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brewer of beer
New Member
Username: Brewbeer22

Post Number: 5
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Wednesday, November 09, 2005 - 09:12 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hello all.

The thread started by Why1504 regarding the purchase of a brew system has prompted me to post these photos of my brewery. I am posting these here also because this design was inspired in part by looking at photos of other peoples systems, and I wish to provide these photos are references to others who are seeking information prior to undertaking their home brewery construction projects.

We all have different goals we are trying to achieve when we contemplate our breweries. In building my system, the most important features I wanted to be included in my design were safety (minimal ladder time, no manual lifting of hot liquids) and convenience (a fully assembled system that could be wheeled out of the corner of the garage and fired up). A 20 gallon batch size and the re-use of some of my existing brewing equipment also factored into the design. After researching temperature control of the mash, I decided that for me, a HERMS system, using a coil immersed in the HLT, would be the way to go. Due to my dislike of handling hot hoses, I also decided that my system would employ hard piping where practical. Because the system would be stored in the garage during freezing weather, the system also needed to drain completely when not in use

After doing research and coming up with a conceptual plan, I took measurements of the various components and drew up a plan to scale of the system components, how they related, and how liquids would be moved between them. From this plan, I assembled the system.


This first picture shows the basic components of my system: an old keg to serve as the HLT and two 28 gallon Italian kettles to serve as the MLT and boil kettle. The frame is made from old bed frames scrounged up from the town transfer station that were cut to length using an angle grinder. The frame is bolted together using high grade fine thread machine bolts. I evaluated the possibility of welding the frame, but decided that it would be less expensive to purchase an angle grinder, some drill bits, and the bolts, vs. a welding rig. Also, I had experience with a drill. Welding I would have had to learn. For me, constructing the frame was probably the single most tedious and time consuming part of building the system. But, it probably is the most important part, so I consider it time well spent.

Not shown is the hard piping between the kettles and the pump, and the insulation that wraps around the MLT, which is foil backed foam board partly slit with incisions 1.5 inches apart to allow it to be wrapped tightly around the MLT.


The system is fired by propane. The boil kettle has a 175,000 BTU Cajun cooker burner. The HLT is heated by a smaller, 25,000 BTU or so burner removed from a cheap turkey fryer. I get two 20 gallon brews out of one 20 lb tank, depending on the mash/boil schedules and the ambient temperature in my garage, where my brewing takes place. Almost all water heating is done in the boil kettle. Under normal operating temperatures (30-50 degrees F), 25 gallons of water heats at about 2 degrees per minute, or a 120 degree temp rise in an hours. So it takes an hour or so of firing to get the system hot enough to mash in. I could prolly cut this time down by only heating as much strike water as I need, but this would only save 20 minutes or so, and I need all that hot water anyway for the HERMS and eventually the sparge.


Here are the various components of the MLT. At the bottom, I use a “Palmeresque” slotted copper pipe manifold. Small holes drilled along the top side of the manifold allows air in the manifold to escape, which really cuts down on pump priming problems. Various sources collectively indicated to me that, in addition to a copper pipe manifold being less expensive than purchasing a stainless steel false bottom, it would also be less prone to stuck sparges, while providing nearly the same theoretical yield as a false bottom. At the 11:00 o’clock position is a calibrated stick used to estimate liquid volumes for strike water and boil volume. At the 4:00 o’clock position is the return manifold. It is a length of CPVC with holes drilled along either side to return recirculating mash liquor and sparge water to the top of the mash. At the 9:00 o’clock position is the tube that sparge water flows through. The pipe at the 10:00 o’clock position is used to transfer sparged wort to the bottom of the boil kettle.


Mash temperature control is via a Heat Exchanger Recirculating Mash System (HERMS). As the sweet liquor is pumped from the MLT, it flows past the lower temperature gauge and this displays the mash temperature. From there, I can adjust the valve to allow flow through the heat exchanger, to by pass the heat exchanger, or a combination thereof. The upper temperature gauge displays the temp of the liquid going back into the MLT. By tweaking the positions of these valves, and adjusting the temperature of the HLT, the system can do a mash out of 148 to 168 on 40 lbs of grain in about 20-25 minutes. The heat exchanger is 20 feet of soft copper.

A typical brew days starts by filling the boil kettle with 25 gallons of filtered water supplied by my local municipality. I fire the system up and go make coffee and eat breakfast. Hot water it then pumped to waste through all the piping to heat everything up and purge it out. The MLT is filled to the desire volume, and the grist is added. I generally stir the mash for about 5-10 while monitoring temps of the mash with a thermometer that gets stuck in the mash. After achieving the desired mash-in temp, more water is added to the boil kettle and heated to about 150 degrees. This water is pumped up to fill HLT. The HLT is then fired to bring it to about 170-180 degrees.

I start to recirculate about 20-30 minutes into the mash. The pump (March) runs constantly while the flow rate and the temps are modulated with the valving that is conveniently located at eye level. No fancy automated control system here; temperature ramps are accomplished by keeping an eye one things. One of the nice features of the “hands-on” approach to temperature ramps is that you don’t get the chance to wander off and get lost in some other task/project while the system is running.

At the end of the mash, the pump is throttled back to no flow using the valves, and the hoses are switched to allow the sparge water to flow through the recirculation manifold, while the output of the MLT is directed to the boil kettle. Depending on the volume and gravity of the brew, sparging is either partly or completely on the fly. In other words, if the 15 gallon HLT doesn’t hold enough sparge water to get to the proper pre-boil volume, additional water is pumped from the boil kettle to the MLT. (a future upgrade that will eventually be made is to replace the 15 gallon HLT with a 20 or 25 gallon HLT).

I sparge at about one gallon per minute. This high sparge rate will probably cause purists fly spargers to gasp, but I consistently get efficiencies in the 75-80% range on beers that are in the 1.060 to 1.070 SG range. This experience indicates that long sparge times are not necessary. The high sparge rate means that sparging only takes 15-20 minutes on average. So perhaps this could be called a hybrid batch-fly sparge.

Boiling is pretty typical. 75-90 minutes depending on the recipe. For a twenty gallon batch, a will put about 25-26 gallons into the boil kettle. About 3 gallons evaporates, one gallon is “lost” due to thermal contraction of the wort during chilling, and 2-3 gallons are lost in trub and hop (pellet) waste.

Chilling is accomplished using a 50 foot immersion chiller. In the colder months in New England, the municipal water supply (surface water) comes to me at about 50-55 degrees. It takes about 20 minutes at a flow rate of 6 gallons per minute to get the wort to the right temperature. I stir the wort constantly with the wort chiller during the chilling process. (This step would benefit from automation.) In the warmer summer months, I don’t brew, due to longer chilling times and my inability to control fermentation temperatures.

After chilling is complete, I whirlpool wort with the wort chiller and then remove it to allow the hops and trub to settle. I'll go and clean the mash tun, and do any racking of previous batches that needs to be done while the settling is taking place. Relatively hop and trub free wort is then transfer to four carboys by gravity, where fermentation takes place.

Because I primarily brew and drink pale ales, I will brew three or four consecutive batches over the course of 6 weeks spaced between one and two weeks apart. I will start with a low gravity “house” ale, with the following batches increasing in gravity, in order to re-use yeast and cut down on the carboy cleaning chores.

With the ability to brew 20 gallons at a time, it doesn’t take long to amass enough beer to keep me in beer from the beginning of June to the end of October where the temps are too warm to brew, chill and ferment (I’ve acquired about 100 gallons of corny capacity over my 10 years of brewing).

I estimate that I have about $1,200 into this system (kettles and pump - $600, burners - $100, drill bits, bolts, casters - $100, copper and brass parts and pieces including wort chiller - $300, and about $100 in other stuff (electrical, spare propane tank, etc.).

I hope this info is helpful to those contemplating the fabrication of their own home brewery system. Please post if you have any questions about this system. I am happy to help in anyway I can.

Happy Brewing !!!

Hugo Angulo
New Member
Username: Hhenterprisesinc

Post Number: 1
Registered: 08-2008
Posted on Thursday, August 28, 2008 - 01:25 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

This is exactly what i am trying to do...

(Message edited by HHenterprisesinc. on August 28, 2008)

brewer of beer
Junior Member
Username: Brewbeer22

Post Number: 52
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Friday, January 23, 2009 - 01:05 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I made some improvements to the system and and posting photos of the updated rig.

This photos shows the new HLT, the insulation used to keep the mash temp from dropping, and the hard piping which connects the MLT and boil kettle to the pump.

This photo shows the with the upgraded HLT. I had three couplings welded into a 28 gallon Italian kettle to serve as connection points for the HERMS coil and thermometer. I also improved the valving and piping to have the ability to switch between recirculating the mash and sparging to the boil kettle without moving hot hoses.

Happy Brewing !!

Bill Pierce
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 9882
Registered: 01-2002
Posted on Friday, January 23, 2009 - 05:28 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

That's a very nice looking system. For what it's worth, I maintain that hoses are more adaptable than hard piping and allow for contingencies and unusual configurations that you can't fully anticipate. They're sufficiently well insulated that burns are not a problem if you use high temperature plastic quick disconnects. I brew 10 gallon batches with half-inch plumbing, and I have no safety concerns about changing hoses without gloves. Of course there are numerous other hazards in brewing, and I keep a pair of thick rubber gloves handy when needed.

Tim C.
Username: Timc

Post Number: 159
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Friday, January 30, 2009 - 03:35 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I see you salved bed frames for the steel in the constuction. I did the same and used a hand drill and 1/4 inch bolts to construct. No problems over 7 years. I have been looking for a good boiler insulation. I used to use a fiber glass bat. However it got soaked in the last boil over. It did save significantly on the propane bill though.

Aaron Maschmeyer
New Member
Username: Admasch

Post Number: 1
Registered: 02-2009
Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2009 - 02:32 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Looking over your system I see it is cleaner in design than at least 50 other systems I have checked out so far for a tow tier with pump system.
My question is, how is it running now? Have you perfected it more, or what would you change to make it better now that you have ran several batches through. I really appreciate the detail, and would like to see more pics of the set up looking back at the system from the far wall to know the last details on how you set this up. I will be making my system a 30 gallon system after your design. Any further observations would be great.

brewer of beer
Junior Member
Username: Brewbeer22

Post Number: 55
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2009 - 05:01 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hi Aaron,

Thank you for your comments. Much of the inspiration for the design came from looking at systems on the "brewzilla" website. Take a look at the systems posted on that site if you haven't already. (

As far as "perfecting" the system, I've made two significant modifications from the system as it was originally constructed. The first was the replacement of the HLT. The 15.5 gallon keggle was too small for 20 gallon batches of anything over moderate gravity. The 28 gallon kettle works much better. The other modification is added piping and valving on the HLT to allow for switching between recirculating to sparging without moving hoses. But as Bill mentioned, moving hoses around isn’t that bid of a deal, especially if you have good hoses and quick disconnects. I’ve brewed 19 batches on the system after the modifications.

If I were to make any more modifications to the system (which I currently have no plans to do) there are a few things I have given consideration.

The first is the boil kettle. The existing 28 gallon Italian kettle is just barely large enough for a 20 gallon batch, and for anything over 1.065, it really isn’t large enough. Boil-overs are a constant concern. Another 5 or 10 gallons of extra space in the boil kettle would be nice to have to reduce the likelihood of boilovers, especially on high-gravity, highly-hopped beers. Also, the bottom of the boil kettle really isn’t thick enough to evenly distribute heat from the flame to the wort. Very minor scorching sometimes occurs. If there were an easy way to clad the bottom of the kettle with an aluminum plate, I would do it.

The second thing that I have though about changing are the burners. The burners are very loud. They are the old style high pressure propane single jet burners and they sound like a jet engine when they are cranked all the way open. Propane is kind of a pain to deal with during the very cold weather in winters around here. When the weather is below 30, I need to swap out tanks to have enough pressure available to heat things up quickly and maintain the boil. If I do anything with the burners, it will be to convert them to low pressure, multiple nozzle, natural gas burners. Converting to natural gas would be a difficult undertaking for me, as the meter is on the opposite side of the house from the garage and the existing piping is undersized for the system’s BTU requirements. Converting would be a lot of work and very expensive, which is not really justified because the current propane system works effectively.

The last thing I’ve thought about (but not really that seriously) is the recirculation piping. It is undersized to allow for quick and efficient temperature ramps on a mash that contains 50-60 (or more) pounds of grain. Increasing the diameter to ½ inch all the way around *might* make a significant difference in the amount of time that ramps take, but I don’t really know how significant that difference would be. Because I am doing single infusion mashes, and conventional wisdom seems to indicate that mash-outs are overrated, I don’t envision that I will be making any piping changes.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to send me an email if you would like to discuss further.

Username: Brewbeer22

Post Number: 114
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Saturday, June 16, 2012 - 02:25 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

2012 Update

Figured I'd post an update and a new photo. I've come up with a workable solution to keeping ale fermentation temperatures in the low to mid 60 degree range during summer months - a water bath where bottles of ice are swapped out as needed to keep the temperature of the fermenting wort in the ideal range (60-65 degree for WL001). Frame is constructed of 2x4s with some wood paneling to fill in the sides, then lined with several layers of polyethylene sheeting to hold the water in. Add a couple of table spoons of bleach to the water bath and it stays reasonably fresh.
It would be really nice to have a temperature controlled 20 gallon fermentor, but that hasn't happened yet. I'll post back when I get that figured out.

(Message edited by Brewbeer22 on June 16, 2012)

New Member
Username: Millsforman

Post Number: 1
Registered: 04-2013
Posted on Wednesday, April 03, 2013 - 07:36 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Where did you find the Italian kettles? I've been looking for something like that and haven't found what I wanted.


Senior Member
Username: Skotrat

Post Number: 1336
Registered: 07-2007
Posted on Thursday, April 04, 2013 - 02:06 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Homebrew Barn in Hampton, NH has those kettles

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