UniBrau 20 Gallon system - Brew Day and Questions

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Rik van den berg

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My first brew on my 20G Unibrau was a 5 gallon pale ale. I was trying to get my feet wet without running the risk of effin' up 10 gallons of beer.

I Pretty much winged my way through it. I "graduated" from a 3 vessel system with plastic coolers and a keggle so this one vessel setup it still very new. On my 5 gallon batch I:
  • had a 12 lb grain bill
  • started with 7.2 G of water
  • Fly sparged
  • went for a Target of 5 gallons in the fermenter at 1.056 OG.
  • ended up with 3.5Gallons at 1.080 (!!!)
  • Reverted back to my extract days and added 1.5 gallons of water to end up with that 1.056 gravity.
  • The beer was meh..

Today, months later, I did a 10 gallon batch of Rye IPA. (Target 1.056). This beer has a 24.5 LB Grain bill. I decided to use Beer and BBQ Larry's spreadsheet for this one. I got my equipment profile dialed in as best I could and got a total water volume of 15.5 Gallons. Thinking we're basically doing a BIAB I dumped all the water in the pot and after dough in I had a total volume of 18.5 Gallons in the pot.

When I bought the Unibrau I decided to get the Blichmann Brew Commander in stead of the Unibrau controller. Happy I did, its really nice. Still learning on that one as well though. I did a two step sparge. 60 Min at 156 and then a 10min mash out at 168. After the 60 min the Brew Commander showed "ramp up" with a timer, which I mistakenly thought was the 10 min 168 timer. But instead, when it hit 168 it started that 10 min timer so I guess I ended up with an 80 minute mash..

After the mash I ended up with a 13.5 Preboil volume and a gravity of 1.047, which at the time I thought was pretty good. The 240V Unibrau got to a boil quickly and once it got to a rolling boil, I reduced the power to 80%. After a 60 minute boil I ended up with 11.5 Gallons which is a hefty 2 gallons boil off per hour. I got exactly 10 gallons in the fermenter with a 1.051 specific gravity, 5 points below target..

All in all a successful brew day despite the lower efficiency.. I did use a grain bill that I designed for my old 3 vessel system so I probably have to adjust it for this system. With that long mash and a continuous recirculation I would think that I sucked all the sugars out of those grains.

The Unibrau hop screen is a piece of crap. Clogs up like no other. I had to continually scrape it with a spoon.. the flow stopped the moment I stopped scraping..

For the seasoned Unibrau users: how do you do a 10 gallon batch with a higher grain bill or a 15 or even 20 gal batch? I Can't see how you would fit all that water and the larger grain bill in this 20 gallon pot. Do you add more water after you remove the grain basket?

I welcome 2 cent's, comments and answers!
 

Benson Brewhouse

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I have a 20g Brau Supply kettle and basket with a custom steam condenser, and I also use a 220v Blichman BrewCommander with a 5500w element - sounds like we have a fairly similar setup.

I upgraded from a Brewzilla because I was sick of dealing with the volume limits of higher ABV beers - with that said I strictly brew 5 gallon batches, typically 5.5 to 6 gallons into the fermenter.

I've been brewing on it for a few months and I'm still slowly dialing in my equipment profile. Some things I can share that are hopefully helpful to you:
  • mash efficiency out of the box is anywhere from 60-68% - you can get higher if you work for it
  • max grain capacity is near 40lbs
  • 5 gallon batches - you can pretty much go up to any grain amount, however sparging is difficult at this batch size because the deadspace under the basket is a whopping 3 gallons; there's also deadspace around the circumference of the basket but I'm not quite sure how to calculate that since this number fluctuates as you add more grain
  • 10 gallon batches - this is the sweet spot; you should be able to do any ABV and sparging is easy
  • 15 gallon batches - possible for lower ABV beers, but the mash will start to get very thick and lautering will be difficult
  • 20 gallon batches - not possible
  • Hop screen is known garbage; I use a hop spider for now. I'm going to look into a custom false bottom from NorCal brewing: Jaybird False Bottom Questions Answered by NorCal Brewing Solutions
  • Setting up the BrewCommander correctly depends on your recirculation setup - there's a few advanced settings that need attention to get it perfectly dialed in, specifically: cycle time - I would change to 3 sec; SS offset - I had to change mine to 0.6°; Calibration - I'm still playing with this one to perfectly match the controller temp with the actual mash temp.
  • Lastly, I would strongly suggest using the Brewfather Brewing software and get your equipment set up, it will tell you all the volume limits once you have everything set up
 
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Rik van den berg

Rik van den berg

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Thanks for your reply!

I like the idea of the NorCal brewing false bottom. I guess this would be a custom build though for the 20G kettle. Do you intend to use the Brau Supply dip tube still?

Thanks for the other suggestions and I'll look into the Brewfather software.
 

n8huntsman

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On your 20 gallon baskets, are there supposed to be studs or lugs near the bottom to rest the basket on the top of the kettle? I have the upper lifting lugs but nothing on the bottom. It came with the octagon-ish shaped ring that sits on the kettle so I think I'm missing something on the basket.
 

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Benson Brewhouse

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On your 20 gallon baskets, are there supposed to be studs or lugs near the bottom to rest the basket on the top of the kettle? I have the upper lifting lugs but nothing on the bottom. It came with the octagon-ish shaped ring that sits on the kettle so I think I'm missing something on the basket.
No on the lugs. There was a test version with lugs just like the 10 gallon, but they ultimately decided not to release it. My assumption is they decided against the lugs since you absolutely need a pulley to lift the basket when it's full.

My 20 gallon came with the ring as well, I reached out to Brau Supply and they said those were sent by mistake and to just dispose of it - it serves no purpose without the lugs.
 
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