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russki

AG Electric Brewing on the cheap - with pictures!

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Some of you may have seen my other thread about using an electric turkey fryer for brewing. I have successfully brewed 5 batches with my new setup, and decided to take pictures and document the entire process while brewing my last batch, the Cream of Tettnager Ale.

Here's what I'm using as a Single Vessel Electric MLT/Brewkettle (that's the technical term!):

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It's a 1650watt 30qt (7.5 gallon) electric turkey fryer, currently priced at about $85 on Amazon. I was fortunate to find one from Amazon Warehouse Deals for $64.

To complete my setup, I purchased a 22.5" Weber Grill Grate from Lowes, a roll of Reflectix foil insulation, aluminum tape, as well as some 5-gallon paint strainer bags. Total cost: less than $100.

I also replaced the 2-ft cord that came with the fryer with a 10-foot heavy-duty 14-gauge server extension cord I had laying around. DO NOT USE AN EXTENSION CORD LESS THAN 14-GAUGE!!!

I get 70-75% efficiency with my process, I can use up to 14 pounds of grain (max that fits in the basket), and brew up to 1.070 OG 5-gallon batches without adding DME.

Let me do a rundown of the entire process:

1. I use a folding table to set the fryer on, as I personally find it too high and uncomfortable on the counter:

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2. I fill the fryer to the top of the basket with hot tap water (about 120F) - you can use cold water, but this will add 30-40 min to the process. I'm impatient! Incidentally, this is exactly 5 gallons.

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3. I add a tablespoon of 5.2 PH Stabilizer to the water.

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4. I take the basket out, set the thermostat to max, cover the pot, and let it come to strike temperature (not quite there in the photo). The holes in the lid are perfect for a thermometer.

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5. While the water comes to temp (takes about 20 min), I crush my grains:

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6. I line the basket with a 5-gallon paint strainer bag:

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7. And fill it with crushed grain:

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8. Once the water is at strike temp, I turn the fryer off. I slowly lower the basket with the grain into the water. I like to pull the top of the bag up and hold it closed so that the grain stays in there. I then swoosh the basket around a bit, just to make sure the water has permeated the grain, and use a large stainless spoon (not pictured) to mix my mash really well for a few minutes. I then cover the pot, put the thermometer in, and leave it be for 60 minutes. Normally, it will hold the temp perfectly without the need to turn the fryer back on at all.

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9. While my mash is going, I heat up 2.5 gallons of water in a separate pot to 165F (to minimize tannin extraction).

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10. When the mash is done, I slowly pull the basket with grain up, and slide the Weber grate underneath:

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11. As it's draining into the pot, I turn the fryer back on, and use preheated water from the other pot and my high-tech sparging device to rinse the grains and get my boil volume to about 6-6.5 gallons:

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12. I sparge until I fill the pot to about 1.5" from the top and add a few drops of Fermcap-S to prevent boil-overs. I put the lid back on and wait... It takes about 20-30 minutes to start boiling - once it starts, I take the lid off. Here's the hot break:

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13. I do 90 minute boils for all my batches to minimize DMS and sufficiently concentrate the wort. I'm not detailing the hop additions here as they vary by recipe. I bag my hops to have less kettle trub. 20 min before the end of boil, I put the immersion chiller in the pot, and set up my pump. Since I can't connect a hose to my kitchen faucet, I use a 320 gph fountain pump submerged in my sink with the faucet running:

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14. After the boil is over, I turn the pump on, letting the discharge run into the drain. Once the temperature drops to 100F, I add a bunch of ice to the sink, and start recirculating water through it - this gets the wort down to mid-70s in 15-20 minutes total:

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15. Time to siphon! The yeast is rehydrated and ready to pitch! The batch size is perfect for filling a 5-gallon Lowes bucket to about 4.5 gallons. This leaves plenty of gunk in the pot.

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16. Blast the yeasties with some O2, and we're almost done!

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17. Time to clean up! The inner pot comes out for cleaning - I put the heating element back in, and fill the whole thing with hot tap water and let soak for a couple minutes - all gunk just wipes off with a paper towel! The spout is great for draining the water into the sink. You can see the layer of Refectix insulation I put around the pot:

imag0322d.jpg

That's all, folks! About 5.5 hours start to finish with a 60 minute mash and a 90 minute boil.

Sorry for the really long post, but if anyone is looking for a way to brew 5-gallon all-grain batches in an apartment, or just doesn't want to deal with propane, this is definitely a pretty simple option!

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This is an awesome guide!
I think I will invest in something like this when I make the move to 5 gallon all grain. The thought of the propane is cool and all but this seems much more practical and cheaper (which, as a college student, is what I need!)
Thanks for the tips

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Russki, there is nothing to apologize for! Still being new to brewing it's great to see how others brew and your step by step description was great for me to see and easy to understand!

I was actually looking at getting an outdoor propane turkey fryer but this looks like a really nice option!

Thanks and happy brewing!!!

:chug:

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This turkey fryer may be good if you get a good one, I did not, and I never heard back from the company after I contacted them when mine burnt up after the 2nd use. Fortunately I can use it on my stove for Mr Beer size brews, by taking the inside tub out, and may be able to use it outside with a gas burner.

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realracer2 wrote:

This turkey fryer may be good if you get a good one, I did not, and I never heard back from the company after I contacted them when mine burnt up after the 2nd use. Fortunately I can use it on my stove for Mr Beer size brews, by taking the inside tub out, and may be able to use it outside with a gas burner.

Did you buy it from Amazon? They have a great return policy, especially if you have a defective unit. All you need to do is log into your account, go to the order, and click "return item" - you can print a return label on the spot. I've never had issues returning stuff to Amazon. A few weeks ago I got a digital thermometer that read 10 degrees off, and got my money back in no time.

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I have one of those cookers! I'm not up to all-grain mash yet but I'm going to bookmark this for down the road!

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russki wrote:

realracer2 wrote:

This turkey fryer may be good if you get a good one, I did not, and I never heard back from the company after I contacted them when mine burnt up after the 2nd use. Fortunately I can use it on my stove for Mr Beer size brews, by taking the inside tub out, and may be able to use it outside with a gas burner.

Did you buy it from Amazon? They have a great return policy, especially if you have a defective unit. All you need to do is log into your account, go to the order, and click "return item" - you can print a return label on the spot. I've never had issues returning stuff to Amazon. A few weeks ago I got a digital thermometer that read 10 degrees off, and got my money back in no time.[/

Unfortunately being stupid after the fryer worked the first time I got rid of the box it came in. I live in a very small house with no room to store empty boxes.

I guess I could contact Amazon, but I would have to find a box to send it back in. I am also not sure if it is past time that Amazon would take it back.

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Russki speaking as an electrician. You did your math well. 1650/110=15. 14 wire will take 15 amps. However if you are on a 20 amp breaker I would use 12 wire anyway. You don't want your cord to be the weakest link in the chain.

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russki - fantastic picture documentary. Very creative and extremely well explained. Thanks for the great ideas. As stated by others, I will definitely come back to this when I'm ready to move up. :side:

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I always knew that good brewing was a more simple process than some folks make it and you just showed how simple it can be. Good one pot system.

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Gymrat wrote:

Russki speaking as an electrician. You did your math well. 1650/110=15. 14 wire will take 15 amps. However if you are on a 20 amp breaker I would use 12 wire anyway. You don't want your cord to be the weakest link in the chain.

Yep, instructions for the fryer mention never using an extension cord - probably because most of them are 18 gauge, and may cause a "meltdown". If I had a 12 gauge cord, I would have used that, but since I had a 14 gauge cord, that was a cheaper option.

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And it is a fine option. You might keep your eyes open for a way to upgrade in the future. If there is ever a malfunction that causes your pot to draw more amps someday you will ne glad you did. I am thinking about buying one of these now BTW.

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realracer2 wrote:

Unfortunately being stupid after the fryer worked the first time I got rid of the box it came in. I live in a very small house with no room to store empty boxes.

I guess I could contact Amazon, but I would have to find a box to send it back in. I am also not sure if it is past time that Amazon would take it back.


I would call the number in the instruction manual - I assume there's manufacturer warranty. The company that makes them is called Bruce Foods - I'm sure they can send you a new heating element. I would call vs. email - I tend to get better results this way.

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Just a note, I checked on Amazon and the Saf-T fryer appears to have been discontinued. The one constant complaint seems to be that you have to hit a reset button every 15 minutes to keep the burner on.

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A.Larsen wrote:

Just a note, I checked on Amazon and the Saf-T fryer appears to have been discontinued. The one constant complaint seems to be that you have to hit a reset button every 15 minutes to keep the burner on.

I think the Saf-T fryer is a propane one, the electric one has no safety timer.

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Very well written.

I may have to rethink how I will brew going forward.

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Guest System Admin

Looks good, funny a year ago people were talking about this unit and the word was not good for brewing.

Guess you proved them wrong.

Nice job on the review/template for electric fryer brewing

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Yeah, I think this will be my gateway back into 5 gallon AG batches one day. My stove won't cut it and I don't want to mess with propane burners that I have to use outdoors.

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After seeing your original post where you found this on Amazon I went ahead and purchased one too. I've done three batches on it so far (all LBK sized) with two more this week, and so far am finding it very convenient. And I like that it has the capacity to up the batch size if I so choose. And the biggest perk for me - I use it outside on the lanai, so no more complaints about smelling up the kitchen.

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This is GREAT! I have been trying to figure out an efficient way to do it in an apartment and this just made my Favorites list!

Thank you x a million!

:)

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Awesome! You just gave me such a great idea. I've had efficiency problems with my BIAB and I can't figure out how to do an effective sparge (no extra big pots for dunk sparging, and the problems of dealing with a hot heavy bag that wants to expand out). Why didn't I think of putting it in the steamer insert to keep it all in one place. Great idea. I have a question about that steamer basket too. I decided to scrap mine for BIAB because there was such a large volume of deadspace below it. It seemed to me that I was having a hard time maintaining stable and uniform temperatures because I couldn't agitate the water below the steamer, which was also the hottest. How much water does it take on before the level reaches the basket? And I presume you can't scrap the basket because of an element inside or something? Or do you just like using it? Also, do you do anything with all the steam generated? Also that boil volume is scary! You must have nerves of steel. Thank god for Fermcap! Anyway, nice pictorial. :cheers:

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SenorPepe wrote:

Awesome! You just gave me such a great idea. I've had efficiency problems with my BIAB and I can't figure out how to do an effective sparge (no extra big pots for dunk sparging, and the problems of dealing with a hot heavy bag that wants to expand out). Why didn't I think of putting it in the steamer insert to keep it all in one place. Great idea. I have a question about that steamer basket too. I decided to scrap mine for BIAB because there was such a large volume of deadspace below it. It seemed to me that I was having a hard time maintaining stable and uniform temperatures because I couldn't agitate the water below the steamer, which was also the hottest. How much water does it take on before the level reaches the basket? And I presume you can't scrap the basket because of an element inside or something? Or do you just like using it? Also, do you do anything with all the steam generated? Also that boil volume is scary! You must have nerves of steel. Thank god for Fermcap! Anyway, nice pictorial. :cheers:

The basket really makes it easy to handle all this grain - and I think the layer of hot water around the basket helps insulate it and allow stable temps throughout the mash.

Since the pot is only 30 qt, it's not big enough to do a true BIAB. I start with 5 gallons of water, this seems to work well. As for the steam... I really don't do anything about it now, other than having my patio door open while I brew. I lose about 1.5 gallons during the boil, so I think of it as a "whole house humidifier" :)

With Fermcap, I've only ever had one boilover - I was boiling a 2 liter starter in a 2 liter Erlenmeyer flask... too little headspace... I use it with all my batches now!

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Received one of these as a birthday gift today, so I'll share my experience after the first brew day. I'm only short a wort chiller at this point, so I'll have to make due for now. My first batch will be a Mr. B sized batch, so I should still be able to pull it out and pop it in the ice bath. For now, I've dropped 3+ gallons of water in the pot and was able to reach strike temps in maybe 15 min and boil in a bit over 30 min. That will work just fine, especially compared to stovetop.

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"swenocha" post=255280 said:

Received one of these as a birthday gift today, so I'll share my experience after the first brew day. I'm only short a wort chiller at this point, so I'll have to make due for now. My first batch will be a Mr. B sized batch, so I should still be able to pull it out and pop it in the ice bath. For now, I've dropped 3+ gallons of water in the pot and was able to reach strike temps in maybe 15 min and boil in a bit over 30 min. That will work just fine, especially compared to stovetop.

Cool! Definitely let us know how it goes for you! One thing I found is that with 5-6 gallons of wort and a wort chiller (boiling to sanitize) in the pot, it does struggle to keep a rolling boil. I think this was part of the reason I got crappy hop utilization in my last batch. I'm going to build a 1500W heatstick to supplement the heating element and get a nice vigorous boil even with all this stuff in the pot. I have all the parts, just need to assemble them - will post a pictorial on how to do that as soon as I get to it (maybe even tonight or tomorrow).

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To follow up on this thread, this is likely the best brewing purchase I've made in a while. I've done three batches so far... two 2.4 gallon LBK all grains and one 5 gallon partial mash. In doing these sized batches, I have had no problem getting things rolling without the heat stick. My process and modifications are almost identical to what Russki laid out with only a few exceptions...

- I stuck with the spigot. I simply got some 3/4"i (I think) tubing and a clamp.

- With the smaller batches, I was able to use the built in hanger for the perforated interior basket instead of a grill grate as Russki described. In a five gallon scenario that won't work, but for the smaller sized batch it was super convenient to just hang the basket up above the wort level.

- I'm still without an immersion chiller (my next purchase). So, thus far I've done the old ice bath method. For the LBK batches, I had to run the batch into a sanitized brew pot (out the spigot/tubing described above) and then put that in the ice bath because it would be darn near impossible to get the pot out of the unit with hot liquid in it, and especially with the Reflectix layer. For the partial mash, I simply added cold water to the fermenter, then added the wort (via the spigot/tubing) on top of that, and then topped off to 5 gallons. My temps, much like a Mr. B batch, were at about 80 after that, and a few min with the fermenter in ice got me to 70.

Due to this equipment, I'm pondering switching to 4 gallon batches, using food-safe Lowe's buckets in addition to my 3 gallon better bottles for the majority of my brewing. That would avoid the near-the-top issues with the 7.5 gallon volume but still allow a full volume boil.

Regardless, I highly recommend this equipment. It is as if it was made for brewing...

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"swenocha" post=262918 said:

Regardless, I highly recommend this equipment. It is as if it was made for brewing...

And to think all this time I've been using it to fry turkeys! My brudders and 1 of my nephews are hoping it's recent brewing tasks will add something to the turkey next Christmas! I don't know about that, but I promise we'll have plenty to wash it down with!

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"swenocha" post=262918 said:


- I'm still without an immersion chiller (my next purchase). So, thus far I've done the old ice bath method. For the LBK batches, I had to run the batch into a sanitized brew pot (out the spigot/tubing described above) and then put that in the ice bath because it would be darn near impossible to get the pot out of the unit with hot liquid in it, and especially with the Reflectix layer. For the partial mash, I simply added cold water to the fermenter, then added the wort (via the spigot/tubing) on top of that, and then topped off to 5 gallons. My temps, much like a Mr. B batch, were at about 80 after that, and a few min with the fermenter in ice got me to 70.


An immersion chiller is super easy to make - if you want to do it on the cheap, Lowes sells 20' rolls of 3/8" o.d. copper tubing for $13 or so. It's pretty easy to coil up by hand, using a "spring" tubing bender. Just add some vinyl tubing and a faucet adapter, and you'll have an immersion chiller!

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So, after 8 successful 5-gallon AG batches, as I was brewing my Honey Lemon Amber Ale, the damn thing decided to self-destruct with 10 min left in the boil. The control box for the heating element started spewing nasty chemical smoke.

Luckily, I also had my heatstick in there, so I was able to finish my boil... I will have to take it apart and see if I can just wire the heating element directly, bypassing the burned controller.

God damn it... just when you get your process all dialed in, gotta make more changes...

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"russki" post=271644 said:

So, after 8 successful 5-gallon AG batches, as I was brewing my Honey Lemon Amber Ale, the damn thing decided to self-destruct with 10 min left in the boil. The control box for the heating element started spewing nasty chemical smoke.

Luckily, I also had my heatstick in there, so I was able to finish my boil... I will have to take it apart and see if I can just wire the heating element directly, bypassing the burned controller.

God damn it... just when you get your process all dialed in, gotta make more changes...

Other folks have aid theirs blew up too, which is why although I've been tempted I haven't pulled the plug on one of these yet... most people only fry turkies a few times a year, makes me wonder about the reliability of the thing... might last 5+ years for frying turkies like that, but not long at all making brews if it's built cheap.

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Happened to me not too long ago too. I called the manufacturer and had a brand new heating unit in a couple of days. Not sure if there's a design flaw, if it's just cheaply made, or if it was damaged when shipped initially. My original unit arrived with a few defects, including a broken piece on the heating element. The second heating element arrived packaged much more securely than the first and so far is working perfectly.


"russki" post=271644 said:

So, after 8 successful 5-gallon AG batches, as I was brewing my Honey Lemon Amber Ale, the damn thing decided to self-destruct with 10 min left in the boil. The control box for the heating element started spewing nasty chemical smoke.

Luckily, I also had my heatstick in there, so I was able to finish my boil... I will have to take it apart and see if I can just wire the heating element directly, bypassing the burned controller.

God damn it... just when you get your process all dialed in, gotta make more changes...

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Called the company today, and even though it's out of warranty (90 days), they will replace the heating element out of courtesy.

We'll see how long the replacement one lasts...

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Wow. Don't scare me guys, I just bought one from a guy yesterday on Craigslist - brand new for $30. Was unopened, had gotten as a gift. Now I'm wondering if I should do this or just relist it for a profit...

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"hilkertj" post=272163 said:

Wow. Don't scare me guys, I just bought one from a guy yesterday on Craigslist - brand new for $30. Was unopened, had gotten as a gift. Now I'm wondering if I should do this or just relist it for a profit...

For 30 bucks I'd take my chances :) Even if it only lasts 8 brews - that's cheaper than buying propane for an outdoor turkey fryer.

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My thoughts exactly. I made the shopping list with the aluminum tape, reflectix foil, 14-gauge ext cord, etc. Plus, I like your idea of the 320 gph fountain pump.

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That's a great post--very clear and informative. I've been wanting to try BIAB, and learning from someone who has made a success of it is the smart way. Thanks for posting it.

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