Brew Stand Build

>> Monday, July 18, 2011

So I've started working on my brew stand build. I was planning on building a few small projects before the stand just because I've never welded before and I wanted to get some welding hours in before starting on this project. But as most brewers can imagine I'm antsy to get started on this and while my welds are newb-ish, the wirefeed welders really do make it as simple and as idiot proof as possible. So with only one welding project under my belt (custom welding cart), I decided to get started on the brew stand.

If you're considering building a brew stand and have little or no welding experience, I'd recommend checking out these threads on HBT. There are tons of other brew stand examples on HBT as well, but I especially liked these from Jeff Lavallee (aka SouthernYankee) and they're the ones that really inspired me to give it a try.

Welding 101 build #1
Welding 101 build #2

My brew stand will share some similarities to a Brutus stand, but at the same time it will be a bit different. The biggest difference from a true Brutus is my system is a HERMS utilizing electric heating elements in the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) and Heat Exchanger (HEX). I really like this system and don't really see a need to change it so my system itself won't change much if any right now, it will just have a new home so to speak. Eventually I plan to replace my 5 gallon HLT cooler with a 10 gallon one, redesign the HEX, and probably replace the electrical enclosure.


  • (1) Burner - Since my mash is 100% electric, my brew stand will only have one burner which is used for the Boil Kettle (BK). Right not I'm planning on using a 6 inch burner from converted to Natural Gas. This is small compared to some burners out there, but since I brew 5 gallon batches I think it will work out well and a big 14 inch burner would be overkill.
  • Shelf for Mash Tun (MT) and HLT - This is sized to hold two 10 gallon round coolers side by side.
  • Shelf for HEX - The HEX will be mounted below and between the HLT and MT. This position should be the most convenient for recirculating during the mash as well as maintaining sparge water temps.
  • Mount for water filter - right now it's not mounted to anything, I just hang it on the side of my HLT to fill it. I may also add some hard plumbing for filling the HLT.
  • Mount for Counter Flow Chiller (CFC) - I'll start off using my homemade dual CFC, but may eventually switch to a plate chiller.
  • Easily movable - Basically this involves adding casters so I can easily move it around the garage/brewery.
  • Small footprint - Until I get around to building a garden shed I don't have a ton of spare room in my two-car garage. So I'm trying to keep the footprint as compact as possible for my equipment.
  • Comfortable height for brewing - I'm about 6'5" tall. I'm designing this so the MT is at a comfortable height for me for mixing in the mash and so I can easily peek into the MT, BK, HLT, etc, This is one of the biggest complaints I have with my existing setup because the top is too high to mix the mash so I'd mix on the ground then lift it on top of the cart to recirculate. Basically I feel like I'm doing a lot of unnecessary lifting. With the new setup I'll still have to lift the BK onto the burner. The only way to eliminate that will be to buy another pump, something I may do at some point but not yet.
  • Misc attachments for storing hoses and such - This basically involves some misc hangers.
Other Considerations
  • Adjustable laptop shelf/holder - My system is a BCS-460-based system, so some kind of a shelf/holder for my laptop would be ideal. This will probably be one of the last things I add so I can make sure it's located in a safe and comfortable position.
  • Shelf for Hopback - I bought a hopback from morebeer a while back but haven't used it yet. I'm thinking of some kind of small shelf (possibly removable) to support the weight of the hopback when running off from the BK.
So here's the design I came up with. Sorry for the less than stellar graphics, my desktop PC cr@pped out on me a while back and I had my nice graphics software on it, so this is courtesy of MS Paint.  It's not quite to scale, but it should give an idea of where I'm heading with this project.  I actually mocked everything up on my kitchen table and dining room chairs so everything should fit just fine.

The BK/Burner portion is elevated compared to the shelf for the MT and HLT. The reason for this is it keeps the tops of my BK, HLT, and MT about the same height. Also, I'm planning on painting the stand myself and this should make it so heat is directed away from the majority of the stand. This will allow me to paint most of it something purdy (maybe fire engine red) and the top burner portion will be coated in some kind of high temp paint.

Last Saturday I started working on the base but didn't get too far because I ran out of material. The material I had on hand was leftover from my welding cart project.

Speaking of materials, I'm building the stand out of 1.5" 16 gauge square tubing that I picked up from Triple-S Steel.  This is a great supplier and the best part is they're open Saturdays from 8 to noon. Just like lumber, steel prices fluctuate but I was able to pick up a 24 foot piece for around $28. They also have a remnant section where they typically sell the steel as low as 55 cents a pound. Most of what they had in the remnant area was much heavier gauge than I could use but they did have a perfectly sized piece of 1/4 plate that I was able to use for a welding table top.

For the base and tops I'm cutting the tubing on 45's for a cleaner appearance (no open ends).  I'm also using flux core wire. My welder is MIG capable but I need to buy a regulator and a bottle before I can go full MIG. I doubt that will happen before I'm done with this project, so I anticipate it being fully welded using flux core wire. Stay tuned for updates as I document my build.

Updated 7/25/2011
I made some good progress on the brew stand this weekend. I picked up more tubing Saturday morning before heading off to the Evanston Beer Festival. Steel prices must have dropped because each piece was a couple bucks less than the last time, so that was a nice little bonus. I had one rectangle (bottom or top) welded up from the previous weekend. I cut and welded up the second rectangle as well as the upright posts for the frame. Now it's actually starting to resemble a brew stand. I tacked on the uprights for the burner stand. I'm hoping to have the top of the burner stand done next weekend so I can start thinking about casters and brackets. I also ordered my burner and it should be here sometime this week. Here are some pics of the brew stand thus far.

Update 7/31/2011

More progress this weekend.  My burner from and natural gas conversion valve from Williams Brewing came.  I finished welding up the burner stand including supports for the boil kettle.  I drilled out and tapped the burner to accept the gas conversion valve.  I added a mid-stand support for additional structural stability.  Lastly I added casters from Harbor Freight (3" polyurethane - item numbers 96407 and 96408).  These casters are rated for 121 lbs each, so I think they should work out fine for my 5 gallon system.

On the to do list is cleaning up the welds, gas supply, shelves, and misc brackets/mounts.  I'm really happy with the way it's coming together and I can't wait to use it.  I'm going to brew up a batch of Watermelon Wheat in the next few days and while the stand won't be done, I'm hoping to be able to give the burner a try.

Update 8/5/2011
I test fired the burner tonight.  I was planning on using a 1/2" hose for the gas supply but I decided to test it out using the 3/8" hose from my NG grill.  The 3/8" hose seems to be more than adequate (it blows my old propane burner out of the water) so I think I'll go with the 3/8".  This will be nice since the grill uses 3/8 I'll have the option of brewing in the garage or on the back patio.  Here are a couple videos of the burner in action.  

Update 8/29/2011

I haven't posted updates for a couple weeks. I've been accumulating miscellaneous parts and fabricating a few items.

Burner, chiller, and pump on bottom
I received my plate chiller (40 plate model) from Duda Diesel . I fabricated a bracket for it this weekend. It's basically an L-shaped bracket made out of 1/8" plate and 1.5" tubing. It hangs down from the tubing that supports the burner. The piece that supports the bottom of the plate chiller will be covered in some kind of padded material (e.g 1/8" neoprene sheet). Right now the chiller is mounted using a couple pan head screws. I'm going to order some knurled thumb screws so that it can be easily removed without tools.

Control Panel
I received my panel tags and legend plates from Precision Engraving & Graphics . I've made the holes for the switches and pilot lights and have temporarily mounted them in the control panel and they look great. My wife likes the look of the basic grey control panel but I like the looks of The Electric Brewery control box, so I'm leaning towards giving it a paint job.  I still need to decide exactly where I'm going to mount my control panel.  My control panel is a bit less involved than many.  I have three switches, (2) two position switches for the heating elements and (1) three position switch for the pump.  The mash is automated and is controlled by the BCS-460 so I won't be using the panel much during the mash process.  I'll use it mostly just when I want to manually run the pump (e.g. chilling the wort post-boil).

I received my heatsink for my SSR relays from HeatsinkUSA . I went with the 4.230" x 9" option as it's big enough to mount up to four SSR's. I'm currently only using three SSR's on my system (one for the element in the HLT, one for the element in the HEX, and one for the pump) so this gives me the option of adding an additional one when/if needed. I've drilled and tapped the mounting holes for the SSR's and the heatsink. I still need to cut out a hole in the back of the control panel, but I hope to have it test mounted today.

Filters and bracket
I also fabricated and added a bracket for my carbon water filters. Nothing too fancy here, just some 1/8" plate and 1" square tubing. I had to use 1" tubing in order to have clearance for my screws that attach the housingings to the brackets.

I added a frost proof sillcock in the garage. This will be great because I won't have to fetch water from inside the house on brew days (brewing water and chilling water).

I've ordered some Tracpipe CSST fittings and tubing for my Natural Gas supply line. I'm sure there are some plumbers out there that would really frown on me installing this stuff myself, but I've reviewed the instructions on the manufacturer's website it seems foolproof. My run will be between 10 and 12 feet since the utility room is in the basement just on the opposite side of the wall. On a related note, I picked up a Carbon Monoxide/Explosive Gas Detector from my local Lowes' first! The plan will be to always have this unit plugged in and the stand will be located near the open garage door whenever the burner in use.

If all goes well, I should be able to test-fire the burner in the garage by the end of the week. If things go really well and I have enough time, I'll have the control box painted and wired as well. If things don't get too crazy, I hope to have the whole thing completed (assembled, painted, etc.) by the end of September.


Updated 8/29/2011

Updated 9/5/2011
I used the long Labor Day weekend to get a few things done on the brew stand and upgrade my garage.  The upgrade to the garage was to add a 1/2" natural gas supply to fuel my burner.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I installed the line myself and I'm happy to say it was an uneventful install (house didn't blow up).  After I installed the line and turned the gas supply back on, I monitored the dials on the gas meter and also had my CO/Explosive Gas detector in the utility room and at the end of the day I'm confident there aren't any leaks.

I also got some wiring done one the control panel and welded up some brackets to mount the control panel.

I still have several hours worth of work left including a lot of grinding, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Here's a pic of the mostly assembled brew stand, almost ready for paint.

Front of stand

Back of stand
Updated 9/12/2011
After several weekend trips to Radioshack, Lowes, and Autozone I'm happy to say the wiring is done.  Next up is a lot of grinding followed by a paint job and I should be ready to brew.


Heartless Bastard IPA

>> Sunday, July 10, 2011

After realizing I only have one barely full keg in my kegerator and my supply of bottled homebrew is dwindling, I figured it'd be a good idea to brew today.  The last two brews were hefe's so it's time to brew something else...and wouldn't you know it, the July/August issue of Zymurgy has a section on best beers in America and includes a few recipes.  So today I'm brewing a version based on Bell's Two Hearted Ale.  It's based on this because I had to make some substitutions at my LHBS, so I'm calling it the Heartless Bastard IPA in honor of one of my favorite bands, The Heartless Bastards.  This is an American IPA and here's the recipe as I made it:

10 pounds Rahr 2 row
2.83 pounds Maris Otter 2 row
8 oz Dingemans Cara 45
1.2 oz Centennial 45 min
1.2 oz Centennial 30 min
3.5 oz Centennial (dry hop)
White Labs WPL001 California Ale

Mash with 4.5 gallons at 150 F for 45 mins.  Raise to 170 F for 10 minutes. Sparge at 175.  Ferment warm.  Dry hop after primary is complete (about 1 week).  Hold warm for another week.  Rack to secondary and cold crash for a week before bottling/kegging.  

Estimated O.G. 1.063 (15.5  Plato)
Estimated F.G 1.012 (3.0 Plato)

Brewing Notes:
My water is very hard so in order to avoid harsh bitterness sometimes associated with hard water and a lot of hops, I used 2 gallons of RO water in the mash and another 2 gallons in the sparge water.  Pre-boil gravity is about 13.6 P.  Post-boil gravity was 16 P (most likely due to high evaporation rate). As usual, I used my stirplate to get the starter going 48 hours ahead of time.


New Toy

>> Friday, July 01, 2011

So I haven't been brewing much lately, partly because the weather finally got nice so we've been busy almost every weekend.  I do have a new toy that I'm really excited about...after 16 years of marriage...or is it 17 years?  It's been a long time, I know that, and in a good way...but after a long time my wife finally gave me the thumbs up to buy a welder.  I went with the Hobart 125 Handler which is a MIG-ready 110 volt, 125 amp wire feed welder.  I've always wanted to weld but never had the opportunity.  My kids bought me a welding mask for Father's Day, and I wrangled up the rest of the necessary safety gear over the past few weeks.  Last weekend I started my first welding project, a welding cart.  I still need to do a few things to finish it, but it's been a blast so far.  I'm going to do a few minor projects for practice (e.g. caster bases for my beer fridge so it can easily move around) but then I plan on starting on a custom brew stand.  My current brew stand is a stainless steel table/cart from Sam's Club.  It's not bad but it has some drawbacks.  For example, the top is too high so i can barely see into the mash tun.  So stay tuned for my custom brew stand.