All Grain Equipment

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All Grain Equipment

Postby Zeller09 » Sat Jun 07, 2014 3:46 pm

I am looking to switch over from extract to all grain in the next few months. I have looked up many things with what is needed. Only few things I need an opinion on.

Should I use an old keg and make that into a brew kettle or go ahead and just buy a 10 gallon kettle?

3 tier systems are they necessary? I will start with 5 gallon all grain batches first to get the process down completely.

Any other quick easy equipment you would recommend. My current equipment is posted.

6 gallon glass carboy
Bottling bucket
Fermenting bucket
Currently only a 4 gallon kettle
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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby Mike C-Z » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:33 pm

I have an old keg for a boil kettle. It allows me room to brew 5 or 10 gallon batches with enough extra room I don't have to worry as much about boil overs. I use a converted cooler for a mash tun and I'm happy. You do not need a three tier system to make great beer. Keep your 4 gallon kettle, it will be great for heating sparge water on the stove.
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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby Zeller09 » Sun Jun 08, 2014 12:42 am

Awesome thanks my buddy has an old keg laying around which I'm hoping to get my hands on.

Any good diagrams or instructions to make that into a brew kettle?
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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby wnordmann » Sun Jun 08, 2014 6:45 pm

Personally I am not a fan of the old Keg to kettle conversion. I would recommend going to dragon trading http://www.dragontradingus.com/ or buying mega-pot http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/megapot-1-2-brew-kettle.html not the cheapest option but it's a really great product.

Cutting the top off a keg takes time and an angle grinder, drilling a drain takes time an a step bit. And when it's all done you have a old kettle without a lid doing a job it was never built for.

I am a huge fan of the cooler based mash tun.

I recommend attending one of the all grain demos at St. Louis Wine and Beer to see equipment and the process. http://www.stlbrews.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4666
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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby siwelwerd » Sun Jun 08, 2014 8:22 pm

Mike C-Z wrote:Keep your 4 gallon kettle, it will be great for heating sparge water on the stove.


+1, I still use the 5 gallon pot I started out with to heat my sparge water. For batch sparging, that's all you need.

Since no one has addressed the 3 tier question: No, it is not necessary. I put my (cooler, like Willie suggested) mash tun on a pair of saw horses, and (before I got my pumps) drain to a kettle on the ground. After the boil, I would lift the kettle onto the saw horses to drain into the carboy.

I do recommend going ahead and getting a bigger kettle than you think you need. I was an early adopter of the Penrose kettle, and at the time, never thought I would need all that space; but having the flexiblity to do the occasional 10 gallon batch has really come in handy as my brewing time has dwindled lately. Also, the word "boil-over" is no longer in my vocabulary :lol:

The geometry of keggles is a little suboptimal (a bit of a wider base is better), but if you have the keg already go that way. A plasma cutter can make quicker work of the job than an angle grinder, FWIW.
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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby seymour » Sun Jun 08, 2014 10:19 pm

wnordmann wrote:Personally I am not a fan of the old Keg to kettle conversion. I would recommend going to dragon trading http://www.dragontradingus.com/ or buying mega-pot http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/megapot-1-2-brew-kettle.html not the cheapest option but it's a really great product.

Cutting the top off a keg takes time and an angle grinder, drilling a drain takes time an a step bit. And when it's all done you have a old kettle without a lid doing a job it was never built for.

Each to their own, of course, but I love the keggles I modified. If you can find a cheap/free second-hand keg, and you're willing to put in a little work, they make excellent equipment and as such are vastly cheaper than any alternative I could find.

It doesn't need to be so intimidating, I had neither an angle grinder nor a plasma cutter. I got a nice clean cut using a common saws-all. Instead of removing the entire dome top, I measured my hole to fit a large old crock pot lid (so yes you can have a lid), and I used a cheap hole saw drill bit for the ball valve, thermometer, and sight gauge holes, all to great effect. I also saved money by purchasing most of the plumbing bits at Lowes and even cutting my own silicone washers from one of those cheap flexi baking sheets.

siwelwerd wrote:The geometry of keggles is a little suboptimal (a bit of a wider base is better), but if you have the keg already go that way.

That's true, I suppose, but my keggle has a wider ratio than the turkey fryer pot I previously used, and it's thick stainless steel instead of thinner aluminum, so for me the keggle was an upgrade in those respects too. A minor downside to the wider ratio, though, is much more evaporation loss than I was used to, so it's taking me some trial-and-error to relearn my personal system and recipe formulation...

There's no right or wrong answers here, these Do-It-Yourselfer projects are all part of the homebrewer mentality, so you'll just find what works for you and keep tweaking as you go...
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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby Michael » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:35 am

"Free/cheap" keg equals stolen keg and I would not recommend that rout. Reconditioned used kegs are really not that cost effective, although they are honestly acquired. A 15+ gallon stock pot is the best route to go if you want to brew the occasional 10 gallon batch.

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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby wnordmann » Mon Jun 09, 2014 7:18 pm

seymour wrote:There's no right or wrong answers here, these Do-It-Yourselfer projects are all part of the homebrewer mentality, so you'll just find what works for you and keep tweaking as you go...


There is no reason you can't perform all of the same modifications to a cheap 15 gallon stock pot. The stock pot metal is MUCH easier to drill.

I know many many people love their modified kegs, but I think it's just the beer related connection more than maximum use of material.
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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby rex » Fri Jun 20, 2014 5:39 am

I haven't done it yet, but I kind of like the idea of a complete keg/tapper as a pressurized hot liquor tank which can sit at any convenient elevation. It would need some attention to pressure relief requirements in relation to burner output: the relief valve in the tapper would likely need to be augmented with, say, a hot water heater popoff valve on the gas in side of the tapper (with ballcheck removed). A PID controller setup like those sold on Amazon for DIY sous vide would be a nice addition.

A coil in the kettle can serve to provide on the fly heating for strike water, and if you are willing to collect first runnings elsewhere, sparge water. This allows a 3-vessel, two-tier brewhouse arrangement.

One keg mod I have often thought about but not yet pulled the trigger on is cutting the bottom off/out to make a big stainless funnel.
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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby seymour » Fri Jun 20, 2014 4:08 pm

Michael wrote:"Free/cheap" keg equals stolen keg...

Not always, that's an exaggeration.

I bought mine from a guy who had a backyard kegger party many years before and never got around to returning it. Does that make it stolen? No, the liquor store kept his deposit and charged him an additional keg replacement fee (he has the credit card receipt to prove it), which would've been balanced on the store's next order from the distributor, which would've been balanced on the distributor's next order from the brewery. Believe me, the big guy makes sure he gets paid in the end, and the middle men have ways to keep from getting burned too. You don't need to feel sorry for them and criminalize the little DIY guy.

Speaking of big guys, we live in the hometown of Anheuser-Busch. There are hundreds or thousands of their old kegs in every junkyard, scrapyard, and metal recycler around town because they're continuously retiring damaged ones and replacing them with newer designs. Also, if you're friends with a microbrewery worker, they often have damaged ones they're willing to sell cheap for the asking. I'm tired of this attitude that anyone with a 1/2 barrel stainless-steel keg must be a thief.

There's nothing wrong with store-bought stock pots, of course, I'm just saying it's not intrinsically more noble.
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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby Michael » Fri Jun 20, 2014 6:20 pm

Sorry you feel that way. Just because someone did not return the keg and lost his deposit does not make it his keg. If recycling yards are full of AB kegs then there is your answer or any micro who is willing to part with a damaged keg. I got tired of losing kegs with no replacement from anyone. All I'm saying is get you kegs from a reputable source.

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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby turkeyjerky214 » Fri Jun 20, 2014 6:26 pm

Not always, but more times than not. I was in college when they started tagging kegs back on '04. The tags were incredibly flimsy and broke off very easily. If someone bumped it the wrong way, they came right off. Once they were off, we couldn't get our $50 deposit back. At that point, they were worthless to us, so we just stock piled them in the basement. Over my 5 years (maybe all the kegs had something to do with that), we amassed quite a collection. Eventually we just abandoned kegs and went the route of getting cases.

While we didn't straight up steal them from behind a liquor store or anything, they definitely weren't obtained legally. I'm not going to vilify people for taking the same approach because lord knows I've broken my share of laws over the years, but just because you lost your deposit and paid a replacement fee (didn't even know that was a thing), that doesn't mean they were legally purchased.


siwelwerd wrote:The geometry of keggles is a little suboptimal (a bit of a wider base is better), but if you have the keg already go that way.


Can you elaborate on this, Drew? You say a wider base is better, but from what I can remember, the inner diameter of a keg is pretty similar to a Penrose. I'm only asking because I'm currently using 15-gallon MoreBeer kettles, and I really dislike them because of how wide they are. I miss the thinner, taller design of the Penrose because when I'm doing an 11-gallon batch, I've got about 14 gallons pre-boil (2 gallons boil off, half gallon to leave behind, half gallon shrinkage), and so I've got like an inch of headroom which has resulted in several boil-overs.
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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby seymour » Sat Jun 21, 2014 8:45 am

Michael wrote:Sorry you feel that way. Just because someone did not return the keg and lost his deposit does not make it his keg. If recycling yards are full of AB kegs then there is your answer or any micro who is willing to part with a damaged keg. I got tired of losing kegs with no replacement from anyone. All I'm saying is get you kegs from a reputable source.

Mike

Fair enough, fair enough. I'm not endorsing disreputable sources, or at least I'm not trying to. I am saying though, the one I'm talking about didn't simply involve a lost deposit, but an actual purchase price as well which does make it his, strictly speaking. But I do see your point, I have no hard proof the brewery received that payment nor a replacement keg. I definitely understand kegs are are huge expense for small and mid-size breweries, and they should never be taken without compensation.
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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby Michael » Sat Jun 21, 2014 3:12 pm

seymour wrote:
Michael wrote:Sorry you feel that way. Just because someone did not return the keg and lost his deposit does not make it his keg. If recycling yards are full of AB kegs then there is your answer or any micro who is willing to part with a damaged keg. I got tired of losing kegs with no replacement from anyone. All I'm saying is get you kegs from a reputable source.

Mike

Fair enough, fair enough. I'm not endorsing disreputable sources, or at least I'm not trying to. I am saying though, the one I'm talking about didn't simply involve a lost deposit, but an actual purchase price as well which does make it his, strictly speaking. But I do see your point, I have no hard proof the brewery received that payment nor a replacement keg. I definitely understand kegs are are huge expense for small and mid-size breweries, and they should never be taken without compensation.


I agree and appreciate your take.

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Re: All Grain Equipment

Postby siwelwerd » Sat Jun 21, 2014 6:19 pm

Can you elaborate on this, Drew? You say a wider base is better, but from what I can remember, the inner diameter of a keg is pretty similar to a Penrose. I'm only asking because I'm currently using 15-gallon MoreBeer kettles, and I really dislike them because of how wide they are. I miss the thinner, taller design of the Penrose because when I'm doing an 11-gallon batch, I've got about 14 gallons pre-boil (2 gallons boil off, half gallon to leave behind, half gallon shrinkage), and so I've got like an inch of headroom which has resulted in several boil-overs.


i don't have a keg handy, but I'm pretty sure one will fit in my Penrose kettles with an inch to spare. A wider kettle is going to be more energy efficient than a taller one on the typical propane burner, but have a higher boiloff rate. To me, being wider isnt a drawback as long as you have ample headroom to prevent boilovers and beer sloshing over the edge if you have to move a full kettle.
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