So after a wet run and autotune it was time. Time to brew and no more procrastinating.
I started contemplating this build nearly 2 years ago and starting collecting parts about a full year ago. It's been 19 months since I brewed at home.
Brew day on Sunday 7 December 2014 started really late, I had to pick up the kids from their grandparents and do some other stuff but in truth I was scared. Scared at how much more involved the process might be with 2 pumps and 6 hoses, scared that I would forget things and spill stuff. Scared that something might fail half way through and I'd have to abort and waste ingredients and time.
Turns out I didn't need to be. The system worked nearly flawlessly and I'm pretty damn excited about using it again.
The system design is incredible. Brew day works as advertised and it all makes complete sense once you get started. It makes brew day a real treat having every part of the process catered for with well designed equipment.
Positives from the day were:
- Simplicity. PIDs are awesome, set and forget, job done with no fuss.
- Having a full system process sorted from start to finish – plumbing, water, hoses, cooling, cleaning. A place for everything and everything in it's place.
- Etched volume measurements. As accurate as I'll ever need and always easy to read.
- Mash tun bazooka screen. Really in hindsight had I known they were going to send me 2 pumps for the price of one I would definitely had just bought another pot and a false bottom. But the round cooler and bazooka screen worked super well, recirculation and sparge/lauter worked flawlessly, crystal clear wort into the kettle and over 80% mash efficiency. Brilliant!
- Counterflow chiller as HERMs – I figured it would work as the HX and it did, even managed to raise to mash out in pretty good time (10 minutes or so). There's a bit of lag on the raise but once it catches up it sits within 1.5deg of the HLT.
- Auber beer timer JSL-73B: a few people I've spoken to have been sceptical of the value of this thing. I can confirm that not only is it easy to use, but the utility of having it right there on the panel (as opposed to externally, say on my phone which I also have an app for) is incredibly useful. One of those seemingly little things that anyone could take or leave, but makes a huge difference on brew day.
- Counterflow chiller as chiller, this thing is a beast. I was concerned about the performance of stainless (as opposed to copper) and the rather short length of it. But it outperformed my other brewery counterflow easily, got me down to 20deg within 20 min. Reckon it will work even better if the flow through it isn't so constrained. So good finally having chilling capability.
- Everything worked! No electrical failures, only a tiny leak issue and a slight process hitch.
So the negatives. hardly any:
- A persistent leak from the elbow at the top of one of the pump outlets. No matter how many or few winds of teflon tape I couldn't get the damn thing to stop. I'll keep trying, it was considerable over the course of the brew day.
- The mash tun doesn't have an inlet. One of my hoses has an extension that I run over the top of the MLT to sit on the grain bed, which means I need to remember to take that end of the hose out of the mash before I disconnect the other end from the HERMs coil. Then it wouldn't siphon a couple of litres of grain and wort from the mash all over the ground.
- The kettle hop-bazooka-screen clogged pretty much straight away and left the recirc/whirpool running through the chiller at a dribble. Took ages to fill the fermenter, then to clean was a real bitch. The hop sludge was friggen stuck solid. Amazed there was any throughput at all. I might well just remove this from the system, either that or maybe get a hop spider.
Basically no negatives, just 100% pure joy and wonder.
Mash temp at 68.2 deg (trying to get it to drop slightly to hit the target of 77.5). You can see the HLT is at 71.1 but the set point is 69. This is just me learning that the system will level out at 1.5deg above mash temp.
Clarity into the kettle was amazing. No vorlauf required, just pump directly across – benefits of a recirculating system.
Thanks for reading the series, hopefully I've helped a few of you with your decision making and building of your own systems.