eBIAB – The Electric Brewery

Yet again, the summer harvest means all of a sudden I go quiet!

Well, the nights are drawing in, I’ve already made the mistake of forgetting to spike chestnuts and had explosions in the kitchen.

As ever, a week doesn’t go past without another project rearing its head.  I’ve decided to become somewhat self sufficient in beer by brewing my own.  I’ve always used kits in the past, but after spending a whole day at the London Hackspace (http://hack.rs/) with the all grain brewers I fancied building my own gear and having a go.

When I lived back in Norwich having read the free ‘How to Brew’ by John Palmer, I bought a very large stock pot (about 19ltrs) because this would be enough to do both full extract brewing and all grain if I so wished.

I’ve seen several different types of brewing – mostly using gas.  Then a few years ago I came across the electric brewery.  Warning, viewing that site may make you buy expensive matt black control panels.

Unfortunately I don’t feel my current pot is really big enough for me as I want to do brewing in a bag, with an electrical element in built.  The last time I tried to do a full extract brew in it & hopping it myself, the pot melted the electric cooker, so doing stove top again fills me with fear. Putting the element in removes that fear, but then I can’t put the bag in easily without it touching the element – a false bottom will keep it separate but I loose too much volume.  A user on Jims beer kit pointed out I could do mini-BIAB or maxi-BIAB.  My main reasoning for going down this route is I want to brew large all grain, but with as little hassle as possible.

On this site, they use electricity instead of gas to heat up the vast volumes of water required.  This appealed to me because gas is very expensive and not very efficient, especially in a draughty garage and I don’t much fancy carbon monoxide poisoning by shutting the door.

Last year I got an ARC welder and this is not the sort of thing you can run off a normal 13A socket.  Though that’s exactly what I have done by limiting the number of amps so I don’t melt my wiring.  To run the ARC welder safely, it really needed a dedicated 32A supply.  So whilst installing a line like this would normally not be cost effective, I bought the parts and ran the wires and my friend Allan wired it all up.  I now have a switched industrial 32A socket and a new consumer unit  in the garage.

I’ve scavenged a sink from a neighbour and I’m lucky I have a waste pipe in the garage I can put a pipe into and hopefully run a nice new cold feed from the adjacent outbuilding toilet.

Some people go for the slightly cheaper option of having two Asda smart price 2.2kw kettle elements mounted in a plastic bucket, but I didn’t want to do this by half and worry about the safety later.  So I’ve taken the plunge and advantage of my Christmas list by getting relatives to help out with the costs.

Paul at Angelhomebrewing.co.uk has a number of fairly cheap 70ltr stock pots.  He’s drilling the holes for me so I don’t need to invest in a bunch of expensive hole punches which I’ll likely as not never use again.  I’ve bought a 2 piece ball valve tap, 5.5kw low what per inch camco element from the US, had a stainless steel shim custom laser cut off ebay (£5), temperature gauge, sight glass, temperature probe, 40A SSR, Auber PID for temperature control.  All of this has been fairly pricey, but with the exception of the PID/SSR & Camco element, exactly what you’d normally buy for all grain. (There’s a few bits I’ve not included, thermal grease – about 99p inc P&P, a SSR heatsink £8 inc P&P, a Stainless Steel nut from China for the element which I hope fits 99p, high temp silicon o-rings, and a project box to put this all in, I’ve not found where that is yet…)

I did initially approach my wife to get a bag sewn for brewing, but in the end we went with Paul again from Angel Homebrewing.

So after Christmas I hope to chronical the build, take you through my first brew step by step from grain to bottling.

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