So you’re thinking to step up your brewing game. You’ve been brewing in your kitchen doing extract batches for anywhere between 1 week and 4 years, and you want to take it to the next level. All. Grain. Brewing. You can say that you’re doing it to get more control over your recipes, but let’s be honest, you’re just jealous of your all grain friends and you’re embarrassed when you have this conversation: “Damn this is pretty good, is this extract or all grain? Oh…extract…ok. Well it’s still decent I guess.”
Once you remortgage your house and get all the needed equipment, you need a way to utilize what is called the “3-Tier Brewing Process”. Essentially, you need a way to let gravity do the work if you want to avoid using pumps.
I’ve been brewing for a while now. To start I was just putting my lauter tun up on a box on the counter, my mash tun on an end table next to the counter, and the brew kettle on the floor. This is a pretty common setup, but it just feels amateur. I upgraded and built a system out of metal shelving that I bought at a BJ’s (boom), but I had to give that system up. Let’s just say that I now understand why people preach “Never go into business with a partner”. I just moved and my new apartment has a basement with plenty of room for a brew set up, so it’s time to rebuild, this time out of wood, and this time it’ll be documented.
Here is a step by step process to build a 3-tier brewing system.
Step 1: Size up your equipment
You need to take a look at what you’re dealing with, because this is a highly customized brew stand you’re going to make. A 3-tier brewing system consists of a high shelf for your lauter tun, a middle shelf for your mash tun, and a low shelf (or just the floor, which will be my tactic) for your brew kettle.
Here’s what I’m workin’ with.
10 Gallon Water Cooler
Width / Depth: 16.5″
Step 2: Design your stand around your equipment
I’m planning to go with an L-shape design and leaving myself plenty of storage. My kettle is 12″ tall, so I’m going to leave myself 13″ on the bottom shelf to store it when I’m not brewing. While lautering I plan on just leaving my brew kettle on the ground to save on wood. Between the middle and top shelf I need at least 21″ to clear the top of the Mash Tun. Here’s the rough design that I came up with:
***Keep in mind that 2×4’s are actually 1.5″ x 3.5″, it’ll be very important in your final design.*** Also, that doesn’t say “Wooo cuts”…it’s “Wood cuts”. This is a rough sketch, a really rough sketch, and my handwriting sucks balls. Stick with me.
Step 3: Figure out your materials
I decided that I wanted to go with 2×4″s for stability, and 1/2″ plywood for sturdy surfaces. You could choose 1×3″s if you want, but keep in mind you’re going to be putting a lot of weight on these damn things. With a little work, I figured out that I’ll need six 8′ 2×4″s and one 4×8′ sheet of plywood.
Here’s how I’m going to make my cuts:
Step 4: Have your neighbor go buy that material
Yup, I drive a 4 door sedan..not fitting this much wood in my car literally ever. Luckily my neighbor drives a truck…Money! For about $40.00, he was able to grab all of the wood I needed for the project. Pictured: The six 2×4’s and a shameless plug. Not pictured: The 4×8′ sheet of 1/2″ plywood.
Last, but not least, remember the number 1 rule of carpentry or assembling anything, for that matter: Measure twice, Chug once…or something like that…
Step 6: Live next to a guy who has some badass saws
If you have your own saws, good for you. I live in a small apartment and only have half of a very mediocre set of tools so yet again, I was helpless. Therefore, I needed to request the help of my neighbor who has a chop saw badass enough to rip through these 2×4 cuts.
Luckily for me, he had a circular saw too that made sizing up the plywood pieces easy as chugging a sub 5% ABV brew.
Step 7: Sand that shit
I was pretty meticulous about this. Last thing you want when you’re starting to brew liquid gold is the chance to pick up a sliver just by using your new awesome brew stand. Sand it, sand it good.
Step 8: Lay out your equipment and build the platforms
Take a moment to admire your awesome cuts, make sure you have your equipment ready to rock, and grab a beer or 4 to enjoy while you build this beast.
Take your front and back piece, and mark out where you want your screws for the cross pieces. I pre-drilled the long boards so they wouldn’t split, then aligned the cross braces and drilled 3″ screws right into those. A couple loud squeaks later and you’ll have yourself the skeleton for your platforms.
Lay out the plywood on top and drive a couple 2″ nails through it into your 2×4’s and you’ll have your platforms ready to go.
Step 9: Mark out the risers
Lay your risers out and mark where the tops of the platforms will go. In my design, the bottom shelf was at 4″, the middle shelf was at 21″. For the top shelf (and the 21″ side shelf pieces) I just measured 4″ down from the top, and knew that I’d be aligning the bottom of the platforms here instead of the tops. Align the bottoms of them all where they’ll be meeting the floor (I used my level as a flat surface and pulled them all tight against it so the bottoms were all flush). Using a straight edge, draw lines across all the risers so they’ll all be identical. You don’t want a wobbly stand, this shit needs to be rock solid.
I pre-drilled two diagonal holes positioned near each line where I planned on screwing these risers into the platforms. Again, this will prevent you from splitting the wood when you drill the screw in.
Step 10: Attach the platforms to the risers
I found it easiest to start right in the middle. I put the middle platform on it’s side, laid the middle riser on it’s mark, and drilled it in with my drawn line being level with the platform. I moved onto the bottom platform, then the top. Once those were in place it was easy to attach the other long riser, and the short one connecting the bottom and middle tier.
Flip that shit over gently, and do the same with the risers on the other side. You got this, you’re almost done. Grab another beer, the next part is gonna be good
Step 11: Stand that shit up and admire
You. Are. Done. Stand it up. See how your equipment is going to fit. Imagine all of the amazing brews you’re going to make. Rearrange your basement. Put it in position. Get your dog to sit next to it proudly and take a picture. You’ve got yourself a new 3-tier brewing system, congratulations!
Some additional things that ran across my mind while doing this:
1.) This design has a whole 46×18″ side with nothing going on, I might attach a piece of plywood to use as an equipment hanging surface. I’ll put a bunch of hooks into the plywood and dangle my brew paddle, my mash paddle, my funnels, all my hoses, etc. Maybe add a folder slot to keep a notebook with brewing notes. The options are endless.
2.) If you’re going to be moving it around a lot, like I plan to, throw some casters on there. I may swing by Home Depot and grab some wheels to screw into the bottom. You could use these at different depths to help adjust for any imbalances you may have in the design as well.
3.) Lacquer the hell out of it. I’m going to spill on this thing, it’s inevitable. Whatever I spill will soak right in and give it some character. However, if I slap like 8 clear coats on it, cleanup will be as easy as swiping a rag over it and moving on with my life. It’s a definite possibility.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and hope you’ll like this new section of the site: Homebrewing!!