I'm an apartment brewer looking to level up to all-grain brewing and need some advice/guidance

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

WaffleHouse

New Member
Joined
Sep 28, 2021
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
This is my first post here, so I apologize in advance if I'm messing anything up.

So I need a little help with deciding on how and where to expand my homebrew system. For the past year or so, I've been doing extract brewing, but after getting annoyed with always using extracts, I have decided I'm ready to get into the all-grain game. I feel like I've been all around the forums and doing research, but keep running into complications that wouldn't work for me and my situation. There are two things I'm struggling with. (1) I live in a second floor apartment and the only 240v outlet I have is for my dryer. I also plan to live here for the next year or two. (2) I want to invest in a system that will grow with me as I continue to hone my craft and expand my output.

All that being said, it sounds like eBIAB would be the best option and fit for my current situation. Ideally, I would also be able to do at least 10 gallon batches. I would love to get one of the 240v 10 gallon eBIAB systems (Unibrau, SS Brewtech, Spike, or Clawhammer), but I'm worried that the only 240v outlet I have is currently being used by the dryer (just a standard 4 wire 14/30 dryer outlet). This outlet looks to be perfect fit for the Unibrau system, but since I don't have proper ventilation there, I would really need to get a ~50ft. extension cord so that I could brew in the kitchen area.

So for my dilemma...
(1) Should I just go with one of the 120v 5 gallon eBIAB systems, realizing that I may not be able to leverage all of the components as I move up to a 3-vessel system once I move into a house?
(2) Should I go with the 240v 10 gallon eBIAB systems and use the dryer outlet? which would lead to...
(2a) should I just get a general dryer extension cord (like... Amazon.com: RVGUARD 4 Prong 30 Amp 40 Feet Generator Extension Cord, NEMA L14-30P/L14-30R, 125/250V Up to 7500W 10 Gauge SJTW Generator Cord with Cord Organizer, ETL Listed : Patio, Lawn & Garden
(2b) Or I've heard that I should get a 8/3 or 8/4 SOOC cable?
(2c) Or I've heard that I should really make sure that the outlet is GFCI or get a GFCI attachment?
(3) I could build a system independently. I was thinking of going for a 120v system and brew controller, while using elements that would be suitable for a 120v controller, but could invest more in the components that could be repurposed when I look to expand my systems once I move into a house and get a true 240v outlet that is suitable for brewing.

I'm really leaning towards the Unibrau system (ideally the 240v 10 gallon, but the 120v 5 gallon premium version could also work), but wanted to see what other people have done and what you would recommend.

Thank you in advance
 

Beholder

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 10, 2011
Messages
267
Reaction score
128
Location
Orlando
240V system is the way to go. Even with a 5g, 120V is limping and slow ramp rates. 240 V gives you speed if you want to do step mashing at some point and will generally speed up your brew day. To that end, a 10g system is a good sweet spot that it is small enough to enable small batches of 5g, but allow you to push larger batches once you get your process dialed in.

My vote would be to employ an extension and since the dryer outlet will not be GFCI, you should either pop one on the end of your system’s cable or look for an extension cord that has one.
 

jkcolo

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Apr 17, 2012
Messages
46
Reaction score
8
Location
Denver
2nd the gfci extension cord. But before all that double check the voltage of your panel and dryer outlet. Some multi-unit bldgs (including mine) get only 208v whereby the building gets 3-phase power then each unit gets the 208v single phase. If that's the case make sure the system you get will work with that. Happened to me.
 

madscientist451

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 10, 2014
Messages
5,624
Reaction score
3,436
Location
Bedford
My 2 cents: You're an apartment brewer, so I suppose you don't have a lot of space? Do you have room for a small chest freezer for temperature control and kegs? Bottling 10 gallon batches will get old fast. If you have an unlimited budget and lots of space, go ahead and buy a brewing "system". However if money and space are tight, get the chest freezer, temperature controller and kegs first and do small batch BIAB brewing on your kitchen stove. You can add the fancy brewing gear later.
 

jrgtr42

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2013
Messages
1,836
Reaction score
1,193
Location
Metrowest, Massachusets.
Honestly, depending on your space, I'd think hard about going with small batch brewing. At least for the firts couple. I wish I knew about it when I got started in a very tiny place - 1 - 2 gallons still gets you the experience and some beer, and any kitchen stove can handle boiling that amount.
|INvest in upgrades where and when you can. probably best to start with would be a small chest freezer or mini fridge for fermentation temps - that can do double duty as the beer fridge when you're not fermenting. I wouldn't go to a 10 gallon size for sure to get going - unless you routinely have or go to big parties - \you're probably noticed that even 5 gallons goes a lot longer than you think.
 

Beernik

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2009
Messages
4,137
Reaction score
939
Location
Camano Island, WA
If you are bottling, 10 gallons isn’t that much worse than 5 gallons, especially if you have a good mix of bottle sizes. It just tacks a few hours onto the process.

But bottles take space in the apartment, space in the house, and space in the move in-between.

If it was me and I was bottling and a move is not far away, I’d make the jump to kegging before the move and then jump in sizes after the move. I sometimes wish I had done it that way. I probably wouldn’t have ended up with a 5 year hiatus after the move.

That said, make sure you have the correct circuit voltage and amperage on the dryer circuit for the 10 gallon system before you buy it.
 
OP
OP
W

WaffleHouse

New Member
Joined
Sep 28, 2021
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
Thank you all.

I moved over to kegging a few beers ago and love it. Absolutely hated bottling and the time it would take. I been working to build a 2-tap kegerator out of a mini-fridge, which is going well.

It sounds like I may want to go with a 5 gallon batch system, then start investing more into the fermentation side of things (just doing buckets for the time being). I like the trying to brew a variety of beers anyways, so 10 gallons may be too much and don't trust myself with the electric side of things.
 
Joined
Dec 26, 2013
Messages
4,206
Reaction score
4,912
If I were in your shoes I would do small batches on a smaller system. Maybe a 5G ebiab set up or the 6.5G all in one. If you buy an all grain kit (usually 5G) and make 2 batches at 2.5G each, then you use up the kit, you have no inventory to speak of and stockpile fewer bottles.
 

KBW PilotHouse

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Aug 1, 2021
Messages
232
Reaction score
146
Thank you all.

I moved over to kegging a few beers ago and love it. Absolutely hated bottling and the time it would take. I been working to build a 2-tap kegerator out of a mini-fridge, which is going well.

It sounds like I may want to go with a 5 gallon batch system, then start investing more into the fermentation side of things (just doing buckets for the time being). I like the trying to brew a variety of beers anyways, so 10 gallons may be too much and don't trust myself with the electric side of things.
Keep in mind how you’ll exhaust/manage steam generated if you go away from stovetop/vent hood. Maybe it doesn’t matter to you since you’re renting an apartment…..(OK, shouldn’t have said that …😆).
 

Dancy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 10, 2018
Messages
352
Reaction score
275
Another idea is to go ahead and get a 110 all in one unit, deal with the slower heating times, be all in for under $300, then after the move, sell it for 1/2-2/3 of what you paid for it and get a bigger system then.
+1 on this. I brew in a small one bedroom condo kitchen with a Mash & Boil. Some people seem to to think it’s a pain to use 110 and wait for a while for boil or mash temps. Personally, I find something else to do during that time — so pay some bills online, stream a sitcom, etc. But then I live alone without kids running around so that works for me.
 

RufusBrewer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2015
Messages
684
Reaction score
443
Location
Nashville
You can get a 110v All-In-One system. Fortify that with a Hot Rod by Brewhardware.com. You can use an AC plug that is on a different breaker with an off-the-shelf GFCI. This will help with your ramp up times.

You could drop it into to the kettle running at full 110 VAC. I strongly recommend the investment in a temp probe controlled unit, so you do not have to hover over the unit.

 

Dr_Jeff

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
Messages
1,972
Reaction score
1,511
Location
Henagar, Alabama
@WaffleHouse what is your budget and what size batches are you planning on brewing?

look on Amazon for this Klarstein Maischfest, right now the price is $249, the price has been lowered from $289 and there is a link on the page for a 10% off coupon, so that puts you all in for ~$225 shipped free if you have Prime. That is for the larger unit 35L the smaller one is 30L and is at $229 with a 10% coupon as well.
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
W

WaffleHouse

New Member
Joined
Sep 28, 2021
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
I've set aside $2,000 as of now. I would love to quit my day job and become a brewer full-time, so I've been thinking about investing in a system that would have the ability to grow with me. That being said, I have been thinking about building an eBIAB system myself so that I can run 10G batches. I've been contemplating doing a Spike+ Solo 20G kettle and basket, Blichmann RipTide pump, TBD on the brewhouse controller, and then having two 1650W heating elements (since I'm limited to 120V in my apartment as of now). The problem is that I keep going back and forth on whether the investment is worth it or whether I should just get a 10G (5G batch) Clawhammer system that would already include everything, but may not be 100% transferrable/expandable into a larger system.

I'm just too torn and knowing that I've already set aside and budgeted spending $2,000 is making things even harder. Maybe the better question would be, given a $2,000 budget, what would you invest in for a 120V apartment brewer (assuming I just brew 5G extract batches on my stove and ferment in buckets)?
 

Dr_Jeff

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
Messages
1,972
Reaction score
1,511
Location
Henagar, Alabama
With the system I referenced, you can be all in for a bit over $200 and be able to do all grain.

All of the stuff you listed is going to take up a bunch of space in your apartment, and you are going to have to store it and eventually move it, possibly several times. Things to think about.

Since you have a budget of 2k, get the cheaper unit, refine your skills, save a bit more money. If you decide that you want to stick with the hobby, you can always get the more expensive setup and sell of the cheaper unit on CL or FB marketplace for 1/2-2/3 of what you gave for it. The one I referenced comes with a SS chiller and they sell a SS fermenter for $99.
 

Dr_Jeff

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
Messages
1,972
Reaction score
1,511
Location
Henagar, Alabama
BTW- I've been doing all grain on propane for almost ten years and bought the DigiBoil from Williams Brewing so that I can move towards electric and it will do 10 gallon batches easily and I spent ~$450, the equipment is scheduled to arrive next week and I'll be home the following week. They also sell a still lid (several options) for it, if that is something that is of interest to you.
 

KBW PilotHouse

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Aug 1, 2021
Messages
232
Reaction score
146
I've set aside $2,000 as of now. I would love to quit my day job and become a brewer full-time, so I've been thinking about investing in a system that would have the ability to grow with me. That being said, I have been thinking about building an eBIAB system myself so that I can run 10G batches. I've been contemplating doing a Spike+ Solo 20G kettle and basket, Blichmann RipTide pump, TBD on the brewhouse controller, and then having two 1650W heating elements (since I'm limited to 120V in my apartment as of now). The problem is that I keep going back and forth on whether the investment is worth it or whether I should just get a 10G (5G batch) Clawhammer system that would already include everything, but may not be 100% transferrable/expandable into a larger system.

I'm just too torn and knowing that I've already set aside and budgeted spending $2,000 is making things even harder. Maybe the better question would be, given a $2,000 budget, what would you invest in for a 120V apartment brewer (assuming I just brew 5G extract batches on my stove and ferment in buckets)?
Waffle you‘re pretty much all over the board with your options. Anything you decide for your apartment will be outgrown later on; just how it is. Aside from space you’re biggest decision is on voltage; 120 or 240.

If you go 240 you’ll probably need to use your dryer outlet unless you have another 20 or 30 amp source. Whatever controller you choose for 120V can’t be used for 240V later. That’s a big factor, among others.

Personally I totally agree with others who’ve suggested an all-in-one system. One good option is Anvil Foundry (I have one for lazy days or when I do quick test batches). The beauty of these is you can switch the voltage/element between 120V & 240V. And like me you may find yourself using it much later on even though you have a large 2-3 vessel system(s).

Just something else to consider 👌

Cheers 🍻

KBW.
 

bwible

I drink, and I know things
HBT Supporter
Joined
Oct 31, 2017
Messages
2,287
Reaction score
4,956
Location
Oxford, PA
Honestly, depending on your space, I'd think hard about going with small batch brewing. At least for the firts couple. I wish I knew about it when I got started in a very tiny place - 1 - 2 gallons still gets you the experience and some beer, and any kitchen stove can handle boiling that amount.
|INvest in upgrades where and when you can. probably best to start with would be a small chest freezer or mini fridge for fermentation temps - that can do double duty as the beer fridge when you're not fermenting. I wouldn't go to a 10 gallon size for sure to get going - unless you routinely have or go to big parties - \you're probably noticed that even 5 gallons goes a lot longer than you think.
I have an Anvil 6.5 that I use to brew 3 gallon batches. It has an 8 lb capacity which will let you brew 3 gallon batches up to about 1.050 something. I’ve found I’ve been getting about 80% efficiency with it since I’ve been adjusting my mash ph with a little acid malt and my water minerals off Brun Water. If you want to brew higher gravity you can always supplement with extract in the kettle.

The 6.5 does pretty well on regular old 120v. I do step mashes even.

3 gallons works out to be about a case plus a 6 pack (30 bottles). I’m the only one in my house who drinks beer and its been a great system for me. All the containers are smaller and everything is easier to handle. I’m north of 60 now so that’s becoming more important to me.

When space is a concern you can get more variety. The downside is that you’re spending the same amount of time brewing and only getting about half the output. But it was mentioned in another thread, who goes to the store and buys 2 cases of the same beer? I’ve never done that in my life.

Everybody is different, you have to figure out what works for you
 

NSMikeD

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2017
Messages
687
Reaction score
498
Location
Huntington
I have an Anvil 6.5 that I use to brew 3 gallon batches. It has an 8 lb capacity which will let you brew 3 gallon batches up to about 1.050 something. I’ve found I’ve been getting about 80% efficiency with it since I’ve been adjusting my mash ph with a little acid malt and my water minerals off Brun Water. If you want to brew higher gravity you can always supplement with extract in the kettle.

The 6.5 does pretty well on regular old 120v. I do step mashes even.

3 gallons works out to be about a case plus a 6 pack (30 bottles). I’m the only one in my house who drinks beer and its been a great system for me. All the containers are smaller and everything is easier to handle. I’m north of 60 now so that’s becoming more important to me.

When space is a concern you can get more variety. The downside is that you’re spending the same amount of time brewing and only getting about half the output. But it was mentioned in another thread, who goes to the store and buys 2 cases of the same beer? I’ve never done that in my life.

Everybody is different, you have to figure out what works for you


I have to echo this for apartment brewing. I too have the 6.5. I have access to both 110v and 240- I built the the adpapter GFCI cord but after a few brews I stopped using it and now brew in my kitchen on a 110v outlet. 5 gals is way too much beer for me - too much to drink, too much to store and I like to brew and brew different recipes. That just me, but I thought worth sharing.
I brew 2.5 gal batches and keg. I used to brew 5 gals and then got into 1 gal stovetop batches and found my sweet spot with the Anvil 6.5 and 2.5 kegged batches. Oh yeah, add a mini fridge for a fermentation chamber which really improved my beers. I confess the fermentation chamber is in my bedroom camouflaged as a piece of furniture and the other mini fridge/kegertaor is in my living room (doesn't that make a lot of sense!).
 
Joined
Feb 24, 2013
Messages
1,776
Reaction score
2,051
Location
New Brighton
I third or quadruple the advice to get something that works for you now and plan to get rid of it when you want to upgrade. My system is a bit of a Frankenstein because I like to buy whatever I think is great quality with the thought that I’ll have it forever. Great plan, except as I’ve learned (and the hobby has developed a lot of new techniques) I have changed my plans several times.

Definitely get something that works for your apartment, brew like crazy to learn what you don’t know, and start your planning and research for your post-move brewery of your dreams.

As a side note, I’m not a pro brewer, but anything you buy now is not going to be practical for professional use except maybe as a pilot brewery. From what I understand it is really hard to float the time/finances of pro brewing unless you are brewing at least 5 barrel batches.
 

RufusBrewer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 3, 2015
Messages
684
Reaction score
443
Location
Nashville
+1 on trying to bridge the gap from apartment to pro, not worth it.

what makes life easy in your apartment will be a pain when scaled up, and the other way around.

Maybe you could "invest" in some lab equipment. (for me an excuse to get some cool new things)
 

BrewDrinkRepeat

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2010
Messages
189
Reaction score
93
Location
Merchantville NJ
> I would love to quit my day job and become a brewer full-time, so I've been thinking about investing in a system that would have the ability to grow with me.

Your plans to become a pro brewer have literally nothing to do with setting up an apartment brewing system. No connection whatsoever. Absolutely nothing you are going to buy now has or will have any relevance to, or use for, brewing professionally. This should not even be entering your thought process.
 

Brew_Dude41

Chaos coordinator
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 28, 2014
Messages
741
Reaction score
554
Location
Columbus
+1 on trying to bridge the gap from apartment to pro, not worth it.

what makes life easy in your apartment will be a pain when scaled up, and the other way around.

Maybe you could "invest" in some lab equipment. (for me an excuse to get some cool new things)
I am with Rufus on this. 110 units might be slow, but they will fit better into your apartment.
If you are serious about going pro, you would be better served to invest and learn more on the activities before and after the brew. Water chemistry and fermentation control. If you are really gun-ho, get into yeast propagation.
Get a RO system and learn how to build the profile to enhance your recipes. A good PH meter as well.
Play with fermentation Temps to get different phenols and such on some styles or just to get the cleanest one on others.
Building a recipe and brewing it is great, and having the biggest shiny pot for it is nice, but if I were going pro I would be doing a ton of small batches to fine tune my craft and recipes before throwing all the $$$ at the investment of my own brewery.
 
Top