I recently met Gavin Toth, the head manager at Spanky’s Restaurant in Chapel Hill. Gavin has not only brought a ton of great craft beer to the taps of Spanky’s, he is also an avid home brewer. Having been brewing for over a year, Gavin decided if he was going to really brew good beer, he wanted to get a really great brewing system. After doing the research, he ended up putting together a 3-tier stand utilizing a single March pump. I asked Gavin to put together a short post for us, outlining the system he uses and giving us the rationale behind why he chose to go this route. At the end is a great slideshow of photos that Gavin sent, so be sure to check it out! You can also follow Gavin on Twitter.
I have been home brewing for a couple of years. Early last year, after about 15 extract batches, I decided that it was time to move to all grain brewing. I have limited storage space, so I knew I wanted to go with a three-tiered system because of the small footprint. I first looked at brewtree and really liked the design, but decided not to purchase it because of the cost.
I searched for welders in Raleigh and Durham and finally asked Sean Lilly Wilson of Fullsteam if he knew someone. He told me about Jackie MacLeod of Durham, who Fullsteam had commissioned for multiple pieces around the brewery. I contacted her and began to design something that we would both be happy with.
We began with the simple design from brewtree, but Jackie said she thought it to be too flimsy, and wouldn’t support ½ barrel kegs, so she made some modifications to the design, allowing me to tweak the design when needed.
Once the design was outlined, she completed the brew stand within a couple of weeks. In addition to the tiers for the kegs, I made sure to include two platforms, one for a wort chiller and another for a pump. Although a pump is not necessary in a three-tiered system for sparging, I decided to go with one so that I could vorlauf and help clarify the wort as well as send the wort through the chiller.
I went with three burners, one for the hot liquor tank, mash tun and brew kettle. I haven’t used the burner for the mash tun much, but wanted just in case the wort cooled too quickly. I will be wrapping the mash tun in insulation soon.
My good friend Brian and I converted three kegs into the vessels for the brew system. I used a different welder out of Raleigh to cut open the top of the kegs, but Brian and I did the rest of the drilling. Most of the parts were purchased from McMaster-Carr and Bargain Fittings. It took some time and tweaking to plumb the system, and after a couple of batches we decided to add quick disconnects to make moving hoses a lot faster.
If you are limited in floor space, the three-tiered system is great, especially when it is more compact like this one. I have only brewed a handful of times on this system, so I am constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency and will continue to as long as I have this system. It works really well for the space I have and it really easy to maneuver. I would recommend this type of system to anyone.