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Right now I'm a stove top partial mash brewer. I have a 4 gallon pot that I use as my HLT, a 5 gallon igloo cooler as my mash tun and a 7.5 gallon Polarware kettle.

We are moving out of our apartment and buying a house and I will finally have the opportunity to brew outside and do full boils and start transitioning to All-Grain brewing. Our house only has a car port instead of a garage, but I will have a large storage shed in the backyard to store my equipment, so I want to make sure my set up is portable so I can move it to the driveway easily on brew day.

Ultimately I would like to upgrade to the Blichmann Top Tier system. I like keeping things gravity fed for the time being (I've seen my friend struggle with his pump at times on his Sabco system and don't want to deal with that for now). I would turn my Polarware kettle into my new HLT, switch my mash manifold over to a 10 gallon cooler and I would start with a new kettle, either the Blichmann 15 gallon or a 15.5 gallon Keggle. I want to be flexible enough to do 10 gallon batches in the future. I know I would have to redrill a hole and move the thermometer down on the Blichmann for 5 gallon batches. Anyone have a suggestion on either one?

And since I want to upgrade to the Blichmann Top Tier in the future I was thinking of getting a Blichmann burner with the 24" leg extensions. Has anyone used one of these? I'm just wondering if it is tall enough to drain my HLT into my cooler and then drain the kettle into the carboy or would it have to be propped up even higher for it to be gravity fed? Right now I use an immersion chiller, but in the future I would like to get the Therminator and then I believe I would need it even higher then the 24" that the burner legs extend it. I guess prop it up in cinder blocks would work?

Anyone else use a single burner system right now that has any suggestions? I figure one burner will work for now where I can heat up my mash water and drain into the cooler, put the cooler on a table and drain the cooler into the kettle while my batch sparge water heats up on the burner. Drain the the sparge into the kettle and then move the kettle to the burner once I have all of my wort collected.

Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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I did the single-burner routine for a long time, doing 10-gallon batches. If the only thing holding you back is the purchase of an additional burner, go ahead and buy it if you can. Since moving to a true three-tier system with two burners, I save at least an hour on brew day, probably closer to two hours even. –  Dustin Rasener Aug 2 '12 at 1:30
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4 Answers 4

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I have a Blichmann burner with the leg extensions, and to that point, you may need a platform to set it on to do all of your gravity feeding. I gravity feed from the kettle on the burner to the mash tun (48qt cooler sitting on top of a 5 gallon bucket), and usually have to lift the kettle and pour out the last gallon or so when the mash tun is full, because the water level is about the same between the two vessels. Using something slightly shorter than a 5 gallon bucket would solve that (or a shallower, wider mash tun), but I can't put it on the ground because I use a pump to transfer wort, and I find that the height of the bucket is reasonably comfortable for stirring the grain into the mash.

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I can't speak to any of the Blichmann equipment, as I have none. With that said, I also run a single burner set up, and I would highly recommend you change the title of your 5 gallon cooler from 'mash tun' to 'hot liquor tank'. That is what I use and it works quite well...plus you have this already.

So you heat your mash water on the burner and mash in with that. While mashing, bring your sparge water up to temp on the burner. When ready to sparge, transfer your hot water to your 5 gal cooler. Now you can sparge and collect your wort in the pot directly on the burner...so you can be heating your drained wort throughout your sparge. Without getting into a zillion other details RE: a potential set up, I will leave it at that.

But besides, if you are going to drop the coin on the Blichmann 3-tier set up and Blichmann pots and burners etc. I would say there isn't much else left to the imagination...I would say there is a certain level of enjoyment/satisfaction when creating a brewing set up which is engineered and imagined by...you. To me, this is all part of the hobby.

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nice answer. The polarware pot could be used for heating up decoctions if you ever try that, or for assisting with transferring liquids. When you go to 10 gallon batches, suddenly things become much heavier, and a partial transfer (using an intermediate vessel) is advisable. –  mdma Aug 1 '12 at 22:24
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Designing and creating your own equipment can either be part of the hobby or just a hassle, depending on your amount of free time, area of expertise, available tools, and definition of "fun". Designing homebrew setups is not the same thing as homebrewing. While many people may enjoy both hobbies, I think there's definitely a group of people who would rather just be brewing, not fiddling with hardware. –  Henry Jackson Aug 2 '12 at 2:55
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If you want to brew 10 gallons, I recommend the Blichmann pot, although I would go with the 20 gallon size - 15 gallons is on the small side for a boil kettle for 10 gallon batches. Here's why.

For a 10 gallon batch, you'll typically want about 11.5-12 gallons at the end of boiling, to account for trub, losses to chiller, losses in the fermentor, hydrometer samples etc. A propane burner gives you a good rolling boil and a fairly high evaporation rate. I usually start with 15 gallons pre-boil and do a 90 minute boil, or 14 gallons for a 60 minute boil. While you could just about manage this in a 15 gallon kettle, you'd have to be constantly watching for boil-overs. If you brew pilsners, a 120 min boil is recommended - this would require you to add top up water, which is an additional inconvenience. The difference in price between the 15 and 20 gallon kettles is about $30 ($370 vs. $400), or less than 10%.

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I upvoted the answer. But a 120min boil is excessive for a pilsner. 90 minutes are fine, especially if your boiling as aggressively as you suggest. –  brewchez Aug 2 '12 at 0:37
    
fermcap-S is some awesome stuff –  baka Aug 2 '12 at 1:31
    
I also use a 20-gallon Blichmann for 10-gallon boils. –  Dustin Rasener Aug 2 '12 at 1:31
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I am a single burner all grain brewer so I figured I would share my process. Right now I have a 8.5g polarware kettle w/ thermometer and ball valve, a 4g pot for an HLT and a 10g igloo mash tun. My typical setup is heat the mash water in my polarware kettle, and then mash in to the cooler. Then, depending on how much sparge water (I batch sparge) I either heat the sparge water in my 4g HLT and drain the mash directly into the big kettle, or if I need more sparge water I heat it in the big kettle, drain the mash into the 4g pot, and then transfer that to the big kettle and drain the sparge into that (so an extra transfer step). I typically start heating my sparge water w/ about 15-20 minutes left to go in the mash, however, this will depend on how fast your burner will heat your water. I have the 3 leg Bayou Classic burner which is amazing for the price btw. To drain the mash tun into my kettle I have a little table that I set the cooler on and then drain into my kettle which is on the ground. I might build a taller stand so that I can drain the mash tun into the kettle on top of the burner so that I don't have to lift it off the ground, but its not that big of a problem currently.

My ideal setup is to get a 10g kettle for doing the boils in as the 8.5g gets a little tight w/ boiling roughly 6.5g to get down to about 5.25 after chill. I would then use the 8.5g for the HLT. Everything I have read (post getting my kettle) says that if you are going to do 5g batches, you should have a 10g kettle and if you want to 10g batches, have a 20g kettle (so double the size).

So, thats my process hope it helps, and congrats on the new place!

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