We have to start any article on electric brewing by saying that we are not licensed electricians and you should consult with a licensed electrician before doing anything with electric brewing.
Electric Brewing is one of the fastest segments of homebrewing equipment. A lot of brewers like me, have been brewing outside with a propane burner. Propane burners are an easy, effective heat source. That is, until you go out to start your brew day and realize that you forgot to fill your propane tanks, or it's cold as s*&# outside, and you just don't want to brew. Not to mention that your tank would probably freeze up on you anyway.
We live in Minnesota and in the winter I find myself waiting for the January thaw to brew. With electric brewing you can move it all indoors and wait no more. Plus with the new All in One Electric Brew Systems like the Grainfather, RoboBrew, and Mash & Boil you don't need a whole lot of space. You can mash and boil in the same vessel and then easily clean it and stash it away until next brew day.
Let's look at some of the Pros and Cons of Electric Brewing.
- Electric equipment tends to be more expensive than propane equipment (that is quickly changing)
- Some systems require special electrical service so you may have some expense with hiring an electrician.
- Underpowered electric brewing systems can be slow adding more time to your brew day.
- Electricity is much cheaper than propane and much more convenient.
- Efficient. All your heat goes to heating the water where only a portion of the heat generated by propane goes to heating the water.
- You can safely brew indoors. No Carbon Monoxide.
- Electricity makes it easy to add automation to your brewery improving your consistency.
- There are numerous single vessel electric brewing systems that will save you space and money and they require no special electric wiring.
- Quiet! If you have ever listened to the roar of a propane burner for an hour you will appreciate quiet electricity.
Let's talk about some of the different electric brewing systems that are out there.
All in One Single Vessel Electric Brewing Systems
The beauty of this type of system is ease of everything. Just plug it in to any 15 amp household outlet and you have your power source. One vessel to clean when your done and automation with temperature control. These systems are also very affordable with price ranges from $299 on up.
This system has all the basics. 1600 watts of power. Built in temperature controller and built in timer so you can set it to heat up while you do other things. It can mash up to 16 lbs of grain and it has a 7.5 gallon total capacity. A few years ago I would have never believed that you would be able to buy an electric brewing system for under $1000 much less for $299!
1500 watts of power. Temperature controller with built in timer. Robobrew adds increased capacity at 9.25 gallons. Can mash up to 16 lbs of grain. It also adds a magnetic pump to recirculate the wort increasing efficiency, allows for even temperature throughout the grain bed, and clearer wort, and it includes a stainless steel wort chiller.
It has everything the Robobrew has but it adds a little more power at 1600 watts. It also adds a computer controlled temperature controller with built in PID control. What this means for the brewer is exact temperatures without overshoot and ability to maintain those temperatures within 0.5 degrees. The temperature controller turns the heating element on and off. The PID controller uses a computer to adjust the output of the heating element between 1 and 100%. This gives the brewer total temperature stability. It also has an App for your smartphone that will allow you to run your entire brew day from your phone, and it includes a really nice counter flow chiller.
Now let's take a look at some other types of electric brewing systems.
RIMS stands for Recirculating Infusion Mash System. A RIMS system uses a heating element to heat wort as it flows past the element. A temperature controller will turn the element on and off as necessary to maintain the set temperature.
Essentially wort will be pumped out of your mash tun through the RIMS system where the wort will be heated to your mash temperature and returned to the mash tun allowing you to maintain a constant temperature or even do step mashes.
A great example of a RIMS System is the Blichmann RIMS Rocket.
HERMS stands for Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System. This type of system requires a stainless steel coil of 25 feet or more in the Hot Liquor Tank. We call this the HERMS Coil. The Hot Liquor Tank is fitted with an electric heating element and a temperature controller along with the SS coil. The temperature controller is set to keep the water in the HLT to the mash temperature and then wort is pumped from the mash tun through the HERMS coil and back into the mash tun continuously maintaining the exact mash temperature.
Another consideration will be what type of voltage will you use. 110 volt systems are going to be slow compared to 240 volt systems. Generally you can find 110 volt systems up to around 2200 watts. If you want to use a standard 15 amp circuit you should keep the wattage at 1600 or lower. Anything above 1600 watts is going to need a 20 amp circuit. 110 Volt systems will generally handle a boil up to 6 or 7 gallons. If you want to do 10 gallon batches or larger you will want a 240 volt system.
If you decide on a 240 volt system you may need to have some wiring done to accommodate the system. Consult a licensed electrician to do this.
I could go into a lot more detail. If you are thinking simple, then I highly recommend going with one of the All in One Electric Brewing Systems. You really cannot go wrong. If you are thinking you want a cadillac system then you have a ton of research to do to determine what will best suit your brewing needs and to make sure your electrical system at home can handle a high power electric brewery.
We stock all of the All in One systems and we can help you put together any kind of electric brewing system using Blichmann Electric Brewing Components. Stop by and talk to us about your electric brewing needs.