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Andrew's Tiny xV Brewery Build

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kolektiv

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Hi folks, I've been posting a few threads here and there picking up tips, but thought I'd start to put a thread together on what I'm trying to do...

In essence, I'm trying to build a very tiny, but very flexible brew system, to help me experiment with all kinds of approaches and techniques - and produce many very small batches, rather than a few large ones. I don't really drink that much anyway, but I do love to experiment, refine, and try new things. So... My plan is to try and construct a multi-vessel brewery, designed to be able to brew several batches in a row, with lots of control. Oh, and it has to fit in a small space not much bigger than a corridor (just in case it was too easy).

So, here's my current layout for the brew phase of things (fermentation, including fermentation prep like cooling, trub extraction, etc. is a separate set of systems):

layout.png


Some key features:
  • It's gravity driven where possible (not totally, because there are recirculation options, but vessel transfers are all fundamentally vertical)
  • The vessels are all essentially 200x200x300mm cuboids - at this size, cylindrical vessels are a nightmare for fittings, ferrules, etc. so I'm going to experiment with square sectioned vessels. Not shown on here - sloped/pyramidal floor designs, particular for the MT.
  • It can be used as a fairly standard 3 vessel system just using HLT A, the MT/MLT (using it as a MLT by putting the false floor in the MT, rather than the LT), and allowing the wort to run straight through the LT to the BK. Maybe slightly sub-optimal for aeration, but probably relatively minor. In this configuration, the MLT is a standard 3 vessel MLT with a HERMS system in HLT A, recirculating through the grain bed in the MLT. You can then choose how you want to sparge in the MLT (if you want to).
  • It can also be used as a higher throughput system with a separate MT and LT. In this configuration, the MT has an agitator/stirrer like commercial MTs, but still uses HERMS to maintain temperature (with a filtered intake). The whole mash can then be transferred to the LT through the very large "sluice-like" pipe to the bottom of the LT (directly on to the false floor). Hopefully, at least, viscosity experiments pending! The valves can then be closed top and bottom, and the grain bed height adjusted where desired in the LT. Recirculation and then sparging can then take place in the LT, fed by HLT B. This frees up HLT A and the MT to be starting another mash while the general lautering is happening. If there's enough space under the adjustable grain bed it may even be possible to collect the runnings in the LT, and allow for a boil to be happening during at the same time - three brews at once!
I've obviously had to make some interesting choices to hit this scale and layout:
  • Quite a few vessels use side inlets for transfer, literally only sparging is top down.
  • There's a bit less pipework than sometimes used, with some tee joins which "should" work but may one day end up next to a check valve.
  • I'm pondering quite heavy use of diaphragm valves for flow control. They're also much more suitable for CIP, and it would be good to eliminate ball valves (ignore the symbols on this diagram, just interpret them as "valve" for now!)
At the moment I'm planning on the first iteration being very manual for flow control/valves, but with computer controlled pumps and heating elements (driven by the various temperature and pressure sensors measuring temperature and inferred volume). Later on I may ponder computer controlled valves if it goes well.

So! This is the first vaguely workable draft, I'll post some pictures of the vessel and pipework design soon as well, as I'm getting closer to finalising them.

Incidentally the target here is batches around 2 gallons, although I'm trying to give a bit of headroom on various metrics to allow for experimentation with mash densities, high grain loads, double/triple running, etc.

Comments/mockery welcome!
 
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kolektiv

kolektiv

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Oh, and just a note on size - right now the whole brew system, excluding the control system, fits in to a bounding box against a wall 1.6m high, 0.8m wide, and 0.3m deep. So basically the size of a medium bookcase.
 

Cool_Hand_Luke

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Not to advocate for a 6-vessel system :oops:, but you are just shy 1 vessel, 1 heating element, and some sensors from just having 2 parallel systems that you could stagger start times on. Obviously added cost, but would eliminate the complexity of needing to transfer an entire grist. And you would have the added benefit that if you added a couple more valves and wanted to brew a 4 gallon batch of the same beer some time you could almost run the two sides at the same time provided the panel could take the load.

Give the relative size are you planning on 120V elements? I am also presuming you have considered BIAB, RIMS, and other combinations of these and are set on developing something along the lines of what you have posted? I ask so we know what your end goals and folks can focus their responses within that context.

Looks like a fun and cool project!
 
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kolektiv

kolektiv

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Hah, you're right, it isn't far shy of 6V, but I think this way, when treating it is a 5V system, the individual stages and vessels stay relatively simple. I'm not sure my brain is up to fully parallel running! But it's definitely something to think about, particularly if my planned gravity-driven approach to grist transfer turns out not work well from a fluid dynamics perspective. Definitely possible, I've got some mucking about with pipes, sample mash densities, and gravity to do!

I'm in the UK, so I'm planning on 240V 3KW elements. 12.5A each, so I can certainly run two at a time on a standard residential circuit here - 3, probably not, but if it comes down to it I might get a little extra wiring done - or adapt the control programming to interleave PID driven elements to restrict current draw, potentially. That may work well enough, considering that 3KW is more than enough for a maximum heated volume of around 12L (if you fill the vessel to the brim, which is probably not wise...)

I've considered BIAB, etc. - I've been doing all grain brewing with friends for a few years in various forms, mainly with single vessel approaches. I've gone HERMS not RIMS here as I think it's a bit more forgiving of system failures - pump interruptions, slightly erratic flow, etc. doesn't result in such instant wort damage.

Let's face it - this system isn't about the cheapest and simplest way to brew - it's very much the fun of the experiment, hopefully leading to some similarly experimental brewing! (I have some equally eccentric plans for the fermentation systems!)
 

Cool_Hand_Luke

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Hah, you're right, it isn't far shy of 6V, but I think this way, when treating it is a 5V system, the individual stages and vessels stay relatively simple. I'm not sure my brain is up to fully parallel running! But it's definitely something to think about, particularly if my planned gravity-driven approach to grist transfer turns out not work well from a fluid dynamics perspective. Definitely possible, I've got some mucking about with pipes, sample mash densities, and gravity to do!
So in that case, any reason to not just have 2 MLTs instead of an MLT and a LT? It would serve the same purpose that you could continue to lauter and sparge while starting your next mash. This would eliminate the need to move your grist to another vessel, unless you just really want to see if it can be done. The trick to moving slurries is keeping the solids suspended and the flow rate sufficient other wise the liquid will tend to flow away faster and you'll be left with a fair bit of solids behind. Your vessel geometry sounds like it would help, but it just seems slightly unnecessary unless you just want to see if it can be done. Or is there some process type that you'd like to experiment with that requires moving the grist?

I'm in the UK, so I'm planning on 240V 3KW elements. 12.5A each, so I can certainly run two at a time on a standard residential circuit here - 3, probably not, but if it comes down to it I might get a little extra wiring done - or adapt the control programming to interleave PID driven elements to restrict current draw, potentially. That may work well enough, considering that 3KW is more than enough for a maximum heated volume of around 12L (if you fill the vessel to the brim, which is probably not wise...)
So standard circuits are 32 amps? Or are they less? General rule of thumb is to only load a circuit to 80% of the breaker nameplate capacity if it's going to be continuously loaded. Otherwise you may shorten it's life. I think it is due to thermal degradation of the components within the breaker and the insulation on the conductors in the circuit as well, but there are others on this forum far more knowledgeable on that subject.
 
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kolektiv

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So in that case, any reason to not just have 2 MLTs instead of an MLT and a LT? It would serve the same purpose that you could continue to lauter and sparge while starting your next mash. This would eliminate the need to move your grist to another vessel, unless you just really want to see if it can be done.
Well, 2 MLTs starts to look like 2 HERMS systems, etc. and the complexity does go up quite a lot with two completely parallel pipelines in that sense I think. And to be honest, yes I'm interested in experimenting with the variations around combined mashing/lautering and separating things. You may be right on the grist transfer, the goal is effectively to make it effectively as low in viscosity, and as much of a suspension as possible during transfer - but I've got some experiments to run before I know how feasible that is! If it turns out not to be, I might look at either other transfer approaches, or go back to a more conventional MLT approach.

So standard circuits are 32 amps? Or are they less? General rule of thumb is to only load a circuit to 80% of the breaker nameplate capacity if it's going to be continuously loaded.
Yes, standard circuits are generally 32A. So running 2 12.5A heater elements isn't too much of an issue, and the other pumps, etc. are likely to be 24V DC with a fairly minimal draw - a couple of amps, perhaps, so it's a little over the 80% mark for short periods, but probably not too much of a problem. I'm certainly avoiding anything other than single phase approaches, as that would get horrifically expensive very quickly...
 

Cool_Hand_Luke

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Well, 2 MLTs starts to look like 2 HERMS systems, etc. and the complexity does go up quite a lot with two completely parallel pipelines in that sense I think. And to be honest, yes I'm interested in experimenting with the variations around combined mashing/lautering and separating things.
Would you really need 2 HERMS or just the capability to switch which HLT is performing the sparge? For instance once Mash #1 is complete, switch to HLT#2 to sparge/lauter while HLT#1 can be used for Mash #2 executed in MLT#2. You could even keep the capability to transfer grist from MLT1 to MLT2 if you wanted. It just seems like that would give you more flexibility not less. On the note of flexibility are you planning to hard pipe or use hoses for the liquid transfers? I would honestly recommend hoses so any unforeseen configuration you don't think of during the build can be simply accomplished by moving around some hose connections.

For the grist transferring, are you trying to have the capability to have a thick and thin mash of the same wort production happening at the same time? I've seen this type of technique referenced for use in some styles like Hefeweizen. Old thread on the subject: Brewing Wheat Beer with Intensive Banana Aroma MAY/JUNE 2010 Zymurgy

If so, then I guess I can somewhat see the advantage although a simpler solution given the size of the system could just be using a sauce pan to transfer some of the grist. I'll freely admit that impacts the cool factor you seem to be going for.
 
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kolektiv

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Hmmm, the switching of sparge/HERMS is an interesting idea. I'll have to play around with that. I like the thinking, i'll have to put a gantt chart together and see how the phases would link up. I'd been planning on largely hard piping, but what I may do until it's settled is use the same valves, etc. (tri-clamp) but connected with silicone hose on tri-clamp barbs until the configuration is relatively settled. Should still work well enough in general I think. The good thing about tri-clamp is that you can still re-arrange if needed, but admittedly it's a bit more work than with hose.

Different mashes of the same wort is one thing on the list of potential experiments - but as you say, there are simpler approaches. I'm not too worried about cool factor overall - but I will certainly admit the engineering challenge is quite a fun one, especially the space density, etc.!
 
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