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PSA - Stop lifting your heavy kettle. Clean more efficiently. Save your back!

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ILMSTMF

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TL; DR. If you're lifting a heavy brew kettle, stop. Find a way to not need to lift it. If you hate the time-suck and / or the labor of cleaning, find a better way to do it.

My back hurts. I am grateful to @IslandLizard, @Noob_Brewer, and @LittleRiver who inspired me to rethink my process. The whole process. I hope others can learn from my mistakes.

BIAB, propane. I was striking in driveway. Doughing in / hoisting bag in garage. Returning to driveway to boil. Chilling on garage floor. Transferring from height in garage. Four team lifts of the heavy brew kettle. No more. I had to think about the steps of brew day to plan a new way to do things that would save my back.

Water supply. Find a source of water nearby to the burner. So, I did. I had that in my garage but the whole point of changing my process was to avoid moving the heavy BK around. Front porch has a spigot so, let's use it. But, let's see how we can make that water supply multi-purpose... I bought hose quick connects for about $10 to make connecting stuff quicker (duh). I purchased a 25' potable water / RV hose for $10. If my BK had volume markings, filling it would be easier but, because it doesn't, I used a 1 gallon pitcher to transport 1 gallon at a time into the nearby BK. This process was still easier than my old method of getting water into the BK. For reference, I would divide the total strike water volume into two buckets. Carry them from the kitchen outside to the BK, dump in. I am sad that I might have to resume this process in the cold months when exterior hoses will be shut off. Until then...

CREATING a different solution for hoisting the bag where the BK can remain in place atop the burner eliminated 2 of 4 lifts. For me, simplicity prevailed. An 8' A-frame aluminum ladder (light weight). Built a plank with an eye bolt but determined it didn't give as much lift height as I wanted. Instead, wrapped a simple chain around the top "step" of ladder, tightened the "loop" using a carabiner which allowed for a higher hoist point, S-hook from my pulley into one of the chain's links, all set. Why the extra height? Once the drain and squeeze (so sue me) were complete, I was able to easily lift the bag up and over the side arms of the ladder. No mess, no bag in the way for duration of the boil. That's just my preference. Sorry @LittleRiver ! :-D
All details here: #41

• Chilling. This is the second use of the nearby spigot. Quick connects. RV hose remained attached to supply, routed to IC inlet. I used a goofy slinky hose on the outlet to collect ~6 gallons of the chilling water. It will be used later for cleaning. *** After that, I didn't need to collect more water so, I threaded a garden hose onto the slinky hose and ran the outbound water to the curb. If I needed to, I could have connected a sprinkler and watered the lawn. That's 3 of 4 lifts eliminated.

• Transfer. I would normally transfer from a height in my garage. The BK's ball valve had a length of silicone attached with a wort aerator. It was a notable length to keep the splashing contained within the bucket FV. Well, I got me a new FV. Taller but wider than the bucket and holds a larger volume. The volume it allowed for naturally allowed for an easier way to minimize splashing out of the vessel. And that also aided in preventing the wort aerator from drowning in the wort being transferred in. You see, one needs to account for where that tubing will end at within the FV. A balancing act of keeping the wort all in the FV and also not letting that wort get so high as to submerse the tubing. So, I cut a shorter length of silicone and now the end sits a few inches below the opening of the FV. Wort stays in FV and never gets so high to drown the tubing / aerator.
Greed bonus! I went balls out and decided to tilt the BK once the pick up tube finished transferring the wort. I respect your preference, however, I want as much wort into FV as I can get; trub and all. So, because I had the "luxury" of the BK being on the burner stand, I was able to easily tilt it. Very little wort remained in the BK after this. At this point, all 4 lifts of the heavy BK have been eliminated.

Enormous bonus - clean up! I hate clean up. This is the third use of the nearby spigot. *** I used to collect the first ~13 gallons of the IC outbound water when working in garage. I would carry those 3 buckets from garage, up stairs, and across the house to the shower where my cleaning would normally take place. Stupidly / wastefully, I would fill the entire 15 gallon BK to overflowing with Oxi. Let it soak, then open ball valve to drain out. Then repeat with hot rinse water. Again, to capacity. All brew day parts would get cleaned in the BK. Tedious and required bending. Plus, the hot water pressure in my shower is awful. So, I fixed the process. Capturing only the first ~6 gallons of IC outbound water to two buckets, I later dumped it into the BK to create an Oxi solution. This was after first blasting the BK and IC with the hose sprayer nozzle to break down hop debris. That was a big help! Usually would be difficult to get the debris off the IC. OK, so, 6 gallons into BK lifting only 3 gallons at a time to dump in. Then a simple sponge to scrub the entire surface of the BK, IC, whisk, etc. Drain out into buckets, dump the chemical solution to the curb. Blast rinse all parts inside the BK, probably didn't even get 3 gallons in there, drain, and dump on the lawn. Dry all parts with a terry cloth and put them away for storage. Done!
I cannot stress enough how much better this made the brew day.
Normally, I would be scrubbing, rinsing, and draining into the night. Plus, an overnight air dry before all the stuff gets stored. Again, though, I will miss being able to do this in the colder months...

Think about your process, weigh pros and cons, figure out the pain points of your current process, and plan for how you can make everything more efficient. Aside from a few small hiccups, yesterday might have been the best brew day I've had. I plan to repeat that for every brew day to come.

I hope others are able to benefit from these ideas. Thanks!
 

DVCNick

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I don't BIAB for the most part, my process is manual, and I've managed to eliminate all but one or two "heavy" lifts as defined by lifting a kettle with more than ~6 gallons in it.

For a 5 gallon batch:
Strike water is usually 4 gallons or so in a bucket... no problem.
Gravity drain strike to mashtun, which is an easy to move cooler.
Sparge water is usually a little over 5 gallons... again not too bad with a bucket with a handle. Lift and pour that one.
Heated sparge water is gravity drained to a different cooler with handles - again, not bad to move this cooler.

I gravity drain my entire preboil volume into the kettle. Often 7+ gallons and the kettle is a little more awkward than the other vessels. If I was old and infirm, this is probably the first thing I'd look to eliminate. Currently I lift it from the floor to my propane burner, both are in the garage at that time.

When the boil and primary cooling is done, I again lift the entire kettle with post-boil volume and bring it inside to let it settle in the kitchen instead of the garage. (this is optional; I just suspect it is cleaner in the kitchen, and if it is hot outside, I'm in the AC.)

Then gravity drain to the fermenter and carry the fermenter to the chamber to finish cooling down to pitching temp. Even if I had a pump setup, I'm not sure how this could be eliminated.

Ten gallon batch adjustments: I can't really lift the full pre or post boil volume, so:

I usually have a three step sparge - I put my big pot on the burner and then drain each of the sparge steps into my smaller kettle and pour.

Don't bring the kettle into the kitchen when the boil is over... just gravity drain to two fermenters in the garage, and bring them in to my fermentation chamber separately.

Again, even with a pump, I don't see how I'd eliminate all lifting with my current equipment layout. Maybe someone here has solved all the issues.
 
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ILMSTMF

ILMSTMF

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When the boil and primary cooling is done, I again lift the entire kettle with post-boil volume and bring it inside to let it settle in the kitchen instead of the garage. (this is optional; I just suspect it is cleaner in the kitchen, and if it is hot outside, I'm in the AC.)
OK. If you are physically able to lift that, good. A few years ago and to this very day I am able to lift it, on my own. I've done so a few times. Foolish. So, I went to team lifts. More sensible. But, a few years ago, my back wasn't in as bad a shape as today. So, even with team lifts, it's still a physical effort that I decided must be eliminated.

There were certain parts of my process where I thought I had no way to change for the better. But I sat down and thought a lot about potential scenarios for changing and, sure enough, light bulbs went off.
Now! If you have already taken the time to figure out that you literally cannot eliminate some of those lifts... I sympathize for your situation. I don't have experience with pumping wort so I'm not a good resource but, I bet some others here are...
 

DVCNick

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Oh I'm all ears to learn better ways to not lift. :mug: Short of moving to pumps, at this time at least.
 
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ILMSTMF

ILMSTMF

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I gravity drain my entire preboil volume into the kettle. Often 7+ gallons and the kettle is a little more awkward than the other vessels.
Then gravity drain to the fermenter and carry the fermenter to the chamber to finish cooling down to pitching temp. Even if I had a pump setup, I'm not sure how this could be eliminated.
Who can help this poor fellow?

"a little more awkward" is an understatement. The kettle is a wide, lumbering beast. I'm annoyed lugging it around empty. At heavy volumes, forget it unless it's a team lift. Thus, my first tip is imploring you to just team lift for now. Family member, neighbor, whatever. Easy to assume you have another human at your disposal; please excuse me for that.
Don't life the damn heavy kettle on your own. I did it a few times, felt like Superman, and a few years later my back is a mess. The time I saved was all of 5 minutes, at best, versus not collecting a relative or neighbor to do the team lift. Five. Damn. Minutes. That is all I saved by doing it myself and potentially injuring myself. How very foolish... Never again!

As for transfer from BK to FV... Indeed. My third and fourth lift were off of the BK to garage floor for chilling then up from garage floor to a clothes dryer to get height for a gravity drain.
It requires thought. How can we get your wort from BK to FV while the FV is already inside the FC? That's on my to-do list. I still have to carry my FV to FC but because the Fermzilla All Rounder actually kind of...easy (???!!!!!) to lift, it worked out. Still, a heavy lift which I'd like to avoid. Back to you though.
You want to cool off inside with the AC, good. I agree. So you go do that. Can you leave the BK in hot garage while you go inside to cool off? Cleanliness... I can't convince you but, you're probably fine to leave the BK in garage. The IC is in the way? Put the lid on the BK as best you can to minimize particles from floating in.

OK, let's assume the FC is in the garage too. We are not factoring a wort pump into the equation because you don't want to spend money on it and maybe you don't want another piece of gear to clean. I respect that. So, the FV has no choice but to be lifted and carried to the FC. Your short term solution - team lift. If it's a long distance walk to the FC, and I have not tested this myself, perhaps a hand truck or a wagon? Hmmmm...
 

Yorkshire lad

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To get a full FV from the garage floor into the FC, a 2x10x8' plank could be used as a slide, depending on how high the FC shelf is.
 
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ILMSTMF

ILMSTMF

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NitrogenWidget

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My 15 gallon aluminum for BIAB isn't a problem but I plan to upgrade to a 25 or 30 gallon stainless soon so I can do double batches of bigger beers at full volume.
I run the RV hose off the kitchen sink and out the window but can hook up in the basement in the winter if I do brew.
I brew right outside my basement door at the top of the stairs and run a hose down to the fridge I use as ferm chamber at the bottom of the stairs.
I don't really scrub my pot. just put it on its side and hose it out after emptying.
then flip over on the burner and cover until the next batch.

kegs and fermenters I hose out, then fill with water and some oxyclean and let soak overnight then hose out again before spritzing with sanitizer and sealing up.

Now, getting the kegs out of the basement......no real way around that.
but I can manage 5 gallon kegs.

eventually I envision a cold room in my basement where I keep my kegs and have lines running up stairs to taps. but i got a few yrs before the kegs are too much to handle.
 

sibelman

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Now that's inspiration for helping me with keg lifts to the keezer! That's a pain I hadn't considered addressing aka one that I just decided to live with.

Full disclosure, I only skimmed it.

For my FC though, the fridge door swings open to the side. Perhaps @Yorkshire lad's idea for a slide could work...
I also use a fridge fermentation chamber. My own setup uses a pump, avoiding all full-vessel lifts until the sweet wort is in the fermenter. My back does the rest, for now.

Yorkshire lad is right on. The slide (or ramp) could definitely assit moves to/from the FC fridge, along with some wheels -- maybe a pail/drum dolly such as this. Thinking about reducing back injury risk, I also noted this hydraulic table cart. Ramps, pulleys, lifts... Maybe one day we'll have homebrew-helper robots to do the heavy lifting.
 

bkboiler

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If you get 3 winches installed overhead you can put your kettle anywhere in the garage...
same principle as overhead cameras in football...
 
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ILMSTMF

ILMSTMF

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My own setup uses a pump, avoiding all full-vessel lifts until the sweet wort is in the fermenter. My back does the rest, for now.
I'm still OK to move the FV into the FC but... I'm curious how your pump setup works. If the wort can be moved from BK into the FV (already in place in the FC), that sounds nice. I would need to figure out a way to aerate the wort though.

But, since my BK transfers to FV far away from FC, a transport would need to take place. So...

Yorkshire lad is right on. The slide (or ramp) could definitely assit moves to/from the FC fridge, along with some wheels -- maybe a pail/drum dolly such as this.
Would one set their empty FV onto the dolly, transfer wort from BK into FV, roll the FV to FC, and use a ramp to roll up into FC? FV stays on top of the dolly during fermentation the whole way?
 

beernutz

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This discussion of winches makes me think of my system for putting fermenters with 10+ gallons of wort into chest freezers. It involves a Harbor Freight manual engine lift hanging from a security gate roller on a bar.

I've since bought a bigger freezer and replaced that fermenter, which was a bitch to clean, with a 60L Speidel but the back saving lift system works just as well as it did 6+ years ago.
 

pvpeacock

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I've always thought of buying one of these, but haven't needed it ..... yet.
I brewed 10 gallons on Father's Day and luckily had both college age sons home to do the heavy lifting for me. But sooner or later, I'll have to get a pump or something to lift my mash tun, boil kettle and conical fermenters.
 

Yorkshire lad

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I also use a fridge fermentation chamber. My own setup uses a pump, avoiding all full-vessel lifts until the sweet wort is in the fermenter. My back does the rest, for now.

Yorkshire lad is right on. The slide (or ramp) could definitely assit moves to/from the FC fridge, along with some wheels -- maybe a pail/drum dolly such as this. Thinking about reducing back injury risk, I also noted this hydraulic table cart. Ramps, pulleys, lifts... Maybe one day we'll have homebrew-helper robots to do the heavy lifting.
My Artificer in the Army once told me to give the hardest job to the laziest man and he will find the easiest way to do it!
 

sibelman

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I'm still OK to move the FV into the FC but... I'm curious how your pump setup works. If the wort can be moved from BK into the FV (already in place in the FC), that sounds nice. I would need to figure out a way to aerate the wort though.

But, since my BK transfers to FV far away from FC, a transport would need to take place. So...

Would one set their empty FV onto the dolly, transfer wort from BK into FV, roll the FV to FC, and use a ramp to roll up into FC? FV stays on top of the dolly during fermentation the whole way?
ILMSTMF,

At present, my pump (1) recirculates wort during mash, (2) slowly moves wort from mashtun to kettle during fly sparge, and (3) recirculates wort just after the boil during whirlpooling, sanitizing my counterflow chiller.

I've taken to leaving the pump in the path from BK through (sometimes) Hop Rocket™ and (always) counterflow chiller to fermenter. Generally, gravity does the work during this phase. I suppose that last hose could be lengthened to reach my fermentation fridge -- "only" about ten feet in my case, but "far away" in yours.

I'd worry a bit about moving wort "far away" with a pump -- I'm thinking the brewer needs to be fairly near both ends during the transfer. For me, this is one of the most complicated parts of my brew day. Of course, it *should* work just fine.

I like your narrative about the fermenter staying on the dolly. Hopefully, the ramp into the fridge is the only significant obstacle in the full fermenter's journey. I'm not sure why aeration can't happen before or even after the trip from the brewing area to the fermentation chamber.
 
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ILMSTMF

ILMSTMF

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I'd worry a bit about moving wort "far away" with a pump
Oh, I've just recently moved the boil position. Before, I was mere steps away from chilling position to FC. Where I have moved to, no way will a pump be a good solution for getting chilled wort from BK to FV (in FC).

I like your narrative about the fermenter staying on the dolly.
Thinking out loud. That's how I arrived at revising so much of my process for the better. As seen in the first post of this thread. ;-)

I'm not sure why aeration can't happen before or even after the trip from the brewing area to the fermentation chamber.
Briefly, if I was using a pump (I'm not, see above), my aeration method wouldn't happen. <- period. That method - mate a length of silicone with a goofy little plastic cone to the ball valve of BK. Open valve, drain into FV. The plastic cone splashes the wort as it flows onto it, aerating it. Low tech, it works, and I love it.
So, that method can still happen if I were to place the empty FV on the dolly before draining from BK. Drain into the FV, roll the FV on the long journey to the FC. That long journey involves paver stones, bumpy sidewalk, and a downhill slope! I can picture the wheels of the dolly getting caught in a crack causing the whole thing to topple. How do you like that narrative??! LMAO
 

NickTheGreat

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I haven't a need for it inside my basemnt shop, but I had thought about some unistrut and a unistrut trolley.

And maybe a cheap hoist.

You get get curved sections of unistrut and really could make a cool track that goes anywhere you need.

So far I'm still lifting everything, but I'm only doing 5 gallon batches and a cooler for a mash tun.
 
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