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 Beer Gear

How to Choose an Electric Homebrew System

Jeremy Short · Feb. 6

 

Maybe a better way to title this post would be, How I Choose My Electric Brew System but I am totally trying to get you to click/find my link on Google. Did it work? Did you click on my link? Yes? Well good news for both of us! I think you will find this article both invigorating and rewarding (mostly)! As a fellow homebrewer you may have followed a similar path as me. I started homebrewing on the stove, then I moved outside with a big old bruner, then I added another burner, and then another, and before you knew it I was spending two hours setting up my gear outside before even getting the day started. And, as a resident of the beautiful state of Colorado, I can only really brew for part of the year. I tried. Believe me I tried. I have had many a brew day out in the snow pushing ice through the garden hose. Sure ice in the hose is great for cooldown, but that one tradeoff does not make it worth your time. Trust me. It’s not worth it. I recently decided that the only way to keep my hobby going year-around I would need to upgrade to an indoor solution. I could go back to the stove top, but I want to keep all the wonder of all grain.

I need to add an electric system! And there are quite a few to choose from, and some of them have ended up on our Homebrewing Gift Guides here at Pintwell. After spending a lot of time drooling over different options I kept coming back to these few:

Name

Price

Batch Capacity

Power

Blichmann BrewEasy

$1939.99

5 Gallons

2Kw \ 120v

Convert My Blichmann Gear

$800 - $1,500

5 Gallons

2Kw \ 120v

Grainfather

$889.99

5 Gallons

1.5Kw \ 120v

PicoBrew Zymatic

$1999.99

2.5 Gallons

1.5Kw \ 120v

Speidel Braumeister V2 - 20L

$1799.99

5 Gallons

2Kw \ 220v

 

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but these are all pretty easy to find at your local homebrew shop or online. After a few months of clicking around and checking out each option here is what I liked and didn’t like about each of these systems.

Blichmann BrewEasy

I’ve alway been a fan of Blichmann gear (especially their kettles), and I appreciate the high quality of their gear. I also like the 2Kw element, which will be a big advantage in getting water up to temperature. The downside of high quality is that you end up paying a bit more. Outside of price, the other aspect I didn’t love about this system was all the parts. There are a TON of parts to this thing. Just look at the picture! So so many parts. So so so much to clean. Sure, you can pump cleaning solution through the thing and make it easy, but at some point you’ll want to do a deep clean and that’s a lot to take a part. I wouldn’t really call this a downside per se, but I want my electric system to take up very little room. I have no plans to get rid of my other gear, so a small frontprint system holds a big advantage.

One BIG plus to the Blichmann? I am positive you are going to get a very high quality beer while giving you a ton of control over the brewing process.

Convert My Blichmann Gear

Blichmann knows that I am not alone in the world and has kits and tools and many many options to switch your existing gas system into an electric system. Just flip through all the many options on MoreBeer! I have to say, this looks like a no brainer at first. I mean it already takes advantage of all my existing gear which I love. But the more I looked at planning out this conversion the more expensive the system got. The electric coil itself is reasonable at $125, but you’ll also need to get $575 control module. I am already up to $700, which seems crazy to me for just two components from their full turnkey system. Plus I’ll still need to drill the holes into my existing gear. Ok. Ok. Maybe this is still the right choice. I continued to consider this option and started plotting out my system. I could go one way and keep it cheap with just those two components, but then I am still rejiggering all my current gear. Again, the sticking point ended up being that I would have a large footprint and I would still spend a lot of time building out the system. Hey, sometimes I am lazy and just want to plug the thing in.

PicoBrew Zymatic

Speaking of being lazy! If you’re lazy do I ever have the system for you! The Zymatic is like some sort of brewery robot. You don’t even need to know a recipe. You can just pick it with a knob! Then you just shove your grain and hops into baskets and walk away. Who am I kidding, I never considered this system. In fact, I hate this system. What’s the point? To me this system represents the antithesis of homebrewing and everything that is awful about the future. The last thing I need is a WiFi capable brew system. What if the NSA started tracking my brewing?? What if it started automatically posting things like, “Another great brew day!” to Facebook every time I brewed??? WHAT IF IT BECAME SELF AWARE AND TOOK OVER MY HOUSE????? These are real concerns we should all have about this system.

Maybe I am exaggerating a little here. I guess it probably makes an ok and consistent quality beer. I do love how small it is. I guess it’s a little pretty. Maybe it’s not so bad.

No! Be strong! It’s terrible.

Speidel Braumeister V2 - 20L

I have drooled on myself several times while staring at this system. It sticks out to me for several reasons: small footprint, recirculating mash, German engineering, and a super fancy control panel. Oh, shit. They added WiFi on the latest version. ARGH! Oh, wait. The WiFi doesn’t actually do anything? Hmm, I guess that’s better? Despite its WiFi shortcomings, I still very much like this option and have featured it on our Gift Guides a couple of times. I like that you’re still brewing when you use this system. You still need to pay attention and toss hops in every now and then. I also like the recirculation during the mash and the single vessel for all parts of the brewing process. Slick. It clearly meets the small footprint requirement. One downside is the power requirement. You need to either wire up a 230v outlet or buy a transformer, which is a little annoying. Come on Spiedel! I can’t imagine you don’t sell enough of these to justify a US market version. Either way, the advantages outway the disadvantages here and it is a nice blend of everything I am looking for.

Just as I was ready to plop down my money on a Speidel I found one more system to consider.

Grainfather

Despite being the worst named product on this list, the Grainfather quickly jumped to the top of my list. It’s as if the designer went into my brain one night, and took everything I wanted and made my dream system. And somehow it’s less than a $900. Holy Shit! I still can’t believe it’s true. Something has to be wrong, right?

Some of the stand out features: it uses the same recirculating mash technique that I love in the Speidel. Nice. It has a small footprint. Great. It uses 120v power. I can just plug it in! It’s has a counterflow chiller. What?! That’s amazing. It’s half the price of all the other systems I am considering? That’s nuts. It cures cancer? Oh, wait. It doesn’t do that last one. Anyway, without any hesitation this is the system I bought. Don’t get me wrong, the Grainfather isn’t the elaborate high-end system that you will find with the Blichmann, but I already have that for the summer. The Grainfather is right in middle of everything I want. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect. It is underpowered for a 5 gallon batch at 1.5Kw, but since I live a mile above sea level (201 degrees baby!), this isn’t as big of a deal. If you do live at sea level you might find the warming power a bit underwhelming.

Conclusion

I sort of already concluded this in the last paragraph. Yeah, I bought the Grainfather. So you’re probably wondering… do I still like it? So far so good! I’ve only used the system once and you can look forward to a thorough review in a future post.

 

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