Admit it, you’ve either heard about it, or dreamt about owning one.
Whether it’s a RIMS or a HERMS system, brewing automation is the grand achievement that we’re all gunning for. Whether it’s the Brew Magic System you are salivating over or the desires of a Brutus 10 build, brewing systems dance, in my head at least, on a regular basis.
What are we talking about?
In case you are a little lost, here’s a reminder of the difference in technology between the two lines of thought:
HERMS: Heat Exchanged Recirculating Mash System. This system has a coil (usually of copper) in the HLT and the sparge water is heated while the mash is circulated through the coil. The temperature of the mash is controlled by the sparge water, until it is time to mash out and sparge.
RIMS: Recirculating Infusion Mash System. There are a few varieties of this type of system, but generally the mash is recirculated through the mashtun and the mash is heated either through direct fire or an inline electric heating element.
From there you have multiple variations. Do you make a single, dual or three tier brewing system? Do you use gas, all electric, or a combination? Do you manually run the pumps or do you automate the whole thing?
Ahh, the tinkerer in me is salivating at this point.
The biggest question that tends to come up when looking at buying or building a brewing system is often “why?” and this is a valid question.
The short answer is consistency. That brown ale you made the first time was great, but something seemed a little off the next time, right? As hard as we try to keep things the same every time, when you let your mash sit it’s going to lose heat at different rates, depending on ambient temperature, humidity, atmosphere, etc.
Because of that, you are going to get different efficiencies each time, which can alter the taste of your homebrew from batch to batch. Throw in a healthy dose of batch sparging and you really have some variables. Automating even part of the mash process gives you control on temperature and timing, leading to a more consistent homebrew experience with each batch.
Sadly, though, this is a major investment, with the Sabco running around US$6,000, the MoreBeer system being slightly cheaper at US$3,000-$4,000 range. So, for most of us, a straight up purchase of a RIMS or HERMS system is a little out of budget range. Also, the complexity of the project often keeps many of us from building our own.
Let’s face it, we’re not all Tim Taylors. Blichmann has heard our anguishing cries for another option, and has unveiled a new product that just might do the trick.
Enter The Blichmann Tower of Power
From Blichmann’s Tower of Power product site:
“The new TOWER of POWER temperature control system is like nothing on the market! This gas fired RIMS system is high quality, and ultra high accuracy! Simple to use, and easy to integrate into your system module at a time or as a completely free-standing control powerhouse!
We have developed this MODULAR control system in much the same way as our modular TopTier brewing stand: adaptable and the ultimate in quality.”
Basically what Blichmann has done is taken all of the electrical and controlling aspects of a RIMS system, and has packaged it as a bolt-on unit to your existing brew system. It comes in two parts, one for the HLT and one for the mashtun. That way if you just need to regulate the mashtun, you can pay just for that part, and always add the HLT component in later. Also, if you have a Blichmann TopTier brewstand, then the Tower of Power bolts right on.
The Tower of Power uses electrical solenoids and pilot-less ignitors to control any burner. Also, because heat is all gas, the only electrical power you need is for the controllers and the the solenoids, so a meager 2 amps of power.
What really makes the Tower of Power intriguing to me is the way they designed the plumbing. Since a RIMS system inherently recirculates the wort through the mashtun, the plumbing has to be there. What little information Blichmann is sharing right now is fascinating. There is a 3-way valve at the top to redirect from mashtun flow to sparge from HLT, a temp probe, a valve controlled outlet (for flow control) and a sight glass so you can see the clarity and color of your wort as it is recirculating.
Blichmann has not released a price on this as of yet, but I expect it to be in the US$300-$600 range. Availability is set for Late December/Early January.
I applaud Blichmann for making brewing automation a more reachable goal for homebrewers. They have obviously put a lot of thought into this design, and it looks to be a solid product. Of course, time will prove all, but Blichmann has a healthy history of solid products behind them. I’m sure this one will be no different.
That being said, I don’t particularly see myself as a customer. I think this will be great for the types that really want to get more consistent, yet lack the resources to build their own, or just don’t want to bother with the time/energy involved in designing and building, and there’s nothing wrong with that. For me, though, this kind of takes away a little bit of the fun. I have my own RIMS system in the process of being designed, and I’m helping a friend design a HERMS (yes, we are going to go head-to-head on brewing once they are both up and running!).
To buy an off-the-shelf solution, for me, well, I’ll take my chances building my own.
Great job on the new product Blichmann! You’ve got a good thing going, paving the way to more (consistently) great homebrew!