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Old 05-14-2011, 04:29 PM   #1
Jebediahscooter
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Default New brewery from the ground up

Hi all,

I've been interested in home brewing for about 6 months (after reading Microbrewed Adventures, I came to the conclusion that I needed to do this and started saving). A friend started brewing a couple of months ago with extract, and I've talked to him a lot recently. I've decided to jump straight into all grain, as he said that he has wanted to do so since like batch #3. So I've been reading a ton on here, read Palmer's book, learned a lot, and am ready to get going. So I have multi-phase plan and wanted to throw it out there to see if anybody had any words of wisdom.

Step 1 (completed): wire my large-ish garden shed with electricity so that I can ferment in a controlled manner out there.

Our house is tiny, and one compromise with the wife was that there would be absolutely no brewing activity inside. So I basically have to start with the end of the process and work backward from there...can't ferment in 90-100* summer temps here in Raleigh without control.

Question: I store my lawn mower and gas cans in the shed, and I'm worried about fumes and sparks from a minifridge compressor. I plan to move gas cans into a plastic bin and keep them outside of the shed from now on. Will the leftover gas in the mower create enough fumes when stored to cause a fire hazard? The shed has two small vents at the top, but it's not very well ventilated.

Step 2 (in progress): Acquire and drill/plumb kegs to make kettle/HLT

I got the kegs yesterday for free from a the owner of my regular beer bar...the area brewpub that owns them hadn't returned his calls for a year, and he had left two messages with them asking if they wanted them after I'd inquired about kegs. They didn't call back after a week, so he didn't feel bad about giving them to me, and I didn't feel bad about taking them. I'm going to cut, drill, and clean them today, and I'm in the process of ordering weldless bulkheads/valves from Bargain Fittings. I'm also considering things like dip tubes, sight glasses, and thermometers. I just need to figure out what I want on each keg, and I'll go from there. I'm thinking sight glass/thermowell combo fitting for each, though.

Question: Does my HLT need a dip tube? For my BK, I'm thinking a dip tube, but I need advice on what to use to strain hops and whatnot when emptying it. False bottom? Hop Rocket or something similar? DIY something?

Step 3 (in progress): Acquire minifridge and plan/build a ferm chamber: I'm going to go the fridge-attached-to-an-insulated-box route here. I have a CL fridge lined up that I'll pick up this afternoon, and I will hit lowes tomorrow for lumber/insulation/hardware. I've been reading about temp controllers, and I think that I am going to go with the Ranco 2 stage, as fall in spring here have big enough temperature swings and the chamber will be in an uninsulated outbuilding. I'm thinking that I will build the chamber two hold two carboys with some extra space for bottle storage. I'll just be starting with ales, so I'm not worrying about hitting lower temps now.

Question: Is wiring a computer fan up so that it comes on when the fridge comes on difficult for an electricity n00b? Is the fan wired to the fridge? Or is it wired to the Ranco?

Step 4 (planning still): build a brewstand: I'm not going fancy, and I have no welding skills and don't know anybody who does. I also have the problem of not having any flat concrete spots in my yard, so I'm worried about stability. I came up with the idea of using sleeves/anchors in the ground (something like this) that will allow me to drop 4x4 posts in to the ground as the supports for a stand. I would then have bed frames or something else (maybe wood platforms with heat shields) attached with lag bolts for the burners/kettles to sit on. My thought is to make it modular so that I can tear it all down and store separate pieces in my shed at the end of a brew day. Any thoughts?

Step 5 (planning still): acquire/build MLT, get all of the various equipment and components. I'm going to use a round cooler MLT and convert it. I'll get burners, a pump if I decide to go single or two-tier, buckets, hydrometer, capper, sanitizing stuff, etc etc. All of the little things. I still haven't decided on what kind of chiller I will use. Initially, I'll do 5 gallon batches and might just go with an immersion chiller, but the ground water isn't very cool in the summer here...

Question: Should I just buy a starter brewing kit and get all of the little bits and pieces together, or would it be cheaper to just order what I need a la carte to so that I'm not getting anything I don't need?

Sorry for the long post, but I just needed to get all of that down to help me organize, and I figured that I would try to get some questions answered in the process. Anything I'm not thinking about that I should consider? Thanks for reading, and thanks for all of the great posts...I've really enjoyed learning tons from just randomly reading threads on this forum. Very cool community going here!

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Old 05-14-2011, 06:41 PM   #2
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Wow... And you haven't brewed batch number one yet?

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Did you dry butt in the secondary?
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Old 05-14-2011, 06:57 PM   #3
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My advice would be to pump your brakes. It's great that you have such enthusiasm but you're talking about spending big money before you've ever actually brewed a single batch. Get a kit spend a few months with it, learn the ropes and see if you enjoy it as much as you think you will. The great part about this hobby is that you don't need to invest a ton of cash to make great beer.

If you still like it after several batches go for it.

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Old 05-14-2011, 07:05 PM   #4
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baader-meinhof never fails. A few hours ago the guys on The Session were talking about hobby fanatics who dive, head-first, into the deep end of home brewing - having never brewed before - buying the best of everything, wanting to skip extract brewing, etc. and how that gleam in their eye fades quickly.

I agree with Rusty.

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Old 05-14-2011, 07:06 PM   #5
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Judging solely by your 1st post, I think you're really going to like this hobby...

Either that or you will stroke out during your first batch!

1. I think the mower is going to be OK.
2. I have a silicone 'dip' tube with a fitting that goes to the bottom center of my HLT
3. My ferm chamber is a chest freezer, so no comment.
4. Whirlpool immersion chiller FTW! http://tinyurl.com/5u7ouy. You will save money with a starter kit IMO.

Good luck!

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Old 05-14-2011, 07:12 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by organ View Post
\ wanting to skip extract brewing, etc.
I skipped extract brewing... then again, I was taught how to homebrew by a professional brewer.
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Kegged (1/3): Traditional Old Ale w/ Smith Bowman Bourbon
Kegged (2/3): English Barleywine with pineapple chunks & brown sugar
Kegged (3/3): Belgian blond w/ passion fruit and brett & lacto
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Old 05-14-2011, 07:28 PM   #7
Joemama474
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These guys are saying exactly what I wanted to say, but couldn't have so tactfully. I think I have less than 40 batches under my belt, and I've done SOME of what you've got outlined above. The thing is, you can make this hobby as simple - or as complex - as you want. You can spend as little - or as much - as you want. Much of what you've got listed up there just isn't necessary to make great beer. I know that the paraphernalia is half the pleasure in this hobby, but I'd recommend getting your feet wet, seeing what you love about brewing and what you don't and let that experience be your guide for further purchases / builds / obsession. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about gear, and I have quite a bit of time and money wrapped up in my brewing set-up, but I could go much further. I just don't have a need to at the moment. That said:

1. Sparks and gas fumes are never a good mix, I'd get all the gasoline holding items out of the shed and air it out thoroughly before firing up the ferm chamber, but I'm anal about such things.

2. I use an Igloo cooler and CPVC manifold, so I don't know.

3. I use a full size fridge as my ferm chamber, so I don't know about the box stuff. But I'd think if you hooked the fan into the temp controller, as if it were a second fridge on the same controller, you'd be good.

4. Brew stand? I use a turkey fryer. And I do a lot of lifting of magma hot liquid. This is one upgrade I'm seriously considering.

5. Lost me.

I would recommend starting with a very basic kit and moving up from there. I have found that I don't always know what I need until what I think I need doesn't work.

Welcome to the obsession. I hope all of your stuff works perfectly the first time.

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Old 05-14-2011, 08:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by organ View Post
baader-meinhof never fails. A few hours ago the guys on The Session were talking about hobby fanatics who dive, head-first, into the deep end of home brewing - having never brewed before - buying the best of everything, wanting to skip extract brewing, etc. and how that gleam in their eye fades quickly.

I agree with Rusty.
Appreciate all the comments, folks...not trying to come in here as an aggressive new guy, but I've carefully thought about doing extract or partial boils vs. AG for going on half a year. I'm a tinkerer, and that's one of things about all grain that appeals to me. I cook because I like learning new recipes and then putting my own spin on them--that, of course, applies as well. The particular circumstances of my situation also make skipping extract logical. I have to ferment outside, so I have to start with a fermentation chamber. I have to brew outside, so I have to get at least one burner to start. I have free kegs and tools to convert them, so At this point, the biggest jump is a mash tun, chiller, an extra burner. I'm resourceful and handy, but I save a lot and don't spend much, so I can make purchases for things i can't DIY (like a temp controller). I don't have deep pockets, and I'm not spending big bucks on fancy electronics and gleaming custom keggles. My ingredients will be cheaper. I've been passionate about craft beer for over a decade, so I know that my interest in the finished product is not going to wane. No offense (and I mean that seriously--it's tough to tell on the internets sometimes), but I'm not really asking to be dissuaded in my efforts; rather, I'm looking for input on questions I have about my plans.
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Old 05-14-2011, 10:15 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ao125 View Post
I skipped extract brewing... then again, I was taught how to homebrew by a professional brewer.
I'm not saying that it's impossible or even that it's a bad decision. As with lots in life I think it's better to start simple and build from there. Doubly so for a hobby that can become rather complicated and expensive quickly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jebediahscooter View Post
Appreciate all the comments, folks...not trying to come in here as an aggressive new guy, but I've carefully thought about doing extract or partial boils vs. AG for going on half a year. I'm a tinkerer, and that's one of things about all grain that appeals to me. I cook because I like learning new recipes and then putting my own spin on them--that, of course, applies as well. The particular circumstances of my situation also make skipping extract logical. I have to ferment outside, so I have to start with a fermentation chamber. I have to brew outside, so I have to get at least one burner to start. I have free kegs and tools to convert them, so At this point, the biggest jump is a mash tun, chiller, an extra burner. I'm resourceful and handy, but I save a lot and don't spend much, so I can make purchases for things i can't DIY (like a temp controller). I don't have deep pockets, and I'm not spending big bucks on fancy electronics and gleaming custom keggles. My ingredients will be cheaper. I've been passionate about craft beer for over a decade, so I know that my interest in the finished product is not going to wane. No offense (and I mean that seriously--it's tough to tell on the internets sometimes), but I'm not really asking to be dissuaded in my efforts; rather, I'm looking for input on questions I have about my plans.
No offense taken and I certainly meant none.

I wouldn't worry about the lawn mower. I've learned from Mythbusters(and trust me, this makes me an expert on the matter) that it's actually pretty hard to ignite a room full of flammable gas. The gas:air ratio has to be just right. Considering that and the fact that your tank probably isn't giving off too much vapor, I'd feel pretty safe. Some would say it's better to be safe than sorry, though.

You can build a DIY temp controller: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/ebay...-build-163849/

Do not use galvanized metal for your brew stand heat shields. If it gets hot enough the zinc will burn off and you could get metal fume fever.

You may wanna read up on the virtues of using a refractometer vs a hydrometer and then decide which to use. Also, I prefer to use EZ cap bottles.. no caps or bottle capper necessary. As far as sanitizing equipment goes, a vinator(sits atop your bottling tree) is a must-have IMO.

And I'd be surprised if a kit wouldn't save you money versus buying a la carte.

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Old 05-14-2011, 10:22 PM   #10
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If you like DIY stuff you dont need to spend alot on a temp controller. You could go with this DIY build http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f51/ebay...-build-163849/ . You dont need to put it in a project box either i installed it in the doors of my fermentation chamber.

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