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Recirculating Electric BIAB setup

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I started thinking about brewing indoors after my first brew, which happened on a pretty chilly Chicago winter night. I really enjoyed that brew day, and most of the brew days after, however I wanted a setup I could really call my own.
After several nights browsing through electrical diagrams posted by P-J at homebrewtalk.com and hours spent reading Kal's work at theelectricbrewery.com I decided my system was going to be a recirculating electric BIAB setup, with a suspended interior grain basket.
I started off with the controller box; I thought my controller box should have a small footprint and I wanted to make sure it would fit on a windowsill adjacent to my brew area. When I had all the uninstalled components and wiring sitting next to the box it looked like I was going to have to get a bigger box... the trick was to put the bus bars on the top half of the box. I used a hand drill, step bits and hole-saw bits for the receptacles and switches. After the receptacles, PID controller and switches were in place, I test fitted the SSR and contactor locations, after I found a configuration in which everything would fit I mounted the components and wired it all up. Putting the bus bars on the top half of the box worked out nice as I'm able to open the system like a book if I decide to work on it again, additionally the bus bars aren't buried under components making for easy access.
Diagram created by PJ:



So now that my controller box was complete I was really anxious to plug it in, it was finally time to get busy on my brew room! I installed a Cutler Hammer GFCB230 30Amps double pole GFCI circuit breaker in my breaker box and ran 240v electric service in " conduit to a small corner of my basement laundry room.

This corner was previously unfinished, so I framed it out, got some drywall up and my brother was nice enough to finish the the room with tile.

I used 4" duct for my exhaust system, I had a bathroom light and fan combo on hand, and wanted to see what would happen if I coupled that ceiling fan with an inline vortex fan. The ceiling light/fan combo doesn't seem to help or hurt the inline fan, it does help direct the steam flow and at the very least it helps light up the brew area. If there was one thing I would do differently it would be to use 6" ducts and a 6" vortex fan, the exhaust works fine, but there is a little condensation on the brew room walls after a hour long boil.
The electric keg consists of a 5500 watt heating element prepared TheElectricBrewery way, and the interior grain basket is a King Kooker 30-Quart Stainless Steel Turkey Pot, with the bottom cut out. At the bottom of the grain basket is a 11 3/4" Sanke Contoured Stainless Steel False Bottom which allows me to easily drain the grains after the mash process is complete. I installed 4 stainless steel loop bolts to suspend the interior grain basket in the keggle. I also cut off the handles of the grain basket and replaced them with a basket style handle.

I left a lip on the bottom cutout to support a sanke false bottom I had on hand:

I decided not to weld or solder the false bottom in place, it's pretty easy to disassemble and clean this way.
The keggle preparation was pretty straight forward. I used a hand drill and a step bit on my keggle to get the temperature probe/site glass "T" and ball valve mounted. A greenlee 1-1/4 Round Knockout Punch was used for the element hole.
I use a nylon straining bag to line the grain basket. The suspended grain basket holds and drains my grains above the heating element, silicon tubing connects to a stainless steel chugger pump, I recirculate the wort above the grains and control the flow with the output ball valve. Flow is slowed to ensure the heating element doesn't run dry.
Here is the system mashing:

System Draining:

This system has been a huge success, my mash temps automatically hold within one degree during my entire mash process, flow works well, my efficiency is better than it was when I was on a typical propane system and setup and cleanup is a breeze. I'm looking forward to brewing over the winter without my coat on!
Here's the system in action:

Parts List

Controller
  • 1 x Emergency Stop (E-Stop) Switch(SW6) $6.99
  • 3 x Pushbutton Switch,1NO 1NC, 22mm.120/240V (SW11) $35.94
  • Liquid tight RTD sensor $43.55
  • Box for 1/16 DIN controller*** $28.67
  • 1/16 DIN PID Temperature Controller $45.50
  • Heat Sink for Solid State Relay, 40A $18.50
  • Contactor, 2 pole, 30A, 120V Coil*** $16.50
  • 40A SSR*** $19.00
  • 5 X 10A fast acting fuse 5 x 20mm $10.00
  • 5 X 1A fast acting fuse 5 x 20mm $3.00
  • 3 x 2 8 Position Screw Terminal Strip 600V 25A $5.79
  • 1/4 watt 1k ohm resistors $1.99
  • 15Amp 120 Volt Receptacle $3.49
  • XLR Type Chassis Mount Male 3 Pin $6.49
  • Gino 10 Pcs Electrical Panel Mounted 5 x 20mm $6.20
  • Leviton 2715 30-Amp, 125/250 Volt, Receptacle $40.18
  • Leviton 2626F 30 Amp, 250 Volt, Receptacle $39.47
  • PETRA 90-2028 10-Foot 4-Wire Dryer Cord $18.67
  • Leviton 2713 30 Amp, 125/250 Volt Connector $28.62
Tools
  • Neiko 3-Piece Titanium Step Drill Bits $12.99
  • Greenlee 730BB-1-1/4 Round Knockout Punch Unit, 1-1/4-Inch $83.66
  • Neiko Titanium Step Drill Bit - 1/4" to 1-3/8" in 1/8" 10 Steps $12.19
  • TEKTON 66631 8-Inch File Set, 5-Piece $16.23
Home Wiring
  • Leviton 071-00278-000 4 Wire 30 Amp 250 Volt Dryer Receptacle 7.98
  • Cutler Hammer GFCB230 30Amps DOUBLPOLE GFCI GFI Circuit Breaker $89.14
Keg and Grain Basket
  • Sanke Keg - had on hand
  • King Kooker 30-Quart Stainless Steel Turkey Pot Package $90.00
  • 11 3/4" Sanke Contoured Stainless Steel False Bottom Q1010 $39.00
  • Sanke False Bottom Stainless Steel Adapter S200 $17.99
  • Compact Weldless Sight Tee Kit, NO THERMOMETER $27.00
  • Stainless Steel Chugger Pump: $168
  • Stainless Steel disconnects male and female: $70
  • 1/2" ID Silicon Tubing : $50
  • heating element: $145
(Qty: 1) Camco #02963 5500W (or #02953 4500W) 240VAC ultra low watt density (ULWD) RIPP element
(Qty: 1) Weatherproof 2-gang outlet box
(Qty: 2) Weatherproof 2-gang blank cover & gasket
(Qty: 4) #6-32 machine screw hex nut
(Qty: 4) #6 locking washer
(10 feet) 300V 10/3 wire (10 gauge, 3 wires), oil/water resistant, rubber coating, rated for outdoor use
(1 foot) 3/4" heat shrink tubing - black
(Qty: 3) 10 AWG wire ring terminals
(10 feet) 1/2" expandable braided sleeving - carbon colour
(Qty: 1) NEMA L6-30 (250VAC/30A) twist lock electrical plug
(Qty: 1) JB Weld cold weld compound
(Qty: 1) Silicone high temperature o-ring
(1-3/16" ID x 1-7/16" OD x 1/8" width, AS568A Dash No. 217, Durometer hardness A70, FDA compliant, -65F to +450F)
(Qty: 1) Food grade silicone adhesive/sealant
(-75F to +400F, Food grade: Meets MIL-A-46106B, Group I, Type I, FDA compliant, USDA approved, NSF 51 certified)
(Qty: 1) Stainless steel washer/shim
(0.075" thick, 1-1/2" ID, 2-1/4" OD)
(Qty: 1) Standard straight cord/wire grip, 3/4" NPT
(For cord diameter .50" to 0.63", aluminum, -30F to +225F)
(Qty: 1) Stainless steel locknut 1" NPS
 
Awesome write up! I started building my E - brew setup before I moved from Alaska to NY. Anxious to get a house here so that I can pull it all out and finish it.
I did something similar, except u have a separate mash tun and brew kettle. I just have it set up to recirculated the mash. Eventually I'll get to a traditional three kettle system.
 
P-J, who the author mentions here, is a legend. in this thread has has posted wiring diagrams for just about every configuration imaginable: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f170/list-pj-electrical-diagrams-382286/. if you don't see your desired configuration on the first page, scroll on through the thread... it'll be in there somewhere.
once again: thank you, P-J, for everything you've done to make electric brewing safe and attainable! THANK YOU!!!
 
I have a similar setup I made recently and was thinking of adding a pump (I'm currently just stirring like crazy and manually recirculating periodically). I was wondering if I need a sparge arm on the pump output to properly distribute the wort over grain bed. I am concerned with the amount of water on the sides and under the basket/element I'm using which is why I'm considering switching tactics. Any thoughts?
 
Are you manually lifting the basket or do you have a hoist? Also, with the basket in place what is the largest beer you can do with full volume mash?
 
Yes, lots of thanks to pj and Kal... on my system I mix the grain a few times during the mash and leave the recirculation to a trickle, so I don't think a sparge arm would benefit, as a little pool gathers above the grains. Paperairplane, I manually lift the basket with one hand and quickly slide my support in with the other when I brew alone, a hoist would be much easier. I can't fit more than 20 lbs of grain in the system and keep the efficiency up... I tried a 10 gallon porter with 24 lbs of grain and my efficiency sucked, 5 gallon big beers are very doable though.
 
Excellent article. I brew indoors/ outdoors meaning I brew in the doorway of my basement. I like the bathroom exhaust fan you are using and just might configure one up myself. Is yours a standard exhaust fan or did you get a high volume one (commercial grade)?
 
That whole bottom cut out thing with a perforated false bottom looks like mine! Mine is propane powered though and I use an electric hoist to lift the mash tun.
One suggestion:
Make sure the edges of that mash tun are ground down to nice round edges. I literally cut the tip of my thumb off two years ago. Through the nail and around to the tip just getting the tip of the bone. It was my left thumb but still no fun and I had a very large contraption on my hand and arm for quite a while!
 
Great set up! In one of your other videos, you use something that looks homemade to press down on the bag - what is that? Could you provide more detail?
 
AllergictoHops, The light/exhaust fan combo is a typical home depot deal, I also have a 4" inline exhaust fan as well, I would recommend putting in 6" exhaust lines if possible, then you'd probably have no steam condensation at all by the end of your boil.
Limulus... great point, I had a similar cut on my index finger, you have to make sure to file down those edges...
w7rzl, the thing I was using to push down the grains is a turkey stand that came with the interior vessel, it's what you strap your turkey to if you're deep frying turkeys, for me, it's an excellent grain pusher.
Thanks for all the wonderful comments!
 
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