About Time To Document This (Strut/Penrose/BCS-460/HERMS System)
So I've been dreaming of my own Electric setup since stumbling upon Kal's site a couple years back. Not sure why, but I'm not a huge fan of brewing with gas, it works fine, I just don't like it that much. Anyway, the budget and timing has never been quite right, so it's been pushed to the wayside a few times.
Back in October my dad was diagnosed with cancer (don't worry, he's done with treatment and doing good) which led my wife and I to decide it was time to move closer to family. This transition was further expedited when we found out she was pregnant with our 2nd child. By no means bad news, just a bit earlier than originally planned :). So back in April we packed up everything in Colorado and moved into the new place in Meridian, ID.
When we were house hunting we were down to two places, one that she liked a bit more (newer, nicer, cheaper, plenty of room for the family but a smaller garage and no obvious place inside to brew) and one that I liked more (huge, plenty of room inside, etc.). I don't have to tell you which we chose, but with this decision made and a 3 week motorcycle adventure to Alaska indefinitely postponed with the impending arrival of a new little one, she felt that I deserved a little something for me. So she finally ok'd the the brewery and I started building a huge budget spreadsheet and ordering parts.
The stand was always the big question mark in my mind, obviously Kal's is meant to brew inside but I've never had the room so I needed to figure out something more portable. With the help of the weldless strut thread on here and a long forgotten pad of engineering paper I found in my office, I got to work figuring out what I wanted. After a few iterations I came up with a 6' long over-engineered behemoth that required all but 8" of 6 10' strut lengths and ~110 lbs of hardware. No pics of the designing, but here are some building pics:
Gobs of hardware from Strutchannelfittings.com (highly recommended):
All chopped and cleaned up:
After the first night of building:
With the vertical supports in my packed garage:
Really taking shape:
Legs on (that's a 150 lb Great Dane in the back for reference, he's 3' tall at the shoulders):
And casters on:
That's a 17.5 gallon Penrose kettle up there, so like I said, the stand is a monster. I'm worried it's too tall but luckily with the strut, lowering is easy peasy. I can lose about 7" by simply pulling the legs, which I may do after I've actually brewed on it. The arm off the right will house the control panel eventually and I'm still working on if I want to have a shelf or something for the computer/monitor I'm planning on using to control everything. Right now I'm leaning towards keeping it a bit further away as it's not waterproof.
I had a rough idea of cost coming into this but I'm sure others are curious, so here's the breakdown of parts and costs on the stand:
I should also note I'm a cheapskate and will do what I can to save a few pennies. For the Lowes purchases I used a combination of discounted gift cards (cardpool, plastic jungle, etc.) and coupons sourced from various deal sites. The Strut Channel Fittings purchase used a coupon as well (code noted in the picture if you look carefully :) ) so the prices with the 10% off are what I paid.
Some notes on the hardware, you can almost never use all of the bracket holes due to the design of the strut, only two sides are usable as is (without drilling holes in the solid sides). That said I overestimated a bit on the hardware, but not enough that I would have been able to save much, if any, by buying the extra pieces additionally. Plus it's always nice to have extra lying around in case I want to bolt other stuff on.
More to come.
Since I started planning this years ago, I had planned on Penrose kettles. I got one when I went all grain and I love it, not the prettiest thing, but functional, big, and priced right. Late last year I noticed this on Brewhemoth's site:
Worried I was SOL on 3 Penroses I gave them a ring. Luckily they had a couple left so I ordered them up and I have the matching set. Since upgrading to a plate chiller a year or so back I'd been using a hop spider which worked, but was never ideal. After stumbling upon some of the new stainless solutions here, I picked up this guy:
I've used it on 2 batches thus far and I'm not sure the utilization is quite up to snuff, so I may upgrade to the 6" diameter one. Either way, great upgrade from the ghetto spider.
One of the "features" of the Penrose kettles is a little piece to piece variation on sizing. Not really an issue unless you want to make one into an MLT. Obviously I do :). Luckily Jaybird makes some good stuff and will do custom work for very reasonable prices. The false bottom I got from him:
Fits a lot better than it appears to, there is a very small gap that I may or may not try to alleviate with some split tubing, but the stand will also help filter out any grain that sneaks around the side. No dip tube, just a street elbow to make sure as much wort as possible gets out. Side note, the false bottom arrived in record time, awesome shipping :).
The other major kettle change is the HERMS coil in the HLT. I timed it well as Stainless was having a special on their 1/2" coils so I ordered up 50'. Not installed yet, but pretty:
I've got a pile of stainless fittings, sight glasses, heating elements, etc. to install still, I'll document those as they come.
This is so Sweeeeettt!!! I'm planning the same thing so I'm going to be paying close attention to this thread! Thanks for sharing!
The original plan was to do PID controlled a'la Kal, but upon discovering the Brewtroller and the BCS I started to reconsider. I have a couple perfectly good netbooks and a 22" LED TV with a dead tuner so the BCS-460 was in the lead. After finding the awesome DIY stuff over at eBrewSupply I decided BCS was the way to go, I admire the set of awesome built in process controls the Brewtroller has but the BCS seems better suited to my skill set.
I bought the 30A 2 Element Kit from Ryan (awesome guy to deal with BTW) with most of the available upgrades as well as some pieces for the elements and the temp sensors. The kit arrived last week, but not before this did:
She's cute but she's pretty much annihilated my momentum :). That said I've still made progress. Got some layout stuff done with the help of the pup:
Pilot holes drilled:
Managed to get the holes drilled in between 108 degree afternoons. Pro-tip, if you use a cordless drill with a step bit you will inevitably overheat it, so just start with a corded drill and be done with it:
Oh wait, I need some more stuff in here, don't I:
Next steps are to mount up the heat sink, handles, and the inlets on the bottom. We'll see when I find the time/energy to get that done...
Quick aside here to recognize/discuss the vendors I bought from. There are a total of 11 places I purchased from. Of those 11, I had issues or missing parts from 4 of them, just bad luck I suppose. 3 are vendors here and made it right with no fuss, I won't mention specifically who they are.
The one I will mention was Amazon Warehouse Deals, I ordered my big power cord from them and despite ordering a 4-wire, they sent a 3 :confused:. They were also quick to fix it, but being such a huge company I have no idea how that squeaked by.
It was interesting comparison shopping between the different vendors, there were surprisingly large swings in prices on some of the smaller stuff (valves, fittings, couplings, etc.) and again, being a cheap guy, I picked and chose to get the best deal. It may have been a bit less stressful getting most/all of it from one place, but why not spread the love around a bit :).
Anyway, kudos to the following:
Jason at Adventures in Homebrewing
Bobby at Brew Hardware
handtrucksandcasters on eBay
Ryan at eBrewSupply
Jay at NorCal Brewing Solutions
The nice ladies at my Lowes service desk
Zach at Stainless Brewing
Strut Channel Fittings
Crazy Chuck on Craigslist with the compound miter saw :)
Very nice start. I keep going back and forth on electric brewing and continue to stay with propane. I love automation and those electric panels are cool with all the flashing NASA looking lights. I'm about to get rid of a solid cedar hot tub on our deck. That means I have access to the power and I could easily re-route that to my garage, but I'm cool with propane. Now, on the subjet of the baby: when our second was born in 1996, I stopped brewing about a year later. It took too much time and it was just too dangerous with a 4-yr old and 1-yr old wanting to help. I started back in 2009.
Looking great from your post it makes me mad that I didn't call and talk to brewhemoth about a Penrose, I have always liked the way they look and the price is nice too. Oh well I will stick with my keggles.
Looking great BTW,
Side note, I'm a Mechanical Engineer by trade so I like tinkering and I have to say that the strut stand build has been the most entertaining part thus far. It's like a big kid erector set, the spring nuts will destroy your thumbs but it's worth it to see the final product and then completely rebuild it if you see fit.
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