Somewhere around the end of last year, we went on a mission to build an electric brewery. Some of you may wonder why we wouldn't go the option of gas or propane as a fuel source. We'll get around to answering that later. Maybe I will do a video or something. Let's get right to the fun pictures!
Let's start with the control box! At the heart of any electric brewing setup is a big control box full of "parts and wire". I have built many things over the years. I have even created my own circuit boards using those little acid kits that Radio Shack used to sell. But circuit design is over my head. I found a really great design at SkrilNetz.com and the price was right, $5 for a PDF with all the gory details.
Building the box was expensive, and time consuming. But buying a product like this commercially could cost thousands of dollars. I went the route of ordering most of my parts from China, and some of my parts from eBay. For instance, the box itself is a Siemens brand cabinet rated for high voltage electronics. New, it retails around $600. I bought mine new in the box on eBay for $42! But the temperature controllers for the Mash and Hot Liquor Tank were around $30 each. I was able to get a generic model from China that included three other parts for around $25. The savings really added up!
We also needed a couple of large vessels. That is, a hot liquor tank, a mash tun, and a boil kettle. One day I would like to own three nice matching stainless steel tanks. But that's an expensive investment, and so I went looking for less expensive options. That's when I found that there are stainless steel tanks everywhere. You just have to know where to look. Stainless cleans up and sanitizes very easily - so you don't need to be afraid of using used lab or medical equipment.
This tank can hold upwards of 35 gallons. You need some head space with a brew to avoid a boil over. But I can hit 25 gallons in this tank without any problems. We bought this from a couple out in the Cuyahoga area for a grand total of $100. It was not in the best shape (it has some dents and dings). But it's constructed from 304 stainless steel - and it doesn't leak. That's tough to beat!
Boiling this amount of water could be tough - so I actually added two electrical elements. One is a 5500 watt 220v element that is controlled by "the box". The second is a 2000 watt 110v element that is controlled by flipping a switch on the wall. Together - they can boil a lot of water, fast! How fast? We will have to see once we get at least 10 gallons to brew.
If you were keeping track, we only have ONE steel kettle. We still need two more. Finding another two large stainless vessels for $100 a piece might take a while. In the meantime - I bought coolers. Water will not boil in these. We just need large containers that can withhold temperatures up to 174 degrees or so.
Brewing in a basement when you're 6 foot 4 is tough. Like most folks, I have ventilation and pipes of all sorts running everywhere. They tend to jump out and hit me in the head. In an effort to stop hitting my head on things, I thought I would keep count. Hence, "OUCH MY HEAD".
I still need valve, a chiller, and some temperature probes (thermocouples) to finish this monster. And did you notice that weird bag/net thing? We'll get to that one later!