First time homebrewer - looking for thoughts on equipment

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tstevado

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I am just getting my toes wet with homebrewing, but I already know that I'll be predominantly making kettle sours. I've done a lot of reading on the process, which includes an initial fermentation with lacto at a higher temp, then a secondary fermentation with the regular yeast at regular temps. From the reading I've been doing it seems like the most important part in this whole process is maintaining proper temperature control (oh, and of course sanitization)

Therefore I've been looking for initial equipment that will help me get started and help me control these temps.

Since I need to do both a higher temp and then lower temp ferment (and I'm a bit anal about precision so I don't want to just leave the cooler ferment to the ambient temp of my basement) I was looking at a combined heating/cooling system.

Initially I was looking at the Anvil bucket fermentor with the cooling system they sell for it, along with something like a fermwrap for heat. Then I came across the Anvil ferment in a kettle kit.

Now I'm wondering if I can get away with just buying a kettle, the FIAK kit, a cooling system and a ferm wrap and doing it all in just the one kettle. The FIAK kit has a pretty small hole for the airlock but I could probably expand that to accomodate something like the brewstix or the anvil cooling system (though it is currently out of stock everywhere).

Am I crazy to think I can do it all in just one?
 

Ultryx

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I ferment my beers at ambient temperature in my house. I'm fortunate enough to live somewhere where I can do that - all year. That being said, when I wanted to try a kettle sour I just bought a Fermwrap and taped it around my kettle. I kept the lid on and the Fermwrap on and let that go. Kept it at about 88-92 F. That worked fine for my kettle sour. They came out great.

I'm not too familiar with cooling systems because I don't have the money for that stuff. If you do though, feel free to go for it. Might want to do some brew batches though and make sure homebrewing is something you want to stick with before you commit more money to it.
 
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tstevado

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Brewstix or the anvil cooling system is only around $130. My thinking is that I can get a kettle that I can ferment in, control heating and cooling all for under $500...

Question is will it be good enough?
 
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tstevado

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Here is my expected build list:


I'll have to modify the lid of the anvil to accept the #10 stopper, but I don't think that's too hard.
 

Rish

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The brewer at a local brewery does small batch test brews of sours by doing the lacto in an Igloo cooler. Put the wort in on the high side of the temp range and it will hold long enough to get the sourness you want. Then back into the kettle to boil. You could do this pretty cheaply with a basic homebrew set up until you are sure than you really want to brew long term, then upgrade to the fancy stuff!😉
 

Jim R

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The best and cheapest way for me to do fermentation temperature control is with a mini refrigerator (or any used or new refrigerator or freezer), a fermenter that fits in it, a cheap Inkbird temperature controller and a heating wrap on the fermenter. I set the Inkbird controller to my exact desired temperature and it turns the refrigerator or heating wrap on when needed to maintain the temperature.

I then use the same refrigerator for cold crashing and serving by adjusting the Inkbird lower. This was cheaper and more functional than the expensive cooling and heating system sold for any of my fermenters.
 

madscientist451

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One of the big issues with kettle sours is keeping out oxygen to avoid off flavors. I would recommend souring in a corny keg with a CO2 purge, and building a cheapo warming chamber to maintain the temperature you are shooting for.
Get a small chest freezer and temp control unit for the standard fermentation.
All this can be accomplished on the cheap and you'll have the kegging equipment to serve the beer with.
If you haven't heard the Sour Hour podcast on the Brewing Network, check that out and you'll get some good tips.
 
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tstevado

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I'd prefer to bottle it rather than use a keg setup, but I have heard that about the oxygen. I thought that keeping it all in one unit and avoiding transfers would help prevent exposure to oxygen. The other thing I can do is blow a little CO2 under the lid before sealing it.

The other setups people are talking about here don't seem that much cheaper then what I'm looking at. I mean a starter kit from northern brewing with the kettle and fermenter is $350, and I still would need to get stuff for temp control. I don't really have the space for a chest freezer either.

Is there anything fundamentally wrong with my idea that I can do it all in one vessel?
 

madscientist451

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Well, you mentioned a budget of $500, but for that much cash you can get a better rig.
If you're mostly going to do kettle sours:
Used corny keg $35
Used CO2 tank $50 or so
Regulator $50?
8 or 7.5 gallon pot less than $100?
Immersion chiller $75? maybe cheaper used?
Cheap home made heating/fermentation chamber with heat pad/thermostat for heating and frozen ice bottles for cooling around $50?
You could ferment in the keg with a spunding valve and then bottle off the keg.
Method:
cut an inch or so off the keg dip tube, reduce the batch size to 4.5 gallons or less
BIAB mash in the pot on your kitchen stove
transfer to keg
pitch sour materials
purge w/CO2
when its sour enough, transfer back to kettle for boiling
then dump back into cleaned/sanitized keg for fermenting
bottle off the keg when its done
 
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tstevado

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I guess what I'm not understanding is what is better about that setup? A fermwrap is $25 so I'm assuming the $50 homemade cooling system isn't going to automatically control the temps (an inkbird alone is $50).

So what am I getting in your setup that I wouldn't in the setup I listed above? And you're only talking a difference of maybe a couple hundred dollars, and I spend about that much on a beer order...

That being said this is mostly about wanting to experiment with different sours and flavours and not a cost savings thing.

I honestly am not trying to be difficult, and I hope I'm not coming off that way. I'm very new to this so I'd just like to understand the differences between your setup and what I was thinking.
 

jerrylotto

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The best and cheapest way for me to do fermentation temperature control is with a mini refrigerator (or any used or new refrigerator or freezer), a fermenter that fits in it, a cheap Inkbird temperature controller and a heating wrap on the fermenter.
Ahem - "inexpensive" Inkbird temperature controller ;). I use the ITC-308 and found it to be good quality. I also bought a few additional NTC 10K probes and put a connector inline so I can control the temp of the air or the wort. Instead of a heating wrap, I use a low wattage silicone oil pan heating pad glued to the inside of keezer.

PS - Inkbird frequents these fora and offers killer deals on his products from time to time. You should be able to get a controller for less than $50.
 
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jrgtr42

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If I can suggest, there are some good options for keeping temps regulated here, but I would say to get a few regular brews in before moving to the sours, just to make sure you have your procedures solid first.
Think of it as someone learning to drive in a Ferrari, or having your first round of golf being at Bethpage Black.
 
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tstevado

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It would be really helpful for me if folks could explain why they did one thing over another. i.e. why a freezer over coolstix? Do the coolstix not work well enough? why the silicone oil pan heating pad instead of a heating wrap?

It's great to hear what other people are doing and what they suggest I do, but I'm the kind of person that really wants to know the 'why' behind everything. Ya, I'm that annoying 3 year old ;)
 

csantoni

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Cooling system choices basically come down to budget, size, and preference. Coolstix or other glycol-based cooling can be expensive if you buy a retail chiller or time-consuming if you DIY with a window A/C unit. Glycol-based cooling is good for any sized fermentor provided you have the right coils to fit inside and can possibly do multiple fermentors. Freezer/mini-fridge chamber setups are cheaper if you buy retail, especially if get a used one, but can have space limitations. Those limitations can be both the internal size of the chamber needs to be big enough to hold your fermentor(s) and floor space in your brewing area. Some prefer one over the other in terms of setup, maintenance, etc. but they do the same job in different ways.

Overall I think what you'll find is that there's no one answer to "what should my setup be." There are always going to be different ways to accomplish the same goal but some are fairly proven and have either an upgrade path or lower cost of entry that make them more attractive as a starting point.
 

jrgtr42

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It would be really helpful for me if folks could explain why they did one thing over another. i.e. why a freezer over coolstix? Do the coolstix not work well enough? why the silicone oil pan heating pad instead of a heating wrap?

It's great to hear what other people are doing and what they suggest I do, but I'm the kind of person that really wants to know the 'why' behind everything. Ya, I'm that annoying 3 year old ;)
The coolstix don't cool the wort / beer as evenly as a freezer, or keep the temps as stable. Possibly in conjunction with an insulated ferm chamber it might work out, but especially then, you're looking at the same price as a fridge / freezer. Look on Craigslist or FB marketplace for a secondhand one. Depending on where you are and when you\ll find them cheap (I routinely troll Craigslist and I rarely see them in my area, but I see posts all the time around here that people get deals.)
 

jerrylotto

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in addition to fermentation, I use my keezer setup for lagering and extra keg storage. It also is capable of fermenting Kveik batches at 100F.
 
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