- Absolutely Everything! for making your own beer at home.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Milling Station Completed

I have basically finished up the milling station. I think it turned out well. I haven't permanently mounted the power switch yet as there are a couple of places I can locate it and I'm not exactly sure what I want to do yet. One location, and likely the one I will go with, would be to cut another hole in the top of the table and surface mount it near where it is placed in the pictures. The other location would be on the leg of the table near where it is placed in the pictures. The receptacle has a light switch control and an always-on outlet. The switch controls the motor and the scale is plugged in to the outlet, which makes things convenient. The grain does a good job falling into the container placed below, but it does fall right near the edge. I'll likely end up coming up with some sort of a chute just the direct the grain a little more.

Here are some pics.

Front View:

Rear View:

Monday, December 7, 2009

System Changes (of course!)

I'm almost done with a couple minor changes I decided to make after the last brewing session. The first change is I have added a float switch to the bottom of the hot liquor tank so the BCS-460 knows when it is empty. I am also going to add a wort return to the mash tun (instead of just hanging a hose over the side of the kettle). I admit I haven't actually done it yet because it is going to mean drilling the 55-gallon BoilerMaker, and taking a drill to that thing is scaring the hell out of me. The third thing is getting the mill motorized, which I outlined in another post.

Mill Stand Preview

It's not done yet, but I am finally getting my mill back on a stand and motorized. I had everything motorized and mounted on a cabinet when I had it setup at the homebrew shop, but when I closed it was just to big to bring home for home use. Milling 100+ lbs of grain with a bucket and a drill is not much fun though. I found this Hot Water Heater Stand at Lowe's and instantly thought it would make a great milling station.

Nothing is secured yet and I haven't cut a hole for the grain to drop through yet, but I think it will work well. Here is a first look.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Brewed last weekend

Just a quick note to say that the first brew with the BCS-460 was done last week. So far so good. I brewed up an IPA and should be kegging it soon so I will report more then. I should have the burners a bit more dialed in now and hope to get one more batch in before the end of the year.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Waiting for one more part...

Well, I had a couple of issues with the gas valves. I had purchased a couple of ASCO valves a long time ago, and it turns out they weren't sufficient. They had a minimum pressure of 5 PSI, so they work fine with propane, but not natural gas. I should have realized that when I installed them. When I first bought them, I was brewing with propane, so I didn't think anything of it. So, I picked up two more of the valves that I had already installed under the boil kettle (from and as of tonight I'm back in business. Just waiting for a replacement burner to install underneath the mash tun as a section of burner tips broke off as I was trying to remove a busted tip with a screw extractor (that's what I get for not dealing with it when I originally received the burner, long, long ago).

It's getting closer. I'll post pics when everything has been wrapped up.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

1.5 BBL Brewery Details

I'll try to detail the specifics of the brewery here. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

The brewery consists of:
  • approximately 62 gallon boil kettle
  • 55 gallon Blichmann BoilerMaker kettle with false bottom Mash Tun
  • approximately 55 gallon Hot Liquor Tank
all on a single level frame that measures 7' w x 20" d x 16" h. This puts the kettles at a perfect standing height. The only time a step stool is needed is when you are cleaning out the kettle.

Underneath the boil kettle and mash tun is a 100K natural gas burner. Underneath the hot liquor tank is a 160K natural gas burner. Each burner has its own solenoid valve and gas ball valve for controlling the gas feed.

The brewing process is managed by a BCS-460.

The fermenters are 60 gallon cone bottom poly tanks that are temperature controlled via a glycol bath stored in a chest freezer and pumped through a stainless steel coil inside the fermenter. Temps are controlled by an external Johnson A419 thermostat (though that may be moved to the BCS-460)

More pictures will be posted one of these days.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Almost Ready

Need just a couple more pieces in order to hook the last burner back up and install the pilot light system. Looks like I'll be brewing again relatively soon!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

It's Alive (and so am I)!

The BCS-460 control panel is all wired up and working as planned! Now I just need to finish up the changes I am making to the gas lines.

Here is a list of part #'s for the components I have acquired so far:

1 x BCS-460
6 x Crydom D2425 SSR's from Brinker Controls
3 x 8-position Barrier Strip + jumper bar for the hot, neutral, and ground
1 x Rocker Switch (main power switch for panel)

For a basic description:

The BCS-460 is attached to constant power. For the panel, I wired the hot (black) from the main power line to the rocker switch. This gives me complete power over the panel (i.e., ensuring it is off). From the rocker switch, the hot runs to the hot barrier strip. This in turn feeds terminal one on each Crydom D2425 SSR. Terminal two on each SSR feeds the black (brass screw terminal) on a standard 110V receptacle with the middle tab removed to isolate each outlet. I chose a receptacle for a couple of reasons: 1) nothing is hard wired to the panel, and 2) most of the equipment I am controlling had a standard male power connector on it. The neutral (white) of each receptacle (silver screw terminal) feeds back up to a barrier strip which in turn is connected to the neutral of the main power line. All lines are connected to a barrier strip connected to the ground (green).

Port 3 (red wire) of the SSR is connected to the output (control port) on the BCS-460, and port 4 (green wire) are all wired together (the blue wire caps in the picture) and then connected to the ground on the BCS-460. In hindsight I would have added one more barrier strip and setup a BCS-460 ground bar.

I used salvaged PC power cords for wiring up the receptacles. The control wires (red and green) for the SSR's are a 20 AWG hookup wire I had laying around. Everything is mounted in a salvaged alarm panel box painted black with a $.99 can of spray paint. Not trying to be a complete tightwad, but it's just the way it turned out.

I am not an electrician, so please do your homework if you follow the steps I've written. If you are more experienced than I and I have missed something, please let me know! I did quite a bit of trial and error figuring it out before hooking it all up, so maybe it will help someone else out.

Edit: at the advice of a friend, I relocated the incoming power line to come in on the left side of the box to avoid any possible electrical interference with the temperature probes. Also missing from the picture is the hookup of two additional temperature probes and a couple of float switches that will be installed at a later date.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Test Wiring Completed

Things are moving forward with the BCS-460. I have the initial programming done and did some test wiring to make sure I had the electrical basics for controlling the relays down. All worked as it should so I can pick up the rest of all the little electrical parts I need. I'm also moving the gas line to the back of the frame so the gas control valves will be behind the heat shielding. All of this will take a little bit to get done, but so far so good. This controller is awesome. I am amazed at all that is packed into it. I can't wait to put it to use!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Automated Controller

After going back and forth, I ended up deciding on an option I have not mentioned on the blog yet: the BCS-460. It arrived today and looks great. The functionality of the controller is very impressive. Should someday I ever end up brewing commercially on this system, it will be of great value when it comes to sequential batches. In the meantime, it will make my brewday all the easier while increasing overall control and repeatability. More information and pictures to arrive as I get it setup and configured.

Before I can use it, I need to make a few changes to the system. Mainly:
  • add a burner to the mash tun (for heating strike water and yes, recirculating and maintaining temps during the mash)
  • install gas line control valves to the boil kettle, mash tun, and hot liquor tank burners
  • come up with some sort of pilot light system for the burners
I'll also need to round up some temp sensors and relays for the pumps and gas valves.

Anyway, onward and upward!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Old Ale Update

I racked off 38 gallons of the old ale this afternoon. Final gravity was 1.014, for 8% ABV. 14 gallons went into a Sanke keg to which I added three packs of Wyeast 3763-PC Roeselare Ale Blend. The Sanke keg is now my "sour tank". This won't be touched for at least a year. The other 24 gallons or so went into regular corny kegs and I have a couple different types of oak cubes to add to two of them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yeast Dump

Primary fermentation of the old ale is almost done. Tonight I dumped what yeast has settled out and this is the result of 12 dry-pitched (expired) packets of Safale S-04 into 45 gallons of 1.074 wort.I was just shy of four gallons of a thick, creamy, yeast slurry. Fermentation temp was 68* F.

This fermentation went crazy. I actually lost quite a bit due to the blow-off. Between the blow-off and the yeast dumps, it looks like I'll end up with around 35 gallons when all is said and done. 15 gallons will be soured with the Wyeast 3763-PC Roeselare Ale blend and set aside for a year or so. The rest will be kegged with some oak cubes added to a keg or two.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Old Ale Brewday

Well, over a year later, I fired up the system today and gave it a good run using the natural gas burners. I hosted a brewday for my homebrew club ( and we brewed up a 1.5 BBL batch of an old ale. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the brewing session. For the most part they probably wouldn't be much different than what is already posted. Other than a problem with a pump during the sparge (and thankfully I had a spare around), everything went as expected. I think it's safe to say that 140 lbs of grain is the maximum amount I can cram into the mash tun.

Not sure what (or when) is up for brewing next. Hopefully it won't be another year.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Sheesh. Where does time go? Tomorrow it will have been a year since I last brewed on this system. During that time I guess life stuff kind of got in the way as aside from a few 10-gallon batches, I haven't brewed much lately. Well, a year later, it is finally back in the garage and ready to brew again.

Here it is hooked to the natural gas line. In this picture, the burners are on. They are burning so clean that in the pictures you can't really see the blue flame.
Here is a close-up of the smaller burner:
The hot liquor tank has a larger burner on it, and there is some orange in the flame. I have a smaller burner I can down grade too if the larger one is overkill. I wanted to be sure I could keep the HLT full and up to temp for sequential batches though, so I went with the larger burner.

I haven't done anything on the automation side yet as I'm waiting to see how the development of the BrewTroller project comes along. When they get the new boards in, I'll probably order one up.

Anyway, I'm hoping to finally brew again in the next couple of days.