Electric Brewing Systems
Over the past several years we have done a great deal of research and development of electric brewing systems for home brewing applications. We have experimented with many materials, wattages, system configurations, and power control solutions. Our objective has always been to come up with a basic package that does the job at a minimum cost, with available options to become whatever system one might need or desire.
This is one of the few applications where the electric version is more energy efficient than the gas version. The reason is that the liquid is heated directly from the inside out, rather than forcing the heat into the liquid from the outside in. People with no experience with electric brewing systems often assume that the heating element in direct contact with the wort results in a greater degree of caramelization or even scorching of the wort. This is not the case. The heating element is surrounded by a cloud of vaporized water, and as long as it is fully immersed the temperature will not rise above a certain point.
Our 3-tier electric brewing systems are Heat Exchange Re-circulating Mash Systems (HERMS). Since the first step in the all-grain brewing process is to heat a good-sized volume of water, nothing makes more sense to us than to place a heat exchanger in the hot liquor tank and use the heat for the mash tun too. Re-circulating the wort through the heat exchanger gently heats the wort, and minimizes temperature variations within the mash tun, and helps improve the efficiency of the mash.
Our BIAB (Brew in a Bag) system places the heating element under the basket keeping the element away from the grains. This system is a Re-circulating Infusion Mash System (RIMS). The wort is re-circulated continuously and the temperature is monitored as the wort is returned to the mash tun. When the wort temperature drops the heating element is activated to maintain the heat.
Both the HERMS and RIMS provide excellent temperature control.
An electric kettle means that you can brew indoors, anytime. For several years we recommended that the heating element be sized appropriately for the volume of the kettle so that on/off control was all that was necessary. This keeps everything as simple as possible, but it is a compromise. Most home brewers brew 5 – 10 gallon batches. A 3500 watt heating element is the right wattage for these volumes to use with on/off control, but this size of heating element is not available in stainless steel at a reasonable price. The thin chrome plating is not really suitable for a boil kettle application, and these heating elements look like they have re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere from space after boiling a batch.
4500 watt heating elements are commonly available in stainless steel, and of all of the heating elements out there, they are of the lowest watt-density. In fact, they are classified as ultra-low watt-density. To use these higher wattage heating elements for a 5 – 10 gallon batch more than on/off control is needed. After spending a few years looking at various ways to control the power at a reasonable cost, we decided that the only solution was to build our own power control module from scratch, the EBC II. Using the same keep-it-simple approach, we control the power smartly with a TRIAC based circuit that allows us to simply keep the power off during part of the AC cycle (both positive and negative going), and vary the time that it is on. Now we can use the best material, the lowest watt-density heating elements for a boil kettle and have extra power to achieve a boil even faster, all with fine control to adjust the intensity of the boil to whatever evaporation rate is desired.
Our EBC III replaces the Ranco controllers with built-in PID's and quick-connect temperature probes. These probes are more sensitive than the Ranco controller probes and respond quicker to temperature changes. The quick-connect feature allows you to keep the probes attached to the vessel and clean-up is a breeze.