Brutus 10 Build: The Gas System

In this first post in this series about my build, I described the Brutus 10 frame.

Now we’re going to talk gas.

This was actually the most challenging (and frustrating) part of the entire build. There are so many little parts that must work together and the inclusion of the solenoid valves threw another wrench into things. Not to mention that every connection point is a source for a leak and the consequences of spewing propane everywhere are not to be taken lightly.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s start with an overview of how this thing works.

Propane comes out of the tank and into a low pressure regulator which brings the pressure down to 0.5 psi. Low pressure is needed for the Honeywells. If you’re not doing gas automation, you can run the whole thing at high pressure.

Some people have trouble with the gas beam because the propane tank thinks it’s not connected to anything. It responds by dialing back the flow, which reduces the power of your burners. The solution is to use a POL fitting instead of a QCC nut. The QCC has the safety valve which will lock up your system.

Propane enters the gas beam through a stainless steel flex line.

Burners and Orifice

I decided to go with the BG12 burners mainly for their size – they are about 6 inches in diameter. Many people use the larger BG14 burners which deliver more BTUs but they’re very big at 10″ across. If I were doing 15 gallon batches I may have gone with them but for my 6 gallon batches the BG12s are plenty.

Another reason for not using larger burners is that the Blichmann kettles have a stepped bottom, meaning the bottom is a smaller diameter than the rest of the kettle. To fit them, I had to bring the burner supports in to 10″ apart, meaning the BG14 flames would hit the frame which is not something I want.

The burners themselves are pretty simple – just a piece of metal with holes in it. It’s the orifice which is more complicated and what gave me some trouble.

The orifice is the tiny hole that shoots propane into the burner. Really, the only difference between high and low pressure burners is the orifice. Low pressure burners have larger orifices, and high pressure burners have smaller ones.

I am running on low pressure and there is a handy chart which lets you determine the orifice size from the BTU rating of your burner.

Since my burners at 50,000 BTU and I’m running at 0.5 psi (or 11″ WC) I determined that I needed a #45 drill size for the orifices. When I ordered the orifices from Tejas Smokers, I asked them to drill to a #45.

It turns out a #45 was slightly too large. The flame was weak and yellow, not blue with yellow tips like it should be.

It’s easier to make the orifice larger than smaller, but luckily I found a propane shop in Denver where the guy was extremely helpful with the entire gas portion of my build. He’s even built homebrew systems for friends.

He hooked up my burner and redrilled the orifice until the flame was perfect. He did all three orifices for only $20. You can see the difference below.

Before and after adjusting the orifice size. On the left is with the orifice overdrilled (too large). On the right is with the orifice filled and redrilled to the correct, smaller size.

The lesson here is to start with a smaller orifice and then drill it out until you get the burner where you want it. The chart is only a guideline – it takes trial and error and the exact size will be different for every system.

Gas Automation

The main feature of the Brutus 10 is the way it automatically regulates temperatures. It does this through a combination of a solenoid valve (the Honeywell) , pilot burner, digital controller (the Love), and thermistor (sensor). Here’s an example of how it works:

  1. The pilot burner is lit.
  2. The mash tun is set for 152°F on the Love and the sensor is placed in the mash tun.
  3. When the temperature drops to 151°F, the Love tells the Honewell to open which sends gas to the burner. The burner ignites because of the pilot.
  4. When the sensor reads 152F°F, the Love tells the Honeywell to close.

Here is a video of me testing out the automation with water. Pretty sweet.

Obviously a big part of this is the Honeywell valves.

Honeywell valves

There are really three parts to the valves:

  1. The valve itself (big square thing)
  2. The pilot burner
  3. The thermocouple
Honeywell gas valves on Brutus 10

The Honeywell valves with all connections made

The pilot burner and thermocouple plug into the Honeywell as a safety device. If the pilot goes out, the thermocouple tells the Honeywell and the valve won’t open. It’s so you don’t shoot gas everywhere. The original Brutus 10 didn’t have this feature.

When you get the Honeywells you need to convert them from natural gas to propane by changing out a little spring. Then you attach them with 1/2″ MPT pipe. Since the orifice has a flare connection, you need to convert NPT to flare. I do this with the 90° fitting coming out of the Honeywell which is 1/2″ MPT to 3/8″ flare. A 3/8″ stainless steel tube then connects the elbow to the orifice.

The pilots were one of the bigger pains in the ass in the build. I mounted them to the burner support using corner braces and self drilling sheet metal screws. I was really happy with how well they mounted.

Pilot burner mounted on Brutus 10

The pilot burner mounted to the main burner support using a corner brace and sheet metal screw

The annoying part was that they kept leaking. I attached the pilots to the Honeywell with 1/4″ aluminum pilot tubing and compression fittings. When I fired them up I got a flame around the base of the pilots, meaning I had a leak. It took a few tries to get it right, but every time you undo the compression fitting you need to cut the tube and attach a new one. I almost ran out of tubing, but they finally worked leak-free.

The thermocouple is an easy threaded fitting into the Honeywell.

It’s a little tight

If there is one thing I wish I did differently with this build it’s that I should have adjusted the overall stand dimensions to make it a little larger. The problem is that it’s a really tight fit between the Honeywells and the burner.

In Lonnie’s original Brutus 10 plans, he uses a small jet burner which doesn’t have the long tail on it like the BG12. You can see how I had to put the burner at an angle so it wouldn’t stick so far out the back.

Also, Lonnie used ASCO valves which are smaller than the enormous Honeywells. The Honeywells are too close to the burner for comfort, which is why I added the heat shield.

It’s not a huge deal, but if someone is copying this build I would advice them to make the stand a few inches deeper and lower the gas beam to give the Honeywells more room. The stand is pretty small overall, so it wouldn’t make it be a problem.

Next Up

The control panel and electronics. Below is a part summary for the gas system with costs.

Parts

  • BG12 cast iron burners x 3 (Amazon.com) – $48
  • Honeywell 24VAC standing pilot gas valve x2 (PexSupply.com; SKU: VR8200A2132) – $120
  • Honeywell pilot burner x 2 (PexSupply.com, SKU: Q314A4586) – $36
  • Honeywell 24″ thermocouple  x 2 (Pexsupply.com, SKU: Q390A1046) – $7
  • BrassCraft 1/2″ x 24″ stainless steel flex line (Home Depot, SKU: 344497) – $12
  • Marshall 2-stage low pressure regulator (Sourced locally) $30
  • Needle valve/orifice for burners x 3 (tejassmokers.com, item #CVo125) – $60
  • x 3 Stainless steel gas flex line 3/8″ x 12″ (plumbingsupply.com) – $30
  • x 2 brass 90 degree elbow 1/2″ x 3/8″ (plumbingsupply.com) – $7
  • Aluminum pilot tubing (Grainger part #5AU59) – $22
  • POL fitting (Sourced locally) – $8
  • 3/8″ x 1/2″ NPT adapter (Sourced locally) – $3
  • Various 1/2″ black pipe – $4
  • Corner braces and self drilling sheet metal screws for pilot mounts – $5
  • Labor for drilling orifices – $20
  • Total cost: $412

About Billy Broas


He is the founder of The Homebrew Academy, a BJCP beer judge, and the homebrewing expert on the Rocky Mountain PBS television show Colorado Brews. He lives in the fine beer town of Denver, Colorado.

Comments

  1. So, if I added right, you are up to $1,200 so far.

    Still jealous.

  2. libertasmaximus says:

    Dude, this looks great! I like how you are taking your time and doing it right. Learning all of the details about installation and how it works.

    I am in engineering and can appreciate your attention to detail and taking your time to do something right and understand what’s going on!

    Great job.

    Andrew

    • Thanks a lot Andrew. For every hour I spent building this thing I spent at least an hour researching and trying to understand how it all works. It definitely helps when diagnosing problems. Cheers!

  3. Thanks for the writeup! Are you still happy with your choice of burners? How did your guy fix the flame when the holes were already too large?

    • Hey Steve, I hope it helped. I am happy with the burners. They’re actually getting even more powerful, I think because some of the crud from the manufacturing process has burned off. Taking a wire brush to the holes also helped. I can easily boil my preboil volume, ~ 8 gal.

      As for the orifices, he filled and redrilled them but I’m honestly not sure what he used. I’ve read of people user solder, and it’s silver, so maybe that’s what it is.

  4. Why didn’t you choose the ASCO valves?

  5. How much distance from the top of the burner to the bottom of the brew pot? I’ve read 3-5 inches is about what you need but would like to see what you are using.

    Thanks!

  6. I have used you page as a guide for my brutus build and your plans have really helped out; thank you for that. I have a question as I know very little about the Honeywell’s and gas. I noticed the Honeywell VR8200A2132 only has a temp rating of up to 175F, does or could or is that an issue?

    Thanks much, and again great work!
    Chad

    • Billy Broas says:

      You definitely don’t want the valves getting too hot. That’s part of the reason I recommended giving them more room than I did on my build. I had leftover sheet metal from my pump cover so I used that to make heat shields for the valves. They’ve been fine.

  7. William Jaquiss says:

    Thanks so much for your posts. They are so helpful. Do you remember what kind of Low Pressure Regulator you used? I was thinking about using the one from MoreBeer (http://morebeer.com/products/pressure-propane-regulator.html).

    Thank You.

  8. So looking this over you have 3 burners but only controls for 2. Why?

    I’m assuming that has to do with not monitoring temps in the boil as you are going to be going full blast throught the boil. If that is true, how are you igniting the boil burner?

    Thanks again for the detail. Allows me to build my list of parts, where to get them and rough cost so that I know how much I am going to be getting into for each step. I currently have the stand with burners with no automation. I have some form of keggles but want to upgrade them to welded with temperature gages and sight glass.

    • Billy Broas says:

      You got it right – the boil doesn’t need temperature control. I just open the valve and light it with a lighter. There is also a needle valve on the burner that allows me to fine tune the flame.

      • Ron Henderson says:

        Hi Billy,
        Thanks for all the info here. I am building a Brutus just like yours using this site as a guide.
        I have a problem with the gas surging, high and low on the burners with the Honeywell valves. It does not do it on the burner that doesn’t use the Honeywell valve.
        I have already changed to a POL fitting thinking it would fix my problem.
        I am using a single stage regulator, do you think this might be my problem?
        Thanks for any insight you might have!

        Ron

        • Billy Broas says:

          Hey Ron,

          Hard to say for sure what it is but I’d suspect the same thing you did with the regulator. Give a dual stage a shot and see if that works. If you have an RV store in your area you can probably pick one up quick and return it if it doesn’t work.

  9. Can you give me the dimensions on your “L’s” for the burner mounts? and is there anything that could be improved?

  10. Hi Billy, tank you for all the information you gave to the brew community
    Look, I was reading that for building a brutus Ten you need low pressure burned if I am to mistaken. How about if use a Bayou Classics High Pressure Cast Iron Burner or BG14 (http://www.amazon.com/Bayou-Classic-BG14-Burner-diameter/dp/B0009JXYTG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1398677078&sr=8-2&keywords=banjo+burner+propane). What is your advise if I want to use this burner or is better to use a low pressure burner?

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Cayo,

      Glad you’ve found the posts helpful. If you use high pressure burners with this set-up they will not work, so make sure to use low pressure burners. The reason you need low pressure is because the Honeywell valves only run on low pressure. Hope that helps.

  11. Thank you Billy,

    and how about if I use a banjo bj 14 and a person regulador?

    Also I found this burner, https://www.brewershardware.com/10-Low-Pressure-Burner.html
    What do you think? can I used with the honeywell?

    Thanks

  12. Thank you Billy,

    and how about if I use a banjo bj 14 with a adjustable pressure regulador?

    Also I found this burner, https://www.brewershardware.com/10-Low-Pressure-Burner.html
    What do you think? can I used with the honeywell?

    Thanks

  13. I went with the hurricane burners and associated orifice valve. The valve is threaded in 3/8″ flare, I tried looking up the hoses you listed and all I found were 3/8″ fip connections. Any ideas?

    • Billy Broas says:

      Hey Steven, you’ll need to get a flare to npt adapter. The fitting shouldn’t be too hard to find, if not in a hardware store then definitely online.

  14. Patrick schultz says:

    Billy, on your Honeywell gas valve, where/how did you set up your pilot gas line?? Does it run directly out of the valve, or do I need to run a separate line ??

    • Hey Patrick, the pilot line comes out of the Honeywell valve. There is a hole in the back right corner of the valve. You put the tubing in there and seal it with a compression fitting. The directions for the valve will show you where it goes.

  15. Thomas Troxell says:

    I am using this as a guide to build my own Brutus system. Was wondering if anyone had an recommendations on what burners I should use for a 1 Bbl system?

  16. Dave Cassotta says:

    Fantastic job on your build and thanks so much for making this information available.
    I currently building a similar system. I’m not sure what the distance shoul.d be between the burners and the kettle? What distance did you use?

    Thanks again,
    Dave

  17. Dave Cassotta says:

    Just read through all the previous posts. I should have done that prior to making my post.
    Sorry
    Dave

  18. I was just wondering if you run all three burners from one propane tank? Does the tank freeze up during use? I live in canada and am having a hard time getting parts for the gas side of my brutus build. i may have to travel to NY to get the needed parts.

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