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Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (619 posts) -

Hi everyone! Brewmaster Andy here, back with another foray into the world of homebrewing beer! Over the past year, I have continued to make even more additions to my brewery. I moved off the porch and into the basement by converting my kettle to run on an electric element, and I've recently moved my whole setup to a friend's airplane hangar complete with utility washing station and floor drainage system.

This year, I have four beers brewing - between the Giant Bomb panel, brewing for Cards Against Humanity, and another beer for a secret panel - featured here - I've been pretty busy!

Setup and Heating

These days, my brewery consists of the following equipment:

The gear setup.
The gear setup.
  • A 15.5 gallon "keggle" with a sight glass, 5500w electric element wired to a 240v plug and a control panel, and a return valve
  • A 10 gallon mash tun made out of a round beverage cooler, with a return valve and using a 12-inch stainless steel false bottom for filtering
  • A custom made RIMS (Recirculating Infusion Mash System) tube with a RTD temperature sensor, mounted with a 1500w electric heating element and wired to a control panel
  • Control panel with temperature control for the 1500w element and control for a high-temperature liquid pump

For today's brew (a super secret beer for PAX), I was brewing a hoppy pale ale. Anyone interested in the recipe can PM me!

I started my day by heating up the full volume of water I would need for this 5.5 gallon batch - 12 gallons. I filled my kettle and turned on the heating elements. One of the benefits to using an entirely electric setup is the quick and easy heating process. It's no joke heating 12 gallons of liquid to 168 degrees, but because my element is mounted in my kettle directly and is using the full 5500w to heat only the liquid itself, it only takes about 20 minutes.

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Mashing

One of the most important parts of the brew day is the mash process. This is the process by which the starch in grain is converted to sugar, and is what makes the beer fermentable. For today's recipe, I needed to heat my mash to 154 degrees. The initial volume of water I had been heating is actually overheated, in order to compensate for temperature loss when adding the grain to the water. Once it's ready, I pump it over to my mash tun, and then slowly add the grain and stir gently.

You can see the temperature maintaining steady at around 154 degrees. The yellow light turns on when the element is being turned on by the controller.
You can see the temperature maintaining steady at around 154 degrees. The yellow light turns on when the element is being turned on by the controller.

I then need to set up a recirculation to maintain my temperature. The liquid is pumped out of the mash tun, into the pump, out of the pump, into the RIMS tube and past the temperature probe, out the RIMS tube, and back into the mash tun. The probe relays the current temperature to the temperature controller in the control panel toolbox, so that it knows when to fire the element to maintain temperature.

This recirculation process serves two roles: maintaining temperature, and clearing the liquid. At this stage, the liquid is called "wort."

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This recirculation process will continue for an hour, during which I use a sous vide circulator to maintain the temperature of the other half of the initial 12 gallons of water that I heated. Once it's done, I pump the liquid into the kettle for heating.

Sparging

However, this isn't enough liquid to boil and create beer with, so I need to "sparge," or rinse, the grains to my desired boil volume. I do this by adding additional heated water and then pumping the beer into my kettle. I monitor the boil volume using my sight glass. The next several GIFs show this transfer process.

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Boiling

Once I reach my desired boil volume (for this batch, 9.5 gallons), I take a measurement of my specific gravity using a refractometer. This measures a liquid's sugar content and let's me know if my numbers are on par for the anticipated alcohol % I planned this beer for.

Spot on!
Spot on!

As the beer comes to a boil, a layer of foam coagulates along the top of the liquid surface. I use a special liquid called "Ferm Cap" to reduce the chance of excess build up of this foam and a potential boil over.

After that, it's just a matter of adding hops at specific times and boiling for an hour!

I'll add more to the comments as the beer gets closer to being drinkable and as always, I am happy to answer any questions!

See you at PAX East!

Avatar image for rmanthorp
#1 Posted by rmanthorp (4527 posts) -

I want beer now...

Moderator
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#2 Posted by GeneralBison (511 posts) -

I always want beer.

Great job as always Andy! One day I'll get into brewing myself.

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#3 Posted by Lolzhacked (92 posts) -

Nice post Andy. Always makes me want to try out home brewing when you do these pre-PAX batches!

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#4 Posted by blacklab (1976 posts) -

Cool. I have some evil plans for an electric HERMS.

Any scorching issues with the electric RIMS?

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#5 Posted by James_ex_machina (980 posts) -

Andy what microbrews are worth checking out in Boston? I'm looking forward to exploring the Boston beer scene during my PAX vacation.

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#7 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (619 posts) -

@blacklab: no scorching issues for me. I keep my pump fully open once the grain bed is set and don't have any issues. As long as you're monitoring flow you're good.

That said, I may move to a HERMS some day. I like the concept of using the sparge water to clean your heat exchanger coil and I love the idea of fewer heating elements.

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#8 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (619 posts) -

@james_ex_machina: there are a few local breweries doing some AWESOME stuff. Lord Hobo brewing makes some wonderful beer. I especially recommend their "Steal This Can" IPA. Also great is "Boom Sauce". Another brewery, Jack's Abbey, does lagers only. They have a great IPL called "Hoponius Union". Clown Shoes is another good brewery. Their clementine wheat is wonderful. I'd also try to find anything by Slumbrew. They're from my former hometown of Somerville, just outside Boston. They make a mean IPA and porter.

Have fun!

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#9 Edited by SgtSphynx (2420 posts) -

Hey Andy, just curious, but how much did that whole setup cost?

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#10 Posted by selbie (2449 posts) -

Moar leik PAX Yeast! :D......*crickets*

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#11 Edited by Shindig (3962 posts) -

You should name it Simon's Homebrew.

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#12 Posted by Hassun (7881 posts) -

Happy the PAX beer brewing project is back. Love reading craftsmen talk about their craft and a few (animated) pictures don't hurt.

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#13 Posted by rentfn (1393 posts) -

Yeah secret panel!!

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#14 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (619 posts) -

@sgtsphynx: Oh man. I don't think I want to do the math... all in, at least $1500. I built in stages. The biggest expense was the conversion to electric. Between my controllers and elements, it cost probably somewhere around $800.

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#15 Posted by BtrDeadThanRed (330 posts) -

I can't wait to brew again. It's been like a year. Just moved countries, so starting from scratch. I'm tempted to get one of those high gravity EBIAB systems, they look awesome

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#16 Posted by TheLastGunslinger (575 posts) -

I would buy delicious Giant Bomb themed beers.

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#17 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (619 posts) -

@warpig87: It's funny that you say that. Last few brews I had some issues with my mash recirculating and I've been looking at ways of going back to a modified BIAB type setup. I'm considering changing my current setup and moving to a two-tier, gravity recirc system. Ditch the RIMS tube, canibalize my two control panels to create one control panel, and run full volume recirculation batches.

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#18 Posted by BtrDeadThanRed (330 posts) -

Do it. I ended up switching to EBIAB before I left Australia, and although I was batch sparging and not recircing (I took the efficiency hit purely for an easier brew day) I don't think I'd go back to a tiered system again unless I was doing crazy huge batches.

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#19 Posted by YoThatLimp (2316 posts) -

I miss the podcast man!

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#20 Posted by James_ex_machina (980 posts) -
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#21 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (619 posts) -
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#23 Posted by James_ex_machina (980 posts) -
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#24 Posted by BtrDeadThanRed (330 posts) -

So close to getting into small batch brewing. Apartment space is severely limiting atm.

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#25 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (619 posts) -

@warpig87: Something I've been thinking about for test batches is downscaling to 1-2 gallon batches and using my Anova sous vide circulator to mash. You might think about that! I got mine on sale for $99 and it maintains perfect mash temperatures. All you need is a few paint strainers from Home Depot to keep the grain out and you can do small batch BIAB easily.

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#26 Posted by jakob187 (22932 posts) -

One of these days, Andy, I WILL get to drink your beer. It will happen, and it will make me happy.

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#27 Posted by BtrDeadThanRed (330 posts) -
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#28 Posted by mintyice (258 posts) -

@brewmaster_andy: Anova's aren't meant for liquids other than water. A lot of people make lacto starters with them, but they put a flask in a pot of water and heat it that way. Sugary wort may gunk up the heating element and motor that circulates the liquid.

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#29 Posted by BtrDeadThanRed (330 posts) -

That'd be great for sour mashing too. Fuck, I might have to get a Sausalito maker.

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#30 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (619 posts) -

@mintyice: Considering Anova has a profile of a dude using his to mash a BIAB batch on their own website, I'll take my chances!

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#31 Posted by kneebees (39 posts) -

Looks great! I always very much enjoy seeing your setup. Also I love Jack's Abbey, we only get them over here (England) in very small amounts, but Hoponius Union is maybe one of my favourite beers in the world.

Hope you have fun at PAX East!

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#32 Posted by Big_Denim (308 posts) -

@brewmaster_andy: This will sound creepy, but I found you on that weird map topic listed in the forums. You live near me, and your name caught my eye since I too enjoy to brew.

Anywho, keep on keepin' on!

Cheers!

-A Fellow Brewer and Norfolk/Plymouth County Duder

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#33 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (619 posts) -

@big_denim: Hey no shit! Let's grab a beer some time!

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#34 Posted by James_ex_machina (980 posts) -

Will you be brewing for this years PAX?

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#35 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (619 posts) -

@james_ex_machina: That IS the plan. I don't fully know how many this year but I have plans in the works. I'll post the blog I'm sure!

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#36 Posted by James_ex_machina (980 posts) -

@brewmaster_andy: Oh how a beer would great after waiting in this PAX line…

lol

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#37 Posted by Brewmaster_Andy (619 posts) -

@james_ex_machina: Haha! That line looked CRAZY this year. Sorry for the lack of blog, been a busy man this year!