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BrewBIG!!

Whelp here's the 55 gallon system!
The MLT and Boil kegs are 55 gallon stainless steel drums, while the HLTremains a converted keg from the old system.
(I am often asked where i got the 55 gallon drums and 33  gallonfermenters. I found the 55 gallon drums on ebay and the fermenters from afriend)


A couple years ago I had been "downsized" along with half ofAmerica, at my programming job. While I was sitting around twirling my thumbs, Idecided to build what is sometimes stared at, sometimes laughed at, but now affectionately called the "Lama Brewery"
I first started by taking in huge amounts of information about other systemspeople had built on the net, and finally decided on a HERMS based system. I then decided on cloning something along the lines of the system @ www.RedBarnBrewing.com.
 I had learned to weld years before, so I had to re-teach myself thiswonderful skill. After some practice, I went out and picked up about 75 feet of1 inch square pipe and started welding and came up with the basic frame. I thenlowered the HLT and boil keg level(lower level) by 6 inches so I could gravityinto the boil keg from the MLT. I then welded in 1 burner under the HLT and 2burners under the 55 gallon boil kettle.


I then built "tipping" arms for the MLT so that after the mash, Icould tip the MLT backwards and scoop out the grains.  At 300 pounds, Isure wasnt going to be able to pick it up!


I then proceeded to hook up the propanegas lines with copper tubing, incorporating two valves, one for each cooker. Ithen hooked in 2 of the "clicker" starter thingies from a grill intoeach burner.

The Vessels...
The MLT and Boil Keg are 55 gallon Stainless steel drums, and are Monsters!
Help Ive fallen and I cant get up!!

I welded in all 1/2 inch stainless steel couplings.
MLT: 1 drain, 1 temp probe, 1 site tube, and 2 on each side, welded onto theOUTside of the kettle for the tipping device.

Boil Keg: 1 drain, and 1 site tube.

(yup, that's me drinking! On my first version of the Lama, I had a 10 gallonGott cooler for a MLT)

 This design changed quickly and I converted a kegto replace the cooler, making all three vessels converted kegs. I then swappedout the MLT and Boil Keg with 55 gallon stainless steel drums.

Boil Kettle


Looking down inside after a batch.. did'nt leave too much behind!
(a couple aspen leaves fell in just as I was taking the pic.. heh)


HLT

Lookin inside at the 50 foot ofcopper..

Close up of the solenoid valves..
When ones closed, the other is open. Wort is flowing from the bottom up.The lower one lets the wort in to heat up, the upper one is for bypass. 

HLT UPDATE:
While I take my temp readings during mash from about half way up the MLT, I nowhave a temp probe right at the exit of the HLT I can flip over to if I want tosee what's going on over there... I can measure what temp the worts going in at,and what it comes out at...

MLT
The MLT has a temp prob, drain, site tube and here you can see the lefttipping device.

WAAAaaay up there, looking down into the MLT after mash wascompleted.. doesn't leave much behind either!

Hoses:
I then decided to make all the connections between the kegshigh temp flexible hoses and hooked up quick disconnects to all the valves andhose ends.

Temperature Controller:
I then took the whole thing to the next level, being the"dinker" I am, and decided to automate the controlling of thetemperature. To me, this really "made" the lama an awesome toy :)
(Here I am telling the controller tobring the temp up to 153)


I started by hunting on ebay for a temp controller and 2 solenoid valves. After finding themI hooked the valves onto the HLT manifoldand put the temp probe into the MLT and the valves click back n forth in orderto maintain the temp in the MLT. Worked like a charm right off the bat!

Conclusion:

The 55 gallon drums allows me to fill 8 cornies in one 40gallon session, and I only have to brew a few times a year to keep the couplestyles I like on tap all year round, thus giving me more time to brew somesmaller 10-20 gallon batches of experimental beer. Plus now I canactually age my 12% Belgium's for many months...
I have actually built 2 more frames for some friends and I lowered thewhole stand by about 6 inches, and I think I like it that way better, as it'seasier to look down into the MLT.
The only complaints I have are with the quick disconnects.Mine are from Homed3po and really made for a hose. They tend to leak abit tillthey come up to temp, then seal nicely. But this finally bugged me enough toreplace em all with new, plastic ones from USPlastics

Brewing Process for 40 gallons ofbrew...
I first start off the brew day by filling up my HLT to the top. Then I fill up my boil kettle with theamount strike water determined by the recipe.  I then fire up bothburners and shoot for strike temp in the boil kettle and about 180 in the HLT. Once i reach temps, I pump the strike water from the boil kettle up into the MLT. Once its all up there, I start recirculating. At this point I check all my connectionsfor leaks and basically let the system get settled.  I then dough into theMLT and the fun begins.  Ithen set the controller to the temp I'm shooting for in the MLT, walk over to the fridge, pour me abrew, then sit there and watch the Lama make beer :)

Once I reach the mash temp I want, I stop recirculating andjust let it steep...I only turn on the recirculating again if a temp change isneeded... I used to recirc all the time, but I've since decided that justletting it steep seems to work better...
(wort is flowing outta the MLT, down into the pump, up to the bottom of the HLT,and then according to the temp in the MLT, it will go through the HLT n heat up,or bypass the HLT. Either way, the wort then comes outta the top of the HLT andup into the top of the MLT to be returned to the grain bed)

(old kegs used for illustration purposes.)

I run a 90 min mash. As long as the HLT is alwayshotter then what I'm shooting for in the MLT, all is good, and I can step up thetemp if needed during the 90 min mash, giving ample time to suckdown a few cold ones with friends :)

Once the 90 mins are up, I start recirculating again and tell the controller to bring me upto 165 for 15 mins and prepare to sparge out.  I stop recirculating and change around the hoses and begin to gravity all the sweet liquid into theboil kettle.  Once its all in there, I then hook up the hose to the HLT anduse the 170 degree water I've been using to control the MLT with, to sparge outwith and fill the MLT back up with 170 water. I then let it sit for 15 mins, andthen gravity out again into the boil kettle.  When I end up with about 46 gallons in the boil kettle, I stop the flow and move onto the boil..

(old kegs used for illustration purposes.)

I boil up n add hops into the boil kettle according to recipeover a 60 min boil.  I then throw in my IM chiller and bring it down to 70 degrees,which only takes about 20-30 mins out here in Colorado..

I then gravity the wort into plastic fermenters or if I'm gonnabrew 10 gallons or less, I use my 12.2 gallon conical, I pump the beer from the boil kettle into theconical.

I then pitch in the yeast, hit it with 30 seconds or so of O2,seal it up n call it a success!

Buzz me? Flyer@usa.net