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Old 08-27-2009, 06:23 PM   #1
rurounikitsune
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Default 1bbl gravity powered brewhouse?

Hi y'all. I'm thinking up crazy ideas in my head again.

Has anyone ever heard of anyone trying a 1bbl gravity fed brewhouse? I'm thinking of trying large batches a couple times a year, but we are pretty low-tech out here. A lot of y'all use electric pumps but we lose power often enough that I'd like to be able to do this without power. I won't be able to afford the equipment for a while (years) but I want to plan it out before I think about spending the money.

It would have to be 4-tier (HLT, MLT, Kettle, Fermenter) in order to not have to worry about moving tens of gallons of wort/hot liquor/mash. So the top tier would be pretty tall. But a staircase or something wouldn't be hard to rig up. Water could be added incrementally to avoid having do lift large amounts up to the HLT. Same with grains, a 5 gallon bucket at a time or so, one after the other into the mash tun. If the vessels all had ball valves at the bottom, and the conical had casters on the bottom so it could be moved to a more temperature-controlled location, I think it could work. The only thing I can think of is that the vorlauf would be a little tricky. I would have to collect wort and then dump it back into the MLT (or even the HLT... why not, if I premeasured my sparge water?).

Any ideas? Things that could go horribly wrong?


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Old 08-27-2009, 06:38 PM   #2
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sure, i was in OR recently at a winery that was completely gravity...

They made the foundation at the different levels. it was built into a hill so it was perfect.
first floor then 15 down to second and 15 more to the third.

ive thought of this before too...there is a old movie theater that closed up downtown and its got a sloped floor that would work pretty ok...


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Old 08-27-2009, 06:39 PM   #3
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It could definitely work, although it would have to be well thought out. The one thing I'm sure of is that you couldn't do it for less than buying two March pumps, although I know that's not what you asked...

My biggest concern would be getting the spent grain out of the MLT since its the second highest tier. That would be heavy and very cumbersome. You could shovel it out a little at a time but that would just get old, I would think.

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Old 08-27-2009, 07:25 PM   #4
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The March pump used by just about all of HBT would work for your vorlauf.
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Old 08-27-2009, 08:07 PM   #5
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Love to see it when it's done.

If you are only brewing a few times a YEAR....
I would set up side by side and use a 5 gallon bucket to move from
one to the other.
The extra time and labor will be less than the clean up time of all
the tubes and valves.
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Old 08-27-2009, 08:19 PM   #6
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5 gallon bucket with some pulley's for the vorlauf
I witnessed something like this done with temporary scaffolding. It actually looked like no one was in danger and the whole thing was portable.....
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Old 08-28-2009, 03:08 PM   #7
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If you lived on a hillside you'd be set. Otherwise it seems like a lot of very hot liquids would need to be very high in the air. Assuming you don't live on a hillside, I would think the cost of the extra steel to stabilize that weight up high would easily offset the cost of pumps. If power is that big of a concern, then perhaps look to Craigslist for an inexpensive generator?

One other thing to consider is maintaining fermentation temps. You mentioned a 4-tier system; hopefully the bottom tier ends in your basement where you would have a better chance of keeping the temp stable. Otherwise you'll probably want refrigeration to control temp and that'll need electricity too.

Seems good that you're starting the planning years in advance. You'll probably come up with 100's of possible solutions before you build. Good luck, hope to see this one day.
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Old 08-28-2009, 03:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derrin View Post
If you lived on a hillside you'd be set. Otherwise it seems like a lot of very hot liquids would need to be very high in the air. Assuming you don't live on a hillside, I would think the cost of the extra steel to stabilize that weight up high would easily offset the cost of pumps. If power is that big of a concern, then perhaps look to Craigslist for an inexpensive generator?

One other thing to consider is maintaining fermentation temps. You mentioned a 4-tier system; hopefully the bottom tier ends in your basement where you would have a better chance of keeping the temp stable. Otherwise you'll probably want refrigeration to control temp and that'll need electricity too.

Seems good that you're starting the planning years in advance. You'll probably come up with 100's of possible solutions before you build. Good luck, hope to see this one day.
I live on a small farm, we got hills everywhere. In fact now that you mention it there is a perfect hill out back for a brewhouse. I was thinking about rigging up supports and putting the brewhouse in the barn and rolling the fermenter into the house, but it might be easier this way. I could dig the bottom tier into the ground... we have some cold springs and a spring fed pond... it would be pretty cool to have a spring-cooled underground fermentation chamber.
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Old 08-28-2009, 03:24 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rurounikitsune View Post
I live on a small farm, we got hills everywhere. In fact now that you mention it there is a perfect hill out back for a brewhouse. I was thinking about rigging up supports and putting the brewhouse in the barn and rolling the fermenter into the house, but it might be easier this way. I could dig the bottom tier into the ground... we have some cold springs and a spring fed pond... it would be pretty cool to have a spring-cooled underground fermentation chamber.
That would actually be ( I don't want to use the word cool) very very awesome.

This way each vessel would be at ground level, stable and safe and easy to get to. I like it, I really hope you pull this off.
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Old 08-28-2009, 03:41 PM   #10
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Here's another idea....

It would be pretty elaborate, but what about designing and building gravity powered pumps? I was thinking about an old grandfather clock we had that used weights to power the clock. Weights cranked into position could be converted to rotational energy that can be stored in a flywheel or used directly. Or, they could be used to exert force on a cylinder or bladder to push (or draw) liquids from vessel to vessel.


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