use the Master Power on/off switch for this?
C. Physical accomodations...
get the service upgraded, new panel installed, new spa sub-panel installed, open up the ceiling in the brew room to look at how I can mount an exhaust duct without having to go through concrete block foundation. Put up some FRP panels in the brew corner, remove the carpet, put down some concrete sealer or something. Design & mount the exhaust system. Build a brew table for the equipment to sit on. Find a location for the Control Panel and mount it. Basically, everything that makes it a real functioning brew room and not just equipment storage.
So. Uhm. That's a lot of info. I should balance it out with some pictures, shouldn't I?