All grain 3V electric system

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Well, I've done it - after months of stewing and thinking I've bought all the gear to run an all grain brewing system (much to my wife's dissatisfaction). I paid more for her mixer than what I've committed to this and we'll both be using our respective systems for many years to come, so I'm convinced it's worth it.

Story is: I got donated 2 kegs from a mate I did a job for and one of them was bent. I couldn't re-shape the lid to fit so it was throw it out or do something with it. I haven't seen anyone do this before, but I decided to convert it to a hot liquor tun with a heating element running up the middle of it. These dodgy pics have been flooding the forum front page but the concept's fairly simple -

A copper coil will run through it as pictured below. It does fit in, but it's a damn tight fit and will be the 2nd last thing to go it.

You may be wondering about how the HLT will stand with the element in it. Why, with this shitty stand I knocked up one evening in the shed. It'll look tidier in time, but it's square and sturdy (but not waterproof).

I've ordered a thermowell and tee piece to feed over to the mash tun, which will be a 38 litre stainless pot which I picked up for a bargain $69 on eBay. Now going for $79, which is still a steal.

I got donated a keg from another mate who said it was "taking up space", so I did him a big favour and took it off his hands. I cut a hole in it using a compass and grinder, and it came up a treat. Shown below is the rough cut -

I have 2 PID controllers (Jap Shinko units, very tidy which I scored from an old job) with only one rigged up to work. I bought a waterproof RTD off eBay and will install a switch on the PID to change between sensors on the fly. To save on cash in the short term, I'll pop it from one vessel to the other depending on where I am in the process. The inline thermocouple from the heat exchanger will always be installed.

So other points of note are -

2200 W Keg King element in the HLT
3600 W element from Gryphon in the boiler
Little brown pump for circulation which I got from Craftbrewer. Other places sell them and I'd just like to say it is an absolute winner for the price. Used in in a BIAB setup for a mate and it got 4 thumbs up.
No brass fittings, only stainless.
Camlocks for hose lines
Designed so I can pick up the whole system and move it. Not looking into stands at this stage.

It's going to be a dirty looking system to start with but I'm confident it'll make good beer and last me 'til the kids leave home and I decide to get serious with it. First brew is going to be a weissbier (from Greg Hughe's Home Brew Beer book - recommended) for a mate I'm trying to convert to all grain. Never done wheat before, hopefully it'll turn out alright.

I'm all ears so if anyone's got some suggestions by all means shout. A lot of the design of this system is based on advice from this here forum, so if you want to feel good about yourself assume I read one of your comments and pat yourself on the back.

(note - tell me how to post without filling the entire page with oversize pics)
Hey mate. Welcome to ag brewing. Im new myself and am loving it. Cant stop spending money on new stuff even though im not getting a chance to brew.
Couple of things to ask you. Your using a 3600w element which pulls about 15a on its own. Do u have a 15a circuit in your shed or is it common house 10a. If ever you wanted to run both of those elements at once, which u will one day you could be drawing 20-25a. Just something to think about. Ive just ffinisheda 2 pid controller box. When I get home today ill add pictures to my thread and send u a link. Was actually quite easy to build.
Im hoping I can get a brew on this weekend to test it all out :)
Enjoy :)
Cheers Macca.
Yep, I have a 15A circuit in the shed. I saw your pics and the wiring looks very neat. Mine's not so neat but I've been careful with the earthing so I'm confident it's safe. Either you're an electrician, you know an electrician, or you're very handy with your wiring.
I don't intend to use 2 elements at the same time because I'll be using the HLT for sparging, and once that starts - because the element is vertical - I'll need to have it off so the element won't run dry. Once day when I upgrade this may be more of an issue, but that's no concern really because I have the two circuits in the shed. A typical house power loop can handle more than 25A anyway (mine can at least) but I don't want to elaborate in case any electricians read this.

My PID unit is shown below which I originally had as a hot / cold setup with two PIDs. It's a heating PID but the wiring can be configured to cool. Or so I thought. The result was a fridge that turned on and off every 10 odd seconds so I removed that very quickly and hence have two clean cuts which I'd milled out at an old job.
I covered up the open hole tonight and added a switch. The intention is to have two RTDs/thermocouples fed to the control box so I can run the RIMS-style system and use a second probe for different purposes. For instance, heating the HLT in preparation for mashing. Until I save up a bit more dosh I bought a dip-in waterproof RTD off eBay for a cool $16. I'll pull this from the HLT to the boiler depending where I'm at.

In case you're wonder, the DC source for the solid state relay are the internals from a Nokia phone charger.

I'm itching for all my fancy stainless steel to arrive this week. Next weekend I should lose my all grain brewing virginity and give what will be a staple part of my life its first run.
I also have to mount my pump on a mini skid to make it ready for action.

How do I make my pics smaller?!
Windows paint or photoshop mate, but there are quite a few programs around. If you open them in paint you can reduce the size quite easily and quickly
Here is a link to my thread where Maltyhops explained how to make the small pictures work. You just need to upload your images to your gallery first.

Haha, im not an electrician, but from looking at everyone elses control boxes I couldnt make a mess and post it here. And it actually makes it easy to trace any faults if you have any. Its actually not cheap either. That control box has cost me somewhere between 400-500. Probably closer to 500 now. Im waiting on switches from auberins as im not a fan of the jaycar ones I have. I had one of the rocker parts pop out on me the other day.
I like the clear perspex you put over the hole. You can keep an eye on the SSR. I have been thinking of a way to do that without having to open the lid all the time. My box was not designed as a hinged door. I just made it that way.
You must be pretty cluey yourself if you know that you could use a nokia part in there :)
If you dont have any grab some STC 1000 controllers for your fridges etc. They are great. I have 2 wired up and 2 still in the box incase I want to control something else :)

Great post wiggman. I export my pics from iPhoto to a folder on my desktop. When I do it asks me what size and quality. I then upload the exported pics. Your photo software might be different but that's how I do it.

I hope to electrify my system some day too but I don't think I have the patience for the wiring and the PIDs.

Good job and enjoy!

PS maybe make your first brew extremely simple. All sorts of shit will go wrong on your first brew. You will make beer but there might be some bad language along the way.
Quick update - got most of my shiny parts but waiting on one more package before true assembly can start. I've already chopped up the boiler and installed the heating element and valves/fittings, was a peice of piss. Postage delay I think is due to Sydney fires.
PID completed and working. Thinking about upgrading the wiring though to make it more 15A suitable. The clear acrylic is actually a happy coincidence.
$500 for just the control box? Yikes. I've estimated my while setup will be in the realm of $700. For the fridge I have a wall plugin temp controller, super cheapo eBay stylez. It was about $27 delivered and is right to go out of the box. Not perfect, but hasn't missed a beat. The deprecate control unit is so etching I'll probably put together when I can get hold of a cheap/free fermentation fridge.

First brew is actually a recipe I put together from a loose grain bill given to me from a Pom for his favourite beer back home. 3 grains, 2 hops and a yeast starter. Dry hopped too. From something I knocked up. Bold stuff but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Just something to look out for.
In your pictures it looks like you're using a type K thermocouple. When using thermocouples you need to use the same material in the wire, that is, from the thermocouple junction to where it connects to the controller, needs to be made of the same material. In your case, type K is Chromal/Alumel. You have used a mic plug or some such connecter that will be made from copper. This introduces a different material and another "cold junction". You need to use a Type K connecter, they are available from Ebay and are usually yellow in colour. Introducing different metals into the thermocouple wiring can result in some unusual temperature readings.
The other thing is, PT100 (RTD) are much better at brewing temperatures than thermocouples and don't require special connectors.
Good to know spud farmer, much appreciated. I have an RTD in the post which is waterproof and will be transferred between vessels for off the cuff measurements. I'll cross check this with the thermocouple in the meantime until I get something more reliable. The thermocouple came with the controllers so that's why I have it. I have a hole at the bottom of the box so I can easily re wire this in the meantime if the measurements are inaccurate. Will get another RTD at a later date.

Apologies about crazy English in the last post, phone autocorrect had a field day.
Did Wridgways bend it? They always seem to damage everything! :drinks:
The system's all together and is basically ready for brewing. I'll have to wait for next weekend for the first official brew, which means this is going to be a long week.

Mash tun is below, showing sparge line from Gryphon Brewing with a simple teed connection. Had anyone had experience with these before? They look like a perfectly viable and more economical solution to a false bottom. It obviously won't drain every last drop but I can't see that being a problem anyway. A 90° bend will be installed on the 'in' port to avoid compaction.

Here's the whole thing. Pretty simple really.

Here's the balls of the system, the RIMS Cornelius keg. It has 3m of copper wound about internally connected to 2 compression fittings. I can't get a decent photo due to the poor light. I've had this pumping away for a while now and it seems to do a pretty good job. The simple thermowell off the tee is nothing new and functions without a hitch.

Here's the boiler. 3600W element and a sight glass I got from iBrew. I've gotta say, the seal on it's terrible and it's the only part on the system which leaks. I've had 3 goes at trying to seal it and I can tell where water's getting through. I need to either use a putty or made up a silicone washer to fit up on the outside. Due to the leak I haven't been able to give it a run yet.

The boiler internals. Has a compression fitting ready to go, but I don't have any tube yet. I'll buy some this week. I also plan to put a 90° elbow on this as well and create a whirlpool during the cooling phase (which I'll run back through the RIMS while running cold water through it). The beefy 3600W element should shorten brew time.

The recirculating pump. Simple and cheap brown pump from Craft Brewer. I put this on a piece of scrap pine lying around, found a 12V adapter in a box somewhere, and created the little jiffy box and switch from some gear from Jaycar. All up this pump is ready for action - including fittings - for around $50. Bargain.

I've been cleaning everything and trialling how effectively it all works and it works an absolute treat. 19l takes about 45 mins to heat up to 71°C from 10°C using the RIMS system. This is fine for my needs. The PID controller also seems to avoid overshoot and hence takes a while to get close but doesn't exceed the set temp. spudfarmerboy was right about the connectors I've used - it made a difference of about ­10°C.

Well, that's it from me. I'll be waiting anxiously for the weekend to brew up a storm, and will let you know how I go. Any questions or advice - fire away.
Some pics of the first brew run. Here's the setup as it'll be in the shed. One day I'll make a stand or similar but this does the job.


Here's the flavoursome mash midway -


And boiling away in the converted keg -


I did a St. Austell Hick's Special Draught recipe for a bloke who sourced the basic grain bill for me. I did a 3 step mash (50°C 30 min > 67°C 54 min > 76°C 10 min) based on the output from BeerSmith and the PID system did not miss a beat. There are a few comments to note though -
  • The braided sparge hose from Gryphon 'stuck' to begin with and didn't pump about a minute after adding grain while stirring. I gradually added the rest and gave the base a good stir because it seemed compacted. After a while it started flowing but I'm concerned that with a larger grain bill this may cause problems. That said, once it flowed there were zero problems for the rest of the brew and it barely required any cleaning.
  • I ran out of water during the sparge (19l) but I think this is due to my own miscalculations on volumes. More on that in a minute. I got some hot water from the house for the remainder, which was SFA so I'm not concerned. I now wish I had a bigger pot for the HLT rather than the keg, but oh well. I can get around it by adding more to the mash next time, which shouldn't have a huge impact on recipes.
  • The 3600W element brought the liquor to the boil rapidly (10 min?) but was boiling quite hard. There's no real way around it except for a controller. I'm hoping this won't affect flavour but I'll need to think about volumes in the future.
  • I calculated my final volume to be 23l. Mistake. This resulted in only about 18.5l making it to the fermenter due to traub loss and dicking around from the...
  • Hops stuck in the pump. I didn't use a hop bag or blocker, hoping it would settle with the whirlfloc. Wrong. To cool the liquor I wanted to pump it back through the heat exchanger with cold water, but about 10 secs into it it was clear there was a blockage. First up it was in the copper, which I blew out. Secondly the pump stop working and in my frustration I assumed it was because it died. I put it aside and transferred everything straight to the fermenter.
  • I measured the SG and it was massive. 1.058. Target with 70% efficiency (as per the grain bill) was 1.049. I added cold water straight to the fermenter to top it up to 23l. I figure water added before or after the boil is still water added and shouldn't affect flavour. The OG is 1.052ish so obviously the process was more efficient that BeerSmith defaults to. I'm good with that, my mate will be happy it's a bit more alcoholic than expected.
Overall the above issues aren't bad at all. The process was essentially seamless until the very end so I'm stoked with how it performed. This HSD recipe smells damn good too. I reused some 1048 yeast from my previous brew in a starter and it started well. It's my first go at it so can't complain. It's already got some krausen happening so it looks the goods.

Seriously this has to be the best hobby out. I can't wait for next weekend when I do my second batch, a wiessebier. And after sampling the first of my all grain brown porter last night, it's pretty obvious all grain opens the door to endless quality beers.
As always, feedback more than welcome.
you may find it helpful to mash in and let it rest to allow grain to absorb water, before starting recirc obviously prime pumps prior to adding grain
Why are you mashing so long and low at fifty. I thought a better rest was fifty five for ten then up through sixty three and then sixty seven. What are you looking for at fifty?
The braid will also hold air as the threads are very fine, best bet is to push your strike into the tun via the braid line to remove air.
As mentioned add your grain, stir and let settle before starting the pump, then go slow until after a protein rest (if used), tends to stick less.
How did the 3.6Kw element fitting and performance go ?
Re: pump/stuck mash. To heat the mash tun water up I -

1. Fill MT slightly above required volume.
2. Fill HLT to full.
3. Prime, turn on pump then turn on PID system. The control does its work and in 30-45 mins the HLT is where it should be. Not sure if this is what most others do but it's simple and no fuss.

Hence the recirc is running before and during mash in. I'll have it off and let the grain absorb for a few minutes next time. Easy stuff which I'm sure will work. Like I said either way once it started to flow there were no problems.

Re: 50°C for 30 mins - this is what BeerSmith spat out in the 3 stage profile I selected. Not sure specifically why this is but I went with it. From what I've seen for the acid rest is around the 35-40°C mark and in most cases not necessary. I don't have my water profile nor a pH tester, so this step is probably completely unnecessary anyway. Again, this is brew #1 for me and I mainly did it because I wanted to play with my fancy control gear ^_^

The 3600W element leaked on the first few fitments. It's fine now after I put the small O-ring on the inside > SS wall > silicone washer > jiffy box and did it up as much as I could with multigrips. Probably my biggest gripe was that you can barely get the tread started with what I had fitted, if it were a few mm longer it would be much easier to fit. As for performance - when it was on it was definitely on. It reached boil quickly but I'm thinking I should have gone for a less ballsy element. It would handle the full keg no worries I reckon. Are there any issues with a strong boil over a weaker one? Apart from evaporation rate of course.
There was two silicon washers supplied ,one O ring and one flat ?
I might try two O rings if the thickness of the flat is too much , it will just give that bit extra thread ?
I prefer strong boil as I end up with more break in the kettle and less in the fermenter and wort appears clearer.
Acid rest , I wouldnt bother, try a combined protein/Glucan rest at 56c, it will make the mash less sticky.
Good advice Nev, will take it on board.
Maybe see a customer try to assemble it or do it yourself to understand. I cut a neat hold to the right size, I think if a silicone O-ring was used instead there's a risk it could pinch or not seal well if the hole was slightly oversize. This is only a guess. There's also the chance I didn't do it up tightly enough with the first 2 goes but it was difficult without the correctly sized spanner.
Gryphon Brewing said:
Ok, I just need some thing to bore a hole into, could always use another HLT.
Free on Saturday morning Nev? You can use my HLT or Kettle as a tester as I need a 2400w element in each at some point.

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