Grainfather vs Anvil Foundry vs Brewzilla vs ???

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dlm3

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Since having kids (I now have three littles), my time to brew has become extremely limited. My setup is a two burner/tier rig I cobbled together with a couple pumps for all-grain batches. Brew days, including setup and cleanup take a solid 6 hours or so, which rarely have any more. I'm looking to simply and streamline brew days so I can actually brew more than once or two a year, so I'm looking to get into an electric/automated setup. Any input about which system would be fit my needs would be greatly appreciated!

My main considerations are:
  • Automation/streamlined features - It should allow as much automation as possible so I don't have to babysit the unit constantly throughout the brew day (things like the ability to set a timer to start heating mash water would be a huge benefit). Automation features need to be flexible enough to support any reasonable process I might wish to try out. I don't want to be too limited by my equipment as far as what and how I brew.
  • Simplicity - I'm a programmer by trade, so I'm fairly technically minded and am assume I'll be able to figure out any of the systems on the market, but after the initial learning curve I want the system to be as quick and easy to configure for a batch as possible.
    • Along these lines, I like the idea of a counterflow chiller (rather than an immersion chiller like I've been using). It seems like the Grainfather is fairly unique with this feature, which currently a key reason for leaning in that directions, but let me know if you think I'm putting too much weight on that factor.
  • Quality/Reliability - I want something that just works, will last, and isn't likely to fail/fall apart with typical use
  • Time to setup, and clean/put away.
Other thoughts...
  • Although money is always a consideration, I have more of a "buy once, cry once" mentality. I'm willing to wait/save up for what I really want if it means I'll be happier in the long run.
  • It seems that 220V systems are preferred. Although it would be a bit tight, I could use this in my laundry room (which runs between my garage and kitchen). My home's main breaker is in the garage, so presumably I could have an electrician install a 220 outlet fairly inexpensively if brewing in the laundry room becomes too problematic. There's a basin sink in the laundry room, so I do have that available for chilling and cleanup.
 

renstyle

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I have an Anvil Foundry 6.5, so my experience is derived from this unit.

Most AIO systems offer a time-delay for heating the mash water, and can fairly easily accommodate more complicated processes, like step-mashing. The Grainfather has an app you can use with your phone for more remote capability, if desired.

The Grainfather, Brewzilla and others include an integrated pump. The Foundry does not, which means you can utilize pumps you already have.

While the Grainfather does include a counter-flow chiller with the unit, be sure to price out a comparable 3rd party CF chiller as the price could be close to a wash. The inclusion of the CF chiller is certainly baked into the higher price of the Grainfather.

Other factors: Grainfather, Brewzilla, Digiboil and similar units are single-walled, meaning they benefit from a neoprene sleeve for added insulation during the mash. The Foundry is double-walled, so this is not a concern.

Operating voltage: Aside from the Anvil Foundry, pretty much all of the AIO units I've seen out there are wired for either 120V *OR* 220V, with no capability to switch between. For some folks this is a non-issue, but was important for me to be able to run at either voltage.

As I mentioned, I'm biased... but money-wise, if you already have good pumps that can be re-used, picking up a 3rd party CF chiller with a Foundry 10.5 and you're ready to roll.
 

Sammy86

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Since having kids (I now have three littles), my time to brew has become extremely limited.


Not to sound too brash here but I have three littles (5, 2.5 Twins) and I'm still brewing close to my regular schedule. I went with the Brewzilla 65L and brew 12 gallon split batches.

Love the machine! Once you figure out all the "stuff" and dial it in it's pretty self sufficient. Unfortunately, you're still looking at 4-6 hour brew days.

I set the delay and I'm mashing in around 6:30-7 AM. I help get the kids up and start breakfast then remove the pipe and sparge and start boiling.

I'm usually all cleaned up and put away by 11:45-12:30.
 

jambop

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An impossible question as I doubt anybody will have used all the items you list. One thing the all have in common is that they are made in China so my limited experience of >Chinese manufactured goods is that the price generally has some indication as to the quality. All the companies negotiating the manufacture of these items are trying to get the best deal they can and if the price to the buyer is cut then quality assuredly follows but that is no way means that a cheaper product will be poor. Re the time of a brew day it is what it is you cannot cut corners mashing and boiling alone takes about four to five hours.
 
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dlm3

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I have an Anvil Foundry 6.5, so my experience is derived from this unit.

Most AIO systems offer a time-delay for heating the mash water, and can fairly easily accommodate more complicated processes, like step-mashing. The Grainfather has an app you can use with your phone for more remote capability, if desired.

The Grainfather, Brewzilla and others include an integrated pump. The Foundry does not, which means you can utilize pumps you already have.

While the Grainfather does include a counter-flow chiller with the unit, be sure to price out a comparable 3rd party CF chiller as the price could be close to a wash. The inclusion of the CF chiller is certainly baked into the higher price of the Grainfather.

Other factors: Grainfather, Brewzilla, Digiboil and similar units are single-walled, meaning they benefit from a neoprene sleeve for added insulation during the mash. The Foundry is double-walled, so this is not a concern.

Operating voltage: Aside from the Anvil Foundry, pretty much all of the AIO units I've seen out there are wired for either 120V *OR* 220V, with no capability to switch between. For some folks this is a non-issue, but was important for me to be able to run at either voltage.

As I mentioned, I'm biased... but money-wise, if you already have good pumps that can be re-used, picking up a 3rd party CF chiller with a Foundry 10.5 and you're ready to roll.
Thank you for this! Great point about re-using pumps I have. My only concern with that would be if that means more setup/tear-down compared to a unit with an integrated pump.

I also wasn't ware that the Foundry is double-walled, great information! The additional flexiblity of 120/220V switching is nice too.
 
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dlm3

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An impossible question as I doubt anybody will have used all the items you list. One thing the all have in common is that they are made in China so my limited experience of >Chinese manufactured goods is that the price generally has some indication as to the quality. All the companies negotiating the manufacture of these items are trying to get the best deal they can and if the price to the buyer is cut then quality assuredly follows but that is no way means that a cheaper product will be poor. Re the time of a brew day it is what it is you cannot cut corners mashing and boiling alone takes about four to five hours.
Understood. I wasn't necessarily expecting any one person to have extensive experience with all relevant units, just mostly looking for input about some of the nuances that come to light with experience, favorite features, and annoyances. I realized mash and boil times are pretty well fixed, it's really the time I spend setting up, tearing down/cleaning, and babysitting the process (waiting for water to get to temp, manually making sure mash temps stay reasonably steady, watching for boilovers, etc).
 

jambop

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Understood. I wasn't necessarily expecting any one person to have extensive experience with all relevant units, just mostly looking for input about some of the nuances that come to light with experience, favorite features, and annoyances. I realized mash and boil times are pretty well fixed, it's really the time I spend setting up, tearing down/cleaning, and babysitting the process (waiting for water to get to temp, manually making sure mash temps stay reasonably steady, watching for boilovers, etc).

Well for what it us worth I use a Grainfather S40 and so far have enjoyed making my wort in it. It has a decent capacity . The down sides I have thought of so far has only been the lack of a hole in the lid for the recirculation of the wort during mashing so you have to drill one yourself and the lack of a hop filter on the pump means that the device has to sit at an elevated position so the wort can be drained into the FV and that in turn means lifting a heavy grain basket at an awkward height when sparging time comes along so I have rigged a hoist . If it had a filter the pump, which is very powerful, could be used to transfer the wort. A good hop spider may allow that to happen though but I have not tried that. The temperature control is adequate if not state of the art and has two heat wattage outputs, there is no overflow pipe to get in the way when doughing in. It is double skinned so there is no need for insulation I can easily hold my hand against the side when it is at the boil it also comes with a stainless steel immersion chiller. Cleaning up at the end of a brew is very easy and as yet I have had no problem at all with scorching on the bottom of the boiler. All up it is good for the price and would recommend it but I bought it so may be deemed biased.
 

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I just received the Foundry 10.5 Saturday. Haven’t brewed on it yet so I can’t give you the nuances of the system. I can relay the decision process.

I liked the idea of the 110/220v capabilities.
I liked the double wall.
I liked the idea that they moved the controller to the top of the unit.
I liked the idea of the pump not being installed under the unit. More access if there is a pump issue.
I liked the idea that they removed the basket ring.

I wasn’t aware that they had removed the holes in the bottom of the grain pipe on the sides. In all systems that I read about, there is a potential for stuck mashes. I don’t know if this is an improvement or not.

I did not research the Grainfather too much. I wasn’t willing to spend that much. Don’t know if that was a mistake. I didn’t research because of the counter flow chiller. With all the research I did, most issues with the all in ones was trub clogging the pump. So for the price the Grainfather was out for me.

I haven’t brewed on the foundry yet, but will be more than happy to give you a response when I do. I won’t have a chance to brew until the weekend of the 25th.
 

fuzzybee

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I was in the same boat. I ordered one of @Bobby_M 's premium recirculating eBIAB systems. It's en route now - I hope to start brewing on it the weekend of the 4th.
 
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kevin58

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An impossible question as I doubt anybody will have used all the items you list. One thing the all have in common is that they are made in China so my limited experience of >Chinese manufactured goods is that the price generally has some indication as to the quality. All the companies negotiating the manufacture of these items are trying to get the best deal they can and if the price to the buyer is cut then quality assuredly follows but that is no way means that a cheaper product will be poor. Re the time of a brew day it is what it is you cannot cut corners mashing and boiling alone takes about four to five hours.
Understood. I wasn't necessarily expecting any one person to have extensive experience with all relevant units, just mostly looking for input about some of the nuances that come to light with experience, favorite features, and annoyances. I realized mash and boil times are pretty well fixed, it's really the time I spend setting up, tearing down/cleaning, and babysitting the process (waiting for water to get to temp, manually making sure mash temps stay reasonably steady, watching for boilovers, etc).

Many brewers have had great success mashing and boiling for 30 minutes each.
 

JoeSpartaNJ

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I do 30 minute boils on most beers in my Anvil 110v (and previous cooler and mash tun setup), with no ill effect. I do longer boils for more malt forward beers.

The beauty of the Anvil is the timer delay. I am an early bird when it comes to brewing, so I set the timer the night before and my mash water is already hot when wake up and start mashing in.

My brew day, clean up included takes no more than 5 hours.

If you go the Anvil route, if you already have a dedicated pump (with a ball valve) to use that. The one supplied by Anvil cannot handle boiling temps and that clip thing to control flow isn't worth the metal it is stamped out of.
 

jambop

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Many brewers have had great success mashing and boiling for 30 minutes each.

My specific gravity reading from my last brew read
30' 1.051
60' 1.058
90' 1.061

on a bill of
5.5kg MO
.3kg pale wheat
.2kg Caraaroma
I got a 20% increase in specific gravity for my extended mash I also boil for 90' now as I get crystal clear wort and a good head on my beer. To each their own I suppose?
 

blkmagik98

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Received an Anvil Foundry 18 gallon unit about a month ago and brewed using it a couple of weeks ago. I bought the recirculation kit with it but used my Blichmann Riptide since the valve on it seemed a lot easier to use than the clamp that came with the Anvil pump. Also used a Brewbag inside so I could crush finer without worrying about a stuck sparge. My efficiency was very good, especially for the first time using the unit. I also had a locking ratchet pulley from when I was doing BIAB and it worked really well for lifting. I had set the timer so I was ready to start when I woke up, and the only issue that didn't turn out to be so much of one was the moisture from boiling but I have a good fan and open windows. With the 220V, boil times were quick and using the controller, I was able to do a step mash that I had not been able to do before with my cooler setup.
 

murphyslaw

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I've had my grainfather for 4 years now. Brewing on it is a dream. Set the water to be ready when I wake up. Dough in. It runs the mash automatically, including steps, mash out, etc. I just check 2 or 3 times to make sure the recirculation rate is about right, or take pH readings. Otherwise its hands off. Come back to sparge. Watch for boil over when the hot break comes. It beeps at me when its time to throw in hops or irish moss or whatever. The chiller works well.

I don't know if the controller for the other units work the same. But I just push a button in Brewfather and it sends the recipe to my grainfather and it just runs. I don't have to go back to the thing after the mash is done and tell it to heat to 170 for mashout.

When I joined this forum 13 years ago I chose "murphyslaw" as my name. I was happy with my beer, but it seemed like every brewing session there was something that went wrong. That ended the day I got the Grainfather.

I wouldn't say its saved me a lot of time, but its certainly easier. I can go make breakfast for the kids during the mash or boil. There's basically no set up or take down time. I wouldn't want to use a separate pump. The whole point to me was to stop wrangling with hoses and hose clamps and pumps and this and that. It is one self-contained unit. During the boil I clean the mash pipe. After filling my fermenter I rinse out the GF, fill it with Oxy and let it recirc. Dump it, recirc some water, then dump and I'm done.

One thing that I didn't like was that the pump clogged a lot, since I make a lot of NEIPAs. But I just got a false bottom that works unbelievably well. No more clogs, no hop matter in fermenter. Probably 100% solved. But sure, that's another thing to buy. I've also switched the fittings over to camlocks. Right now, the only thing that bothers me a little bit is that its not well suited for LODO brewing, which intrigues me. That's probably true of all these units. But I wouldn't give up the ease of brew day for the ability to underlet.
 

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If you go the Anvil route, if you already have a dedicated pump (with a ball valve) to use that. The one supplied by Anvil cannot handle boiling temps and that clip thing to control flow isn't worth the metal it is stamped out of.
FYI per Blichmann it can handle boiling temps, it won't melt or anything. It's just not recommended for any pump to run boiling temps due to caviation, and generally not a great idea to have boiling liquids getting pumped around a home environment.

Agreed on the clips though, I have to say they work but I don't like them either. I bought some fittings that are 1/2" compression on one side (for the pipe) and 1/2" NPT on the other, where I attached a valve and barb then use hose clamps with the built-in keys. I feel a lot more secure with that.
 

JoeSpartaNJ

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FYI per Blichmann it can handle boiling temps, it won't melt or anything. It's just not recommended for any pump to run boiling temps due to caviation, and generally not a great idea to have boiling liquids getting pumped around a home environment.

Agreed on the clips though, I have to say they work but I don't like them either. I bought some fittings that are 1/2" compression on one side (for the pipe) and 1/2" NPT on the other, where I attached a valve and barb then use hose clamps with the built-in keys. I feel a lot more secure with that.

I have always run boiling wort through my March pump the last 10 minutes of my boil or at flameout to sanitize it before whirl-pooling or chilling.

Never had an issue.

My March and Pumpzilla perform much better than the one that came with the Anvil.
 

fuzzybee

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My specific gravity reading from my last brew read
30' 1.051
60' 1.058
90' 1.061

on a bill of
5.5kg MO
.3kg pale wheat
.2kg Caraaroma
I got a 20% increase in specific gravity for my extended mash I also boil for 90' now as I get crystal clear wort and a good head on my beer. To each their own I suppose?
Those numbers make sense, since you are boiling-off for longer. You could have made a 30-minute boil with the 90-minute SG if you'd adjusted your recipe, right?

Does boil time affect clarity and head?
 

McMullan

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A Braumeister is my recommendation, if you're looking for as much automation. There should be some used ones on the market, if you want to save some money. The new (2021) models aren't exactly cheap. But, generally, a very reliable system that can be left to do its thing. With some planning, brewing even with the kids running around is a breeze.
 

tracer bullet

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Never had an issue.
I'm sure you haven't. It's just Blichmann making recommendations, especially for newbies.

Pumps can be sanitized at lower temps and faster too, far less than 10 minutes of boiling. I'm not saying you're doing it wrong but FYI even a minute right after flame out will cover it.

Also to be clear I'm not saying the included Anvil pump is great. I'm not a fan of the plastic head or its relative smallness / wimpiness. Just sharing info primarily for the OP. It does the job, for recirculation and even helping chilling. But you won't get a whirlpool from it that makes a cone out of your trub. And you can get the generic Northern brewer pump for pretty much the same cost and it's far bigger and with a stainless, threaded head (better spot to attach a valve or any other fittings). There are definitely better pumps.
 

jambop

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Those numbers make sense, since you are boiling-off for longer. You could have made a 30-minute boil with the 90-minute SG if you'd adjusted your recipe, right?

Does boil time affect clarity and head?

No I think you have mis interpreted what I am saying. Those gravity figures are for the mash only. I do a 90 minute mash then sparge and boil for ninety. My reply was to the poster who said some get good results from a 30 minute mash and boil. I have found my 90 minute mash increases my 30 minute sg by 20% . Does the ninety minute boil help clearing and head? I think so but there are greater minds than mine that believe it too. I think the longer boil helps remove volatile things you don't want and also precipitate others. My post boil wort is much clearer than it was with the 60 minute boil. Adjusting the recipe to boost SG just wastes ingredients because the sugars are available already if you give the mash long enough to release them.
 
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fuzzybee

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No I think you have mis interpreted what I am saying. Those gravity figures are for the mash only. I do a 90 minute mash then sparge and boil for ninety. My reply was to the poster who said some get good results from a 30 minute mash and boil. I have found my 90 minute mash increases my 30 minute sg by 20% . Does the ninety minute boil help clearing and head? I think so but there are greater minds than mine that believe it too. I think the longer boil helps remove volatile things you don't want and also precipitate others. My post boil wort is much clearer than it was with the 60 minute boil. Adjusting the recipe to boost SG just wastes ingredients because the sugars are available already if you give the mash long enough to release them.
Ah! I did misread - I read that as boil time. My apologies.
 

renstyle

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Thank you for this! Great point about re-using pumps I have. My only concern with that would be if that means more setup/tear-down compared to a unit with an integrated pump.

I also wasn't ware that the Foundry is double-walled, great information! The additional flexiblity of 120/220V switching is nice too.

The recirculation kit Anvil sells with their pump has a small angled pipe which fits the hole in the lid. Then it's just silicone tubing connecting to the pump, and more tubing from pump to the kettle spigot. Others have used a hangover-type whirlpool arm in the same manner. Minimal setup/tear-down.

You also have the advantage of de-coupling the pump from the kettle, so it can be utilized for other tasks (as an example). I've not run with an integrated pump, so cannot speak to it's overall flexibility.
 
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dlm3

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If you go the Anvil route, if you already have a dedicated pump (with a ball valve) to use that. The one supplied by Anvil cannot handle boiling temps and that clip thing to control flow isn't worth the metal it is stamped out of.
Great to know! I'm curious if there's a way to aquire the screen and bent metal tube that goes through the lid without buying the whole recirc kit (since I don't need the pump and tubing)?
 
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dlm3

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A Braumeister is my recommendation, if you're looking for as much automation. There should be some used ones on the market, if you want to save some money. The new (2021) models aren't exactly cheap. But, generally, a very reliable system that can be left to do its thing. With some planning, brewing even with the kids running around is a breeze.
I hadn't seen the Braumeister before, looks impressive but likely out of my price range. I'll start keeping eye out in the used market just in case the right deal comes along. Thanks!
 
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dlm3

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They are available separately on the Anvil site
Derp, I missed that initially when I was looking around there. I was looking under "Accessories", but the individual parts are under "Replacement Parts".
 

bwible

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Thank you for this! Great point about re-using pumps I have. My only concern with that would be if that means more setup/tear-down compared to a unit with an integrated pump.

I also wasn't ware that the Foundry is double-walled, great information! The additional flexiblity of 120/220V switching is nice too.
Well the Foundry doesn’t have an integrated pump but they sell one in a kit for it which includes the baffle that sits on top of the mash basket. There’s not much to set up or tear down, its a pump, 2 hoses, a metal fitting that goes into the lid and a little hose clamp they give you to adjust the pump outlet flow. The little clamp doesn’t always work well.

I’d also say the Foundry is not actually switchable between 110 and 220. It comes with a 110 plug and they tell you to cut it off and put a 220 plug on there if you want to do 220. Yes there is a switch between 110 and 220 and I guess if you had some kind of adapter you could switch between.

Far as time to brew, I have a 6.5 and it still takes 6 hours to brew 3 gallons with my setup. I guess you could shave a little off that by using the mash water timer. But you still have to do a mash, you still have to boil and do all that and there is still cleanup.

If you were interested in smaller batches there are a few new automated systems like beermkr that make 1 gallon at a time fully automated you pretty much don’t have to do anything. It has its own little keg and all.

 
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dlm3

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I’d also say the Foundry is not actually switchable between 110 and 220. It comes with a 110 plug and they tell you to cut it off and put a 220 plug on there if you want to do 220. Yes there is a switch between 110 and 220 and I guess if you had some kind of adapter you could switch between.
I watched a YouTube video on Short Circuited Brewers where he made a 220 to 110 adapter to avoid having to cut the cord on the Anvil. I'd go that route if I get an Anvil. The biggest downside I see is the risk of someone plugging something else into the 110V side of the adapter while it's plugged in, but I feel that can be reasonably mitigated. I'm kind of surpised that the don't default the kit with a 220 plug and include an adapter to step it down to 110V. I'm sure the damage potential of plugging something expecting 220 into a 110 is a lot lower than the opposite. I'm sure it would add a little to the manufacturing cost, but ideally the controller would automatically sense the voltage and switch automatically, like many other electronics do (although I'm assuming due to the current/power involve with this type of system that may be more costly to implement than in other devices).
 
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dlm3

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I watched a YouTube video on Short Circuited Brewers where he made a 220 to 110 adapter to avoid having to cut the cord on the Anvil. I'd go that route if I get an Anvil. The biggest downside I see is the risk of someone plugging something else into the 110V side of the adapter while it's plugged in, but I feel that can be reasonably mitigated. I'm kind of surpised that the don't default the kit with a 220 plug and include an adapter to step it down to 110V. I'm sure the damage potential of plugging something expecting 220 into a 110 is a lot lower than the opposite. I'm sure it would add a little to the manufacturing cost, but ideally the controller would automatically sense the voltage and switch automatically, like many other electronics do (although I'm assuming due to the current/power involve with this type of system that may be more costly to implement than in other devices).
Actually, it looks like this is exactly what they're done in the "V10" version. I guess I just need to make sure this is the one I buy:
https://www.blichmannengineering.com/pub/media/wysiwyg/UpdatedManuals/ANV-Foundry_V10.pdf
1655405763270.png
 

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Hey @dlm3 did you find a winner?

I'm in a very similar situation to you. I used to brew a lot before kids. Time has become much more valuable. I'm looking to get back into brewing because a family member being diagnosed with celiac. I'm trying to decided between tearing down my homemade automated brewing system(I'm an electrician/programmer by trade) to replace all the non-stainless bits, or buying one of these new-fangled all in one brewing systems.

hope you don't mind me butting into your thread.
 
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dlm3

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Hey @dlm3 did you find a winner?

I'm in a very similar situation to you. I used to brew a lot before kids. Time has become much more valuable. I'm looking to get back into brewing because a family member being diagnosed with celiac. I'm trying to decided between tearing down my homemade automated brewing system(I'm an electrician/programmer by trade) to replace all the non-stainless bits, or buying one of these new-fangled all in one brewing systems.

hope you don't mind me butting into your thread.
No worries. At this point I'm leaning towards the Anvil. The main features currently swaying me that way are the flexibility of dual-voltage and it being double-walled. I just brewed a double batch last weekend on my current setup, so I'm not in too big of a hurry on this. I'll probably mull it over for a couple more weeks before pulling the trigger on anything though.
 
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