Brewrigs for dummies

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Brewmance

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Hello all,

I am still very new to homebrew with only 3 batches under my belt, and my first grain venture this past sunday.

Though while I am no way ready for such a set up, I keep seeing these amazing brewrigs with 3 kegs or coolers, burners and pumps all within a brilliant maze of stainless steel.

Would some one give me an idea what the different vessels purposes are, and how these rigs work?

thanks!
 

android

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there's a ton of different ways to do it with the 3 kegs or 2 kegs and a cooler, or 2 coolers and a keg... many configurations.

generally, if you have 3 kegs, you use one for the HLT (hot liquor tank), one for the MLT (mashing/lautering tun), and one for the boil kettle.

you can do a gravity fed system (with three levels, usually HLT on top, MLT in the middle and boil kettle on the bottom). OR you can use an electric pump to have a single tier system. as far as the complexity of these systems, you can make them super complex with a counter flow chiller, electric control of everything, fancy plumbing, etc. or you can make them simpler using an immersion chiller and just the pump... there's many acronyms for the different set-ups.

if there's one cooler involved, it is generally the MLT as one keg heats the water, drains into the cooler to mash/sparge and then that drains into the boil kettle...

again, there's many ways to do this, hope this helps clear some of it up for you.
 

Cape Brewing

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I was just explaining my rig to my mother who has NOOOO CLUE about anything remotely realted to beer... (not accusing you of that all... just saying I think I have a pretty short and sweet answer)

one tank = Hot liquor tank (HLT) = where you heat and store hot water
another tank = Mash Tun or Mash/Lauter Tun (MT/MLT) = this is the "coffee filter" where you make "coffee" from from grain instead of coffee beans. Instead of coffee you get wort, or raw beer
another tank = boil kettle (BK) = the pot where you boil your wort to concentrate it a bit more and to add flavoring such as hops.

Everything else (pumps, PIDs (temperature controllers), etc etc) are just fancy ways of having more control over making "coffee" throughout those three pots.

I have a "single tier" system, which just simply means that all of my pots are on the same level. To do that, you need a pump to transfer liquid between the pots since it won't flow via gravity.

A lot of folks have "three tier" systems or "trees" that stagger the pots at different heights so water can flow from one to another by simple gravity.

A lot of folks have PIDs or electronic temperature controllers that either trigger pumps or burners so you can do things such as program in a temp and have a gas burner kick on and off to maintain that temperature in a given pot.

Like android just posted, typically... if you see a cooler in a set up, that's a MT/MLT and the reason a cooler is used is that you want your MT to maintain a given temperature for a long period of time... and since the cooler and really well insulated, it's an easy way to maintain temp.

The really big thing is that you can make them as simply or as complex as you want and chances are pretty good that you'll be able to make excellent beer with any of them once you get the hang of a particular system,.
 

COLObrewer

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Here is our first system, it is very basic, no valves, no pumps or electricity. The pony keggle we use for hot liquor(mash and sparge water) the 10gal corny keggle we use for boil pot (Boiling wort after mash), the red cooler is the mash tun (mashing malt to get wort). There are 3-4 of us helping with the brewing at a time, I think that has something to do with how much you automate steps etc. however since we are going bigger now we will have to get a pump or become gravity fed and install spigots on our new larger tanks/pots due to the volume will be too much to lift/pour, it's also hot.:mad:
We can comfortably do 8 gallon batches with this, our new system will be capable of 30 gallons.:rockin:
 

SumnerH

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Here is our first system, it is very basic
That's still kinda complex, with 3 different vessels.

A very basic system:

Put a big grain bag in your kettle:


After heating the water, instead of transferring to an insulated cooler, use a blanket or 2 to insulate the kettle:


After mashing, instead of transferring the water off the grain into another kettle, pull the grain (in the bag) out of the kettle:


The Brewing Network - How to go from Extract to AG for < $10.00 for more info and pics
 

COLObrewer

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I stand corrected, our system is complex compared to the single vessel approach. That is closer to what it was probably like in ye olde days, and probably works fine too.
 

pompeiisneaks

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Some of the other terms I've heard are as follows:

HERMS (Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System) which I use, the mash is kept at temperature by using a pump to recirculate the mash liquid into a HEX (heat exchange) coil in the HLT mentioned w/ hotter water to warm up the liquid and reinsert it back into the MLT mentioned.
RIMS (Recirculating Infusion Mash System) it does a similar concept to HERMS but instead of a hex coil and water temps it has a heating element directly in an off shooting tube of some kind, but the heater has the wort flowing past it limiting the possible scorching direct firing can do to a wort.
BRUTUS (I have no clue what this stands for, but I know I hear a few use it)

All different means of partially or fully automating your mash/brewing system.

You can even skip the DIY world and pay a boatload of cash for some of these type systems prebuilt for you, but I enjoyed building mine almost as much as I enjoy making the beer ;)
 

android

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You can even skip the DIY world and pay a boatload of cash for some of these type systems prebuilt for you, but I enjoyed building mine almost as much as I enjoy making the beer ;)
amen. building stuff is at least half the fun. :mug:
 

Lil' Sparky

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As explained above, these two systems are identical, except one uses gravity and the other uses a pump to transfer liquids from HLT->MLT->BK.

 

android

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sparky, on that single tier system, what is the advantage to having the hose go in on another fitting on the top part of the keg as opposed to just hanging the hose in the top opening of the keggle? is it connected to a sparge arm or something?
 

Lil' Sparky

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Yeah, it's just a return tube on the top that I use when recirculating w/ the pump. It swirls the wort on top of the mash nicely.

 

The Pol

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The best way to learn about these systems is to spend plenty of time here and on other boards. If you see a system here that youd like to know more about, PM the owner here, we are more than happy to share our design ideas and experience with them. We all build what we build for various reasons, and this may give you an idea of what meets your needs.

I probably answer three inquiries per day about my rig from people like you who are curious, or who are actually building it who need technical help. I love it... that is about all that I do here on this board is discuss rig designs and post various DIY projects. I also put together videos when I brew now, so that I can show the process for those who are curious, or for those that are running my design to help them in thier own processes.

I NEVER thought I could build an electric HERMS, three weeks later mine was complete. This board is AWESOME!
 

SowegaBrews

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man i wish this thread had been around when i first found this site. it took me at least a month of searching, googling, youtubing, and reading tons of threads on this forum to understand exactly how brew rigs work and what each part does.

i vouch for a sticky.
 

prwillard2

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So, I know this is an older thread, and this may be a super noob question, but it seems that all the RIMS/HERMS systems incorporate an electric heating coil to maintain the temps with a PID for the HLT. Is there any way to do this with LP? I've been looking around on the forum but can't seem to find any sort of LP RIMS/HERMS systems.

Thanks.
 

JonW

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So, I know this is an older thread, and this may be a super noob question, but it seems that all the RIMS/HERMS systems incorporate an electric heating coil to maintain the temps with a PID for the HLT. Is there any way to do this with LP? I've been looking around on the forum but can't seem to find any sort of LP RIMS/HERMS systems.

Thanks.
Yes, it's called "direct fired". You can do a HERMS with direct fire (burner) under the HLT or do a RIMS with a direct fire under the mash tun. If you scroll through the build threads, you'll see several setups that have 3 burners on them to direct fire the HLT, MLT & BK. You can see mine in the link in my sig.
 

Cape Brewing

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I have a 45 gal LP Herms system.

I have a heat exchanger (fancy words for copper tube spun into a coil) submerged in my HLT. I then heat my HLT and circulate my wort in the MT through that if I want to raise the temp in my MT.

I don't direct fire the MT at all.... don't even have a burner under it. I only have two 32-tip jet burners and I've never needed to directly heat the MT.

I think I have one or two pics of it in my gallery
 

Brewchitect

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I brewed extract and partial mash/steeping grains for like 5 years, all the while drooooling over these beautiful complicated looking systems. I was perfectly happy with my setup/process and made decent beer. I simply wanted a fun project, and man i'll tell ya, thats what I got. I had a BLAST building this thing. It's a HERMS. It is more time consuming on brewday, more to clean, mashing adds time, etc. but it's alot more fun. The customization options are endless, lots of choices/options. Someday i'd like to get into the electronic side of things, love temp control, gas solenoid valves, pilot lights, thermo-wells, but for now it works fine and I'm having a blast. My rig total cost me about $1,000. But it gave me fun weekends for like 6 months. Am I brewing better beer? prolly not... but i'm new to all grain and Im learning new stuff everytime I brew. Good luck on your adventure and have fun!

 
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