Brew rig planning and RFA (Request for Advice)

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Mar 13, 2008
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I am starting to look at collecting the pieces for a brew rig. To do that, I need to get a solid plan together, and hopefully that will involve you input - I've seen your rigs and I grovel for your help! :D
A few night of scribbles, scrap and graphite stains I have an initial rough draft above.
Basic Features (going from left to right):
  • A fold down desk area for my brew log, calculator, smokes and my homebrew. (hmmm maybe I need to add a cupholder...)
  • Basic Sink fed by hose water, cabinet doors enclosure. (storage of cleaners etc in there.)
  • Backsplash/Heat shield/Wind shield approximately 5-6 inches higher than the sink clear across to the far end brew kettle.
  • Hop and other brew ingredient recessed bins. (between the sink and the HLT.)
  • HLT - Keggle, propane fired. Valve, sight-glass, and thermometer.
  • MLT - Keggle, not fired. Insulated. Sparge device of some sort on top. Valve, sight-glass, and thermometer.
  • Pumps - Two march pumps below.
  • CFC - Mounted below the MLT.
  • BK - Keggle, propane fired. Valve, sight-glass, and thermometer.

The plan is to stay with batch sparging and experiment with fly sparging and eventually to make a decision and upgrade to a HERMS or RIMS system if appropriate. I have only done a few AG batches and haven't decided which way to go. Also, I haven't decided on materials - I can weld and have friends that are good welders as well. However I am a wood furniture lover and like to woodwork as well. Really it comes down to cost, maintenance, and portability as I will be brewing on location quite often.
I plan to hook up a garden hose and run water from the back left side, to the sink and to the HLT. Likely I will add a filter just to be sure I don't get any debris from the hose.
I liked Bobby's QD setup and hose (silicone) setup and will follow that path I think. The male threaded end on the kettles & pumps and 90 degree female QDs on the hoses.
Have any of you experienced issues with trapped air when priming the pumps with liquid? I have seen a few designs where a T'd valve is on the out end to allow air purge and then the flow is opened to the target.
Aside from that, I chose not to fire the MLT yet since I only have 2 keggles so far and want to KISS and upgrade as I go and develop my preferences.

So, open the flood gates! What would you do different on your rig? Any and all tips and tricks are totally welcome as I will be coming up with a detailed plan for the build with your input.

Thanks!!! :mug:

This sounds like quite an undertaking. I'll tag this for now, and maybe play around with a design when I get home tonight. Google "Sketchup" is a great program if you wanna start playing around with it. On "Youtube", search "Sketchup Lamp" and "Sketchup Chair" for tutorials. Between those two tutorials, you will find almost every thing needed to create a rig design.
I would install a water filter and make shure to use a hose that is rated for drinking water you can pick them up at an RV store.
The one thing I see off hand is the mounting of your CFC. I have a similar system and I can tell you that you will get no decent drainage with it mounted horizontally.
For this very reason, I mounted mine vertically.
If you put your BK low enough, you'll only need one pump. Use it for transferring sparge water to the MLT, then gravity drain into the BK. When it comes time to chill, pump the wort through the CFC, hose pressure will push the water just fine. It'll save you some cash to only have one.
If you want ultimate portability, build it on a street legal trailer. Mount a heavy-duty swivel caster (with a brake) to the bottom of the tongue jack, and you should be able to move it by hand if you need to (into the garage, for example). Then, when taking it to brew on location, just hook it up to your vehicle (even a car could pull it), throw a tarp over it, and you're ready to go.

When brewing, you can just hop up onto the deck of the trailer (brake engaged) and brew from there. There might even be room for a lay-z-boy recliner.
So it's been almost four months since I decided that I needed (SWMBO likely sees it as a want) to build myself a all-grain brew rig.
In that time I got kicked out of the kitchen/dining area into the garage, as well as had surgery to rebuild my foot/ankle. Getting old sucks.

Aside from that I have actually made some progress. For one, I spent a lot more time mocking up (with pvc pipe and cardboard) a few different designs, and looked at different resources to really get a better handle on what I wanted to build. I also recently procured a wire feed welder and the needed angle iron to start the project.
Finally I also got around to fiddling with Google Sketch up, and drafted a semi decent mockup of what I am looking at now.

I'm curious as to what people's experiences have been with weldless sightglasses. I have three keggles - two have two fittings, 1 has 1 fitting. My plan was to use the 1 fitting keggle as the HLT, and use a weldless sightglass. The other two will have 1 fitting with a valve, and a second with a combo sightglass + Thermometer. If someone has a good build plan and/or resources for putting one together I'd appreciate the info. The issue I have been finding is that the probes for most dial thermos seem to be short, and in fact wont be in the main area of the liquid if there is a T fitting etc for the sight glass as well.

Any ideas? Any comments on the rig design?

You ought to play around with silver soldering a bit before you decide what to do. I think you'll find that it's easy and cheap enough that you won't need to go weldless on anything. I've supplied quite a bit of sight glasses in the past but the sources for stainless elbow fittings are drying up.

The rig looks ok but I'll assume the HLT is the one up high. One of my biggest complaints with my rig is losing prime on the pump when the MLT runs out of wort (assuming you batch sparge). Four potential solutions....
1. Find a march pump mounting orientation that makes priming easier (I think Pol's head down/motor up might work well).
2. Fly sparge.
3. Gravity drain the MLT and feed the pump input via grant (money/complexity added).
4. Raise the MLT to the HLT height, pump sparge, gravity drain MLT to BK.

That puppy is going to be long! You know what might be pretty slick? Make that puppy fold in the middle: right between the gas line and the HLT. Fold it out long wise or in half for storage and a "L" while brewing. Might make the work space a little more efficient.

24" wide at the base and you might be able to get it (folded up) in the back of a pickup.
heat/splash shield around the pumps they get hot and dont get them wet, and the propane tank is going to explode if you keep it there, i have a very similar set up..i had to move the tank out from underneath it got way to hot...