Elder Rat

Welcome to How I Brew
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"the perfesser"
Yet another approach to homebrewing
Bill Freeman aka Elder Rat

I have been brewing beer for the last 4 or so years. I spent the first part of that time brewing Coopers extract kits due to an extreme shortage of time. Hey, I could get 5 gallons of drinkable stuff in a fermenter in about 45 minutes. I remember it as being drinkable then, but I doubt that I would care for much of it today.

I don't think I really learned very much about brewing either until I bought a partial mash kit from Hearts in Orlando. They had to talk me through that first grain experience as well. From then on I was hooked. I quickly graduated to larger batches and then to all grain.

My wife and I are professional potters in real life and as such must have consistency in the finished product we make. I have tried and rejected several ways to make the brewing process produce a more consistent beer. I was convinced that there had to be a way to make the same beer time and time again with the same end result. I am not an experimenter in the sense that I do not brew a great number of different types of beer. I have several favorites that I brew regularly and I try to make minor adjustments each time to improve that particular beer. As a result, I try (emphasis on the word try) to keep meticulous records of each batch. A copy of the Promash homebrew program is instrumental in helping keep all this information straight.

Being a "gear head", I have found that the equipment to brew beer can become as complex as you will allow it to become. What follows on this page is the Mark IV version of a heat exchange system I call "the perfesser". "the perfesser" is built out of three 15 gallon Volrath stockpots. I think they are easier to care for as well as being shorter and larger in diameter for the volume they hold than are converted kegs. This system started out as a RIMS similar to Keith Royster's, but after a couple of instances where wort was burned by the heating element in the wort stream, I decided to take a page from Zymie's book and shift to the heat exchange system. Much of "the perfesser" is built around published information that has been modified to suit what I want. I have dumped hot water on myself before (I can be a klutz) so no part of the system is more that 66 inches in height. The frame is welded 1" X 1" square steel tubing and is mounted on casters for mobility.

My brew day starts with filling the pot that serves as a hot liquor tank with 14 gallons of filtered water. Filtering is done with a standard inline activated charcoal water filter that uses a garden watering wand to get the water up to the top of the tank. A sight glass from a commercial coffee urn shows the quantity of water in the tank.
I can do all this preparation the night before and set a timer incorporated in the control panel to start the heating process before I get to the garage on brew day. In essence it's like a Mr. Coffee wherein a simple plug-in timer activates a PID obtained from Omega Engineering with its preset temperature and the HLT is hot and ready to go by the time I need it.
This PID reads water temp via a thermocouple in the bottom of the HLT.
The HLT has 2-4000 watt 220 volt water heater elements mounted in it which are controlled by 2-25 amp solid state relays. This heating system can take tap water from 55 degrees F out of the faucet to 160 degrees F in about 25 or so minutes. Strike water temp is calculated to give me my first mash temp and that depends on what brew I am making.
I use a Schmidling, adjustable, gear drive, malt mill to crush grain. The picture shows a funnel adapter that allows me to pour in all the grain at once, start the drill motor, and walk away while the mill does it's thing.