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The Cost to Build a Homebrewery - End Game Brewing

Posted by zVulture on 11/24/2015 at 12:37:38 PM


In my previous posts I covered costs to starting a brewery then costs for Mash Tuns, Yeast Starter Equipment, and Kegging. In both I went for the least expensive recommended setup to give others an idea of how much it costs for this hobby. This time I am doing personal research for my own homebrewing setup in time for Black Friday. With my research I intend to move to a two pot and single mash tun setup that will allow me to do the most varieties of brewing processes. No Sparge, Batch Sparge, Fly Sparge, Cold Fly Sparge, Brew in a Bag, Decoction, and whatever else I can imagine.

Notes: The links here are un-affiliated and are there for pricing and ease of use. This is me planning for a build so costs and equipment might need adjustments. Due to the custom nature of this build, I don't see prices of items going on sale on black friday but doing this just in case there is. I am also quite open for suggestions if there are improvements!

It's Pot Time

I had an earlier post dedicated to just pots with my research. I initially decided on going with some custom hardware from Colorado Brew Systems as I can get a 20 gallon Boil pot with Tri-clamp fittings, whirlpool port and whirlpool elbow for $330 (without Valves or Thermometer). Note, they are currently moving facilities so ordering is on hold for pots. This is about the right costs for around this price range for completed systems like Bru Gear's 20 gallon pot for $340. But being a homebrewer has brought about a lot of DIY projects which is going to extend to this. Partly for costs but also so I have a customized system in place that fits my brew style/needs. Let's start with a list just to see if it really is cost effective:

We are looking at the following setup here:
In/Out Tube > 90 Degree Elbow > Washer > Silicone O-Ring > [POT] < Silicone O-Ring < Lock Nut < NPT x Tri-Clover < Tri-Clover Clamp < Tri-Clover x NPT < Ball Valve < NPT x Camlock

Quick Note: While writing this, I came across the Quick Clean Ball valve which is more expensive than a 3 piece Ball Valve for $11. It's well worth the money to easily clean these out. Also let me know if I missed updating total prices.

I am doing this Twice, one for output/drainage and one for the Whirlpool. I also decided not to go with a temperature gauge as there are better ones like the thermapen and the probe isn't in the way inside the pot. Thankfully I have a friend with the drill bit needed but I am including it in the cost for this project if someone is starting from scratch, though I assume they have a drill for the bit. So the total for a single pot for this comes out to... $333. Now the price of the welded pot was $332 without fittings. To complete that out and add fittings (including a Cap for temp port $14) comes to another $120, $452. I think that a bit of DIY can save me about $120 is worth it, more so when it comes to doing two pots. This is just for the Boil pot though, doing a HLT/BIAB Pot doubles up the savings. Adjusted for only one set of ports and assuming you now have the step drill bit, washers, and O-Rings it comes to $196. Compared against the similar setup on $320 with Colorado Brewing or $340 with Bru Gear. We are coming out to a total savings of over $260!

Hot Tub Mash Machine

The last post in this series covered the ways to get into an inexpensive mash tun. Here I am going to detail out my options for a more comprehensive setup. With the above section, I could easily add another 20gal pot to my list for $196 though adding the cost of insulation. The other option being the cooler mash tun, which I already have setup but it just needs tweaking. The only problem I have with it is that it doesn't fit my new system of using Camlocks and it doesn't have a sparge arm. But for those looking to do a raw build here is the full details.

We are looking at the following setup here:
Mesh Filter > Clamp > 1/2" Barb x Female NPT > Washer > Silicon O-ring > NPT Nipple > [Cooler] < Silicon O-ring < Washer < Ball Valve < NPT x Camlock

So with this, I am assuming we have washers/O-rings from the pots. I personally am including the filter as it doesn't hurt to have the extra layer when I am already putting in the Valve and Camlock anyway. The cost comes to $161 ($107 without brew bag) which is still a savings of $35 from the Pot. This price difference isn't big so some might want to go with a third pot. I am just saving a little as I already have a mash tun setup and just upgrading it.

Sparge ye matey

If it wasn't apparent already, I am building all this out as a DIY system to save costs. The sparge arm/manifold is no exception here as a pre-built one, like this one, is $50. While it also intended for rounded mash tuns or pots instead of the mash tun I have. The two main options for making your own seem to be either soft Copper tubing or CPVC pipes. Initially I was going a little mad scientist on this and add on some Pie Tins to use as my sprinkler system but the hardware was adding up. So a simple CPVC manifold works as it is less expensive and it's temperature tolerance is 180F which we shouldn't be going over 160F when sparging.

So this will require more diagrams than my earlier text renditions. The description will hopefully hold out until I can do the build. Basically it's a 'H' of pipe with a Tee joint in the middle going up to the Copper MPT > Camlock output (elbow to a direction you like). The tube strap (facing down) and wood is for extra support to hang it over the the mash tun. Then it's just a matter of putting some holes in the legs of the 'H' frame for the water to drip out of. The cost comes out to $24 in total which is another $25 in savings from the pre-built option that doesn't fit my build. That being said, those using the pot option can make a smaller one for less or use the pre-built option.

To Be Continued

I originally intended to give a comprehensive post on all the stages of this project but my research time was cut short due to moving (a slight priority). Each of these sections could have dedicated posts to them but I wanted to make sure to get something out for Black Friday so others could see what would be good to get. I will have to write up a separate post for the Mill, Brew Stand, Pump, Chilling, and well all the rest I missed. Overall I hope you found something useful from my research to use in your own home system.

Steven, otherwise known as zVulture on reddit or in games, is a homebrewer with two years and counting under the belt. Ambitious enough to think he can work his way up to opening his own brewery but knows he has a lot to learn. Beyond having fun doing experimental homebrewing to such an end, he enjoys learning and using old techniques, useful or not, to make beer. "[We] are only concerned with giving homebrewers accurate information based on our own experience in the hope that they will find the information useful and employ it to make their own homebrewing hobby more fun and rewarding. Because that’s what it’s all about– fun. If you’re stressing over homebrewing, you’re doing something wrong." - Denny Conn

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Tags for this post: equipment, pot, mash tun, sparge, DIY

Reviewing the Brewers' Ledger - Organize Your Brew Logs

Posted by homebrewdad on 11/20/2015 at 11:06:20 AM

A couple of weeks ago, my buddy Marshall (widely known as the great Brulosopher) put me in contact with a gentleman by the name of Tony Pawela. Tony was looking for someone to review his creation, the Brewers' Ledger, but Marshall just had too many irons in the fire to do so himself.

I'll admit that I thought about it for a bit before I volunteered to do the review. The fact of the matter is that I'm a huge fan of Beersmith, and I take pretty meticulous records in it already. Also, my handwriting is pretty poor - okay, my handwriting is downright atrocious - making written notes not exactly my thing. So, to be perfectly honest, I had my doubts as to how useful I would find such a product. That said, Beersmith is pretty clunky in terms of keeping your notes organized, so I figured that the Brewers' Ledger might be worth a look.

Full disclosure: as mentioned above, the Brewers' Ledger was provided to me at no cost, for the specific purpose of having me review it. Links in this page point to Amazon, where the book is self published; these links do include the BrewUnited affiliate code.

With that said, the following review is 100% true and accurate, and is in my own words. Tony Pawela did not suggest any portion of, edit, or even read my review prior to my public post.

The day that my copy...
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Tags for this post: brewers, ledger, brew, log, notes, book

The Cost to Build a Homebrewery - Upping the Game

Posted by zVulture on 11/12/2015 at 10:10:17 PM


In my last post I covered the costs for getting into the hobby so that new brewers had a better idea of what to expect. To further that and for current brewers alike, this post will be covering optional systems to expand your homebrewing control and/or convenience. The first will be a look into the Mash Tun which is one, but not the only, way of doing all grain brewing. The second being Yeast Starter equipment which will assist in both healthy fermentations and propagation. And the last being getting into Kegging which has made my life easier since the start. Each of these could have a post on their own detailing the processes, benefits and drawbacks but the purpose of this post is Cost. How much will it be to get into each of these? (TL;DR at bottom)

Note:All links are un-affiliated and are provided for proof of prices. The sources for prices used are examples for price points As with my last post, each section will be updated with feedback/tips from the homebrewing community.

Keeping it Hot in a Cooler

Mash Tun is a very simple device with a few items to help make things convenient. At it's core, it's just a container that is large enough to hold the total mash at a desired temperature using Insulation. There are other methods using direct or indirect heating to maintain temperature but those will not be covered here. There are three primary types of Mash...
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Tags for this post: Costs, hardware, equipment, kegerator, keezer, kegging, mash tun, stir plate, yeast starter

Announcing the Grand Prize Winner of the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge!

Posted by homebrewdad on 11/11/2015 at 12:29:33 PM

Yesterday, we (finally) managed to get the Best of Show judging done with the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge. Of course, this was about nine days after when we had scheduled for it to be done; I am sorry for the delay. By and large, I feel like things ran really smoothly in this competition, but the judge no shows at the Malty Division got us behind schedule. When you combine that with the aggressive calendar for BOS judging (silly me thought that we could easily judge BOS a week after the initial Division judging), I ended up having to scramble for BOS judges. Live and learn; next year, we'll plan a little more cushion into the schedule.

But that's neither here nor there, and I'm sure that nobody really cares about the whys of how things got off.

Yesterday, we had three BJCP judges meet and judge the Best of Show beers (let me give a quick shout out to Alabrew, who was awesome enough to let us judge there). They were super professional and thoughtful during the process, weighing each beer and making their own notes before any discussion was made. Then, they deliberated - and the discussion got a little lively.

Please let me be very clear - all three of the finalist beers were excellent. The judges really enjoyed them all, and had great things to say about them all. But in a round like this, every tiny possible flaw gets examined and tossed around, the...
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Tags for this post: grand, prize, winner, BrewUnited, challenge, competition, brewing, beer

The Cost to Build a Homebrewery - Getting in the Game

Posted by zVulture on 11/05/2015 at 04:23:17 PM


A friend got interested in homebrewing after all the good beer I was bringing into work each week. He asked me how expensive it is to get into the hobby and unfortunately the answer isn't simple. Each person has a price range and just what they 'expect' is needed to get started. Some brewers start small and build out equipment over time. But what I did recommend was to wait for Black Friday coming up as there will be deals to start even an all grain brewery on the cheap. So, for him and all the other brewers getting into the hobby here is the first post among a few relating to the costs of building out a brewery at home.

Note: Links are unaffiliated. I utilized Amazon, Northern Brewer and Adventures in Brewing as examples for prices. There are great other places to get supplies including local homebrew shops (which avoid shipping delays/costs). Links are mostly provided for ease of use and proof of price for items.

The Starting Line

So in any research it was essential to find out just what was essential to start. The first stage of course being the ability to make beer. This though is going to be dependent on your home's temperature. What at the most minimum you would like to get is:

5 Gallon Pot ($20-$30) Plastic Fermenter ($15) Bottling Bucket ($18) Airlock ($2) [Get 2, backups are nice] ...
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Tags for this post: cost, black friday, brewery, equipment

Reviewing the BeerBug - Wifi Enabled Digital Hydrometer/Thermometer

Posted by homebrewdad on 11/05/2015 at 09:56:52 AM

Back in mid July, I was contacted by a new potential sponsor for the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge - the BeerBug. Now, you should understand that I certainly had no intention of turning down any homebrewing related sponsor - let alone one that was willing to pledge $330 worth of gift certificates (plus some tee shirts) - so I was more than happy to have them involved. After exchanging some emails with Cassie, their marketing director, we also agreed on having me review a BeerBug.

Full disclosure: as mentioned above, the BeerBug was provided to me at no cost, for the specific purpose of having me review it. In addition, parasitX (makers of the BeerBug) are sponsoring the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge by donating the aforementioned gift certificates and tee shirts as prizes. Finally, do note that links to the BeerBug site do include an affiliate code for BrewUnited.

With that said, the following review is 100% true and accurate, and is in my own words. parasitX did not suggest any portion of, edit, or even read my review prior to my public post.

If you're not aware of the product, then you should know that the BeerBug is a nifty little gadget that allows homebrewers to monitor the gravity and temperature of their fermenting beers in real time - either via website or mobile app (available on both iOS and Android) - due to the fact that it is wifi enabled. Those that know me know that while...
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Tags for this post: beer, bug, beerbug, digital, wifi, hydrometer, gravity, temperature

Winter Seasonal Beer - Gingerbread Milk Stout

Posted by zVulture on 11/02/2015 at 07:51:33 AM


I have been working on a base milk stout recipe that I wanted to use with seasonal flavors. The sweeter base makes for a bed to help out any spice or flavor additions as some can be harsh on their own or seem lacking without the sweetness that gets fermented out. With the holidays coming up and competitions to match it came time to put it to the test. I wanted to avoid pumpkin due to it's popularity and prevalence that wouldn't shine in a competition lineup. Apple Pie is handled better in ciders, Anise Cookies (a family tradition) is a bit too rare for people to understand...but what about Gingerbread?

Sugar, Spice and everything Nice - Chocolate dipped Anise Seed Cookies & More!

The Recipe Note: This recipe is over complicated right now and I am working to simplify it. Still, it tastes amazing so it has been worth the trouble.

Type: All Grain
Style: 2015 - 30C. Winter Seasonal Beer
OG: 1.064
FG: 1.027
Alcohol: ~4.9%
IBU: 32
Batch Vol: 5.50 gal
Bottling Vol: 5.00 gal
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%

Amount Name Type Addition %Bill/IBU 5 lb US 2-Row Grain Mash 37% 3 lbs Munich Malt Grain Mash 22% 1 lb Caramel 120L Grain Mash 7.4% 1 lb Flaked Oats Grain Mash 7.4% 1 lb Flaked Rye Grain Mash 7.4% 0.5 lb (8oz) Chocolate Malt Grain Mash...
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Tags for this post: Gingerbread, Spice, Spice Beer, Winter, Holiday, Milk Stout

Announcing the Divisional Round Winners of the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge!

Posted by homebrewdad on 10/30/2015 at 11:55:16 AM

When I first tossed around the idea of this competition, there were some naysayers. I was warned that organizing a competition would be a lot of work, that it would be difficult, that it would be a pain. Then, as the idea evolved into the eventual form - and even after we first announced - the pushback, if anything, got stronger. Why use this format? Why be so restrictive? Why use these grains? Why not allow other hops? Why go with these styles? Didn't I understand that flaked wheat was a stupid, devilish requirement, that it was impossible to make a decent IPA - let alone a drinkable Kolsch - with even a single grain of C60, that there was no way that someone could produce anything but a drain pour of a Strong Scotch Ale in such a timeframe, that you just can't make style X, Y, or Z without ingredient A or with the inclusion of ingredient B?

But I really believed in the concept of forcing brewers to rely on skill and technique to overcome a restrictive set of ingredients in the pursuit of brewing great beer - even if it took them out of their comfort zones to do so. I'll admit, I took a lot of pleasure in discovering that I was far from alone in finding this to be a fun concept; we ended up with sponsored prize donations of over four thousand, seven hundred dollars in retail value, and we exceeded our registration...
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Tags for this post: beer, competition, brewing, challenge, winner, winners, prizes

Project & Blog Status Update

Posted by zVulture on 10/15/2015 at 12:38:40 PM


Hey all, I have been busy the past two weeks as I have been working on upgrading the biggest piece of my brewing home. Hitting the limits in how much I can do in a condo, timing couldn't have been better for me to move up to a full house. Beyond trying to handle cleaning and organizing, I have also been brewing for multiple competitions as well as the barrel project which I will be posting details on along with a short blerb for each in this post.

Gingerbread Milk Stout

One beer for three competitions, though only one with awards, seems like a good bit of efficiency to me. I had two 'holiday/winter' beer competitions as well as one 'dark beer' competition. Combining them together I went on to modify my Milk Stout recipe to something less common than Pumpkin or Apple Pie. So I came up with the idea of Gingerbread as it seemed the spices would go well with the roast and malt flavors. This is done fermenting so the post will be up sooner than later.

Citrus IPA Part of the Reddit competition I am doing two beers for, the first one is an American IPA. While having access to a stupid amount of both amazing and terrible IPA's from living in San Diego, I wanted to try my hand at it in order to learn more about hops and other yeasts I haven't touched. This is my second go at an IPA,...
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Tags for this post: Dunkelweizen, Barrel, IPA, Milk Stout, Holiday


Posted by Stonehands on 10/06/2015 at 09:37:37 PM

Oktoberfest. The mere word conjures up visions of oompah bands, lederhosen, autumn fare, but most of all - BEER. Not just any beer though, festbier. An elusive beer style, tough to find in the states in the fall, impossible to find any other season. I write this as the 2015 Munich Oktoberfest is just wrapping up. I'm sure work is underway to take down the tents already, as the scent of roasted nuts and steckerlfisch still hangs in the air. The passing of Oktoberfest generally means that finding (fresh) examples of this beer will slowly start to be impossible. 
I've been fortunate enough to attend a few of the fests over the last decade - a trip well worth the price of the admission just for the beer. What many don't realize is that at Oktoberfest, you are limited to the "Big Six" Breweries - Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulaner, and Spaten. Each tent serves one of these beers, made by breweries within the city limits of Munich. All of the beers are similar style, but different in their own ways. I've argued over the beers, on which is the best. Everyone has an opinion. I've had a festbier or two from other breweries - Weihenstephan comes to mind - that make excellent examples of the style, the Six are traditional though. 

The Big Six
This year I had to stay home, but my usual group of friends - they've been going every year...
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Tags for this post: Oktoberfest, festbier, beer, German, lager

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