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Old 01-02-2009, 06:51 PM   #1
Dec 2008
Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 61

So I've been doing extract brewing on the stove, and I'm trying to plan out an upgrade path to take, and there seem to be two basic paths for improvement / convenience, etc.

1) Fermentation temp control / kegging / serving
2) All-Grain / Full boil

I've priced out entries into both paths with room to expand later, and it seems like the first step in either comes out very similar in price
For 1)
a) Chest freezer (Big enough to expand to a dual-chambered fermentation / serving setup w/different temps in each chamber)
b) Dual-stage temp controller

($200-300, depending on the freezer and whether I do wiring myself...so call it $250 unless I find a steal on a chest freezer via craigslist)

(Kegging upgrade available later for ~$200)

For 2)

a) basic 10gal stainless brewpot
b) 10gal water cooler mash tun w/false bottom and fittings
c) Propane burner
d) Wort chiller


It seems like the all-grain route is probably the best bang for the buck, but I do also really want to get to the point of kegging and better temp control (it's going to get tough to keep temps come summer, and I'll probably be pulling the trigger on most of this stuff in Feb/March once I get tax returns, etc). I also like the whole secondary in corny keg + oxygen-less transfer for clearing/serving, etc...so I'm torn.

What would you guys do? Any other ideas/comments?

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Old 01-02-2009, 07:05 PM   #2
TwoHeadsBrewing's Avatar
Feb 2008
Chico, CA
Posts: 3,925
Liked 41 Times on 37 Posts

I would say fermentation temperature control would have the biggest impact on the quality of your brew. And a simple Johnson analong controller, plus a small fridge with some DIY would only run a bit over $100. Check out the link below. It's not pretty, but it works great for fermenting one batch...and now I use it to hold 2 corny kegs. I got the fridge for free from a friend and the rest including the temperature controller cost about $80.

And if you really want to get into all grain, you could go a cheaper route and pick up a turkey fryer kit which includes a 7.5 gallon aluminum pot and a propane burner. These run anywhere from $50-80, which leaves a bit of money left over for a wort chiller.

If it were me, I'd try to do both the fermentation temp control box, AND full boil/AG setup. However, if you'd rather buy more expensive components and upgrade one step at a time I would choose the freezer with temp controller for fermentation and kegging.

Fermenting: ESB
Kegged: Extra IPA, Brown Ale, American Wheat, Blackheart Stout
Coming Up: Dunkleweizen, 3C Pale Ale

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Old 01-02-2009, 10:00 PM   #3
mattmcl's Avatar
Oct 2008
Erie, CO
Posts: 731
Liked 10 Times on 8 Posts

Well, I'm doing my first AG batch tomorrow, using the Brew in a Bag method. With that, you don't need a mash/lauter tun, but you DO need a 10 gal. pot. That drops about $50.

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Old 01-03-2009, 08:08 AM   #4
Sep 2008
American Southwest
Posts: 447
Liked 3 Times on 3 Posts

I'm still somewhere between Noobie and dangerous Noob. But I'm guessing temperature control comes first. Look at it this way: If you master AG, you will probably want better control of fermentation temps anyway.
My airlock passes gas.

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Old 01-03-2009, 08:54 AM   #5
KopyKat's Avatar
Dec 2005
Round Rock Texas
Posts: 473
Liked 4 Times on 2 Posts

Temperature control, temperature control, temperature control, temperature control, temperature control, temperature control!!!!!!!!!!!

As an all grain brewer with over 40 brews under my belt I can tell you unequivocally that if you start all grain brewing without temperature control and I go back to extract with specialty grains with temperature control that I will make far better beer than you.

An extract brewer has all kinds of options to improve without going all grain. Late extract addition, mini-mash steeping, and rapid chilling. Then upgrade to temp control and you have a winning combination.
Jerry Pritchett
KopyKat Brewery

Primary: Belgian Blonde (for cask)
Drinking: Robust Porter
Up Next: Christmas Ale, SNPA, Simcoe IPA

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Old 01-03-2009, 12:55 PM   #6
fratermus's Avatar
Feb 2008
Posts: 1,188
Liked 3 Times on 2 Posts

+1 to temp control

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Old 01-03-2009, 01:29 PM   #7
Tonedef131's Avatar
Feb 2008
Fort Wayne
Posts: 1,891
Liked 32 Times on 17 Posts

Originally Posted by KopyKat View Post
Temperature control, temperature control, temperature control, temperature control, temperature control, temperature control!!!!!!!!!!!
This, a thousand times.

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Old 01-03-2009, 06:48 PM   #8
Dec 2008
Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 61

Hmm...so it sounds like everyone is recommending going all-grain first. ;-)


Temp control it is!

*Starts scouring craigslist for chest freezers*

Thanks guys.

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Old 03-13-2009, 07:54 PM   #9
Mar 2009
Posts: 1

I have been using this set-up for a little while now and it seems to do the job quite well. I only do 5 gallon batches so it probably wouldn't work for your bigger quantities, but it a good stand alone unit for carboy brewers. Plus I don't have worry about checking on the temp of my brew 5 times a day. I just set it and forget it.

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