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-   -   Countertop Brutus 20 (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/countertop-brutus-20-a-131411/)

jkarp 08-08-2009 02:53 PM

Countertop Brutus 20
2 Attachment(s)
OK, so my pic generated a number of requests for a detailed write up of my little system so here it goes...

What is a Brutus 20? In a nutshell, it's a no-sparge, constant recirculation direct fired mash system. Lonnie Mac, the creator, has since taken his Brutus 20 page down for some reason but the original is reachable via archive.org here. It's definitely worth a read if you're unfamiliar with the concept. Right or wrong, superstition or whatever, I had found from my brewing experience over the years that my beers got a LOT better when I quit playing the efficiency game. The beers just tasted better when I worked to keep efficiency in the 70-75% range. When I stumbled across Lonnie's design, I knew its efficiency "limitations" were exactly what I wanted. I also immediately saw some simple design improvements I could make that would result in an extremely compact system that would allow me to keep my brewing indoors. I'm just not a fan of spending 5 hours in the garage in the heat of the summer OR when the snow's flying in the winter.

OK, so let me knock out a few of the questions I frequently get asked about my rig right off the bat:
  • Could this be scaled to 5 gallon? - Maybe. I did a lot of testing of the boiling ability of a single 120V 2KW element. 5 gallons seemed to be the limit for a good rolling boil. Considering a full 5 gallon batch would start with 6-7 gallons pre-boil, you'd want to do two 120V elements or better, go 240V. Also realize the 5 gal MLT will limit your mash size.
  • Does the high watt density element scorch the beer? - No! I've done everything from pils to barleywine on this system and have never seen or tasted a hint of scorching.
  • Can you do high gravity beers? - Absolutely. In fact, my efficiency varies more from the amount of adjuncts in the grist than it does wort gravity. I saw 74% on the last 1.100 barleywine I did.
  • Can you step mash? - Sort of. It's more of a ramp than a step however. I've doughed in at 145 and recirculated the system up to 158 with good results. It takes 15-20 minutes to ramp through the mash range.

So here's a cheesy diagram of the system. The kettle is plumbed to a HD bucket that has the pump and counterflow chiller inside. The CFC doesn't do anything until chill time, but having it permanently plumbed minimizes plumbing changes during a brew session (keeping drips to a minimum indoors) and it's extremely space efficient. The CFC output runs to the top of the MLT and the MLT output flows via gravity back into the kettle. Using gravity eliminates the 2nd pump from Lonnie's design.

Setup for mash (pic 1)

Setup for chill (pic 2)

Coming up next, more pics! Stay tuned...

jkarp 08-08-2009 03:28 PM

4 Attachment(s)
6 gallon e-kettle (pic 1)

E-kettle inside (pic 2)

5 gallon MLT (pic 3)

MLT inside (pic 4)

jkarp 08-08-2009 03:31 PM

4 Attachment(s)
Pump / CFC (pic 1)

Pump / CFC inside (pic 2)

Controller (pic 3)

Controller side-view (pic 4)

jkarp 08-08-2009 03:35 PM

3 Attachment(s)
Full setup, ready for mash recirculation (pic 1)

Full setup, back view (pic 2)

Full setup, chill mode (pic 3)

Coming up next, parts list! Stay tuned...

jkarp 08-08-2009 05:00 PM

1 Attachment(s)
I haven't included pricing because one, I built this piecemeal over the Winter and don't remember everything, and two, lots of the bits came from my scrap bins. Pretty sure this is a relatively complete list though and I've included the sources where stuff should be available. All total, it should cost $400-500 to build this system.

Two things that are NOT included in this list are fender washers and hose clamps. Lots of both are needed. Just get a big bag each of stainless clamps for 3/8" and 5/8". Fender washers are used to shim up various bits around the 3/8 nipples. Get a bunch of zinc ones and at least 2 stainless ones for the insides of the kettle and MLT lids.

Jmarsh544 08-08-2009 05:11 PM

That's really impressive. I might have to look into something like this for the winter months.

bakins 08-08-2009 05:35 PM

So how do you step mash? Just recirculate? Doesn't this dilute the mash?

I like it, nice and simple.

Edit: or do you use the CFC in a HERMS like setup?

HarkinBanks 08-08-2009 08:57 PM

Cheers JK! And thanks for taking the time to post this. This looks so very cool.

jkarp 08-08-2009 08:58 PM


Originally Posted by bakins (Post 1476749)
So how do you step mash? Just recirculate? Doesn't this dilute the mash?

Yup. I run the system with the full pre-boil target volume, much like the brew-in-a-bag guys do. I've never hand any problems with conversion and frankly prefer a thin mash. That said, I rarely do step mashes. Most of the malts I use convert so fast there's little point in stepping.

bakins 08-09-2009 03:10 PM


Originally Posted by jkarp (Post 1476985)
Yup. I run the system with the full pre-boil target volume, much like the brew-in-a-bag guys do.

Hmmm, so it's kinda like BiaB, but you don't need a huge boil kettle (to hold all the volume) or lift all the grain plus water in a bag, just let gravity do the work. I think you're on to something. Do you ever recirculate just to main temps? I guess the cooler eliminates the need for that.

I found your other thread, so you recirculate before doughing in? So need to worry about the initial heat loss of the cooler.

Also, you ever have any problems with the grain sticking and the recirculation going very slow?

I currently have a 2.5 tier all-electric RIMS rig and have been wanting to simplify (I got 4 kids, so anything to simplify/save time). I've been serious thinking of a BiaB rig, but yours is very intriguing. I tried some Brutus 20 style brews before, but hadn't thought of it in over a year.

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