Are AIO units like Spike Solo/Unibrau worth the extra money?

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McKnuckle

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What qualities might make them worth more to you? Serious question. All of these devices can make good wort in the right hands. None of them are magical or idiot-proof. What differentiating qualities would you pay more to have?

The Unibrau looks cool. Check out Martin Keen's "Homebrew Challenge" videos on YouTube - he uses one for a portion of them. Then he switched to the Clawhammer system, which could be another contender.

The Spike Solo seems to be heavily engineered and yet oddly under-performing for some folks, with people modifying or tweaking it right out of the box. There's a thread on HBT where you can read for yourself. That's off-putting to me, given the cost.
 
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Rik van den berg

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Durability, ease of use, heating speed, overall quality.

I currently brew on a 3V (2 coolers, 1 keggle) propane fired system. Looking to go to an all in one electrical system. I’ve read really good stuff about the anvil but don’t want to spend $450 now and then decide I would rather have a $1,400 system.
 
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Durability, ease of use, heating speed, overall quality.

I currently brew on a 3V (2 coolers, 1 keggle) propane fired system. Looking to go to an all in one electrical system. I’ve read really good stuff about the anvil but don’t want to spend $450 now and then decide I would rather have a $1,400 system.

Exciting plans for your brew day upgrade! Our system certainly costs more but there's a saying that comes to mind; "You get what you pay for". The countertop brewing machines are fun for beginners but it's only a matter of time until you grow out of it and want more (or it wears out). Our system uses many of the same commercial components that our Trio and Nano use. The system is meant to last a lifetime!

As far as the comment above about modifying the Solo out of the box, that's super common with our equipment. We design our equipment to be modular so people can tweak, tinker and modify as they would like. We look at our products similar to a Jeep. Out of the box it's an awesome product but you can add all sorts of accessories to make it 'custom' and fit your own style. The Solo out of the box is incredibly easy to use and will make your brew day so simple. I was just at a buddies who has a 15gal Solo. He never brewed before owning the Solo and is on his 4th batch. The brew day from mash in to fully clean was 4hrs!
 

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Agreed the countertop units are not beginner toys. OP, the disadvantage of 'countertop' systems is their (general) lack of expandability. I BIAB, started with one pot and burner and kept expanding. I now have 4 pots and 4 burners, 3 biab, 1 HLT to sparge. I can brew 3 different 10gal batches in an 8hr brew day, all with interchangeable parts. Prep water and grind day before, stagger MI by 30 minutes. Have your brew sheets handy, stay organized, and don't mix up your hops!
I'm considering an AIO but this winter I'm using 1 electric BIAB pot (no sparge) in my basement. Colorado Brew Systems look good, though pricey. They do come w/stainless pulley stand, no need to rig your own. A 30lb grain bill is not something I would muscle around with.
 
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Rik van den berg

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Agreed the countertop units are not beginner toys. OP, the disadvantage of 'countertop' systems is their (general) lack of expandability. I BIAB, started with one pot and burner and kept expanding. I now have 4 pots and 4 burners, 3 biab, 1 HLT to sparge. I can brew 3 different 10gal batches in an 8hr brew day, all with interchangeable parts. Prep water and grind day before, stagger MI by 30 minutes. Have your brew sheets handy, stay organized, and don't mix up your hops!
I'm considering an AIO but this winter I'm using 1 electric BIAB pot (no sparge) in my basement. Colorado Brew Systems look good, though pricey. They do come w/stainless pulley stand, no need to rig your own. A 30lb grain bill is not something I would muscle around with.

Yeah i would consider myself an experienced brewer.. Still brewing great beers on my 2 cooler/1 keggle setup. I would keep that setup for the odd 10 gallon or high gravity batches i do but would want a AIO for the 5 gallon batches with grain bills of 10 - 15lb (about 90% of my brews). I have toyed with the idea of building my own 3V system but that is going to run in at least the same amount of money (probably more) and a LOT of time..
 

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The biggest drawback to the "countertop" systems is when the element or electronics break you basically have to throw them in the trash and buy another one.
The Unibrau and solo you can replace parts.
I own an ss brewtech 1V I use for eBIAB. If the element goes or the temp sensor stops reading, which is integrated into the element, I'm out of luck.
Wish I had thought of this beforehand.
The only issues people have with the solo are grain getting through and element scorching.
People basically need to use the solo a few times and figure out the flow. Not something you can just walk away from. As far as grain getting through, I would just like the basket with a bag.
 

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I have two turn-key type systems, a Speidel Braumeister 10L and the Clawhammer 120V 10.5 gallon unit. I also brew with 1V or 2V ad hoc systems. I'm a bit addicted to variety. :)

Check out the Clawhammer channel on YouTube, where they have a ton of amusing videos, most of which showcase their system. While not particularly sexy, it's well put together and bullet-proof. It's modular and not proprietary. I brew 2.5 gallon batches, so the 120V version works fine for me. They also offer 240V 10 and 20 gallon versions.

Pros are numerous: It holds temp really well. It is simple (yes, that's a pro). Recirculation is reliable and thorough. You can augment the heating with induction if you like. The lid hangs on the handles. It's relatively portable. The pump is outboard and solid, and everything uses quick disconnect fittings for convenience. The controller is outboard as well and uses a standard type of thermoprobe. It kind of just works, with a minimum of drama or extra steps.

Cons... the basket hooks are inconvenient, but I use a pulley anyway. The basket allows grain dust to escape, which would happen with any BIAB setup. There is no down-facing dip tube in the kettle; instead it's just a bulkhead opening, although it's mounted as low as it can get, and you can tilt the kettle. It comes with a plate chiller, which may or may not be your preference. But lots of these don't come with a chiller at all, so...
 
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Rik van den berg

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I have two turn-key type systems, a Speidel Braumeister 10L and the Clawhammer 120V 10.5 gallon unit. I also brew with 1V or 2V ad hoc systems. I'm a bit addicted to variety. :)

Check out the Clawhammer channel on YouTube, where they have a ton of amusing videos, most of which showcase their system. While not particularly sexy, it's well put together and bullet-proof. It's modular and not proprietary. I brew 2.5 gallon batches, so the 120V version works fine for me. They also offer 240V 10 and 20 gallon versions.

Pros are numerous: It holds temp really well. It is simple (yes, that's a pro). Recirculation is reliable and thorough. You can augment the heating with induction if you like. The lid hangs on the handles. It's relatively portable. The pump is outboard and solid, and everything uses quick disconnect fittings for convenience. The controller is outboard as well and uses a standard type of thermoprobe. It kind of just works, with a minimum of drama or extra steps.

Cons... the basket hooks are inconvenient, but I use a pulley anyway. The basket allows grain dust to escape, which would happen with any BIAB setup. There is no down-facing dip tube in the kettle; instead it's just a bulkhead opening, although it's mounted as low as it can get, and you can tilt the kettle. It comes with a plate chiller, which may or may not be your preference. But lots of these don't come with a chiller at all, so...


Thanks for your insights.. I think I've narrowed it down between the Clawhammer 20G 240V and the UniBrau 20G 240V. I spoke with both of them and they are equally responsive and easy to talk to. Both told me that if weight and room aren't a factor, the 20G systems will handle 5G batches just fine..

I hear you on the dip tube. The UniBrau actually has a very slick diptube/hopscreen option which is really slick. I also really like their sparge system where the water gets pushed out on a rim of the basket and evenly goes onto the grain bed.. Leaning towards the UniBrau atm..
 

McKnuckle

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The Unibrau is definitely nice. I bought the Clawhammer because it's confirmed to work for 2.5 gallon batches, whereas with the Unibrau, I'm not sure. I mentioned this already, but check out the "Homebrew Challenge" YouTube channel. The guy on there, Martin, used the UniBrau for quite some time and then switched to Clawhammer. You can see both in action many times if you like that sort of thing.

The Clawhammer recirc uses a spray valve, which works great to distribute the wort, but might offend some who obsess about hot side aeration. I actually changed that part out in lieu of a simple silicone tube draped down below the lid, plugged at the end, with holes drilled in it. Easy to modify. Not necessary at all, just DIY fun.

In short the UniBrau is more purposefully engineered at higher cost, whereas the Clawhammer is thoughtfully pieced together at lower cost. Both look like winners to me.
 
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Rik van den berg

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The Unibrau is definitely nice. I bought the Clawhammer because it's confirmed to work for 2.5 gallon batches, whereas with the Unibrau, I'm not sure. I mentioned this already, but check out the "Homebrew Challenge" YouTube channel. The guy on there, Martin, used the UniBrau for quite some time and then switched to Clawhammer. You can see both in action many times if you like that sort of thing.

The Clawhammer recirc uses a spray valve, which works great to distribute the wort, but might offend some who obsess about hot side aeration. I actually changed that part out in lieu of a simple silicone tube draped down below the lid, plugged at the end, with holes drilled in it. Easy to modify. Not necessary at all, just DIY fun.

In short the UniBrau is more purposefully engineered at higher cost, whereas the Clawhammer is thoughtfully pieced together at lower cost. Both look like winners to me.

Yeah I'm sure i can't go wrong with either of them. I priced each of them out at around $1,500. No significant price difference.
 

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I don't understand why I can't buy something like my Thing1 off the shelf.

I also don't understand why 2 kettles, a heating element, a PID and switches and a pump have to cost $1500.

I also don't understand why everyone uses a water heater element to power their systems.
 
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Rik van den berg

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I don't understand why I can't buy something like my Thing1 off the shelf.

I also don't understand why 2 kettles, a heating element, a PID and switches and a pump have to cost $1500.

I also don't understand why everyone uses a water heater element to power their systems.

when it comes to AIO systems you either pay $300 - $600 or $1,400 - $3000 it seems.. and that is for ONE kettle, a basket and everything that comes with it..

I really like your Thing1 but the reason for me to go to a 'turn key' system is that I don't want to work on building something for a year or so (because that is how much time i'd be able to put into it every week). If I were to start a 'Thing1' build, I feel I might as well start my electric 3V build in stead..
 

brewman !

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I really like your Thing1 but the reason for me to go to a 'turn key' system is that I don't want to work on building something for a year or so (because that is how much time i'd be able to put into it every week). If I were to start a 'Thing1' build, I feel I might as well start my electric 3V build in stead..

I've built/had/used 3V brewing systems. Thing1 takes about 1/5th the time to build as a 3V. Maybe 1/8th or 1/10th.

Skip the induction part. And skip the frame. What's left ? 2 pots, a pump and a PID. Build it in steps.

Here is the grain basket. I put a 12" false bottom in it.

Here is the kettle. It works with induction. You don't need the basket, but it is handy for BIAB if you do that.

You can find hose, a pump, PID, electrical box, etc. I used camlocks for all my connections.

There is no welding on the kettles. Everything bolts or solders. Dead easy.

Speed of building is one of the reasons why I built Thing1 instead of a 3V.
 
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mattxander12

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I think what's different is 1st class support vs 3rd class support. When you buy a Spike anything and have a question...they're super responsive. Building yourself, well figure it out. There isn't always some forum post that solves your problem every time, then you're sorta left high and dry.

I too thought between Blichmann (Anvil), Brau, Ssbt V1, Clawhammer, and Spike solo.

If I were to advocate one, I'd probably say Anvil. The easy switch from 120 to 240, the ease of steam condensing (DIY Add-on), and the support is phenomenal. You are limited by batch size, no whirlpool, replacement parts are up for debate etc.

I went with Spike based on past experience of support, standard parts, and lack of limitations. It costs more. That's fine for me. It also has its own negatives.

Point being that there's a lot to weigh in a decision : batch size, replacement parts, support, longevity, expansion for DIY things, heating speed, etc.

What works for Jim, might not work for John, or James, or me, or you.
 

mattxander12

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It's a brewing system. What support do you think you'll need ?

Quality issues (happens to all manufacturers), usage questions, beersmith profiles, dead space measurements, efficiency issue troubleshooting, DIY idea help, etc.

Not all manufacturers give help beyond just quality issues. Spike does. Just my experience. But sure, if you know it all, such things don't matter.
 

brewman !

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Quality issues (happens to all manufacturers), usage questions, beersmith profiles, dead space measurements, efficiency issue troubleshooting, DIY idea help, etc.

Not all manufacturers give help beyond just quality issues. Spike does. Just my experience. But sure, if you know it all, such things don't matter.

Home brewing has changed a lot over the years.
 

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This thread petered out too soon. I was hoping to read more about all of the higher end single vessel systems including the Braumeister, Solo, Breweasy, Clawhammer Unibrau and whatever else is out there. How is your new system going? Im on a 3 vessel and exploring options to simplify and shorten my brew day.
 
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I have a clawhammer 20 gal and have about 10 batches under my belt. I love it. Easy to replace parts (if needed, not yet for me) and easily modified with any hardware. Nothing is proprietary other than than the pid. The spray recirculation is the only downside. I'm looking hook up a lock line setup at some point. But then again my beers don't seem to be suffering hot side oxidation.. I'm very happy with it
 

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I just got back into the hobby at the beginning of this year after a 4 year hiatus. I had sold all of my previous equipment (cooler MT, 10g boilermaker, and hellfire burner) so I was also in the market for one of the AIO systems.

I got the 10.5g Foundry and I couldn’t be happier. My brew days are considerably shorter than they used to be and the simplicity in comparison is very nice. I’m not recirculating or sparging and I’m still able to get ~70% efficiency. I run on 240v and if I set the timer to preheat my strike water I can be done and cleaned up in less than 4 hours.
 

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I picked up a 120v Unibrau 10G system earlier this year and my 4th or 5th brew on it is going right now. The kettle and grain basket are great. Very high quality, easy to work with, and the number of ports makes for some great customizability options. I went with the 120v version because there are a number of 120v systems people are happy with and it kept cost down between cheaper parts and not needing to pay for a 240v circuit to be installed. I wish I had gone 240v and will probably upgrade w/in the next year. The 120v barely maintains a boil on its own even with the lid on and reflectix (with air gap) wrapping the kettle. I'm currently using a Hot Rod heat stick from a 2nd circuit to resolve that. There are also options to just add a 2nd heating element in one of the ports. The beers I have brewed with it have been great after I finally got a working controller.

The overall brew day process is definitely simpler than even my old stovetop biab. I can brew more beer, I have better mash temperature control, and I'm not taking over the kitchen all day.

My experience with the electronics side of things and the support is a different story. Unibrau is a one man show currently and I believe he was going through a rough period, so my experience is hopefully not be the norm, but I have little good to say there.
 

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Looking in to these has been interesting, and all of these units look like good quality stuff. The issue for me is the 4g deadspace. It appears that these are no-sparge , full vol brewing. It wouldnt be an issue iguess as long as you're getting good efficiency but I have to use a steam condenser, boil with lid on.
my boil-off is only .5g. With the dead space it looks like it requires so mush water to do a mash. id have to boil for 2 hours to get down to volume.
 

Mattpaneth

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Looking in to these has been interesting, and all of these units look like good quality stuff. The issue for me is the 4g deadspace. It appears that these are no-sparge , full vol brewing. It wouldnt be an issue iguess as long as you're getting good efficiency but I have to use a steam condenser, boil with lid on.
my boil-off is only .5g. With the dead space it looks like it requires so mush water to do a mash. id have to boil for 2 hours to get down to volume.

I have an anvil foundry and do a sparge; I never do full vol mash and get avg 70% efficiency without recirculation. Some of these AIO you can do traditional brewing with a mash but you are right in that most are designed for full volume mash
 
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