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This is a new beginning for me.
I've heard so many disheartening stories lately about people selling their brewing equipment, indeed when I look around realbeer now there's a distinct lack of the old guard, the legends who contributed so much knowledge to the fledgling all-grain brewing scene in NZ. In actual fact more than a few of those legends are now the legends who make up the very best of the best on the shelf at your favourite craft beer outlet and dominate the awards at BrewNZ. But I digress.
I intend to buck the trend. I'm not giving up, in fact I'm going all in. But in a mere amateur sense.
Ever since I started everyone I know asked me when I was going to go pro. My reply has always been a constant "never" and I intend for that to always be the case. I enjoy brewing, I never want have the pressure of it being the way I pay the mortgage. I admire the shit out of anyone who does.
I haven't brewed for a full calendar year. I lost my mojo, coincided by a bunch of other things becoming more important, which coincided with every competition entry in memory being rubbished, which coincided with some frustrating changes to equipment throwing off every measurement for any recipe I ever made, which coincided with getting fed up with some of my process which was previously overcome by a bit of brewing enthusiasm, which coincided with a couple of rubbish brews, which coincided with...
Get it? It was easier not to brew. If procrastination were an Olympic sport I'd be the Michael Phelps of it.
Only trouble is, I love brewing. So I'm in the middle of a hatched plan to relight the fire.
I've been tyre kicking for ages, researching, making spreadsheets, scouring the internet for bits and prices and methods. I want an electric system, the holy grail of which I think is the full electric HERMS at at http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/ #swoon
I had mentioned my plans with a mate who said he had a crew of guys ready to invest so we went off on a tangent on a plant big enough for 5 active participants. We priced a made-to-order up (huge thanks to Chris Banks), looked at Braumeisters, looked at Sabcos, Farrahs, you name it. Then we saw a 100l plant on Trademe that Karl @ allgrain.co.nz was selling and jumped. Looking forward to brewing with that bad boy soon.
But I still wanted the absolute pleasure of brewing at home – being able to go downstairs and just brew. So I needed to sort my own kit out as well.
Huge amounts of thinking and pricing and research settle on a single tier, one pump, simple single infusion/batch sparge system, mostly manual, all electric.
I can easily upgrade to HERMS later by buying another pump, another pot, some stainless coil and fittings.
Bits and pieces have been dribbling in by courier, new round cooler mash tun, element and some fittings, pump is on it's way. I decided on a centre inlet stainless head Chugger pump: http://chuggerpumps.com/home-brewing-pumps-chugger/chugger-pump-pro.... Apparently they've overcome some early thermo-meltdown issues, the larger centre inlet helps with priming, the stainless head an obvious upgrade over polysulfone. Word of warning, don't buy this from Amazon, buy direct from the Australian distributor as he's much closer should anything go awry and offers a fantastic level of service. Price is roughly similar – Amazon's price for the pump is far less but their freight was $150. Ouch. Both a touch over $300 landed.
I got some cheap pots off trademe against my better judgement. In an all electric system the thin base doesn't matter one iota but they still feel like I cheaped out. We'll see. My old hot water copper HLT and kettle and two other halves I had spare paid for my new stainless HLT and kettle – scrap copper is worth heaps!
I have on order more fittings from Amazon and allgrain.co.nz en-route and when they arrive I'll have all the gear to start brewing using an improved version of my old process – with all new gear. The only bits missing will be the stainless bits required for hoses and connections to get the pump integrated, and the counterflow chiller. They're next, as budget allows.
So with all these bits coming in I needed to start on the base for the whole system.
Today was brew stand day.
Disclaimer, I have access to an enviable shed full of gear and every powertool known to man. And a legend of a dad who provides me free access to all of it and a wealth of practical knowhow to boot. So we spent this afternoon cutting, notching, measuring, hastily getting power tools back inside when a thunderstorm hit, rushing away to get the kids home for dinner after realising it was 6:15pm.
One side assembled photo:
Tomorrows project is full assembly (glue and screw) and then letting the kids loose with some matt black spray paint. How else are they going to learn how to tag the neighbourhood?
Total bill for this project will be a shade under $2k. If anyone wants to check out my 3 pricing spreadsheets, flick me a PM with your gmail address (it's a google doc so you need a google login) and I'll send you a read only link. They're probably a general reference only as things have come off since they've been bought and the spreadsheets are in a constant state of flux.
My previous attempts to document such projects have been a total flop (remember I'm an Olympic level procrastinator) but as this project now feels like it might come to fruition I intend to photograph and blog for as long as I have the energy to do so. Hopefully someone finds it interesting or informative or at least amusing.