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Old 05-13-2010, 08:25 PM   #1
jfkriege
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Default Modular Electric Brewery

Desires for this project:
1. Batch sizes from 2.5-10 gallons
2. Small footprint
3. Able to brew indoors all year round
4. Simple
5. Transition to all grain brewing
6. Majority stainless steel parts
7. Under $1000

After researching on these forums for about 9 months, and continuing to develop my brewing with extract brewing, the phase 1 portion of the build is complete.

To meet desire 1, I decided that I was going to have two systems running off of a common control box. In order to minimize the footprint of the system I went with a modified version of a brutus 20e setup. The electric system allows me to keep things simple and brew indoors.

I have broken the build into two phases. The first phase is to make an operational 2.5 gallon system. Once the kinks are worked out, I will move into phase 2 and build out a second two tanks (15.5 gallon keggles) which will share the control box and expand my options to 5 and 10 gallon batches.

Phase 1 started with deciding what kind of tanks I wanted. I knew I wanted stainless steel, but things were a little too expensive for the build to buy new pots. In the end, I made the kettle and the MLT out of Cornelius kegs that were going to the scrap yard. I cut the top off and removed the rubber bottom (a huge pain in the ass) to make my tanks. Fittings are all stainless steel and are inserted using a variant of GreenMonti’s keg tool. Once the fittings were in place I used some StayBrite #8 to solder them in place. It worked beautifully. On the boil kettle, I also used the StayBrite solder to attach the two 1“ NPS nuts to the kettle. The keg tanks are small enough that using them like everyone else does was not going to give me a good seal. The drain for the BK is off to one side to allow for draining after a whirlpool. It is a full coupler to allow me to screw in different height tubes and vary the amount of things I leave behind.

Tank 1 after taking off the top and bottom


Keg tool on its first run


The drain port for the BK and the 1/4" NPT RTD port


The two 1500W elements (two were used because neither could be over 7.5" long).


Inside of the BK


Potted elements and the grounding posts. The two pumps are in the background.


Electric box: PID and two pump switches up top. Two 120V elements on the left, two pumps next to them, and a 240V outlet for phase 2. The cord coming in and the GFCI circuit it attaches to are rated for 240V 50A.


Control box internal layout before the wire nest went in


The MLT was constructed in the same way with a center drain as the only fitting. JayBird made a custom false bottom for the system and it is a perfect fit and excellent work.

A brew day goes as follows:
1. Setup the brewery. This takes about 5 to 7 minutes from totally torn apart to ready to fill.
2. Put all of the water into the BK and heat to mash in temperatures. With 3 kW this takes about 20 minutes. The PID controller works like a charm after tuning. I usually measure out things at this point.
3. Recirculate the MLT back onto itself until clear. I typically do this for about 3 minutes and it runs beautifully clear.
4. Cross recirculate keeping 1 gallon in the boil kettle, using the BK as a sort of RIMS system. The last iodine test I did had this at about 40 minutes for an American Amber. Since it is cross recirculating, I don’t really worry about much.
5. When conversion is complete, pump everything into the BK. I then unhook the hose on the bottom of the MLT and let it continue draining into a mason jar under the system to collect everything. The amber that just got done had a grain absorption of .04 qts/lb.
6. Boil as normal. I switch into manual and it works like a charm.
7. Cool the wort using a mixture of hose water and then ice in the MLT while whirlpooling. I start out with hose water and then switch to pumping ice water around the IC from the MLT and back in the top.
8. Whirlpool. I pull out the IC and whirlpool for just a minute and then cap it and leave it for 30 minutes. Last time I did this I got some break material, but left a whole lot of it behind.
9. Pump into the fermenter . Pretty easy.

This is during the first full wet test of the system and tuning of the PID


The American Amber that I did as my first all grain batch and my first batch on the new system was a 4 hour brew day after clean up. It was a nice easy day and nothing went terribly wrong. My one comment is that it will take some tuning of my skills to get a really constant volume in the boil kettle given that I am balancing two pumps. This was much easier on the second batch. I also determined that I am running about a 5F differential between what I set the boil kettle at and what the grain bed is. Mash out is achieved from 154 in about 10 minutes. I also now measure volume using marking on the tank and an excel spreadsheet that takes the marking and the temperature and gives me the volume. the silicone hoses are used as the sight gage. If I hold one up, the water inside the tube equalizes with the internal level; it works well and fast without an additional port or tube.

I don’t have the spreadsheet in front of me right now, but total system cost for phase 1 came in between $800 and $900 including the pound of StayBrite 8 and the tools I didnt have, which for the electric system is not too bad in my opinion.

The overall footprint of the system without the control box is 20"x14" and it is 3' tall. It is light enough that I can easily pick up the entire assembled rig and move it around.

I will be able to complete phase 2 for $150. I just need to go and find $150 now. Phase 2 will work exactly the same way but be made out of two 15.5 gallon keggles. It will probably happen this fall after I renovate the garage to become my brewery. When the garage is done, I will also probably redo the stand to something that looks a little nicer and brings the system up a little higher. The two tank sets will be setup next to each other and the pumps and control box placed in the middle to be shared. For now, though, it works well and is fun to use.

Just thought I would share…

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Old 05-13-2010, 08:25 PM   #2
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And finally the second installment:

The first thing to report is that the old system is doing well. It has brewed a few more batches and some things are being ironed out. The only major issue that I ran into was balancing the pumps between the two tanks during recirculation. At some point during the recirc, something cause a decrease of flow into the boil kettle. Within a few seconds, the water level dropped below the top element and it ended up burning out. Not cool. After a lot of thinking, the way I decided to change the system, was to make it a 2-tier system. The upper tank (BK) now drains into the lower tank (MLT) through a side port located about 1" above the top element. This means that the BK water level cannot drop below the elements, and that I only have one pump to work with through recirculation. It is a step towards a more fail safe system and eliminates the hassle of balancing pumps in the lower end of their usable range.

I have also changed out the hose barbs, but more on that later...

On to the second phase of the build. The second phase of this build is to flesh out the following build desires for this project:
1. Batch sizes from 2.5-10 gallons
3. Able to brew indoors all year round
4. Simple

The addition to the system is made of sanke kegs. They have been prepared by cutting the top off, and then drilling, pulling, and soldering fittings in place. It is essentially identical to the last system in the setup and fittings since it has been altered.

Here the systems can be seen next to eachother without any pumps or plumbing.


This is the arm that takes beer from above the BK elements and delivers it to the MLT. During recirc, the valve just gets opened to full.


This is the MLT with a false bottom from Jaybird. It works great. The copper is the IC, and is just hanging there to dry.


This is the BK. There are two elements. It is setup for two elements. In the photo it is setup for 5 gallon batches and only the large element is hooked up. You can see the drain port to the right and the temp probe at the bottom.


Here is an overall setup shot. you can see it plumbed and pumped. The pumps will be mounted a little better when I decide on final placement. The Immersion Chiller is hanging there to dry. You can also see that they are in the new garage. I love brewing with AC. Winter will be even better.


The next two photos of the setup are the whirlpool arm for spinning the wort at the end. I will probably change out the 45 degree ends for 90s in order to get a better whirlpool.



One other change for the big system was redoing the hose barbs. I machined a few pipe nipples down and replaced all of the hose barbs on the systems and the pumps. It makes a HUGE difference in flow rate.


And here you can see the difference in cross sectional area of the ID between the machined nipple and a proper hose barb. The hoses fit on both just fine.


And finally one last photos of the partially setup fermentation area.


And finally, a walk through the brew process.

A brew day goes as follows:
1. Setup the brewery.
2. Put all of the water into the BK and heat to mash in temperatures. With one element for 5 gallons and two for 10 kW this takes about 20 minutes. The PID controller works like a charm after tuning. I usually measure out things at this point and crush the grain.
3. Open up the side valve on the kettle, place in the grain, and mash in.
4. Recirculate the MLT back onto itself until clear. I typically do this for about 3 minutes and it runs beautifully clear.
5. Cross recirculate. This involves setting the rate for the pump moving things from the MLT to the BK, and then opening the side valve on the BK wide open. I can walk away, and even if the pump gets clogged, nothing bad happens.
6. When mashing is completed, I move to a quick mash out and then pump everything into the BK.
7. Boil as normal. I switch into manual at 60% for one element and 30% for two and get a perfect 1 gallon per hour.
8. Cool the wort using a mixture of hose water and then ice in the MLT while whirlpooling. I start out with hose water and then switch to pumping ice water around the IC from the MLT and back in the top.
8. Whirlpool. I pull out the IC and whirlpool for just a minute and then cap it and leave it for 30 minutes. Last time I did this I got some break material, but left a whole lot of it behind.
9. Pump into the fermenter.

The Scottish 60/- that is now fermenting took me 4 hours and 30 minutes from turning on the water to walking away after clean up. I am pretty sure that I can get that easily below 4 hours for a 60 minute boil, single infusion beer. There is no lifting of water, I can step away at any point if I have to, and it is a pleasure to use. I caught up on email and prepared my fermenter while it worked away on its own.

The next step is to redo the control box. It is a little ugly inside that box and I am going to make it easier to work on in the future as I try out new things and increase the levels of automation with a BrewTroller.

I hope this is helpful to someone. Just let me know if you have any questions.

Joshua

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Old 05-13-2010, 08:26 PM   #3
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Old 05-13-2010, 08:27 PM   #4
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Old 05-13-2010, 08:43 PM   #5
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How are you going to get 10G batches out of 2 5G kegs?

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Old 05-13-2010, 08:46 PM   #6
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I am not going to.

The second phase of the build is to make two new tanks out of 15.5 gallon keggles. The same control box and the two pumps will be used for both sets of tanks. I put an edit above to clarify.

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Old 05-13-2010, 08:48 PM   #7
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gotchya
Cool setup you got going.

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Old 05-13-2010, 09:02 PM   #8
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looks great. i have been piecing together parts for a 15g e-keggle system, but i have been doing a lot of small brews (2.5 gal) because i'm in a small apartment. great idea to use cornies.

what did you use to cut the tops?
are those LG 3-md-hc pumps?

lets see the wire nest! haha

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Old 05-13-2010, 09:13 PM   #9
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Thanks.

I was actually surprised when I thought of it that more people had not used the cornies. The bottoms were hard to get off. In fact, that was the worst part of the whole build. I used an angle grinder and a thin cutting disk to take off the top.

Those are the LG pumps. I got a nice deal on them about 5 days before the prices on ebay started to drift up.

I dont actually have a photo of the wire nest because it is pathetic and embarrassing. I am actually going to redo the control box eventually. I want a pair of 240V outlets at some point so I can put 9000W into the large BK. I figure why not for another $40.

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Old 05-14-2010, 04:15 AM   #10
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I was just going to ask if you wouldn't mind posting a pick of the wiring. I'm planning my build, very similar to this, with full kegs, and would like to see how you pulled the wiring.

Very cool build. Since I am doing your phase 2 first, I just might do this in reverse and create a perfect small batch system for variety in the fridge. Great ideas.

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