Powers Brew System

Homebrew HERMS System

The purpose of this website is to introduce some of the unique design elements of the Powers Home Brewery Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System (HERMS). The following pages contain homebrew beer recipes, informative articles, and a variety of homebrew beer brewing calculators including The Powers Home Brewing Recipe Calculator which has been widely used by the homebrewing community since 2005. There is also a selection of photographs and information that illustrate the efficiency of this home beer brewing system.

This home brewery utilizes design elements from many different styles of RIMS, HERMS, and SMART brewery systems I have researched. The main difference with my homebrew beer brewing system is that it utilizes Gott/Rubbermaid coolers for the Mash Tun and the Hot Liquor Tun (HLT). I also utilize an electric hot water heater element in the Hot Liquor Tun to maintain temperature during the circulation of the wort and Brewing Heatsticks constructed from hot water heater elements to perform all of the kettle heating duties. Additionally, circulation of the wort only occurs when the temperature drops below my set point which makes this brewery a semi-intelligently electronically automated mash heating system.

This system has been in operation since 2004 and its design has been duplicated by homebrewers around the world countless times. Each hobbyist’s version incorporates something different into the design. Feel free to leave comments or suggestions regarding the site or the system in the Contact section or email me directly at: powersbrewery@comcast.net and don’t forget to send me pictures of your system if you choose to create something similar.

Switching from HERMS to RIMS Homebrewing

RIMS Tube

RIMS Tube

Since beginning homebrewing in 2004, I have been using my same Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System (HERMS) without considering change. Lately, however, I have been wanting to achieve faster ramp times for some step-mashing experiments. The large volume of liquid in the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) that needs to be heated to perform the heat exchange just can’t keep up with the step-mashing requirements while utilizing the small hot water heater element that is mounted in the tank. Obviously, I could change elements, move to a 220 volt system, or set my HLT temperatures higher in order to more quickly increase the mash temperature. But, I wanted to do a bit more experimenting.

After some deliberation, I decided that I wanted to experiment with the addition of a Recirculating Infusion Mash System (RIMS) tube. For those who don’t know, a RIMS tube is simply a section of pipe that contains a hot water heater element. The mash is continually pumped through the tube and the element is cycled on and off in order to maintain a set mash temperature.

After assembling a simple RIMS tube with an attached on/off switch, I ran a few trial runs to see how effective the system would be. I didn’t want to get too elaborate with the control system so I just decided to utilize my existing Ranco Electronic Temperature Controller (ETC). The RIMS tube and element have been able to consistently increase temperatures by approximately 1.5 degrees per minute which is considerably faster than my HERMS setup with the HLT set to 180 degrees. This could open up some interesting step-mashing opportunities beyond just having a simple mash-out.

I’m planning to continue to experiment with both homebrewing recirculation systems to see which I ultimately prefer and will keep readers of this blog up-to-date with my results. At this point, I am still uncertain as to whether I will commit to a RIMS-based system or stick with my HERMS system. In theory, I could use both depending upon my mood or what beer I am brewing.

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Pliny The Elder Clone Recipe

Zymurgy Magazine Pliny The Elder Recipe

Zymurgy Magazine Pliny The Elder Recipe

I have seen several Russian River Brewing Company Pliny the Elder clone recipes and thought I would try one and modify it to fit into the allotted time I have for brewing. Since I only have about 5 and a half hours in any given evening to brew, certain parts of the process needed to be abridged. Between helping my children with their homework and cooking dinner, time is limited.

Many Pliny the Elder clones have hop oil additions early in the boil as well as multiple dry hop additions. I chose to simplify everything a bit and use one of the clone recipes that uses mash hop additions and just a single dry hop addition. Although this doesn’t jive with the recipe that Russian River supplied to Zymurgy magazine, I wasn’t going for an exact clone, just a really great all-grain IPA. My research indicates that Russian River’s head brewer actually uses a concentrated hop oil extract during their boil so the Zymurgy Recipe isn’t an exact clone either.

I am sure this is going to be a great beer regardless of whether it is an exact clone or not. I shortened the boil to 60 minutes from 90 minutes and I also had my first boil hop addition changed to a First Wort addition so the hops were in the kettle while the sparge process was happening. Everything smells great and I can’t wait to add the dry hop additions. My original gravity hit 1.074 which is very close to what I had calculated. My fermentation temperature is holding steady at 68 degrees (F) and I expect the final gravity will be very close to my calculated results as well which should put the Alcohol by Volume (ABV) at about 8%.


Recipe: Pliny The Elder Double IPA
Brewer: Ken Powers
Style: Imperial IPA
TYPE: All Grain 

Recipe Specifications:
----------------------
Boil Size: 8.06 gal
Post Boil Volume: 6.76 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.076 SG
Estimated Color: 5.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 172.1 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 86.7 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amt                   Name
2.00 oz               Cascade [5.50 %] - Mash Hop 60.0 min
13 lbs                Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)
6.0 oz                Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L (40.0 SRM)
1 lbs                 Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM)
2.00 oz               Magnum [14.00 %] - First Wort 60.0 min
1 lbs                 Corn Sugar (Dextrose) (0.0 SRM)
1.00 oz               Simcoe [13.00 %] - Boil 45.0 min
1.00 oz               Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] - Boil 30.0 min
0.25 tsp              Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins)
2.00 oz               Centennial [10.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool
1.00 oz               Simcoe [13.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  20.0 min
1.0 pkg               American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056)
3.00 oz               Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] - Dry Hop 7.0 days
1.00 oz               Centennial [10.00 %] - Dry Hop 7.0 Days
1.00 oz               Simcoe [13.00 %] - Dry Hop 7.0 Days


Mash Schedule:
--------------
Single Infusion, Medium Body, No Mash Out
Total Grain Weight: 15 lbs 6.0 oz
----------------------------
Name              Description                       Temp     Time     
Mash In           Add 21.55 qt of water at 162.8 F  152.0 F  60 min        

Sparge: Fly sparge with 4.65 gal water at 168.0 F


Powers Beer Recipe Calculator Recipe String
Use the LOAD RECIPE button at the top of the page of the brewing calculator and paste the following string into the text box that appears:

Ken Powers^Pliny The Elder Double IPA Clone^October 23, 2014^62^50^5^60^13^4^85^100^9^0^1^0^0.25^0.5^71^71^13^33^33^0.375^22^22^1^44^44^1^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^50^45^47^14^12^0^1^0^0^0^0^1^0^0^0^0^1^0^0^0^0^1^0^0^0^0^1^0^0^0^0^1^2^68^152^1.5^1.074^^152^Follow the following hop schedule:  2.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - Mash Hop 60.0 min, 2.00 oz Magnum [14.00 %] - First Wort 60.0 min, 1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - Boil 45.0 min, 1.00 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] - Boil 30.0 min, 2.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool, 1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool, 20.0 min, 3.00 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] - Dry Hop 7.0 days, 1.00 oz Centennial [10.00 %] - Dry Hop 7.0 Days, 1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %] - Dry Hop 7.0 Days^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^14^0^0^0^0^0^0.12^

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Cereal Killer Grain Mill

Cereal Killer Grain Mill

Cereal Killer Grain Mill

I recently purchased an item that I have been wanting to get since my initial entry into the homebrewing hobby in 2004. I had always heard of the advantages of owning your own grain mill and the promises of freshness and personal control of the grain crush are something that definitely appeals to me. Having the ability to purchase grains in larger quantities, store them, and crush whenever the homebrew beer brewing need arises is a huge advantage over ordering pre-crushed grains or rushing to the local homebrew store just prior to brewing.

I did a lot of research when I went to purchase my own mill and I ran across several great options that were in my price range. I ultimately selected the Cereal Killer from Adventures in Homebrewing and I have been very pleased with the purchase. I know that earlier versions of this mill received lackluster reviews but several changes have been made that make this unit a very competitively priced product with excellent performance characteristics.

Early versions of this mill utilized brass bushings like many mills on the market but many reports indicated they were poorly fit and caused uneven motion or even binding during operation. As of this writing, the new Cereal Killer mill uses ball bearings and I can attest to the very smooth rotation of both the drive and passive rollers.

Many people who owned the earlier versions of this mill complained that it was too difficult to crank. Since I am utilizing my DeWalt power drill, however, this doesn’t really matter to me. For those who prefer to hand-crank their mills, however, the newest version of the Cereal Killer now includes a longer handle for easier cranking power.

Crush Adjustment Knobs

Crush Adjustment Knobs

Adjusting the crush of this mill is as simple as loosening two screws, adjusting the gap and re-tightening the screws. To aid in the adjustment, there are some etched measurements around the gap adjustment screws.

The unit has a 7 pound hopper and nice base that mates easily with a standard 5 gallon brewing bucket. Although the hopper is a bit small, milling grain in 7 pound quantities still doesn’t take more than a minute or so per batch to accomplish. I would say it takes me about 5 minutes to mill 15 pounds of grain which really isn’t too bad.

Grain Crush .037"

Grain Crush .037″

I have been setting the crush to .037″ and my homebrewing brewhouse efficiency has increased quite a bit. I have yet to experience a stuck mash even with my constant mash circulation system which is a great thing.

If you are looking for a lesser expensive grain mill that gets the job done, is built to last, and has been refined based upon customer feedback/complaints, this one is a great choice. It is a little less expensive than the popular Barley Crusher but seems like a better all-around value.

If you have experience with this mill or another on the market, leave some information about it in the comment section below.

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Further Homebrew IPA Experiments

I have been experimenting with really dialing in my liquid volumes for my homebrew beer brewing process lately and I think I am finally getting there. I was able to nail my liquid volumes and specific gravities for my last batch and I am sharing the recipe below.

I chose a mix of Rahr and Great Western pale malts for the base of the beer recipe coupled with a generous amount of Special B malt for a bit of caramel flavor. I also wanted to stick with a single hop variety for this recipe in order to really assess Chinook hops characteristics.

I reintroduced recirculation into my brewing process in order to help arrive at a cleaner and clearer final product.

The only wild-card in this recipe is my last-minute decision to use White Labs WLP005 British Ale Yeast.

If you brew the recipe below, let me know how you like it!


Recipe: Powers IPA
Brewer: Ken Powers
Style: American IPA

Recipe Specifications:
----------------------
Boil Size: 8.06 gal
Post Boil Volume: 6.76 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.070 SG
Estimated Color: 20.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 93.3 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 85.1 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amt                   Name
12 lbs 8.0 oz         Pale Malt (Rahr 2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)
1 lbs                 Pale Malt (Great Western) US (1.8 SRM)
1 lbs 8.0 oz          Special B Malt (180.0 SRM)
1.00 oz               Chinook [13.00 %] - First Wort 60.0 min
1.00 oz               Chinook [13.00 %] - Boil 45.0 min
1.00 oz               Chinook [13.00 %] - Boil 15.0 min
0.25 tsp              Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins)
1.00 oz               Chinook [13.00 %] - Steep/Whirlpool  5.0 min
1.0 pkg               British Ale (White Labs #WLP005)


Mash Schedule:
--------------
Single Infusion, Medium Body

Name              Description                       Step Temp Step Time     
Mash In           Add 22.50 qt of water at 164.0 F  154.0 F   60 min        
Mash Out          Heat to 168.0 F over 2 min        168.0 F   10 min        

Sparge: Fly sparge with 4.48 gal water at 168.0 F

Powers Beer Recipe Calculator Recipe String
Use the LOAD RECIPE button at the top of the page of the brewing calculator and paste the following string into the text box that appears:

Ken Powers^Simple IPA^August 16, 2014^61^49^5^60^13^4^85^100^9^0^1^0^0.25^0.5^71^71^13.5^85^84^1.5^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^0^4^4^8^1^60^0^1^8^1^45^0^1^8^1^15^0^1^8^1^5^0^1^0^0^0^0^1^0^0^0^0^1^2^72^154^1.5^1.07^1.021^154^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^12.5^12.5^12.5^12.5^0^0^0.12^

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Home Brewery Sanitation

Brewery SanitationOver the years I have noticed the confusion that arises when new home beer brewers confront the issue of home brewery cleaning and maintenance. Several terms get mentioned and often they are used incorrectly when they are not truly interchangeable. Terms such as: cleaning, sanitizing, and sterilizing seem to be used interchangeably when they really should be used to describe specific home brewery maintenance tasks.

Cleaning/Washing: In the home brewery, this usually refers to the process of using soap, water, or other suitable cleaners to scrub away visible dust, dirt, and debris from the surface of various brewing apparatuses. A thorough cleaning is generally a precursor to sanitizing since most sanitizing agents alone cannot remove built-up grime and deposits that harbor bacteria on equipment.

Sanitize: In the home brewery, this usually refers to partially freeing brewing apparatuses of microorganisms by disinfecting.

Sterilize: To kill, deactivate (denature), or destroy (break apart) all living, viable microorganisms and spores that would be on a surface, in a fluid, or contained in a compound, such as culture media or a medical product.

Generally speaking, sterilizing brewery components in a home environment is virtually impossible. However, home brewers can easily clean and sanitize their brewery by utilizing a variety of commercially available products. Sanitation in the home brewery is very important because even a small contamination of the fermenting wort can lead to off-flavors or even a completely ruined batch of beer.

Cleaning/Washing

Mild anti-bacterial soaps and gentle scrubbing with sponges or brushes are usually all that is required in order to properly clean brewery components. It is important, however, to avoid creating deep scratches or abrasions in plastic brewing gear such as buckets or plastic conical fermentation tanks since these can harbor bacteria.

More difficult cleaning jobs or areas of staining may require the use of slightly stronger cleaning agents. Oxiclean, PBW, and Straight-A are some more common varieties and they can do an amazing job of deep cleaning your home brewery.

Oxiclean is a commercial product that is readily available in the United States. It is generally recommended to use the Oxiclean varieties that are chlorine-free, however, since extended contact with stainless steel can cause chlorine to pit the surfaces.

PBW is a slightly more expensive solution but does an incredible job of cleaning brewing surfaces. It can be purchased through most homebrew supply shops and is my favorite cleanser. Many DIY brewers create their own PBW variation by simply mixing Oxiclean (70%) and TSP/90 (30%). Although this home-made version works quite well, it lacks a few of the other chemicals PBW contains that really makes the commercially available product excel.

Sanitizing

The hour to hour-and-a-half boiling of the wort during a normal home brewing session will generally sanitize the solution so it isn’t necessary to sanitize brewing components utilized prior to this step. It is extremely important, however, to sanitize any brewery components that come in contact with your wort or beer after the boiling process is complete in order to minimize the chance of contamination before and during fermentation.

Since 2004, my favorite sanitizing solution has been an iodine-based no-rinse product called Iodophor. It requires very little of the product, very short contact times, and no rinsing. It does a great job, is not very expensive, and is an excellent alternative to bleach.

Bleach is a very popular sanitizing agent that only requires about a tablespoon per gallon of water to create an effective sanitizing solution. Bleach can pit stainless steel if left in contact with the metal for too long so it is important to minimize contact time. Bleach also needs to be thoroughly rinsed from brewing components to avoid introducing off-flavors, etc…

Other sanitizing agents include B-Brite and Star-san. These are available from many local homebrewing stores but tend to be slightly less economical solutions although both are very effective sanitizing products.

Ultimately, the choice of products a brewer uses to clean and sanitize his/her system is a personal decision that may be affected by cost or convenience. The choice of products, however, is not as important as making sure the brewing equipment is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Nobody wants to dump a batch of home-brewed beer simply because we didn’t clean and sanitize our equipment.

Is there a cleaning or sanitizing solution you use that you find to be extremely effective? If so, leave some information about it in the comment section below. You might help a fellow homebrewer by doing so.

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