Instructables

Electric beer brewing system

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Picture of Electric beer brewing system
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Brewing beer with electricity is a great way to both simplify and increase your level of control during the process.  By adding an electric heating element directly to your kettle you can avoid the limited working space and heat output of a conventional stovetop and the space restrictions that come with a propane burner.  Because the heating element is directly immersed in the water/wort, it also results in an extremely efficient transfer of heat.  You'll be able to heat water/wort faster, cheaper, and more precisely than with a propane burner.

If you're thinking about doing an electric build, I highly recommend you visit The Electric Brewery.  This is a fantastic resource where Kal shows you in-depth step-by-step details on how to create his electric brewery setup which is among the finest out there.    HomeBrewTalk.com is another great source of information with a dedicated electric brewing forum.  Many of the members there were a great help in putting together my setup.

Building an electric brewery setup isn't exactly cheap, but this instructable will show you how to build a basic combo hot liquor tank (HLT) & brew kettle (BK) setup as simply and inexpensively as possible--the entire setup can be assembled for around $300, a third of which is setting up the 240V supply outlet.  The heating in this case is done with a 5500W hot water heater element powered by a 240V electic supply.  This setup is also easily upgraded by adding a second kettle in the future.to have a dedicated HLT and BK.
 
 
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Step 1: Parts list

Foreword:
I'm going to list the bulk of the parts needed here.  There are a couple small things like machine screws, nuts, etc... I don't list because I'm assuming that if you think you can handle this project, then you have a coffee can full of them sitting around somewhere.  Aside from basic tools like a reciprocating saw, drill, vice, and so forth, you will need a set of step bits for drilling holes in the keg.  I used these harbor freight bits and they worked out just fine.  If you have the fancy punches, more power to you, but they're not required.


Parts list--The control panel
The control panel is the center of the electric brewery.  It will plug into your electric supply, monitor the water/wort temperature, and control the heating element.  While we will be building a simple version with control for a single element, these can be as complex as you want with alarms, timers, switches, and the like.

Auberins.com
PID temperature controller SYL-2352, $44.50:  The PID is the ‘brain’ of your electric brewery.  This reads the temperature and controls the heat output via the SSR.  This particular model is highly regarded and can be run from a 120V or 240V electric supply.
Weldless RTD temperature probe PT100-L50M14, $33.95:  The RTD temperature probe is what is responsible for actually measuring the temperature sent to the PID.  This particular item is for a weldless fitting.  You can get it in either a 2 or 4" probe, but having gone with a 4" I feel a 2" would be better if mounting directly on the kettle wall.
Panel mount connector for RTD sensor RTDCON, $3.75:  A panel mount connector allows you to disconnect the probe from both the control panel and kettle.

eBay.com
40 amp SSR with heatsink, ~$12:  The SSR turns allows is the switch that allows electricity to pass to the element and is turned on/off by the PID.  They can be found fairly cheaply on eBay.
Panel mount fuse holder, ~$3:  At only $3, it's a worthwhile investment to protect the expensive PID with a cheap fuse.  Make sure you get one designed for 30mm fuses to ensure easy to find local replacements.
Thermal compound, ~$1:  This will help heat transfer between the SSR and the heat sink.  If you already have some that works too.

Home Depot
2-space Eaton load center #BR24L70SGP, $12.47:  The load center will serve as the housing for the control panel.  By using a load center it already includes all the lugs and terminal bars needed for the main power connections, and it's cheap.
30-amp 2-pole flush-mount outlet #621336, $5.29:  This is the outlet the kettle will connect to.
3/4 in. twin-screw clamp connectors 5 pack #20512, $3.82:  Connectors to secure electric supply to control pannel.  Also used to secure wire to circuit breakers, spa panel, and outlet if installing new supply line.
0.5 amp fast blow fuse 5 pack #AGC-1/2, $1.68:  Fuses for fuse holder.

Amazon.com
Petra 4-wire 10' dryer cord #90-2028, $19.35:  Wire and plug that will connect control panel to electric source.  If using a different outlet make sure you get a cord that will fit the proper style.  At 10' it's long enough to cut a couple feet off to use where 10G wire is needed for wiring inside of the control panel.
J-B Weld 8265-S Cold Weld, $4.98:  Used to secure heat sink, kettle cover plate, and just an all around useful thing to have.

Grainer.com (Optional)
25 amp DPST toggle swtich #S331R, $12.04.  Without a switch to completely cut power to the heating element, one leg will always be hot.  This is an okay practice if, just exercise caution whenever you have the kettle plugged in.  You may want to add a toggle switch to completely disconnect power to the element from the control panel.  It's something I may still go back and do at some point, I'm really only skipping it because the test button on the line cord functions as a kill switch for me.  When installing this switch, it is wired in between the SSR and the kettle outlet in the control panel.


Parts list--Electric supply
The electric kettle is going to need a 240V power source to plug into.  At full power a 5500W element will pull somewhere around 24-amps, so it should be protected with a 30 amp breaker and wired with 10G wire or thicker.  It should also be GFCI protected similar to outlets in a bathroom or kitchen for safety.  The problem is high amp GFCI breakers are very expensive.  The cheapest route is to use a spa panel designed for hot tubs that comes with a 50 amp GFCI breaker far cheaper than you could buy the breaker alone.  Another option is a line cord that has the GFCI protection built in.  This is the route I went because I found one for $75 on ebay, but they are usually much more expensive.  I opted for this since it will be easier to bring with me when I move.  In most cases you are going to want to install a separate outlet for the kettle.  If you're not familiar with electric wiring, do a bunch of reading and ask questions to someone who knows their stuff.  Don't try anything unless you feel comfortable with it.

My setup runs entirely on 240V using three wires (two hots and a ground).  Given the option, it's better to go with a 4 wire setup (two hots, a neutral, and a ground) as you can supply 120V by connecting to one of the hots and the neutral.  It offers more flexibility if you wanted to use the outlet for something else or add other components like pumps that utilize 120V.  My line cord doesn't carry a neutral, so that was my limiting factor.

Home depot:
30-amp 2 pole breaker, $8-12:  Assuming you have 2 spaces open in your circuit breaker, you need to install a 30 amp breaker to supply the outlet.  You need to get the proper breaker for your brand of panel.  In my case I'm supplying from a Cutler-Hammer BR type panel.
10/3 NMB wire, ~$1-2/ft:  This is the wire that will run from your breaker to the spa panel and from the spa panel to the outlet.  I had some laying around so I don't have an exact price on it.  You may be able to find a local electric supply shop to get your wire cheaper than at home depot.  I use a place that charges a per foot price based on 1,000 ft rolls regardless of how much you buy, but YMMV.
30-amp 4-wire flush mount outlet #918137, $7.49:  Outlet for control panel connection.
2-gang metal box #443497, $1.02:  Box to house the outlet.
1-gang square 30-50 amp receptacle cover #338974, $2.14:  Cover plate for outlet
GE 50 amp GFCI spa panel #UG412RMW250P, $49.00:  Cheapest way to add GFCI protection.


Parts list--The kettle
These parts, along with the temperature probe, are installed kettle side.  If you wanted a separate BK and HLT then you order two sets of these (plus an extra RTD probe).

Amazon.com
PETRA 90-1024 3-wire 30-amp dryer cord, $11.58: Cord with plug to connect kettle to control panel.
Camco 02963 5500W 240V heating element, $23.91:  Heat source for the kettle.  This one puts out a LOT of heat.

Home depot.com
1-gang steel city handy box #421405, $1.61:  Box of kettle wiring.
Raco handy box cover plate #744425, $0.50 x2:  Cover plates for wiring box.  Order two.
PVC pipe fitting ring

Bargainfittings.com
1" stainless locknut with O-ring, $9.00:  Nut to secure heating element.  Difficult to source part.
1" silicone O-ring, $0.85:  Doesn't hurt to have an extra and shipping is flat rate.


Parts list--Sight Gauge upgrade
Sight gauges are extremely useful for quantifying volumes and for less than an extra $30 can be installed in the same mounting hole as the temperature probe.  Bargainfittings.com is flat rate shipping, so might as well make use of it.  If you are going this route, then replace the weldless RTD probe from Auberins with the 4" x 1/4" NPT probe.  The 2" probe will be too short if connected through the sight gauge T.

Bargainfittings.com
Weldless thermometer sight gauge kit, $25.95:  Sight gauge from the top and thermometer connection via the side.
1/2" NPT to 1/4" NPT stainless reducing bushing, $3.00:  To connect 1/4" NPT probe to 1/2" NPT sight gauge T.


Total Cost Estimates
Control panel:  $140 + tax/shipping
Outlet: ~$75 + tax
Kettle: $53 +tax/shipping
Optional sight gauge: $29
Grand total:  ~$300 + tax/shipping

Step 2: Installing the supply outlet

Picture of Installing the supply outlet
The first step is going to be to install the electric supply outlet.  As mentioned before, the way I did this and the way you'll be doing it are probably slightly different.  I had a line cord to provide my GFCI protection but the common route is go with a spa panel.  I'll keep this brief as the point of the instuctable is not to teach you how to wire electric panels.  It goes without saying to be very careful when doing this and don't work in a live panel.

To install the spa panel, install the 30-amp two pole breaker in your main panel.  Connect 10/3 NMB wire to this with the red and black wires each to one lug on the breaker and the neutral/ground to the appropriate bars.  Wire the other end of this to the spa panel.  Likewise wire the GFCI break in the spa panel to an outlet mounted where appropriate with the same 10/3 wire.

Since I used a line cord, I wired directly from the 30 amp breaker to a 3 wire ring lock outlet.

Step 3: Preparing the control panel

prep2.JPG
prep3.JPG
Now it's time to prepare the box for it's new purpose.  Little modification is actually required making this load center an ideal control panel housing.  It comes with lugs and a terminal strip, meaning less parts we'd have to buy separate.  To prepare it you'll need to:
  • Cut off the tabs where a breaker would attach.  These are not needed and risk contacting things they shouldn't if not removed.  They unscrew easily and are quick work for a hacksaw or dremel.
     
  • The extra plastic piece needs to be taken out as well.  It just unscrews from the base.
     
  • Remove the center rings of the punch out on the top of the box to make room for the 3/4" clamp connector.
     
  • Cut out the space for the PID towards the bottom of the box.
     
  • Drill holes to mount RTD connector, fuse holder, and toggle switch (if used).  I don't have a picture of these cut prior to install, but they went directly to the right of the PID and can be seen in the finished pics.  Just test fit them for now.
     
  • Remove the punchouts on the top plate.  Test fit the 3 wire outlet.  This will likely require grinding a small amount (1/8") from one side to accommodate it.  Mark and drill holes for the outlet mounting screws.

Step 4: Making room for the SSR

The SSR will generate a good deal of heat which is why it comes it a heat sink.  Ideally the SSR is going to be in direct contact with the heat sink for the most ideal heat transfer.  The problem is that for these eBay SSRs, the heatsink does not have a much larger footprint than the SSR itself.  What I wound up doing was carefully cutting out space for the SSR while leaving just enough room to attach the heat sink with J-B weld.  If I had to do it over again, I would probably just drill two holes and mount the SSR on one side, the heat sink on the other, and the box wall in between.  If you apply thermal compound on each side this should be sufficient to transfer enough heat from a single SSR setup.  Either way, make sure you leave enough room between the PID and the SSR.

Step 5: Painting the box

Picture of Painting the box
paint2.JPG
This part is entirely optional and is a matter of personal preference.  If you do decide to paint it, know that traditional spray paint will adhere poorly.  Either use a latex-based spray paint (i.e. Krylon H20 Latex) or hand paint on actual latex paint.  Prime first.  Take care to mask of everything including open holes and scuff up the surface with sand paper.

Step 6: Understand the wiring.

Picture of Understand the wiring.
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It's important to understand exactly how the wiring is going to work.  I've included the schematic I used for the 3 wire setup as well as the changes needed to run this from a 4 wire system.  The switch is included, although this can be omitted if desired.  I used 1/2 amp fuses even though the diagram specifies 1 amp.  The PID should pull very little power regardless and the fuse is just there in case something goes very wrong.  Not pictured are the connectors for the RTD sensor.  The white wire goes to terminal 5 while the two red wires go to terminals 3 and 4.  When connecting the PID to the SSR note there is a + and - terminal, connect these appropriately.

All of the wiring on H1 and H2 between the power in and the element should be 10G.  You can either use length cut from the supply cord or buy stranded 10G separately at home depot for around 50 cents a foot.  I wired the PID with 14G as it is fused to 0.5 amp.  The RTD sensor wires can be pretty thin gauge.

Step 7: Finishing up the control panel

comp4.JPG
comp5.JPG
comp6.JPG

It's time to connect everything in the control panel as per the diagram.  When soldering on all of the RTD connectors, keep the white wire on pin 2 (ultimately connecting to slot 5 on the PID).  The top of the box needs to go on 'backwards' to keep the outlet from hitting the SSR.  If you look at it from the side, the rounded lip on the edge of the box should line up with the smaller holes on the ends.  Rather than connect the power supply for the PID to the main lugs, I added crimp on rings and connected them via the screws directly adjacent to the lugs.  If so inclined, you might add silicone to seal the box up.  You can plug it in to make sure the PID powers up, but it will need to be programmed before it functions properly.

Step 8: Preparing the heating element mount

There are a couple ways to attach the heating element to the kettle.  I based mine off of Kal's from theelectricbrewery.com and used a handy box.  Other people have been known to make a mold and pour J-B weld thinned with acetone around the electrical connections.  I like the idea of the handy box to provide support from damaging the connectors as well as the option to disassemble things if a problem arises.  Since the wires come up through the bottom of the box, I wasn't worried about going nuts with waterproof fittings.

Cut out the bottom of the handy box with a large hole saw.  You want it to be big enough that the element can freely rotate without getting stuck, I think I used a 1 3/4" hole saw.  Mark the center of one of the cover plates and drill a 1 1/4" hole with the step bit.  Sand off any burs.  One of the mounds on the back of the cover for the screw needs to be ground flat as well.  Line up the cover plate with the back of the box, apply a liberal amount of J-B well, and leave them to set overnight.

Ultimately the silicone o-ring will sit between the kettle and the box.  Theelectricbrewery method uses a stainless washer to maintain the o-ring's shape when tightening the box down.  The problem is that sort of washer is not an easy part to find and I didn't want to place an order for 1 washer with McMaster Carr.  I first tried to skip the washer completely, but wound up with a leak as the o-ring got warped when I tightened the nut.  Looking through my box of parts, I found that a PVC slip washer was just about the right diameter, but too tall.  I filed the skinny side of the washer down to just a little bit shorter than the o-ring.  This worked out and I haven't had any leaks yet.

I would also recommend that you use a step bit to enlarge the bottom punchout hole to accommodate a 3/4" screw clamp.  I used a 3/8 in. clamp and it should have been larger.


Step 9: Installing the heating element

I wanted to mount the heating element as close to the bottom of the keg as possible so I could heat up smaller volumes of sparge water if needed.  Of course the bottom of the keg is curved, so go too low and the o-ring will not make a tight seal.  I marked where I felt comfortable and drilled a 1 1/4" hole with the step bit.  I threaded the element through and tightened the 1" stainless lock washer down on the inside.  After tightening I added a ring of silicone around the edge of the element as an extra precaution.  This shouldn't come in contact with the wort, so again I wasn't overly concerned about food grade.

Secure each of the hot wires to the heating element.  You want the ground to be secured to both the handy box and to the brew kettle itself.  I mounted the ground wire directly to a machine screw I put through the bottom rim of the kettle and ran a short strand of 10G wire to connect it to the mounting point inside of the box.  Check for continuity between the grounding prong on the plug and the kettle.

Drill holes for the temperature probe and/or sight gauge and mount those as well.  If doing both a sight gauge and probe, I recommend using the parts listed earlier to save drilling another hole.  Less possible leak points are never a bad thing.  The probe needs to be calibrated and it's way easier to do before you mount it to the keg (see next step).  You will also want to calibrate the sight gauge by adding water a half gallon at a time and using a marker to mark the volumes on the gauge.

Step 10: Configure the PID and test it out

The PID comes mostly preset for our purposes, but a few minor changes are required.  Connect the probe but not the kettle and power up the system.  The top number on the PID displays the temperature read by the probe and the bottom number will display the set temperature or power output in manual mode.  Immerse the probe in a glass filled with water and lots of ice.  Let it sit for a minute to stabilize and make a note of the temperature it displays.  In the settings we will use this value to adjust the probe reading. Remove the probe and disconnect.

Hold down the set button on the PID to enter the options menu.  Continuing to press 'set' will cycle through the options.  The following settings need to be changed.
  • HY from 0.3 --> 0.1.  Controls how much over or under the temperature can be.
  • Sn from 0 --> 21.  Change input type from K type thermocouple to RTD.
  • Pb from 0 --> (32-Temp of probe in ice water).  Calibrates the probe.  Mine read 34 so with an offset of -2, it now read the proper 32 in ice water.
  • A-M from 2-->1.  Allows manual control which will be used for boil.
Continue to press set until you cycle out of the menus and return to the main screen.  Install the probe in the kettle and fill it with around 4 gallons of water.  Check for leaks, you may want to let it sit for a few minutes.  The last step is to train the PID for your system.  Connect the kettle's power cord to the control panel.  Use the arrows to change the set value to 150.  The water will begin to heat to the desired 150 F.  Once it reaches 150 the PID should cycle the power on and off for a bit as it learns your system.  Once this process has finished the A-M led should go out.  You won't need to repeat this learning process unless you do something like swap out the heating element (change the At setting to 1 or 2 if you ever need to repeat this).  It is advisable to bring this water up to boiling for a bit to check for leaks.  Better to lose water now than wort later.

If the temperature is massively off, check to ensure all the wires are properly connected and the pins are not mixed up.  If testing with a multimeter and the RTD probe connected, you should get ~100 Ohms resistance between the white and red wires and zero resistance between the red wires.  My probe initially read -94 F and I sourced this back to one of the red wires having broken off the PID when I was pushing it back in.

Step 11: Brew time

Using a combo HLT/BK is a good way to ease the cost of jumping into both all-grain and electric brewing.  In a traditional three vessel setup you have the HLT, the mash tun (MT), and the BK.  Water is heated in the HLT for mash/sparge, added to the MT, and drained into the BK.  To use a combo HLT/BK, you need an extra vessel to temporarily store either the sparge water after heating or the drained wort before boiling.  This can be either a cooler, plastic bucket, or metal pot.  If you are going to store the heated sparge water, heat it an extra degree or two to allow for some heat loss.  After a couple batches you should get a better idea of exactly how much heat you'll lose.

That said, you can add a second vessel for the cost of the element, box, probe, and dryer cord.  Once sparging is about half way finished, disconnect the HLT and plug in the BK.  This is probably the direction I'll be headed shortly.  More advanced systems incorporate multiple PID's and SSR's to be able to heat both a HLT and BK simultaneously, but these rapidly increase in cost from the components and need to be built to handle higher amperage.

Fill the kettle with proper volume of mash water and use the arrows to program the set value to the desired temperature.  Disconnect the power before you drain it since you do not want to run the heating element without it completely immersed in water.  When it comes time to boil the wort, you are going to want to switch from automatic mode to manual.  Automatic mode attempts to reach a specific temperature whereas manual mode will allow the element to run a given % of the time.  Crank the % up to hit boiling faster, then dial it back to maintain the boil.  I found that around 70% had a vigorous boil going in my cold basement with a boil off of about 1 gal/hr, but this will obviously vary a bit.  When finished disconnect the kettle power cord, but you can leave the temperature probe connected to continuously monitor the temperature of the wort as it cools.

This setup worked fantastic on my first brew, with many more to come.  The entire process was much easier and more precise than my propane burner efforts had been.  For a long time I've been struggling with efficiency around 60% and I jumped up to the mid 70's on my first effort here.  Being able to run the entire process next to a sink really streamlined cleanup too.  Not to mention by doing this indoors in the winter, all the energy lost during the boil is that much less I have to use to heat the house.  Though the work involved and start up costs can be somewhat daunting, I couldn't be happier with the end results.

Thanks for reading and if you liked this instructable, don't forget to rate it.
This is amazing. any interest in adopting a 31-year old irishman?

bonus: i'm a pharmacologist so i could help you edit your thesis.
kfbrooks5 months ago

Great build! Just one thing: in step 4 you suggest it might be OK to simply transfer SSR heat through the box wall into the sink, this didn't work for me. I burnt my SSR out pretty quickly while Autotuning the PID. I would recommend any other builders to make sure their sink is in direct contact with the SSR (with some thermal compound for good measure). Otherwise, thanks for the info, this helped a ton in my build.

markmcg10 months ago
Great Article, I have been reading the forums relentlessly about electric brewing and i really enjoyed this description and step by step walk through.
jadoiron1 year ago
I was linked to this project from another forum. I'm looking to advance to electric brewing, and wondering what you recommend for a kettle? I see in the photos that you're using a keg? Could I use a 10 gallon pot? (Or two for the dedicated upgrade)
lhosfield1 year ago
What is the deal with the whole wiring up your own 240V outlet? Most people already have one in their house anyways. Also I very much doubt that wiring your own 240V outlet without being a licensed electrician is not legal. Unless I am missing something here, why not use your existing 240V outlet?
MrBippers (author)  lhosfield1 year ago
There was no existing outlet. Most people probably don't have a 240V outlet where they'd need it, or if they do there's a dryer/stove plugged into it. As far as legality, at least where I reside you are welcome to get a permit from the town and do the work yourself.
not to mention i live in a house built in the 1820s i don't have a 220 line watter dryer and stove are all gas
tflenker1 year ago
Fantastic job on this one - I made a nearly identical copy to your system and it works like a champ.

I'm a bit confused on one part of it. Everything in the path to the heating element has a minimum rating of 30A, except for the cutoff switch which is 25A. I realize that with a 5500W element you're only pulling roughly 23A, but isn't general electrical practice to not exceed 80% of the rated capacity for electrical components? Or since it's a switch, is it safe to take it up to the limit?

I built it with a 25A switch and it's been working perfectly, but this came across my mind as I was putting together a switch box to control both an HLT and BK as I was planning on using a 30A DPDT toggle which are significantly more expensive than the 25A DPDT. Thanks, and once again awesome instructable!
MrBippers (author)  tflenker1 year ago
I actually didn't use a switch in my control panel--I use the the GFCI line cord to toggle it on/off. That said, it'd be easier if I did have a switch. I think the recommendation of the 25A over the 30A was based on that large price difference you mentioned but it can't hurt to go for the higher rating. As for whether it's necessary, I would try the homebrewtalk forums as there are people there much more knowledgeable than me about the electric setup.

So you're building a switch box that would sit between the main controller and toggle between a HLT/BK? Have you been using a separate HLT and BK already? You should really only have to switch from the HLT --> BK once during a brew (for a single infusion anyway) so the manual switch of unplug HLT, plug in BK is still an option with two vessels. You'll probably be doing that anyway so you don't accidentally bump the toggle and dry-fire an empty kettle. You could always sell your current system to another brewer and built a new box to run the HLT/BK simultaneous--at least that's what I plan to do in the not to distant future. Good luck!
Thanks for getting back so quickly. I'll take that question over there.

I'm currently using a one kettle setup, but have the second kettle assembled and ready to go.

The original plan was to unplug the HLT and plug in the BK, but I figured after I'd already invested so much on everything else, it was worth an extra $20 or $30 for slightly more convenience by incorporating a switch box, which will also serve as the housing for my exhaust fan control.

As is the way with this silly hobby of ours, I'm sure I'll soon be dropping in another 240 to accommodate running both at the same time. Curious - why sell your system instead of scavenging it? Are you planning on using different control units? I'm in the middle of putting together an Arduino unit capable of controlling multiple kettles, so I suppose I'll be in the same boat shortly. Thanks again!
MrBippers (author)  tflenker1 year ago
I've got a friend jealous of my setup and it's either sell him this one or help him build his own. If I'm going to go through building another, might as well make it a two kettle unit for me! Also, becayse I went with the 30a line cord instead of the spa panel, I can't pull enough power to run two. I'll probably stick with the same PIDs but move to a proper 4 wire setup and add a march pump. My only experience with Arduinos for this is the guy in my brewclub who used the brewtroller and told me if he did it over he'd just use PIDs.
Uptonb2 years ago
Congrats on being a finalist, and good luck!
ProCactus2 years ago
Im very suss on the 5.5KW element.

I think thats way over the top.
Beer is alive, What happens to the yeast that touches this element when on.

In Australia in winter, I used a 60W light bulb suspended in the middle of a milk crate. Then I wrap the entire thing in several towels.
There's no yeast in there when you're using the heating element. It's being used to mash and boil. After those are done, the wort is cooled, and only then is the yeast pitched.
lol, Cheers for the polite reply.
Im guilty of not reading the whole thing
susanrm2 years ago
Okay, but what are you brewing? It says nothing in here about that. Tea, perhaps? Seems a little elaborate for that... :-)
Looks more like beer to me ;-)
The stuff in the cooler in the picture of the last step looks somewhat familiar to me...

I was thinking about electric heating for a while.
I actually preheat the "brewing liquor" to strike temperature with a timed thermostatically controlled setup.
The malt is also milled, while setting up the water heater.

So i can "shave off" about one hour of my brew schedule.
I can start with mashing in first thing in the morning.

I use a 2kw immersion heater for that

These heaters are pretty cheap, but there is danger of scorching, as soon as you want to heat something else than pure water. (like a maltose-water solution)

We are planning to step up from a 14 to a 30 gal setup for a while now. (We already have the 3 pots of that size...(3 stainless beauties gotten for free))
But i'm still looking for large area electric heater elements.
If nothing pops up on my radar, i'll stay with my 10-20kw propane burners.


MrBippers (author)  t.rohner2 years ago
With a large volume system like that, you might even do a proper electric setup on the hot liquor tank while the brew kettle is propane fired. Unless you're talking decoction mash, the fine heat control on the kettle isn't as important.

You could also control multiple heating elements with a single PID as long as you had a properly sized SSR.
Pic of my actual setup.
All three pots heatable with 12kw propane burners.
So i mostly do step mashes. I didn't feel the urge to do decoctions up until now. I could do it, i have a extra 8 gal pot. (it was the kettle for my first extract brews, now i use it mostly for soups for bigger audiences...)


The electric safety, that databoy mentions makes sense. (With a degree in electrical engineering, i think i know, what i do... the www wasn't there then... i learned it from books and teachers)

As long as you have a GFCI and your pot/rig properly grounded, your life shouldn't be in jeopardy.

To brew all-electric in my projected size, i'd need a 32A 3 phase 240V mains, that i don't have.

But i can heat up my brewing liquor, in my insulatet hot water tank overnight.
And for exploding mythbusters gags... my pot is open on top.
DSCN0123.JPG
I think it's for hot chocolate myself. Can't think of anything else you'd need gallons of during the winter...
Yeah, it doesn't really say, does it?

It talks a lot about kettles. I brew tea with a kettle. Hot chocolate, I make on the stove.

Maybe the author will clarify in the text... ;-)
MrBippers (author)  susanrm2 years ago
I added 'beer' to the title and clarified in the beginning. I guess sometimes you get so into the details, you forget the obvious. Thanks.
Awesome! That should help you with searches too.
It was really meant to be more as a joke, sorry if that didin't come off as such. I think a quick google search for some of the terms would point you to brewing beer. Thanks for being a good sport though!
TheCheatOSX2 years ago
Very timely Instructable! I've been collecting parts for a electric set up for about a month now and there are a lot of nice tips and tricks in here that I've not seen. Setting up the PID and the control box construction and explanation are particularly nice.

I believe I'm going to attach my element with a triclover connection for easy removal and cleaning. This is the part I've seen to do the job: http://www.hillbillystills.com/Heating_Element_plate_p/hecp.htm
It's just a 2" triclover cap with a NPS nipple. Also, http://www.glaciertanks.com/ has a lot of cheap triclover parts if anyone is interested.

I just need to lean to braze stainless steel first so I can attach some 2" triclamp furrels to the keg. Ha! I love acquiring new skills.
tim_n2 years ago
Excellent work. I use a 7G aluminium cooking pot and a large metal gas ring on it. Generally though I've not bothered with the full works, just boiling up from cans and adding hops - still get excellent results at not much cost! 50p a pint
databoy2 years ago
The trouble with the internet is that it contains too many unqualified electrical experts who have never worked in the electrical industry and regurgitate their electrical knowledge as gospel. The project as published is a basic electric hot water system using the wrong circuit for the application and unsafe.

Mythbusters did an episode into the exploding hot water system. To achieve the result; Mythbusters removed all the hot water system safety wiring and built an exploding hot water system.

Electrical hot water system safety regulations require that a mains supply electrical element must be electrically failsafe de-energised using a thermostat directly bonded to the tank. When more than one live supply is used, all live supplies must be simultaneously electrically failsafe de-energise through a contactor. The element must also contain a failsafe thermal overload series wired into the element circuit and thermally bonded to the tank. The tank must also contain a pressure relief valve.

Commercially manufactured hot water systems contain two failsafe electrical circuits and a failsafe mechanical relief valve. As wired the electronic thermostat is not electrically failsafe wired. If the electronic thermostat fails, the unit will become an exploding hot water system.

Ah maybe you didn't notice but the top of the keg has been removed probably with a grinder. How can you achieve any pressure with an 18 inch hole. As far as electrical fail-safes this system has one. The operator with a baseball bat. Oh and it does have dual breakers to cut the power in case of electrical overload.
Wragie2 years ago
Scorching plus cleaning are the two things you have to watch with electric. It's getting back in there to clean the heater etc that can get really annoying if you don't have clearance around it.

Never tried building with a keg but how hard would it be to mount the heating coil
externally on the bottom? That way the keg bottom would act like a heat sink and spread the heat more evenly and perhaps help with any scorching.
MrBippers (author)  Wragie2 years ago
The Camco element is classified as ultra low watt density, so the heat is spread out over a larger surface area making them less likely to scorch. That said, plenty of people have reported brewing even with the high watt density elements without scorching. At the same time, I'd be nervous about having liquid extract land on the element if I was doing an extract or partial mash brew.

Getting the element clean requires a little more work, but I found a sponge fits nicely between the coils. Using a bottle brush also helped.

The keg wouldn't have enough room to mount the element underneath unless you welded on some legs, but more importantly the hot water heating elements are only designed to be run when immersed in liquid. I actually had a broken electric cook top and though about doing something like that with the burners (largest is 2400W). I might still get brave and toy around with that when adding another vessel.
m93654282 years ago
Yea it's beer. Wort is the liquid mix that comes out of the mash tank.
If people are worried about scorching then use short frequent cycling on the heating element and install an agitator to keep everything moving past the element so that nothing will stick to it and burn (source of the scorched flavor).

I love this idea especially for maintaining the mix at the perfect maturation temperature in cold weather environments. Not only would it speed up the process but it would prevent the possibility of a severely cold night killing your cultures.
xanxer822 years ago
Looks like a pretty sweet setup. Could be worth looking into. The heat loss during an outdoor propane boil was incredible last week.
I'm on Homebrewtalk too. Great place to get information.
MrBippers (author)  xanxer822 years ago
I did a propane batch in November when it was about 20 °F out. It took forever, I had less than anticipated boil off, and anything wet kept freezing to whatever I set it on. It really helped push me to action on this build.
devonfletch2 years ago
Well, I'm not into major production, and get by with a couple of 5-gallon buckets and aquarium heaters, total cost about $30.
Of course, I live in Australia, and the temperature never drops below 15°C (60°F), it's sort of like Paradise...
You'd have to add a few layers of insulation to help the humble aquarium heater keep up with freezing weather.
fpuccetti2 years ago
I like this article but recently I viewed an article to make gas for the car.

Now obviously this could be dangerous but the procedure is to distill the
ingredients - they start off with 4 gal+ of distilled water , and 10 lbs ??? of sugar . they had an electric distiller - which looked like a large coffee pot

to make the fuel - they had to distill the mix about 4 times to get to the volitile
level of gas, then I believe you add another liquid ingredient to stop the "Pinging"
which the local auto store carries .

Where do I find this auto distillation machine?

merkaba332 years ago
Yeah its beer, never seen electric heaters for actually brewing beer though, just for distillation. Like t.rohner pointed out, scorching could be a problem, but if you're not a picky drinking I guess it doesn't matter.