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So my working conditions are a little unique:
-I live in an apartment building, so propane's out, and
-I don't pay for hydro (water OR power) so that's a bonus
I have a few design goals for this setup:
-Clean-in-place / sanitize-in-place is a must. I've heard/seen how much time and effort are taken up by sanitizing and I want to cut that down to a minimum
-Electric is also a requirement
-As small space foot print as possible
So, with all this in mind I have a few questions. I guess first I'll summarize my idea of the brewing process so that you guys can correct me on whatever bad assumptions or ideas I have.
My understanding of the process is:
-you crack your grains in a mill or something
-then put them at the bottom of a mash, sitting on a false bottom
-you then pour a certain volume of heated water onto the grain
-grains then form a bed overtop the false bottom through which the liquor filters through
-at some variable rate, you pump out the liquor from the bottom, use a heat exchange method to heat it up, and pour it back into the top of the mash tun. Recirculating the liquor through the bed of grains in this way helps "wash" the sugar and other water-soluble compounds off the grains and into the liquor
-after a certain amount of time at your certain temperature, you may switch to a higher temperature & continue...or not. Either way at some point enough is enough so you drain your liquor into a boil kettle
-while the kettle does its thing, clean all the grains and crap out of your mash tun
my understanding of this is:
-add any adjunct sugars you need to your liquor
-you boil the crap out of your liquor for a certain period of time
-during this boil you add hops for bitterness, flavor, and aroma at different times for each
-a high boil is key for something called a hot break which I think is related to causing certain proteins to denature, stop being soluble in the liquor, and collect at the bottom...or top...or something
-after the boil you drain the liquid, now called wort, out of the kettle whilst filtering out the leafy hop stuff and the hot break proteins too
-you then use some kind of chiller to rapidly cool your wort down, causing a "cold break" where other proteins will precipitate out of solution and settle at the bottom...of the next container?
Forgive me, my understanding of this process is pretty hazy. Yay organic chem. In a nutshell:
-you put your now-chilled wort into a fermenter
-you "pitch" a yeast culture (preferably an active one vs a dormant one) in with the wort
-seal it up, and control the temperature inside the fermenter to be optimal for the yeast culture you're using. Indoors that means keeping it cool, rather than warm
-for a certain amount of time (how do you know when it's over?) you let fermentation do its thing
-the yeast'll run out of sugar and go dormant again, "flocculating" which I guess means turning into clumpy floateys that either, well, float, or sink depending on your yeast
-you then remove your beer from the fermenter, into another container for "lagering" (and I'm not really sure about that process) or get it ready for bottling or kegging
-collect your trub if you want to make another batch soon, since there should be a goodly amount of live yeast there
My understanding of this is:
-don't filter your beer
-heat the beer up with priming sugar into solution
-pour into bottles and cap
-residual yeast will convert the sugar to carbon dioxide (amongst other things?) naturally carbonating your beer
-filter your beer to remove any remaining proteins, trub, dead, dormant, and active yeast
-pump it into a keg
-pump some pressure of co2 into the keg to force carbonate your beer
-either keep it in your keg or bottle it at this point
Now, that out of the way, this is what I have in mind (so far) for a setup:
Mashing: big metal tun with a false bottom. How does cleaning one of these things work? Can I lift the false bottom up & out like a tray with all the spent grain sitting in it? Also, for mashing temperature control and circulation, a variable flow inline pump, and a PID-controlled electric heating element in the hot water tank outta do the trick?
Mash tun to Boil Kettle: valve, pump (or gravity?) - kettle
Boil kettle: i'd say PID-controlled heating element but really do you need PID control? maybe if the element's capable of utterly scorching the liquor you should dial it down a notch but PID seems useless here. Adding the hops seems like something that can be done by hand...do you put the hops in a sackcloth bag or something similar to prevent them from getting all over the place? I imagine the boiling provides all the volatility needed to extract the oils and alpha/beta acids from the hops even if they're in a sack
chilling: a few valves, a plate chiller...this one seems pretty simple. would you want to filter your wort first since organic matter's sure to accumulate in your plate chiller? ...Is there a way of cleaning these chillers out?
fermenter: i guess i'll need...a port to drop the yeast through...another port for co2 blowoff, a bottom port to collect trub, and another port to collect the beer out of? I'm thinking of going with a conical fermenter, seems like help separating the trub and maybe save me a filtration step or two. Controlling the temperature seems critical, so put the fermenter in a fridge with a PID controller seems like that way to go. I saw warnings about the duty cycle of fridge compressors, so maybe have some water or glycol jacketing or something as a thermal buffer/reservoir, that way temperature changes happen much more slowly?
the only obvious places for automation seem to be timers, valve controls, and temperature controls. Temp controls seem to be the most critical while the others are "nice to haves".
filter: is there reusable filter media for this kind of application?
Finally: what strategies / methods are there to reduce the cleaning time/footprint of a home brewing setup? Is clean-in-place/sanitize-in-place a possibility?
Haha thanks a bunch to anyone who made it this far in the post. Your feedback is much appreciated.