Newbies looking to build a AG setup.

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corkscrew

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Hi all, I'm a newbie to the site, I've been lurking all day and thought I'd post a question.

Me and my buddy are looking to setup an All grain stand using 15.5 gal kegs for the HLT, and Boil Pot. We figured the grain tun would be a rectangle cooler of an unspecified size. We plan on using NG to heat everything.

The guys we're learning from agreed to help us with the keg conversion (once we source some kegs), but we are on our own for the stand.

We're wondering what the best & most cost effective approach would be. The one catch is we can't weld.

Any suggestions on the best way to proceed?

We're considering using some costco industrial shelving, would that work?
 

kickflip_mj

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wan thats so expensive personaly i dont think you need to weld, if you can cut the steel you deffinitly can bolt it together for less than the price of thos costco units
 

TwoHeadsBrewing

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Were you looking at these shelves here? I was thinking those would be easy to convert to a sculpture of sorts, and you can adjust the height of the shelves to whatever you like.

I have two of the long units for general storage in my garage, but the shorter one in the link would probably be just as good and costs $50 less.
 

ohiobrewtus

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I admire you for wanting to go all out right off the bat. If you can do it then more power to you, but you could get into AG much cheaper if you want to. Convert a cooler to an MLT, get a kettle large enough to do full boils and you can do AG.
 
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corkscrew

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Were you looking at these shelves here? I was thinking those would be easy to convert to a sculpture of sorts, and you can adjust the height of the shelves to whatever you like.
The shelves we have in mind we already have. They are more of an industrial grade, and have solid metal runners on each side of the shelf. To do this we would end up removing the shelves, and probably run a half shelf to allow access to the lower tier.

The other options we were looking into were A) Wood and B) bolt together angle iron. In a pinch though I see bed rails are an option also. I'm almost leaning to one of these options due to being able to design it anyway I want. Price might be an issue though since we already have the shelving.

I admire you for wanting to go all out right off the bat. If you can do it then more power to you, but you could get into AG much cheaper if you want to. Convert a cooler to an MLT, get a kettle large enough to do full boils and you can do AG.
Thanks :) We are spoiled though, neither of us have ever brewed before. However I'm friends with some older gents (I'm only 25) who have been brewing for awhile. They suggested that we not start to small, and they are going to help us out with the first few batches.

Which is the MLT? The grain tun will be a cooler, but for as far as the water tank goes, we planned on using gas burners, so I don't think a cooler would suffice. Is there a viable electric option?
 

wilserbrewer

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Hey hi Corkscrew,

While i certainly admire you wanting to build a brewing stand in order to get started, a stand or "sculpture" as they are called are really only a luxory and not a necesity!

I suggest you get your feet wet and start brewing, and that will let you determine what you really need and want.

I especially feel this way in that you mentioned that you will be brewing w/ a buddy. Two young guys like you can overcome shortcomings and may have to lift a few gallons in lieu of having a stand that operates on gravity.

W/ that being said, check out Denny's link below. It is a great tutoriol on a simple all grain method, lots of people brew this way w/out a stand.

http://hbd.org/cascade/dennybrew/
 
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corkscrew

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While i certainly admire you wanting to build a brewing stand in order to get started, a stand or "sculpture" as they are called are really only a luxory and not a necesity!
We kinda thought we might as well jump in feet first and do it right from the get go. Then again I'm looking forward to the project almost as much as the the result. :) Space at the moment isn't an issue, and we're prepared to save for a month or two to get started.

Although I do see your point. It would make more sense to just start brewing and fine tune things later.

W/ that being said, check out Denny's link below. It is a great tutoriol on a simple all grain method, lots of people brew this way w/out a stand.

http://hbd.org/cascade/dennybrew/
Thanks! I'll mention that process to the rest of the crew. I say crew because my roomie has now expressed interest in this project. :) (EG the bill & the beer are split 3 ways - another reason we kinda wanted to jump in feet first).
 

MrFebtober

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While I don't think brewing all-grain without a sculpture is any less "right," it sounds like you just really want to build something! :D

More power to you, I say, and without welding skills it sounds like your options are either wood (see ScubaSteve's for beautiful example) or bolted perforated angle iron (erector-set style). However, I would say either of these building materials will limit you to a one- or two-tier system (no gravity "tree"), which means you'll need a pump plus the high-temp plumbing that goes with it. As long as you've got the funds, i'm sure you'll have a great time putting a rig together.
 

Bobby_M

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Ok, do you want advice or just encouragement to do what you already decided to do? They may not be the same thing.

Get a propane burner that will hold up your keggle boil pot.
Get a cooler and install a stainless braid.
Batch sparge using physical means of moving water/wort around like with buckets.

Brew a few all grain batches to get your feet wet. This will tell you 100 times more about what YOU will want in a brew sculpture so that you don't waste time building a system that doesn't fit your needs.
 

MrFebtober

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Bobby_M said:
Get a propane burner that will hold up your keggle boil pot.
Get a cooler and install a stainless braid.
Batch sparge using physical means of moving water/wort around like with buckets.

Brew a few all grain batches to get your feet wet. This will tell you 100 times more about what YOU will want in a brew sculpture so that you don't waste time building a system that doesn't fit your needs.
Good point; he just seems pretty set on the idea of building stuff. I'm typically of that mindset, too, but in this case I'm actually taking the same route you suggest: I have made a keggle and a cooler MLT, and bayou classic SQ14 burner should be arriving tomorrow. Planning to feel my way through my first AG batch this weekend! :ban:

I'll build a rig someday, but like you said, time and experience will help me know what I want it to be.
 

abracadabra

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I commend your desire to do things right from the start. Jumping straight into AG is not a big deal I did it by myself and since you have some buddies willing to help it'll make it all that much easier.

I would suggest that since several of you want to do it together that each of you consider buying your own piece of equipment. Say one guy buys the burner someone else buys the keggle(s) another fellow might buy the IC ect. ect. so that there won't be any disputes over the joint ownership of the equipment down the road. I also think it would be a good idea for everyone to buy their own fermenter(s). Ya'll will probably end up needing at least 4 probably more.

NG is a great way to go since it's so much cheaper than LP. (Less than $1 for the equivalent of a gal. in some states vs $3.50 to $4.50 a gal. for LP.

Something else you might consider is getting a turkey fryer like Bobby suggested and swapping the the burner out with the low pressure NG burner.

Since you said space was not an issue here's what I did for my multi-level brewing sculpture:


I got 2 folding metal scaffolds from Home Despot ($99 each). On the top rung of the first scaffold sits a turkey fryer with the HLT (Hot Liquid Tank). There's a bridge between the 2 scaffolds made of 2 each 1"x 8"s at the mid level rung that holds the MLT (Mash Lauter Tun). On the lowest level of the 2nd scaffold sits the banjo burner and boil pot. Which is just high enough to allow for gravity flow into the fermenter
(4 level) that sits on the floor.

I use several drinking water quaility hoses to get the strike water into the HLT and never have to lift anything until I take the fermenter to the basement. I love it!

On the minus side it takes up more room than a dedicated brew stand when it’s in full operation and it's fairly tall (very little clearance between the top of the HLT and the ceiling). On the plus side the scaffolds fold up to store in a small space and are easily portable. They also have a nice set of lockable wheels and are useful to me for a variety of other functions. Plus there is plenty of room to add another HLT, MLT and Boil Pot so I could easily do 2 different 10 gal. brews simultaineously and crank out 20 gal. in one session.

You could make a 3 level sculpture out of 1 scaffold by making a bottom shelf out of 2 each 1"x 8"s and count the floor as your 3rd level.

Anyway best wishes and welcome to the hobby!:mug:
 

ClutchDude

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I too started out AG. I agree with others in saying START SMALL. Between my room mate and mine's AG experience, we now know what is the best system we need.

AG can be cheap to start with check my post here.

If you enjoy building stuff as much as most of us on here do, though, go for it!

I'm right now welding a 2" square tubing 3-tier rig together.
I wanted portability(I'm moving soon + want to bring it for brew days), so I'm using propane w/ banjo's.

Welcome to HBTalk and the hobby too!
 

FSR402

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MrFebtober said:
However, I would say either of these building materials will limit you to a one- or two-tier system (no gravity "tree"), which means you'll need a pump plus the high-temp plumbing that goes with it. As long as you've got the funds, i'm sure you'll have a great time putting a rig together.

Not true.

This is my rig.


Cost me about $100 to biuld the rig. $80 for the 20 gal MLT about $40 for the 3/4" copper manifold. I think I have about $80 into the two burners, and about $200 into the two kettles (7.5 gal and 15 gal) and $45 into the CFC.
For a total of about $550. Not bad for a 10 gal AG system.

Edit: I also built this all before I even brewed AG, so happy I did too.
 

abracadabra

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FSR402 said:
Not true.

This is my rig.

Cost me about $100 to biuld the rig. $80 for the 20 gal MLT about $40 for the 3/4" copper manifold. I think I have about $80 into the two burners, and about $200 into the two kettles (7.5 gal and 15 gal) and $45 into the CFC.
For a total of about $550. Not bad for a 10 gal AG system.

Edit: I also built this all before I even brewed AG, so happy I did too.

Nice job! Good looking setup !

Did you use Treated or standard wood? Do the wheels pivot?
 

MrFebtober

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FSR402 said:
Not true.
Dang. I had a feeling I was going to eat those words as soon as I clicked "submit.":drunk:

Anyway, that is quite a nice rig. I especially like the built-in work space for laying out parts and logbook. Nicely done, and gives me something to thing about since i'll probably be building with wood, too. :mug:
 

FSR402

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The wheels in the back swivel and it's just plain old pine wood (2x4's, ect.) I keep it in my barn so I seen no need in it being treated.

I have since added copper water lines to the tower with an inline fiter. The lines go to the HLT and the kettle. Both have valves and I can run both hot and cold water. This has made it so much better. I no longer need the tall latter to fill the HLT, I just open a valve and watch the sight glass.
 
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corkscrew

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FSR: Thats a sweet setup for being all wood! I like the large tires as well.

As far as what me and my buds are going to do its kinda up in the air now. I talked to them and we're going to focus more on the brewing pieces, rather than starting with the sculpture and then fleshing it out.

Will give us time to figure out what our needs are, and hopefully we won't end up with a half-arsed sculpture because we were over eager. :D Thanks guys!
 

jds

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Bobby_M said:
Ok, do you want advice or just encouragement to do what you already decided to do? They may not be the same thing.

Get a propane burner that will hold up your keggle boil pot.
Get a cooler and install a stainless braid.
Batch sparge using physical means of moving water/wort around like with buckets.

Brew a few all grain batches to get your feet wet. This will tell you 100 times more about what YOU will want in a brew sculpture so that you don't waste time building a system that doesn't fit your needs.
I'm still doing this. Since I have only a single burner and a single keggle (for now), I didn't see the point in building a stand. I use a folding table to hold my 5 gallon MLT off the ground. The burner is on a ring stand, so the keggle is also at that height.

My procedure is thus:

  1. Preheat strike water in keggle over propane burner. Overshoot strike by 5-7 degrees in order to:
  2. Add strike water to empty MLT via fill-and lift. (Fill the MLT on the ground, and lift it up onto the table). Allow to coast down to strike temp, or cool with small amounts of water. This gets the tun and water to the correct strike temp.
  3. Dough-in the grains and wait.
  4. Near end of mash, preheat sparge water in keggle to 175F.
  5. Drain mash tun into plastic cylindrical lauter grant. (AKA bucket) Batch sparge in two equal-size batches.
  6. While settling/manually recirculating final batch sparge, empty buckets of wort into keggle and start heating to boil. Extract preboil hydrometer sample when adding final batch sparge to boiler.

Ideal? Probably not, but it works for me, and I hit my last OG spot-on at 78% efficiency with grains crushed by Austin Homebrew Supply.

Next addition? Probably a keg conversion for a direct-fire mash tun, so I can brew the Pastor's HUGE 999 Barleywine grain bill. That will probably require a second burner.

Sculpture? Maybe not in my future. I'm starting to landscape my back yard, and an outdoor kitchen for grilling can easily incorporate outdoor countertops at the right height for gravity-feeding. Plus, I can then drain my cooled wort directly into a carboy in the basement, thanks to egress windows in the basement and a long hose. No more lugging carboys in milk crates down the stairs!
 

MadDwarf

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Get a big stack of bricks and some sawhorses. It's not especially safe, but Bobby_M will respect you for it.
 

cudaaar

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I totally agree with assembling proper equipment and doing things right from the start. I also think that you should master the simplest methods first. Note that those two statements are not in conflict if you plan your equipment purchases appropriately.

Here is what I did, with corrections for what I would have changed:

Buy a standard extract brewing kit for about $100 (you will need all of this stuff for all-grain anyways). Build a simple copper immersion wort chiller (easy and super convenient). Spend the rest of your initial funds and effort on a system to control fermentation temperatures (~$25 refrigerator from craigslist, or whatever you like). Now, with a standard extract kit from your LHBS and your temperature controller, you should be able to make a good beer. Don't move on to AG until you can.

While you are brewing your extracts, assemble the all grain setup. Do the keggle and burner first, so you can start doing full boils rather than split boils on the stove. Once you have your other two kegs you can start with all-grain. No need for a stand-- you can just batch sparge, (a keg with 5 gallons is not all that hard to lift). While you are AG brewing, you can start assembling a fancy stand.

BTW, converting kegs is not too hard or expensive (when compared to SS pots). Kegs are about $20 each if you are patient. I got a used drill and angle grinder for ~$50 at a swap meet. Drill bit and one cutoff wheel ~$25. Fancy ss false bottom (weldless) with ss valve etc. about $65 each from morebeer.com. Using brass parts is much cheaper, probably can get away with ~$50 for all the parts for three kegs from home depot.

I just recently brewed my first all grain-- I patiently brewed many extracts until I had proper setup. I still need to calibrate my new system-- e.g. getting strike water temp right and so on. I can't imagine brewing for the first time AND dealing with a new all grain system. But if you have an expert to guide you through it, it might work out ok.
 

abracadabra

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MadDwarf said:
Get a big stack of bricks and some sawhorses. It's not especially safe, but Bobby_M will respect you for it.
I think you may have Bobby_M confused with BierMuncher.:)
 
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corkscrew

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cudaaar said:
BTW, converting kegs is not too hard or expensive (when compared to SS pots). Kegs are about $20 each if you are patient. I got a used drill and angle grinder for ~$50 at a swap meet. Drill bit and one cutoff wheel ~$25. Fancy ss false bottom (weldless) with ss valve etc. about $65 each from morebeer.com. Using brass parts is much cheaper, probably can get away with ~$50 for all the parts for three kegs from home depot.
How are you sealing the brass ports so that they are boil proof without welding?
 

cudaaar

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Usually the special weldless kits you find online are just a bunch of bits you can get at any hardware store. I bought complete kits for my BK and MT since I wanted false bottoms. For my HLT, I just grabbed a 1/2" brass valve, 1/2" brass nipple, 1/2" to 3/8" compression fitting for the copper dip tube (not necessary, really), and a thick black o-ring. Have a look at the weldless setups online (morebeer.com, or whatever) to get ideas.

Random thought: I used a 7/8 hole saw on my kegs, and the hole is a bit too big due to wobble while drilling. I'd recommend going a bit smaller and then grinding it larger so that you get a good fit, else it can be a bit difficult to get the o-ring to seal.
 
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corkscrew

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Random thought: I used a 7/8 hole saw on my kegs, and the hole is a bit too big due to wobble while drilling. I'd recommend going a bit smaller and then grinding it larger so that you get a good fit, else it can be a bit difficult to get the o-ring to seal.
Thanks for the info guys. I wasn't aware there were silicone o-rings available that could withstand that kind of heat.

Me and my buddies have decided to start collecting the brewing pieces first. One of our mentors even offered to let us brew on his sculpture/system, but we think it will be more cost effective to get started on our own, learn our system, and have him over for beers when we brew. :)

The kegs are proving difficult to find though. Local distributors won't sell an empty keg, and the only ones on craigslist are $50 each. However one of the guys I want to brew with knows a guy who works for one of the distributors, and might be able to hook us up.

Thanks again for the help guys!
 

ClutchDude

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$50 may not be too bad for a used keg. I personally will take what I can get here.

Your local plumbing supply will also have all of the parts you need for a weldless conversion. Call around and ask who would have SS parts.

McMaster-Carr can make up for any short comings, as I got my sight glass and silicone rings there.

Lastly, get a cheap step-bit from harbor freight. That'll make drilling the holes a much easier process rather than using a hole saw or single drill bit. You can get a precise hole that is almost perfect for your fittings/o-ring.

A little oil + step bit makes for nice, clean holes that require little filing to remove any burrs.
 

jds

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Corkscrew:

Any local microbreweries in your area? They will sometimes sell decommissioned kegs (usually, the nek stops sealing due to wear) to homebrewers. I got my kegs from New Belgium for $15 each, just for asking nicely and being patient.

ClutchDude's advice on drilling is spot-on. To get a clean hole in a stainless keg, a step drill with plenty of cutting oil makes a huge difference. Also, drill slowly, with plenty of pressure. Try to drill stainless like it's wood, and you'll overheat the bit and kill it.
 

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