Well, time to upgrade my three tier!!

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Well, time to upgrade my three tier!!

Post by jeff » Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:23 pm

After brewing a batch of ESB on my three tier gravity fed all-grain brewing system I started to feel a few pangs of brew system envy. Especially did I feel a need for something better when I started recirculating wort before the sparge - with a pyrex measuring cup!!

I'm embarrassed to say how much $$$ :shock: I've committed so far, but there's no turning back now. New weldless bulkheads (nice ones from Brewer's Hardware, all SS fittings and valves, silicone hi-temp tubing, pump, Honeywell standing pilot gas valves, Blichmann Engineering weldless BrewMometers and a lot more to come. Still need the temperature PIDs, sensors and assorted transformers and electrical switches.

Please chime in if you have some words of wisdom for me or would like to share your own stories of brewing system ingenuity. I will keep you posted..
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Upgrade

Post by slothrob » Thu Nov 10, 2011 9:28 pm

Enjoy!
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Post by bobcat_brewer » Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:34 am

Good luck Jeff. I'm still enjoying my gravity feed system. I've investigated building/purchasing a more automated system, but I really like the hands on I get out of my cheap, hand built gravity system.

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Hands-on brewing

Post by jeff » Sat Nov 12, 2011 6:39 pm

bobcat_brewer wrote:Good luck Jeff. I'm still enjoying my gravity feed system. I've investigated building/purchasing a more automated system, but I really like the hands on I get out of my cheap, hand built gravity system.
Yeah, I agree with you. Hands on brewing brings a lot of satisfaction. I've made great beer with my gravity fed system and the hands-on nature of my three tier is something that I am trying to preserve with this upgrade.

After all is said and done, the upgraded system will still be able to function as a gravity feed system if that type of brewing is desired. In the event that the new features are utilized, it is still a "semi-manual" brewing system. I say this because the design contrasts with brewing systems that completely automate the mashing process. Not so in my case. I still have to be on hand to switch valves and temperatures throughout the mash. However, it will be really cool to be able to dial in my temperatures with the digital controllers, start my timer, and let the system take over from there!
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Design considerations

Post by jeff » Sun Nov 13, 2011 2:49 pm

For those of you who may be following my brewing system upgrade project, I'm well along in sourcing all the parts and components. Here are a few notes about what was considered when drafting the design:
  • Automate recirculation through the grain bed
    Eliminate all brass valves and fittings to make the system lead-free
    Preserve gravity feed capabilities for flexibility
    Automate temperature control in HLT and mash tun
    Use only one pump
Because only one pump is used in the design, some interesting possibilities have come to light. Of course, using one pump requires the use of additional valves and plumbing, resulting in slightly more complexity.

Each kettle has an outlet valve at the bottom. The HLT and mash tun outlets connect to the pump inlet. The pump outlet connects to a manifold of 4 valves: one to the HLT heat exchanger inlet, one to the mash tun inlet (top), one to the boil kettle inlet (top) and one to waste. The heat exchanger outlet tees into the mash tun inlet (top). It's hard to picture so I'll post pictures when I actually have something built.

The basic premise for using 7 valves is to have many possibilities for sourcing and directing the flow of extract. Turning on the mash tun outlet valve and the mash tun inlet valve will simply recirculate the mash through the pump. Turning on the mash outlet valve and the heat exchanger inlet valve will circulate the extract through the heat exchanger and back into the mash. Turning on the HLT outlet valve and the mash tun outlet value and the mash tun inlet valve essentially performs an infusion using the pump as a mixer. Finally, turning on the mash tun outlet valve, the mash tun inlet valve and slowly turning on the kettle inlet valve performs a recirculation with a slow runoff to the kettle. Opening the HLT outlet while doing this can match the runoff with sparge water. How wide the valves are opened determines the duration of the sparge.

At this point, it's all theory. It might not work at all. If not, thank goodness for eBay!
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Post by jawbox » Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:45 pm

Jeff,

I'm slowly upgrading my own single tier (brutus 10) over to partial electric. I'll be using electric for the HLT and I've got a very sweet rims tube from brewers hardware. Will be powered by a BCS controller, hopes are I can have my strike water ready for me once I get home from work.

Trying to fit brewing in with a 7 month old has been difficult so far.

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Little league player here..

Post by jeff » Thu Nov 17, 2011 7:48 am

jawbox wrote:Will be powered by a BCS controller, hopes are I can have my strike water ready for me once I get home from work.
At first, I figured you were joking; but I guess you are totally serious? Hard to tell without the benefit of facial expression and voice inflection :? If coffee makers can do it I suppose beer makers can too! Keep us posted.
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Re: Little league player here..

Post by slothrob » Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:48 am

jeff wrote:
jawbox wrote:Will be powered by a BCS controller, hopes are I can have my strike water ready for me once I get home from work.
At first, I figured you were joking; but I guess you are totally serious? Hard to tell without the benefit of facial expression and voice inflection :? If coffee makers can do it I suppose beer makers can too! Keep us posted.
I talked to a brewer that used an electric bucket heater on a timer to start heating his strike water at 4-5 am. By the time he got up and made his coffee, an hour or two later, his water would be near strike temperature and he could mash in.

I'm not sure it saved him any real time, because he could have heated his water while he was putting the grain bill together. However, by milling the grain and measuring the water the night before, it allowed him to be finished brewing before 9-10 am and get back to his family.
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Post by jawbox » Sun Nov 20, 2011 9:05 pm

that's similar to my plan sloth. I can pre-mill grains measure hops night before and load up the HLT with water. Nice feature with the BCS is I can log into it over the web on my iphone, start the HLT heating when I leave work and mash in when I get home. Figure I could be wrapped up with a mid-week brew day by 9pm. Leaving weekends wide open for family fun.
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Brewing system temperature control box

Post by jeff » Tue Nov 29, 2011 1:10 pm

Hey, all. It's definitely not as sophisticated as the BCS system, but I've made some progress on the temperature control panel. The unit will control the HLT burner, the pump and the mash tun burner. Here are some pics:

Creating a test circuit for running an LED on 120 VAC. This LED is the pump indicator light.
Image

The hole configuration printed and affixed to the box lid to show the hole locations and protect the lid during cutting.
Image

The control panel lid with most components installed. Just missing a couple LEDs.
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Post by jawbox » Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:05 pm

That testing looks very safe. :P
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Post by jeff » Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:22 pm

jawbox wrote:That testing looks very safe. :P
Hey, I wore safety glasses 8)
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Brewing system gas assembly

Post by jeff » Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:21 pm

Just completed the LP gas plumbing assembly with Honeywell gas valves:
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Last edited by jeff on Mon Dec 12, 2011 9:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Installed Gas Plumbing

Post by jeff » Tue Dec 06, 2011 5:55 pm

Custom mounting posts:
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Mounting post welded to the brewing system frame:
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Plumbing installed:
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Post by jawbox » Tue Dec 06, 2011 9:27 pm

Looking good Jeff
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