Originally Posted by ROUNDS
Black heart. First, thank you for this amazing thread. While I attempt to build my "second brew stand first" I looked at your last post mentioning a few things you would do differently such as not cool the through the herms, and use kegs... Could you please explain your reasoning? I'm currently looking for the perfect build, but after much research, I do not want to build something only to want to start another project, or try to adjust the system I just finished. I would rather build my " second system first" once again thank you for everything posted. What a great source of information. I've learned south just from this single thread.
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You have multiple options for almost every component, brass or stainless steel, 1/2" or 3/4", etc etc. I would over-build everything you can afford to. It took us weeks of tinkering to address flow issues, stuck sparges, bad valves, leaking fittings etc.
Using TC fittings or a similar universal fitting is a must IMO. This means at the cost of some tubing I can re-plumb my entire system and connect anything to anything else, regardless of input or output. This is what we ended up doing when we used the kettle to heat water and pump 2 as a keg washer. We just connected an extra hose to the pump output. I could easily add another valve and make a permanent connection in the future.
The weldless keg fittings and using kegs seemed like a good idea at the time. Yes they work but they require a ton of fiddling with everything from the exact diameter of the hole you need to cut (plus de-burring and filing) to the arraignment and placement of the seals and parts. Since the valves and connectors are heavy they tend to want to rotate the connections loose. Because the connection is not welded you have to decide how often you want to disassemble and clean that area, which means not only removing a single valve buy a cluster of valves and the corresponding hoses, then remove all parts, clean and sanitize, then finally re-tape with teflon and assemble and test the whole thing over again.
This takes HOURS of time spent bending, twisting, and smacking your limbs agains stainless steel and potentially cutting your self on sharp edges that you missed when de-burring or on a part you put on backwards this time. If I were building it again, I would build in a cleaning cycle. We have a manual one now but it does not account for removing grain, hop residue etc and of course the fittings on the valves.
If possible I would also go for a bottom drain valve on the kettles which makes for easy pump priming. This is only possible with electric however.
1/2" tubing/pipe etc I would say is the minimum needed and in reality 3/4" or 1" is much more practical. Our HERMS coil is 1/2" and that really slowed the system down. As did our pumps... I kept upgrading the pump heads and parts to get more flow out of them. I was at 1/2-3/4 their rated output but they still struggled all the time. What we found out was the issue was seals that were not vacuum tight. Like, bump something and its not a perfect seal, all of a sudden the flow stops....
Hops and grain getting into the lines was a huge issue at various points. Eventually they work their way into seals and TC fittings and you dont find this out until you disassemble and find them wedged in there. Again, we made everything modular and quick dissconnectable so that the system could be easily torn down and cleaned. This was still not an easy task.
If you dont mind spending 8 hours brewing a batch of beer from prep through cleaning up time then really you can go with whatever options you want. If you want to walk up to your brew system, flip some switches, and hang out for 3-4 hours while your system brews the beer with minimal input, work, annoyance, and cleanup, then I would try to plan out a system that requires little maintenance or is easy to maintain. Weldless fittings, threaded fittings, teflon, and the other inferior options I mentioned will just add more time to your brew day or (if you are lazy) ruin your beer, either by contamination or inefficacy.