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Benefits and Disadvantages of Single Vessel Brewing Systems

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Not every homebrewer is a die-hard Do-It-Yourselfer. I mean sure, most of us feel the call occasionally – it’s probably the same brain wiring that makes us want to brew beer instead of buying it at the store. But there’s a big difference between screwing a bulkhead into a cooler, and that guy in your homebrew club who welded together a brew sculpture out of old kegs and bike parts so the whole thing looks like something out of Mad Max (and then he named it Mad Max, because the “Max” is for Max-imum efficiency, bro!). Maybe your skills are lacking, or your tool shed isn't equipped to weld a masterpiece. Or maybe you just don’t have room for an awesome homemade setup, but you still want to brew all-grain. If that’s you, you may be eyeing a single vessel brewing system like the Grainfather or PicoBrew, but aren’t sure if they’re a worthwhile investment. This article will hopefully answer some of your questions about the advantages and disadvantages of all-in-one systems and help you decide whether they’re right for you.
Having brewed on both a basic, homemade, single-infusion cooler all-grain system and on a Grainfather, I have some experience with both. After years of brewing on my homemade system, I invested in a Grainfather. I needed an indoor brewing option after my second child was born because it became that much harder for me to leave my wife alone in the house for an entire day of brewing. I still brew on both systems, but there are times when the Grainfather is absolutely an asset to my brewing arsenal.

Advantages of Single Vessel Brewing Systems


The Grainfather at fly sparging time, with additional Sparge Water Heater (top).
Simplicity
Both Grainfather and PicoBrew are single vessel brewing systems that offer a quick, easy way to start all-grain brewing with little manual labor and clear directions. This is great for those who don’t have the time or the DIY chops to build their own system, or who just want to be the next Vinnie Cilurzo, not the next Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor. The Grainfather even has a smartphone app that makes brew day easy by storing recipes, calculating strike water and sparge water volume (and temperature), and timing mashes, mash-outs, boil time and boil additions. It doesn’t replace all the software tools I use on brew day, but it does a lot. The PicoBrew Zymatic one-ups this by being automated through a web browser control panel.
Size
If you don’t have a backyard or need an indoor option for any reason, all-in-one systems are compact enough to use without blocking your family’s access to the kitchen (or the kegerator!) and take up less storage space between brew days. The Grainfather’s footprint is about the same as any carboy or fermenting vessel. The PicoBrew Zymatic and soon-to-be-released Pico system fit on a countertop. It’s a great way to get in a brew session even if you need to be inside … such as to watch the kids, or the game.
Integration
Everything in the system is designed to work together. No running off into a kettle only to find that the hole you drilled for your bulkhead is a hair too wide and you’re leaking wort. No concerns that the pump you bought isn’t strong enough to push your wort through the counterflow chiller and up into the fermenter. Brew day is pretty predictable and troubleshooting is simple. However, because it’s all one unit, fixing one component if something ever breaks is likely to be harder (see below). The PicoBrew Zymatic even runs the wort off into a keg for you for fermentation and packaging in the same keg; some brewers will probably find this a bit too hands-off, but for others, it may be just what the brewmaster ordered.
Versatility
Because the system is electric and directly heated, you can employ brewing techniques that aren’t always easy on a basic 2 or 3-vessel infusion system. Mashes stay at target temperatures. Step mashes and mash-outs are a breeze – no more calculating how many quarts of boiling water to add, only to panic when you overshoot your target. The Grainfather is also built for fly sparging, with a grain basket that lifts out of the mash easily and safely, though you’ll still need an additional vessel for heating sparge water (see below). The Grainfather is also more manual than the PicoBrew, so it’s easy to draw off part of a mash for decoction or draw off wort to caramelize in a separate pot for something like a wee heavy. Of course you’ll need additional pots for this and have to do it on the kitchen stove, but since the Grainfather sits comfortably in the kitchen you can keep an eye on it easily while you’re doing this.

Disadvantages of Single Vessel Brewing Systems


Price
The Grainfather retails for about $900 USD, and you’ll still need an additional vessel for heating sparge water. Grainfather offers an electric one for $170 USD that works great, but any pot that holds around 4 gallons (15-16 liters) will do. The PicoBrew Zymatic retails for over twice as much – around $2000 USD – but it’s much more automated, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Proprietary Components
As noted above, everything is designed to work together, and that is a good thing. But it can also be a drawback because if something breaks on the unit, it will be much harder to fix than just replacing one component you picked up at your local homebrew store. However, the Grainfather is open-ended enough to be modified in small ways. I added a hop spider to mine because the hop screen on the pump intake gets clogged easily (not just on aggressively hopped IPAs, we’re talking dry stouts as well) but a hop spider is cheap and easy to make even for a DIY newbie like me. And I don’t think it will be hard to replace the Grainfather’s rather lightweight counter-flow chiller with a hardier version or a plate chiller someday.
The Grainfather control panel allows for easy setting or changing of mash rest temperatures.

Batch Size
The Grainfather is designed for 5-6 gallon (19-23 liter) batches and the grain basket can comfortably hold 20 pounds (9 kg) of grain, so it should have no trouble making most 5-gallon worts even upwards of 1.090 OG. If you want to brew larger batches, the Grainfather is not for you; and if you’re in the mood for a barleywine or quad you may have to scale the batch size down a little bit. In this department, though, the Grainfather has a clear advantage over the PicoBrew Zymatic which brews only 2.5 gallons (9.5 liters), or the Pico system which will be even smaller.

Boil Vigor
I include this one because I’ve seen a lot of questions on the Internet about the Grainfather’s ability to bring 7-8 gallons (27-30 liters) of pre-boil wort to a rolling boil, especially in the United States where our 110V AC circuits cap the unit’s maximum wattage below what it gets in its native New Zealand. It’s true that the boil doesn’t roll and roar like a malty Mount Vesuvius, so if you’re looking for that kind of excitement you may be disappointed. But from my experience, this has not caused problems in my finished beer. I reach a boil in about 15 minutes after sparging, my hot breaks are impressive, my boil-offs hit my OG target, and I have great hop utilization and no DMS. The PicoBrew, on the other hand, does not even reach a boil – operating just below boiling point, though hot enough to isomerize hop alpha acids.
Bragging Rights
Okay, you don’t have the pride of showing your friends your homebrew setup and saying “I built that.” But if you’re the kind of person for whom DIY projects are stressful or unfeasible, you’ll be happy just to be brewing good beer. And isn’t that why we do it?
No matter what you use to brew, the most important thing is that you enjoy the final product.
In general, single vessel brewing systems like the Grainfather and PicoBrew make good beer, and they offer a worthy alternative for the homebrewer who wants to brew all-grain but can’t or won’t go a more traditional route. That convenience comes at a cost, and depending on the option you choose you may also sacrifice some of the hands-on aspects of homebrewing. But as with almost everything in homebrewing – where there are at least two ways to do everything – there is no real right or wrong, only trade-offs and factors to consider in pursuit of the one goal all homebrewers have in common: the goal to brew a great glass of beer.
Shawn is the writer behind the blog " My Brew Home " , where you can find his latest recipes and brewing adventures.
 
Nice article... I was concerned about the NON boil of the Zymatic, but I listened to Denny Conn & Drew Beecham's recent podcast on ExperimentalBrewing.com (episode 2 I think) and Denny claims no issues with DMS and they brew a bunch with Pils Malt, so I guess it is really not an issue... I certainly will be looking at both units at the AHA BrewCon in MD this June....
 
Thanks, CBelli. Glad to hear that Conn and Beecham had good results with the Zymatic. I can tell you from personal experience that I have had no issues with DMS in the Grainfather. My non-scientific opinion is that a good long boil with the lid off to let steam escape is good enough to get the DMS precursors to acceptable levels.
Let me know which one you pick, once you make a decision. Cheers!
- Shawn
 
Great article, I test equipment for a retailer that services homebrewers. The author did a great job laying out many concerns and praises I share after working with these systems. In response to CBelli's comment on the Zymatic, I would do some thorough research into it before laying out any money. DMS is not the only concern with a non-boil system (and I have gotten DMS from it). Other systems mentioned in this article get you much better control and beer for your money in my humble opinion.
 
Thanks for the article!
I have 2 little ones at home as well, which has vastly reduced my outdoor brewing, so I switched to doing 2 to 3 gallon BIAB on my stove and placing my kettle in a coolbrewing bag during mash losing max 2degrees F temp-wise and I'm getting 75% efficiency. I've read and watched a lot on the grainfather (came close to buying), picobrew, braumeister, and brewie but I still don't see the cost benefit. I think my next "upgrade" will be an induction cooktop with temp control and induction ready brew kettle both pricing out at 500 (ex anvil 7.5 gallon brew-kettle and paragon induction cooktop with temp sensor) . Am i totally missing something on these single vessel systems besides a built-in circulation pump?
 
I appreciate this article for helping to open up more discussion on systems like this. In my opinion, systems like the Zymatic and Pico oversimplify the process, but I still love the fact that people can make great beer so easily. I'm all for having a wide range of options.
As someone who brews in an apartment, the Grainfather certainly peaks my interest. Currently I partial mash 2.5 gallon batches, but a device like this would clear the way to all grain brewing a full 5 gallon batch without a lot of extra equipment I don't have room for. While I wouldn't be able to fit my swamp cooler and 3 gallon fermenter in a spare kitchen cabinet, I would be doubling my volume. It also would relieve me of having to use my stove which takes forever to heat even a 2 gallon boil. While it's still expensive, the Grainfather is at least entering a reasonable and obtainable price point. I don't know if I would pursue a product like this or go a more traditional route down the road, but I think products like the Grainfather and Pico are great options to have.
 
One of the main reasons I bought it was because of the price. 900 bucks and its ready to go... can't beat that!! I mean, the DIY is cool and all. But every time I've DIY'd something I've ended up spending twice the amount than if I would have just bought the damn thing outright. Typically cause I get so detailed and try to buy the highest quality of every singe component. Either way, both are awesome. I've got a lot of respect for the guys that build their own equipment. But for me, and many others... the Grainfather got me Back Into brewing because of the ease.
 
ktrain - If you plan on sticking to 2-3 gallon batches, you may not find much difference between the Grainfather and your own self-built BIAB induction system, except for the pump. But if you wanted to brew 5 gallons inside, you may have a hard time fitting your BIAB in a 7.5 gallon kettle. Most of what I've seen suggests that you need at least a 10 gallon pot to BIAB 5 gallons, because you need room for all the water up front plus the grain. With the Grainfather, you can do a 5 gallon batch in a vessel of about 8-9 gallons because the mash has a liquor-to-grist ratio of about 1.66 qt/lb (a little thin to make recirculation easy, but not as thin as BIAB), then lifting the basket out to fly sparge the rest of the water into the kettle. Maybe you could rig up something yourself that does the same thing, but I like that the Grainfather is made for that exact operation and has a handle to safely lift the hot grain basket out of the mash and supports to hold it in place during the sparge.
If I can answer any further questions as you think through your decision, let me know! - Shawn
 
Michigan_Wolfman - see my response above to ktrain for some of my thoughts about BIAB vs. Grainfather. And let me know if you have any questions.
- Shawn
 
Hi Shawn,
Great Article. I bought a GFather about 6 months ago, after brewin solidly for 4 years, I'd tried numerous ways. (Cooler / BIAB / 2 Vessel Re-Circ / Single Vessel BIAB with Re-circ) and this is the one system, to offer consistency time and time again.
however the reason ?I'm commenting, is your Silicone tube i nthe pic above. I guess this is for Fly-Sparging, do you just let it run through? or have you got cuts in your hose to help with even distribution?
I use a short piece, but find i need to move it around to get some more even distribution.
 
Thanks for the interesting article! I've been considering an electric indoor system for the same reason -- I'm tough enough to sit outside for 3 hours to do a brew when it's January in Michigan and it's 8 degrees outside, but my two year old isn't. Needed an indoor option.
Here's my question: By doing the Grainfather (or BrewEasy, or Braumeister, etc.) with the 240 electric input, do you think you'd have better results because of the higher power output?
 
I've had a Grainfather since December, and have been very happy with it. It really simplifies the brew day, confining the mess, and limiting the cleanup after. That being said, I have had a couple issues with it, that both have simple-ish resolutions.
The first issue I had, which seems to be common, is the time it takes to get to a boil on the U.S. version due to only having 110v. The common solution to this seems to be to wrap it in reflectix insulation, or buy the graincoat. Some people also add a heat stick/bucket heater to aid in getting it from mash to boil temperatures to cut down on the waiting. I wrapped in reflectix, and may add a heat stick later.
The second issue is the hop particles clogging the recirc/wort out line. I solved this by removing the ball/spring valve, as the hop particles were getting caught in the spring. There is still a ball valve there, you just have to remember to shut it off before disconnecting the recirc arm or chiller. A hop spider can also solve this, I plan to add one later, for no reason other than to get clearer wort.
Even with those two issues, I am very happy with it. I have brewed all-grain on it, which was the reason I bought it, but I have even done some extract and partial mash kits on it that I still had from before I purchased it. With the extract and partial mash kits, I have even doubled up on some of them to do 10-gallon batches in the same amount of time, since the kits were made with carboy topping off in mind.
Before getting the Grainfather I was considering getting a 20 gallon pot, and doing BIAB, but I would have had to do it on a burner outside, as I don't have 240v in a good place to brew inside, and living in Ohio, that doesn't lend well to the cold long winters we have. Also, the Grainfather's small footprint lends well to the potential that I may move in the future to a place with less space than I have right now.
One other suggestion - if you are thinking about getting the Sparge Water Heater, you may also just consider using a commercial coffee urn to heat up your sparge water. I use one I got used from family (but they can be had fairly cheap), and use an inkbird temperature controller to precisely control the temperature of it. I just leave out all the coffee making parts of it, and just use it to heat the water.
 
Great article but I feel like it is missing somethings that a person looking into making the switch to e-biab may not know. There are a lot more systems than the few listed in the article (I understand the article wasn't made to list all the systems. Some of those other systems not mentioned do use 240V which will boil 10 to 15 gallons no problem. Which brings my to my next point, the batch sizes on those systems are greater than 5 gallons. Brew Boss has a 240V set up for 5 and 10 gallon batches. That system can do 15 gallons batches as well but the mash water needs to be split. Some of these other systems don't have nearly as many proprietary parts as the Grainfather. Using Brew Boss again, the electronic controller is proprietary and what you are actually spending a lot of the money on but all the other parts are readily available at most home brew stores. I own a Brew Boss and actually built my own pot. I just bought the controller and heating element.
Definitely a great over-view article on e-biab. There are so many systems now that you could wrote a book about them all. I switched to e-biab a year ago and don't think I will ever brew any other way. Easy clean up. Mash temps are always hit and stay for the 60 minutes. I can control the boil so I don't boil off too much but keep it at a nice rolling boil.
 
Thanks, crusader1612. I've been very happy with the consistency as well.
I just let the water run through. But when I pull the grain basket out, I press down the top screen to rest on the grain bed, and leave it there so the top screen is on during sparging. Then I try to keep about half an inch of sparge water above the screen, so I get even distribution that way.
I used to use a shorter hose with one of those plastic aerator tips that fits into the hose; that was pretty good but I made a few messes. That's when I switched to the longer hose.
- Shawn
 
Some day...
I heat and treat in a 12.5 gallon kettle.
Add water to mash tun with a 1 gallon pitcher marked in 1/8 gallons.
Transfer remaining water to 7.5 gallon kettle to heat for sparge, then run off into the first kettle.
Efficiency sucks sometimes...
 
This article really puts a burr in my saddle. This is not a list of advantages and draw backs to single vessel brewing systems. The Grainfather should not even be included in such an article because it is NOT single vessel if you are heating your sparge water in what is effectively a HLT. That would make it a two vessel system!!! 1+1=2
The article instead is a list of advantages and draw backs for the Grainfather and the Picobrew systems. I suggest that the title of this article be changed to reflect the true content. Something like "Benefits and Disadvantages of the Grainfather and Picobrew Systems" would be more appropriate.
If one were to truly write an article discussing the advantages and draw backs of single vessel brewing systems, it might include some of the things listed above, like simplicity and batch size, but boil vigor and proprietary components would be excluded. It would also include discussion on things like the various methods to hoist the grain from the kettle, and the fact that absorption rates are typically less so your starting volume of water can be reduced. The list of topics that should have been included could go on and on.
Last point of this minor rant. Off the shelf, all-in-one, recirculating, single vessel brewing systems with the same and sometimes better functionality can be bought for much cheaper than either of the systems mentioned in this article. I personally own one from a company that sells theirs over $300 cheaper than the Grainfather. And yes, this is a single vessel brewing systems unlike the Grainfather.
 
I have had a Grainfather since last June. I have brewed over 2 dozen batches in it. I also sell them in my store and have sold quite a few. One particular customer, who brews locally for a restaurant, has dumped all his all grain set up and switched to the Grainfather for personal brewing and swears by it.
I brew in early mornings so this offers convenience. I set it up the night before with water and simply wake up, hit the switch and it heats to mash temp while I'm doing a few other things. Come back and mash in grain and again, walk away without worry and do other things.
And convenience is amplified in the cleanup. Wash the grain basket out and then when you are done, you can add cleaner and water and recirculate for as long as needed to clean the bottom if you have any baked on sugars.
I still use my "MAX" 3 tier 18 gallon gravity system for big gravity beers and larger batches, and honestly the Grainfather doesn't gain me much time (maybe half an hour) because I have used that system for so long, it is second nature. But it does make cleanup easier and storage space is reduced to a carboy equivalent.
I modified the wort chiller so I could put a 2" probe thermometer on the outflow to monitor the wort into the fermenter. (Who says you still can't do DIY projects with one of these ;) ) I have also run it with a Therminator instead as Shawn indicated he might do. It's easy to convert it but the plate chiller sits a bit precariously on the top.
I can tell you the pump is not the strongest BUT it will pump wort 10 ft to a height of 6 feet, but it is slow.....which in my case is good because I have to pump ice water through any chiller 10 months of the year because our ground water doesn't go below 70 very often and is more like 85.....
I can recommend it. For the price, it is a good value.
 
LOL - I know the feeling; if the kids aren't happy, no one is.
If you mean possibly using a dryer outlet to power the Grainfather, I'm not an electrician but some knowledgeable guys chimed in on that question in this thread on HBT: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=569400
I really haven't had a problem personally; it boils off down to my expected OG and no DMS. But if I ever wanted something to bring it to a boil faster, I'd probably just augment it with a heat stick.
 
Ztup - thanks for the suggestions on Reflectix and the Graincoat. I may look into those to get my wort boiling faster. Cheers! - Shawn
 
Thanks, DenBobber! Glad to be able to put some information out there to help people decide which option is best for them. - Shawn
 
Agreed, BWE. I think it's great that we have so many options to choose from, so anyone can brew regardless of what challenges are in your way. Thanks for reading! - Shawn
 
Thanks for the feedback! It's true, there are a lot of systems out there and I could only write about the ones I've used or researched. Thanks for the additional info on the Brew Boss ... I'll have to look into that one. Cheers! - Shawn
 
Thanks for the feedback, TexasWine. Unfortunately it isn't possible in an article this size to cover every single alternative out there, nor is it possible to cover every single topic that may be of interest. If there's anything you think was missed that you can offer some insight on, feel free to post it in the comments. I for one would love to know more about that cheaper system you own. Cheers.
- Shawn
 
Thanks, chezhed. That's one thing I love about the Grainfather, too ... is the ability to walk away and do other things. Good to know that the Therminator will work with it, because that is something I have planned for the future.
I'd like to know more about that thermometer you fitted to the CFC outflow. I've just been recirculating back into the GF and monitoring temperature of the wort inside the unit, but monitoring the temperature as it leaves the CFC might be better. Do you have any pics?
- Shawn
 
I have a breweasy - the results are very good in many ways. After a dozen brews on it, I'm very happy with it, despite less than stellar first impressions. Efficiency is a bit low, but not terrible - there are tweaks that improve it. If you're looking at one of these systems though, I'd warn against thinking the Breweasy is similar to the grainfather or zymatic or similar. It's certainly not set it and forget it - it's actually more involved than was my three vessel all grain system, which for mashing purposes really was set it and forget it ;)
 
I think I might have done a poor job explaining my grievance. My beef isn't that the article excludes alternatives to the GF and Pico systems. A write up on the pros/cons of each of those systems is just fine and dandy. Nor would I expect anyone to cover every alternative to those two systems if the scope of the article was specifically to cover those systems.
The issue is that the article shouldn't be titled and advertised as something that is generic in nature (single vessel systems) yet very specific in content (Grainfather and Pico). To say this article is about "Single Vessel Brewing Systems" is highly misleading. It unwittingly gives the impression that these are the only two Single Vessel Systems that exist.
I see many people steered toward one product or another without ever having a full picture of what all options exist. This article, with its title and content, simply promulgates this effect, costing fellow home brewers a lot of hard earned money they could have kept in their own pocket.
Maybe that's the real burr in my saddle. Trying to save people money!!!
And apologies about the aggressive tone. I've been told I'm a nice fellow by more than just my mother. I just get riled up sometimes.
 
Guess I'm that guy with the welding skills and plenty of room. Speidel Braumeister? When I build my next system, I'll draw heavily from the features they've incorporated in their product line.
 
In order to embrace more options, you might want to include the Braumeister family in this article (with equipments ranging from 10 liters, up to 500 liters!).
Expensive? Yes; but also much more automatized than the GF, allowing for consistency between batches...
Understand it's not very used in the US, but would easily say it's one of the most (if not the one) preferred by home brewers looking for single-vessel devices here in Europe (of course those that want to spend the money for a BR).
Cheers
 
Hello,
Was thinking about a GF and was wondering why a different vessel is needed to heat water to strike temperature. Can'y you use the GF to heat the water and then put the malt pipe in?
Thanks
 
I've got the GF and love it. To Liam's question, you're right, you likely don't need to purchase another vessel just for heating water. You could heat it in the GF, then transfer to a cooler (via the GF pump) where it can maintain temp until you need it, after the mash. Or, you can heat water separately (I do this on my stove top with a kitchen pot). Or, according to some folks who don't buy into the 170 degree sparge theory, you could just sparge with room temp water. The drawback to that is it lowers the grainbed temp in the GF and takes that much longer to get it back to boil. I did this on my last brew. Easy enough to just use room temp water, but not worth the wait to get back to boil. Next time I'll do what I've done before--just heat up some water on the stove. The GF has 2 great Facebook pages that folks might want to check out--filled with tips, questions, and lots of beer ideas!
 
No worries, my friend. I understand the concerns you raised, and the intention was not to imply that these are only options out there, and not to steer anyone. Just sharing information about the systems I have looked into. I regret that you found the title misleading. And I still would love any information you can share about the system you have! I'm a big fan of saving money! - Shawn
 
Hi Liam - You are correct that you heat the strike water in the GF, just as you said. The only thing you can't do is heat the sparge water in the GF, because it'll already be full of grain and wort. - Shawn
 
I have a three tier system that I brew 10+ gallon batches on, but like you wanted something for smaller batches that was less work/time and looked at the two systems you have written about as well as a couple of the others out there like Brew Boss, Braumeister, and Brew Easy. I offered someone on eBay to buy a Grainfather at significantly less than list, but he would not meet me even in the middle. So I decided to build my own system, with the help from the HBT vendor family. I am still waiting on some parts, but when it gets assembled I will post some pictures and information, in case someone else is interested. I am reusing a bunch of items from my three tier, with some mods to do a brew in a basket concept. I snagged a HotRod from BobbyM's store as well as some pieces parts to add a temperature probe that attaches to my RIMS box, which will be used now to controls temps in the mash with the HotRod. I could have used the RIMS tube to do this, but I decided to add some more gear to my system that I could use in other ways as needed. Next, I ordered a stainless steel basket (still waiting on it) which is large enough for any size beer I could imagine. My plan is to recirculate through the mash bed during the entire mash, similar to the way I do with the RIMS on the larger system using one of my pumps. Once mash is complete, I have the option to sparge or not, and think it will probably not be necessary, but I will see how my efficiency numbers come out before deciding that bit. Anyhow, after draining the mash, I will dump and rinse the basket and turn the HotRod on full power to boil with a 2000W heating element. I may upgrade to 240V and 5500W later if this does not give me the boil I want, but think this will be fine for the planned 3-6 gallon batches on the smaller system. I like the simplicity of one vessel, the right amount of automation, and the fact the system will be all electric resulting in me brewing more often...only time will tell. All in all, the parts were well less than half of what I would have paid for the GF, and a LOT cheaper than most of the other options. This is somewhat due to the fact that I am reusing a lot of equipment I already had and giving it multiple purposes, depending on the system I am using (gas or electric). All the other options had their pluses and minuses and I think they all are innovative and cool devices. If money was not object, I probably would have gone with the Speidel Braumeister as it seemed to be the best device on the market. Trying to keep my obsession with brewing in check budgetwise, I think the GF or my basket concept make the most sense for me...only time will tell! Cheers!!
 
Shawn, recirc back into the GF is extremely inefficient! Put wort out house directly into fermenter. Control temp by valve opening and cooling water flow, I chill to 60s (tap water 50s) and empty 5.5 g in 15 min. Easy. I will pre chill cooling water as tap temps rise.
 
Don't forget to check out the awesome single vessel systems from BrauSupply. I picked up their UniBrau 5G system, and it's been a great experience. I ended up picking it over the GrainFather after a lot of consideration, but the biggest points for me were the dual 1500w elements vs GF's 1600w and 400w, and the larger kettle (11G, 1 gallon larger) to allow slightly larger grain bills.
 
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