Getting into the game—please critique my proposed brewery

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the_gntlmn

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Hello, first timer here! This will be long; grab a beer and strap yourself in:

I spend a goodly amount of money drinking cheap(ish) beer accepting that cans are cheaper than bottles per vessel and just living with it. I used to drink Cooper’s all of the time as a younger man when it was $35 a carton (and it would last a fortnight!); however, I rarely fork out for it anymore. God forbid a stout or anything different like a Vienna lager et al! I wish to change this and to also enable me to broaden my education in style and type while eventually saving money in the longer term.

With that in mind, and the following goal and design limitations, I am currently working on designing a brewery concept having attempted with a Cooper’s kit a couple of years ago with horrendous result. Having read How to Brew, The Complete Joy of Home Brewing, and Brewing Classic Styles in the last week and a half after watching a fair bit of YouTube and reading a significant volume of AHB’s threads, I have arrived at the following conclusion: controlling the fermentation process is the most important aspect of production aside from the standard considerations of sanitisation/quality ingredients et cetera.

Goal

AG capable system with the ability to simultaneously ferment and condition ales and lagers with a view to self-reliance. I want to be able to brew great beers for the future while drinking good beer in the present, if that makes sense.

Design limitations and generic assumptions

- Portable—Must be conducive to a rental lifestyle
- Multi-purpose—I have been advised to pursue AG straight up; however, the ability to smash together a quick and easy extract batch remains appealing
- Sustain 1x keg/batch per fortnight output minimum
- Fit in a standard ‘two’ car garage with a permanent vehicular resident and other tooling/equipment
- All refrigeration units will need to be purchased second hand
- I will go through ales at twice the rate of lagers due to the conditioning periods—generally—associated with each type
- Function comes before form
- Various ales will be fermented and conditioned at the same temperature (a trade-off for the quest of self-reliance…)

Brew system

One vessel BIAB, incorporating the Big W pot a la QLDKev
- 50L SS pot with appropriate accoutrement and a sight glass
- QD fittings
Solitary pump (1-1.4A draw)
Gas powered

Fermentation and conditioning system

NB: Current intent is to no chill/cube ferment
- 2x upright freezers with a 4x20L jerry capacity minimum (1 for lagering, 1 for fermenting/conditioning ales)
- 1x bar fridge/freezer for primary fermentation of lagers
- 1x STC-1000/heating mat per unit

Distribution

Higher gravity beverages to be bottled post-conditioning for subsequent bottle ageing. 1x ale and 1x lager on tap at all times (with excess bottled for science/history), with 4x keg capacity in a keezer.

Discussion

I move pretty regularly with work, which means I cannot guarantee what kind of circuit I’m going to get in what kind of space which, for my mind, rules me out of going with a RIMS or even a modified HERMS 2V set up to simply extend the 1V concept, but still be able to heat and pump sparge water then replace with ice/cold water to facilitate a rapid chill. As I currently live in sub-tropical environment or could move to tropical or temperate climates, the ability to control fermentation and conditioning is most important to me. I was unable to do this two years ago which, probably along with sanitation, was my greatest downfall. A barely insulated single car garage, doors east and west facing, in summer did not set me up for a good start (I was not allowed inside).

I see the production of ales and lager as asynchronous and things which need to be managed separately, hence the requirement for separate conditioning vessels and an additional vessel for lager fermentation. I also see the production of lagers as an expansion to the production of ale due to the extra equipment required, though something I definitely wish to pursue.

With the keezer/kegging, it will remain basic and be the last component of the system to be considered aesthetically. No collar, no SS hardware; just an STC-1000 with party nozzles. More kegs would be purchased before more taps in order to condition in the final vessel and reduce the risks of racking, but I don’t see a way around it at the moment.

I acknowledge that this is probably way too into it for someone who hasn’t attempted a brew for two years, but I would like to plan properly so that I can basically buy once and cry once. Please tear my reasoning apart; this is my sanity check before I started buying equipment! Your assistance is greatly appreciated.
 

Judanero

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If it were me:

-Lose the sight glass on the kettle, either mark volumes on a stainless ruler or etch onto the kettle itself.

-Two upright freezers is good, I would keep one for fermenting ales and one for lagers- utilising jerry cans to ferment in will allow you a few on the go at any given time but I would swap the bar fridge for a tucker box chest freezer- you will pick one up for next to nix and they're great for lagering in (but can be a bit awkward to move the fv in and out of especially if you have a bad back or are injured).
Move a jerry can into there for three days before transferring to kegs, my tucker box could fit two jerrys in it.
Make sure you have a bunch of 12v fans in all the fridges/freezers to move the air about.


- What is the purpose of the big W pot? Is that your sparge water vessel? (Assuming BIAB?)

-You could always run an urn and BIAB? They will run off a standard 10A GPO, leave a very small footprint, and are portable.

-If you have your heart set on gas though you could move up to a 70L pot and brew double batches, one cube for lager and cube hop the other one for an ale.

However you go once it is setup it will take a few runs to develop your routine and learn how to make things work for you.
 

the_gntlmn

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The Big W pot is the 'bag'—a la QLD Kev's system, which has caught my eye. The gas is a trade-off between potentially overloading a circuit and the cost of a crown urn. I figured that I could always modify the SS pot to incorporate that into a HERMS when the opportunity arises. It is cheap and easy enough for me to get into the brewing while saving my funds for more expensive freezers. My heart will always cry full-electric with a sweet controller, but I surmise it's easier to control a gas cook than a wet-towel fermentation in summer ;)

I will amend my original post for clarification; thank you.
 

dropbear85

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mate have a look at the Robobrew. Great system for someone starting out. by the time you stuff around getting all the parts to build your own you will probably spend just as much and it might not be as good.
https://youtu.be/K_fTD0ezZBM
 

droid

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fermenting in cubes with a large opening is easy for cleaning, fermenting in plastic jerry can style containers is a PITA for cleaning
 

manticle

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Cleaning cubes is pretty easy actually.
You just need to make sure you don't leave them for ages post ferment. Rinse immediately on emptying, then fill with enough boiling water and sodium percarbonate or pbw to cover any krausen scum when turned upside down.
Soak for an hour or overnight, empty, rinse, sanitise.

Occasional super stubborn scunge can be loosened by the addition of some raw rice and a shake but the need for this is rare.
 

TheWiggman

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If you want a simple 1V system and will be moving around a lot seriously consider a Braumeister or Grainfather. Both are all-in-one, tidy, simple and provide all the features you need to make excellent beer. Otherwise you could BIAB with an urn or large pot, in which case there is no real need for the pump. But, up to you, because if like me you like the build process then make whatever 1V system you want. In which case I agree about skipping on the sight glass. I prefer cam lock fittings over QD.
That with 2 temp controlled fridges/freezers will get you a long way. I find that one fridge acting as a literal fridge (1-3°C) gets constant use as a conditioning fridge whereas the other works for fermenting. Just consider though that ales and lagers ferment at different temps, so when doing a lager it will take up one fridge until it's been cold crashed and transferred to the secondary or keg. If to the keg, that's no worries as you can put that straight in your keg fridge until the lagering is done. But you can't really ferment more than one lager at a time.
You've done some good reading there and are well armed. Start simple with the basics and then find out what you want after you have some brews under the belt. Any system these days will make good beer regardless of how complicated or simple, it's all about how you use it.
 

stux

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Re the pot. Go for a 70L. The 50l is great for single batches, but with your fermentation schedule you will probably find you want to make 2 cubes from a single 4-5 hour mash day. And a 70L will allow that, while still allowing single batches.

With the upright freezers, you want one without cooling lines in the shelves. I actually use upright all fridges instead.
 

hathro

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Braumeister/Grainfather or 40L urn. Brew when you can, stockpile your wort in cubes. Ferment and package as necessary.
 

technobabble66

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I'd look at 2 choices for your kettle.
First is an electric urn if you're only doing single batches (up to ~30L). Unless your rental properties are likely to have ridiculously bad electrics, it should be fine on any circuit. The all-in-one aspect of an electric urn is fantastic - you just plug it in and hit go! Also, you have the option later on to integrate programmable controllers so you can wake up at 7am with everything ready to go.
Second option is if you want to do double or triple batches. This sounds likely given your consumption. In which case I'd go with exactly as Stux ^^^ said.
 

HBHB

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For electric BIAB and single batches, definitely the Crown urn, For single vessel and better efficiency plus chilling, recirc etc, then Grainfather for many so reasons. But if going double batches, then you'll be wanting for a 70L pot as a few have already mentioned.
 

Coodgee

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2 fermenting fridges seems a bit excessive. You can ferment and condition ales and lagers in the same bog fridge if you are smart about it. I have a lager fermenting at 10 degrees at the moment with two ales in secondary getting a bit of age. I can generally have lagers and ales on tap at the same time by planning carefully.
 

wobbly

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  • At the outset you stated /concluded that controlling the fermentation process is the most important aspect of production
  • Further you again state the ability to control fermentation and conditioning is most important to you
  • Must be portable
  • Ability to do All Grain however extract batch remains appealing
  • You want to pay once and only cry once
  • I will be hounded as a "Troll" for suggesting this but have you considered a Williamswarn Personal Brewery (Google it if you are not aware of this machine)
  • It will address all of your concerns about controlling the fermentation process
  • Wort in - chilled, carbonated, clarified beer out in 7 to 10 days depending if its an Ale or lager
  • Will ferment any "wort" either derived from an All grain set up or Extract
  • Production can be consumed straight from the machine, bottled or keged
  • Gets trashed a lot on this site but there are a few members that have one that choose to remain silent due to the continual adverse/negative comments they get from other members that most likely have never seen a unit let alone tried a beer from one
  • If you go down this route their are heaps of recipes on their web site of "pimped" kits
  • I have one and brew/fermented both All Grain wort produced in my Braumeister as well as some extract brews using some of their kits or Blackrock (both produced in the Speights brewery in NZ)
  • Expensive yes but does the superbly
  • Harvey Norman in Australia have a 50 month interest free deal available
Wobbly
 

SBOB

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wobbly said:
  • I will be hounded as a "Troll" for suggesting this but have you considered a Williamswarn Personal Brewery (Google it if you are not aware of this machine
Wobbly
Considering it fails his first 'Goal':
I want to be able to brew great beers for the future while drinking good beer in the present, if that makes sense.

but anyway
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the_gntlmn

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IRT Wobbly: You are correct in your assessment regarding the WilliamsWarn and my needs; however, I do not have that kind of budget and am not willing to interest free/credit any of this having coming out of the red recently.

I perhaps should have added originally that I'm a bit of a DIY masochist and interested in the build as well as the output. In that respect, I also want to participate in the process a little more than a fire and forget system. Does this present a bit of contradiction in what I'm after? Perhaps. Plenty of food for thought coming in though from everyone, which is greatly appreciated :) Always more research to be done!
 

stux

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Coodgee said:
2 fermenting fridges seems a bit excessive. You can ferment and condition ales and lagers in the same bog fridge if you are smart about it. I have a lager fermenting at 10 degrees at the moment with two ales in secondary getting a bit of age. I can generally have lagers and ales on tap at the same time by planning carefully.
Nah :)

It's a good idea. I use two fermenting fridges, they change roles from ale or lager ferment chambers to cold crashers and even fridges depending, without having to move the fermenters ;). Only way to overlap ferments AND cold crash.
 
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