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Old 08-07-2012, 04:37 PM   #1
adamjackson
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Default Is pricey equipment really just brewhouse efficiency and less hassle?

I'm looking at various electric brewing systems, auto-sparge, pumps, cool kettles and these fancy conical fermenators. There are so many cool (and very expensive) things for home brewers to buy. A person could easily spend 5 grand on this cool stuff.

The thing is, I see a lot of guys here that have this stuff and I'm wondering...are you happy with the setup or do you feel that you wasted a lot of money to brew the same batch sizes you already did with a propane burner + kettle?

The cool kettles and conicals are neat but are they really worth the 5x price you'd pay versus a kettle + carboy?

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Old 08-07-2012, 04:43 PM   #2
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I cant speak from experience- but you should from within your means which I sure dont know how to.

I am going to upgrade something until I am happy with everything overall. Now that I moved to biab- ag- quickly- I see the need to make a MLT or MLT/HLT - I also see the need for some pully system - if the grains get twice as heavy- ie: larger batches. Quite honestly, I need to be a millionaire- with nothing more to do in life than brew large batches of beer- and have fun with the kids.

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Old 08-07-2012, 04:47 PM   #3
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That's for each person to decide I think. It's a hobby, and people of all levels of economic resources get involved. I admire the 22 year old with little to no income who can brew a fantastic beer with little more then the stuff they have on hand, but I also understand the perspective of the hedge fund manager who drops 6Gs on a full on stainless blinged out all digital brewstand.

Go to any triathalon event and watch the fat guys unload their 7k all carbon fiber Shimano Dura Aced bikes off their cars and you'll realize that when it comes to hobbys, everybody's definition of "value" is different.

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Old 08-07-2012, 04:48 PM   #4
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I cant speak from experience- but you should from within your means which I sure dont know how to.

I am going to upgrade something until I am happy with everything overall. Now that I moved to biab- ag- quickly- I see the need to make a MLT or MLT/HLT - I also see the need for some pully system - if the grains get twice as heavy- ie: larger batches. Quite honestly, I need to be a millionaire- with nothing more to do in life than brew large batches of beer- and have fun with the kids.
Yeah, lots of disposable income is the key but then there's that whole balance of brewing beer versus doing other stuff as well and not letting it be the only thing you do...my issue.

-----

It seems the one thing that keeps me from pulling the trigger is that I like to make small batches. 5 gallons is all i want to make because if it's an IPA.... I can't go through 5 gallons that fast and like very fresh hop flavors. I like trying various recipes and new things and prefer to get rid of one batch quickly so I can brew a new one. 15 gallon recipes I just wouldn't know what to do with. You must have a ton of friends if you're brewing 15 gallons or larger.
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Old 08-07-2012, 04:53 PM   #5
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I don't think you'd get improved efficiency from upgrading equipment- you might, but I know lots of guys who mash in a bucket that get 85% so that isn't at all a factor.

I don't have a conical, mostly because I don't have a place to keep it that would be temperature controlled, but the price is also a huge factor. The buckets I use aren't very "bling worthy" but they work and I can move them were I need to for temperature control.

My all-electric system IS pretty high end, though. It's on a goofy bookshelf stand, but it's got two pumps and a nice control panel. For me, there were several reasons to go that direction. One is that our climate sucks for brewing 10 months out of the year, so I wanted to brew indoors. The other factor was that I'm a weakling and got tired of lifting/pouring/hauling all of my stuff. It was well worth the investment for me.

That said, the beer is NOT any better than when I had a cooler, a turkey fryer pot, and a canning pot and brewed on top of the stove.

Brewing is more convenient (and hence more enjoyable) when you have the equipment you want, but it doesn't improve the beer in the least. I've tasted terrible beer out of a Brutus 20, and great beer out of a Zapap system.

To make the best beer, many things come before fancy equipment:

- proper yeast health (including pitching rate)
- fermentation temperature control and pitching at a cool temperature
- good water
- sanitation
- good basic skills (not oxidizing the beer, recipe formulation, etc)

If those things are already nailed, then brewing with high end equipment makes brewing more convenient.

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Old 08-07-2012, 04:58 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Yooper
If those things are already nailed, then brewing with high end equipment makes brewing more convenient.
I'd add "more fun" and "easier to duplicate" as well. Hitting temps, step mashes, and repeatability from grind to fermentor all improved when I got more automated. Fun is really the big one though - I brew more now than I did before.
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Old 08-07-2012, 05:11 PM   #7
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For me I like to keep it (kinda ) simple. Id like to get into a single tier system someday with pumps and all the fancy buttons and gadgets that go with but, like mikemet said, I am that 22 year old that can make good beer with what I've got on hand and I really enjoy that! I have found myself spending all too much money on ingredients though haha .

One, maybe strange, part of the enjoyment for me is the physical labor I have to put in on brew day. After busting my butt its nice to sit down on Saturday afternoon to some good food and a few homebrews. Then pass out and sleep like a baby all night long

Edit:
PS: One of my favorite pieces of brewing equipment is my stack of (5) 6.5 gallon plastic buckets. My friends prefer the (1) 6.5 gallon glass carboy they have. I enjoy watching them sit and wait for the carboy to be empty while I can have 25 gallons of beer going at any time

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Old 08-07-2012, 05:22 PM   #8
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A certain amount of toys are for cost, quality, speed, ease, safety or a combination. A mill can cost 20 bucks and provide a quality grind, but a 100 to 300 dollar mill might be easier to use, have a better grind, or last longer. A stir plate or O2 system might be real nice for smaller beers, but if you are doing huge imperial stouts then they are almost required. I use a pre-chiller and a wort chiller because I have 85 degree tap water and after two major spinal surgeries there is no way I'm lifting 5.5 gallons of boiling wort to cool it. Some day I may have a pump and plate chiller for the same reason. I have a 32 quart turkey fryer and want a larger kettle to be able to do bigger all grain beers, so that toy will be to open up styles that I'm limited to currently. It is all in what you want to do, what you are willing to pay, and compromises you are willing to make. I never see the need to do 10 gallons on a huge brew structure, but I might someday, it all comes down to what you want to brew and how simple you want to make it.

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Old 08-07-2012, 05:22 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by a6ladd View Post
One, maybe strange, part of the enjoyment for me is the physical labor I have to put in on brew day. After busting my butt its nice to sit down on Saturday afternoon to some good food and a few homebrews. Then pass out and sleep like a baby all night long

Cheers to that!!! I have a nice RIMS system, only because I came across it cheap on Craigslist....Before that I was brewing on a Blichmann Burner, Keggel and mashing in a cooler. But as some one posted earlier....Now that it's more convenient to brew (just recirc the mash and set the temp) I brew like crazy.....both taps full, 20 more gallons in different stages of fermentation and planning the next batch....I do it because I love it....Hope some day to do this for real (pro) as do most of you i'm sure.
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Old 08-07-2012, 05:49 PM   #10
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This may be oversimplifying it, but I think that technique/knowledge goes a lot further than expensive equipment.

You can have the best equipment in the world and if you still don't know how to do it right, you just won't.

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