By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
There are all kinds of new fancy gadgets to make our lives easier these days. This phenomenon is also prevalent in the brewing industry, with homebrewers on the forefront of the innovation. One such advancement in the homebrew world is the use of electricity in brewing. We aren’t talking about using a pump or an extension cord. The technology of using electricity as your primary heat source has become affordable and relatively easy to implement. The future is here and it will shock you…
Bad puns aside, changing your homebrew system to all electric is not as difficult as you may think and can have some benefits. To start with, converting to electric means you can make beer indoors. Apart from needing a window open for the steam, you no longer have to shiver in a cold garage while brewing on a typical, drizzly Northwest winter’s day. Even if you decide to keep operating in your garage sanctuary, you don’t have to open the door, exposing your brew to the elements. With the ability to produce inside comes an even greater control over scaling. That also means going electric is handy if you live in a small apartment or lack access to an outdoor area. Additionally, you can build a system that doesn’t rely on your stove, eliminating excess heat and wasted energy. And if you get space to expand your brewery, you can always use your electric setup as a pilot system.
Unfortunately, as with everything in life there are some drawbacks. The first negative is that converting to electric can be expensive. If you’re just starting out, it’s relatively cheap. However, moving from gas to electric can get a bit pricey unless you can sell your old burners. Some existing equipment can be retrofitted with electrical components, though. Now that we’ve got price out of the way, the next issue to address is uneven heating. Be sure to warm your wort evenly to avoid over-caramelizing or even burning the liquid.
Of course, you need juice to brew. And while power outages are uncommon, it’s something to take into consideration. Perhaps you should postpone your brew day if a giant windstorm is in the forecast. Losing power halfway through the process could mean you end up ruining a potentially award-winning batch.
The most serious concern is electrocution. With gas brewing, there is always the risk of an explosion. But there’s a better chance an exposed wire and liquid could meet with an electric conversion. Check your system carefully before you begin and remember that at the end of the day, brewing was never meant to be easy or completely safe — otherwise everyone would do it. Minimize risk, press on and brew bravely.
Finding an Electric System
Rather than bombarding you with diagrams and multiple steps on how to build your own electric brewing system, I’ll steer you in the right direction. There are a handful of companies that pop up with a simple web search for “electric homebrewing” that will sell you fully operational systems. This can be beneficial if you’re just starting out or have some money to spare. However, if you want to DIY, instructions are also available online — everything from the most complicated, nearly pro-level build-out to something as simple as adding a single hot water heater element to a pot. Also be sure to check in with local homebrew clubs, shops and bloggers. All can serve as an ally in this new, electric world.
House Porter [AG]
House Porter [Extract]
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.