Sunday, July 31, 2016

Budget Brewing - Setting up an all grain, easy brewery for less than $1000.00

jarhill brew kettles
affordable alternative brew kettle
I'm sure this wont be the last time we have this discussion, but hopefully it will sink in this time.   I recently was at my LHBS.   I met a lovely couple who were getting into home brewing.   The wife told me that she was wanting to purchase a 10 gallon, 3 vessel,  heat exchange recirculating mash system for her husband.   Now at first blush... what an awesome wife.   How cool... right?  WRONG. Buy the equipment that makes great beer with out spending a fortune.

back yard pro
210k  btu burner
fast heating
rapid boil
You do not need that kind of gear to brew great beer.   I think she was shocked to hear me say that. After all fancy shiny gear is cool.   But here is the issue,  it is NO MORE efficient than basic gear, and it does not make better beer.

So once again here is my proposed set up for a home brewery capable of world domination.  This is a brew in a bag system with a pump that allows you to recirculate during step mashes, as a vorlauff, or during chilling.

The Jaded Hydra is well worth it's
price tag,  You don't skimp on heating
or on cooling.  Make the investment!
The system:   BIAB  System - Capable of 5 Gallon batches of beer with maximum ease.  This system is easily powerful enough to shorten your brew day.   We have a similar set up and have made a simple blonde ale in under 3 hours, at 82.5% efficiency.   The key to the system is that everything is designed for speed and ease.   The burner is super powerful.  Brew in a bag eliminates transfer time.  The bucket fermenters are easy to clean and sanitize.  You will thank me for recommending this wort chiller, it is miraculous, and can cool the entire batch at one time, something counter flow chillers and plate chillers can not do.  I have done the math, and a 2.5 hour batch is conceivable with this system.
  • Burner - Outdoor Pro Propane Burner - 210,000 BTU -        $67.00 +  $15.00 Shipping
  • Jarhill 49 quart (12.25 gallon) Brew Kettle -                      $109.00      Free Shipping
  • Brew Bag -  Wilser Brew Bag Grand Slam Package          $32.00 +    $5 Shipping
  • Large Stainless Steel Spoon                                             $3.89 +   Shipping
  • Pump - "Great brew eh" -   pump package #3                   $95.00 +  $18.00 Shipping
  • Large stainless steel strainer -  for decoction                    $10.00  + free with prime 
  • 5 gallon stainless pot -                                                    $33.00  +  $6.00 shipping
  • 1 gallon pitcher                                                                $6.00    Walmart
  • Home brewing starter kit - the other stuff you need            $69.00 +   Free shipping
  • Cleaners, and water chemicals                                        $30.00   your LHBS
  • Wort Chiller - Jaded Hydra - spend the money!                $149.00 + 8.00 shipping
  • Pump hard ware - for re-circulation and whirlpool -             $40.00 + $12.00 shipping

Great brew eh! Pumps! they are more than adequate!
That is it, that is all you need to start making amazing beer at home.   You do not need a 3 vessel, computer controlled, electric recirculating mash, heat exchange, multi pump, pain in the ass to clean system.  To make great beer, you need to LEARN TO MAKE GREAT BEER.  Not spend more money.   I know people with $20,000 wrapped up in home brewing.  Their systems, don't make their beer any better.  In fact, most of the time their beer isn't as good as the people I know who keep it simple and brew a lot.  The best home brew I have ever tasted was made with a very simple system. This system costs less than $600.00.  And with it you can make literally any style of beer.  

Basic fermentation chamber is a must have!
So above it says less than $1000.00, so what is the deal?   Now you are saying $600.00  Well, we are not quite done.   To make world dominating beer you also have to have to control the temperature of fermentation. To do that you need to have a fermentation chamber.   Our favorite fermentation chambers are old refrigerators from apartment complexes.   But you can also make a fine fermentation chamber from a mini fridge and some lumber for about $200.00.  (fridge included).  You will also need a temperature controller.   Which you can get for about $50.00.  

So right now we are at $850.00 invested.   So where does the other $149.50 come into play?   Well that money is available for options.    If you have a 12.25 gallon kettle, then you can in theory do 10 gallon batches.  If you are careful and use a defoamer.    So I recommend you just get a larger kettle and still do BIAB.  All of that costs you about $70.00  The other 79.50?  Well, it is nice to be able to aerate, and to clean and rinse bottles more efficiently.    It's nice to be able to make yeast starters, not necessary, but nice.   Also a corona mill is a nice addition.  I've used mine for 20 years with no ill effects.   But these things are options.  Not necessary.

So there it is.  A realistic approach to getting set up for all grain brewing for less than $1000.00.  Can you do it for cheaper.  Yes.  Can you do it better, I don't think so.  Not with any reasonable speed on brew day.  Not with any reasonable speed and effectiveness in cleaning and sanitation.  And those two factors, a slow brew day, and hard to clean equipment are the biggest frustrations in home brewing.  So remember that as you make your purchasing decisions.  Focus on things that make your brewing better, not on fancy shiny gear.

Having said this, there is no doubt that there is amazing brew gear out there that can improve your brew day experience.  There is no doubt that the major manufacturer's make some of the finest brewing equipment available.  If you have money to burn, go for it.  Get the best gear you can, but still remember, if it isn't easy to clean, it isn't worth buying.  If it makes your brew day longer, it isn't worth buying.  

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