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Old 02-10-2014, 07:34 PM   #1
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Default Woodbrew's Electric BIAB Build

Electric BIAB Build

After lots of careful research on the HBT forum, I settled on a plan to build an electric kettle for 5 gallon batches using the BIAB (brew in a bag) process. I opted to go electric for several reasons. First, I liked the self-contained nature of brewing in a single vessel. I also like being able to brew in a dedicated space without having to take over the kitchen. Third, even with limiting myself to 5 gallon brews, there is barely enough room on our stove-top to heat my 11-gallon kettle. Fourth, with a sufficiently high-powered heating element, I can achieve mash and boil temperatures more quickly than on the stove-top. Fifth, an electric element controlled by a PID (progressive, integrative, derivative) temperature controller will maintain mash temperatures much more precisely than on the stove-top. It’s not quite set it and forget it, but close. Finally, I like the DIY nature of building the controller with the help of my dad, a retired electrical engineer. We used to build Heathkits together when I was a kid, so it’s kind of nostalgic.

Here's the Bayou Classic kettle on my stove top -- not much room!


Installing GFCI Protection

Ground fault protection is mandatory for any application that involves both water and electricity. Given the frequency of boil-overs and spills during brewing, and given the presence of 4500 watt/240v heating element, the need for ground fault protection is obvious.

I’m planning on setting up the e-brewery next to our washer/dryer and directly in front of an exterior window. There’s already a countertop there and it’s right next to the 240v dryer outlet. Although we don’t have an utility stink, the spot is right next to our basement bathroom. The spot should work well for ventilation and convenience.

We wired a separate 4-prong outlet directly from the dryer outlet and will replace the 30-amp breaker on that circuit with a GFCI breaker. Of course, this means that I cannot operate the dryer and brew at the same time, but that’s a reasonable tradeoff when compared to the price of running a new, dedicated circuit.

Here's the spot:
brew-location-4-prong-plug.jpg  
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:39 PM   #2
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Default Modifying the Kettle

Modifying The Kettle

Once I decided to go electric, I started to piece together the parts needed for the build. After much research, I settled on the Bayou Classic 11-gallon kettle. The kettle is recommended by many on HBT and was well-priced on Amazon. To prep the kettle, I went with fittings from Brewhardware, including a 3-piece ball valve with an elbow barb to drain the kettle, a sight glass with 1/4” T for the temperature probe, and BobbyM’s weldless element housing for the heating element.

So far, I’ve only installed drain valve. The install was fairly easy. I used an inexpensive step drill bit to attempt to drill a hole large enough for the knock-out punch, but had a hard time getting the drill to start the hole (even with an indentation). Finally, I used one of my carbide tipped masonry bits to start the hole and then used the step bit to enlarge it. Once it was big enough, I inserted the knockout punch and cranked it home. Awesome - knockout punches are the way to go. Completely clean hole, just the right size.
pot-drain-valve-installed.jpg  
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:51 PM   #3
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Very nice! I'm curious about where you will get a 30 amp gfci breaker for your box.

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Old 02-10-2014, 08:16 PM   #4
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Very nice! I'm curious about where you will get a 30 amp gfci breaker for your box.
I found one for ~ $65 on eBay. My box is made by Cutler Hammer and I had to be careful to buy the right product line. Cutler Hammer (Eaton) makes two product lines: BR and CH. Of course, I needed the more expensive CH version!

In hindsight, the spa panel box may have been both cheaper and easier, but I have such limited room in my brew space that the outlet made sense.
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Old 02-10-2014, 08:21 PM   #5
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Default Installing the Element

Installing the Element

My experience with the element installation is a cautionary tale. Rather than spend $85 on the proper size Greenlee hole punch, I bought a used Greenlee set on eBay. The punches work fine, but it turns out that they are CONDUIT punches rather than CHASSIS punches. The difference is that conduit is sized according the INNER DIAMETER of the conduit, so that a 1.5” conduit punch will make a hole closer to 1.75” inches in diameter. Not realizing this, I punched a 1.75” hole for the element using the 1.5” conduit punch, resulting in a hole that was WAY too large. Unless I could find a way to use the kettle with a 1.75” diameter hole in it, I’d be stuck with buying a new kettle and starting over.

After some research here on HBT, I learned that it would be possible to solder a 1” NPT welding spud in the hole and screw the element into that. I would still be able to use the housing kit purchased from BrewHardware. Maybe my pot could be saved after all! If I could solve the problem for less than $85, I would simply return the $85 replacement pot I bought.

So, I ordered the spud and silver solder kit from Brewhardware ($22 total), bought a MAPP propane torch and gas ($45 total), and tried my hand at soldering stainless steel. My first attempt was a disaster - the spud just fell off. The second attempt went better -- the spud was firmly soldered in place, but there was a gap between the spud flange and kettle wall. I’m planning on trying one more time to see if I can get a solid bead of solder around the entire perimeter of the spud. I’ll have to use much more solder this time, especially since the curvature of the pot creates a natural gap on either side of the spud.

Since my failed attempt, I've read a good bit of the silver soldering thread and watched all of BobbyM's videos. With practice, I'm sure I can get a solid, leak-proof joint.
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Old 02-10-2014, 08:56 PM   #6
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Default Building The Controller Box

Building The Controller Box

Next up was deciding on a schematic for the controller and spec’ing out the parts for the build. Complicating the process was my indecision about whether to include a recirculating pump. I eventually decided to build the pump control circuit into the controller, but to hold off (for now) on buying the pump and associated hardware. I want to get a few brews under my belt before adding the cost and complexity of the pump.

For the wiring schematic, I went with the same one used by aubiecat in his build. Taking his advice, I went with selector switches and indicator lamps rather than lighted switches. I ordered the pre-cut wall-mount panel from Auber and will use my knockout punches to make holes for the 22mm switches. I also purchased an e-stop button and a 4” RTD temp probe. I will work with my dad, an electrical engineer, to assemble the panel and make sure everything is correctly wired.

The Auber Instruments box is a good one. Solid steel construction, a gasketed hinged lid, a separate backplate for mounting internal components, optional brackets for wall-mounting, and a locking door. When laying out the components, I was careful to provide sufficient clearance behind the surface mount components to allow for the gasketed lid.

I purchased all of the major components, save one, at Auber Instruments. There are cheaper eBay sellers out there for many items, but I wanted to be sure I had the proper part numbers specified in PJ’s diagrams for the switches, etc. IMO, it was worth the extra few dollars to go with a reliable vendor.
img_1899.jpg   img_1901.jpg   img_1904.jpg  
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Old 02-11-2014, 12:38 AM   #7
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Default Building the Control Box (continued)

The two large holes in the bottom are where the power cable and element cable will go. Instead of using flanged outlets, which are expensive, require large holes, and protrude deep into the box, I decided to use a pigtail for the element plug (a short cable with a female receptacle on the end). For the power plug, I will a 6’ dryer cable with a four-prong plug. Both cables will need to be secured with water-tight strain relief cable glands.

Of all the parts for the build, the cable glands were the most problematic to source. First, I had to figure out how they were sized. After consulting the fine folks at HBT, who sent me to Wikipedia, I learned that cable glands are sized using either National Pipe Thread (NPT) conventions or Panzergerwerde (PG) conventions. For the large cables used for the power and element, I'd need PG29 or NPT 3/4". I ended up purchasing the glands from eBrewSupply, where I also ordered an alarm buzzer and some label tags for the element and pump.

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Old 02-11-2014, 02:14 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Woodbrews View Post
I found one for ~ $65 on eBay. My box is made by Cutler Hammer and I had to be careful to buy the right product line. Cutler Hammer (Eaton) makes two product lines: BR and CH. Of course, I needed the more expensive CH version!

In hindsight, the spa panel box may have been both cheaper and easier, but I have such limited room in my brew space that the outlet made sense.
If you are so inclined... could you link the BR version of the 30 amp GFCI? That is the style box I have... I will look myself, but I'd like to see if I am looking in the right places. Thanks! - N_G
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Old 02-13-2014, 09:48 PM   #9
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N_G:

Here's one on eBay; I paid much less than this. Not sure why the price is so high.

Ken

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Old 02-13-2014, 10:01 PM   #10
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Update: We had a snow day here, so I tried re-soldering the spud to fill in the gaps and make it leak-proof. I worked it for quite awhile, flowing a lot of extra solder into the joints. I also clamped the spud in place with a jig made from a toggle bolt, as suggested by the stainless soldering thread. Bottom line - I filled up the kettle with ~ 10 gallons and a few minutes later it started to leak. Bummer. I suspect the problem is that the hole I accidentally punched is too big for the spud b/c there is too much of a gap between the spud and the kettle to reliably fill with solder. So, now I'm on to Plan B, which involves punching a new kettle with weldless fittings. The good news is that I have a kettle on hand and I'm pretty confident with the weldless fittings given the success of the fittings in the first kettle (both the drain valve and the sight glass were leak-free). If we have another snow day tomorrow, I'll tackle the project then.

010cee7dbccd363ee0a2b3e2ea210d5ef81b792916.jpg   017bd153a077473a5ad9b54e65c0bcc961da3881fe.jpg  
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