When I first got into brewing, I started small and simple. Very little process control was in place, the equipment was basic and easy to use, and the beer turned out… okay. As time went on, my brewery grew organically to include more and more pieces of specialized equipment whose purposes varied, but generally involved making brewdays easier or giving me a greater degree of control over the process. This is a pretty typical evolution that homebrewers go through, and something that offers the opportunity for your brewhouse to grow in sync with your brewing skills.
After relocating to Brooklyn, I took the opposite approach. Instead of organic growth, I preplanned my system on paper, acquired my parts, and then built-out the brewery over the course of several evenings. This was an exciting and daunting task; not something I’d recommend for someone just learning how to brew.
Acquisition of Parts and Build-Out
For what seemed like weeks, strange and wonderful pieces of stainless steel began arriving at my apartment. Thanks to the folks from places like Bargain Fittings, More Beer, and Williams Brewing, finding the parts I needed was fairly easy. The most difficult item to track down was a thick walled stainless steel kettle with a multi layered bottom in a 5-gallon format. Unfortunately, most 5-gallon kettles are designed for entry level or partial boil extract brewers. I wanted something sturdy that would provide better heat dispersion and retention. I ended up with a great little kettle from Midwest Brewing that fit the bill perfectly.
The actual build-out went simply enough. It was important to diagrammatically layout how all the components were fitted out in order to procure the right fittings, but also have a pseudo installation manual for building. From there, piecing together the components was rather easy and happened quickly. The most difficult task was using a step-bit to place holes into my thick walled kettle. My cordless drill was barely up to the task. It took multiple trials and battery charges, but in the end I successfully placed two holes into my kettle’s walls. Lubricant is your friend when drilling (yes, I said that) and keeps the bit cool while cutting through the kettle walls.