Journey to the RIMS: Part 1

by Billy Ellison | Updated: June 22, 2011

The evolution of a homebrewer is an interesting road to follow.

I can still remember my first “brewpot”, the handful of grains, the DME. It was a happy day finishing up that first beer and being satisfied with the 5 gallons of liquid sitting in the fermenting bucket.

Soon though, I wanted more. My brewing buddy and I went in together and got a bigger brewing pot. Then I got a 15 gallon SS stock pot.

Now my brew day consists of:

  1. 5.5 gal SS pot to heat strike/sparge water
  2. Large cooler with a ball valve and a SS braid
  3. 15.5 gal SS pot for boil

The next evolution in my brewing, though, will involve organization and the ever elusive state of stability that comes from consistency. To do that, I put in motion a project to build my own RIMS system.

What is RIMS?

It stands for Recirculating Infusion Mash System. Basically, you have control of your temperatures the entire time with your water/sparge/wort, regardless of what stage of the brewing process you are at.

What sets RIMS systems apart is that it takes the strike water and recirculates (R) it throughout the entire mashing process. During the recirculation, the wort is passed over a heating element, thereby allowing you to maintain your temperatures throughout the entire process. When most people are introduced to the RIMS concept they hear about the BRUTUS 10 concept. This is a solid system that you can brew great beer with it. I’m going to go a slightly different route, however.

I’ve already gone through 3 different design iterations of the and now it looks like I get to do yet another one because the plans were on an external HDD that let the magic blue smoke escape. So, let me walk you through the design.

My Design

I will have a 2-tiered RIMS system. Gravity is always around, and it’s even better when it’s on your side. It’s so cheap, might as well use it.  The top tier will be my HLT, heating my strike and sparge water with an electric element and then use gravity to pump over into my mashtun. Then the fun begins.

Recirculation will be handled by a single March H315 pump. I love the fact that you can constrict flow on the out vent of this pump. It really allows you to dial in your flow and keep your temperature constant. The diaphragm that will house the 2nd and final electric heating element in my system will have to be manufactured…..by me or someone I know.

I will use that same pump once the mashing is done to send the wort over to the brewpot and finish up the magic with a propane/LP burner. I’m not as concerned about maintaining temperature as getting up to boil quickly. With power being a bit of an issue here at the house, gas ends up being the most efficient available method. Once the boil and cooling are done, (immersion for now, chiller plate maybe a future upgrade) then gravity is once again my friend as I will have a ball lock lever open up and feed wort down to the carboy.

You are probably catching on that there is a fair amount of electrical aspects to this. I will have a control panel set up with a pump switch, a temperature probe controller, and a couple of solid state relays to really help dial in the temps with power flow regulation.

There are a ton of resources on the internet of different RIMS setups. Unfortunately I never really found one resource that I was like “Yes, that’s what I want.” So, I took a little from here, a little from there. You get the picture.

There are some really good sources of information to get your mind around RIMS brewing. HBD really gave me the best start on my research. Then it was just finding vendors for parts. Raw steel for the frame will come from a local place. You can also go wood, but since I’m going to use an open flame for the boilpot I’m not too keen on using wood.

Of course, then you have all the electrical pieces and equipment… As you can see, it’s a lot of work.

Part 2 will show you an overview of all the moving parts and get a parts list compiled, at least to date.

Billy (other Billy, Wd, etc.) is a transplanted Southern boy currently living in Southwest Missouri. Since being exposed to the homebrewing community, he has been building his passion for the full variety of beer styles. Not one to be tied down to one style, he continues to branch out in brewing styles, making each recipe his own, building a base of recipes for all to enjoy. Look out for building projects too, as RIMS has become a fascination of this fledgling homebrewer.