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-   -   My Single-Tier Propane/Electric Hybrid Brew Rig (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/my-single-tier-propane-electric-hybrid-brew-rig-160432/)

diatonic 01-31-2010 10:16 PM

My Single-Tier Propane/Electric Hybrid Brew Rig
Over the past month or so I've been working on plans for a new brew rig. For the past year or so I've been brewing on my Ghetto Fabulous Electric HERMS, but it is time for an upgrade.

The design goals for this system are:
  1. Be able to heat the HLT with electricity *or* propane
  2. No quick-disconnect changes during brewing
  3. Easy to clean
  4. Control mash temperature via HERMS coil
  5. Portable for brewing at friend's houses or other group brews
  6. Be able to heat HLT rapidly for step infusions
  7. Permanently mounted IC in boil kettle
  8. Single-tier fly sparging
  9. Whirlpool ports in HLT and BK

I knew I would need 2 pumps to fly-sparge on a single tier system, so I am replacing the stir motor with a whirlpool port on the HLT. I will keep a pump running, recirculating water in the HLT throughout the mash, reducing temperature stratification.

I love my immersion chiller. It keeps cold break out of my primary, and allows me to rapidly cool the wort, as long as I keep it moving a bit in the BK. I hate having to put it in the BK, and stir it around a bit to rapidly cool things. I always have visions of nasty things falling in to my cooling wort and potentially spoiling the batch. By whirlpooling with an internally mounted IC, I will get rapid cooling without having to move the IC, since the wort will be moving around it. It should also allow me to get a nice cone of hop material and trub in the BK prior to draining in to the fermenter.

All changes in the fluid patch will be done with full port ball valves. It will be a combination of high-temp silicone hose, and insulated hard copper.

I'm building a stand from 1.5" square stainless steel (16 gauge/0.065" wall). I priced both mild steel and stainless for the stand. The mild steel cost was about $50, stainless about $150. I plan to brew on this for years, and not having to paint it or powder coat it, plus the bling factor of stainless is easily worth $100.

Temperature control of the HLT will initially be done with an Auber PID - Though I may move to a brewtroller in the future.

I will be using banjo burners for the HLT and BK, though while brewing at home I'll heat the HLT with a 5,500 watt element. The burner will be used when brewing where 220v AC is unavailable. I might decide to boil with electricity in the future, though my initial plans are to boil with propane.

The stand will have a gas beam, and hard plumbed burners. The HLT burner will be controlled by the PID. The panel will have a switch to switch between gas or electric HLT control. The panel will also have switches for both pumps. I'm going to use my march 809 pump for the MLT/BK inlet pump - and I'm working on finding a Little Giant pump for the HLT inlet pump. I like how quiet the Little Giant pumps are, and they have a little higher flow rate. They are however only rated to 200F, and I will exceed that when whirlpooling the BK.

This is the initial plan for the stand and keggles. I will post updates with diagrams with valves and pictures of the system. The goal is to have it completed before Big Brew 2010 (May 1st 2010).


The Pol 01-31-2010 10:21 PM

Disregard, you are stepping with infusions... cool

diatonic 01-31-2010 10:35 PM

Well, I plan to heat the HLT to target at the end of the mash. I figure I should be able to get about 1GPM through the MLT, and I usually do 5 gallon batches. If I need to ramp 10 degrees over 10 minutes, I think I should be able to replace 10 gallons in the MLT over that 10 minutes. Even 15 minutes if needed. One of my biggest frustrations on the current brew rig is that it takes a really long time to ramp the HLT temp.

I figure at mashout I can stop recirculation on the MLT and heat sparge water to target temperature. I also plan to insulate the MLT and HLT to reduce heat loss. Really looking forward to this :)

AiredAle 01-31-2010 10:38 PM

Looks good, I'm envious. One question though: how will you protect the plastic bases of the elements when you are using the burners to heat? I would be concerned that they will melt or burn up being close to the bottom and in the path of the heat from the flame.

diatonic 01-31-2010 10:49 PM

I'm having a 1" NPT half coupler welded in at the bottom of the HLT. When I'm not using electric, I'll remove it and put a 1" NPT square head stainless plug in it's place.

I haven't updated the drawing to include the half coupler for the element, or for the temperature probes. I've got the couplers on order, and when I receive them next week, and know the dimensions, I'll update the drawing.

diatonic 02-04-2010 03:10 AM

My enormous dial thermometer for my HLT arrived today. I knew a 5" dial would be big, but this thing is huge. I dig it. Very industrial, and easy to read.




diatonic 02-09-2010 07:05 AM

Progressing slowly but surely. This week I got...
  • The rest of the fittings I need for my kettles
  • 15" hinged stainless Sabco false bottom for my MLT
  • ASCO Red Hat 8215G020 120V AC 1/2" NPT fuel gas solenoid valve
  • 4 240V AC 40A SSRs
  • (2) Honeywell Q345ALB8149 Intermittent Ignitor/Sensor
  • Bayou Classic BG14 Banjo Burner
  • (8) Swagelok 3/8" tube x 1/4" NPT elbows
  • Camco 240V 5500W hot water heater element



diatonic 02-17-2010 04:31 AM

Well, the kegs are at the welder's shop, and I should be able to pick them up tomorrow. A total of 18 couplings are being welded in to the 3 kegs. I think I'm going to go with mild steel for the stand instead of stainless. Chris Knight's powder coated stand made me rethink the stainless, and it should shave about $150 off the cost of the stand.

I picked up a sweet enclosure for my control panel from a local industrial recycling shop (The Reuseum). It has panel mounted twist-lock 20A 250V AC connectors (male & female), and a hinged front. I picked it up for $15 w00t! The enclosure is about 10.5" x 12.5". It was originally a Square D Welder Control box, and will serve my purpose well. I'll be running about 21A at 220V AC through those connectors, but think that will be okay. When I'm not using electric for the HLT they won't be connected.

I also ordered some switches from Automation Direct yesterday for the control panel, as well as an 8 pin waterproof panel mount connector to connect the control panel to the 2 pumps and solenoid valve on the stand.

The connector I purchased can be found here: http://www.route66supply.com/store/product7.html

It looks like this:

Outside of enclosure:

Inside of enclosure:

Right side of enclosure:

110V AC Connector to mount on side:

Control Panel Layout:

I'll update this thread with progress. Getting excited :mug:

pickles 02-17-2010 01:42 PM

Nice score on that enclosure! Looking forward to seeing the project evolve.

diatonic 02-18-2010 03:43 AM

I was able to pick up the kegs from the welder today. He did a great job. The couplings in the MLT and Boil Kettle are welded inside and out for easier cleaning. One keg I got at a yard sale appears to have been used often as a stand for spray painting. It has a date with a wire wheel this weekend (not really a wire wheel, but a paint remover pad thingy). I'll take better pictures once I get them cleaned up. 18 fittings were welded in :D

Crappy iPhone pic:

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