Grainfather vs 3 kettle

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

Spritar

Member
Joined
Aug 25, 2011
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
Location
Thornton
Trying to decide the route to take my brewing. First off, I'm not looking to go larger than 5-gallon batches at this point. I've heard great things about the Grainfather. My question is for those that may have used both...why go one way or the other. GF seems super easy and I like the thought of only having to clean one device vs 3 kettles. Why would anyone not use the GF (aside from the 5-gallon limitation)?
 

thehaze

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2017
Messages
2,163
Reaction score
953
Location
Iasi, Romania
I have the Grainfather Connect and it is easy to use and easy to clean. It is not perfect, but it is so easy and comfortable to brew with it.

I have brewed 10 batches with it and am more than happy. I had up to 89% mash efficiency with it with the right grain crush and mash schedule.

It usually takes me between 5 and 6 and a half hours to brew a 5-6 gallons batch. But it all depends on your mash time/schedule, sparge, boil and how cold is your water, which you will use to cool down the wort before pitching yeast. Mine is well water and it's very cold, which means I can cool down to 18C/64F and transfer in about 15-20 minutes tops.

Highly recommended from all points of view.

As a side note: the Grainfather can fit bills up to 20lbs/9Kg, so that is a limitation, but if you use some sugar to boost the gravity or brew smaller batches, you can easily make 10%+ beers. I have only used 8.5Kg/18.5 lbs in a grain bill and it was a bit challenging, but not impossible. Anything under will go smooth and with practice, you will definitely understand how much more you can push it.
 

TexasWine

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 11, 2013
Messages
2,402
Reaction score
676
Location
Houston
Why would anyone not use the GF (aside from the 5-gallon limitation)?
Cost: it's expensive for what you get
Power
Proprietary parts

My two clams, if you want a pre made single vessel system you're better off looking elsewhere. For about the same price, often cheaper, you can get a system that handles larger grain bills, has more wattage (at least double), and utilizes components that can be replaced with off the shelf parts, by you and not Grainfather.

And, instead of just single vessel versus three vessel, you could also consider a two vessel no sparge set up. HLT doubles as the boil kettle in that case.

I just switched to two vessels/two pumps in the past year or so. With it I can set it up in a HERMS configuration (using my plate chiller and HLT/boil kettle to maintain mash temps), K-Rims for big batches (using the elements in the boil kettle to directly maintain temps), or simply move an element over to the mash tun an maintain temps directly with it. I can even go back to single vessel if I wanted (I don't).

I know a lot of folks love their GF, and that's great. I don't mean any disrespect to them. Just make sure to do some shopping around.

If you don't know where to start, fwiw I've been happy with the stuff I've gotten from Brausupply.com. Currently using one of their 120v controllers and it works great. And it looks like they're about to roll out some new designs this month.
 

Smellyglove

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 17, 2013
Messages
2,807
Reaction score
801
Cost: it's expensive for what you get
Power
Proprietary parts

My two clams, if you want a pre made single vessel system you're better off looking elsewhere. For about the same price, often cheaper, you can get a system that handles larger grain bills, has more wattage (at least double), and utilizes components that can be replaced with off the shelf parts, by you and not Grainfather.

And, instead of just single vessel versus three vessel, you could also consider a two vessel no sparge set up. HLT doubles as the boil kettle in that case.

I just switched to two vessels/two pumps in the past year or so. With it I can set it up in a HERMS configuration (using my plate chiller and HLT/boil kettle to maintain mash temps), K-Rims for big batches (using the elements in the boil kettle to directly maintain temps), or simply move an element over to the mash tun an maintain temps directly with it. I can even go back to single vessel if I wanted (I don't).

I know a lot of folks love their GF, and that's great. I don't mean any disrespect to them. Just make sure to do some shopping around.

If you don't know where to start, fwiw I've been happy with the stuff I've gotten from Brausupply.com. Currently using one of their 120v controllers and it works great. And it looks like they're about to roll out some new designs this month.
Is it that expensive for what you get? An all in one brewing system, chiller included, thermostst with a PID algorithm, and a pump. It can be used remotely, you can import beer xml files directly to it. For a person looking for a thing that works out of the box, I'd say its a great buy. I don't know how youd fit twice the power than a GF, having in mind it's a home-system, through one outlet. In Europe at least a GF uses one whole outlet which is 16A/3680W given a voltage of 230V.

If you want to build though, the you can probably do it cheaper, and mlre customized towards what you really want from your system.

I have a two kettle system and would never touch a GF/Speidel etc. But for those looking for a one vessel no-building/not much modding setup with a small footprint I'd say the GF is a great investment.
 

Bobby_M

Vendor and Brewer
HBT Sponsor
Joined
Aug 3, 2006
Messages
25,182
Reaction score
4,119
Location
Whitehouse Station
None of the all in one systems have enough power to shorten the brew day enough for my taste. The biggest shortcoming of all those manufacturers is assuming that no brewers in the U.S. are willing spend the money on circuit upgrades. Yes, many people have 240v outlets available and if not would be willing to install one.

The subject of the thread presents a false dichotomy. You can run a single vessel system that is not the GF but does have enough power for a sub 4-hour brew day.
 

clydestyle

New Member
Joined
Jul 12, 2017
Messages
1
Reaction score
0
Hi
I have a Bulldog Brewer and use it in conjunction with a 30L Cygnett Urn- very nice!
Mikey
 

ZmannR2

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2016
Messages
696
Reaction score
165
Location
Corpus Christi
If Grainfather made a 10G batch version I'd buy it in a heartbeat. But crew sweating for 3 hrs for only 5 gals of beer
 

tjosborne

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 2, 2016
Messages
335
Reaction score
59

jordankempp

Member
Joined
Jan 20, 2017
Messages
15
Reaction score
1
I really enjoy my Grainfather so far, but there are quite a few modifications that I've made to make it what I want. I added a sightglass to see volumes easier and an insulated jacket for greater temp efficiency. A hop spider is absolutely necessary. The tubing for the wort chiller is too short so I will eventually lengthen that when I get around to it. Lastly, I took out the check valve for the pump to prevent clogging. My biggest issue is that the pipework for the pump constantly leaks, finally after 6 brews and multiple attempts at thread tape and tightening I have the system adequately sealed. I would say that overall it's a great system, just make sure you take the thing apart and re-do all of the fittings (including in the wort chiller) before you brew. I know that they also sell an additional water heater for sparging, while I've gotten by without it so far, I find it a necessary purchase. So just don't be misled into thinking that the GF is perfect out of the box, you'll still need to purchase some additional items that add to cost. I'm hoping to upgrade to an electric 2 kettle eventually, have you looked into the Blichmann BrewEasy?
 

cod3ck

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
Messages
419
Reaction score
48
Location
Denver
Sounds like for the initial expense plus opportunity cost, the Brew Easy would be a better option...

That or DIY from the beginning [emoji16]
 

pocketmon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 12, 2015
Messages
693
Reaction score
221
I had a Grainfather for a year and half. IMP, it is great for people who want to pay and play.
If you have the time and ability to DIY, you can certainly build a system that at least meets your needs. I build a controller and use it to control the Grainfather. It is even better than the new controller in my opinion, but I have spent a lot of time developing it.
Why did I sell my Grainfather? I found that sparging and cleaning are the parts I hate most. Then, I just bought a Spike CF10, a hotrod from Bob, and a pump to brew in a conical. (Well, the second hotrod is on its way.)
 

stz

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 30, 2013
Messages
376
Reaction score
106
I know a guy with a grain father and he is really very happy with it. For me the biggest plus point is he seems to be more motivated to brew more frequently with it than me, but then he produces much smaller batch sizes. The next biggest plus for me would be that it looks to pack down into its own footprint, my 3 vessel system 2 pump heat exchanger system is vast and unweildy by comparison, but I'm lucky enough to have the space at the moment. That would change if I had kids underfoot.

The biggest con's for me would be price. I resent paying for anything I can do myself, I doubt I sank more than $500 into my build. The next would be versatility. While I'm sure there are tricks, dodges etc to do similar things with a grain father I regularly brew multi gyle, split batches etc and have the capacity to cover nearly anything I might want to do.

Sure if I want a full 16g in fermenter all grain then I'm unable to mash a wort higher than .044 or use ridiculous levels of hops because of absorption, but as I ferment in 7g containers with 20-25% head space I only need to produce a maximum of 16g for three at a time. This doesn't leave much creative wriggle room, but I often only wish to produce two, or a little less volume split over three and I'm not adverse to extract, sugar and topping up to get my volumes so high gravities and hop rates are well within reach if I feel the need.

Also hops. I've built my system to use leaf hops or pellets and he seems to have serious trouble with anything but pellet hops in a spider.
 

rlprafa

Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2017
Messages
9
Reaction score
3
I recently bought a grainfather. I came from a 3 vessels system (gas - 5 gal. only) and I am pretty happy.

Things that made me opt for the GF:
Space - It doesn't need a lot of space to store;
The controller - It is easy to use and does a really good job with ramps;
Brew day time - I already got a 12H brew day with my old system (double decoction, a few problems on the way plus I didn't have a proper burner - using a gas stove because of space limitations)

The GF is expensive, it's true.
You can get the same benefits building your own, true. You can get larger batches. It's also true. and probably costing less than the GF.

The thing in my opinion is: If you (like me and many others) don't want/can't spend time planning, buying, assembling and testing a DIY setup, go for the FG.
 

DarkUncle

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2010
Messages
257
Reaction score
60
Location
Farmingville
I have the Grainfather coming off a 3 vessel system. I love it! To me the biggest advantage is the fact I don't have to brew outside or in the garage with the door open. I do it right in my kitchen with a very small footprint and can sit on the couch relaxing as it does it thing. My efficiency has gone way up, temps are much more controlled and it's a much more relaxing brew day altogether. Plus the beer has come out as good or better than anything I put out on my converted 3 keg system.

Is it perfect? No. But nothing is perfect. But I'll tell you my brew days are stress free and very enjoyable compared to the 3 vessel system. And everything I've brewed on it has been delicious.

As for expense, I really don't see it being that expensive at all. Hell, I dumped more money into the 3 vessel system than the cost of the Grainfather. It's a plug and play system right out of the box.
 

thehaze

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2017
Messages
2,163
Reaction score
953
Location
Iasi, Romania
~6 hours to brew a batch? That is not faster - which is one of the best features of single vessel brewing.

I like 2 vessels myself, but hey.. that's just me!
No one said it was faster at 6 hours.

When I say 6 hours is from the moment I begin filling the GF with water and heating it up to mash temp + the mash itself ( I go for 90 minutes ), the sparge, the boil ( usually 60-90 minutes depending on the recipe, sometimes more ), cooling down, yeast piching, moving the fermenter and finally washing everything, including the GF and all the equipment used, along with cleaning the area where I have brewed. ( spill stains, etc. )

6 hours is not much for 90 minutes and and 90 minutes boil. One must not forget that it takes time to heat up to mash temp. and heat up from mash out temp to full boil.

I had brew days which only lasted 5 hours, but usually it takes up to 6 for 6 gallons. And I live in Europe, so the GF runs on 230V. ( granted, the heating element is maybe a tad underwhelmed, but I never felt it took so long, that I got bored )
 
Joined
Dec 19, 2014
Messages
5,382
Reaction score
1,561
Location
West Palm Beach
Gotcha. I suppose my 2-vessel takes all of 6 when I add in all the cleaning effort. My cleaning is automated, but it still takes time to put stuff away, etc. And let's face it, brewing is kinda relaxing, so there is no real rush going on!
 

thehaze

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2017
Messages
2,163
Reaction score
953
Location
Iasi, Romania
Gotcha. I suppose my 2-vessel takes all of 6 when I add in all the cleaning effort. My cleaning is automated, but it still takes time to put stuff away, etc. And let's face it, brewing is kinda relaxing, so there is no real rush going on!
It is relaxing. I agree with you 100%. You can have a home brew while things are getting ready and that is always a plus.

On a side note, I do wish the whole process would be shorter, but I believe that is perhaps too optimistic. All in all, I would say, that if you start brewing and wish to do so for a longer periode of time, find the best process that suits your needs, the space available, the time and energy you want to invest in this hobby/passion/obsession and then go with that.

It is not always easy, but challenging it is every time. :mug:
 

ZmannR2

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2016
Messages
696
Reaction score
165
Location
Corpus Christi
None of the all in one systems have enough power to shorten the brew day enough for my taste. The biggest shortcoming of all those manufacturers is assuming that no brewers in the U.S. are willing spend the money on circuit upgrades. Yes, many people have 240v outlets available and if not would be willing to install one.
High Gravity sells a eBIAB system that is 240V and makes 10 gal batches with a 5000W BoilCoil. I just bought it. We'll see how it goes!!
 

cod3ck

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
Messages
419
Reaction score
48
Location
Denver
Not sure it helps, but I actually do both.

My 3 vessel (keggle) system is great when I have the time and want to do a more in depth, process detailed beer.

When time is an issue, or the beer is more straight forward, I'll usually just use the BK on the 3 vessel and do BIAB.

BIAB and GF are more than capable setups, I just like having the hybrid approach for both learning about and playing with different brew approaches and tools...

Plus, my 3 vessel system is more than capable of 10 gallon batches if I need to ramp up supply for an event.

Hope this helps! [emoji482]
 

Latest posts

Top