Time for a New All-In-One Brewing System

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Rik van den berg

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I had two Grainfathers (G30) and both failed me.You need to look at the Unibrau V3 (www.brausuppy.com) I got mine and wow....talk about over-delivering. The unit is top notch. I have the 10 Gallon 220v 5500w and I was blown away. The unit is modular so you can do just about anything you want to.
good to read! I’m planning on getting the 20gal version in March
 

Aerohead93

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I pulled the trigger on the Unibrau V3 220v 5500w 10 gallon unit right before Black Friday. This unit is a great choice for me... Phenomenal product and customer service... You can chat with the owner/developer directly. I have use it and cannot be happier.. From a former Grainfather user.
Ya being able to actually communicate with the developers directly is huge IMO!
 

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whts the biggest batch and grain bill you’ve done on the 10G?
I went with a recipe I would call a Frankenbier (leftover ingredients I had around the house already) just to get my feet wet. I used 16 pounds of grain 4 ounces of hops. I could have done more but was not trying to max out the system, i just want to see how everything went together. I was thoroughly impressed since I was used to having two grainfathers that were pathetic (110w that never boiled) . I bought a couple more accessories like the hop block, whirlpool arm, and the sparge arm to attach to my sparge heater.
What I noticed the most about the unit is how much faster the unit got up to mash temps and boiling. This meant I had so much time left over in my brew day. The clean up was a lot easier than with the Grainfather coffee urn style. My efficiency was 88% which blew me away. I would have to warn you though, the pump is very strong and I did double mill my grains. While it was, in my case, a necessity to condition and double mill my grains using the Grainfathers, the flour clogged the hopblock. So, my next batch would include a coarser mill and limit the flour...
 

Reneauj62

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Ya being able to actually communicate with the developers directly is huge IMO!
Yeah Steven is pretty cool. He is busy for sure and is available for chat. If you don't catch him during the day, the chat is automatically sent to his email and usually there is a response by 10-11 AM the next day..
 

Birrofilo

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BTW, where is the second source for a replacement heater element ?
I understand now this was directed to me.
I frankly don't know because I don't own a Grainfather.
I suggest you talk to the producer, or visit some Grainfather forum. I am sure you will find spare parts for EU distribution. That product is sold in Italy as well.

In general I see that there is some kind of "market" for improvement of AIO kettles. People seem to be dissatisfied with stock controllers, and adopt PIDs to all sorts of machines.

In the Grainfather fora (or Facebook groups) I am sure you will find more precise advice.
 

brewman !

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I understand now this was directed to me.
Sorry, I was asking about the BrewTools all in ones. Is there a second source for the BrewTools heater element ?

It's really sad to see how Grainfathers have stood up (or not) over time. There are people with a hundred brews on them. And then there are people with a lot less.
 

Birrofilo

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It is true that you can fit an alembic or column extension to a Grainfather.

However, this does not make the Grainfather a great distiller. The alembic top makes it a simple pot still. While you can distill spirits with that, it takes several runs to obtain a significant amount of distillation. The T500 column is a step up from the alembic top, but not a great one. The column will provide more reflux, but it is small diameter and too short for a lot of jobs. And the Grainfather has limited mash heating power. But it will distill a mash nonetheless.

People tell me it is quite easy to convert a boil kettle to a still by soldering or welding a TC fitting to the lid, adding a method to clamp the lid down as well as a gasket and adding a modular column made of triclamp spools.
It's two completely different distiller kinds we are talking about.

The alembic, or pot still, of which an example is the copper alembic sold for the Grainfather, is a product to obtain the "normal" amount of distillation, i.e. you dont' strip all flavours (head fractions and tail fractions): if you want to make with whisky, rum, grappa, tequila, or any fruit brandy, normally you would either make a "one run" distillation with an alembic, or a "double run".

The column still is the instrument one uses to obtain a "neutral", an alcohol product which as very little congeners and which is mostly ethanol. This has, in a sense, "no flavour" and is like a blank slate which you use to make liqueurs, bitters, amari etc.

So if your goal is to make whisky (which is the normal first attempt for a homebrewer, I am actually making neutral first) a pot still is the usual, traditional, "kosher" way to make it. If you want to make a fruit brandy (grappa, palinka/slivovitz, marillenbrandt, etc.) then, again, the normal and traditional instrument you would use is an alembic (a pot still).

If your goal is to make an Amaro, or a Bitter, or a Mistra/Ouzo, then you must obtain a neutral first, which is really neutral, and then you add herbs according to various tecniques. The column distiller is way more practical, or safer, for that kind of distillation. The T500 column can be applied to the Grainfather to transform it into a column distiller.

Both column and pot still have their place in the distilling realm. They are different horses for different courses.

You are not bound to buy the T500 column if you have a Grainfather. You can adopt a column of your choice to a kettle cover of your choice. But, importantly, the kettle must have the possibility to "lock" the cover in place. This is something that the Grainfather has and my AIO doesn't have.

Not every kettle can be transformed into a still, only a kettle which has a lock mechanism on the cover.

For my distilling needs, I have a normal beer-kettle which is modified by the producer on my request to serve as a still (reinforcement bars on the top, safety valve, and a hole for the column/alembic). On top of this I have a "modular" still, I can use it in alembic configuration or in column configuration.

I cannot do that with my AIO homebrewing kettle. Modifying my kettle would cost too much and would bring too little rigidity for the heavy column I have.

With a Grainfather, you have an easy access to both realm of distillation (pot still and column still) in a simple way. Don't throw it away just because the heater is broken, that's a cheap and replaceable part. And for distilling you don't even need a controller, actually. Just repair the heater and you can use an external voltage regulator.
 
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brewman !

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It's two completely different distiller kinds we are talking about.
...
I cannot do that with my AIO homebrewing kettle.
I can.

I've seen a 4x 48" reflux column plus product condenser on a normal brewing pot lid.

Not every kettle can be transformed into a still, only a kettle which has a lock mechanism on the cover.
Modifying my kettle would cost too much and would bring too little rigidity for the heavy column I have.
I've seen otherwise.
 

Birrofilo

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I can.

I've seen a 4x 48" reflux column plus product condenser on a normal brewing pot lid.



I've seen otherwise.
You have seen my still kettle. My still kettle is a "normal" brewing pot lid, modified for a lockable cover.
But you must ensure a lock on the cover, else it doesn't work and it is also dangerous.
A normal homebrewing kettle normally doesn't have a lock on the cover, you see. You just put the cover on the kettle, but it doesn't lock.
The Grainfather has a lock because it is meant to be transformed into a still.
 

brewman !

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You have seen my still kettle. My still kettle is a "normal" brewing pot lid, modified for a lockable cover.
But you must ensure a lock on the cover, else it doesn't work and it is also dangerous.
A normal homebrewing kettle normally doesn't have a lock on the cover, you see. You just put the cover on the kettle, but it doesn't lock.
The Grainfather has a lock because it is meant to be transformed into a still.
It takes 20 minutes and $20 to add lid clips to any brew kettle.
 

Birrofilo

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It takes 20 minutes and $20 to add lid clips to any brew kettle.
Maybe, I never tried to ask anybody. You have to make some soldering, don't you? And you must find a proper silicon gasket or make one yourself.
Also rigidity of the kettle is very important.
My AIO would never hold the weight of my column.
Actually even the much more robuste kettle I use, notwithstanding the reinforcement on the cover, flexes a lot.
My column is a 2" diameter, with a sight glass, to 50cm element, a dephlegmator, the elbow and a long shotgun condenser, which makes the column lean on one side. The column weights several kg and is more than 1 m tall. This applies a torsion on the kettle top. I actually sustain the column with some ribbons to the ceiling and I keep it stabilized (it wobbles) with a plank from the wall.

You can abstract from the robustness of the kettle/cover if you sustain the column to the wall, which is an option for some (not for me in an apartment).

I said with a Grainfather you have an easy access to a pot still and a column distiller in a simple way. I never said you cannot do otherwise! I did otherwise.
 

brewman !

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Maybe, I never tried to ask anybody. You have to make some soldering, don't you? And you must find a proper silicon gasket or make one yourself.
Also rigidity of the kettle is very important.
My AIO would never hold the weight of my column.
Actually even the much more robuste kettle I use, notwithstanding the reinforcement on the cover, flexes a lot.
My column is a 2" diameter, with a sight glass, to 50cm element, a dephlegmator, the elbow and a long shotgun condenser, which makes the column lean on one side. The column weights several kg and is more than 1 m tall. This applies a torsion on the kettle top. I actually sustain the column with some ribbons to the ceiling and I keep it stabilized (it wobbles) with a plank from the wall.

You can abstract from the robustness of the kettle/cover if you sustain the column to the wall, which is an option for some (not for me in an apartment).

I said with a Grainfather you have an easy access to a pot still and a column distiller in a simple way. I never said you cannot do otherwise! I did otherwise.
Whatever.
 
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WannaB1

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....to get back on topic here:

@WannaB1 , have you made a decision yet? I am 99% sure i landed on the UniBrau 20G. Going to be ordering it in March!
I was reading back over the messages and seems we are looking for alot of the same things and I was wondering what you had landed on, what was the main factor(s) for you deciding on Unibrau?

After a weekend of trying to find all I can on these I'm leaning toward Spike. Honestly it's down to Spike Solo, Unibrau and Clawhammer. I'm going to also go with a Steam lid regardless of which unit I go with and looks like it'll need to be from spike so that gives them the edge. Only thing Spike and Unibrau didn't have that was on my wish list was a notched handle for lifting the grain with a pulley.
 

Rik van den berg

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I was reading back over the messages and seems we are looking for alot of the same things and I was wondering what you had landed on, what was the main factor(s) for you deciding on Unibrau?

After a weekend of trying to find all I can on these I'm leaning toward Spike. Honestly it's down to Spike Solo, Unibrau and Clawhammer. I'm going to also go with a Steam lid regardless of which unit I go with and looks like it'll need to be from spike so that gives them the edge. Only thing Spike and Unibrau didn't have that was on my wish list was a notched handle for lifting the grain with a pulley.
What i really like on the UniBrau is:
- the grain basket design and how the wort recirculates onto a ledge and dribbles back into the bed and how it sits on welded notches. The Spike is pretty similar but the ledge is smaller. I don't like the loose clips of the clawhammer and I don't like the Clawhammer basket being all mesh.
- I really like the Hopblock filter with dip tube that Brausupply offers
- the UniBrau offers customization. I have got one in my shopping basket with no pump and chiller but with cool stuff like whirlpool arm, sparge arm, pickup tube with hop filter. Talking to the guys at Clawhammer, they said that they can work with anyone if they don't need a pump or chiller so they seem pretty flexible in this regard too. I don't know how flexible Spike is (haven't asked)

My two contenders at this point are the Spike Solo and the UniBrau, but like I said, I think I'll land on the UniBrau
 
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WannaB1

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What i really like on the UniBrau is:
- the grain basket design and how the wort recirculates onto a ledge and dribbles back into the bed and how it sits on welded notches. The Spike is pretty similar but the ledge is smaller. I don't like the loose clips of the clawhammer and I don't like the Clawhammer basket being all mesh.
- I really like the Hopblock filter with dip tube that Brausupply offers
- the UniBrau offers customization. I have got one in my shopping basket with no pump and chiller but with cool stuff like whirlpool arm, sparge arm, pickup tube with hop filter. Talking to the guys at Clawhammer, they said that they can work with anyone if they don't need a pump or chiller so they seem pretty flexible in this regard too. I don't know how flexible Spike is (haven't asked)

My two contenders at this point are the Spike Solo and the UniBrau, but like I said, I think I'll land on the UniBrau
I seen a video of a guy using his chiller that came with the Unibrau as a steam condenser. I sent an email to Brau last night to get their official stance on that since I can't find any other info on how well that actually works.
 

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The Unibrau in 240 volt with a non garbage pid gets pretty expensive.
I like that the solo is available in 15 gallon. This means that high gravity 5.5 gallon or 6.5 are no sweat. I hate being forced into a 20 gallon pot.
I have an SS brewtech 1V 10 gallon I use for eBIAB. I honestly wish it were 12.5 gallon, but I understand not having a dozen pot sizes. 20 gallon is annoyingly large imo
 
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WannaB1

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The Unibrau in 240 volt with a non garbage pid gets pretty expensive.
I like that the solo is available in 15 gallon. This means that high gravity 5.5 gallon or 6.5 are no sweat. I hate being forced into a 20 gallon pot.
I have an SS brewtech 1V 10 gallon I use for eBIAB. I honestly wish it were 12.5 gallon, but I understand not having a dozen pot sizes. 20 gallon is annoyingly large imo
I've struggled with picking a size, I want to be able to do 5/6 gallon batches mainly but also do an occasional double batch. That put me in the 20 gallon bracket, I may regret this but heck that's par. :)
 

Rik van den berg

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The Unibrau in 240 volt with a non garbage pid gets pretty expensive.
I like that the solo is available in 15 gallon. This means that high gravity 5.5 gallon or 6.5 are no sweat. I hate being forced into a 20 gallon pot.
I have an SS brewtech 1V 10 gallon I use for eBIAB. I honestly wish it were 12.5 gallon, but I understand not having a dozen pot sizes. 20 gallon is annoyingly large imo
Can you expand on the ‘garbage pid’ statement? Is theirs bad? Thanks
 

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Based on my Spike kettle and Electric Brewing Supply panel (which is who supplies panels to Spike), if I was buying again today I would buy Spike. I'd go for the Solo if I was starting from scratch, but probably use it with a bag for ease of cleanup. I briefly owned an Anvil as a second system (I had this idea I'd do dual brew days which never worked out) and it was so much harder to clean the malt pipe than a bag. The advantage of the Spike is everything is replaceable, most everything from multiple vendors. If your control panel fails and in the unlikely reason Spike can't support it, you can buy the components from a multitude of places. The only thing that's really Spike proprietary is the basket and the enclosure for the controller. And you could use a false bottom and do a bag without the basket if you somehow destroy that. Most of that also applies to the Unibrau but given that its only available in a 10 gallon kettle, I drops out of the picture for me even for 5 gallon batches. I'm opposed to anything expensive with a built-in controller that would be hard to replace and built-in element that's impossible to replace.

As for the steam lid, also consider having Spike add a port at the top of the kettle wall for a Steam Slayer. Works very well, runs off household water pressure instead of a pump, and is less obtrusive. Though the Spike setup does look super sexy and one could change out the nozzle and eliminate the pump.
 
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Rik van den berg

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.. I'm opposed to anything expensive with a built-in controller that would be hard to replace and built-in element that's impossible to replace. Most of that also applies to the Unibrau but given that its only available in a 10 gallon kettle, I drops out of the picture for me even for 5 gallon batches.
Are you sure you’re talking about the Unibräu? Just like the spike, only the basket and maybe the kettle seems unique. I can’t comment on the control unit but it is definitely a free standing unit. Also, Unibräu comes in a 10G or 20G version.
 

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Are you sure you’re talking about the Unibräu? Just like the spike, only the basket and maybe the kettle seems unique. I can’t comment on the control unit but it is definitely a free standing unit. Also, Unibräu comes in a 10G or 20G version.
Poor sentence arrangement. I fixed it.

I missed that Unibrau added a 20 gallon system, my Google search took me straight to the 10 gallon I was familiar with from considering it 2 years ago. Looks like a solid choice as well though not quite as elegant as their 10 gallon basket or Spikes. Not sure I like the open gap and it requires some sort of hoist for draining (no clips or support ring.)

Can you expand on the ‘garbage pid’ statement? Is theirs bad? Thanks
I was curious while I was there I looked this up. They sell 4 controllers. A 110V or 220V 13A that are cheap on/off controllers, and 110V or 220V 30A that are EZBoils. Going through the customizer, its only $100 to upgrade to the EZ Boil on the 110V system and the cheap ones obviously aren't an option for higher wattage configurations.
 

Rik van den berg

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though not quite as elegant as their 10 gallon basket or Spikes. Not sure I like the open gap and it requires some sort of hoist for draining (no clips or support ring.)
good eye! I hadn't picked up on the different design of the 20G basket.. It's kind of misleading on their webpage because the second picture has a "10G style basket" it seems
 

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I wish there was a 12.5 gallon pot option for all of these things. I currently brew on an SS 1V 10.5 with a bag. I've gone up to 1080 and that was seriously pushing it. With a basket and 12.5 gallons I'd imagine you'd be good up to nearly any gravity. I guess that's what the 15 gallon solo is for.
The ease of handling and cleaning a 10 gallon pot is seriously underrated.
 

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I don't move mine other than tipping it forward to get virtually all the liquid, hops, and trub to the pickup. I rinse out the waste, CIP, and rinse all where it sits. About every 4th-ish brew I pull all the valves, pickups, etc to soak them and clean out the pockets that don't CIP as well but the kettle still stays put.
 
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good eye! I hadn't picked up on the different design of the 20G basket.. It's kind of misleading on their webpage because the second picture has a "10G style basket" it seems
Does this affect your decision?

I'm struggling to pull the trigger, if I'm going to spend that amount of money I just wish I knew it was hands down the best I could get. Now I'm wondering if I should just buy a brewzilla / anvil, I can buy 3 of them for 1 of these if they crap out on me. Not the most logical thought process but I'm not the smartest lad. Actually, as I start to post this it hit me I doubt I'll do that, due to my hate of the Chinese government.
 

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I don't move mine other than tipping it forward to get virtually all the liquid, hops, and trub to the pickup. I rinse out the waste, CIP, and rinse all where it sits. About every 4th-ish brew I pull all the valves, pickups, etc to soak them and clean out the pockets that don't CIP as well but the kettle still stays put.
Sounds like a good process.
I don't, and don't want to, CIP.
 

Rik van den berg

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Does this affect your decision?

I'm struggling to pull the trigger, if I'm going to spend that amount of money I just wish I knew it was hands down the best I could get. Now I'm wondering if I should just buy a brewzilla / anvil, I can buy 3 of them for 1 of these if they crap out on me. Not the most logical thought process but I'm not the smartest lad. Actually, as I start to post this it hit me I doubt I'll do that, due to my hate of the Chinese government.
no still leaning towards the Unibräu
 
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@WannaB1 Did you make up your mind? Buy something yet?
I haven't bought anything yet. I received an email from Grainfather that they are replacing my G30 under warranty so I'm going to try and make do for a bit longer. I'll be curious what you think of that Unibräu and just keep reading reviews until I turn blue. If I were ordering today I'd order the Spike Solo and Steam Lid. Another struggle I have is I want a large unit even tho I will mainly do 5-gallon batches, but I don't want for it to be awkward doing the 5-gallon batches.
 

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I think I'm gonna get a 15 gallon solo and am seriously annoyed at myself for not getting one 20% off back on black friday. I also could have grabbed one without the goofy new logo, lol
 
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@WannaB1 Did you make up your mind? Buy something yet?
My replacement grainfather showed up today, pretty impressed with their customer service. Unibrau never did reply to my email which I was surprised about. I'm going to keep watching the used market and hold out since I have this working again :) Cheers!
 

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I did it! I ordered a Unibräu 20G. For a controller I decided to go with the Blichmann Brewhouse Controller Brew Commander 240V in stead of the Brau supply controller.

Excited! (and no, I didn’t get a stimulus check lol)
 

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The brew commander is pretty nice especially for the money.
I ended up buying a 15 gallon solo as it leaves me enough room to make virtually any gravity 6 gallon batch I want.
I've read on the spike group that the upper limit on 10 gallon batches in the solo 20 is about 1.070 and I imagine same for the Unibrau.
If they knew this I don't even see why they bother offering 10 and 20 gallon sizes
They should both just offer 15 and 25
Am I crazy??

Ps, I'm awaiting my THIRD kettle from Spike as the original and first replacement both had serious dents, lol.
Water tests later today and brew next weekend!
 
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