March 11, 2012
As previously posted, I’m looking at coverting my brew stand over to a pump-driven one. I have blogged about the benefits previously, but one of them is a physically smaller stand due to fact that the pump can take over where gravity was the sole force for moving liquids from vessel to vessel.
The last stand I designed on some graph paper and this worked out well – although I did miss a couple of key dimensions along the way, and as a result the stand ended up even taller that I needed it (well only by 15cm or so, but still!) This time around I’ve embraced the digital age and am doing all the design on Google Sketchup. It’s free and pretty easy to use, once you think and design in the google-approved fashion.
Here’s the current gravity-fed frame… (click for bigger images)
As you can see it’s pretty tall (the person has been scaled to my size). Don’t get me wrong – it works wonderfully! But the HLT is a little awkward to fill with a garden hose, unless standing on a milk crate. And although the mash tun is high for tipping in the grain, it is conveniently at eye-level for sparging and cracking the lid to sneak a glimpse inside. As big as it is, I can still fit it in my Honda Civic hatchback after making it break down into three sections!
Here’s what the new frame might look like…
I’ve designed it literally from the ground up – taking note of the key heights that need to match up for gravity feed. The kettle is located such that it can still hot-cube a standard Willow brand jerry can. Next the CFC is positioned so that its outlet can fill both of my fermenter sizes. And lastly the HLT needs to be able to gravity sparge. After creating models of my brew equipment, it was a fantastic design experience to be able to rotate the camera and see how everything lined up and adjust as necessary.
As you can see, with this design the HLT can be peered into, the mash tun is at waist height and the heavy kettle is nice and low. Turning the mash tun sideways has saved a little length, but I’m yet to fully embrace that decision – I worry it may cop a bit of heat from the burner.
February 2, 2012
More brewing on the go – so no change there. I’m 19 brews in and all is going well with the setup, with some very reliable results.
One area that did concern me was missing a strike temp a few brews back (#16). It was a hot brewday (>30C) and all my previous brewing was fairly cold weather. My target temp was around 64C but things soared well into the seventies. Very out of character for my setup! The resulting brew needed some serious gravity corrections and in the process a dry ale ended up tasting more like a Belgian! As unplanned as it was, it was still rather tasty… 😉
So lately I’ve been using my various temperature probes fitted to the HLT and mash tun to keep a track of water temps as they travel throughout the process. I’m hoping that this data, combined with ambient air temps, will serve as the basis of a lookup table for future brews. And so far the results have been good…
I’ve also been toying with the idea of converting my gravity-feed (5-tier!) brew frame into a low profile 2-tier system by moving to a pump-driven system. It must be more than just toying because I’ve already got the pump and a welder sitting here ready to go! It will permit a much lower and smaller brew frame (which also means more stable), a permanent home for the CFC (and the ability to force wort through it at higher pressures than simply gravity – hello hop-backs) and the option of more complex systems (such as a HERMS coil in the HLT). But I’m really pretty reticent to go at my perfectly functioning frame with a cutting disk. Time will tell…
May 5, 2011
Yesterday I decided that enough was enough and it was time for the brew stand to be finished. We’ll perhaps not finished (is anything ever finished?), but at least catapult it forward into a usable state.
I found some powder coated steel shelving outside a house, which the owner told me was trash. They were the perfect thing for making the various work surfaces and bracing key parts of the stand. The lips even stop things like the plastic mash tun from sliding around too much, and the perforations will be useful in preventing water pooling.
I added some galvanised sheet steel to create a firewall to hopefully prevent rising hot air from the Mongolian burner from reaching the plastic mash tun and melting it into a slick. I also added some small side skirts to keep the tap of the boiling kettle out of the line of fire.
Lastly the Mongolian burner itself got mounted using a slidable frame and some threaded rod it is now conveniently height adjustable. The burner was fired up and nothing melted or burnt to the ground.
With things like my spare grain stored on the bottom shelf it all seems pretty stable. I don’t like the idea of the HLT descending on me!
I’m looking forward to getting my first brew on where I don’t have to lift a thing all day.
April 26, 2011
Dangerous Dave and his dad, Russ, kindly volunteered their time to help put the brew stand together. After not-entirely successful weld tutorial from Russ, it was pretty clear that the stand wasn’t going to stumble into a three-dimensional existence at the hands of me and Dave. Russ very generously offered himself as hired gun.
Despite battling every imaginable obstacle – driving rain, poor welding rods, too small a work surface, an unrealistic time allocation – the skeleton of a handsome brew stand emerged!
Yes, we finished very much in the dark…
April 13, 2011
After visiting the steel suppliers the afternoon was spent behind a tape measure, set square and angle grinder.
All the stock for my brew stand is cut and ready to go in kit form. Now to track down someone with a welder!
April 13, 2011
My brewing equipment is working like an absolute charm. What isn’t so convenient is that I’m working off one small collapsible workbench and a handful of strategically placed milk crates. This means that things tend to be pretty cramped and balanced fairly e (which isn’t great in the case of the water urn – 20L of boiling water!), and every time I finish one stage I need to rearrange everything for the next.
The boiling kettle gets heated on the ground balanced on stacks of house bricks. The mongolian puts out a fair amount of heat and it’s only a matter of time before either a brick shatters or the whole lot topples over. Again, this is up to 40L of boiling sugary liquid forming a tsunami of third degree burns. Once the boil is over I have to man-handle the full kettle onto my workbench before it cools so that I can decant the wort into jerry cans.
The solution for addressing all these issues is a brew stand, where every piece of equipment has its place and each can gravity feed into the next. No heavy lifting and a stable, fixed place for everything.
So far I have whipped up a quick paper design and headed off to the steel merchants for some stock. A quick side note: Edcon Steel in Brookvale do square hollow section (SHS) for one quarter the price that Bunnings wants – just showing how expensive a standard hardware store is for basic materials.
Next step is to cut my bill of materials…