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Old 04-21-2011, 01:25 AM   #1
HokieHomeBrew
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Default Buying a Brewery vs. Building

I am trying to upgrade. My set up is very primitive right now...brewing 5 gallon batches using a cooler as a MLT....have no brewing stand..etc. I was looking at upgrading substantially. I want something that will last. I don't want to spend $2000 and then have to upgrade later on....so my question is this. Should I just but something like a Sabco Brew Magic ($6000) or should I try to build my own brew stand. Also, why do all the home built brew stands use kegs as kettles...are they better than say a Blichmann Boilermaker?? Or are people just using them because they are cheaper...if money isn't an issue would it be better to buy BoilerMakers?

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Old 04-21-2011, 01:49 AM   #2
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Hi HHB-
I was in a similar situation myself about 18 months ago. The difference for me is the commercially produced stands were out of my price range. I ended up building a two-tier semi-automated HERMS system. It's probably not perfect for everyone, but by building my own I was able to build it to suit me exacty. I've made several upgrades to it since I built it, something maybe not possible on a "turnkey" system. All told I have spent about $1700 on it (including tools- have never welded before so I had some up-front costs others may not have). I'm trying to build a site to show it and the process off- I'll post a link if/when I finish.
I converted kegs too- $40 is < $400 for the pretty commercial stuff, but with some elbow grease they don't look bad at all and work great!

I say go for it- there are lots of resources on the net, and hopefully soon there will be another!

PM me if you want specifics, don't want to clog the forum with just another build thread.

Good luck!

Dave

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Old 04-21-2011, 01:57 AM   #3
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For me building my own system made more sense. I spent a lot of time shopping for parts and got some good deals. I have no doubt that if I want to upgrade I can sell my current equipment for what I have invested (not counting my time). While building this I just kept doing 5 gallon batches in my turkey fryer with cooler MLT. I used kegs because they were cheaper. If money wasn't an issue I would have gone with the boilermaker.

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Old 04-21-2011, 02:17 AM   #4
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Yeah I am leaning towards building my own instead...I am just so impressed with the computer monitoring software that the Sabco has..it is so cool!!! But for $6000 it's hard to justify I suppose. My girlfriends step dad is a welder so I should be able to cut some costs off right there...what are the other major cost factors besides the stand itself??? Kettles,burners,pumps,heat exchangers, what else?

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Old 04-21-2011, 05:51 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HokieHomeBrew View Post
...what are the other major cost factors besides the stand itself??? Kettles,burners,pumps,heat exchangers, what else?
I dont think im alone on this one, but i spent the last year figuring that out for my setup. The first step is figuring out the space your going to brew in to determine what kind of stand you will need. Pumps can be 100-150 dollars, so if you want to cut costs and simplify you can do a multi-tier stand. I personally have a single tier electric herms and i wouldnt go back.

I think the CFC i am using now cost me less than 50 bucks to assemble, does the job nicely.

I used to use a propane camp burner($70), it was definitely the easier/cheaper route, cost more to operate though and your mostly stuck outside. I absolutely love my E-Keggles, wouldnt have it any other way. I think going electric cost me 350-400 dollars, hard to nail it down with all the little electrical things you need.

You will need some sort of tubing, silicon(e?) is by far the best option for home brewing, its not bad at around $2/foot.

A word on keg verse blichman or whatever, its all about availability. Kegs were a no brainer for me, i worked at a brewery and they said i could snag some dead ones. Having never used a home brew purposed kettle i cant say this with 100% certainty but i cant imagine they have any huge advantages over kegs, other than looks and being ready made.

Cant think of anything else right now
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Old 04-21-2011, 03:48 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HokieHomeBrew View Post
Also, why do all the home built brew stands use kegs as kettles...are they better than say a Blichmann Boilermaker?? Or are people just using them because they are cheaper...if money isn't an issue would it be better to buy BoilerMakers?
Kegs make great brewing vessels, and can be had much cheaper than purpose built pots, but do require some diy skill and labor to be converted. Several of the nice pre-built systems use keggles. I do sometimes wish that my keggle MLT had a little more capacity (I do a lot of high grav brews), but IMO kegs are just about the perfect size and shape for the HLT and BK.

Quote:
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.....what are the other major cost factors besides the stand itself??? Kettles,burners,pumps,heat exchangers, what else?
The stand was one of the cheapest parts of my build; $12 for some metal frames from the junkyard, a free bedframe, and ~$8 in welding supplies. I think for most of us it's all the hardware and little stuff that adds up to be one of the biggest costs. Transfer tubing, disconnects, plumbing parts, etc may be cheap individually, but add up much faster than you think, even if you stay away from the SS bling.

If you want something that you can be brewing on almost immediately without any time and labor, there are many great options out there. If you enjoy tinkering/DIY stuff and don't mind all of the time and labor it will take, you can save some money and learn a lot by building your own system that's every bit as good as the pre-built options. The building was half the fun for me, so even if I'd had the money for a Sabco or similar I wouldn't have gone that route. I built my HERMS on a shoestring budget by being patient and scouring craigslist and junkyards for things I could use, but it did take me 18 months and a lot of work.
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Old 04-21-2011, 04:16 PM   #7
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One of and probably the only advantage to using kettles of a converted keg is that cleaning is a lot easier. Kegs have a lot of ridges and grooves etc whereas kettles are just a nice flat surface. So when it comes to getting right in there and scrubbing, the kettles make it slightly easier.

As far as costs go all I can say is that it does add up pretty quickly. For instance, I needed some stainless quick disconnects for my system and before I knew it the other day I had spend $150 in fittings! I'm right in the middle of building my system so I apologize for talking so much $ in this post, but I figure it might help you understand some of the costs involved:

2 Stainless Commercial Quality Kettles with included false bottom, ball valves etc - $400
Sparge Arm - $40
Mag 12 Pump - Free because I just had it, but you can easily find them used for $75
Stainless Quick Disconnect Fittings - $150
Electric Bucket Heater - $30
Love Controller + Add'l Gear for my Control - $100
Wort Chiller with Whirlpool arm - $50 (used)

So all in all so far I have spent about $850 and I still need a stand which is a considerable cost. You can do it for a tiny bit cheaper if you get all used stuff and use kegs etc, but you can also spend a lot more.

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Old 04-21-2011, 04:31 PM   #8
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Yeah. After reading all of these I am definitely leaning more towards building my own system. I just need to do A LOT of research. Just discovered electric brewing last night and that looks crazy awesome. Not sure how it compares in performance to regular propane burner brewing. Thanks for all the replies.

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Old 04-21-2011, 05:38 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by HokieHomeBrew View Post
Yeah. After reading all of these I am definitely leaning more towards building my own system. I just need to do A LOT of research. Just discovered electric brewing last night and that looks crazy awesome. Not sure how it compares in performance to regular propane burner brewing. Thanks for all the replies.
Since my guess is that your next question will be gas vs. electric, here are my $0.02 on the issue.

Gas: cheaper to build, more expensive to operate, slightly more difficult to automate, great for mobility (group brews, moving to new house, etc.)

Electric: higher up-front build cost, cheaper to operate, slightly easier to automate, better suited for indoor brewing (no carbon monoxide issues), not very portable (requires a large electrical circuit)
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Old 04-21-2011, 06:44 PM   #10
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Go Hokies!

I will be in Blacksburg for the Spring game this weekend and I also just posted something you might be interested in in the classified:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f16/3-sh...eggles-241135/

Good luck with the build- come by the bottom of Chicken Hill for some homebrew before a game some time this year. We're right on Southgate in Lot 5

Go Hokies!

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