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Old 08-12-2012, 06:33 PM   #1
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Default The BIG upgrade

For the most part, I think I've got the search feature down, so I'm less likely to ask somthing that hasn't been covered in either the wiki or here in the beginners forum.

So here's my big question. I still think I'm a beginner by a long shot, but I am REALLY enjoying the process, kit, the brew, etc of homebrewing and expect it'll remain in the litany of hobbies I pursue till the big keg in the sky ferments me to the top (or equally likely I am syphoned down to the bottom of the trub. That said, I need some real thought on how to upgrade kit sensibly so as to avoid the upgrade by increments I've suffered in every other hobby, sport, musical instrument, HiFi system, etc I have experienced in my life (feel free to "like" if you still have your old component HiFi system...).

1. Should I just dig in and buy a conical for better light control, fermenting, CO2 infusion, yeast saving, etc? If so, where, how many, to start?
2. Should I anticipate needing a better, bigger brew pot?
3. Plate chillers? How many, what kind?
4. CO2, keg kit? Corny kit?

I realize a lot of this has to do with where I want to go, so I'll express it as best I can: I see myself in 5-years as a mid- to low-range brewer, producing on average 5-gallons a month and producing regular seasonals. I see myself wanting "clean" systems, i.e. minimal impact on the familys live/smell space, but will likely continue to have a man cave I can deck out with whatever I need w/o interference from bands of ravaging, marauding children, but not with a basement playground to set up a massive brewery.

My gear so far:
2X glass carboys
1X 5 gal bucket
1X 5 gal bottling bucket
1X copper wort chiller (bought on you alls good advice this weekend)
And all the other junk you all would expect (hand capper, scrubbers, syphon, etc).

I guess I'm looking for advice (as much or as little) on how can I get the right, mid range gear now so I don't end up littering the cave with a bunch of half-steps between here and my "final" set up (also realizing there will always be something cool I might want to upgrade too later).

My credit card can suffer about $1,500 to $2k

What MUST I have, and what SHOULD I have. Thanks in advance for all your advice (and any sarcasm is also appreciated

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Old 08-12-2012, 06:59 PM   #2
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If you're going to invest a chunk of cash in improving your brews, by far the best value is in equipment to control your fermentation temperatures. That will yield the best dollar to better beer ratio. Think kegerator, keezer, fermentation fridge with temp controller, etc.

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Old 08-12-2012, 07:04 PM   #3
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I'm a newb, and I have only made one batch, and I'm on my way outside to brew up my second. But I can say this. I think you will love kegging! make sure you get a chester freezer and temp control or similar too though. That will add to the cost of course. I bottled some beers from the keg which was easy enough, but what a hassle it was cleaning all those bottels filling and capping...

One things with getting a conical, how will you regulate fermentation temps with it? if you have a room you constantly run AC to that would work, or maybe a basement with a constant temp, but you said you don't have one. I leave my carboys in another chest freezer to regulate fermentation temps, but I have no way to do this with a conical so I doubt I will ever own one, unless I'm building a brewing room onto the house (In my dreams I would do this, but I doubt they will ever come true).

Things I might suggest investing in if need be from my research would be:
1) Something better to control your fermentation temps.
2) Pre-chiller for your wort chiller (basically just another copper coil). I built one in a few minutes yesterday, simply took the copper coil out of the packaging and stretched it out, then used a corny keg to re-size the coil...Done.
3) CO2 to make the process more enjoyable, but this could be significant cost:
chest freezer, dual regulator, manifold, Co2 tank, taps, temp controller, lines etc. It's relatively simple to setup, i'd go with kegging and maybe a Keezer build before a conical myself.

also please anyone correct this if I am mistaken but it's just my 2 cents from a newb.

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Old 08-12-2012, 07:06 PM   #4
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I'll give this a shot:

1. No on the conical.
2. Yes, decide now if you will go with a 5-6 gallon batch, a 10 gallon batch, or a 15.5. Personally think 5-6 is the way to go with what you said you like to brew and your style.
3. Possible, but if you are doing a 5 gallon batch, your wort chiller should be fine.
4. Definitely CO2 and keg setup for your mancave.

Must-Haves-

First things first. Fermentation control. Go buy a 7 cubic foot chest freezer from Lowe's or Home Depot. Choose whichever store has them the cheapest and wait for the sale, sometime within the next month, there will be one on sale there from one of the stores. These chest freezers will lock in your fermentation temps and improve your beers immensely. They will fit 2 6 gallon carboys at one time.

Wait for any of these to drop under $199

http://www.homedepot.com/Appliances-...&storeId=10051

This one is on sale for 189.99
Holiday 7 cu ft Chest Freezer (White) I can't link there Lowe's doesn't allow.

Also they sell the GE version.

You can also check Sam's, Costco, or any other store that sells these. Craigslist also possible, but you have to be lucky. Your price point is anywhere south of $200 with free shipping. If you buy instore at Lowe's, stop by a US Post Office branch on the way and ask for a change of address pack and take the 10% coupon to lowes with you.

2. Temp control for chest freezer. You can buy an expensive one, or make your own. This is the EBay URL for the DIY version: http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from...All-Categories

There is a thread here on the HBT that explains how to build a temp control, or you can buy one. Here is one that some people like.


3. CO2 setup. Try KegWorks for all-in-one setups You can piece together a setup for around $750 bucks.

What you'll need-

Another chest freezer! Somewhere around 14.4 cubic feet. Again, wait for sale and use 10% coupon or search CL.
Cornelius kegs (ball or pin lock)
A #5 or #10 CO2 tank (do an exchange at your LHBS or gas distributor)
CO2 lines and beer lines
CO2 regulator
Faucets, shanks, and handles

4. Mash Tun- Search around for a 10 gallon rubbermaid cooler mash tun thread on here and make yourself a mashtun, or buy one from your LHBS.

5. Yeast Starter Stir Plate- Make sure you get the best yeast starters possible. DIY stir plate or buy one. This will boost your yeast levels to levels needed to make great beer. Check out this one and there are others scattered around the internet.


That site has the stir plate, and you can add on a 2,000mL flask and the stir bar is included in the price. 45 bucks plus 20 for the flask.

I think that is about $1300 bucks or so. You can fill this out the rest of the budget with other cool stuff.

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Old 08-12-2012, 07:09 PM   #5
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Double Post

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Old 08-12-2012, 07:13 PM   #6
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costco has 7.1 cuft chest freezer for $169,
You can get a jhonson controlls digital temp controller off amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/Johnson-Contro...hnson+controll
I don't think the kegging stuff should be that expensive. Even with a fancy regulator.
http://stores.kegconnection.com/Detail.bok?no=216

Stirplate above is a great idea! ^^

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Old 08-12-2012, 07:16 PM   #7
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That 1300 was the total price for everything, including the 2 new chest freezers. That's a good deal on Costco, is it the Haier? The most expensive is going to be all the things going into the kegerator. Faucets, hoses, regulator, disconnects, etc.

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Old 08-12-2012, 07:45 PM   #8
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1500 to 2k?
I spend way too much on my hobbies. But I'd bet I've got less than $600 (and only use 60% of) in home brew equipment so far (one year, 70 gallons)
I say go cheap, go with minimum requirements, as you go along, you will figure out what you need to make you a happy brewer. Craigs list is where people go when they need equipment that some one else spent too much on, and were disappointed with the results of. Check Craig's list
No sarcasm here, sorry.

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Old 08-12-2012, 07:55 PM   #9
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My fermentation chamber which is built into my garage under my work bench cost me about 400 to build. My keezer which has 5 taps cost me close to 600 to build if I recall correctly. Best 1000 bucks I've ever spent. Fermentation chamber is a must if you want to make consistently good beer. Kegging is a must if you want to make lots of consisently good beer

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Old 08-12-2012, 10:31 PM   #10
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Wow $2000! I could build my system several times over for that. You sound like you brew about as much as I do, usually 1 or 2 5 gal batches per month. I use a 10 gal igloo cooler as a mash tun with a straight screen, cost about $40 to build since I got the cooler for $3 at a yard sale. I use a turkey fryer for heating strike water and boiling and an extra 5 gal stock pot for gathering runnings while I heat sparge water. Total of about $60 bucks there. I built a fermentation chamber around a cube mini fridge, total cost around $75 bucks and it holds 2 buckets or three carboys. I don't have a temp controller, I've had good success dialing in temp with the built in control. I bought 2 kegerators on Craigslist for $350 between the two of them. Those and my 6 kegs are by far my biggest expense Each can hold 3 cornies. One is my serving fridge, the other is my lagering chamber. I built a stir plate with computer parts I had lying around and spent $25 for a flask and a stir bar. You can dial I a pretty decent system that can brew consistently great beer for way under your listed budget and save all that green for ingredients for your first dozen or so batches.

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