The morning of the last update, I had finished wiring the heating element and had it installed in the kettle. I had just a few minutes left and fired everything up, only to have the temperature control read a ridiculously high reading (over 1000*) and the alarm go off. Something wasn’t quite right so I decided it was time to download and look at the manual for the PID. Low and behold, there were some settings that needed changed. Specifically, the sensor type needed set to “probe”. I changed the setting and instantly the reading coming in room temperature (there was no water in the kettle). I added 5 gallons of water and gave it another try. The temperature was right on, confirmed by my thermopen. I set it to heat to 120* and watched it go. Instantly you could see a shimmer and bubbles in the water around the element. It rose quickly too and held the temperature fairly well, but started to rise beyond the 120*. Just a small bug to work out, I’m sure. Holy shit, it’s working. It’s not that I didn’t anticipate it working, but it’s just really invigorating to have it all go so smoothly.
The next thing I needed to do was build my brew bench. Being electric, I can use a wooden bench to hold everything and have no issues. Off to Lowe’s I went for lumber. In an afternoon I had put it all together.
I plan on adding an HLT at one point and as you can see, there isn’t any room unless it was right in front of the control panel. When that day comes, I’ll have to move the control and spa panels. No problem there since there is plenty of room to move them to the wall on the left of the bench instead.
The next thing I needed to do was mount the control panel to the wall. Sure, it sits well on the bench but I’d rather have it static so that there isn’t any chance of wires or components rattling free inside. The 6 feet of cord for the plug is kinda overkill with it being mounted directly below the plug though.
Everything is almost done, I can taste it! The pump needs mounted to the lower shelf of the bench but the plug isn’t long enough to reach the control panel. I’ll just use an extension cord and replace the plug head on that to fit the locking outlet on the control panel. This will work well for when I move the panels too, having some slack in the cord.
My washing machine and water lines for it are directly to the left of the bench. I bought a few hose splicers with ball locks to enable me to run both hot and cold water to the brewery. I even found a couple quick-connects to make hooking them up simple. I will use the cold water hose for chilling and the hot water hose for cleaning.
Really the last thing to do was rig up the cam locks and high temperature tubing that will connect the mash tun and the boil kettle through the pump. I started by attaching a ball lock valve to the end of the pump. That way I can throttle it down if needed, if I end up pumping from the mash tun. Then the cam locks were installed and the hoses attached.
When taking off the barbed connector from my kettle, I realized how filthy the inside was. I decided it was a good time to remove everything from the kettle and give it a nice overnight oxy clean soak to remove any gunk from brewing. After only soaking for about half an hour, you can see how much has broken loose and is floating in the bucket. Pretty gross.
Wow, that feels good to clean the kettle as well as I did. I even rigged up an extra long pipe cleaner for the sight glass. It had an extra amount of gunk stuck in it. Everything is all cleaned and hooked up. I wanted to get an idea of what I will be dealing with, so I did a dry-run with water. This way I can see how it heats, how the pump works and how well the computer holds the temperature. After running an “auto-tune” on the computer, it is able to keep the temperature within a degree with no problems. With the heating coil and the temperature probe in the bottom of the kettle, I realized I will need to recirculate through the pump to maintain a good temperature throughout the whole volume of water. Here is Thomas helping me.
I have one more item left on my “To Do” list, which involved rigging up some sort of ventilation. Being in front of a window, I think there shouldn’t be any issues with this, but a fan is a good idea with the winter to keep the cold air out, at least. The windows in my basement are narrow, so I had to find a small fan that could fit the 22″ wide window. I found one on Amazon pretty cheap.
Wire a 220V Fuse to the location of the brewery Install and wire GFCI breaker
Install 30AMP Plug on GFCI breaker (to power to control panel) Drill holes in Control Panel box for various plugs and buttons Prime and Paint Control Panel box Install components Wire components Build wire and water-tight enclosure for heating element Install new plug on pump (I want twist-lock plugs so they don’t fall out as easily)
Drill Holes for Temperature Probe and Heating Element Install Temperature Probe and Heating Element (Maybe) Install quick-disconnects to make switching the pump easier
Build table to brew on Rig up some sort of ventilation (for moisture, not carbon monoxide)
So that’s it! It’s all done! There is only one thing left to do, BREW! I’ve got some WLP400 Belgian Wit yeast in the fridge so my first beer on the new system is obvious enough. Here is a short write up on my first brew from Friday, January 3rd.
I got started a little earlier than usual, being too excited. Normally I wait until 7ish since the kids would be going to bed shortly after, but I got started at 6. My strike water was about 55* and I accidentally left half of my grain in the freezer, so the volume of my grain ended up about 60*. Because of this, I needed 166* strike water but I wasnt sure how much temperature I could expect to lose running through the pump. I added on 2* just as a random guess.
The strike water heated pretty quickly. I was all mashed in by 6:30 and it turned out the 2* addition was just right; my mash temperature came out perfect. My parents had stopped by to see the kids so I was going upstairs to visit. I decided I would heat up the sparge water right them since the computer would hold the temperature for me.
After the hour of the mash, I came downstairs to find my sparge water temperature perfect. I drained the mash, sparged and ended up with an expected 11 gallons volume. The only disadvantage I have faced so far was having to drain the mash into buckets. But then again, I have always done this so I wouldn’t consider it a real disadvantage. This will change when I get an HLT and I will pump the mash into the boil kettle.
So it was time to start the boil. I had 11 gallons of 12 brix wort, roughly 1.048, which would boil down to 10 gallons of 1.053 as I expected. Everything is coming out as expected. My boil was going full force by 8:30, only 2.5 hours into the brew day. Pretty good! I hooked up the fan and the hop spider. I also decided I would put the wort chiller in the kettle for the whole boil. It can be a pain lifting the hop spider to put in the chiller. The chiller is resting directly on the heating element, it is worth mentioning.
During the boil, I turned the element down to maintain a steady boil, but in fear that I would scorch the wort. I was able to keep a rolling boil with the element on 75%. Here is a photo of the PID when I turned it down to 80% testing to see how low I could go with a good boil. You can see the lower number on the right hand element as the percentage when in “manual” mode. The temperature (the upper number) was reading 211* but it was still a good boil.
When the boil was done, I ended up with only 9.5 gallons so my boil off was a little more than expected. I hooked up my cold water hose to the chiller and ran in. While chilling, I ran the pump to recirculate the wort. Running boiling wort through the pump was a way for me to sanitize it as well. The chilling was a lot faster than normal. 18 minutes in, I had the wort at 73* so it was dropping an average of 7.75 degrees a minute. I am certain the recirculation was what sped this up for me. I only used 30 gallons of water to chill, which I had to keep track of since I was emptying buckets instead of just letting it run off into my yard.
All in all, everything ran extremely smooth. I shaved an hour and a half from my brew day total and didn’t get cold at all. My son Thomas really enjoyed me brewing in the basement since he was able to hang out and “help” most of the time. I enjoyed having him with me too. He even helped me eat the oranges I had to grate the peels off for the wit!
The only improvement I can make to this “start up” system is to install another ball valve and cam lock to the top of the kettle. This will be an input for recirculating water and wort. As you could see in the pictures, I was holding the recirculation tube down with the kettle lid. This worked fine but I would be afraid of it slipping out and draining water or wort all over the floor. A cam lock connector will hold it steady in place with no worries.
So, to sum it all up, it was a very smooth and quick brew day. I had no issues and got an efficiency of 80% as expected. And the only improvement I can think to make to the system is a minor one. Eventually I will upgrade it with a HLT and I really wish I would have drilled the holes for the additional buttons and plugs before painting and building the control panel. I’m afraid that will be kinda a disaster but whatever. I will deal with that when I get there.
I hope you enjoyed my series of write-ups for this build. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my experience with everyone.