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Electric Brew: George Westinghouse Woulda' Been Proud

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drayman86

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After much research, design effort and work, my electric brew system is up and running! Here's the breakdown; all pics are clickable thumbnails:

A WORD OF CAUTION ! THIS SYSTEM DEALS WITH ELECTRICITY AND WATER, AS WELL AS SOMEWHAT COMPLICATED WIRING DESIGNS. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS TYPE OF BREWING UNLESS YOU ARE VERY, VERY KNOWLEDGEABLE IN AC CIRCUITS, ELECTRICAL LOADS, AMPERAGE CALCULATIONS, AND ASSOCIATED WIRING REQUIREMENTS.

Basic gravity set up: Coleman Extreme for the HLT, Igloo 10 Gallon for the mash tun, and a 15 gal aluminum stock pot for the boil kettle:




The heart of the system: heatsticks! The top two are 1500W, and the bottom is my 2000W monster:




A tighter shot of the heat stick. A huge thanks to Pete Calinski of Buffalo, New York who published his heatsicks article in the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Zymurgy. It's how I learned how to build these things:



One of the great things about this system: I can heat the strike water directly in the Igloo Cooler mash tun. Here's the strike water being heated by 2 1500W heat sticks. Also seen is the false bottom and the temp. probe:

 

llazy_llama

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Looks awesome! Just be careful you don't burn through the plastic with those heat sticks. Seems like a very simple and cheap way for people to get into AG brewing, I'm really impressed. :mug:
 
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drayman86

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Also need to get some sparge water heating while we heat the strike water in the mash tun. I use the 2000W unit for this. Coleman Extreme is the HLT:
(All pics are clickable thumbnails.)



OK, so we dough in and mash. That's thirsty work. How about relaxing in the Man Cave in the other room? We can watch TV, or relax at the bar with a homebrew.





Also need to weigh our hops. Here's the grain mill & hop weighing station:

 
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drayman86

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OK, time to sparge. Fly sparging works best with my equipment and besides, who's in a rush? Just more time to drink beer in the Man Cave that's in the next room. :mug: (All pics are clickable thumbnails.)





Now on to the boil. Installed an exhaust fan directly above the boil kettle station. I use all three heatsticks to keep 'er rollin' nice 'n strong.

 
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drayman86

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Nice rolling boil.



Exhaust fan:



After the boil, we cool w/ CFC, aerate, and pitch. Viola!



I chose this system for a couple of reasons:

1. Wanted to brew indoors, and propane was not feasible. Natural gas would be possible, but cost increased with extra gas plumbing, burners, etc.

2. Efficient use of energy. ALL my energy is transferred directly into the solution, unlike propane which wastes a lot of extra heat thrown off into the air. Electricity for a brew session is less than $2.00 ! !

3. Comfort. I can brew year round indoors. Warm in the winter, cool in the summer.

4. Ease of use. All my equipment is totally portable, easy to store, light weight, and takes up minimal room.

It's a great way to brew ! ! ! :ban:
 
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drayman86

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Looks awesome! Just be careful you don't burn through the plastic with those heat sticks. Seems like a very simple and cheap way for people to get into AG brewing, I'm really impressed. :mug:
Yes, absolutely! Very careful about that. Have hangers/retainers that keep the heat sticks in place when they're in the coolers.
 

avaserfi

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What brand/model heat elements are you using? For the construction of your sticks was this followed fully from the Zymurgy article or is this your own design?
 

Brewer_Steve

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Are the heat sticks 120V or 240V ??
Can someone point me to heat stick plans?

I'm currently brewing on the stovetop, but I'm trying to decide whether to go natural gas or electric.
 
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drayman86

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What brand/model heat elements are you using? For the construction of your sticks was this followed fully from the Zymurgy article or is this your own design?
These are 120V elements purchased at Home Depot for about $10 each. Each heat stick cost about $30.

They Zymurgy article gave me the impetus; I followed the step-by-step instructions HERE.
 
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drayman86

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Are the heat sticks 120V or 240V ??
Can someone point me to heat stick plans?

I'm currently brewing on the stovetop, but I'm trying to decide whether to go natural gas or electric.
Caution! This type of system requires a dedicated circuit!



I wired my circuit for this system from the plans found HERE. All the typical disclaimers apply. If you are not INTIMATELY familiar with AC circuits and wiring, do NOT try this at home. My board is wired directly into my circuit breaker box; the plans on the website illustrate a portable panel meant to plug into a typical electric range 240V outlet.
 

Joe Camel

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How fast does your system heat your water?
Do you do 5 or 10 gallon batches?
I'm slowly thinking about moving to an indoor brewing system (it's -29C outside, -20C in the garage which is accelerating the thinking) and this looks like a good way to go.
Any issues with the heatsticks on your plastic tuns? or is there a way to have them stand off the bottom and sides?

Excellent work, very inspiring.

cheers
 

kal

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Very nice work!

The author of the DIY article does caution everyone to ensure that the breaker/wiring/outlet are meant for what you're using it for, but it's worth repeating again that the heatstick with a 2000W element CAN NOT be used on a regular 15A line. You'll need a 20A outlet, wiring, and breaker for the 2000W element. A 2000W element draw 16.6A on a 120V line.

The reason I mention this is that in most cases it actually MAY work as there's some tolerances built into the wiring, outlet, and possibly even the breaker if it's not bevaing 100% properly (it's close to 15A). But you'll be overloading all three which is not good and can cause serious issues or even a fire.

Kal
 

jkarp

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+1 Kal

Always know your home's wiring! Any house built or remodeled after 1971 should have at least two 20A GFCI protected small appliance circuits in the kitchen.
 

kal

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My house was built in 1989 and has split plugs in the kitchen, but they're 15A breakers. So every country/state/province/etc. has different rules it seems.

Kal
 

jkarp

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My house was built in 1989 and has split plugs in the kitchen, but they're 15A breakers. So every country/state/province/etc. has different rules it seems.

Kal
Hmmm. Your builder broke the law then. It's NFPA code. Sure they're not just 15A outlets on a 20A GFCI circuit? The code does not require the T-style 20A outlets...
 

kal

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Nope, they're definitely 15A breakers and not GFCI'ed breakers or outlets either. Remember that I'm in Canada (not everyone lives in the US) :). Does NFPA apply in Canada?

From what I remember, requiring GFCI's in all wet locations is a reasonably new code. Most houses my age (about 20 years old) do not have GFCI outlets in the kitchens or GFCI breakers. I only have GFCI's in my bathrooms (and soon hopefully to be completed electric brewing setup).

Kal
 
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drayman86

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How fast does your system heat your water?
Do you do 5 or 10 gallon batches?
I'm slowly thinking about moving to an indoor brewing system (it's -29C outside, -20C in the garage which is accelerating the thinking) and this looks like a good way to go.
Any issues with the heatsticks on your plastic tuns? or is there a way to have them stand off the bottom and sides?

Excellent work, very inspiring.

cheers
I can heat the about 5 gallons of strike water in the mash tun in, say, 20 minutes using nothing but cold water. I have BOTH hot and cold water source in the brew room, so I use tepid water for strike and sparge water.
 
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drayman86

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Very nice work!

The author of the DIY article does caution everyone to ensure that the breaker/wiring/outlet are meant for what you're using it for, but it's worth repeating again that the heatstick with a 2000W element CAN NOT be used on a regular 15A line. You'll need a 20A outlet, wiring, and breaker for the 2000W element. A 2000W element draw 16.6A on a 120V line.

The reason I mention this is that in most cases it actually MAY work as there's some tolerances built into the wiring, outlet, and possibly even the breaker if it's not bevaing 100% properly (it's close to 15A). But you'll be overloading all three which is not good and can cause serious issues or even a fire.

Kal
Excellent point, Kal..thanks. All the outlets, switches, and wiring in my system have been sized for 20A. As well, the sub-panel wiring has been designed to handle 60A, including the breaker. With all three heat sticks running, my system draws 42A total. Each 1500W heat stick pulls 12.5A, and the 2000W unit draws about 17A. I designed the sub-panel circuit and each individual outlet with just a bit of excess capacity to be safe. I hate fires; really screws up a brew session.
 
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drayman86

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Any issues with the heatsticks on your plastic tuns? or is there a way to have them stand off the bottom and sides?
A bit difficult to see, Joe, but I've rigged simple hangers out of what amounts to clothes hanger-sized wire that's bent around the heat stick and hangs over the edge of the HTL and mash tun. Take a closer look at the pics and you'll see what I've done.
 

jkarp

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Nope, they're definitely 15A breakers and not GFCI'ed breakers or outlets either. Remember that I'm in Canada (not everyone lives in the US) :). Does NFPA apply in Canada?

From what I remember, requiring GFCI's in all wet locations is a reasonably new code. Most houses my age (about 20 years old) do not have GFCI outlets in the kitchens or GFCI breakers. I only have GFCI's in my bathrooms (and soon hopefully to be completed electric brewing setup).
Whoops, missed that. Don't know the effective date(s) but Canada's code is even tougher than Yank code now. I know they don't allow 15A outlets on 20A circuits like we do. I believe the 2 20A GFCI requirement is the same...
 
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drayman86

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Drayman, that's a pretty retro basement. Love the DeLorean picture!:rockin:
Thanks. Previous owner's taste, but I kinda' dig it. I can feel the lapels of my shirts growing as I head downstairs, and all the basement stereo system seems capable of playing is disco. :ban:
 
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