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Another Home Brewing Post - Thoughts?
Old 08-18-2016, 07:50 AM   #1
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Another Home Brewing Post - Thoughts?

I am in the process of going to a kegerator and 100% all grain brewing. I have done some all grain but bounce back and force from concentrate kits to AG.

In my search to upgrade my system and move to a simpler and faster approach, I investigated lots of systems. Here is a great comparison article

The Grainfather and PicoBrew caught my attention.

In conversations with my SIL (creative and handy), he said he would like to build the unit. He does not brew but knows a lot about baking and cooking. Since my objective is to brew in a simple and hands-off way, he challenged me to look at the assumptions of brewing so the system could be as simple as possible with still delivering results.

Perhaps like you, I had been taught the process of mashing, sparging, cooling, pitching and fermenting for specified times, temperatures, etc. But with a closer look, it seems that many of the "rules" we home brewers follow, may not be "required"

As we approach this project, here are the likely changes we are considering (you will see it is based on the approach of the systems in the article in one form or another)

- RIMS mashing approach (recirculating the wort through the mash bed)
- No Sparge
- 60-90 minute boil
- Automatic addition of hops based upon a room temperature cooling of the wort (still need to work on this based upon oil release of the hops)
- Overnight wort cooling at room temp in fermenting bucket (Aussie's might get credit for bringing this idea back. Picobrew also suggests it as an alternative. Brewing before refridgeration used this type of approach)
- Yeast added after wort cools the next day. Wort oxygenated at same time

The system will be hooked up with pumps and a control panel to move everything through the system, like the Picobrew. Limited human interaction with the process. One improvement to the Pico, we think, is placing the wort into the fermenter automatically right at the end of the boil. That is why I looked up any alternatives to the process of quickly cooling the wort. Room temperature cooling, will allow this step to be done by the pumps and not the brewer.

Before you react, take one second to challenge your assumptions concerning the brewing process. I know there are a lot of teachings of what could happen if X or Y is left out of the process. But, have you really seen the proof.? In my literature search, people are doing EVERYTHING and claim to be getting tasty beer. And, pointing out what does happen vs expected does not seem to be scientifically tested.

We will see how this will work. Thoughts?

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Old 08-18-2016, 07:53 AM   #2
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I'd run your approach by a pro. Do you have any good microbreweries close by?

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Old 08-18-2016, 08:08 AM   #3
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I do not have people i know nearby.

But, the process is very close to Pico brew which gets endorsement by many micro-brewing pros. Micro-brewers have offered kits with their brand for home brewing through the system. As a former brand manager for a national brand, I would have only done that if I felt my brand would not be compromised.

But, like you, I want to see if it really works.
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Old 08-18-2016, 02:23 PM   #4
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I have been a homebrewer for a very long time (24 years) and I will be the first to admit I am stuck in my ways. I tend to like the simplest system I can use and to that end I have been brewing in a 3 tier, gravity-fed 10 gallon system with an immersion cooler for the last 13 years. I long ago traded off simplicity for a less involved brew day, but I can understand why others might wish to make the opposite trade-off (I will eventually have to when I get too old and decrepit to do the more physical aspects of my process). So while I don't like the pico-type approach, different strokes. The big gotcha I can see with what you are proposing is sanitation. With pumps, in-line heaters, and lots of potential nooks and crannies, I think you want to give some serious thought to how you will clean this system and ensure that no nasties are hiding in small places. The long, slow process of room temperature cooling leaves you particularly vulnerable to problems if things are not clean and sanitized.

A secondary issue is planning for what you will do/be able to do when a critical component fails mid-batch. Will you be able to swap components without making a horrible mess or contaminating your batch?
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Old 08-18-2016, 02:56 PM   #5
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I brewed for 5 years with a 2 tier, one pump, 5 gallon system with a plate chiller. Very simple but a lot of work setting up, cleaning and putting away. (I brewed outdoors). I saw systems similar to that the OP is considering, but never ventured from standard all grain brewing techniques.

The cons of the Grainfather mentioned in the linked article include inability to hold temperature. Hitting the correct temperature at various brewing stages is extremely important.

Personally, I would't brew in a system that I had little control over. It might be easier for the machine to take over, but the machine isn't much good if it can't consistently brew great beer. I would do a lot more research on an automated system (maybe brew with someone who has one, and certainly taste their beer) before abandoning the the old proven method of mashing, sparging, boiling wort, cooling, pitching yeast, fermentation.
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Old 08-18-2016, 03:29 PM   #6
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Unfortunately, I see so many problems with the OP's ideas that it would take a book to refute them. Fortunately, there are many good books available.

Profile says Connecticut, and there are a great many homebrewer clubs in the state.
Find a homebrew club

I would recommend seeking out a local club, joining it, and absorbing the collective wisdom.
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Old 08-18-2016, 06:07 PM   #7
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Let me share some of my findings and thinking on this in no particular order.

- Sparging - Many BIB people do not sparge. Blichmann does a batch sparge as does Pico Brew and many 'home-made' clone systems. As you might agree, RIMS and HERMS are proven techniques. Both seem to be successful. I plan on brewing and batch sparge per these systems.

- Cooling Wort - I was taught to cool as quickly as possible. And I was taught, when using concentrates to use a 3 gallon boil and add water (2 gallons) to cool the wort after the boil and place the kettle in an ice bath. Many people during the water addition successfully add ice which many experienced brewers see as a potential mistake. But, it seems to work for them all if not most of the time. Lots of conflicting rules/suggestions vs what is being done, seeming successfully.

- The Australians 're-introduced' no-chill brewing. I say re-introduce because before 1850 or so, beer was air cooled in 'pools' according to an article that reviewed the brewing process in Germany at the time. No-Chill brewers also suggest the fermenting vessel gets another opportunity to be sanitized with the hot wort as it goes directly in the fermenter at the end of the boil. Here is the no-chill brewing article

- Hop Addition - Given the release of oils, if the wort is not chilled quickly, hop addition needs to be modified since the oils are released for a longer period of time given the high temperature of wort at the end of the boil. Many of us dry hop so that maybe the approach ultimately to take if I find I cannot automatically add the hops to the boil.

- There is no change in the need for sanitizing. Pumps are fairly popular in many systems and they must be getting sanitized.

The one article that provided more confidence (which I cannot find) pointed out that no single brewing process consistently wins brewing contests.
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Old 08-18-2016, 07:50 PM   #8
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Eh, try it and see. If you have problems you can modify your system. It is something that is totally uninteresting to me (I want what is simple that I know works), but if you feel like fiddling on the edges I will be interested to hear how it works out.

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