Brewery Upgrade – Brutus 20 – 2 Vessel Countertop Electric Brewery

I recently upgraded my brewery. Previously I was ghetto to the max with just a pot and a bag. Now I’ve got myself a version of the Brutus 20, a counter top, 2 vessel electric system. I based my build on this one. I’m really only posting my build here in order to document it, Jeff Karpinski’s plans and equipment list were really good. I’ll not go far beyond that except to include some of the mistakes I made and the lessons I learned. I’m not a “handy guy” by any means so this might really only be useful for folks who have some solid man skills, but are still figuring out how to convert metric to imperial.

Firstly some photos and what it is:

CC
My system
IMG_0251
Jeff Karpinski’s plan (mashing and sparging)
IMG_0252
Jeff Karpinski plan (for boiling and chilling stages)
IMG_0253
Jeff Karpinski kettle with site glass, temp probe

IMG_0257
Jeff Karpinski ‘s Magic bucket
IMG_0258
Jeff Karpinski’s magic control bucket with CFC and pump

Tools you will need

  1. Variable speed drill, don’t use a battery operated one
  2. A file suitable for round edges
  3. A hack saw (for trimming your bits down ie. nipples and what not).
  4. Cable cutters
  5. Pliers
  6. 2 x Adjustable wrenches, really big ones (to tighten everything up).

Parts list – You can find a comprehensive parts list here. Here is a summary of what I bought, sans all the pip fittings (the bits that connect everything together):

  1. Keg King 2200w heating element
  2. Site glass
  3. Thermowell
  4. STC-1000 (note this was a mistake i made: an STC-1000 will not measure over 99 degrees c. and is not useful as a boil kettle temp controler)
  5. Counterflow chiller
  6. Magnetic drive pump
  7. 37l/10 Gallon Cooler
  8. 35L or above pot
  9. HD buck (just a big bucket form the hardware store)
  10. Bits and pieces for the control box (see the full equipment list above)
  11. About 3 meters of silicone hose.
  12. A cheap garden hose with quick connect fittings.

Mistakes I made and things I learnt:

  • Pipe fittings: these things are tough to work out when you live in Australia and you’re working off an American’s plans. Firstly, there are two main standards for pipe fittings: British Standard Pipe (BSP) and Normal Pipe Size (NPS). The former is British and commonly found in Australia, the later is North American. All the US homebrew sites will have shiny stainless steel NPS, Bunnings and your standard Australian pipe fitting stores will have BSP. A lot of Australian homebrew shops get their gear from the US so you will see NPS there. From the start, decide which standard you’re going to use and buy only that. Chances are if you want NPS you will be ordering your bits and pieces online. If you are the kind of chap who wants to go to the shop and figure it out as you go, then you will be using brass fittings and BSP.
  • Drilling stainless steel sucks, always. Unless you’re a total pro and have excellent tools, you will metal harden the pot and it will change your outlook on life for the worse. If I had my time over, I would get an aluminium pot. Much easier to drill. Nancy’s on forums will tell you stainless steel is better, and it is, but unless you have a commercial brewery and are working around the clock brewing beers, your aluminium pot will hold up just fine.
  • Use lots of plummers tape. More than you think. It will stop leaks.
  • No matter how hard you plan, how well prepared you think you are, you need to accept that a project like this is going to take some fiddling. You will have to make multiple trips to the hardware store. You will spend hours after the main build looking for a very specific bit on eBay. Accept that this is going to take a few weekends and you’ll be alright, mate.

Brew Day Runs Like This

  1. Fill kettle with required volume of water.
  2. Heat water up to strike temp.
  3. Turn on the pump and transfer sparge water to mash tun
  4. Once transfer is complete, check water is at strike temp
  5. Add grain, then check the temp again and adjust if necessary.
  6. After mash is complete I let a bit of wort in to the kettle, about 5 litres. Then I heat this up to about 95c. Set temp controller to 100c and leave it on.
  7. Open all the taps and turn on the pump. Play with the taps until you have an even amount of wort going in to the kettle and an even amount getting pumped back in to the mash tun.
  8. Recirculate like this until you reach mash out temp and keep it going for about 10 minutes. By this stage you’ve been recriculating for a while and your wort should be much clearer.
  9. Turn off the pump, close the kettle tap and let the wort drain in to the boil kettle.
  10. Bring to the boil, then run the boil as you normally would.
  11. Once the boils going I remove the mash tun, re-plumb the system so it’s ready for chilling and clean the mash tun out.
  12. 15 minutes before the end of the boil, open the taps and turn the pump on. This will steralise the CFC and all the other connected parts.
  13. After the boils done, connect hoses to CFC and begin chilling
  14. Once chilled, transfer wort to fermenter.
  15. Scrub your pot and put some hot water in there. Turn on the pump and circulate some hot, soapy water to clean it all out.
  16. And more or less, I’m done.

It’s possible to sparge. Simple mash with less water, say 7 litres. Once the mash is going, fill the kettle with 7 litres of water, heat it up and when you’re ready, start sparging.

Results So Far

  • My efficiency is excellent. I never really cared that much about efficiency but I was previously Brewing In A Bag and I had really spotty results. Sometimes I was in the 80s, sometimes in the 60s. It was really hard to be consistant. With this new system at a minimum I’m mid 75% extract efficiency and often much higher. Again I don’t think higher efficiency makes better beer but a good number is a good number.
  • My beers are much cleaner. I was mostly able to brew clean beers before but again, consistancy was difficult and sometimes I did end up with that “homebrewy” flavour. With this system, the contamination points are minimal. After the boil the lid goes on the kettle and I start the CFC. The beer isn’t exposed to the environment at all until I transfer in to the fermenter.  Before the boil is finished I run boiling wort through the CFC for about 15 minutes to sanitise the whole system.
  • Getting my mash temp right from the start has taken some fiddling. I seem to loose about 5 degrees C between the kettle and the mash cooler. it’s not an insolvable problem but something I’m working on.
  • Brew day can be shorter if you really have a handle on the system, but I’m finding I’m still fiddling around and taking longer on certain parts (recirculating after the mash for example).

I only really made one improvement to the build, and maybe it isn’t even an improvement, but I added a return pipe in to the kettle so that when I’m cooling the wort and it’s returning to the pot, a whirlpool is created. See picture below:

pot

Here is the forum documenting the original build – http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f252/countertop-brutus-20-a-131411/

Here is a video of the genius creator walking through a brew day:

And that’s it! Any questions, lemme have ’em.

Head of Community at Blackbird Ventures, Festival Director of Sydney Craft Beer Week, ex-artist Manager at Umbrella. Family man, dedicated home brewer. Sydney sider. All 'round rad dude. I blog sometimes but it has never really become a habit, however I'm all over the Internet and you can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook (only if you're a mate).

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Head of Community at Blackbird Ventures. Festival Director of Sydney Craft Beer Week. Homebrewer. Family man. Former Artist Manager / Founder at (The Rubens, Cloud Control, Urthboy, Winterbourne and more).

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