…and the brew session redux…
Let’s get a bit more in depth with how I put the brew system together:
Make that Electric Brew-in-a-bag All-Grain Homebrewing…
Have you tried brewing beer at home? Are you ready for the next step in homebrewing – but the expense and complexity of a traditional all-grain setup has you stymied? Gather ’round ‘cuz yer old Uncle Scott has the solution!
I’ll show you how to build an inexpensive setup with easily accessible components that will have you brewing all-grain beers indoors that you’ll be proud to share. (Or maybe not – that way there’s more for you!)
Photo: Scott McCray
Time issues and how to overcome them
I initially started homebrewing in the early 90’s as most folks do by brewing extract batches on the stove top. When I realized how good my own beer could be, I was hooked. As time passed, I gravitated to partial mash brewing – then soon after that to all-grain brewing. Unfortunately, the traditional methods for all-grain require a significant amount of equipment and time. You need three vessels – a mash tun, a hot liquor tun, and a boil kettle – and propane or natural gas burners for each. A typical brew day meant dragging all of the equipment outside and dealing with the elements for six plus hours. All of those factors along with working away from home contributed to me hanging up my mash paddle for over ten years.
Fast forward that ten years and there have been some major advances in homebrewing methods. First came single vessel brew-in-a-bag techniques – then along came electric brewing. Major improvements, but still kind of pricey.
One day while researching another project, I discovered this little fellow. Compared to the monster rigs I was reading about on the forums, 1500 watts seemed like it might be under-powered. But, hey – light-bulb moment – what about using two of them? I created a spreadsheet to run my calculations and it seemed like it might be doable. This was starting to get exciting!
Here’s what you’ll need…
What’s not to love? Thermometer – check. Drain valve and bulkhead fittings – check. Hop screen – check. False bottom – check. All stainless? Yep!
The best deal around on a step bit – this is a tough little rascal!
You’ll need one of these for each of your immersion elements.
You’ll need two of these for each of your immersion elements – spares are a good thing! 😉
You’ll need a mash paddle…this fits the bill nicely.
Other components you’ll need
- Immersion Heater – 1500 Watt
HEET-O-MATIC 1500W,115V with a length of 7″ below the 1″ NPT fitting. Features a Type 316 stainless steel sheath & thermal probe. Includes an adjustment dial with reference scale of 0-11. Pilot light indicates when unit is heating.
- Custom-made Brew Bag
Jeff makes his brew bags from high quality 100% polyester fabric using 100% polyester gutermann thread. The bags have a total of three rows of stitching, although one is hidden in the seam. Of the two visible stitches, one is a reinforced stretch sti
Let’s get started
Drilling for the immersion elements and installing all of the components
Your brew kettle is shipped already drilled for the thermometer and valve, so the first thing you’ll need to do is drill the hole(s) for your element(s). This can be done with a handheld drill – but you’ll need to go slowly and carefully. Step drill bits have a tendency to “grab” as they break through to the next step. Use cutting oil – 3-IN-ONE 10135 Multi-Purpose Oil works fine. Use an automatic center punch to dimple where you want to drill to keep the bit from “skating.” I placed mine about halfway between the bottom of the kettle and the false bottom support ring. (see pic – click to embiggen) If I had mine to do over again, I’d probably shift the two holes about 5 to 10 degrees closer together. This would have allowed the hop screen to fit between the elements – but they all work fine as is.
Once the holes are drilled, use a round file or a Dremel with a Sanding Mandrel to clean up any burrs.
Next, you’ll need to mount all of the hardware using Teflon Tape on all of the threads – don’t forget the silicone rings on both sides of the kettle wall. You’ll need a couple of crescent wrenches (an 18-inch and a 12-inch) to finish tightening the fittings.
Finally, you’ll want to fill the kettle with water to test the seals on all of your fittings. Once you are satisfied that you have no leaks, plug your elements into Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor-protected circuits and bring your kettle to a boil with just water as a dry run (errrrrrmmmm…wet run?). I use my setup in the kitchen of my apartment so I can pull power from two separate GFCI circuits to prevent overloading and tripping breakers. Note: It is NOT recommended that you power this system from a circuit that is not GFCI protected.
Brewing with your new rig
I wrote about this session over here – but this is a bit more in depth…
So your brew kettle passed the hot hydro test and you are raring to go – you do have your recipe ingredients ready, right? Well, I have one here in the hip pocket of my bib overalls I’ll share if you don’t:
This was originally going to be Midwest’s Sierra Nevada Pale clone modified with additional base and caramel malts for a 6 gallon batch. Best laid plans of mice and men and all that. I inadvertently grabbed the grains for a California Common Ale out of stock – as I was mashing I noticed the color was a bit darker than I expected. Oopsie.
I decided to roll with it, so now we have the birth of the California Uncommon Pale Ale. A bit over the top in IBUs for an American Pale Ale, but a tad weak for an American IPA. We shall see.
Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 9.00 lb
Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 0.50 lb
Caramel/Crystal Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 0.50 lb
Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 3.00 lb
Perle [8.90 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 1.00
Perle [8.90 %] – Boil 30.0 min Hop 1.00
Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins) Misc 1.00 tbsp
Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 2.0 min Hop 2.00 oz
Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05) Yeast 1.00 pkg
8.75 gallons water @60°F
So let’s get going, shall we? Put the false bottom in your kettle – being sure to put the lifting handle in as shown – away from the thermometer side. This will be critical when it comes time to remove the false bottom after the boil using your brew paddle!
6:10 PM – 60°F
Power On – 100% (Both elements – more on that later).
6:50 PM – 108°F
7:10 PM – 130°F
7:30 PM – 145°F
7:40 PM – Noticed power cord for second element had not been plugged in…d’ya think that could help?
7:45 PM – 164°F
Reduced power on both elements until thermostats clicked off.
Added grains to bag – “Doughing-in.”
7:50 PM – Mash at 153°F – Started mash timer.
8:55 PM – Increase heat – Ramp up to 170°F
9:00 PM – 170°F – mash out.
Reduced power on both elements until thermostats clicked off.
9:10 PM – Pull grain bag out and hang above brew kettle to drain.
Power on both elements (really both of ’em this time)
9:25 PM – Initial boil – initial hop addtion – Perle
9:30 PM – Hard, rolling boil
9:55 PM – Second hop addition – Perle
10:15 PM – Irish moss
10:23 PM – Aroma hop addition – Cascades
10:25 PM – Cut power
10:26 PM – Removed hop bags and false bottom.
10:27 PM – Whirlpool and cover brew kettle
10:40 PM – 185°F started transfer to sanitized tighthead fermenter
10:45 PM – 180°F – gently tilted brew kettle to get the last of the goodness – Capped tighthead fermenter.
1.5 quarts of wort reserved into sanitized half gallon jug – set in water bath in sink to cool.
10:50 PM – Tightened fermenter cap with wrench – turned fermenter on its side and rolled it around to heat sanitize. Set in sink to cool.
11:00 PM – Dead on OG – 1.056
11:15 PM – Pitched yeast in cooled reserved wort.
11:45 PM – Airlock on yeast starter bubbling already.
8:10 AM – Opened tighthead fermenter – pitched yeast starter. Set up blow-off and left for work.
Two Heet-o-matic 40830 immersion heating elements maintaining a rolling boil on a 7.5 gallon boil size – this was about 20 minutes into the boil. The built-in thermostats were great during the mash to hold temperature, too – but cranked to 11 here. (yes, they actually go to 11 – heh).
All non-sales module images © Scott McCray unless otherwise noted. Sales items link directly to their respective owners.