Instructables

Electric beer brewing system

FeaturedContest Winner
Picture of Electric beer brewing system
final2.JPG
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.
 
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
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.
kfbrooks4 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.

markmcg9 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.
jadoiron11 months 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.
Pro

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?

close

PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!