First, I want to thank everybody, all of the many folks who responded (about 25 in all) and the rest of the HBD community, which I'm sure had a lot to do with everybody being this informed and helpful. I hope I haven't missed anybody below, please let me know.
I've tried to summarize some of the information from all of the suggestions at the beginning: web pages and articles recommended, manufacturers, specific brewing equipment and brands, specific non-brewing equipment people suggested, etc.
I've also taken the liberty of doing a bit of copy-editing and formatting on the messages themselves. I hope I haven't offended any of the original authors.
A good, basic overview of the all-grain process and equipment needs: http://brewingtechniques.com/library/backissues/issue6.5/depiro.html
Other relevant articles:
Al Korzonas' web page for good tips on converting Sanke Kegs, probably means this page, which is indeed well written and has useful, well-taken and well-explained photos: http://www.schoville.com/beer/mashtun.html
Andrew Avis' 3-tier system at: http://fast.to/strangebrew
Rod Prather's Heat Exchange Single Burner Brewery design at: http://fast.to/beer
Stephen and Carolin Ross's shop (and information links) at: http://www.paddockwood.com
Recommended intro to extract brewing: http://home.elp.rr.com/brewbeer/extract/pres.pdf
The book _Brew Ware_ by Lutzen and Stevens
Jean-Sebastien and Melanie's Homebrewing Design Pages, a collection of pictures and descriptions of home breweries: http://www.axess.com/users/jsm-mv/brasseurs-mv/homebreweries.html
start simple steal - borrow - beg all grain is not more expensive than extract forget rims until you can make it all yourself
Check the flyweight brewery at Stainless in Seattle, or the similar model from Beer, Beer and More Beer in CA. BB&MB's site is at www.morebeer.com - I can't seem to find my link to Stainless., but a web search should do it. THese systems are not full RIMS, but might fit the bill... Mark Nelson Atlanta
An interesting question you posed. Like many homebrewers, I'd love to have one of the $2500 systems. And in truth I could afford to do that but it really isn't justifiable so I took the route of pulling things together myself. Not entirely on the cheap but not expensive either. I make anything from 5gal to 12gal batches. From light beers such as bitter to barleywines, though 12gals of 1.110 barleywine is a challenge. Some things you'll need: converted keg boiler - about $75; 1/2" soft copper slotter ring, hardware and valve - $15 another pot, 8gal or so, for boiling water - aluminum is OK, $30 another pot, if you do decoctions, for the decoction - I got a 5gal SS pot at Kmart for $40 two burners - you can buy any one of a number but the Superior is great and conserves fuel over the jet engines counter flow chiller or immersion chiller - I made one of each for probably a total of $30 I have two 10gal Gott coolers, one coverted to a mash/lauter tun, one to use to hold hot liquor or a second mash tun - $45/ea Phills Phalse bottom and appropriate hardware, valves, etc. $30 I have a pump and some tubing to move things about. Pump from Grainger for $50; tubing from hardware store. I use garden hose fittings to attacher, re-attach things. Easy and cheap. I did buy a RIMS system ($250) but the controller broke and now I just use the heater. Frankly the only reason I use it is that I found that to get really clear wort flowing into the kettle, a vorlauf of 15-20 minutes is needed -- then I'm putting crystal clear wort into the kettle. I use my pump to do this. But the temp of the mash then drops too much so I use the heater to maintain the temp and at the same time as vorlaufing raising the mash to mashout. I did brew for years without it so it's not necessary. I found some scrap shelving that I built into a stand on wheels so it can be stored against the wall of the garage but rolled out for use. Two tiers is all that's needed with a pump. Good luck. David Houseman
Steven, First off, congratulations on your home renovation project. You asked about stepping up your operation and thought I would pass on the following suggestion. First off you might want to take a look at the following site in Brewing Techniques' archives. http://brewingtechniques.com/library/backissues/issue2.2/o'neil.html This is a three tier operation that allows for brewing batches up to eleven or twelve gallons. It is a great article, good schematic and even contains a link to a "how-to-use-this" article. http://brewingtechniques.com/library/backissues/issue2.2/oneilsb.html I used this idea with some modifications for over a year and have loved it. Roy Strohl's Modifications: I made the base with a socket for the upright part of the tree so I could separate the base and upright for storage. I did not have to install a water filter as our water is excellent for brewing as-is. I had access to Polar Ware brewing kettles. I would have used converted kegs if the Polar Ware had not been available. Finally, I added a small support ledge for each of the kettle's bottoms rather than have them just hang from the peg - in retrospect I suppose it was not really necessary but it made me feel better. As for using the system it took a little getting used to, but now I love the flexibility of the system. If I were to point to any one thing that pleases me more than another, I would have to select the fact that I can take a single brewing session's yield of 10 gallons, split it into two batches of 5 gallons, pitch a different yeast in each of the primary fermentation carboys and produce two different beers. In some cases the results are dramatically different and sometimes the resulting differences are subtle. Personally I like the simple elegance of the thing and being a practical person I love the concept that gravity always works. There is another article in the Brewing Techniques' archive that may be of interest. I did not choose to go this route simply because it took up more space than I wanted to commit to the thing. http://brewingtechniques.com/library/backissues/issue2.2/caplan.html I would be willing to correspond with you about this setup if it proves to be the route you take after you look at other alternatives. Best of luck in your brewing. Roy Strohl Fredericksburg, VA
Hi Steve- I'll send this privately, as the crowd in the Digest will undoubtably chime in from all quarters. Feel free to post any or all of this if you deem it appropriate. I've been all-grain brewing for about 6 years now. The additional expenses related to going all-grain: I started with a Phil's Phalse bottom (about $15) in a plastic bucket (free), and a 5 gal stainless brewpot (about $18). 1st upgrade was to an 8 gallon enamel brewpot - chipped easily, but was quite serviceable. Cost - about $30. Homemade immersion wort chiller (very easy to make - buy 50' of soft 3/8" tubing, compression fittings to get to hose fittings) - about $30. Very low PITA factor for use, cleaning. Then I bought a propane cooker (jet type, 150K+ BTU) used - $40. Add another $30 or so for each propane tank you've got to buy. Then the scale-up to 10 gallon batches: Then I got my hands on some used 15.5 gallon Sanke kegs. Prices here vary substantially. Legally obtained kegs can be expensive. I happened to know a bar owner who obtained damaged kegs from his distributor - cost 1 case of brew for each keg. Spent another $40 for reciprocating saw rental, bi-metallic blades, etc. to cut out the tops. $30 for an EZMasher II for the mash/lauter tun. Another $75 for Teflon washers, valves, stainless fittings, etc for a homemade bulkhead fitting for my boil kettle. Another few bucks for the reducing fittings for the outflow (note - 1/2" tubing won't maintain a siphon to allow a kettle to completely drain - use 3/8" tubing for the run from your outflow valve to the fermentor). Check out Al Korzonas' web page for some good tips, illustrations. Additional carboys, etc - $50. Upshot - brew day extended from about 5 hours to more like 7 hours - primarily due to the slow draining of the kettle after chilling. My 5 gal batch practice was to chill, then pour into fermenter through a nylon sieve - 2 minutes. My practice now is to chill, then drain through the bulkhead fitting and also siphon through 2 racking canes, all fitted with stainless choreboys. It still takes me 45 minutes + to drain the kettle. The amount of hops that I normally use (4 oz minimum whole flower, usualy more like 6-8 oz) is the culprit. I may resort to pellets in a hop bag. Biggest drawback to larger batches - kegs are heavy in and of themselves. Fill one with wet grain, or 12 gallons of wort, and you'll have a sore back if you don't have help. Cleanup is more of an issue - you can clean an 8 gallon pot in the kitchen sink, but a 15 gallon keg is another story. I would try the Phil's false bottom and a modestly priced 8-10 gallon pot before going whole-hog. Good luck! Dave Kerr - Needham, MA
Steven, I'd say go for the all-grain thing. You can get an 8 gallon (33 quart) "ceramic on steel" pot for maybe $25 at a discount store. This will let you do full volume boils. A 5 or 10 gallon "Gott" (Rubbermaid, Igloo) cooler makes a fine mash tun. About $40 for the 10 gallon size, if you look. I made a "manifold" for mine out of copper tubing. It might have cost me $10 in parts, probably less. And then you need a chiller. Buy a 50 foot coil of 3/8 inch tubing, use some of it for the sparge manifold. and coil the rest into an immersion chiller. Add in some hoses, assorted fittings (so you can hook your chiller to the faucet) for maybe another $5? Your biggest expense may be a new burner, if your stove is just too wimpy to boil 6 gallons of wort. I use my gas stove with no problem. If you've got an electric stove, you may need to buy a burner ($60?) Add 'em up. Without the burner, you can get into all grain brewing for under $100. Depending on your ingredient cost, you'll probably save that much in 10 batches. Grain, if you don't buy it in little 1 or 5lb baggies at the brew store, is lots cheaper than malt extract. Quick comparison, ignoring shipping costs, assuming you can buy locally... St. Pats of Texas (www.stpats.com) sells 6lbs of (liquid) malt extract for $12-13. This is about enough to make a batch of pale ale. If you're buying cans now, you might be paying up to $20 for the extract for one batch of beer. (E.g., $12 for 4lbs of Coopers liquid malt extract plus $6 for 2 more lbs of dry malt extract.) They sell 10lb of Briess pale ale malt for about $8 (more or less, depending whether you want it crushed). This is also enough to make a batch of pale ale. So that's $4-10 per batch saved. However, if you buy a 50lb sack, it's only $33, or about $6/batch, for a savings of $6-12 per batch. Yes, you pay for it in your time, but that's the fun part. :-) =S
Steven, check out my web site at http://fast.to/strangebrew for a description of a 3 tier system I set up for about $300 Canadian, which is easier to clean and simple to use, and produces 10-15 gal of beer a go. Cheers! Drew
You can get started on a budget with the following items. More expensive set-ups will involve using converted kegs, stainless steel fittings, pumps, stands, etc. 1. A grain mill. Cost = $50-75? 2. A good 10+ gallon stainless boiling pot with a ball valve and thermometer hole (check the web for Polarware or equivalent - St. Pats or Brewers Resource have items). This investment is well worth it - since it provides a good springboard for ramping up to more complex level latter. Use your current boiling pot (if it is large enough) for the hot liquor tank. Cost = $125-150 3. A 10 gallon circular cooler for use as a mash lauter tun. Just remove the push faucet and use silicone to caulk the insulation hole to avoid rotting. Cost = $50 4. A burner. If going outdoors, choose a propane venturie burner which burns cleaner than the Cajun jet burners. Cost = $75 My personal preferences for additional items such as a grain mill, sparge arm and false bottom for the cooler are Phil Listermann's gear! He backs up his items and they really work great! For instance, his false bottom in my cooler has never given me any stuck flows, it allows the wort to run clear quickly, and it constantly holds up to the weight of 20+ lbs. of grain per brew! Total cost outlay = $300 to $400 for good quality stuff. Ideas for saving $$$ = used equip., checking Ebay, asking homebrew shop owners to post an announcement "looking for gear" or acquiring gear from people who have quit the hobby, Goodwill stores, etc. These are the items to shoot for either brewing a 5 or 10 gallon batches. Remember if you are serious about staying in the hobby - get larger items (i.e., 10+ gallons) so you can grow into them when expanding the system or the amount you brew without added $$$ invested. I know b/c I've use the above items for 3-4 years sharing gear with a neighbor and now and I'm moving to a complex, converted keg, stainless, RIMs equipped, pumped set-up; if only reliable welders could be found! Goodluck - Jay PS: feel free to correspond with me at my cc address above (I'm responding via work today!).
You had a question on the Digest about scaling up your homebrew setup. I say, go for it. When I finally decided to invest some money into my brewing equipment I realized I should have done it much sooner. You MUST move your brewing operations outdoors or into the garage. Imagine the joy of filling up a kettle easily with a hose or cleaning a carboy with an easy 5 second hose squirt. Going all-grain improved my beer about 300% and made me greater appreciate beers much more. I would avoid getting sucked into thinking you need to build a RIMS system. I also not a electrical/mechanical engineer who can slap something like that together. I also, personally don't like the idea of making 10 gallon batches of beer. I understand that making 10 gallons takes only fractionally longer to make than 5 gallons but I just don't want to drink 10 gallons of the same beer, even if it is great beer. I would rather make 5 gallon batches more often so that I can try a variety of styles and recipes. I use one burner ($80), have a 10 gallon GOTT cooler mash tun ($68) (with SureScreen on the pickup tube), an 8 gallon kettle with ball-valve ($130) (also with sure Surescreen on pickup tube), and another ($30) cooler to hold sparge water, and home made copper immersion cooler ($35). You don't need 3 burners, multiple pumps and RIMS devices. With the prices I quoted above you may still have enough of your $500 budget left over to buy a spare fridge/kegging setup (the second best brewing investment I made) and your own malt mill (allows you to buy grain in bulk). Hope this helps, Adam Holmes Cell and Molecular Biology Colorado State University
I was faced with the same problem. Go by the sanke keg route. If you scrounge you can do it for around $500 to $600. In your basement you have another problem. You need to use natural gas. This means you have to spend $100 on a burner. You can save money by using by design for a HESBuB. This is a Heat Exchange Single Burner Brewery. You can find the schematic at http://fast.to/beer This doubles the HLT as a Brew Pot. The other cool thing about my system is the total recirculation function that requires the system to recirc fluids through the entire system and back to the HLT. This simplifies the cleaning process and make the system largely self cleaning. Now I haven't built it yet but the basis is sound. A guy in Cincinnati built one and it works fine. Here's the approx. cost break down 2 sanke kegs $ 90 1 NG Burner $ 95 1 Mag pump $ 94 1 CFHE (purch) $ 95 (build) $50 Buy the solid copper, it's not worth the trouble. 1 Gott 10G Cooler $ 45 8 Ball Valves $ 50 misc copper tube $ 40 $509 Insulation for the LT has not been calculated. Probably around $50 Of course you will have solder, a propane torch, fittings, and fabricated devices including a false bottom (use the sawed manifold type, they don't plug up), a recirc manifold and a sparge manifold. I have designs for these taken from working systems on the net. If you can solder copper (this is really easy and fun) you can build this puppy. You will also need a base. I plan to set mine on a concrete block base in my basement. I got my sanke kegs for $15 each. If you scrounge you can find them. Rod Prather Bargersville, IN 46106
I've been very happy with a little RIMS from Advanced Brewing Systems. Our brewshop carries them in Canada, but you can probably find a better price in the US or direct from ABS. It's a stirrer, heater, pump, mash/lauter tun combined. You dump in the grain, add the water (ignoring their recommendation of letting the heater bring the temp up. add the water at strike temp instead) and turn it on. Comes with a computerized controller. At the end of the mash, it pumps into your boiling kettle. It isn't a complete system. You have to have your own kettle and hot water container. It can mash a 10 gal batch easily and is very easily cleaned, no need to sterilize. Then, get corny kegs if you haven't already. Biggest difference in cleaning there is. One vessel instead of several bottles. But I don't think you can do it for under $500. The RIMS alone will cost just over $500. Then you need a kettle to do boils. An old Sanke keg makes an excellent boiler and can be converted easily by your local welding shop, very affordably. Prior to the RIMS I used: a picnic cooler ($20), a homemade strainer, but the EasyMasher works well too, or any false bottom ($10-20), a 7 gal aluminum pot ($40), a gas outdoor boiler ($50), propane tank ($20), and an immersion copper chiller ($30). Not much cleaning, very affordable. I would get a counterflow chiller instead though. You can get Phil's fittings ($40?) and make the chiller with a regular garden hose. I've switched and would never go back. Faster and no worries of contamination. This system was very easy to set up, easier to move than the RIMS, but I had to scrub the cooler pretty well. The RIMS actually is easier to clean. So if you only want to spend $500, and haven't got kegs yet, that is the biggest cleaning difference. After that, what you clean with makes more difference than what you clean. I recommend Star San and PBW. PBW is non caustic and dissolves almost anything, but is safe on skin and on stainless steel. It can be a little pricey, but a little goes a long way. Star San is very cheap since it doesn't stale and is a one-step contact no rinse sanitizer. I just swoosh a little in my cleaned carboy or keg, put the lid on and it's ready next time I want to brew. I leave about 500 mls in the bottom while storing. Bleach needs rinsing, and damages SS. Iodophor needs rinsing at contact strengths, or let it dry. Star San can be used dripping wet, no wait time, no rinsing. Awesome stuff. Hope this helps. If you want further info there are links to all this data from www.paddockwood.com , my shop.... But, as I said, if you are in the States, check out other suppliers for ABS RIMS. We do ship to the US though. This is NOT an ad -good luck in your step-up! Cheers! Stephen
As someone who has made the step from extract to all-grain recently. First you need a wort chiller NOW, I have shaved alot of time off the brew day. I brewed many batches of partial mash to get the feel for it and spend the time learning mashing. You can get going on this for under $10. You can learn more at http://home.elp.rr.com/brewbeer/extract/pres.pdf I have about $500 in my 15 gallon all-grain system. I have the really nice restaraunt kettles w/drains. Keg are far cheaper if you can cut and drill them yourself. My mash tun I had to add a drain (go 1/2"). I used bulkhead fittings from Moving Brews. The rest is 100,000 btu cache cooker burners and a tall stand (3 tier). I love it and wish I had more time to brew regularly. Good luck and brew hard Dave Hinrichs Minnetonka, MN
Lots of interesting threads in the HBD these days, and one day this 'I'd brew every day if I could' brewer may indeed look into the RIMS idea, but for now... In HBD #3195, Steve Owens discusses 'scaling up'. This paragraph in particular scares me... > However, I'm loathe to start spending wads of cash on equipment >(a couple hundred bucks for a burner, a couple hundred bucks for a >nice, larger pot, probably need a wort chiller at this point, should >think about going all-grain) without looking at the options. Should I >just jump past that to something more elegant, not to mention maybe >easier to clean? You spend a couple hundred on a burner? What you need is something like a Camp Chef or NewBraunfells turkey cooker/smoker. Any RING TYPE burner from 100K to 150K btu. Typical off season price - $70USD. Then a larger pot. You can start with a converted keg, or with a large aluminum stock pot, depending on your price. You can get a converted keg from sources on the net for $40-150 (big range, eh?) or you can find a large 15/20 gal aluminum restaurant stock pot for 60-100. Stainless steel is also an option (some say the only one, but we'll not broach that subject), with a 15gal (actually about 14.6) 'polarware' pot running something like $180... I mash/lauter with 2 rectangular picnic coolers (Coleman). They came with drain holes and so I plumbed one with a 1/2" copper manifold. Last weekend our brew club had a brew day and we brewed 15gal of 1.060 IPA in it (30+lb of grain), and used my 80qt ALUMINUM kettle to boil it. My mash/lauter setup cost me perhaps a total of $75 including the ball valve and such. I use a stopper and a piece of racking cane (bent down to the bottom) of the sparge (hot liquor tank) cooler to pick up the sparge water. Leave about a CUP behind when I use it, so there is little water wasted. So, I'm scaled up. I can brew up to 15gal at a time (20 if I'm shooting for a smaller beer ~1.040 and don't mind topping up the fermenters), and my total costs are $75 for the 2 cooler HLT, Mash/Lauter setup, $95 for the 80qt kettle (shipped to my house), and $90 for the burner. Oh, another $30 for the 60ft 3/8" Immersion wort chiller... Now, that said - the wife preferred it when brew day was 2 hours instead of 6, but she really loves the beer so I get away with it as long as I don't try to brew EVERY week... [...comments on head retention trimmed...] John Stegenga AKA Bigjohn Bigjohn's Basement Brew house Woodstock, GA (quite some distance south of Jeff Renner)
Steve inquires about an economical way of scaling up his brew gear. If you're convinced that homebrewing is something you'll continue to do, then I recommend the following. First, a 100K+ BTU burner. Your local Home Depot or Lowe's will sell you one for $40. These things are nothing special. Every third family in New Orleans has one to boil crawfish. They use them in North Georgia to boil peanuts, in Texas to make chili, in Maine to boil lobsters, in Michigan for the whitefish fry. Second a 15-20 gallon pot. You can pick up a 20 aluminum pot at the Home Depot while you're getting the burner for @$120. A stainless steel pot of the same size will run you more along the lines of $250. Another option is to convert a 15 gallon sanke keg. If you don't mind scrounging a bit, you can often turn these things up at salvage yards where they'll let them go for 10 or 20 bucks. You could make an immersion chiller as per the kinds of instructions you mention finding on the web, or buy one. Get a big one. At this point, having blown @$200 (assuming the aluminum pot here), you'd be ready to brew 10-15 gallon batches of extract beer. If you want to brew all-grain beers, you'll need a little extra gear. The cheapest way to go is to use picnic coolers, either the cylindrical kind or the rectangular kind. Pick up two at the KMart--run you $50 total. Go back to the Home Depot and get about 4 feet of 1/2" CPVC pipe and some Ts and elbows to build a manifold for the bottom of the mash unit: @$8. The project requires a hacksaw and about 30 minutes. There are easy instructions in the Lutzen and Stevens book Brew Ware. Use the other picnic cooler as your sparge water tank. At this point, you've got a perfectly functional all-grain system (major shortcoming: a bit of hoisting of hot liquids), and you've spent about $260. Best of all, you're brewing outdoors instead of gumming up your brand new kitchen. There is also a bit of perverse pleasure to be found in befuddling Mr. Jones next door who has to wonder if the new neighbors are setting up a meth lab, and conversely there is the unadulterated pleasure of dispelling those frightful thoughts when you hand Mr. Jones a pint of your homebrewed stout.
Steven, I sympathize with your dilemma and here is my two cents. My recommendation is the simpler the better. Unless you are a gadgeteer, RIMS is pretty damn complicated with all the pumps, flow rates, fluid dynamics, etc. The system cost, set-up, operation are geared for the homebrewer attempting to replicate the characteristics of larger brewing systems. To me, the question should always be how much better is your beer with a RIMS system. The final product has just as much to do with your handling of yeast, hop selections, carbonation method, sanitation, and so on, as it does with how you prepare your brewing wort. For a minimal investment you can begin all grain brewing by: 1. purchasing an ezmasher from Schmidling Manufacturing. Check any homebrew page on the web and they will have it. I got mine from the Grape and Granary for around 34 bucks. You can install it in a five, seven or ten gallon stainless steel pot or ceramic canning pot with a 1/4" drill bit (ceramic pots are more difficult to drill through but with care it can be done). The ez masher is about as simple as it gets and allows you to mash on your stove top. I have done the picnic cooler and zapap systems, and like this the best because brewing on your stove top does allow you to have some greater temperature control over the mash. The main thing it is simple!!! 2. Everyone recommends stainless steel but you can still buy a 7.5 gallon ceramic canning pot. They are not as durable but are just fine. If you are serious, buy a 10 gallon pot with a spigot attachment already affixed - Southern Stainless and other products are out there. I have a 10 gallon pot that I just use for my boil. Note there are fine products for between 300-400 bucks with a spigot, false bottom for mashing, site glass, temperature probe etc. These all in one systems are fine if you plan on brewing 7 - 10 gallon batches but are too big for your typical 5 gallon all grain batches because the grain bed ends up being very shallow, i.e., reduced extraction of sugar from grains during mashing. 3. Definitely purchase a King Cooker, Cajun Cooker for use on your porch. One of the most important steps you can make in your brewing is going to a full wort boil. The other most important step you can make is learning how to make very good yeast starters. Because of the propane, these must be used outside or on a porch with windows or doors open. 4. Purchase a 6.5 gallon carboy for primary fermentation. Fermenting in plastic just increases your risk of infection. The 6.5 gallon is perfect for a 5 gallon batch. I clean mine using a carboy brush and a mild dishwashing liquid before and after every brew. I then fill my carboy with 2 capfuls of Iodophor and water to sanitize. Note cleaning and sanitizing are two different things. 5. Purchase a carboy tap from fermentap products to make transferring your wort from a carboy as simple as possible. I am sure you can do all of this for under 200 bucks. If you want to spend more and have a spare fridge, buy a kegging system and say goodby to bottling. Enjoy. Drew
Several folks have given you fairly moderate alternatives to the expensive "all out" approach, and any of these may be suitable to you. However, since you are not sure if all-grain brewing is for you, you might want to try a couple of things before you plunk down your cash on that wizz-bang brewing set-up. Optimum situation: Find an all-grain brewer and make a batch with them to see how much you like the process in general. Also, you will get ideas on how to manufacture and customize your own brewery to your available brewing environment. Alternative frugal Yankee approach: Assuming you are already a homebrewer, there are really only 3 additional pieces of equipment to make a jump to all-grain full-mash brewing. Brew kettle large enough to boil > 5 gallons. The cheapest way out is to buy a 33 quart porcelean on steel canning kettle at the local hardware store. These are ~$30 and even should you decide you are not going to go all-grain all the time, it still makes a good brew kettle, allowing for full volume boils in extract batches. It's also handy for the occasional lobster/crab/fish boil should you give up brewing someday altogether. I can tell you from first hand experience that it is quite possible to boil 6 gallons of wort in one of these on an electric stove top by spanning two burners. Wort Chiller. Since you are going to boil the full volume you will probably want a way to get the boiled wort down to yeast pitching temperature. There is anecdotal evidence that says that this is really not absolutely necessary and that you can just let the wort cool on it's own. However there are many arguments that say this is not a good thing, not the least of which is that it allows you to pitch your yeast quicker and beat the bad critters (bacteria) to the goods. It also means the beer will be finished just that much sooner! A fully functional immersion chiller can be easily made from a coil of refrigeration tubing for another $30. This too will be a completely useful item should you later decide that the mashing life is not for you. Lauter Tun The last item you will need is a place to lauter your mash. The reason I say lauter and not mash is that it is perfectly acceptable to mash in the same vessel (kettle) that you will later boil in. In fact, for single infusion mashes, placing the mash tun (kettle) in a preheated oven will hold your mash temp quite nicely for the time required for conversion. A perfectly serviceable lauter tun can be made for absolutely free, and with relatively little effort, a la the Zapap. A Zapap is the homemade "bucket in a bucket" style lauter tun described in the Papazian "Joy of Homebrewing" books. Sure, if you later decide you want to stick with the mashing program you can make more efficient, fancier mash and lauter in the same vessel type rigs, but the cost of the much maligned Zapap can not be beat with a big stick. Finding used food grade buckets at the local doughnut shop and drilling some holes in the inner bucket is a cinch. Even this device has some potential utility (as a hop back) should you move either on to a fancier lauter/mash tun or gravitate back to the ease of extract brews. By spending very little on testing your desire to brew all-grain you may be saving yourself a serious wad of cash. I personally know a couple of pepole that dropped out of brewing altogether after investing huge amounts of time and $$ mostly due to personal time limitations. OTOH, should you decide like many of us that this is a lot of fun, you can buy (or make) the right equipment to fulfill your needs. At that point you'll probably want to buy the gas burner and 15 gallon kettle and put together the fancy mash / lauter tun (RIMS maybe?) that will accomodate 10 gallon batches. Just another option for you. (like you didn't have enough choices already!) Regards, Fred Wills Londonderry, NH
I had the same reservations about building my all grain setup, but found that by using converted kegs and doing all the work myself it is very affordable. I spent about $200 to get my 2-tier, gravity-fed, 10 gallon system going. The hardest parts were 1-finding kegs (I got lucky), and 2-planning it out in advance without actually having seen or used a setup in the pastq. I converted the kegs with my Dremel tool, built a wooden stand (with appropriate safety considerations, flashing in high-heat areas, etc.) out of scrap wood, used "bulkhead" fittings rather than welded ones, and ordered a single burner direct from a manufacturer for less than $20 (I move it to where it's needed). It's not the most efficient system out there, but its fun and everybody likes my brews! I'd be glad to give you more information if you want specifics. Happy Holidays! Matt New River Valley, VA
Have you been to www.pico-brewing.com site yet? We sell burners, kettles, pumps etc. in a variety of sizes from our 5 gallon femto-System, 15 gallon pico-System, 55 gallon nano-System up to 30 bbl micro brewing systems. Our site includes prices for complete systems as well as a breakdown of the pricing for individual parts so that you can put together as little or as much of a system as you need at this time. Hope this infomation helps make you a new customer. (Upon subsequent correspondence) Have you ever considered brewing out door? The easiest way that I have found to clean up is with a garden hose. As I recall you have been doing extract batches. One improvement that you can make with a pico-System is to boil the full volume. You should be able to brew a 10 to 12 gallon extract batch with a kettle ($159), valve assembly ($12), drain tube ($8), burner ($65) & chiller ($55). This gets you out of the kitchen, saves time and effort and makes larger batches - all for about $300! - and its 100% upgradable! Upgrades to the system can come in increments of about $100 for a screen and support, $130 for a pump and hose, etc. The femto-Chiller and burners are smaller that what is used on the pico-System. The pump is the same put it is setup with different fittings. Food for though, Mike O'Brien
Steven Owens in HBD#3195 dated 15 Dec, wanted to know what his options were in building a Homebrew system for about $500. I would suggest that he visit Jean-Sebastien and Melanie's Homebrewing Design Pages at: www.axess.com/users/jsm-mv/brasseurs-mv/homebreweries.html Jean-Sebastien and Melanie have one of the largest collections of pictures and descriptions of Home Breweries to be found on the internet. Many of the owners of these Home Breweries are active contributors to the HBD. E-Mail addresses for the builders of these Home Breweries are included in some cases. Steven can see many different Home Breweries from expensive to not so expensive, and if interested contact the builder for additional information. Jim Bermingham Millsap, TX
Steve Owens was looking for the best way to scale up his brewing operations without spending two arms and two legs. I expect there will be a lot of replies to this one as there are many ways to go, and that seems to be part of Steves quandary. So, everyone can chime in here as to 'what I did' as examples and Steve can pick and choose what is best for him. In that vein, here is what I did. Starting with my second batch of beer ever, I went all grain. My mash tun was made from a 52qt square picnic cooler ($15) with 1/2" CPVC manifold for a false bottom (another $5 ). I already had a 25' immersion chiller, but I made a 50' one myself after seeing how the 25' one was made. 25' cost was $40, premade and my homemade 50' one was about $25, now I use the 25' coil as a prechiller in a bucket of ice water that then runs into the 50' chiller, which has kept my chilling time to as little as 15 minutes for 12 gallons of boiling wort to pitching temp. Since my first extract batch, I already had a 33qt enamle pot and a 21qt enamle pot, both of which could be used for heating decoctions or hot water as needed. I got an old jam kettle, holds 10 gallons, from my mother's garage (thought it was copper, but it was just a tin kettle and was copper clad, for free, so I used that to heat water in on my gas grill). I was still making 5 gallon batches at this point, but soon found I could make double batches of regular gravity beer and high gravity was possible by adding some extract to the boil. A few years later, I added a converted keg, ($65, and yes you can do it cheaper yourself) with a stainless steel ball valve attached ($55) and a dip tube with stainless steel screen ($30) and a Camp Chef 30,000 btu burner ($83). Now I could easily make 12 gallon batches, 11 into fermentors and 1 for pressure canning for yeast starters and priming sugar. (well ok, the pressure canner was really a brewery purchase at $65, but you can get spousal buy in to that because it is technically a 'kitchen ware'. Oh, and while I am at it, the gas grill I mentioned earlier, well brewing was the true motive for asking for a nice sized gas grill for Fathers day. The grill is 35,000 btu and the oval jam kettle fits on it perfectly! Also the grill has a 8000 btu side burner that does nicely with the pressure canner. Grill cost was about $220) Next I found that these larger batches were a real pain in the ass to bottle, so I got a kegging system ($170 I think) and an additional 6 kegs from RCB equipment, which after new gaskets and shipping came to $18 each. The wife was interested in having new appliances, and the old fridge became the beer cooler. I refuse to count the cost of the fridge, that was happening anyway. The latest aquisition has been the RIMS system sold here: http://www.advancedbrew.com/ Standard disclaimers, just a satisfied customer. Cost was $975. I had been considering it for a long time, and it was really a hard sell as I really liked my results with decoction mashing. This is something you save for or build yourself, I really liked the features and am glad I purchased instead of making one from scratch. It's like a bread machine for beer, you can set it and go do other brewery stuff, like cleaning equipment and drinking homebrew, or yardwork if the wife is around that day. In fact, the first time I used it, I was cutting the lawn and brewing at the same time. My wife didn't even know I was brewing that day until I excused myself after dinner to go chill the beer. (She said, 'what beer'). This means you don't have to use beer bullets to brew! You can add up my brewing expenditures up if you want to, but it has happened over 5 years of brewing, so it's not as bad as maybe some other hobbies. It would be interesting to see what other folks have spent in their brewing hobby, I am sure there are plenty of good ideas and many will be better than my own solutions I am sure. Enjoy the art of expansion! Rich Sieben Island Lake, IL
I know some folks that claim to be photographers. Lots of talk about D-max, developement time, shutter speed, film speed & f-stops. Lots of money in equipment. They're not really into photography, they're into cameras. BIG difference. Show me a picture: lots of snapshots; not much art. Seems like these R.I.M.S. types are all hung up about where to stick the thermometer. WHO CARES? What does the beer taste like? If it's good, then it doesn't matter if the temperture was measured in the inny or the outy or someplace in the middle. Invention is the mother of necessity nowadays. I got into all grain brewing after trying a couple of stove top partial mashes and haven't looked back. Yeah, it costs a few bucks for the equipment. The set-up that I use now is a two tier, one burner system built from salvaged slotted angle and the burner from a cajun cooker ($50) that I used previously. Two pots: a 6 gallon ($75) and a 10 gallon ($100), each fitted with an EASY MASHER ($25 each). If you belong to a club you might be able to beg or borrow some of this stuff. A system like this involves some juggling of pots but it's not hard to do and the beer tastes good. Less than $500 with the cost of a basic corny set-up included. It's a system that can grow with you too. Add another tier, Pot And Two burners and you eliminate the moving and juggling. Cheers, Gary Barbatelli(Florida)
Ahhh. A subject near to my heart. Here's how I did it cheaply. Prices decrease the more you're willing to scrounge. 1) 7.5 gallon bucket with spigot and lid ($16 from a local HB store) 2) Cajun cooker *with* 8 gallon aluminum kettle ($90 at Lowe's/ Home Depot)-- they sell different kinds of Cajun cookers, but make sure you find the one with the largest pot. This kills your cooker and pot needs all at once, and you never know when you'll want to fry a turkey. Trust me... you'll want to. 3) Phil's 10" Phalse bottom (~$15, HB shop) 4) assorted fittings, tubing, etc as necessary ($5-$10) If you hate the thought of brewing in aluminum, Stout Billy's in Portsmouth, NH (no affiliation, blah, blah, blah) had some 7.5 gallon SS pots for ~$70 last year. Don't know if he still has them, but I picked one up as well as a used 3 gallon keg last year for a song. http://www.stoutbillys.com. If you visit, make sure to hit the Portsmouth Brewery across the street and have a pint of fresh Old Brown Dog. Yum! I managed to boil 7 gallons of wort in this pot on regular gas (and electric) stoves and it works. Not exactly fast, but you can do it. That's it. I've mashed up to 20 lbs of grain in the bucket system and get clear wort quickly. Fire up the kettle and 5 gallons are easy. Using high-gravity brewing, 10 gallons is a snap as well. Or, my favorite hybrid, no-sparge brewing will land you five gallons each of two different beers for the small investment of an extra 90 minutes of time. Keep it simple and you'll have some coin to buy the sexy accoutrements later. Cheers! Marc
I hire the neighborhood kids for 50=A2 a keg. long skinny arms, and they like the home made root beer as much as their parrents like the real beer. Phil Wilcox
>Does anybody have any tips on making >the cleaning easier? Steve- Yeah, do you own an electric dishwasher? Use electrosol or whatever the cheapest equivalent is as a cleanser. Or look up "straight-A cleanser" on the web (use your fav search engine) Let it soak. Got a garden hose and a good nozzle? Then get Iodophor (1 capful/2.5 gals water) for sanitizing. Not rocket science here. Bob Sheck