Category: Brewhouse

The Kettle

The first thing I think I’ll have to make in my Electric Brewery is the kettle. There are a couple of simple reasons it has to be the starting point. First, even if I get no other part of this brewery going, having a kettle means I can make beer. I can BIAB or make extract beers with just the kettle.

Second, it will allow me to have something with which I can test the controls using the BrewPi Spark. I can set up the kettle’s SSR and a thermocouple and test heating the water or maintaining a temperature without having already built the rest of the setup.

So, the plan is to use a keggle I received as a gift when a friend upgraded his system to brew much larger batched of beer. (I believe he can make 30 gallon batches now.) I have two converted kegs, but I also have my 15 gallon Bayou Classic kettle that can be used. I am still debating whether I should use the Bayou Classic as my mash tun, try to convert another keg I have (for the matching set), or if I should stick with the tried and true cooler mash tun I have used for years.

Regardless, I can always start with the cooler and migrate over later, so I’m starting with that. So I need to build a Hot Liquor Tank from one keg and the keggle from the other keg, and we’re starting with the keggle first.

Now, the BrewPi temp sensors are 1/2″ NPT male fittings with a thermowell on the end. Like this:

Wall-mounted weldless thermowell with one-wire attachment for BrewPi spark
BrewPi wall-mounted thermowell. Mine are not weldless wall-mounted, so we’ll be putting them in T-fittings at the ball valve while recirculating.

Since the kettle is first, I don’t really need a thermometer in the kettle wall. Even for the mash tun, I will likely put the thermowell on the output so I can measure the temperature as it recirculates.

I have several of these thermowells at my disposal (though mine are shorter and not already weldless), so I could theoretically also use some in the walls at a later time if I want. I also have some weldless brewing thermometers that have the dial faces on them, as well.

OK, so at a minimum, the kettle needs to have the 220 heating element put into it and a thermowell on the way out of it so you can measure the temperature as it is being whirlpooled. It would be nice to have a pickup tube on the inside, but I don’t happen to have one right now, so we’ll ignore that for now.

The bonus of inheriting the kettle from a friend is that it is already drilled for a weldless bulkhead and already has the top cut off of it. So I mostly need to assemble the heating element and mount it and to mount the bulkhead with the thermowell in a T fitting on the outside of the bulkhead.

Electric Brewing

Empty worktable with a kegerator and unfinished walls. An empty brew room waiting for the electric brewing system to be built.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Empty brew room waiting for an electric brewery.

I’ve planned for a long time to make a transition to electric brewing. Propane is expensive and you have to refill the canisters constantly, especially when using a very high BTU burner. In addition, with kids around, propane can be pretty dangerous.

Even without kids around, I’ve seen some pretty scary accidents. Once, at a big brew day out at the homebrewery in Ozark, Missouri, I watched someone melt the leg on their burner enough that it gave out under the weight of the kettle, pouring scalding hot wort all over the ground. Luckily, no one was hurt, but it was a dangerous, sudden, thing, and startled quite a few people.

At any rate, I have wanted to make the transition to electric brewing for a long time. I have even had a 220 put into the garage at each of the last 2 houses I lived at for this reason, but I’ve never completed the transition to electric brewing. I told myself for a long time that it was because of a lack of time or money, but those excuses are starting to get pretty thin.

The real reason is because I didn’t prioritize it. I could always brew with propane if I wanted to brew, or I could go out to my dad’s house and brew on his electric system if I want to (he has a very nice Blichmann Breweasy setup).

I have other reasons, too, but they are all pretty crappy. One of them is because I didn’t know whether I should use this Brewpi Spark I bought years ago or if I should just go with hardware switches and a temp controller to manually control things. The Brewpi is fancy as hell and would be fun, but it’s also complicated to learn, I think, and it’s a self-introduced hurdle between me and brewing my first all-electric batch. I’m a software engineer, so it appeals to me to be able to put the Brewpi data up somewhere on the web for nerd cred.

Anyway, today I am re-launching this project for myself in a new way. I’m going to make it a priority and work to make a concrete plan on how to get the brewery running, what bite-sized pieces I can break it into, and then work to make progress every week until the first batch is brewed. The first step today is to make the plan.

I’ll keep you posted.

Back to Brewing

I started brewing about 20 years ago, in 2000. At first, it was just extract kits in my tiny apartment kitchen, but eventually the hobby grew. I helped found the largest homebrew club in Southwest Missouri along the way, and, int he way it does, life happened.

I got married, had some kids, and eventually stopped going to homebrew meetings as time demands from my family and career eventually crowded out beer and brewing. As of writing this, it’s been about a year since I brewed, and at least 2 years since I brewed on my own equipment. Since then, I’ve made a batch of cider or two, and maybe a mead, but I’ve not made any new beer in at least 2 years.

Today, I found out this domain name was available for me again. It was the domain I had on my original brewing blog, so I snatched it back up because I’m starting a new beer adventure, and I thought it would be worth blogging about it as I go.

So, today, as I step into the adventure of building my new all-electric brew house in preparation for resuming the hobby, I’m also starting this new blog. I may be screaming into the void of the internet, but at least it gives me something to do to keep myself moving forward on the project, and maybe it will help you as you take on some of these challenges, as well.

I’ll also share recipes, tips, tricks, and maybe some science and things along the way. I hope you’ll stick around and join me. Thanks for stopping by.

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