Electric brewing has been around for some time and its advantages are well known to the brewing community. They include the ability to brew inside all year long, use of a readily available and cheap energy source (as compared to propane) and greater energy efficiency.
As an example, a large home brewing heating element dissipates 5500W. For a 5 gallon batch, it can be estimated to run at 100% for about 30 minutes and at reduced power levels during mash and boil. Averaging this to a 2 hour use at 100% power, the cost of an electric brew day for a 5 gallon batch comes to about $1.50 in energy cost. With the heating element immersed directly in the wort, heat transfer is as efficient as it can be. Temperature control is also more precise than in gas setups. And no more trips to the gas station to get refill the tank that ran out in the middle of your boil…
Brew in a Bag
Brew in a bag (BIAB) is a great single vessel all grain brewing method which can produce excellent beer while being far more space efficient and wallet friendly that your traditional RIMS/HERMS multi vessel setups. There is a ton of material out there on the basics of brew in a bag. Ben Cull from Mash Hacks has a great video entitled “The Simplest All grain brew day”. It’s is well worth the watch if you’re thinking about getting into all grain brewing
There is similarly a great bit of misinformation about biab being a “lesser” form of brewing. It is sometimes claimed to have reduced mash efficiency and generally less repeatable brewing. There’s enough literature out there addressing these myths (see also this great sticky thread by Bobby from brewhardware.com) and single vessel bag brewing has gained popularity with home brewers because of its numerous advantages:
- Less equipment, which leads to:
- Lower cost
- Less space needed
- Less cleanup
- Faster brew days
- Simpler process, less screwups: no stuck sparges, no need to mash out, etc…
Electric brewing in bag has grown popular in the past years, and vendors offer some impressive turnkey systems. These include SS brewtech, Clawhammer, Brew-Boss, High Gravity, and many others. The cheapest turn key solutions out there seem to be $800-$1000 and are typically 120V/15A setups. The 240V/30A setups are closer to the $1500 price point.
The DIY Approach
I set out with a goal to build a full electric brew in a bag system for around $500. I wanted to build a system for myself that could beat those kinds of prices and be a fun project at the same time. This blog documents this process.
The final price tag of my setup was closer to $650. I did not quite meet the budget, but I did make the decision to splurge on a few items. As I catalog this process, I will also suggest cheaper alternatives that will achieve the same functionality and will bring the final price tag closer to $500.
I will cover the build in a few separate posts, roughly following this outline:
- Choosing a heating element
- Building an electric brew pot
- Adding re-circulation fittings
- Building an electric brew controller
- List of parts/prices/alternatives
Enjoy the reading, leave me a comment, and perhaps this will inspire you to look into building your own budget setup!
Let’s get to it!