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Ordered a Unibrau, anyone with tips for brewing with it?

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kh54s10

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I Ordered my Unibrau yesterday. It looks very straight forward to brew with it. But does anyone that uses one have any tips that I might not have thought about?

I ordered with with these options:
Kettle lid to help get to boiling faster.
ETC controller, it seemed simpler and just as good as the EZ-boil
Standard fitting kit - I didn't think I really needed the extras offered.
No chiller, tap water here is above 80 in the summer, I will use my IC
600w element upgrade kit
Didn't get the hop filter since I won't be using a plate chiller. And I can use a
canister filter.
I did go for the whirlpool arm without a valve. I might have what I need there.

I will be using Beersmith for recipes and since my pipeline is dry I will be doing light ales for fast turn around in the beginning.
 
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I don't have advice for the Unibrau specifically, but I have a similar brew-in-a-basket system and can tell you a few things I learned.

  • First thing, figure out your boil-off. Since you are electric and you can dial in exact power, find the power setting that gives you the minimum tolerable boil, and determine your hourly boil-off value. Beersmith will need this.
  • Your boil temperature may not look as high as you expect, depending on where your probe is. I have a big-ass 20 gal kettle, and over where the RTD probe is, it ain't 212F. It is more like 208-209F. It's fine. The wort is still boiling, it just isn't all boiling at the same time like a tiny pot on a giant stove burner.
    • At first I was pretty worried about this, but once I did some heating tests and math I was able to determine that my element was working correctly, delivering full power when called on. This is just how it is in my kettle.
    • This spreadsheet will do some water heating calculations. (No Excel? Upload into Google Sheets.) If you ever wonder "is my heater working right?" you can do a test run and see if your results are near the theoretical results.
  • Even if your pump speed seems to be good, the whole grain bed might take longer to get to temperature than you expect. Check temperatures in the bed while you get used to the system and you may need to stir during a heating step to get the temperature throughout the bed to settle in quickly.
    • Without stirring, it actually takes my grain bed ten minutes to get evenly heated. I was really surprised to find that. I am sure every system is different, but with the relative placement of RTD, element, etc. that is how my system rolls.
  • Read up on conversion efficiency and do SG tests during your mash to see if you are getting good conversion quickly enough. You might have to adjust crush.
  • One of the most important Beersmith numbers to tweak is the BIAB grain absorption value. For me, the default was way off and about 0.8 fl oz/oz was better.
    • When you are calculating your own replacement value, you may find it easiest to do it in gal/lb, or any other unit. But Beersmith wants it in fluid oz per oz. Fortunately, Google can do this conversion for you if you type something like "0.1 gal/lb in fl oz/oz".
  • If you play with crush, your BIAB absorption value will also change.
  • See if you can find other users who have figured out all the right settings for you. The company may be able to provide a Beersmith profile and specific advice on crush.
Hope that helps.

I really enjoy this kind of system, congrats, I am sure you will too.
 
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kh54s10

kh54s10

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Thanks. There is a Beersmith profile. I will look at it and see if I need to tweak it. Unibrau also has a recommended gap size. I will have to look at that also. For the boil I would look at the turbulence as much as the temperature. I will have to work on the boil off rate. I suspect it will be a lot lower than my propane rig. I can't dial it down without it sputtering and sometimes quitting so I have a 2 gal per hour boil off rate with it. I expected to have to stir in the grain to get the mash temperature settled. It has to be done with my present cooler mash tun. I guess stirring the grain in then checking the temperature while recirculating then stir more if needed.
 
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kh54s10

kh54s10

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I did my first brew on Dec. 31st. I went simple on a pale ale recipe, did a full volume brew, no sparge. I had some trouble sorting out the temperature displayed on the ETC compared to the temperature of the wort returning to the mash so I think I mashed on the high side. I have to work this out. I also left more trub in the kettle than usual so I ended up with about 4.75 gallons into the fermenter and .003 low on OG. Overall: not bad and brewing electric, while it takes a little longer is great.
 

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I switched to the hop filter with dip tube and ditch the canister since I wasn’t get good utilization. Now I just dump my hops in the boil and it works pretty good. Just did a DIPA today with 6 oz in the boils and it worked fine.
 

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Brewing on electric shouldnt take longer than gas. unless its 120v and a wider kettle, This is why most 120v brewery in a box setups use the narrow kettles. You could try covering the kettle while bringing it up to a boil as many do if your not not.
 
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kh54s10

kh54s10

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Brewing on electric shouldnt take longer than gas. unless its 120v and a wider kettle, This is why most 120v brewery in a box setups use the narrow kettles. You could try covering the kettle while bringing it up to a boil as many do if your not not.
I am using a 120v system. The Unibrau is not one of those converted coffee urn style setups. It is about the same as my 10 gallon pots in my 3 vessel propane system. I got the extra element setup and run 1650W and 600W elements. I have brewed on it once. I remembered to cover the pot while bringing to mash temperature and during the mash, but neglected to do the same bringing it to a boil. It is slower, but I can incorporate that time into the total brew day by starting the heating then preparing the ingredients. I used to prepare the ingredients then start the heating.
 

augiedoggy

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I am using a 120v system. The Unibrau is not one of those converted coffee urn style setups. It is about the same as my 10 gallon pots in my 3 vessel propane system. I got the extra element setup and run 1650W and 600W elements. I have brewed on it once. I remembered to cover the pot while bringing to mash temperature and during the mash, but neglected to do the same bringing it to a boil. It is slower, but I can incorporate that time into the total brew day by starting the heating then preparing the ingredients. I used to prepare the ingredients then start the heating.
yes I am aware that the unibrau uses a regular kettle. Thats what I was referring too. The hot water urns are tall and narrow because they were designed that way to be more efficient in heating up and maintaining a stronger boil with less heat loss from the smaller surface area at the top. The kettle dimensions are really one of the very few advantages those systems have over a 120v system made from a regular soup style kettle and thus a contributing factor to the slower heat times you might see vs even them. you can overcome that slight disadvantage though by covering your kettle until the boil is reached is what I was implying.

Simply put the wider the top of the kettle the more energy that escapes out of that kettle faster and more energy required to achieve the same boil as well as an increase in boil off rate. This goes for all brewing systems.
 
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