Like with many hobbies, home brewing has a learning curve. Initially there is a lot of information to take in and many processes to keep track of. In time, you gather knowledge and experience and you master the fundamentals of brewing. Where home brewing differs from many hobbies is that once you have done so, there are a variety of tangents that you can pursue. For instance you can explore water chemistry and the impacts on different styles of beer, design your own beer recipes and figure out which hops best compliment a specific yeast strain, try different mashing techniques and focus on boosting your brew house efficiency or even build and customize your own brewing hardware. At some point along the way, if you home-brew long enough; what makes your beer unique is all of the small things that you learn, apply in your process and customize along the way.
On the topic of all of the small things, one of the things that I should have done long ago was place a notch in my mash tun lid to accommodate my sparge arm. Prior do doing so I had to leave my lid ajar, allowing heat to escape from my mash tun, requiring my RIMS system to use more energy to compensate. I am not going to lie, any upgrade or project that requires me to drill into or cut in to one of my stainless steel Blichmann kettles make me a little nervous. After all, the last thing that I want to do is ruin one of my vital pieces of home brewing hardware. The good news is that I almost never use a lid on my Boil Kettle, so if I jacked up the mash tun lid bad enough, I had a backup!
I used three tools for this project, an angle grinder (costs about $30 if you do not already have one), a file to clean up the rough edges and sharp spots and a dremel (or drill) with a fine grinding bit to shape the groves more precisely so that the lid would fit snugly against the sparge arm. Although initially intimidating, it really was not so challenging. My best advice is to measure conservatively for your initial grinder cut and use the dremel to remove any excess metal. The vertical cuts are easy with the grinder, but the horizontal cut can be challenging if you are not careful. As a final touch I may add a silicone stopper and trim it to fill some of the small gaps that still exist; but even with out that I am very happy with how it turned out! Also, if you are looking for an incredible stainless steel sparge arm, I can not recommend the More Beer Ultimate Sparge Arm highly enough. I have used it for around 3 years now and it had performed flawlessly.
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
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Sparging is the home brewing process of flushing the mash grain bed with very hot water, typically 168F – 175F in order to extract any remaining sugars from your grains after you have began draining the wort from your mash tun to your brewing kettle. There are a few common sparging methods used by home brewers.
Fly sparging is one of the most commonly used methods of sparging. Fly sparging is a technique where a home brewer uses a sparge arm to pour or spary hot water over the grain bed while at the same time transferring the wort to the boil kettle at a similar rate. As the hot water flows through the grain bed it gently flushes the sugar from the grain husks.
Another commonly used home beer brewing sparge method is batch sparging where a home brewer adds batches of hot water to the mash tun and then drains the mash tun completely before refilling it with additional water. Once the additional water has been added the brewer mixes the grains with a mash paddle for a few minutes to help extract the sugar from the grains. With each subsequent batch, less sugar will be extracted from the grains. The batching process is repeated until a sufficient amount of wort has been collected for the boiling process.
I personally use and have had great success with the fly sparging process, but the batch sparging method is also very efficient. If you are in the market for a high quality stainless steel sparge arm, I highly recommend More Beers ultimate sparge arm. That and a variety of other sparge arms can be found here:
Before purchasing the MoreBeer Ultimate Sparge Arm, I had tried a variety of other sparge arms including a halo style sparge arm, and a spinning fly sparge arm. I was intrigued by the Ultimate Sparge Arm because it is constructed of stainless steel, had no moving parts, and no pin holes to get clogged. And with a name like the “Ultimate Sparge Arm,” I had very high expectations for it!
Thankfully, I was not disappointed. The Ultimate Sparge Arm is very durable; the stainless steel is thick, and the welds on it are clean and professionally made. Additionally, it is a very versatile sparge arm. It has an adjustable height knob that allows you to set the outflow in a variety of positions to avoid hot side aeration. Since the Ultimate Sparge Arm does not depend on a rotating arm to disperse the water or wort, it allows you to set the flow rate at any level, which is a real benefit over my previous fly sparge arm. It also includes a stainless steel ball valve so that you can easily make fine adjustments to the flow rate. The Ultimate Sparge Arm also includes a mounting bolt that allows you to quickly and easily mount it to the side of your mash tun.
Perhaps my favorite thing about the Ultimate Sparge Arm is that it permits you to recirculate wort through it and use it in a RIMS or HERMS system, which is something that I would never have been able to do with any of my previous sparge arms. Using the sparge arm in conjunction with my march pump, burner and digital temperature gauge, I was able to easily convert my all grain system over to RIMS which made my brew day a lot simpler when it comes to regulating my mash temperature. The Ultimate Sparge Arm is one of the best home brew purchases that I have ever made, and I highly recommend it.
A sparge arm is a piece of brewing hardware used to flush the grain bed with hot water in order to extract any residual sugars left behind in the mash. The sparge arm water needs to be in the range of 168° F in order to liquefy the remaining sugars; if the temperature exceeds 170° F, the brewer many risk pulling excess tannins from the grain husks and causing off flavors and chill haze in the finished beer. Sparge arms are typically constructed of copper, stainless steel, or plastic, and should have some form of flow control so that the approximate flow rate can be set to keep pace with the flow of wort leaving the mash tun (or lauter tun) and heading to the boil kettle.
Below are three examples of home brewing sparge arms. From left to right, there is a MoreBeer.com “Ultimate Sparge Arm,” a rigid copper sparge arm, and a fly sparge arm with a stainless bracket. I have used each one of these and am currently using the MoreBeer.com sparge arm due to its versatility, which allows me to integrate it into my RIMS system.