Archive for August, 2013

Building Your Own Brew Sculpture

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

… Or how I built The Black Mamba!

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I wanted to document the building of my brew sculpture so were I to do it again, or build one out with a friend, I could quickly look back over my notes to see what went right and wrong. In doing so, I thought it might be useful as a guide for others who wanted to do the same.

Click here for a PDF version of this article

I started by scouring the Internet for plans that others had done, but never found one single plan that I liked. I then decided to take the parts I liked from a few different ideas and mash them up to create the brew sculpture that I wanted. Simply put, I wanted a sculpture that:

• Was easy to move around for both storage and to be able to take to a friends house to do co-op brews
• Had quickly accessible, simple controls. I pared this down to just switches for turning the pumps on and off. After watching some friends with more “advanced” control systems, I quickly determined that, for my needs, fancy temperature controllers and float switches were complete overkill.
• Was capable of 10 gallon batch sizes
• Was a single tiered system for easier cleaning and storage

What I ended up with was a system that I have brewed very happily with for over a year now. There are a few small things that I would change, mainly to make things a bit easier on the build, which I will denote in this writing.

The bottom line: I don’t claim this to be the ultimate brew sculpture. I encourage you to take a look, steal the ideas you like and make it your own! Also feel free to email me if you have any questions!

The Parts List

Lets start with an itemized list of what you’ll need to get this project going! As much as possible, I’ve listed which parts I picked up, where I bought them and the price at the time of purchase. I encourage you to look around for deals, obviously, but do yourself a favor and don’t cheap out on critical parts like the pumps, kettles and quick disconnects. I did my best to spend money where it made sense both for durability as well as upgradability.

1. The steel for the brew stand (2” tube steel. I picked it up at a local metal shop and had them cut it to the sizes I list below. See the diagram in the next section for how these fit together) Total cost: $132

a. 60” x 4
b. 15” x 8
c. 28” x 4
d. 12” x 2

2. Gas pipe fittings. Total cost: $86 (Home Depot. ½” fittings)

a. 1.5” x 3
b. 3” x 3
c. 90 degree elbow fitting x 4
d. Tee fitting x 5
e. Plug fittings x 3
f. 24” flexible gas pipe x 2
g. Gas ball valve x 3
h. 1.5” spacers (optional. I need them due to my valves not being able to turn due to the flange on the 90o elbow fittings. See images in the gas manifold section)
i. Gas pipe tape (The yellow stuff)

3. Propane regulator. Total cost: $37

3. Propane burners x 3. Totalcost: $160

4. Winware 15 gallon kettles x 3. Total cost: $459

5. SS ½” ball valves x 5. Total cost: $48

6. Weldless thermometer. Total cost $33

7. SS pipe fittings. Total cost: $60

a. ½” male nipples x 5
b. ½” coupler x 3
c. ½” female to hose barb x 2

8. Weldless sight gague. Total cost: $60

9. ½” High temperature silicone tubing x 20ft. Total cost: $33

10. ½” Male quick disconnects x 6. Total cost: $72

11. ½” Female quick disconnects x 5. Total cost: $85

12. 30 plate wort chiller. Total cost: $93

13. High temperature pumps. Total cost: $260

14. Heavy castors x4. Total cost: $48

15. Water heater blanket (for the mash tun. Purchased at Home Depot). Total cost: $22

16. Loc Line for sparge arm. Total Cost: $44

a. ½” assembly pliers (pn. 78002)
b. ½” Circle flow kit (pn. 51837)
c. ½” NPT Connector (pn. 51805)
d. ½” hose kit (pn. 50813)

17. Krylon High Temperature Engine Paint – Flat Black x 2 cans. Total cost: $14

Grand Total for the project: $1,782


How it all goes together

I’ll use both diagrams and pictures to try and convey how I put this whole thing together.

The Brew Stand

Black Mamba

The only “tricky bit” about this image is that on the Side image, I can’t show depth. Just note that the centered brace bar (Back post) is actually in the back of the stand and the front brace (Front post) is off-centered between the hot liquor tank and mash tun (I tried to show this with the blue arrows). The reason for the offset on the front is to not interfere with the center burner valve and to create a hard point for you to be able to mount a control panel in the front of the sculpture, if desired.

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The finished stand, ¾ view. Above is from the back, below is the front



Looking sharp!

The finished stand front view. Note the offset front brace post (there’s only supposed to be one post here, not two. My welder and I had a miscommunication)

The Gas Manifold

This is where I made a “mistake” when putting this together. I decided that I would simply weld down the tee fittings for the gas pipe directly to the bottom bar of the stand. This proved to be a bit leaky and I had to use a bunch of JB Weld to patch the leaks. To do it over again, I’d weld down 3 plugs and simply screw the tee fittings on to them! Much easier. I used the yellow flex pipe instead of building out an entire black pipe manifold. This gave me some wiggle room if any of my measurements were off.

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Note the welded down tee fittings. Not my best idea.

burner assembly

The plug is welded to the base of the sculpture

The Pumps


The Kettles





Sparge Arm

The sparge arm assembled


The Big finish

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I originally had a sight glass on the boil kettle, which I later took off. I also use two small surge strips to control the pumps. I’ll add neat switches one day, but the strips work for now!

I had a ton of fun building this and even more brewing on it! I hope you find it a useful guide! Please email me or comment if you find any glaring omissions on either the how-to, or the parts list. Happy Brewing!