I finally got to brew on my new brewery setup today. 4 months ago I decided I didn’t want to brew outside anymore, I didn’t want to haul all the equipment outside and back inside, I didn’t want to stand around in the cold and rain and, most of all, I was convinced I’d never be able to brew the same beer twice with the equipment I had.
Moving everything into the basement was a great option except I didn’t feel comfortable using two 70,000+ BTU burners inside the house for 4 hours and worrying that the carbon monoxide would kill the wife and kids or, worse, me! To compare, a high-end residential kitchen stove gas burner is 25,000 BTUs, “normal” stove burners are more like 15,000. I also wanted to brew more than 5 gallons at a time, which was about the maximum for my equipment. Time to upgrade!
Making a dedicated space for brewing meant that I wouldn’t spend 30 minutes before and after brewing to move my equipment outside and back inside the house. I also wouldn’t fill the kitchen and pantry area with all my equipment. I also decided on a HERMS system to maintain mash temperatures that my converted Rubbermaid coolers couldn’t do. And I wanted PID-controlled temperature sensors to maintain temperatures so the process would be consistent batch-to-batch so I can fine-tune recipes that I can brew commercially eventually. And an electric system would eliminate the carbon monoxide danger (although it drastically increases the electrocution danger!). Since I live in Seattle where electricity is generated by water power, environmentalists would be happy that the brewery uses no fossil fuels.
Now I have it all installed and I brewed my first batch on it. It went great, especially considering I was learning an entire new system. The temperature during the mash process was constant, it was constantly being recirculated through the heat exchange coil so the wort should be more clear (hard to tell on the Porter I brewed), because of the constant temperature and the constant recirculation, my efficiency was 85% versus 75% on my previous system (and I expect that to go higher as I get better at using it), moving liquids around is much faster and easy with the pumps, a sink nearby is handy for washing things and throwing dirty things, and I no longer have to worry about running out of propane. If it wasn’t already a huge improvement, the brewery is in the room next to the gym so I could keep an eye on it while I was in the gym and I even worked out during the hour-long mash today. Previously, I had to forego workouts on brew days.
I still have problems to resolve. I make an incredible mess because I’m not used to so many hoses, valves and pumps and am constantly spilling water all over the floor. I’m determined to clean the kettles in-place rather than clean them in the sink and I can’t do that very easily or efficiently yet. The table is the standard 36″ table height but the tall kettles make it hard to reach into them to clean them, so I will probably cut 4″ off the legs to lower everything. And I need a place to store equipment to dry and still within easy reach.