Sacred Pickle Brewery
Marty Tippen was my inspiration to build a 3 keg system for all grain brewing. I also read every other web page others have done for ideas. And at the (was that in 1997 ?) Cleaveland AHA convention, I studied the Sabco BrewMagic system for quite a while. I was convinced I could build one Much cheaper, and better IMHO for my needs. I've spent almost $2000, and achieved most of my design goals, but sometimes I think just buying the BrewMagic may have been a better idea in the long run.
My goals were :
3 kegs at same height so I could see in them
spare space between the mash and boil kettles for future gadgets (rims heater ?)
rims style mash
drain from boil kettle directly into carboy
simplified plumbing with minimum number of valves
all stainless steel construction, except the stand
all work on the system to be done while having a homebrew
The stand looks a lot like an aquarium stand, which I considered modifying and using, but I couldn't find one the exact size I wanted, and anything close was expensive. I spent $50 at the local steel supply house, and welded it in an afternoon. Another day of grinding my miserable welds and it was ready for paint. The feet of the stand were given two coats of red plastic tool handle dip-it. That really turned out nifty.
I was really impressed with the Sabco mash kettles, so I bought two for the boil and mash thinking I would have a spare screen for the mash. The large screen that comes with the Sabco kegs is great for grain in the mash, and also very good for filtering whole hops in the boil kettle, but doesn't cut it when using pellets. The sparge keg is a converted keg with 1/2 inch stainless nipples welded through the wall. I went cheap on the drain and used copper, and I will probably replace that with stainless. The copper tubing is corroding badly, and probably is not good for my beer. I got lucky and found a welder (and welding instructor) who is interested in homebrewing. He welded the sparge keg, and added an additional 1/2 nipple to the mash keg for rims return, and welded the counterflow chiller bracket all for $80. Perfect welds, great deal.
A surprise about the thermometers : it takes over 5 gallons to reach the thermometer probe. Think about that if you're planning 5 gallon batches ...
For the rims return, I connected a male quick disconnect to the top nipple on the inside of the keg, so I can easily remove the manifold I made. The mainfold needs more work because it is very sensitive to horizontal orientation. If it's not perfectly horizontal, most of the mash comes out the lowest elbow. I'm still thinking (and still having homebrews).
The burners are replacement burners for my Bayou Cooker, rated at 135,000 btu. $9.50 each. Takes about an hour to boil 15 gallons starting at 70F. All the gas fittings were purchased at a local store specializing in outdoor grills.
The counterflow chiller is the PBS Maxichiller, and it works and looks great. I can drain and chill 12 gallons in 15 minutes. Simply wonderfull.
The plumbing was all purchased from Moving Brews. Bill Stewart is a great guy and was very helpfull. I highly recommend him (no affiliation, yadda-yadda). The pumps were about $110 each (don't remember exactly) and are rated for 275 F, so I can circulate boiling water for sanitation and cleaning. The pump clamps are electrical conduit clamps, dipped in the same plastic dippit used for the feet of the stand. I had a couple of spare neon lights, so I added them to the switch box. Not really neccessary, but I also like chrome bumpers. All the elbows and nipples are stainless. I shied away from the all stainless quick disconnects because the amout I was spending was by now greatly exceeding my earlier estimates (typical I suppose) so I choose the poly-whatever ones. They work great, and I could not survive without quick disconnects, but I may use a dremel tool to remove the small x brace in the ends of the mail connectors. On my last batch, some over zealous stirring of the mash forced some grain past the screen, and I had lots on clogs, which delayed my mash schedule, and caused me to spend a lot more time at 140F than I had planned. Removing the braces will hopefully solve that problem.
In use, the output of the mash pump is connected to the rims return, and the output hose on the sparge pump drapes over the sight glass thingie (I'm going to add another nipple to the sparge keg like the rims return so I can recirculate the sparge water while it heating, and to sterilize the sparge pump). Since I make 12 gallon batches, with 26 or so pounds of grain, I add 7 gallons to the mash keg, and fill the sparge keg completely. When it's time to sparge, I move the output hose of the mash pump to the inlet of the boil keg, and connect the output of the sparge pump to the rims return. I try to sparge as slow as possible (per Miller). After I've collected about 14 gallons in the boil keg, the pump output hoses are disconnected, and the output of the boil keg is connected to the chiller. It takes longer to describe than to do it, but you get the idea. On my last batch, first runnings were 1.090, last runnings were 1.010, sg in the carboys was 1.065, so I'm pleased.
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