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  • switching to electric - what should I expect? equipment recommendations?

    Hi all,

    I am a brewery in planning, and I am thinking about switching to electric from gas. Does anyone have any recommendations like

    1. Should I actually make the switch (probably a loaded question)
    2. As someone brand new to the process (even as a home brewer it was always propane) what should I consider?
    3. Can I do BIAB/C/etc with an electric boiler or would I be required to have a separate mash tun?
    4. For a 2-5bbl brewhouse, what boilers would you recommend within a reasonable price?
    5. What kind of power would I need to draw?

    Thanks!

    Phil

  • #2
    Originally posted by dendron8 View Post
    Hi all,

    I am a brewery in planning, and I am thinking about switching to electric from gas. Does anyone have any recommendations like

    1. Should I actually make the switch (probably a loaded question)
    2. As someone brand new to the process (even as a home brewer it was always propane) what should I consider?
    3. Can I do BIAB/C/etc with an electric boiler or would I be required to have a separate mash tun?
    4. For a 2-5bbl brewhouse, what boilers would you recommend within a reasonable price?
    5. What kind of power would I need to draw?

    Thanks!

    Phil
    Good Morning Phil,

    John from Brewmation here. We are very much proponents of electric brewing for a number of reasons, including its efficiency, the level of automation and controls it enables, and often a lower up-front cost on equipment and installation as compared to direct/indirect fire and steam. Having said that, each has their benefits, and which heat source is best for you might not be best for someone else.

    In answer to some of your other questions, some of the things you need to consider are the brewery size (brew house and physical space available), the infrastructure that you have available at your brewery (power, gas, propane, etc.), and features that you would like to have. Do you want to automate the valves, pumps, and heating via a touchscreen interface, or would you prefer a more hands-on approach? You'll also need to think about your start-up budget with consideration to equipment and installation costs. If you need to run a gas line, this expense should be factored in. Will you need to hire an electrician to up your service, or a steam fitter to install the boiler? If you want to pre-heat your HLT before you get to the brewery, direct fire might not be an option (depending on your fire code) and electric might be a better choice. Even the style of beer that you'll be brewing (ales, lagers, high gravity, etc.) will dictate the setup, to some degree, so there is a lot to think about!

    We don't offer BIAB setups, so I'm not as familiar with the options...sorry I can't offer to much advice here.

    We typically work with Columbia lower pressure boilers, and the size of the boiler would depend on your system size and options. Even on a 5BBL brewery, for example, you might want an oversized HLT to allow you to brew multiple batches in a day, to heat up your cleaning water and strike water before arriving at the brewery, or to maintain enough hot water for strike and a HERMS coil. You can check out their MPH series as a starting point. I'm not sure that steam is the best option for a 2BBL system. Anything can be done, but below 3 BBL we would lean towards electric or direct fire.

    Power draw can also vary depending on the setup, such as whether you have an oversize HLT or rake/plow on your mash tun, pump setup, or RIMS tube for maintaining mash temp. In general, for a 2BBL system we'd be looking for 60A single phase or 50A three phase minimum, and ideally 125A single phase or 75A three phase. For a 5BBL system we'd be looking for 150A single phase or 125A three phase, and even better would be 200A single phase or 150A three phase. The minimum vs. ideal will dictate how many elements can be on at once (whether you can heat the HLT and kettle at the same time.)

    Hopefully this is a helpful start. We've built and installed hundreds of systems over the years, each one different. If you want to send me a message, we'd be happy to talk through the options.

    Best,

    John
    Last edited by John@Brewmation; 01-14-2020, 08:17 AM.

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    • #3
      My 2 cents would be that electric has real advantages at 7bbl or smaller... You dont need walls separating the public from the kettles for one and hood systems are not needed. They are more efficient and keep wasted heat out of the brewroom vs gas. They also have much more precise control options. I run a 3bbl system myself off of 120A with no problems. The limitation is I can only quickly heat one kettle at a time (no saving time on back to back brewing ) which from what it sounds like, wont even be a concern with a biac.. (although I would consider trying to find someone with a traditional 2 vessel brew system in the size range your looking at before commiting to BIAC... some things just dont scale up as well and make as much sense as they would in a smaller setup.) For example we collect our chiller water in our HLT for the next brew session after treating it and any water we generate beyond that goes into the Mash tun temporarily to be used toward cip so having the extra kettles around saves in the long run as far as efficiency.. also I dont know what you would get with BIAC but we get between 85 and 87% brewhouse efficiency right now.. while on a homebrewing scale it only adds up to a few bucks the difference could be much bigger the larger you go. We use the same type of kettles/tanks at our brewpub as Brewmation offers.
      Last edited by augiedoggy; 01-15-2020, 08:34 AM.

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      • #4
        Smaller systems on electric can work. Heres the drawbacks you will see though:
        1. Utilities bills higher, electricity is substantially more expensive than natural gas
        2. cost of installation: if you dont have 480v three phase, the wires can get pretty large to carry the current. Less of an issue on a system 5bbl or smaller since the elements are smaller, though one thing to consider is that most equipment mfrs quote their systems as having either the boil kettle or hlt running not both at the same time with full power. So you should increase what you have available if you want to double batch, and you will want to do this on a smaller system.
        3. more costs: unless things are vastly different out there, you will find most small commercial spaces only have 200A service at 208v 3 phase, this wont leave you much room for lights, pumps, chillers, fridges, kegerators, etc. So you will have to increase your service, which is not bad if its an overhead drop, but if underground, it will get pricey quick.
        4. Your whirlpools will be less efficient with elements sticking into the boil kettle, assuming its a combo kettle/whirlpool.

        These are some of the larger issues you will see. To put things into perspective, we run our whole 10 bbl brewhouse, pumps, burners, chiller 8 fv and 4 bbt on about 75 amps. Most of that is our chiller.

        I always say, go electric if you can't get gas, the ROI on any upgrades for the gas kettles is pretty quick. And depending on the design and the municipality, you will not need a vent hood if your kettles are equipped with a flue for the combustion gasses.

        Comment


        • #5
          I just purchased a lightly used Blichmann 3.5 BBL Hybrid Electric Brewhouse. The electric control panel is built by brewmation. My brewery is under construction and I haven't even used the system yet, but I'll comment on some of the reasons why I chose electric and some of the issues that have come up.

          Exhaust requirements were a big concern. In my area, to go with gas would've meant a full exhaust hood system over any gas fired kettles WITH tempered makeup air. With an electric system I can literally use a through-wall kitchen style exhaust vent. This is probably $4-500 rather than $4-5,000 for the full hood. Also, I have only 8' ceilings in my building. With the taller kettle height to account for gas burners AND the drop of the hood for the ceiling, the top of my kettle would have been taller than the bottom of the hood. I've worked with this in a brewery before and it's a real pain. Finally, the exterior unit of the hood system would have had to have been on the street side of my building...very unattractive. Along the lines of exhaust, heat was a big concern for me. Having been around both gas and electric systems of this size, I can say the gas systems create WAY more ambient heat. My brewhouse is in a small room, partially open to the taproom. I think the electric will make my brewday much more comfortable and keep unwanted heat out of the taproom.

          Your building's electrical capacity will be another major factor. My building had only 200A single phase service. The brewhouse I bought has six, 6,000 watt elements that can be used simultaneously, it's rated at 150A. Because this is considered a continual load or something, my code requires it be serviced by 120% of what it's rated for...so, this beast is getting an all new 200A service all to itself. Now, I'm doing some major building renovations including electric, so I've got a big chunk going into electrical already, but just to run the line for the brewhouse (from the far end of the building) is around $3K. I don't know yet what the service upgrade charge will be from the electric co (which includes upgrading the transformer), but I'm adding a ton of electrical components (brewery, food trucks, outdoor stage, chillers, 2 walk in coolers, kitchen, etc) so my electrician seems to thing they'll waive the upgrade fee (except the $7/ft underground service fee) because I'll be using so much electric. I should know on this soon.

          Had I gone gas, I would've had to upgrade my gas line as well...probably cheaper, but I didn't look into the cost.

          I've seen some really good deals on 2-4BBL systems lately. I picked up this 18 month old system with extras for about 65% of new price. Keep your eye on the used equipment market, this is the size gear a lot of breweries start with and wind up upgrading.

          If you're interested in a BIAB type setup, you might check out Colorado Brewing Systems. I was considering their 2BBL pro system: https://www.cobrewingsystems.com/col...brewing-system

          I know two brewers who use this system commercially...well, one now, the first upgraded to a larger system. I helped with a brewday on a 2BBL double system so I have a little familiarity. Both brewers bought their CO brew systems with the idea of using them for a couple years and upgrading to larger systems. If you consider this system, I'd suggest the single model. The brewer I know who has the 2BBL double (basically two 1BBL BIAB setups side by side) winds up just double batching into a fermenter with the same beer in both kettles. He says he wishes he'd gone with a 2BBL single. The system works well for what it is, it seems well built and the company has been very responsive whenever I've contacted them. I think this is a good system to get around constraints of: electrical capacity, building size or limited finances. A great way to get your doors open and prove your concept.

          I'm right in the middle of putting this all together, happy to answer any questions I can!
          Last edited by phishheadmi; 03-26-2020, 08:39 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by phishheadmi View Post
            I just purchased a lightly used Blichmann 3.5 BBL Hybrid Electric Brewhouse. The electric control panel is built by brewmation. My brewery is under construction and I haven't even used the system yet, but I'll comment on some of the reasons why I chose electric and some of the issues that have come up.

            Exhaust requirements were a big concern. In my area, to go with gas would've meant a full exhaust hood system over any gas fired kettles WITH tempered makeup air. With an electric system I can literally use a through-wall kitchen style exhaust vent. This is probably $4-500 rather than $4-5,000 for the full hood. Also, I have only 8' ceilings in my building. With the taller kettle height to account for gas burners AND the drop of the hood for the ceiling, the top of my kettle would have been taller than the bottom of the hood. I've worked with this in a brewery before and it's a real pain. Finally, the exterior unit of the hood system would have had to have been on the street side of my building...very unattractive. Along the lines of exhaust, heat was a big concern for me. Having been around both gas and electric systems of this size, I can say the gas systems create WAY more ambient heat. My brewhouse is in a small room, partially open to the taproom. I think the electric will make my brewday much more comfortable and keep unwanted heat out of the taproom.

            Your building's electrical capacity will be another major factor. My building had only 200A single phase service. The brewhouse I bought has six, 6,000 watt elements that can be used simultaneously, it's rated at 150A. Because this is considered a continual load or something, my code requires it be serviced by 120% of what it's rated for...so, this beast is getting an all new 200A service all to itself. Now, I'm doing some major building renovations including electric, so I've got a big chunk going into electrical already, but just to run the line for the brewhouse (from the far end of the building) is around $3K. I don't know yet what the service upgrade charge will be from the electric co (which includes upgrading the transformer), but I'm adding a ton of electrical components (brewery, food trucks, outdoor stage, chillers, 2 walk in coolers, kitchen, etc) so my electrician seems to thing they'll waive the upgrade fee (except the $7/ft underground service fee) because I'll be using so much electric. I should know on this soon.

            Had I gone gas, I would've had to upgrade my gas line as well...probably cheaper, but I didn't look into the cost.

            I've seen some really good deals on 2-4BBL systems lately. I picked up this 18 month old system with extras for about 65% of new price. Keep your eye on the used equipment market, this is the size gear a lot of breweries start with and wind up upgrading.

            If you're interested in a BIAB type setup, you might check out Colorado Brewing Systems. I was considering their 2BBL pro system: https://www.cobrewingsystems.com/col...brewing-system

            I know two brewers who use this system commercially...well, one now, the first upgraded to a larger system. I helped with a brewday on a 2BBL double system so I have a little familiarity. Both brewers bought their CO brew systems with the idea of using them for a couple years and upgrading to larger systems. If you consider this system, I'd suggest the single model. The brewer I know who has the 2BBL double (basically two 1BBL BIAB setups side by side) winds up just double batching into a fermenter with the same beer in both kettles. He says he wishes he'd gone with a 2BBL single. The system works well for what it is, it seems well built and the company has been very responsive whenever I've contacted them. I think this is a good system to get around constraints of: electrical capacity, building size or limited finances. A great way to get your doors open and prove your concept.

            I'm right in the middle of putting this all together, happy to answer any questions I can!
            Its actually NOT considered a continuous load unless you keep ALL the heating elements all on at 100% output for more than 3 hours continuous which would absolutely never happen with normal use. Unfortunately many electricians choose to over simplify the rules or error on the conservative side when not necessary. We went with electric for many of the same reasons and also only have a 200a service. Our 3bbl electric system draw under 120a total (runs off 2 60a GFCI breakered circuits ). we have 4 5500w elements in each kettle and 8200w total in the rims which is normally turned down to a max of 75% output. we have zero reason to heat our Boil kettle at the same time as our HLT so we designed the system to allow one or the other and when Our rims is active a relay shuts off one of the HLT elements to allow both at the same time.
            Last edited by augiedoggy; 03-29-2020, 06:32 PM.

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