Steps to System

1. Frame
2. Burners and Gas Lines
3. Heat Shielding
4. HLB, Mash Tun,
and Kettle
5. Heating Chamber
6. Immersion Chiller
7. Counterflow Heat
8. Pumps
9. Plumbing for both
10. RIMS Control System
11. Electrical Plan
12. Controller


Brewery Construction Guide


Why Build?
For years, I have enjoyed brewing beer at home.  While the brewing was fun, the setup, cleaning and removal of the equipment used was not.  From pots, buckets and utensils to propane burners and a cooler style mash tun, brewing was time consuming and tiring.  One day I decided that I'd had enough and decided to construct a self-contained, brewery which could be used and cleaned without being dissasembled.

Through the internet, I researched the available information on brewing systems.  At first, I considered constructing an all electrical brewery.  But I decided that the 240 volt burners would be difficult to build and more dangerous than propane gas.  Finally, I decided upon a propane gas and electrical RIMS brewery.  It works well and is easy to use and clean.

The cost to build this system varies depending on how much of the equipment you need to purchase.  Do you already own 3 kegs used for the HLB, Mash Tun and Kettle or must they be purchased? Do you have 2 propane burners? The electronics (Controller, Solid State Relay and Thermocouple) alone will cost a couple hundred dollars.  I'd guess a total somewhere between $400 to $1000.

The construction of the brewery is detailed in the following 12 "Steps to System Construction".  Each step includes a diagram, materials and the procedure I followed to construct that particular section of the brewery. Consider my instructions as a starting point and look for improvements to the design and construction.  Please let me know by email if you make any improvements.  But I do suggest that you construct the brewery in the order that I have presented.  Each step builds upon the previous ones.  Read all information before starting construction.

Consider the following when planing brewery construction
Purchase the burners before constructing the frame.  If yours are a different height than my 12.5" , "King Kooker" burners, you will need to adjust the location of the platforms.

Design Back-up systems:  1) Install pump(s) with wing-nuts and plugs (not hard-wired) so that a replacement may be installed within a few minutes during a brew. 2)  Install Automatic or Manual Control switches as detailed in sections 10 and 11 in case the automatic Controller faults during a brew.  3) Keep a spare filled propane tank.  It is hard to estimate whether a used tank will have enough gas for another brew.

I've installed copper tubing for the propane gas lines.  To save time and money, you could just use black rubber propane hose.

Will there be enough space between the mash tun and HLB frame for the RIMS plumbing valves?  My valves and plumbing was planned for a tight space.  You may want more.  Think about it.

Plan temperature gauge(s) and thermocouple positioning so that they don't extend beyond the side of the frame.  Otherwise, you may damage them when working with the brewery.

Imagine how you would use the brewery, from the turning of every valve to the location of every switch, and consider whether an alternate design would work better for you.  For example: Are you left handed and operating valves & switches on the right side of the mash tun?

The brewery has been designed so that each vital system is protected from damage by heat or liquid.  But should you redesign, consider how the location of heat generating equipment may affect whatever it is near and whether you have placed fragile electronics under vessels prone to spillage.

Select an Immersion Chiller or Counterflow Heat Exchanger before starting construction
Hot wort must be chilled after boiling to remove undesirable solids and reduce the time exposed to bacteria.  Steps 6 and 7 of the construction section explain the building of two wort chilling options, Immersion or Counterflow.

Immersion Chiller
An immersion system chills wort by the placement of a coiled section of flexible copper tubing into the kettle.  Cold water flows through the tubing and removes heat from the hot wort while leaving cold break material on the bottom of the kettle. Most commercially available immersion chillers are supplied with water from the tap, which passes through the chiller once and exits to the drain.  My system recirculates water with a pump from and back to the mash tun and is then replaced only when the temperature increases. Ice may be added to the mash tun to reduce the chilling time. My brewery has an immersion system.  I've chilled 10 gallons from 212 degrees to 75 in 30-40 minutes without using ice.

Counterflow Heat Exchanger Existing Design - Uncleanable
Counterflow systems instantaneously chill wort by passing it through an inner tube, which is surrounded by cold water in an outer tube flowing in the opposite direction.  This process "exchanges" the heat from the wort to the water.  Cold break material clings to the inside of the inner tube.  Allegedly, quicker chilling will produce a superior beer.  But, the counterflow is more difficult to build and requires more work to clean than an immersion chiller.

The counterflow systems that I looked at when I built my brewery, were of coil shaped copper or one long piece of flexible copper tubing inside a garden hose.  The inside wort contact areas of these designs were hidden.  So there was no way to be certain that they had been completely cleaned.  And I had read reports of infected beer using counterflow systems.  Therefore, I decided that the counterflow design was unreliable and constructed an immersion system.

Counterflow Heat Exchange My Design - Cleanable
The counterflow heat exchanger, detailed in step 7, is of my own design.  I had already built and installed the immersion chiller when I had an idea for a straight and cleanable counterflow system.  To overcome the problem of cleaning, my system utilizes 3 straight, approximately 6 foot sections of 3/8"OD (1/4"ID) solid copper tubing inside ½" (or larger) copper tubing which the wort flows through by gravity.  Cold water from the mash tun is rapidly pumped through the outer tubing.  Ice may be added for improved chilling capacity.  This design allows the 3 sections of inner tubing to be brushed and rinsed with hot water pumped from the kettle.  The inner tubing is straight and may be inspected like the barrel of a rifle.

Step 9 details the plumbing required for both systems.  Select a chiller system before starting construction.

Immersion Chiller Counterflow Heat Exchanger (* Unique to my Design)
Easier to construct  Harder to Construct
Less expensive to construct  More expensive to construct
Easier to clean (cold break in Kettle)    *Cleanable - harder than immersion (cold break is left inside the inner tubing)
Longer time to chill wort Quicker - the wort is instantly chilled
Produces quality beer Produces superior beer

Metals and Beer Contact
When planning a brewery, be careful to avoid the contact of beer with certain types of metal.  Copper and stainless steel are safe to use.  Also, glass and food-grade plastics are okay for contact, but not practical for brewery use.  Aluminum, solder and brass should be avoided as much as possible.  Aluminum reputedly leaves a metallic taste.  My system uses no aluminum.  Solder has been reported to contribute to chill-haze in finished beer.  My system is loaded with solder and I have never detected chill-haze in my beer.  To be safe, limit the use of solder as much as possible and use only lead-free, silver solder with silver solder flux when sweating fittings.  Brass contains lead, which may eventually leach out during use.  My system uses many brass valves.  Limit the use of brass as much as possible.  If you must use brass: soak all brass in a solution of 2 parts White Vinegar (5% acidity) and 1 part Hydrogen Peroxide for 15 minutes.  The greenish fluid remaining will indicated that excess lead has been removed from the surface of the brass.  Rinse well with hot water.

The system designs and ideas used to construct the brewery came from a variety of internet sources.  But the primary design of the frame, vessel configuration and RIMS & heating chamber was patterned after Keith Royster's site, "Keith Royster's RIMS", located at:  www.hbd.org/kroyster/.   Keith's site, as well as his replies to my questions by email, helped me to form a starting point for my brewery.  While I did incorporate much of his design into my brewery, I also made changes and additions such as expanded plumbing, heat shielding and a new type of counterflow heat exchanger.

Warning and Disclaimer
The brewery construction requires knowledge of woodworking, propane gas piping, plumbing and electrical wiring.  Work in each of these areas, if not done properly, may result in injury, or even death.  Do not attempt any part of the construction without the proper advise, or preferably, assistance of a skilled professional.  Furthermore, even a properly constructed brewery may explode, electrocute, or injure/kill you.  I claim no responsibility as a result of your attempt to build or operate a brewery.  The existence of this information does not constitute an endorsement of the brewery by me.

Please feel free to email me with questions and comments regarding my brewery.  I would particularly like to hear of any improvements you have made to the brewery. One exception - I can't answer questions on the electrical plan other than how the equipment works together.  If you have questions on the wiring, I can't help you.

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Email Address: haskellra@hotmail.com

This page designed and produced by Donald S. Chrzan
Site last updated: 21-jun-05 22:52