One of the biggest questions asked in the Homebrewtalk.com beer forums is “what’s your advice to a new brewer?”
My answer to that is often to decide from the outset what size batches you want to brew, then buy equipment for double that size. If you think the pain, frustration, and expense of building a brew rig is ridiculous, try getting a few brews in only to decide you’re exceeding your equipment’s capacity. Back in September, I realized I’d need to brew eight to ten gallon batches if I wanted to make it worth teaching people and having friends over to brew (and share) beer.
I’d (over)tapped my available funds putting together what was turning out to be an insufficient brew setup. So, wich much consternation, I sold the brew kettle and some other equipment to dig myself out of the negative. As a result, my propane burner got forgotten outside in the rain over the winter (can you say “RUST!”?). I also sold my copper coil immersion chiller and some other various odds and ends (finally got rid of an oddball corny/sanke-keg combo I never figure out what to do with). This, of course, left me with no more brewing equipment.
Spring was approaching and with it the yearning for brewing. I saved my pennies, climbed out of the red-ink, and ordered a Keggle from Kegglebrewing.com (HIGHLY recommended!). I snapped up a counterflow wort chiller from a HBT member and other various sundries. I also stumbled into a group grain buy in the area and have 55(ish) pounds of base grain, enough for several recipes.
I should have everything I need to begin brewing now, correct? WRONG!
Problems I didn’t expect:
- A bigger kettle means (duh) more boiling wort. I can’t just pick up 12 gallons of boiling liquid to table-level for draining. Going to need a taller burner!
- Putting the keggle on a taller burner will mean elevating the mash tun to about five feet. My little workmate work-bench won’t work any longer.
- We’re going to need longer and more hoses. Longer for height and additional hoses for the CFC chiller (water supply). I use pricey quick-disconnects from McMaster-Carr, so that’s going to be about another $50 in parts.
- Oh yeah, as long as I’m re-engineering things, I may as well buy a frying-pan splatter guard and make a false bottom for the mash tun. Bigger beers mean more grains and the stainless-steel hose braid may collapse under the weight.
You see where I’m going here? If I has JUST taken my time initially and build a twelve-gallon system (even though I’m only planning on brewing ten gallons right now), I wouldn’t have sold my old equipment at a loss and needed to reinvent the wheel a second time. Once again, I’ve overspent with a “little order from Amazon” here and a “I need to run to Lowe’s” there. I’m so close to being done with the equipment and I’m frankly sort of done with the whole thing. NOT a good place to be in with a hobby, especially an expensive one that junks up the basement and garners stern looks from your spouse. (For the record, she’s awesomely supportive, but I know the mash tun has been in the middle of the basement floor for a week. I’ll move it, I promise!)
The good news is I really am just about done with the equipment build. I bought a new burner (sold the old one on Craigslist and took a bath on that one. This one is getting stored INDOORS!) and have a ladder on order so I can mount the mash tun up high. New quick disconnect fittings are on order from McMaster-Carr. I Dremel’d a stainless-steel splatter guard into a false bottom this weekend. I think I’ve got it about ready to put together.
The first brew will be with my friends at Amazing Grist Co-op, which means we’ll be able to spread the ingredient costs around a little. 😉