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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Automated Brewing Forum > Tower of Power vs DIY: Looking for experienced opinions.
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Old 10-09-2013, 04:25 PM   #1
c3hutson
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Default Tower of Power vs DIY: Looking for experienced opinions.

So I have a dilemma. I've decided to make the jump from single infusion cooler mashing to step mashing with an automated direct-fire MLT with recirculation. I've been looking at brewtroller and BCS... and then there is Blingmann waving its shiny little hands at me.

The thing that I've come to realize about the DIY route is that there will be significantly more work involved sourcing parts for the gas solenoid and coming up with a pilot or electronic ignition system. I have some mild DIY skills, however this is time I'd rather spend brewing if it's the matter of 100-200 dollars extra for out of the box functionality.

Here's my list of pros/cons of DIY vs Tower of Power

ToP:
Pros:
-Minimal learning curve
-Pretty
-Blichmann quality/R&D
-Expandability (with regards to the tower stand/top tier)
-Included PC control

Cons:
-Minimal expandibility with regards to automation (Not a huge downside to me. I still want to be involved in the process... just don't want to babysit a MLT)
-$$$$
-Haters


DIY:
Pros:
-Much more expandable with regards to automation process
-Much more options for inputs (temp probes all up in that bitch)
-Less $$?? (Not really sure, haven't priced out all of the relays and parts aside from the actual controller)

Cons:
-I have to figure out a safe way to light the damn thing
-I have to put it together
-I have to spend a bunch of time fine tuning the heating process
-I have no idea if it is as accurate/precise as the ToP

Am I forgetting anything? Does anyone that has experience with DIY AND ToP have some words of wisdom?

Thanks!

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Old 10-09-2013, 06:31 PM   #2
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I have been DIY since the days where there wasn't much built for the homebrewer, never did buy a pre-built system outside of my first generic homebrew kit. I suppose the biggest thing is to ask yourself exactly what you want out of the system and then decide how much you are willing to pay and if that amount will get you what you want. As you really dig into that question, you may also start wondering if direct fire is best for you.

I initially put a lot of time thinking about building an automated gas fired system but even after I slowly started to collect parts on ebay (I have a solenoid gas valve for sale if you are interested) I started thinking I didn't want to deal with direct fire. I then put effort into looking at steam; however, while superior in many ways, I just did not want to mess with a pressure cooker (uh oh, I said it, NSA is now watching) like that. I suppose if you got a really small steam generator that would work though. I finally decided that electric was going to be the most efficient way to get what I want.

Finally, IMO, I think Blichmann is a little over rated, like Bose speakers...they have a respected name, make a respectable product, it is just overpriced for what you actually get. But, if you ultimately want a direct fire system with as little headache as possible, that extra cash may be a small consequence and the ToP very well could be the correct decision for you.

Hope my rambling thought helps...probably not so much on making a decision; but, perhaps to get you to think about different avenues.

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Old 10-09-2013, 06:42 PM   #3
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I appreciate the input. I was thinking about electric for a while, but I decided against it because I want faster step mash ramping times than these elements seem to offer. The pressure thing sounds interesting, but it seems like such a small niche that I have no interest at this time.

My priority is being able to do accurate and timely step mashes because of the types of beer I predominantly brew.

What type f solenoid are you selling??

Thanks,
Chad

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Old 10-09-2013, 07:25 PM   #4
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You might be surprised at what you can do with electric and step mashing. Many a commercial brewery have limitations to how fast they can make their steps as well, so what you can do with electric may very well be right in line with commercial step speeds. Or even a hybrid system, use electric for everything and then keep a burner under the MLT so when its time to step, you can manually kick that on to give things a boost. Meanwhile, the electric is keeping everything stable. Just a thought I had once upon a time as I too was concerned about step time lines before I realized electric would do it fast enough for me.

I have an Asco Red Hat. I never did anything with it so its hanging out in its shipping box in my brewery supply cabinet collecting dust. IIRC it is brass body and 3/8" but might be 1/2". If you get to the point that you are definitely going with a DIY gas build PM me and I'll dig it out and get you a model number.

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Old 10-09-2013, 08:10 PM   #5
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Thanks, I'll let you know. I've been having a hard time trying to figure out a pilot on high pressure propane so that's part of the reason why the blichmann started to look so attractive.

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Old 10-28-2013, 05:42 PM   #6
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I'm in the same exact boat as you c3huston. I want high pressure propane automation as I already have 120v solenoid valves that will run with high pressure, and all of my burners are set up for high pressure.

I have been digging through all of the automation threads and it seems most people using direct fire are going the low pressure 24V Honeywell valve, standing pilot, thermocouple route for safety. While this seems a viable option, I don't want to scrap the gear I already have to buy all new low pressure valves, pilots, thermocouples, 24v transformers etc to go this route as I will eventually be going all electric once I move in another year or so with a garage run for 220.

I strongly considered just buying the ToP but I also already have (2) Auber PIDs that would then be useless as well as the solenoids I already have. So basically I have most of the parts needed for a build similar to the ToP to get automation except for the ignition system. I'm really just in need for the parts Blichmann uses for theirs or something similar that would work (easily) for what I am trying to do with the parts I have. Does anyone know the source of Blichmanns ignition system for their ToP? I think that would get me where I'm trying to go and for less than half the price of the ToP, granted not as fancy...
I'm really surprised nobody has build a clone of this yet....ahem...

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Old 10-29-2013, 03:03 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mudflap
I'm in the same exact boat as you c3huston. I want high pressure propane automation as I already have 120v solenoid valves that will run with high pressure, and all of my burners are set up for high pressure. I have been digging through all of the automation threads and it seems most people using direct fire are going the low pressure 24V Honeywell valve, standing pilot, thermocouple route for safety. While this seems a viable option, I don't want to scrap the gear I already have to buy all new low pressure valves, pilots, thermocouples, 24v transformers etc to go this route as I will eventually be going all electric once I move in another year or so with a garage run for 220. I strongly considered just buying the ToP but I also already have (2) Auber PIDs that would then be useless as well as the solenoids I already have. So basically I have most of the parts needed for a build similar to the ToP to get automation except for the ignition system. I'm really just in need for the parts Blichmann uses for theirs or something similar that would work (easily) for what I am trying to do with the parts I have. Does anyone know the source of Blichmanns ignition system for their ToP? I think that would get me where I'm trying to go and for less than half the price of the ToP, granted not as fancy... I'm really surprised nobody has build a clone of this yet....ahem...
I actually ended up buying a TOP module. Works amazingly well.
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Old 10-29-2013, 09:19 PM   #8
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Oh sweet! Congrats! I know its a nice piece of gear. I would buy it too but I'm already in pretty deep with the parts I have so I guess I must build on...
But since you have the controller, any clue for us lowly hacks as to what the ignition system uses? Maybe a part or model#? Or even a good couple of pics?

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Old 10-30-2013, 01:56 AM   #9
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My problem with gas is that when it is windy outside you use a ton more gas. After switching to electric I can brew outside in the dead of winter no problem.

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Old 10-30-2013, 03:36 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyirishman34
My problem with gas is that when it is windy outside you use a ton more gas. After switching to electric I can brew outside in the dead of winter no problem.
That's why I'm moving it to the basement

The igniter components are all internal other than the ground clamp and electrode.
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