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Making Better Brewstands

PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 9:52 am
by Mob_Barley
I decided to start this thread off with an article I wrote this morning concerning propane burners. They are a very important part of your RIMS or your brewing set-up and the more you know about them, the better decisions you can make about which one is right for you.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:58 am
by thebuddrik
Do you really save fuel using LP vs HP? I always thought that a LP regulator was low pressure/high volume.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 2:53 pm
by Mob_Barley
I believe that is all figured into the BTU/hr figure of the burner. A lb. of propane has 21,591 btu/hr fuel value, so a 20# tank has 20# x 21,591btu/# = 431,820 btu available. If your burner is rated at 40,000 BTU (same as BTU/hr), then 431,820 btu รท 40,000 btu/hr = 10.8 hrs is how long your propane tank will last. Compare that with a 160,000 BTU/hr burner which should only be able to run appx. 2.7 hrs on the same amount of propane.

Referenced from: ... facts.html

PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 4:12 pm
by triple-oh_six
Here's a good thread on propane vs nat. gas ... sc&start=0

Charlie wrote:
budrockdiesel wrote:I would to see the same thing done but instead of time being the variable, $.

My cost for the conversion was about $20.00 on the house side for the "tee", the valve, and assorted fittings. Add another $50.00 on the burner side for the 1/2" quick connects, hose, end fittings, and the shop labor to attach them.

The cost of propane vs natural gas is another thing entirely. Propane is sold by the gallon, natural gas is sold by the hundred cubic feet (ccf), and the energy numbers are in Megajoules per kilogram. To find common ground it was necessary to convert both to cost per kg. Here's what I came up with:


If I dropped no decimal points then a kilogram of propane costs $1.37 and a kilogram of natural gas costs $0.43. The figure in column "C", Mj/kg is the energy in megajoules per kilogram that each produces when burned, and natural gas is slightly superior giving 49 Mj/kg vs 46.5 for propane.

Don't forget the time and cost of car fuel (oil, insurance, wear and tear) to get the propane to your house, and the cost of cylinder maintenance.

If you can work with a location near a natural gas outlet then NG looks like a clear winner.

One of these days somebody's going to ask me an easy one! :D


PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 4:38 pm
by thebuddrik
I checked out that site, very informative. I am still confused though. Since I put in a home propane tank I had planed on hooking my brewery to it. When they installed it they ran 3/4 pipe to the house then a t with a ball valve on each side. One is the high pressure tap for my back yard, the other a huge LP regulator that goes into my house. I asked Kenny at Cajun propane what type of regulator and burners he recommended. He said for what I was doing my berners were fine but I didn't need a regulator. I ran a 20' hose directly into the manifold. I was cautious at first but ounce I started brewing it worked perfectly. It heated faster than it ever had. The burners burned more blue than I have seen them.
I was thinking or going to LP but now I am not so sure. Kenny said those burners were for slow simmering.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 24, 2010 10:38 am
by aleguy
Just for comparison's sake. (I don't believe the rated figures are correct) My rose burners are rated at 170,000 BTU and the 10-inch banjos are rated at 210,000 BTU. My tank lasts a whole lot longer than the time you quoted, but then I'm not running it full open except to heat my strike and sparge water.
Burner choices are important, but my experience, and that of other club members seem to bear out that the realistic choices boil down to those two.
You can purchase all three rose burners needed for a RIMS for less than the cost of a 10-inch banjo. On the other hand the big banjos can be used with HP, LP and natural gas. A 20# tank only costs about $15 to fill and I get a bit more than three brews (10 gallon batches) out of a tank, so the fuel is the single least expensive part of making beer, coming in at about $0.40 per gallon of beer made.
More to the point, I think burners should be chosen more on the basis of initial cost and/or what type of fuel is most convenient for the brewer. My view is that the 10-inch banjos seem to be becoming the default burner for home brewers using fossil fuels. While the rose burners are cheap, bullet proof and do a more than adequate job, the cool factor of the big banjos is undeniable.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 24, 2010 2:20 pm
by Imakewort
for me the cost of the fuel is unimportant compared to the result i am after, the large banjo burners are the only way to go as they distribute the heat evenly over the bottom of the pot and are very adjustable from barely on to full open, the cost between the banjo and rose burners should not be a reason to buy one over the other as the price difference is not that great compared to the overall cost of building a system but you should consider what your looking for in your system. Maybe use the rose burners for the hot liquor tank and banjos for the rest,
i started out with the rose burners and switched to the banjo burners fairly quickly and would never go back, and if your worried about running out of gas buy another tank and always keep one full so you can switch over and always plan your brew day.
Most of the systems i see follow the same basic pattern with a few personal differences, the bottom line should be ease of use, repeatability of recipes, the ability to keep and adjust your mash temps. and try to make it drunk proof

May be the club should design a simple flow chart for the liquids in a rims system along with recommendations for basic system parts like asco valves and ball valves along with types of lines used with their plus and minuses, this would help new builders decide how they want to build it.

PostPosted: Sat Sep 25, 2010 8:53 am
by aleguy
Good points. Though I disagree about cost not being an issue. Many of us are very budget conscious. The cost of my frame was almost free because I built it from salvaged materials and only had to spend $8 on steel. Another $8 each for my burners, $12 for each of two pilots, and that freed up some money for other things I wanted like purge valves. I only wish I had known about Chugger pumps, I could have gotten both pumps for much less than I paid for just one.
I agree about listing essential parts, that's what I have started in the sticky "Best deals on brew stand parts." Though I have yet to add the link for Chugger pumps.
As far as a flow chart for liquids in RIMS and HERMS are concerned, I think most people would find it easier to just see them in action.
In any case, my advice to new brewers remains the same: Attend as many brew sessions with as many different systems as possible before you start to design your own system. Redtail and I have worked out a method of cheaply and rapidly building the frames. (Mostly Redtail) So virtually any design can be built in a couple of weekends by almost anyone. Average cost of a fully built frame (without casters or paint) is less than $30, including supplies and materials.

PostPosted: Sun Sep 26, 2010 7:11 am
by Mob_Barley
I agree with Imakewort on this one. Homebrewing is not a cheap hobby anyway, but this thread is about making the best stand you can, one that you will be happy with for a while. It is not about making the cheapest stand you can. That being said, no one wants to pay more for their equipment than they have to and if you can get a strong stand using metal from old bed frames, then it's well worth looking into.

Which burner you choose is just one decision out of many you need to make before you start building your stand. For instance, if you do choose to use Hurricane (or banjo) burners, they mount with four bolts on the sides of the burner instead of from the bottom. You must take this into consideration when you design your wind shields or frame so you can mount these heavy burners. Whether you choose to fire these with high pressure, or low pressure will determine which orifices you choose for the venturi and which regulators you need to purchase. You also need to determine the best distance from the bottom of your keggle or pot to mount the burners. On the hurricane burners, I read where you need to mount them at least 4" below the bottom of your keggle or pot for best performance. Again, you need to take this distance into consideration when you design your mounts, shields, or frame.

Since we are still looking at the brew stand frame, how about some input on how to mount the pump/pumps. For instance, if you plan to hard plumb your system, the pump head needs to be far enough out in front of the stand that the plumbing can come straight down into the pump with out too much bending (this isn't really critical but is something to think about). The pumps need to be cooled so you can't completely enclose them. A shield is often enough to keep them from getting wet. I talked to one of the owners of the Chugger Pump company and he said they are designing a pump that can get wet and these should be available in the near future.

If anyone has some input on how to design the pump mounts and shields for March Pumps on a brew stand, please post your thoughts for the rest of us.

Aleguy, you have alluded several times to your and Redtail's method of building frames quickly and cheaply. Is it a secret or can you post some comments here?

PostPosted: Sun Sep 26, 2010 8:08 am
by aleguy
Really, we just weld old bed frames together to create the framework and the take six-inch sections of old water heater tanks (!6-inch diameter) and weld them in as heat shields. Once the burners are chosen, the mounts are cut and welded into the water heater sections in the appropriate place(s). The water heater sections will accommodate all styles of burners and keep the burners 4 inches below the bottoms of the kettles. I like to bend some 1/8" x 1" steel to form burner supports like you would see on a stove, but Redtail has never put any on his stand.
As far as pump mounts, I just drilled holes in the bed frame and bolted,m them on. I like the "drip" shields that Yeasty has, made from sections of aluminum roll flashing, but haven't made or mounted mine yet.
Redtail has never used any shielding for his pumps. Mob is the only person I know of in the club who has hard piped his liquids. Most of us prefer the ease and flexibility of using silicone or high-temp tubing. I believe Imakewort may have hard piped his as well, but it has been so long I can't remember all the details.
As far as home brewing being an expensive hobby, I have not found that to be the case. Even with the large sums of money I have spent, the low cost of producing very high quality beer has led to huge savings over time. All my equipment has been paid for many times over at this point. Even the stuff I haven't used yet. As with many other thing with large up-front costs, the savings in the long run far outstrip the initial large expenditures.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 3:06 pm
by Mob_Barley
There is at least one guy on that drilled a lot of holes in the bottom part of his wind shield and says it works much better that way than as a solid shield. He got the idea from the shield on a Zippo lighter.

If you have one of the multi-jet burners, it may be a good idea to design your wind shield so that some air (ie. oxygen) can get to the jets. Otherwise it won't have enough O2 to burn correctly (theoretically). The holes in the bottom of the square part of the brass jets are where O2 comes in and mixes with the propane before leaving the jet.

The guy who built my stand says he designed the shield with open sides and cut-outs to allow heat to dissipate instead of going straight down. I haven't had a chance to try mine out on a long boil or heating a lot of water yet, so I can't verify whether it works as intended or not. He also bent the shield so that it would be the right size to mount the Hurricane burner inside the shield.

Until I get more data that's about all I can say about the shields.


PostPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 3:14 pm
by Mob_Barley
In case you haven't seen mine or now Yeastmeister's cam-lock fittings, you might want to incorporate them into your system. They are just as sanitary as the Tri-clover clamps at about half the cost. I have seen a few new places where they are being offered. Here is a link to the distributor, Pro-Flow Dynamics: ... el_C68.cfm

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:00 am
by aleguy
I'm told they're actually cheaper than 1/2" hose barbs, so I guess it's just as well that B3 was out when I ordered my other fittings.
One caveat about the 10-inch banjos that I forgot to mention before. At least one member has had problems using them because they can draw so much propane that the safety valve on a 20# tank will trip. His tank's valve shut down repeatedly during a brew session and it was very inconvenient to say the least. Now That may have been a fluke. A faulty safety valve or it may in fact be a regular occurance when running the burner full open. With three of those bad boys running, it might be more than any 20# tank can handle and require upgrading to a larger tank.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:39 am
by Mob_Barley
What does everyone think of this...I had to use a 1/2" OD copper tube in my MT because I couldn't find a way to flare the stainless tubing I have (I have one of those false bottoms where the tubing is flared so it can't pull out when stirring, etc.). I'm sure I can replace it but as of now, it's in there. I put some StarSan in the MT and left it for a while and, you guessed it, the copper tube oxidized. I cleaned it up the best I could. So, until I get the copper replaced with stainless, is there a problem with using copper in your mash tun? Any off flavors expected?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2010 7:46 am
by aleguy
No off flavors expected. A certain amount of copper is actually good for the yeast. I have a slotted-pipe manifold in my mash tun made from 1/2" copper pipe, as well as a copper immersion chiller in my boil kettle. I have never had any complaints about the taste of my beer. Quite the opposite. If you do replace the copper pipe in your mash tun, you might want to consider putting a piece in your BK just to add trace amounts. The newer pennies contain both copper and zinc, both important yeast nutrients, so you might want to toss a few in your BK when you brew. 15 cents or so ought to do it.