Brewing Beer

Related blog entries (tag: Brewing Beer):


his is just a quick overview of my all-grain brewing system. I plan to add blog entries that will focus on the design and construction of its various components. What you will not find here is: “how to make beer” or “the ultimate beer-making setup”. There are lots of great and diverse brewing setups – all (well, most) can make good beer. I’m just going to describe my equipment and some of the design decisions I made along the way.

Most of the hyperlinks in this section will link to the HomeBrewingWiki. Another useful online resource is
For some background, all-grain brewing is when you make beer from scratch, i.e. start with a sack of malted grain as opposed to brewing from a can of extract or a bucket of pre-cooked wort. Well, actually “made from scratch” would require growing your own grain and germinating/drying it... but I leave that to the expert maltsters.

There is a ton of great books and websites on brewing, all-grain brewing and specifically brewing equipment. Here are a few of my favourates:

Brewing beer has been done for a long time... so, obviously, I’ve borrowed a lot of ideas and concepts from others’ experiences and designs. With my brewing setup, my primary design considerations included:
Building the shelf system for the stainless pots

  • Convenient – One-man operation; minimize the amount of re-jigging and moving equipment
  • Simple – Gravity fed; i.e. no pumps (for now)
  • Indoor operation – Use electric heat (vs. gas burning) so I can brew inside during the cold Canadian winter
  • Compact – Fit within an eight-foot ceiling and a reasonably small footprint in my laundry room (a.k.a. “the brewery”)
  • Portable – I like having the option to pack all the gear into the car and go offsite to brew with friends
  • Productive – Brew up to 60-litre (about 15G) batches; that’s about 120 tasty pints
  • Flexible – In the future I plan to experiment with the design, e.g. add a pump for a Heat Exchanged Recirculating Mash System (HERMS) setup

When making beer, the four key ingredients are:

  1. Water - Water makes up about 95% of the beer so it is quite important – things like pH, mineral and chlorine content are factors
  2. Grain – When malted, grain contains all the starches that will be converted to sugars; sometimes other cereals like corn or rice are used
  3. Hops – Hops is a dried flower that adds bitterness and is a natural preservative
  4. Yeast – Yeast is a living organism that consumes sugars and produces the all-important alcohol

For my brewing setup, the four key pieces of brewing equipment are:

Brewing with this system

  1. Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) – This is where water is treated (if needed) and heated... not very exciting. Hot water is transferred from the Hot Liquor Tank to the Mash Tun.
  2. Mash Tun (MT) – This is where the milled grain is soaked (mashing and lautering) and rinsed (sparging) – this converts the grain’s stored-up starches into sugars. In my setup the mashing, lautering and sparging is done in the same vessel. The resulting liquid (called “the sweet wort”) is transferred from the Mash Tun to the Brew Kettle.
  3. Brew Kettle (BK) – Also called “the copper” (because it is traditionally made from copper), this is where the wort is boiled and hops (and sometimes other ingredients) are added. Once cooled, the resulting liquid (called “the hopped wort”) is transferred from the Brew Kettle to the Fermentor(s).
  4. Fermentor – This is where the yeast is added and the magic happens – the yeast consumes the various sugars and produces alcohol (actually ethanol, a.k.a. ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, C2H5OH) as well as carbon dioxide (CO2) gas.

Other helpful pieces of equipment are:

  • A mill to crush the grains
  • A chiller to cool the hopped wort
  • A large mug to enjoy the fruits of your labour

Finally, always remember:

“Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew.”
    - Charlie Papazian, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing