My Single-Tier Propane/Electric Hybrid Brew Rig

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diatonic

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Over the past month or so I've been working on plans for a new brew rig. For the past year or so I've been brewing on my Ghetto Fabulous Electric HERMS, but it is time for an upgrade.

The design goals for this system are:
  1. Be able to heat the HLT with electricity *or* propane
  2. No quick-disconnect changes during brewing
  3. Easy to clean
  4. Control mash temperature via HERMS coil
  5. Portable for brewing at friend's houses or other group brews
  6. Be able to heat HLT rapidly for step infusions
  7. Permanently mounted IC in boil kettle
  8. Single-tier fly sparging
  9. Whirlpool ports in HLT and BK

I knew I would need 2 pumps to fly-sparge on a single tier system, so I am replacing the stir motor with a whirlpool port on the HLT. I will keep a pump running, recirculating water in the HLT throughout the mash, reducing temperature stratification.

I love my immersion chiller. It keeps cold break out of my primary, and allows me to rapidly cool the wort, as long as I keep it moving a bit in the BK. I hate having to put it in the BK, and stir it around a bit to rapidly cool things. I always have visions of nasty things falling in to my cooling wort and potentially spoiling the batch. By whirlpooling with an internally mounted IC, I will get rapid cooling without having to move the IC, since the wort will be moving around it. It should also allow me to get a nice cone of hop material and trub in the BK prior to draining in to the fermenter.

All changes in the fluid patch will be done with full port ball valves. It will be a combination of high-temp silicone hose, and insulated hard copper.

I'm building a stand from 1.5" square stainless steel (16 gauge/0.065" wall). I priced both mild steel and stainless for the stand. The mild steel cost was about $50, stainless about $150. I plan to brew on this for years, and not having to paint it or powder coat it, plus the bling factor of stainless is easily worth $100.

Temperature control of the HLT will initially be done with an Auber PID - Though I may move to a brewtroller in the future.

I will be using banjo burners for the HLT and BK, though while brewing at home I'll heat the HLT with a 5,500 watt element. The burner will be used when brewing where 220v AC is unavailable. I might decide to boil with electricity in the future, though my initial plans are to boil with propane.

The stand will have a gas beam, and hard plumbed burners. The HLT burner will be controlled by the PID. The panel will have a switch to switch between gas or electric HLT control. The panel will also have switches for both pumps. I'm going to use my march 809 pump for the MLT/BK inlet pump - and I'm working on finding a Little Giant pump for the HLT inlet pump. I like how quiet the Little Giant pumps are, and they have a little higher flow rate. They are however only rated to 200F, and I will exceed that when whirlpooling the BK.

This is the initial plan for the stand and keggles. I will post updates with diagrams with valves and pictures of the system. The goal is to have it completed before Big Brew 2010 (May 1st 2010).

 

The Pol

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Disregard, you are stepping with infusions... cool
 
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diatonic

diatonic

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Well, I plan to heat the HLT to target at the end of the mash. I figure I should be able to get about 1GPM through the MLT, and I usually do 5 gallon batches. If I need to ramp 10 degrees over 10 minutes, I think I should be able to replace 10 gallons in the MLT over that 10 minutes. Even 15 minutes if needed. One of my biggest frustrations on the current brew rig is that it takes a really long time to ramp the HLT temp.

I figure at mashout I can stop recirculation on the MLT and heat sparge water to target temperature. I also plan to insulate the MLT and HLT to reduce heat loss. Really looking forward to this :)
 

AiredAle

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Looks good, I'm envious. One question though: how will you protect the plastic bases of the elements when you are using the burners to heat? I would be concerned that they will melt or burn up being close to the bottom and in the path of the heat from the flame.
 
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diatonic

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I'm having a 1" NPT half coupler welded in at the bottom of the HLT. When I'm not using electric, I'll remove it and put a 1" NPT square head stainless plug in it's place.

I haven't updated the drawing to include the half coupler for the element, or for the temperature probes. I've got the couplers on order, and when I receive them next week, and know the dimensions, I'll update the drawing.
 
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diatonic

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My enormous dial thermometer for my HLT arrived today. I knew a 5" dial would be big, but this thing is huge. I dig it. Very industrial, and easy to read.





 
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diatonic

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Progressing slowly but surely. This week I got...
  • The rest of the fittings I need for my kettles
  • 15" hinged stainless Sabco false bottom for my MLT
  • ASCO Red Hat 8215G020 120V AC 1/2" NPT fuel gas solenoid valve
  • 4 240V AC 40A SSRs
  • (2) Honeywell Q345ALB8149 Intermittent Ignitor/Sensor
  • Bayou Classic BG14 Banjo Burner
  • (8) Swagelok 3/8" tube x 1/4" NPT elbows
  • Camco 240V 5500W hot water heater element

w00t!

 
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diatonic

diatonic

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Well, the kegs are at the welder's shop, and I should be able to pick them up tomorrow. A total of 18 couplings are being welded in to the 3 kegs. I think I'm going to go with mild steel for the stand instead of stainless. Chris Knight's powder coated stand made me rethink the stainless, and it should shave about $150 off the cost of the stand.

I picked up a sweet enclosure for my control panel from a local industrial recycling shop (The Reuseum). It has panel mounted twist-lock 20A 250V AC connectors (male & female), and a hinged front. I picked it up for $15 w00t! The enclosure is about 10.5" x 12.5". It was originally a Square D Welder Control box, and will serve my purpose well. I'll be running about 21A at 220V AC through those connectors, but think that will be okay. When I'm not using electric for the HLT they won't be connected.

I also ordered some switches from Automation Direct yesterday for the control panel, as well as an 8 pin waterproof panel mount connector to connect the control panel to the 2 pumps and solenoid valve on the stand.

The connector I purchased can be found here: http://www.route66supply.com/store/product7.html

It looks like this:


Outside of enclosure:


Inside of enclosure:


Right side of enclosure:


110V AC Connector to mount on side:


Control Panel Layout:


I'll update this thread with progress. Getting excited :mug:
 

pickles

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Nice score on that enclosure! Looking forward to seeing the project evolve.
 
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diatonic

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I was able to pick up the kegs from the welder today. He did a great job. The couplings in the MLT and Boil Kettle are welded inside and out for easier cleaning. One keg I got at a yard sale appears to have been used often as a stand for spray painting. It has a date with a wire wheel this weekend (not really a wire wheel, but a paint remover pad thingy). I'll take better pictures once I get them cleaned up. 18 fittings were welded in :D

Crappy iPhone pic:
 
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diatonic

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Ooooo That's nice...
Weld porn?!?
I saw the outside pics. Can you share the inside pics?
Please? :D
Once I get done cleaning them up inside and out I'll post some good pictures. It's going to take some elbow grease and BKF. :)

Did you wax string tie the wires in the box your self...very cool !
The wax string work in the box is from the manufacturer, Square D. I'm not sure what year it was manufactured, but it sure looks like quality work on the inside. There was a schematic of the wiring on the inside of the door that I removed. Pretty cool.
 

Cyan

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Looks good, I'm envious. One question though: how will you protect the plastic bases of the elements when you are using the burners to heat? I would be concerned that they will melt or burn up being close to the bottom and in the path of the heat from the flame.
I think that this is a very valid question that should be discussed. Maybe the use of a heat shield of some kind would help? What does everybody else think?
 

The Pol

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I think that this is a very valid question that should be discussed. Maybe the use of a heat shield of some kind would help? What does everybody else think?
Heat shield a good idea. I would be more worried about the wires coming from the elements. The element is right up on the kettle, so a heat shield will be great at blocking that heat from coming up the side of the kettle. However, the wires extending from the elements will be harder to protect as they require more extensive protection.
 

OMJ

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I think that this is a very valid question that should be discussed. Maybe the use of a heat shield of some kind would help? What does everybody else think?
I am guessing but it looked to me like the OP was having 1" couplers welded in his kegs so they would be removable. Once they are out just put a plug in there and you are ready for propane
 
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diatonic

diatonic

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I think it would be cool to keep the element installed while I heat the HLT with propane, but I don't think it's very feasible... and to do it I think I would be pretty spendy. I'll probably brew 95% of the time (or more) heating electric at home, and just remove them element when I go brew somewhere else and heat the HLT with propane.

I might re-evaluate that once I use the system the first time heating the HLT with propane, and have a better idea of how hot things in that area get :).

I really appreciate the input!
 

Cyan

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I'm workin on a hybrid rig, as well.

The capability of both propane and electric is the important feature for me because I could brew indoors during the winter, and I could have it portable for brewing outdoors (there's a spring near my house with the best water I've ever tasted).

However, running both at the same time is probably more hassle than it's worth, and it's not really necessary anyways.

Well, there it is.

BTW, Pol, I drool over yer Kill-a-watt build almost every day. I'm jealous!
 
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diatonic

diatonic

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How much did the welding cost you? If you don't mind my asking.
I found a guy on Craigslist who offered welding services. Chatted with him a bit and he was recently laid off. Se said he had worked for over 10 years doing work on restaurant & dairy equipment. I took just the HLT keg to him as a 'trial' I didn't want all 3 kegs to be potentially ruined by bad work. He quoted me $25 to do the 5 full couplings in the HLT... and said he'd back-gas the welds with argon to prevent 'sugaring'.

I was impressed with the work he did, and took him the other 2 kegs. He welded the other 13 couplings and cut the top out of one with a plasma cutter for $80 $95. EDIT: It was actually $95 for the 13 couplings & plasma cut top. I had given him $40 for the first work he did, then he quoted me $80 more to do the rest.

I think it was a heck of a deal. In the MLT & BK he welded inside & out for a sanitary weld. I told him it didn't matter in the HLT if there was a tiny gap between the keg wall and coupling on the inside since it would only contain water.
 
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diatonic

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Postman delivered more of the goods today. The Honeywell pilot burner assemblies, liquid tight RTD with 4" probe from Auber, & RTD panel mount connector. I picked up an 80mm Antec fan which has a temperature sensor on it, and speeds up when it gets hot. I'm going to try to wire it up so it only runs when the heating element is energized. I've been trying to find a small DC converter (other than a wall wart) that I can mount in the box to provide 5V DC to power SSRs for the pumps & gas valve. I might have to build a small circuit to do it, or permanently mount a wall wart in the box (yuck).

 

pickles

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Ask and you shall recieve. DC power supply Alot of Brewtroller users have had good luck with this and its cheap. I have one and like it. Its 12v but should work fine.
 
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diatonic

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Sweet! Thanks pickles! That is a serious power supply. Overkill for my current demand (fan and a few SSRs) but it will be nice to have mounted if I decide to make the move to the Brewtroller. :)

"Buy it now"
 

klyph

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I found a guy on Craigslist who offered welding services. Chatted with him a bit and he was recently laid off. Se said he had worked for over 10 years doing work on restaurant & dairy equipment. I took just the HLT keg to him as a 'trial' I didn't want all 3 kegs to be potentially ruined by bad work. He quoted me $25 to do the 5 full couplings in the HLT... and said he'd back-gas the welds with argon to prevent 'sugaring'.

I was impressed with the work he did, and took him the other 2 kegs. He welded the other 13 couplings and cut the top out of one with a plasma cutter for $80 $95. EDIT: It was actually $95 for the 13 couplings & plasma cut top. I had given him $40 for the first work he did, then he quoted me $80 more to do the rest.

I think it was a heck of a deal. In the MLT & BK he welded inside & out for a sanitary weld. I told him it didn't matter in the HLT if there was a tiny gap between the keg wall and coupling on the inside since it would only contain water.
You got a hell of a deal. I guess the recession has an upside.
 

LKHA

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This is on the same design as what I have in the making. Dont know if I will mount the burners or just set them up for a turkey fryer. The big switch is converting the current control box so it can run with out 240v.
 

PatMac

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Looks like a great build.

I like how all of the beer glasses and mugs in your pictures look to be strategically placed to make it in the frame ;)
 

bendavanza

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That's a smoking deal on the welding, esp for someone who obviously knows what they are doing. Inside and out welds? Sweet.
 
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diatonic

diatonic

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LKHA, I looked at your control box in another thread. Anxious to see how it is after you convert it.

PatMac, it helps me keep in mind what this is all about. Homebrew! That's BM's Outer Limits IPA in the glass. :)

Picked up steel Friday for the stand. Hope to have it done next week.

 
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diatonic

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Making some progress with the HLT. Still need to hit it with more BKF. There's also a bit of spray paint on the top rim I need to take off with acetone. I installed the element and gauge glass for a leak test. Made a dip tube from 3/8" ID type L flexible copper, connected with a 1/2" flare fitting. Drains the HLT nearly completely, leaving about 1/4 cup in the bottom. Still need to hit it with BKF one more time I think.

As requested, some more pictures :)





The sight glass is 1/8" NPT swagelok to 3/8" tube elbow compression fitting. Was initially pissed when the ones I got from eBay were 1/8" NPT instead of 1/4" NPT, but it turned out great. The fittings are really low, and I can see level in the glass at about 2.5 gallons:



1/2" NPT half coupling, with a 1/2" to 1/4" bushing for the 4" Auber RTD probe. Used 1/2" for flexibility in the future with temperature sensors:



1" NPT half coupling. Still need to wire the element:



 
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diatonic

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My switches came in from Automation Direct today, and I made some progress on the control panel.







I hope to have the panel finished in the next few days :)

:mug:
 
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diatonic

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I dropped off the steel last Friday with the welder, and updated drawings for the stand. I made a few changes. These were the final dimensions I gave him:



I got 4 of these casters from eBay. They lock the wheel from moving completely, immobilizing the stand when all 4 are locked. They seem really high quality for the price.

Just get a call from the welder letting me know this portion of the stand is done. I'm going to see him tomorrow to figure out pump & burner mounts, as well as how we're going to mount the control panel.

The gas beam is all TIG welded, the rest of the welds are MIG. Here's where we are so far:

View from back:




Front view:




Top:


I think I'm going to use some 1x1 angle iron for supports to keep the kegs from being able to be pushed off from the sides.

:mug:
 

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diatonic

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Hey Durden, that is the PID I'm using, though I think the SYL-2362 is a few bucks cheaper, and would work equally well. I'm also using this RTD in the HLT, and I got this panel mount connector for the control panel connection to the RTD.

My recirculation IC will be a little different than that, but a similar concept. I'll have a copper coil mounted in the boil kettle which will almost always remain in place, and quick disconnects on the outside of the keg. I'm planning to start to whirlpool in the boil kettle at 10 minutes left in the boil, trying to get a nice counter-clockwise motion in the wort. At the end of the boil I'll connect a hose in the top QD for hot water exiting the coil, and put the other end in the MLT to collect hot water for cleaning it, then connect a garden hose to the QD on the bottom. I'll run cold water in to the bottom of the coil, and it will exit the top. I'm going to form the coil such that the water runs in the opposite direction (clockwise) in an attempt to maximize heat transfer.

I'm hoping this will help me collect trub & cold break in the middle of the kettle. After I reach my target temperature I'll shut off flow to the IC and let it settle for 20 minutes or so before pumping or draining to the fermenter.

The first brew will be quite the experiment :)

Thanks a lot for the feedback! I appreciate it.
 

Cyan

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Thanks a lot for the feedback! I appreciate it.
Thank you, as well! I appreciate all the information. It will really help me with my hybrid build. I'm starting to move away from a brutus clone to your rig. looked at your thread like 10 times today trying to figure everything out. I'm anxious to see how your panel turns out. Nice find on the enclosure - you got an amazing deal.

I think that's a good technique for the whirlpool effect. can't wait to see it in action. i'm still trying to understand the exact differences between HERMS (this) and RIMS (brutus) cuz iwas gonna build a brutus clone but now im proabably gonna switch to something like this. so instead of two asco valves, I would use one, huh? OK... still tryin to figure it all out. it's alotta fun doin this sh*t!
 
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diatonic

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... Why wouldn't you want to control the MLT with another PID and valve? I guess you don't need to because you won't lose enough heat to worry about it (esp. if the keg's insulated). Nice find on the enclosure - you got an amazing deal!
Well, I left space in the control box to mount another PID or 2 if I decide to in the future, as well as a connection to the gas beam for a MLT burner if I decide to direct fire it in the future. I think I'm going to put a pressure gauge there for now :).

For my initial brews I'm planning to wrap the MLT in Reflectix, put a lid on it, and see how it does. I think I've worked out how I'm going to mount the burners, pumps. control panel & propane regulator. I'll update the thread when that part is done.

I've got a call in to a powder coating place to get a quote on getting it done in red.

Prost! :tank:
 

Cyan

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Well, I left space in the control box to mount another PID or 2 if I decide to in the future, as well as a connection to the gas beam for a MLT burner if I decide to direct fire it in the future. I think I'm going to put a pressure gauge there for now :).

For my initial brews I'm planning to wrap the MLT in Reflectix, put a lid on it, and see how it does. I think I've worked out how I'm going to mount the burners, pumps. control panel & propane regulator. I'll update the thread when that part is done.

I've got a call in to a powder coating place to get a quote on getting it done in red.

Prost! :tank:
oops i edited my post at the same time you wrote this post. my bad. but that's cool that you can always modify it if you wanted
 
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