It’s time – I’m building a Brutus 10.
The Brutus 10 a homebrewing system designed by NASA rocket scientist Lonnie Mac.
Why am I building one you ask? Well look at it!
OK besides being a gorgeous brew system, the one area I struggle with the most in homebrewing is repeatability.
People wonder why I would want to brew the same beer more than once, and something I’ve learned is that if you really want to improve a recipe then you need to brew it over and over again. With each rebrew you make a small adjustment and keep everything else the same.
It’s that “keep everything else the same” part that I’ve struggled with. That’s where the Brutus 10 comes in.
It will allow me to brew consistent batches and eliminate (or drastically reduce) those days where nothing goes as planned and I don’t have a clue as to how the beer will turn out.
There are other reasons too.
As the business side of the Academy grows, I will be bringing more off-line events into the mix with demonstrations and live training, which the Brutus is perfect for, so there is a method to my madness.
Oh and if you want to build a Brutus 10, you can purchase the plans at Brew Your Own’s website for $3.
This will be a series of posts chronicling the build. Listed below are some of the main components of the Brutus and a brain dump on how I plan on tackling them.
The stand design itself is pretty straightforward. It’s 28″ high, 48″ long, and 12″ deep. The original plans call for stainless steel but homebrewers have built them out of other materials.
For me it was between mild steel with powder coating and stainless. I decided to go with stainless. Even with high temperature powder coating there are plenty of reports of it burning off. I could use stainless only for the areas around the burners, but rather than mixing metals I’m going to keep it simple and do the whole thing in stainless.
One way I’ll save money is by using smaller pipe than Lonnie. He used 2″ x 2″ x 0.120″ pipe, which he’s admitted is overkill but he got it cheap. I’m going to go with 1.5″ x 1.5″ x 0.065″ which will be cheaper and make the stand lighter. I’m sure it will support the weight of the kettles no problem.
I’ve MIG welded before but for something like this you want it TIG welded and that’s not something I’m prepared to do, especially on my special baby Brutus.
Instead I’m hiring Chris of Generic Cycles here in Denver. Multiple people have told me about his welding skills and I figure if he can weld a performance bicycle then the Brutus will be cake. We’ve been talking about the project and he’s pumped as well.
Since I have a great welder I have the confidence to use Lonnie’s “gas beam” idea where the lower horizontal beam acts as a pipe for the propane to the burners. This makes the design much cleaner and is a pretty ingenious idea by Lonnie.
I’ll be going with three 15 gallon Blichmann Boilermakers which will allow me to brew high OG 5 gallon batches and also 10 gallon batches from time to time.
It will be tough to say goodbye to my keggles because we have so much history together, but as time’s gone on I’ve liked them less and less. They’re big, bulky, and hard to clean.
The Boilermakers on the other hand were designed for brewing. Sure they are pricey, but when you factor in their quality and all of their features (thermometer, heavy duty sight gauge, three piece ball valve, pick up tube, stepped bottom), they’re worth it. Plus their louver false bottom is known for being one of the best in the business which will be important for the direct fire + recirculation set up I’ll have.
Because the Boilermakers have a smaller diameter than the pots Lonnie used, I’ll have to make some slight modifications to the stand dimensions. Instead of the 12″ spacing between cross beams, I’ll use 10″. The overall length of the stand will be the same, I’ll just have more space between the pots.
The original plans call for 12 tip jet burners. From what I’ve read, jet burners can be very finicky and a lot of people end up plugging some of the jets because they put out too much heat.
Other options are the banjo and hurricane burners. Things to consider are whether you want high pressure or low pressure, natural gas or propane (propane for me), how the burners are mounted, and the type of regulator to use.
I’m looking for input in this area if anyone can give advice.
Lonnie uses a combination of Love controllers, ASCO solenoid valves, pumps, and temperature sensors to automate the temperature control on the Brutus.
To summarize how it works with an example, say you want to keep your mash at 150°F. You set the Love to that temp and a sensor inserted in the kettle monitors it. When the wort drops to 149°F, the ASCO valve will open which releases the propane to the burners. Because a pilot light is on the entire time, the burners fire up. To keep the wort from scorching, a pump turns on and pumps the wort from the bottom of the mash tun and returns it through a hole in the lid at the top.
Finding the same ASCO valves Lonnie uses is tough and when I have seen them they are 2-3x the cost of what he paid. As of now I’m planning on going with this Honeywell Gas Valve which is available for a reasonable $68, unless someone can recommend a better option.
Cooling – Therminator baby!
Fermentation – Lonnie uses his mash tun as his fermenter but I’m going to keep using my carboys.
Pumps – Most likely the March High Flow.
Connections – Quick disconnects will make for easy connection/disconnection of tubing.
Since this will be a series I’m going to hold off on publishing those until the end, just so you know they are actual and not estimated. It will be an expensive build but selling my old equipment will help cushion the blow, as will all of the homebrewing gift cards I asked for on Christmas ; )
I’ll post again when I have updates. I’m collecting the equipment now and plan on starting the build in March.
Wish me luck.