In this series of articles we continue to take a look at brewing with electric rather than propane which was brought about by the Arctic Vortex during the winter of 2013 that prevented me from brewing outside in the garage using my three tier system. The main problem encountered was a lack of water due to frozen faucets (taps) and garden hoses.
In Part 1 we took a look at BIAB (Brew In A Bag) and then in Part 2 we examined HERMS (Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System) and some of the turnkey solutions available that are based on this approach. In this article we are going to examine RIMS (Recirculating Infusion Mash System)…
In a RIMS-based system, the heat source is an electric element placed in the recirculation loop to heat the mash liquid. This can be in an enclosed chamber or by using the Boil Kettle. The key difference between a RIMS and BIAB system is that RIMS does not use a bag.
The heating elements can be 120v or 240v with the former usually producing less wattage output (approximately 25% less). Choice of element varies depending on batch size and also how quickly the liquid needs to be heated:
- 1500w for 5-10 gallon (19-38L) batch.
- 4000-5000w for step mashing.
- 240v needed for 4-5k watts and needs to be rated at 30 amps for a total capacity of 7200 watts (to allow for overload) – in the US a dryer outlet should be suitable.
Note: In order to reduce the risk of scorching it is essential to have an adequate flow-rate past the heating element.
The key advantages of a RIMS system are that they have a small footprint just like a BIAB system and in comparison to a HERMS system they have either one or two brewing vessels which helps keep the cost down.
The main disadvantages are that RIMS systems circulate the full boil volume through the mash which can impact efficiency and also in the case of two vessel versions there is the same amount of cleanup required as a HERMS system.
Blichmann BrewEasy is a system for all-grain brewing that is available as electric or gas powered. Most sites visited show the gas-based turnkey versions but here are the prices for the 240v electric-based versions (120v is also available for the 5 gallon system):
- 5 gallon – $2024.99
- 10 gallon – $2319.99
- 20 gallon – $2337.99
This system comprises of a Mash Tun that sits on top of a Boil Kettle and has a pump to recirculate the wort that drains from the Mash Tun into the Boil Kettle for heating as necessary and is then pumped back up into the top of the Mash Tun.
The recirculation of the full volume of wort through the mash has the following advantages:
- Adding heat to the mash for step mashing.
- Reducing temperature gradients within the mash bed.
- Clarifying the wort (vorlauf).
There are 6 flow settings from 0.5 – 2.0 gpm (Gallons Per Minute) and there is an AutoSparge mechanism on the Mash Tun that acts like a stop-cock to avoid it overflowing. Once mashing is complete a valve is opened to let the mash drain into the kettle.
The 5 gallon system includes the following:
- 1x 7.5 gal BoilerMaker™ Kettle and False Bottom (upper Mash Tun)
- 1x 10 gal BoilerMaker™ Boil Kettle (Lower Boil Kettle)
- 1x Blichmann TopTier™ Burner*
- 1x Blichmann Tower of Power™ LTE Stand – With Pump
- 1x Blichmann Tower of Power™ controller
- 1x BrewEasy™ Adapter Lid Kit (which includes AutoSparge, Tubing, QuickConnectors & Orifice kit)
* the burner can be substituted with a BoilCoil electric immersion heater though when speaking to the More Beer help line the representative seemed to think you had to buy the gas version and pay for the BoilCoil in addition to this which seemed odd as you would then be left with an unwanted burner. This definitely needs confirming prior to proceeding with a purchase!
The Tower of Power LTE Stand features a built-in GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacle, pump switch, custom sensor mounting fitting, pump throttling valve, pump mounting provisions, and an optional Therminator wort chiller ($199.99 MAP) and mounting bracket ($14.99 MAP) are available.
What is not included is the Tower of Power controller which costs an additional $574.99 and would provide functionality such as automated temperature control and the ability to perform a controlled step mash. See here for more details.
CORRECTION: having spoken to Blichmann Engineering they assure me that the Turnkey solution comes with the Tower of Power controller (corrected in the contents list above) and that the BoilCoil can be substituted for the Burner in the lower larger kettle. The electric version of the Tower of Power controller is due to be available soon – this article will be updated once the date is known. Please also note that the prices above include the G2 BoilerMaker kettles.
Braumeister is an electric all-grain brewing system that is made by Speidel of Germany and is available in two sizes:
- 20L (5.3 US gallon) – $1995
- 50L (13.2 US gallon) – $2950
According to More Beer (the US importers of the Braumeister) this system has a controller which is capable of step mashes and shows the temperatures in degrees C. There is a grain basket which has both upper and lower mash screens and during the mash the sweet liquid is constantly recirculated through the grain bed from the bottom up, which is the reverse of most typical systems.
At the bottom of the vessel is a heating coil which is used to heat up the full volume of liquid as it constantly recirculates. Initially this would appear to be the same as a BIAB system but with the technical difference being that an actual bag is not being used but instead a basket with mesh screens at each end.
The liquid flows up through the mash and then cascades down between the mash tub and the outer wall of the Braumeister. There it is collected by the pump and pushed back through the mash. Once the mashing is complete the basket containing the grain can be raised in order to drain or rinse further if desired.
Due to size limitations the maximum Original Gravity (OG) of wort that can be brewed with this system is 1.060 to 1.065 giving a beer of up to 7% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) in strength. This can be further boosted by adding malt extract (dry or liquid) or alternatively sugars such as candi sugar.
Here are some specification details for the 20L model:
- Produces 25L of Wort, which is about 20L of finished beer (approx 5 gallons)
- 33 lbs in weight
- 2000 Watt built in heating capacity
- 23 Watt pump
- 26 inches tall
- 16 inches in diameter
- 13.2 lb max qty of malt
- 230V (protection at least 10 amp), 50-60Hz
A demonstration video of the Braumeister system can be seen here.
The Zymatic is an electric brewing appliance developed and sold by PicoBrew. Previously we published an in-depth article about this product following our visit to the NHC (National Homebrewers Conference) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during June 2014 (see here for the article).
Some of the key points about this system are as follows:
- The Zymatic is about the size of a large microwave and meant as a kitchen surface-style appliance.
- The system is managed by a web-based app that includes recipe formulation and connects to the Zymatic via wifi or an ethernet connection.
- There is a grain basket for up to 9 Lbs of grain and compartments for up to four additions at timed intervals e.g. hops, spices.
- Infusion and step mashes can be performed.
- All-grain beers up to an Original Gravity (OG) of 1.090 can be brewed though this can be further boosted with the addition of DME (Dry Malt Extract) to the grain bed.
- Up to 6oz of pellet hops can be used per batch.
- 110v (15 amp) and 220v versions are available.
- The controlling software is Open Source.
- There is a cleaning cycle.
- Once setup the Zymatic connects to a Cornelius keg full of water and this same keg contains the finished wort of up to 2.5 gallons (US).
- After mashing is complete the wort does not actually boil (it reaches 207 deg F) but the process of circulating the wort and dripping it into the step filter does drive off unwanted flavors such as DMS (DiMethyl Sulfide).
The Zymatic system retails at $1699 and upwards.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments on this article I’d really like to hear your thoughts on electric brewing especially if you have a RIMS system!
So far in this series of articles we have looked at full systems that are sold for each of the brewing methods i.e. BIAB, HERMS and RIMS, so in Part 4 of this series I will be examining conversion alternatives for my existing system…