Building a brew kit, how hard can it be?

Building a “pico” brewery with a bunch of mates, how hard can it be? This was the question we had asked ourselves before we set out to answer it.

One thing I found really handy was the documented progress of other brewers out there, so we thought that we would take you along for the ride and maybe even help out a few people trying to find their way through the mass of information out there.

HERMS, RIMS, single infusion mash, temperature mash, decoction mash, multi step, these were just some of the words and acronyms encountered when our journey began. (I’ll let you consult the home brew wiki for definitions).

We found each option changed the equipment setup slightly or influenced the way that we would brew our beer. How to decide? Well I would say that having a specific goal in mind goes a long way to keeping you on track, our goal is to brew a good beer and be able to repeat the process. Hopefully re-producing the same beer the second time!

With this in mind and after much web crawling (not the Spiderman kind) we settled on a HERMS system with an electronic heat control for the mash process. This will allow us to set the mash temperature and the controller should maintain whatever we dial in. The Boil Kettle and Hot Liquor Tun (HLT) each heated by gas with ½ inch copper tubing as the heat exchanger. A single march pump will keep us flowing through food grade silicone hoses. We also decided to try and keep it as easy to clean as possible so chose to go with an all stainless setup (yes, apart from the coil) using Camlock fittings.

Once the setup above had been approved over an Epic or two at O’Carrolls we proceeded to source the kit. Trying to keep costs down and finding sources for the gear was a challenge, maybe I didn’t look hard enough but there doesn’t seem to be too many home brew parts suppliers within NZ. I did find some of what we needed within the plumbing industry; but, even then it took considerable investigation with limited pricing available on the net. Because of this and the strong NZ dollar we were driven overseas. Although we are passionate about keeping the cash in NZ the American, European and even Australian brew sites are well equipped with pretty much everything you need and the prices make them competitive. All Blacks jersey and Adidas sprang to mind but unable to contemplate the complexities of their US/NZ business model I used the exchange rate to compare the prices and factored in the shipping costs which came out cheaper than buying them in NZ.

Here is the basic breakdown of suppliers.

We sourced three 71 litre pots, the solenoid valve and digital controller from TradeMe.

All of our fittings came from Bargain Fittings in the US. Their stainless fittings, thermometers and site gauges are all priced really well.

Our hop screen for the boil kettle (The Hop Stopper) came from the very helpful Dennis @ Innovative Homebrew Solutions. The Hop Stopper looks promising, can’t wait to try it out.

I was surprised to find it locally but our March brew pump came from within little old NZ, check out Pump and Machinery Co Ltd if you’re after one.

The silicone hoses and hose clips were from ibrew in Surfers Paradise, Australia. This shop is loaded with shiny stainless bits, fermenters that you can’t get your arms around, and other parts I’m still dreaming about! The owner and store man John Bezer was the friendliest guy out and almost talked my ear off! Nice shop, good people, thanks John!

The 32 jet Mongolian gas burners were from Lai Kam Kee Food Equipment.

One of our team managed to source some steel for the frame and his father in-law kindly taught him to weld so we now have a pretty solid structure to mount everything on.

Once all these parts were together we were ready for build day. Download the full list of our brew kit parts, costs and sources here.

Now it’s onto our first Brew and to see how the equipment runs!

12 comments to “Building a brew kit, how hard can it be?”

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  1. Mark - 19 Feb, 2012

    Thanks very much for this post. I have been planning to build something very similar to this for a couple of months now, but have struggled to nail down the best places to source the parts from, so your bill of materials (sorry, no pun intended) is absolutely brilliant.

    One question about the 71 litre pots. I have seen these listed quite regularly on Trade Me, and wondered how they stacked up quality-wise. Given that you are sitting them over a fairly meaty burner, how are they holding up?

    Thanks, Mark

  2. BillofBeer - 19 Feb, 2012

    Hi Mark. So far the pots seem to be holding up ok, but we have only brewed four batches to date.
    The quality is a little questionable though as our HLT looks as though it has a few spots of rust appearing.

  3. Mark - 20 Feb, 2012

    Thanks very much Bill. I think I will investigate the feasibility of bringing in a couple of Northern Brewer 20 Gallon Megapots, suspect it will be megabucks for the shipping.

  4. BillofBeer - 21 Feb, 2012

    Let me know how you get on

  5. Mark - 21 Feb, 2012

    Yeah, no go from NorthernBrewer, won’t ship outside the States, which is weird given I bought some stuff from them a couple of years ago. I could use a freight forwarder like MyUS, but will try closer to home first. I am talking to an outfit in Queensland and the mo’. Fingers crossed.

  6. Lewis - 08 Apr, 2012

    I’d love to see some pictures in this post 🙂

  7. Bmoore - 10 Apr, 2012

    There is a video of the kit here if you missed it Lewis. everybody-else-is-doing-it-so-why-cant-we

  8. Pat - 27 Apr, 2012

    Hi looks good like the Video, and the list of parts. Question, how did you get barginfittings to New Zealand? Did you use a freight forwarder?

  9. Bmoore - 27 Apr, 2012

    Hi Pat, we took advantage of the $5 anywhere delivery in the US to get the parts to a friend in New York then they forwarded onto to us in NZ. Bargainfittings did open up to international orders for a while late last year, not sure what happened there as the seem to have removed this option again. Possibly e-mail them to ask if they will sort it out otherwise freight forwarding is your only option.

  10. Michael - 13 May, 2013

    Would be great if you guys had a follow up post of your rig 🙂

  11. BillofBeer - 23 May, 2013

    Hi Michael, yeah the blog has been a bit neglected lately… as has the brew kit. We are putting a brew down in the next couple of weeks so that should motivate me to throw something on the blog

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