Induction Brewing

Below I will describe a brew day using my induction system. I have used this system twice so far and LOVE IT.  But before I go any further, I must give credit where credit is due. I cloned my system from Josh Weikert. Josh is a Grand Master BJCP judge and has won over 150 medals/ribbons across all 23 categories. The dude knows his stuff and brews exclusively on an induction system very similar to the one I’m about to show you. He wrote a feature article in BYO magazine about induction brewing if you want to look it up.

Step 1. I use BeerSmith to help me with my water calculations. I highly recommend this popular software. I run my water through a carbon filter (shown below). These (along with the fittings) are readily available at Lowes or HD. I also use a “drinking water grade” hose. I’m not sure if it makes a difference, but it wasn’t much more expensive than your typical garden hose. Some say that you need to run the water through the filter very slowly in order for it to work properly, but I just let it flow fairly quickly (and Weikert does as well).

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Step 2. Heat the strike water. I guess I should take a moment to talk about the induction burner I use. I bought my burner for about $130 here. I bought my 5-gallon stainless induction-ready pot for about $50 here. It is important to note that all stainless steel pots are not induction compatible, so be careful when making your purchase. The bulkhead fitting on the brewpot really makes brewing easier. I very highly recommend the weldless fittings you can buy at any online homebrew store. The weldless fitting was very easy to install (thanks again to Josh Weikert for his help).

The insulation you see on around my pot is necessary. This “reflectix” insulation is inexpensive and available at any Lowes or HD. I have two layers around my pot. Without this insulation, I was unable to get 5 gallons of liquid boiling. However, with the insulation, and the burner maxed out, I can get a nice boil going. If you desire to make larger batches, you can upgrade to a 3500-watt induction burner and a larger pot.

It takes about 20 minutes to heat warm water to my desired strike temperature (~163 degrees).

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Step 3. Pour the strike water into the mash tun and add grain.

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Step 4. During the 60 minute mash, use the induction burner to heat up the sparge water. It takes about 25 minutes to heat warm water to my desired sparge temperature (185 degrees).

Step 5. This step is a bit non-traditional, but I love the simplicity of it. It is another one of Josh’s “best practices”. Simply add the 185-degree sparge water to the mash tun (on top of the water that is already in there), stir, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Easy as that. I’m sure some will find fault with this technique, but 150+ medals/ribbons in competitions tells me that this is a very reasonable way to sparge.  One obvious drawback of this technique is low efficiency (about 60-65%). The couple extra bucks for grain is well worth it for me to make sparging this simple. If you use this method, be sure to adjust your efficiency in BeerSmith to make sure you get the grain bill correct (ie, lower efficiency means you need to increase your grain bill).

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Step 6. Volouf and then drain the wort into the brewpot. Here, I save some time by turning on the induction burner to heat up the wort as soon as I start draining my mash tun. I take my time and drain it nice and slow. I keep the lid on the pot during this step to help the wort get to a boil quicker.

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Step 7. Boil the wort. It is important to note that you will NOT get a vigorous boil with this system. If you believe that a vigorous boil is critical to making good beer, then this system is not for you. I actually love the fact that this system is only capable of producing a minimal boil. This means ZERO chance of a boil over! I love it. It’s nice being able to go do other things around the house without worrying about a boil over.

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Step 8. While the wort is boiling, I sanitize my chiller and tubing in the sink with some OneStep. I used to clean my equipment with OxiClean and sanitize with iodophor. Josh convinced me otherwise. Now I (gasp!) both clean and sanitize in one step with OneStep! Again, some will argue that this is asking for an infection, but again, I will let Josh’s success speak for itself.

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Step 9. Cool the wort and drain to fermentor. I LOVE my new plate chiller. Before, I used a copper immersion chiller. The plate chiller is definitely worthwhile in my opinion. Cools the wort very quickly. Piece of cake.

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It is also worth noting the effectiveness of “whirlpooling” the wort prior to draining the brewpot. This is simply stirring the wort for 30 seconds or so to create a “whirlpool” in the brewpot and then letting the wort settle natually. The stirring action brings much of the hot break and hop reside to the middle of the pot, which results in this sediment staying the pot rather than going into the fermentor. Like everything in brewing, there are differing opinions on hotbreak/hop residue in the fermentor, but I like leaving as much as I can in the pot simply to reduce the risk of clogging up my plate chiller.

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Step 10. Many will argue that fermentation temperature is critical to making great beer. If you have the space, a temperature controlled fermentation chamber is a no brainer. Below is mine. I picked up this chest freezer at Lowes on clearance for $110. Craigslist is full of cheap chest freezers. The temperature is controlled by a Johnson controller, which can be bought at any homebrew shop for around $55.

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Step 11. Clean up! It is especially important to flush the plate chiller. I initially used a auto siphon to “pump” water quickly through the chiller. However, a barb attachment (shown below) allows a constant and fast stream of water to rinse the inside chambers of the chiller.

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