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RIMS – Recirculating Infusion Mash System

 

For those of you who are not familiar with RIMS, it stands for Recirculating Infusion Mash System. Basically it is a method for regulating the temperature of your mash tun during the mashing process when the grain starches are converted to sugars.  The mash temperature is critical when brewing a beer and a swing of just a few degrees can have a dramatic impact on your finished beer.  For instance, a mash temperature of 146F to 150F will create very simple sugars that are easy for yeast strains to convert into alcohol, providing you with a beer that has a dry finish. While a mash temperature of 154F to 158F will create a good deal of complex sugars that the yeast can not digest which makes for a very full bodied beer that will be lower in alcohol.

 

If you conduct your mash in metal kettles such as the stainless steel Blichmann 20 gallon kettles that I use, you will find that your kettles will shed a good deal of heat during the mash process.  In order to maintain a proper mash conversion you will need to either heat the kettle or the fluid inside of it. The problem with adding direct heat to your mash tun kettle is that you risk scorching your grain bed or wort and may also have a large temperature variance at the bottle of the mash tun and the top of it.  If you are going to apply direct heat, it is important that you are recirculating your wort with a pump to help minimize those issues.  Another potential problem with direct heat is that it can be difficult to monitor and control with out the use of a temperature controller and means for regulating the heat source; if you are not careful your temperature can swing by 5 degrees very quickly.

 

For the reasons I stated above, I recently started work on a RIMS (Recirculating Infusion Mash System) to help me properly maintain my mash temperature.  I am still conducting tests with it but plan on brewing my first test batch of beer this weekend and am optimistic that it will work out well and help me brew the best beer possible.  The system is rather simple.  I am constantly recirculating the wort in my mash tun via a march pump.  The wort flows into a stainless steel chamber where I have an electric stainless steel heating element at the point of entry.  At the opposite end of the chamber is a thermowell that is connected to a Ranco digital temperature controller.  If the Ranco temperature controller detects that the temperature of the wort has fallen below my target temperature, then it activates the low watt electric heating element until the target temperature is once again reached and then shuts the element off.  The wort flows out of the chamber and back into my mash tun via my MoreBeer Ultimate Sparge Arm.  Instead of obsessing over my mash temp and constantly fiddling with my burner and pumps, I can kick back, toss the football around with a friend and enjoy a cold beer until my timer goes off!  It should make for a more controlled mash and less stressful brew day if all goes well. Once the design is fully tested I will submit another blog entry with more details on how to build one of your own.  In the meantime, you can find Ranch temperature controllers and the MoreBeer Ultimate Sparge Arm here.

 

Ultimate Sparge Arm and Digital Temperature Controllers

 

RIMS, Mash Temperature Controller

RIMS, Mash Temperature Controller

All Grain Home Brewing

All Grain Home Brewing

All Grain Home Brewing and Beer Making

 

I figured that I would give a simple break down on all grain home brewing for those of you who have been doing extract brewing for a while and are considering making the change but want some basic information on what you are in for before you do.

 

So what is the difference between extract brewing and all grain brewing?   With extract brewing, the home brewer bypasses the mashing process and instead uses either concentrated dried malt extract (DME) or liquid malt extract (LME) to brew his or her beer. This greatly lowers the complexity of the home brewing process since the brewer does not need to worry about water pH levels, mash conversion temperatures, water profile composition, sparging, lautering or things like tannin extraction problems.  Also, the extract home brewing takes far less time and equipment than all grain home brewing.  With all grain brewing, you do not utilize any forms of malt extracts and instead convert all of the sugars yourself from grain starches and adjuncts.  With all grain home brewing it is important to check your gravity readings throughout the brewing process to make sure that you are not extracting too much or two little sugar.  You are also in charge of the type of sugars that are created during the mashing process.  If your mash temperature is a few degrees to high your beer may come out very sweet, if it is a few degrees to low you may end up with a very dry beer.  Mastering all grain brewing is all about understanding the process, tailoring the process to the style of beer you are brewing and being as exact as possible.

 

So what equipment will you need to do all grain home brewing that you do not need for extract brewing?  Unless you are going to go the brew in a bag route, you are probably going to want 3 kettles and or combinations of 3 kettles \ coolers.  One will be your Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) which will allow you to quickly modify the temperature of your mash during the different steps of the starch conversion process.  The second is your Mash Tun which is where you will place your grains and convert the starches to sugars.  A mash tun typically uses a false bottom which allows the wort to pass through it during the lautering and mash out process but restricts the grain husks from being transferred to the boil kettle.  If you will be conducting a fly sparging process, which many home brewers do in order to boost your efficiency of extracting the sugars from your grains, you will also need to purchase a sparge arm.  Lastly you will need a boil kettle that has a sufficient volume for the quantity of wort that you will be boiling.  Aside from that, the equipment is very similar to what you would use during the extract home brewing process.

 

If you are looking for a ready-made all grain home brewing stand, brewing sculpture or home brewery; there are several options available here that range from cooler based setups to stainless steel home brewing racks!

Home Brewing Stands, Brewing Racks, Brew Sculptures and All Grain Starter Kits

How to build a home brewery brewing stand!

How to build a Home Brewery \ Beer Brewing Stand \ Brewing Rack \ Single Tier Brewing Sculpture

How to build a Home Brewery \ Beer Brewing Stand \ Brewing Rack \ Single Tier Brewing Sculpture

 

I can not speak for everyone, but for me, once I had made the change from extract to all grain home brewing I began having visions of what I wanted my home brewery to look like.  In a way, a big part of the allure of home beer brewing for me was making the best beer possible.  For me that included building my own home brewing rack, doing my best to perfect the process and being as efficient as possible.  I am not going to lie, there were a few times along the way that I questioned what the hell I was thinking and why I did not just buy a home brewing stand, but now that all is said and done I am a bit proud of what I was able to accomplish with my own hands.  In hopes of helping some of my fellow home brewers out I am going to supply some general information on how I put mine together.  If you need any specifics on something I do not list here, please feel free to drop me a line with what details you are looking for.

 

Home Beer Brewery

Home Beer Brewery

 

 

 

The dimensions of my brewery are 61″ Wide, 20.5″ Deep and 20.5″ tall excluding the wheels. The following is a list of parts that I used to create my home brewing sculpture, but many of the items such as the kettles, sparge arm and pumps can be traded out for other items of your preference. I am assuming that you have some basic welding experience (it is not that hard) and the required tools including a welder, cut saw, drill and grinder.

 

For the frame of my single tier home brewing stand I used 2″ x 2″ steel fence post that I cut into the appropriate sizes.  I made two large 61″ x 20.5″ rectangles for the top and the bottom, with a supporting vertical bar on each corner of the brewing stand.  In between each of the 3 burners, I placed 2 bars for spacing and support.  Even with all 3 kettles full of liquid, the beer rack is incredibly stable.  Here is a link to the fence post available at home depot:

Fence post for the brewing rack

 

The burners are really an item of personal preference.  I started with 54,000 BTU burners, but then later upgraded to a 210,000 BTU Bayou Cooker Burners.  The smaller burners were more efficient as far as propane usage goes, but the larger bayou cooker burners certainly get the job done much quicker.  I welded brackets onto the bottom of the top level of my home brewing stand to hold the burners in place.  Initially I had a flexible line with a regulator running from each burner to a master regulator that was hooked up to the propane tank, but then later ran pipe with separate valves for each burner. The bayou cooker banjo burners are available here:

Banjo Burner – 210,000 BTU Bayou Cooker Home Brewing Burner Stand

 

For the home brewing kettles I opted for the Blichmann 20 gallon kettles.  They include a site gauge so you can easily see the volume in your kettle, a 3 piece stainless steel ball valve and adjustable thermometer.  These stainless steel brewing kettles are one of the best buys that I have ever made and have no regrets about them.  They have a variety of options including a false bottom for your mash tun, hop blocker for your boil kettle, and sparge arm.  I opted for the false bottom and hop blocker and have been very happy with them.  I do mostly 10 gallon batches, but could go as high as 15 gallons with these 20 gallon kettles.  You will want to buy kettles that are appropriate for the batch size that you intend to brew.  Blichmann currently offers 10 gallon, 15 gallon, 20 gallon, 30 gallon and 55 gallon kettles.  You can find the kettles and optional items available here:

Stainless Steel Home Brewing Kettles

 

You will need to get 2 high temperature food grade pumps for your single tier home brewing rack.  I placed my pumps in between the hot liquor tank \ mash tun and the other between the mash tun and boil kettle.  With two pumps you will be able to conduct your sparge while also transferring wort from your mash tun to your boil kettle.  I use high temperature rated march pumps with stainless steel quick disconnects.  The pumps and disconnects can be found here:

Home Brewing Pumps and Quick Connects

 

As far as sparge arms go I have tried several.  The best one that I have ever come across is the morebeer ultimate sparge arm.  It is made of stainless steel, has a ball valve built into it to easily control the flow rate and can be used to recirculate or lauter your wort in addition to sparging.  The ultimate sparge arm can be purchased here:

Ultimate Home Brewing Sparge Arm

 

Lastly for my wort chiller I use a convoluted counter flow chiller.  Much like the sparge arm, I have tried just about every chiller from immersion chillers to plate chillers and I have found the convoluted counter flow chiller to be the best.  What I like most about it is that it is just about impossible to clog, it is compact, it cools wort incredibly quickly and it is easy to clean and sanitize.  These convoluted counter flow chillers are also sometimes referred to as chillzillas.  They can be found here:

Home Brewing Convoluted Counterflow Chillers

 

Those are the basics on my home brewing stand \ single tier brewing sculpture.  If you have any specific questions or comments, please leave a comment or shoot me an email and I will do my best to assist you.  Best of luck to you on building your own all grain home beer brewing stand.  If it seems like a little more work then you are up for, there are also some really fantastic pre-manufactured stainless steel home brewing racks and brewing sculptures available here:

Stainless Steel Home Brewing Stands and Brewing Sculptures

 

Brewing Sculpture

Stainless Steel Home Brewery

 

Pre-Built Beer Racks, Home Breweries, Brewing Stands and Brew Sculptures

 

Brewing Sculpture

Turnkey Home Brewery – Morebeer.com – Single Tier Home Brewing Rack

 

 

If you are interested in purchasing one of these all grain home brewing stands, you can view their full lineup here:

Click Here For Stainless Steel Home Brewing Stands

 

Pre-built beer stands, turnkey home breweries, pre-made brew sculptures, single tier brewing stands, multi tier home breweries… call them what you will.  Before your only option was to build your own brewing stand, but now, if you have the money; there are several pre-built home brewery options available.  So which is the best option for your money?

 

If I had not already gone through the blood, sweat, tears and frankly burns of welding and constructing my own single level home brewing stand; I would opt for one of MoreBeers brewing sculptures.  Over the last 5 years they seem to have perfected the pre-manufactured beer rack.  They have 3 styles of brewing sculptures available for you to choose from; a stainless steel single tier brewing rack, a 3 tier tippy-dump brewing sculpture and a 3 level gravity based home brewery.  I would personally go with their single tier home brewing stand, but if you have space limitations or can not afford the hefty price tag of the single level brewing stand, the stainless steel multi tier brewing stands are a great option as well.

 

 

3 Tier Home Brewing Rack

Multi-level home brewing stand – MoreBeer Tippy-Dump Stainless Steel Brewing Stand

 

What I like most about MoreBeer’s stainless steel brewing stands, over the other pre-constructed brewing stands on the market is that they seem to have thought of everything in their design and did not skimp on any of the features.  Their brewing racks are all made out of stainless steel and many of their versions include the following features:

  • Stainless Steel Maximizers and Diverter
  • High Temperature March Pumps
  • The MoreBeer Stainless Steel Ultimate Sparge Arm
  • Digital Temperature Controls
  • Control Panel
  • Convoluted Heat Exchanger for RIMS and HERMS support
  • Boil Kettle Whirlpool Arm
  • Fantastic Customer Support
  • Hard propane lines

The only downside that I can see is the price.  One of these stainless steel home brewing stands will run you anywhere from $1099  to over $6000 depending on the style, capacity and features that you want in your brewing sculpture.  In all reality that is not too bad of a deal when you consider that it comes with the kettles and almost all of the items that you will need to have an out of the box, ready to go, top of the line all grain home brewery constructed from stainless steel.

 

If you are interested in purchasing one of these all grain home brewing stands, you can view their full lineup here:

Click Here For Stainless Steel Home Brewing Stands

 

 

 

Single Tier Home Brewing Beer Rack – Brewing Sculpture

A home brewing single-tier brewing sculpture or beer rack is a single level brewing configuration where all of the brewing kettles are at the same level. Single-tier brewing racks typically consist of a hot liquor tank, mash tun, and boiling kettle. One or two pumps are used to transfer liquid from one kettle to another.

 

A notable benefit of a single-tier brewing sculpture over a multi-tier one is ease of access to the kettles. On a single-tier platform, the kettles are all at one low height, so it makes it safe and easy to stir the mash, add water to the hot liquor tank, or transfer the wort from the boil kettle. If the single tier system is constructed high enough off the ground, gravity can still be used to transfer wort from the boil kettle to the fermenter. Single tier beer racks also tend to be more stable then a multi-tier rack; trust me when I say that one of the last things you want is 15 gallons of burning hot liquid pouring down upon you due to an unstable rack or earthquake.

 

Cleaning and unloading grain from kettles is also very easy with a single-tier design since no step stool is required to reach any of your kettles. I personally use a single-tier brewing rack that I designed and constructed myself. It was a good deal of work, but I also learned a lot while building it. If you prefer not to build your own, there are some really fantastic stainless steel models available for sale here:

 Click Here for turn key beer racks and brewing sculptures

Below is a photo of the brewing rack that I built. It uses 2 pumps, 3 burners, and 3 (20 gallon) Blichmann brewing kettles. If you have any questions on building your own, please feel free to drop me a line.

Beer Sculpture - Brewing Rack - Beer Rack - Single Tier

Beer Sculpture – Brewing Rack – Beer Rack – Single Tier

 

Here is a MoreBeer.com single-tier brewing sculpture.  You can click the photo to go to their site:

You can purchase them here

 

MoreBeer Single Tier Home Brewing Beer Rack

MoreBeer Single Tier Home Brewing Beer Rack

 

 

 

Beer Rack

A beer rack is another term for a home brewery. Most home brewing beer racks or brewing racks have three vessels: a hot liquor tank, mash tun, and a boil kettle. The home brewing beer rack shown below is a single-tier rack that uses march pumps to transfer liquid from one vessel to another at different stages of the brewing process. Each vessel has a separate propane burner beneath it to apply heat when needed.

 

 

 

If you are interested in purchasing a home brewing rack, there are a wide variety of beautiful stainless steel single-tier and multi-tier beer rack models available here:

Home Brewing Racks

 

Here’s an image of the WestCoastBrewer.com home brewing beer rack.

Beer Rack for home brewing

Beer Rack for home brewing

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