When it comes to all-grain brewing, many homebrewers find brew day best suited to the outdoors. It’s a lot easier (and safer) to deal with all that extra equipment outside. But after a decade of all-grain brewing, I’d grown tired of lugging equipment in and out of the house, not to mention dealing with long, harsh Minnesota winters. So, when I found myself looking for a new home, I finally decided to make my dream of building an indoor brewery a reality.
While house hunting, I had just two homebrew-specific criteria: a clean (and dry) basement and a 240v outlet. My goal was to build a brewery I could use even when it was -25°F outside, with minimal brew-day setup.
Once I found my dream home, I got to work. I settled on an electric system to bypass the elaborate venting needed to deal with natural gas and the resulting carbon monoxide. I also wanted a system versatile enough to brew large batches with friends, but still capable of producing smaller batches for myself.
I found a 30 amp control panel online and chose to build the it from a kit to save cash and the extended wait time on the pre-assembled option. Over four weekends, I carefully worked through each section of the wiring (and binge-watched a few shows in the process). The panel fired up on the first try. Thankfully.
I chose three 20 Gallon MegaPot 1.2 kettles and had a local shop cut holes for the 5,500w heating elements in the Hot Liquor Tank and the Boil Kettle. The electric system is a HERMS setup (Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System), so a number of valves are required for tubing and liquid flow. The heat exchanger is a 50 foot coil of half-inch copper tubing mounted inside the HLT tank, just above the heating element.
In a HERMS system, the Mash is not heated directly. The liquid is pumped out of the Mash Tun through a heat exchanger in the HLT, before being returned to the Mash. This is allows you to maintain a temperature without scorching the wort. The Titan False Bottom in my Mash Tun makes recirculation easy.
I also had a GFCI breaker installed in my panel; a necessary safety precaution when brewing beer with 240v of electricity! If any liquid comes in contact with the power, the interrupter will prevent me from being electrocuted.
The last step was installing a vent hood to deal with the excessive moisture produced by the boil. Make sure you plan this part out before setting up your brewery, as it involves cutting a 6” hole in your home. Outside, it simply looks like a big dryer vent.
My home brewery has been operational for about a year and a half. The dedicated space and permanent setup has cut a considerable amount of time out of my brew day. Not to mention, I can brew in the deepest of winter with the kegerator and record player just a few steps away.
There are a number of turn-key systems on the market that make this easy, but I have to say, building it myself was very satisfying. Plus, I know how to troubleshoot and fix every single component. If you are mechanically inclined, I would highly recommend it. Tinkering with brewing equipment is half the fun, if you ask me.