Brewery: Mistakes

Here is a list of things I would do differently if I was starting over on my brewery project. I think this list will be very useful when I inevitably start over on my brewery project 🙂

  • Separate control boxes for low voltage and high voltage. I would build a small box that houses all the high voltage switches, relays, SSRs and plugs and run low voltage, opto-coupled signals to it. Having all the high voltage stuff in the main control panel makes it harder and more dangerous to work on, and makes it much bulkier than it needs to be. I would put the high voltage box down in the rig somewhere. This would have the added benefit of probably not needing expensive twist lock plugs. I think I spent almost $200 just in plugs for high voltage stuff.
  • Have a box on the rig for all the valves, temp controllers and pressure sensors and come up with a way to gang them all into a single cable going to the control panel. Ideally I would like the high voltage box and the sensor/valve box to just be networked to the control panel with RS-485 or something.
  • Kettles with bottom outlets. One of the most annoying things I’ve found so far with my brewery is that there’s no good way to clean the kettles completely. It’s a battle of diminishing returns. The siphon outlet of the keg leaves about .22 gallons along with all the crap that has collected in that liquid. So washing bits of grain, hops, etc. becomes a matter of pumping in water, draining it, pumping in more water, draining it. I’ve taken to using towels to soak up the last .22 gallons and then cleaning it all by hand. If they were bottom dump I could just rinse all the crap right down the drain.
  • Drill holes at 45* angles around the kettles instead of 90* angles. At 90* angles everything wants to bump into the stuff in the kettle next to it.
  • Skip the Blichmann gear. It’s pretty but it’s expensive and once you start drilling and cutting it’s kind of a waste. There’s better options for a DIY system like this.
  • Skip the solenoids. I’ve mentioned this before, but solenoid valves are useless in a brewery. I spent over $400 in solenoids just to find this out. Use motorized ball valves.
  • Use tri-clamp fittings on manifolds. This is expensive, but it will save a huge amount of frustration. Trying to line up dozens of threaded fittings is a massive pain in the ass. I don’t know how pipe fitters keep their sanity.
  • Spend way more time thinking about how things will get cleaned. Cleaning is still a pain in the ass. I still don’t know how to completely drain my system including all the hoses, valves and manifolds. All these spots are wonderful little havens for nasties to build up.
  • Remember how useful pipe clamps are for everything. They kick ass. Use them to mount almost anything to almost anything.

To be continued…