Busy weekend…

Hot weekend and tried to make the best of it by staying inside where it was cool and work on some brewing projects.

First was trying to put to good use a 2000W 120V all stainless heating element I found. I picked up the element from the good folks at http://www.homebrewstuff.com for only $40. I thought it could be a great element for my small brew kettle so I can get back to brewing and do it away from the stove and with some simple PID temperature control. The element is all stainless and has a 1/2″ NPT weld-less mounting so it had my vote and when it arrived and I tried it out in a plastic bucket the heating times were impressive. Since I’ll be brewing 3 gallon batches, I started with 4 gallons of tap water and heated it to strike temp of 168 degrees in 25 minutes and the about 20 minutes from 168 degrees to a nice rolling boil. I was impressed but the biggest problem was the power cord was under-sized and I was worried about the lack of grounding. Not to give up on a great heating element I decided to add better wiring enclosure to facilitate adding grounding and the use of a 12AWG cord. Using a small, sealed fiberglass enclosure and an 18 gauge stainless steel plate, I was able to mount the element to the enclosure and provide a secure ground as well as covering the heavier gauge wiring I’ll be using.Image

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The next project was building a keg/carboy washer. I had looked at the great job some fellow home brewers did with theirs on the forum I’m frequently on, homebrewtalk.com. I chose a Wayne 1/6 H.P. submersible utility pump due to it’s weight, keeping it easily in place in the bucket but most importantly was the cost…$25 on eBay. With fountain pumps costing $60 to $100 getting this was a no-brainer. Tried it out in the kitchen sink while covering the output with my hand I quickly found out just how powerful it is, it was a quick shower. Biggest challenge might be trying to keep a carboy or keg from shooting off the assembly.

It is simply made from a submersible pump in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket with a PVC upright tube with holes drilled in a cap on the tube. The upright tube goes up through a hole cut in the bucket lid. The lid helps support the upside down carboy or keg and the cleaner/sanitizer just runs out of the carboy/keg and back into the bucket through the hole. I thought since I will be cleaning corny kegs I want to clean/sanitize the posts as well as the dip tubes so I put a cross fitting in the spray tube with short arms attached to 1/2″ NPT threaded elbows with 1/2″ NPT to 1/4″ hose barbs so I can attach short hoses and ball lock disconnects. I got to thinking and since I’m fermenting in 1/6 bbl Sanke kegs, which are taller than carboys and 3 gallon corny kegs, I decided to add a threaded coupling in the upright spray tube so I can quickly switch to a longer spray tube for the Sanke kegs. The bulk of the build is the bucket and PVC pipe fittings which run about $20. Then there is the pump, which if you are patient and shop around like I did, you can get one for $20-$40. Couple gallons of water, some Powered Brewery Wash and a couple minutes on the washer and the carboy or keg is clean. Change the cleaning solution for sanitizer and a few more minutes and you are ready to ferment or keg.

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Remember that when using electricity around water it is important that everything is properly grounded and that you use a ground fault protected outlet. Make sure that any commercially made electrical device you use is UL Listed and have a licensed electrician check any of your own electrical work. A mistake or overlooking these safety steps can cost you your life. Brew safe.

Cheers

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26 thoughts on “Busy weekend…

    • If you have a lot of them to clean or use plastic carboys since the washer will not scratch them like a brush might. I use plastic carboys and kegs so this little project has been more than worthwhile.

  1. Any chance you could post a picture of the inside of the heating element enclosure?
    I’d like to see how the wiring worked out and what the electrical side of the element looks like.

    • I added a photo I had from the build. The hot and neutral wires from the power cord are crimped to the element leads and the ground is attached to the housing screw at the upper left of the element enclosure. I then added a little potting mix around the element leads to seal things up a bit.

      • Thank you.
        What holds the element to the box? Does the element thread into the plate you have attached to the box?

      • Thank you for your response! I’ve saved enough to start purchasing the stuff to build a BIAB rig like yours. I figure I’ll go for the heating element and the PID controller first. Then add the valve, pumps and basket later. I’ll use the controller to hit strike temp…but I’m still up in the air as to whether or not I’ll do the old kettle in the oven trick (mine just fits) or try to heat and stir.

      • I think if there is a way to keep the kettle and mash temp constant for 60-90 minutes that what you want to do. An uninsulated kettle will lose heat fast so insulating it with the reflective bubble wrap (several wraps) may be easiest. I decided on recirculating because of slightly higher efficiency and clearer wort were a nice side effect from doing it.

  2. Yeah I can’t wait to get this going…and recirculating is a goal.
    About how big is the threaded part of the heating element that goes into the fiberglass box or how big a hole did you drill? I’ve been looking at these:
    http://brewhardware.com/rimsherms-parts-93/176-elementparts
    Option 5.
    I emailed them to see if they could send me a blank one to drill my own hole. Waiting to hear back…but maybe the heater may just fit into a stock one?

    • I drilled a 1-1/4″ hole and filed it slightly until I could kinda force thread it into the hole. Since those element housings are drilled to accept a standard water heater element the hole will already be an 1-1/4″ so they should work just fine. You also could put a liberal amount of J-B Weld on the inside to seal up and secure the element to it.

  3. Ok
    Ordered the heat stick, the enclosure and the auberins controller stuff.
    Just curious…in your “Ditching the bag” post it looks like you have put the temp probe in the return tee on the lid of the kettle…you don’t use the one inside the kettle anymore? If I’m planning on eventually ordering the stuff to recirculate should I have not ordered the weldless probe?

    • I started out with the weldless in the kettle but added the second probe in the return tee later when I started recirculating. I still use the kettle mounted probe while heating the strike water to control it’s temp then switch the cable to the tee mounted probe when I start recirculating. You could just use the tee mounted one but then you would have to recirculate the water while it’s heating. It was a small added expense for the additional probe but I like having the option. Now I can actually use the tee on a small batch two vessel HERMS system I’m building as well and can use same cable and controller. Works well for brewing with either system.

      • I’d assume it would operate fine with the weldless fitting…meaning I would still be able to achieve uniform heating when I do get the stuff to recirculate and have the weldless probe mounted near the bottom of the kettle?

      • Received the heat stick yesterday. The configuration has changed since you purchased yours. Seems the electrical cover is smaller, made of some sort of plastic similar to those white plastic cutting boards. The cord is 14 gauge wire with a ground. It does have 1500 watts engraved on the stainless element….but from what I’ve read online (it’s limited, from a forum & who knows how accurate) the stick draws amps like a 2000 watt element.
        It seems beefier than the picture on homebrewstuff and may not need a new enclosure due to the ground. Do you think the 14 gauge wire will be ok?

      • 14ga is a little thin but should be fine and it’s nice they added a ground. When I ordered mine it had a 2 conductor 18 ga lamp cord with no ground.

      • I’m a little worried that they may have changed the wattage if they made those other changes.

        I think I may try to test the amperage draw…
        I’d assume I could plug it into a 20amp wall socket (one that’s taken out of the wall with it’s contact screws exposed) and test the draw after turning the circuit breaker back on. I’d just have to figure out a way to submerge the element without drilling my kettle. I was thinking of sacrificing a 5 gallon bucket and drilling a hole into that to mount the element in. On second thought, I wonder if my bottling bucket hole is the right size? Anyways, I just want to make sure this thing performs like the one you got.

      • A five gallon bucket would work to test. $2-3 at Home Depot or Walmart.

        Mine doesn’t have any markings (I just assumed 2000W as advertised back then) so they may have changed it but what’s important is will it boil 3ish gallons. If it does then it doesn’t matter what is stamped on it. Mine gives a decent boil.

      • Just testing if it boils would be safer than testing the amperage. Smart and simple, I’ll try that instead. Thank you!

      • Yikes!
        They must have changed it. It won’t install into a 5 gallon bucket…it’s too long. It actually will barely fit into my kettle…the end of the element may hit the side…if I had a fitting welded to the kettle it would fit better.
        You think I could test it by just suspending it into a 5 gallon bucket somehow? Secure it to a strip of metal or something? I need to know it’s going to work before I commit to altering my kettle.
        I have found a LWD stainless 2000watt 120volt hot water heater element for 20 something bucks at an online store…I may go that route if it doesn’t work.

      • You could do that to test it, just be careful and use GFCI outlet. Best test it before putting a hole in your kettle. That UWLD would be a good choice and the element cover/kit from brewhardware is a great product to cover it up and to provide a grounding point.

      • Rather than fuss with the Homebrew Stuff heat stick I sent it back…I’m going to go with that 2000watt LWD element…it’s shorter and I already have the enclosure from Brew Hardware. What I don’t know is should I go with the weldless set up and drill and/or punch the hole in the kettle myself or get a welding spud and let a welder do all the work. I’d imagine I’d need a punch to get a good hole for the element and those things run around $80. And I’d probably never use it again. Although, what would the labor cost to have it welded. Any thoughts?

      • Personally I would do weldless. It is hard to find a good stainless welder that can do thin material. A lot will say they can but it’s your boil kettle they are working on, not theirs. Yes a 1-1/4″ punch is ideal but you can get a step drill bit from Harbor Freight for cheap, just go slow and use lubricant checking hole size often. Search eBay for Q.max punch, cheaper and from England but fine for stockpots. Just make sure it’s a 1-1/4″ hole and weldless work well.

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