I had planned on writing a post detailing my Electric HERMS once it was complete, but we moved houses shortly after it was. Since I needed to change the system to accommodate the new house, I figured I would wait until I had everything settled before I bothered. I’ve brewed a few batches on the system in it’s current state, and I’m pretty confident I won’t be making any changes in the near-term. So here’s a breakdown of what I’m using now.
First, the 15 gallon stainless kettle I mentioned here, ended up becoming my new mash tun. I bought a 12″ stainless domed false bottom from Spike Brewing to go with the kettle, which I’m very happy with. My one complaint is the 90* elbow fitting it comes with is only 3/8″, which restricts the flow quite a bit. I ended up finding a vendor on eBay that sells a 1/2″ MPT 90* elbow with a 5/8″ hose barb for $9. Installing that made a huge difference in flow. Next, we drilled a hole in the lid for the recirculation return, and used a stainless weldless bulkhead to seal it. For under $200, I’m extremely happy with the mash tun. It’s only hiccup so far was trying to recirculate my Pumpkin Ale, but even then, the mash only stuck when I recirculated with the pump.
Next, I needed a bigger boil kettle to accommodate 12 gallon batches. I really liked the Spike Brewing kettle I used for my mash tun, so it seemed like the logical choice. The only issue was, Spike no longer offers a 15 gallon kettle without a welded coupler. I didn’t want a welded coupler, nor did I want to pay the $40 up charge for one, so I decided to source the kettle elsewhere. Turns out you can buy the identical kettle on eBay for $100 shipped (search Concord 60QT). I set it up almost identical to the mash tun, only there’s a 90* elbow on the inside to act as a dip tube.
Since I now have a back porch to brew on, I’m switching back to propane, as I was never a fan of using an electric element to boil with. A Bayou SQ14 was cheap, sturdy, quiet, and propane-efficient. So far I’m very happy with it. If you can live with the slightly lower heat output compared to the SP10, I think it’s better.
So that leaves the question of what to do with the 4,500w electric kettle I had just finished building. I’ve decided to make it an electric HLT. Now that I have the space, I can afford the luxury of a HLT, that’s reason number one. Aside from that, it heats my strike and sparge water very quickly, and I can ‘set it and forget it’ since it’s controlled with the PID. This is a big time saver, as I can multitask while the water is heating without worrying about monitoring it’s temperature. I’m still using the same HERMs heat exchanger, so nothing is new there. Everything in the control box stayed the same as well.
In terms of odds and ends, the old house had a 4-wire dryer outlet, while the new place only has a 3-wire outlet. I ended up making an adapter that bonded the neutral and ground so that my GFCI will still work. I can get away with this because there is nothing inside my control box that uses 120v, so the neutral is dead-ended once it arrives in the box. This is nearly identical to how newer dryers work when they are connected to older 3-prong outlets. Note: this isn’t recommended, so if you aren’t absolutely certain with what you’re doing, don’t do it. It was a cheap, easy solution for me though.
Finally, I needed something resembling a brew stand to hold my HLT, MLT, control box and pumps. Since it doesn’t have to take any direct heat, just about anything would do. A cheap wire storage rack from target worked out nicely. It’s pretty sturdy, but I would only recommend something like this with an electric setup as it would probably buckle under direct heat.