Equipment Upgrade Recommendations

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ASpeedyGTO

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Hi - I just recently won $800 and have decided to spend it on upgrading to AG. Currently, I'm doing partial mash, and I have a 3G Igloo for a mash vessel, a 5G Igloo for HLT, and a plain steel pot as a boil kettle. I have two Ss Brewbuckets for fermenting, which I think are great!

After doing some homework, I'm leaning towards a nice, new boil kettle (with valve) and either a ThermoBarrel or InfuSsion for a new mash tun. I love the BIAB thing, however I'm leery due to having to chase temps with a burner (scorching!), and I don't have a nearby dryer plug for a decent induction burner. I can be talked out of this though......my opinion on BIAB is solely based on what I've read from other brewers.

Help! If you were me, what would buy? I appreciate in advance for reading this post and giving me your 2 cents.
 

mongoose33

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Regarding BIAB: Maybe you're not reading the right brewers.

Here's what I learned about BIAB: the key is getting the strike water at the correct temp. Dough-in, and you're there. Cover with sleeping bag, blanket, whatever, and you're good to go.

It may take a time or two in order to nail down that exact temp, but people like me can give you a place to start--as @Morrey did for me when I started it.

I'd keep my grain inside so it was always room temp, then bring the water to about 162 degrees. It's cooler than a typical mash/sparge approach, because there's more water and thus the grain won't drop the temp as far. The only issue I ran into was that I have a Hellfire burner, and it retains heat. I had to stop heating a few degrees short of 162 as it would rise and settle there due to that retained heat. But that was easy to deal with.

I've since gone to a RIMS system and all-electric as part of my effort to implement LODO stuff, but I really miss the simplicity and speed of BIAB.
 

mongoose33

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Here's another thought: where do you think you want to end up? Electric brewing? RIMS? HERMS?

And what would that cost?

Perhaps the answer is to accumulate some more capital and get the system you really want, instead of an intermediate step.

*******

Are you kegging? If not, and $800 is your limit, if I were you I'd go BIAB with a big enough kettle, and do the kegging thing. You could make a keezer or kegerator and get to the next level.

And--do you have fermentation temp control? If not, IMO that should be your next step.
 

bornandraisedlv

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Personally if I were to do it all over again, I would probably go eBiab. I think I would go Spike kettle fitted with 1650w element and build my own controller that is built to be upgraded to 240 but works with 120 for now using a ezboil120 controller, would upgrade to the 320 once I was able to go to 240 and the ability to do any step mashing I wanted. This is what I did with my controller for eHerms. I also added in a wilser bag in addition to my false bottom simply because for me it is easier to clean and remove the grain.

This way you are single vessel, controlling mash temps, not able to do step mashes with out some flame assistance, and then using flame for boil.

No pumps needed unless you want to do whirlpool or easy transfer to fermenter.

There are so many ways you can go. It’s really all about what works best for you. I really really enjoyed piecing together and building my 3v set up and love seeing it all work and for me that was just as much fun and at times more enjoyable than the actual brew process.


Edit:

Mongoose brings up excellent points! Ferm temp control was probably the biggest improvement to my entire set up. Also where you want to end up, for me that was a tough one to know until I was there.
 
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ASpeedyGTO

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Here's another thought: where do you think you want to end up? Electric brewing? RIMS? HERMS?

And what would that cost?

Perhaps the answer is to accumulate some more capital and get the system you really want, instead of an intermediate step.

*******

Are you kegging? If not, and $800 is your limit, if I were you I'd go BIAB with a big enough kettle, and do the kegging thing. You could make a keezer or kegerator and get to the next level.

And--do you have fermentation temp control? If not, IMO that should be your next step.
Hi and thanks for replying. Yes, I have a 2-tap keezer that I started with.....I never wanted to fool around with bottling :) For me, this is just a hobby that I'll never take past enjoyment in the garage. But, I'd really like to get off of extract completely since AG beers just taste better IMO.

I'd love to jump into the more expensive options, but I'm a husband and dad of 2 small children so I just don't have the time to really get into it much more than this. I'll probably will not go past simple, single infusion AG brewing, which I'm perfectly fine with. I'll definitely give BIAB another thought and look into ferm temp control......that part hadn't yet crossed my mind.

I've also thought about getting a 15G boil kettle for BIAB, and using a sous vis heater to keep temps. This method has a few things to solve, but could be a promising method for BIAB.
 
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ASpeedyGTO

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Personally if I were to do it all over again, I would probably go eBiab. I think I would go Spike kettle fitted with 1650w element and build my own controller that is built to be upgraded to 240 but works with 120 for now using a ezboil120 controller, would upgrade to the 320 once I was able to go to 240 and the ability to do any step mashing I wanted. This is what I did with my controller for eHerms. I also added in a wilser bag in addition to my false bottom simply because for me it is easier to clean and remove the grain.

This way you are single vessel, controlling mash temps, not able to do step mashes with out some flame assistance, and then using flame for boil.

No pumps needed unless you want to do whirlpool or easy transfer to fermenter.

There are so many ways you can go. It’s really all about what works best for you. I really really enjoyed piecing together and building my 3v set up and love seeing it all work and for me that was just as much fun and at times more enjoyable than the actual brew process.


Edit:

Mongoose brings up excellent points! Ferm temp control was probably the biggest improvement to my entire set up. Also where you want to end up, for me that was a tough one to know until I was there.
Hi and thanks for replying. Sounds like your system is awesome! I love the ebrewing idea but building controllers, etc is way beyond my expertise. You're right though, there are a ton of ways I can go so I'm trying to get ideas before spending money. Thanks for the ideas!

You guys had mentioned ferm temp control, which I think I'll look into also.
 

bornandraisedlv

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Hi and thanks for replying. Sounds like your system is awesome! I love the ebrewing idea but building controllers, etc is way beyond my expertise. You're right though, there are a ton of ways I can go so I'm trying to get ideas before spending money. Thanks for the ideas!

You guys had mentioned ferm temp control, which I think I'll look into also.
Ferm temp control is something to look into for sure, most expensive part is the chamber / refrigerator, the controller for it is cheap and easy!

Also as far as the controller goes, I thought it was way beyond my skill set as well. But with the help of these forums I was able to make my own controller with no real experience in doing something like that before.
 

ba-brewer

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Get a 10gal cooler to use as a mash tun and a 15gal SS kettle, maybe a wilserbag. Money left over to spend on the family or to buy ingredients.

With a 15gal kettle and 10gal mas tun and your existing 5gal HLT you can do a 5gal big beer or a 10 medium gravity beer. In a hurry throw in the bag and do a quick 5gal BIAB batch.

If you don't have a mill that is always a good investment, it way pay for itself if you have somewhere to store a sack of grain.
 

Jag75

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Check out the mash & Boil, robobrew and Grainfather . I read up on these and changed my mind back and forth a couple times . I went with the Gf and absolutely love it . So easy and nice to brew indoors.
 

RM-MN

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Hi - I just recently won $800 and have decided to spend it on upgrading to AG. Currently, I'm doing partial mash, and I have a 3G Igloo for a mash vessel, a 5G Igloo for HLT, and a plain steel pot as a boil kettle. I have two Ss Brewbuckets for fermenting, which I think are great!

After doing some homework, I'm leaning towards a nice, new boil kettle (with valve) and either a ThermoBarrel or InfuSsion for a new mash tun. I love the BIAB thing, however I'm leery due to having to chase temps with a burner (scorching!), and I don't have a nearby dryer plug for a decent induction burner. I can be talked out of this though......my opinion on BIAB is solely based on what I've read from other brewers.

Help! If you were me, what would buy? I appreciate in advance for reading this post and giving me your 2 cents.
I BIAB and never chase temps and other brewers shouldn't either. We are taught that we need to keep the temperature constant for the hour long mash period so we get complete conversion. It doesn't work that way and keeping the mash temp constant for an hour isn't necessary, especially with BIAB. You need the temperature in the correct range for conversion but conversion itself doesn't take long, not an hour, more like a couple minutes. What takes time it the gelatinization of the starches. Once the starches get gelatinized (grain particles wet through) the conversion is very fast. Spend some money on a bigger kettle (I'd probably suggest a 10 gallon for a 5 gallon batch BIAB) and a mill so you aren't trying to BIAB with poorly milled grains like many LHBS sell, and a decent bag (none of this paint strainer bags like I use). That should leave you with quite a bit of that $800 left to buy the things that count for making beer, the ingredients.

I use a really cheap Corona style mill and set it tight so I get really fine grain particles. That gets the gelatinization of the starches really quickly and converion is over well before the flavors get extracted from the grain and before the temperature drops enough to measure.
 
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ASpeedyGTO

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OK, you guys have talked me into it. I'll give BIAB a try. If I have a poor experience, I could always go back later and get a nice mash vessel.

Only 2 questions then:

1. For 5G batches, is 10G kettle big enough? Should I spring for 15G kettle, or is extra headspace a potential problem?

2. Which brands would you guys suggest? SS Brewtech? Spike?

Thanks again for everyone's opinion, this has been helpful!
 

madscientist451

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My 2 cents: Get a small freezer and a temperature controller if you don't have those things.
You didn't say what size your current kettle is or if you are brewing inside or outside.
Bigger, more complicated equipment is a harder to clean than a simple brew pot.
I like the electric EBIAB rigs that are available now, that would probably be my choice.
 

ba-brewer

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kevin58

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BIAB is the simple way to go. Maintaining mash temperatures is not a chore as described in previous comments. eBIAB is possible without building your own controller and can be done in smaller volumes using household 110 current. The 5 gallon eBIAB rig from www.highgravitybrew.com works very well.
 

CascadesBrewer

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1. For 5G batches, is 10G kettle big enough? Should I spring for 15G kettle, or is extra headspace a potential problem?
I switched to BIAB back in Dec, and I really love the process. I use a 10 gal kettle. With a full volume mash to get 5.5 gals into the fermenter (with around 8 gals of mash water and 7 gals pre boil) my 10 gal pot can get pretty full. 15 gals might be a little bit overkill, but I could see the benefit of a 12 gal pot. You can also just work in a dunk sparge or pour over sparge for beers bigger than 1.080.
 

Bobcatbrewing42

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Hi - I just recently won $800 and have decided to spend it on upgrading to AG. Currently, I'm doing partial mash, and I have a 3G Igloo for a mash vessel, a 5G Igloo for HLT, and a plain steel pot as a boil kettle. I have two Ss Brewbuckets for fermenting, which I think are great!

After doing some homework, I'm leaning towards a nice, new boil kettle (with valve) and either a ThermoBarrel or InfuSsion for a new mash tun. I love the BIAB thing, however I'm leery due to having to chase temps with a burner (scorching!), and I don't have a nearby dryer plug for a decent induction burner. I can be talked out of this though......my opinion on BIAB is solely based on what I've read from other brewers.

Help! If you were me, what would buy? I appreciate in advance for reading this post and giving me your 2 cents.
 

Bobcatbrewing42

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I've had great luck buying gear from people quitting the homebrew hobby/lifestyle. I got a homebuilt but nice HERMS brew sculpture, setup, with 10 corny's a keezer, spare parts, CO2 setups, fermenters and on an on for $1000. It was probably 5 grand worth retail. Before the HERMS upgrade, I bought my other all grain stuff used at really good prices.
 
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