Help me build a great brewery
March 21, 2010 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Building a new garage. It will include a dedicated space for brewing fabulous beer. Technical design and planning questions inside.

I have, functionally, unlimited space in which to install the equipment to brew beer. I've homebrewed for years and am well versed in all grain brewing, etc. Basically, I know how to brew beer. Further, I have no worries about high and low voltage wiring, digital control design, etc.

Basic ideas that are (mostly) set in stone at this point:
1) All heat will be electric from water heater elements mounted in / on the vessel being heated;
2) I'll use a RIMS/HERM system in the mash tun. Temp of this, and the HLT and maybe the boil kettle will be controlled by PID modules driving relays which power the heating elements.
3) System must be able to handle 10 gallon batches at reasonable gravities. This results in the ability to make crazy high gravity 5 gallon batches(barleywine, RI stout, etc.).
4) I have plenty of height so the HLT can be way up high and out of the way. Not interested in having the MT/LT or boil kettle too high since I need to move them around to clean them.


A) type of vessel for MT/LT and boil kettle - plastic water cooler types? Stainless? the fab work implied in either choice is tolerable - mostly interested in your positive / negative experiences - like how long does the plastic last before becoming embrittled, etc.?

B) Ever seen anything like this? got links? I can find plenty of brew tower / SABCO style apparatuses. Those are fine but if I have a room to design I can hard mount lots of stuff on the wall and get it out of the way / make it easier to use, etc.

C) for the hot water /wort - copper, Plex, reinforced tubing? any preference? any recommendations for or against?

D) Any low-end-ish, amateur oriented CIP solutions? I'm not afraid of building stuff but have no experience with CIP.

E) Mostly the negative feedback would be great. Things like "you'll always regret if you mount X above Y" or "don't use type Z blarglarg in the zorpzorp operation or you'll get low quality blarg" that sort of thing.

any thoughts appreciated!
posted by BrooksCooper to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
askmetafilter is great but there are some dedicated brewing forums that are probably going to have more on-point information, like They have a forum dedicated to this stuff.
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:53 PM on March 21, 2010

If it was me: make it like a commercial kitchen. Four walls and a floor, ready to be customized for whatever brewing project you can dream of. And if something explodes, you can clean it.

-cleanable floor, like quarry tile or a non porous concrete with either a drain, or slightly pitched toward a door so you can hose it out.

-Tile walls, or that plastic sheeting you see in newer construction.

-Ceiling should probably be of the drop ceiling variety, using cleanable sheets of the same material as above. It is some kind of reinforced plastic.

- I don't know what a lot of those acronyms are. I wouldn't use plastic for anything except temporary storage. It is really hard to keep it sanitary once the shiny finish wears off.

- Even if code isn't an issue for you, keep it up to code. Most importantly, air gaps (or vacuum breakers) for all water to vessel connections, and absolutely air gaps for all water to drain connections. For your boilin' tank, do it like a commercial stove and mount a faucet above. Don't use the same hoses for connecting to the fresh water supply as you do moving the rest of the stuff around.

- For liquid transport, I would use food grade clear vinyl or that cloudy reinforced hose. Probably no need for the reinforcement. But the clear part would be a necessity for me, so I *know* it's clean when it has to be clean.

- Use stainless for your tanks. Easily cleaned and sanitized. I hear brewers like to use old fountain beverage tanks. Tanks of all manner of sizes are available for not that much money at kitchen supply houses, and can handle the pressures involved with no problem. And the nice thing about stainless is that you can get something that's been sitting in a field for a year, clean it with a green scotch brite and you are good to go.

- Mount everything you can onto wheels.

- For the rough plumbing, I would probably use PEX. Being a garage, you never know when you might want to shut it down for a while and PEX is supposed to be better at resisting freezing. But sweatting copper isn't all that hard and does look damn cool if you keep it polished. Design the system so that it can be easily drained if you need to make repairs or shut it down for the winter.
posted by gjc at 7:34 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

My mash tun is a 48qt Igloo cooler with a copper manifold as a filter, it seems to work well.

I "inherited" the copper which is a Brouwland 75l stainless boiler with 2 domestic electrical 3Kw hot water elements. The issue with this is that it's pushing the limits of 240V 13A, but it works as long as I'm careful to run each element off different sockets on different ring mains.

For any liquid that gets near boiling I use 15mm copper, the rest is 5/8" plastic food safe tubing. The issue I've found here is that the pump I use for transferring wort from the underback to the boiler can cause the plastic tube to collapse if you run it too quick, I simply reduce the pump speed right now but might go with reinforced tubing at a later stage.

I second checking specific homebrew forums, I rate the forum on Jim's Beer Kit very highly (may be a little UK specific but we have folks from all over the world there).
posted by hardcode at 4:43 AM on March 22, 2010

You also might consider chatting with the brewers at your favorite brew pub or small craft brewery. They'll be able to tell you what works well for them, location-wise, on a day to day basis. Then you can scale your own site down while retaining some of the spacial features of the pros.

I'm just getting back into brewing and a local brewery, Cape Ann Brewing started a weekly homebrew session. You come by, help brew a small batch of something, then get to taste what was brewed in previous weeks.

I hope you're going all out and splurging on steel conical fermentors. Not because they're good or bad, but because I really want one and wish to live vicariously through your experience. Of course, if the idea of paying 500 bucks a fermentor is out, there are other options.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:47 AM on March 22, 2010

search for terms like "brew sculpture" or "brew rig" or "nano brewery." Plenty of guys have documented putting together homebreweries like the one you're describing. Some of the free-standing brew sheds in particular are extremely drool-worthy. Have fun.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:05 AM on March 22, 2010

I'm looking at PolyMax corrugated boards for a food processing facility I'm looking at. Looks easy to hose off and sanitize and already has FDA approval. If you go with Pex for hot water, I'd look at this cheap Pex crimper. For stainless sinks and tables, look for a grocery store that's going out of business. Firsthand reports indicate that one can pick up a stainless sink for free.

If at all possible, I'd put a 4" drain in the floor. This is what WSDA requires for my purposes and it seems like it'd be *really* handy for cleanup.
posted by stet at 10:40 AM on March 22, 2010

Here's the big thread on HBT.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:22 PM on March 25, 2010

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