Home » Equipment, The Doghouse » The Doghouse Brew Rig Build Part Five “How It Works” (Update 8-5-2013)

The Doghouse Brew Rig Build Part Five “How It Works” (Update 8-5-2013)

In the fifth and final installment in the brew rig series I’m going to talk a little about how all the systems work together to produce that wonderful libation we refer to as BEER. In earlier posts we discussed the frame, the gas system, the electrical system, and finally the plumbing. I have to admit that when I finally got all of this put together and working properly I felt a little like Gene Wilder in the movie Young Frankenstein. “It’s Alive!”

Sorry…I couldn’t resist.

Now that you have the rig set up where you are going to brew, attach the the gas to the regulator hose and open it up completely. Open up the ball valves that feed the furnace valves and turn the switch on the furnace valve to “pilot”. Hook up your control panel to a power source and turn on the main power switch. Connect the furnace valve wires and turn on both switches for the mash tun and HLT. Now light your pilot light following the lighting instructions that came with the furnace valves. These will stay lit until you get to the chilling stage. It is important to light your pilots before you put your kettles over the burner and fill them with water. Once you’ve done that it makes it very difficult to reach the pilot light.

Ok, your pilots are lit and you set your kettles over the burners. Now attach the “sensor tees” to the outlet valves on the kettles and connect the sensor wires to the control panel. Once you do this your PIDs will start to register the temps of the sensors. You can set the target temperatures in both PIDs at this point. DO NOT turn on the main control switch located on the furnace valve yet! (Ask me ho I know this….). Fill your HLT with strike water using your preferred method. Now that you have some water in your kettle you can turn on the main control switch on the furnace valve for the HLT only. That burner should fire once that has been done. Now hook up one hose coming from the tee and attach it to the inlet on one of your pump. Hook another hose from the outlet of the pump and connect it to the upper intake fitting on your HLT. Plug in your pumps open the valves and turn on the pump you have hooked up. This circulates the water over the sensor so it gives you an accurate reading on your PID. Once it reaches the target temp the burner will shut off and then fire intermittently to keep the temperature where it needs to be.

When your strike water hits the desired temperature its time to transfer it to the mash tun. This is done simply by moving the upper hose from the HLT to the mash tun. Make sure your pumps are OFF before moving anything. Once the hose is moved you can restart the pump and dough in as you normally would. Once you are doughed in turn off the pump and attach the recirc/sparge arm. Attach the second sensor tee to the mash tun and hook everything up to the second pump just as you did for the HLT. Place the upper hose back on the HLT. Now you can open up your valves and start to recirculate your mash. Open up the main control on the second furnace valve at this point. This burner may or may not fire right away depending on the heat loss during the dough in. Keep the mash moving to prevent scorching but don’t pump it too fast. This should recirculate slowly so you’re not constantly churning up your grain bed.

Once your mash is complete transfer it to the boil kettle. Sparge using your preferred method. I fly sparge VERY slowly. This helps keep my efficiency at an acceptable rate (usually around 70-73%). Once you have everything in your boil kettle turn off the power to both furnace valves and the gas ball valves. Now open the ball valve to the BK burner and fire that bad boy up. You will need to regulate this with the regulator hooked to the LP tank. keep an eye on the LP tank. It may start to freeze up. If this happens just place it in a tub with warm water.

Now, her’s the cool part. By using both pumps and recirculating your wort and chilled water you are able to crash your temperature in a fraction of the time it normally takes. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, attach your hoses in the configuration shown in the picture below. You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

Now fill your HLT with tap or well water and start to recirculate both kettles through your plate chiller. This will pretty quickly knock down your wort temp to about 150 degrees. Your PIDs will be monitoring the temps now. Once you get to this point or below you need to remove the water from the HLT and replace it with fresh tap or well water AND 3 or 4 bags of ice. Your temps will start to plummet. NOTE: keep an eye on your temperature or it will blast right by your target pitching temperature. Once your chilled move your wort to your fermentor and get to cleaning. This process is no different than your normal cleaning process except you need to circulate some PBW through the one dirty pump and plate chiller. I will also pour boiling water through both before the next brew session just in case 😉

So, that’s it. It’s a lot of words but the process is really pretty simple. Let me know if you have problems or questions. And if you do build a rig I would love to check it out so send pictures.

As always, please leave me any comments or feedback you might have. Always looking to learn from others.

Happy Brewing,


Update: A cool thing happened a while back. The American Homebrewers Association did a nice little write up on my rig in their “Pimp My System” section. You can check it out here.


The Doghouse Brew Rig Build Part One

The Doghouse Brew Rig Build Part Two – “The Gas System”

The Doghouse Brew Rig Build Part Three – “The Control Panel”

The Doghouse Brew Rig Build Part Four “The Plumbing”

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5 Responses to The Doghouse Brew Rig Build Part Five “How It Works” (Update 8-5-2013)

  1. Hi Clay-
    Thank you for detailing your build and rig setup.

    I’m in the process of replicating what you’ve created, and look forward to firing up my rig in the next few weeks.

    I was putting together my control box today but ran into a few snags. In addition to my snags the RTD sensors I’ve got mounted (which i sourced off the links you provided) look nothing like what yours do?
    Also what’s up with the furnace valve sensor ports on the box? I’m looking at all the parts I have and I can’t figure this out? I’m sure it’s a brain fart but any and all assistance will be greatly appreciated.

  2. Just wondering what the maximum output of this machine is (wort output that is). My partner and I are planning on starting a nano scale brewery with a system that mimics your design and we were wondering if it is going to be big enough.


  3. I really like your system, i am thinking of doing something simaler.I work in the gas field so the parts or common to me.Any advise you can give?

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