Building a three tier brewing system

January 2, 2003 at 4:05pm

Author(s): Lathe Poland

If you are like BeerTools founder Jeff Fowler you are tired of the hassles associated with one or two pot brewing. It can be a nuisance to control flow when transferring sparge water, extract, and wort using hose clamps. How about the joy of negotiating burner space to maintain the sparge water and the mash tun temperatures. Lifting pots of hot liquid onto counter tops or work benches for gravity feed can be cumbersome and dangerous. Jeffs solution to these and other challenges was to build a three tier rack system similar to those offered by homebrew suppliers.

The thing that sparked his idea was a sale that Costco (a U.S. wholesale warehouse) had on 32 quart turkey fryers. He bought three for about $75 usd ea. Each stainless steel pot came with a lid and a burner with stand.

The next thing he needed was a rack system that could support the weight of the three vessels. Jeff visited his local metal salvage yard and found approx. 30 ft. of 1 1/2" square tubing that was 3/16" thick. At 18 cents a pound it worked out to around 20 dollars of material. He wanted the rack footprint to be relatively small so he went with a staggered design that placed the sparge vessel directly over the brewing pot. He utilized the existing burners and stands in his design. The pieces for a simple rack were cut and welded in a couple of hours.

Now he needed to figure out how to install valves that wouldn't require welding. The solution was found in the plumbing section of a home improvement store. A few online picture revealed how to assemble a simple wield-less fitting using 1/2" MIP to 3/8" compression adaptor. The design of this adaptor allows for the use of a number 206 O-ring slipped over the compression side of the adaptor to seal against the outside of the vessel wall when inserted into the pot. The compression ferrule is removed to allow the compression nut to tighten against the inside wall of the pot. The O-ring is made from a special material called viton, which can tolerate temperatures up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

The mash/lauter tun would need a false bottom for extraction. Jeff found scrap perforated stainless steel at a scrap yard that to his delight was 3/32" holes on 3/16" centers. Which is ideal for false bottom use. Although circular it had to be trimmed to fit the bottom of the pot. A piece of stainless steel round rod was bent into a circle to fit the diameter of the pot as well. This served to provide clearance under the false bottom. A hole was drilled in the middle of the false bottom, and a piece of stainless tube was used to connect this hole to the valve. (This tube was locked in place when the valve was inserted)

The valve holes were drilled smaller the the target 9/16". A tapered grinder was used to size and de-burr the hole. The holes were drilled 2" above the bottom of the pots. Teflon tape was used to seal the threads in the valve assemblies. Now that the pots were complete the three tier rack system could be assembled. The burner stands were slid on, the pots were positioned and finally the vinyl tubing was affixed. The last step was to connect the propane tanks to the system.

Now comes the fun part, brewing! This system is very easy to use and it saves a lot of time and energy. The pots and burners cost about $240, the materials for the rack was around $20 and the valves and fittings ran an additional $30, the propane tanks ran a total of $50 for two. The whole system was made for around $350 usd.

Jeff can now make triple, triple was a beer that he couldn’t make formerly because of volume limitations. He remarked “If I make three or four batches of triple, I have basically covered the cost of the rack system.”