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DIY Universal Heating Element

Posted by brianj on 2/25/2015 at 01:48:13 PM

Editor's note: You should always consult an electrician before building, installing, and using DIY electrical projects.

I brew electric but my setup is quite simple. I have 2 of these elements installed in my boil kettle (also doubles as my HLT). This is a good project if you want to start converting over to electric but do not want to get into elaborate panels. The only caveat is if you are using more than 1 of these, make sure you plug them into separate circuits. Otherwise, the current draw will be too great and you will pop a breaker. For my setup, I installed 2 dedicated 120v / 20A GFCI switched outlets in my brew area. You will find many electric setups use much stronger heating elements and have some type of system in place to dial back the current once you achieve a boil. The reason for this design is for a few reasons.
  1. There is a greater liklihood that you have 120v outlets available as opposed to 240v.
  2. You can regulate the current simply by turning elements on or off (as mentioned above, mine connect to individual switched outlets).
  3. If an element fails in the middle of your brew day, you can still struggle along with one less. It's not preferable, but it beats having to dump.

You can take this project and install it into pretty much anything you can drill a hole in (kettle, mash tun, whatever). One point that I will stress is if you decide to not use the exact model heating element listed here, make sure you choose a ULWD (Ultra Low Watt Density) element so that you do not scorch your wort.

Parts List:
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Wire Strippers
  • 1" Hole Saw

  1. Drill a 1" hole in the outlet cover. File any rough edges.

  2. Insert the heating element so that the connections are on the inside of the outlet cover.

  3. JB Weld the heating element in place. Technically this step is not 100% necessary because once the element is installed, the nut will hold everything tight in place. However, I feel that by sealing it in with JB Weld, it makes the element easier to handle while installing and offers an additional layer of water-proofing.

  4. While the JB Weld is curing, prepare the outlet box. Remove one of the knockouts where you will feed the wire through. Waterproof the rest of the box. I wrapped the inside in electrical tape because the usused knockouts can have a little bit of a gap between them and the box. Also, you will see that I took some of the JB Weld I had mixed up and plugged the larger holes in the bottom. Alternatively, you could also seal these with silicone at the end of the project.

  5. Disassemble the cable connector and thread the nut and rubber seal as shown. If the rubber seal is extremely snug, you can apply a little oil or WD-40 to lubricate the wire.

  6. Insert the male end of the connector into your knockout from the inside of the box. Feed the wire through (make sure you leave enough slack to work with). The rubber seal will fit inside the male end of the connector. Tighten the nut which will make the connection waterproof.

  7. Connect the black wire to one terminal on the heating element and the white to the other. It does not matter which goes to which. There aren't designated hot and neutral sides on these elements.

  8. I prefer to wrap these connections in electric tape. It isn't strictly necessary, but is good practice for additional protection. When I do this, I wrap one terminal and then the other so that there is no possibility of a stray strand of wire arcing to the other side.

  9. Attach the cover/heating element assembly to the box. Make sure to wrap the ground wire around one of the screws that secures the lid to the box. This will ground the unit.

  10. Now that the element assembly is complete, strip the wires at the other end and attach to the plug. I already had this together when I took these pics, but it is really straightforward. The plug will tell you what is hot, neutral, and ground.
    • Black = Hot
    • White = Neutral
    • Green = Ground

  11. Lastly, run a bead of silicone around the edge of the box where the lid meets it. This will be your final stage of waterproofing. If you skipped any of the waterproofing steps above, now is the time to make sure everything is sealed up.
Finished Product:

Here is an exploded look of how the element will look when installing inside of a kettle. Drill a hole in the side of the kettle using the same method you did to make the hole in the outlet box cover above.
  1. Feed the element assembly through the hole from the outside.
  2. Slide a silicone O-ring over the element.
  3. Slide 1" NPT locknut over the element. This can be snug, but it fits. You may just have to wiggle the nut a little bit.

My Kettle/HLT:

Drink your mistakes! It's the only sure way to drive the lesson home.

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Good write up. I would suggest using ring crimps on the ends of the wire instead of just wrapping the wires around the screw. Less chance of a wire or wire strand coming loose and causing problems.

posted by bo.dangles on 2/25/2015 at 02:19:24 PM

Good point. Thanks for the read and the input.

posted by brianj on 2/25/2015 at 03:04:19 PM

Do you think I old computer cord would work just cut off the end?

posted by adriedel on 2/26/2015 at 09:08:14 AM

I don't think it would be a big enough gauge and the wire might get too hot. Plus I prefer the SJOOW cords since they are rated for outdoors which means they are a bit more durable.

If you decide to go with a more cost-effective wire, I would at the very minimum recommend that it be 12 guage.

posted by brianj on 2/26/2015 at 09:39:32 AM

By the way, at my local Lowe's store (where I bought the wire) it's only $1.18 per foot. It's pretty reasonable for what you are getting.

posted by brianj on 2/26/2015 at 09:47:48 AM

You also don't have to get 10'. It was just a suggested happy medium. You could go longer or shorter to fit your needs.

posted by brianj on 2/26/2015 at 10:08:10 AM

Tags for this post: DIY, heating, element, ULWD, electric, 120v, 1500w, kettle

The New Domain Name for our Community has been Chosen!

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/24/2015 at 12:37:45 AM

Last summer, when I first approached the charter member group with the idea of taking my personal blog and transforming it into a full community, an issue came up - namely, the domain name of "". The argument was that it was a fine name for one guy's blog, but that it probably wasn't the best choice for an inclusive community. Well, I was reluctant to make a change in this area; after all, I had built up my "brand", as well as some decent search engine indexing, over the previous two and a half years. The community, I reasoned, would benefit from the built in exposure that would come from this existing presence, and so, I pushed to leave things be.

Just over a month ago, we celebrated the transformation of from one guy's beer blog (plus a few odds and ends) into a full online community for homebrewers. While the response was pretty positive (we have grown to nearly four hundred members in this short time), the issue came up again. Once again, though, I was really reluctant to make a change.

Then, last week, I made my post about how homebrewing should be more friendly to women. This time, the subject came back with a vengeance. How could I claim to want to have a community for all brewers when I insisted on keeping a name that was hardly inclusive to women? The charter members laid it on pretty thick, arguing for a...
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Tags for this post: domain, name, community, voting, results

Homebrewing Needs a Woman's Touch

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/19/2015 at 11:11:18 AM


It goes without saying that I love brewing.  I find it to be such a versatile hobby - maybe you get your satisfaction from the creative aspect of recipe design.  Maybe you are more interested in the scientific angles, what with the various chemical and metabolic concerns related to fermentation.  Maybe you're a gearhead, and you get a sense of accomplishment from putting together the best/fanciest equipment for your brewery.  Perhaps you are a dyed in the wool DIY enthusiast, and your enjoyment comes from designing and assembling your gear.  Maybe you just happen to like beer.

I think that it's fair to say that, yes, a lot of factors enter into the motivations for brewing.  That diversity is really enjoyable to me, as it seems that it helps to foster a healthy hobby for everyone; people coming at the same problems from so many angles seems to create a lot of valid approaches to (and solutions for) problems that we all encounter.

However, there is one major area that I find homebrewing to be sadly lacking in diversity - and that is in gender. 

It's not like the historical precedent for female brewers isn't there.  In ancient times, brewing was almost exclusively the domain of women.  The same goes for medieval times; women handled the majority of brewing, as it was more of a household chore.  Even in colonial America, women were typically responsible for domestic task of brewing for a home.  In fact, the major impetus for the morphing of...
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Tags for this post: homebrewing, women, misogyny, hobby, brewing

How I Harvest Yeast for Future Brews

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/13/2015 at 11:04:29 AM

It seems that, at some point or another, a large number of home brewers end up with an interest in reusing their yeast. It makes sense; yeast can be one of the more expensive ingredients in any given recipe (liquid yeasts often run around $8 per vial/smack pack, give or take); ignoring this reusability will cost you money. And, let's not overlook the obvious advantages in flexibility that you get by having yeast already on hand.

One of the biggest hurdles to me getting involved in this aspect of homebrewing was the popular method of yeast harvesting that had been pushed for years - that method being yeast rinsing (commonly referred to online as "washing", though these are apparently not one and the same). I had googled various tutorials, and while the approaches had subtle differences, they all came back to the same basic steps - remove some portion of trub from the carboy, rinse that to hopefully yield more or less pure slurry, let it settle, make a complete WAG as to how much actual yeast that you had. It seemed like a lot of trouble, and I had a hard time buying into just how pure the yeast really was.

A little over a year ago, a free thinker from California started discussing an alternate, ridiculously simple method of yeast harvesting on the homebrewtalk forums. It caught some traction; he opened a blog of his own and posted his method there. He focused his blog on a...
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Tags for this post: yeast harvesting, yeast, harvest, starter, brew, brewing, homebrewing

Home Brewed Water: A review of the RO Buddie Filter System

Posted by nickosuave311 on 2/12/2015 at 09:57:52 AM


I’ve been relatively inactive on since its inception, posting only a few recipes of mine and glossing over the dozens of email threads that blow up my phone every day. I can clearly see that this site’s popularity is booming, and since I’m not interesting enough to have my own home brewing blog, I’m going to share my endeavors here.

This past spring, my fiancée and I moved from the city of Minneapolis to a nearby suburb, leaving behind some of the best brewing water in the upper Midwest. Although I now have enough space to store all of my equipment and sate this hobby’s appetite, I am left with something barely passing as “drinking water”. An antiquated water report reveals a hardness north of 300 ppm which is essentially unusable to brew with, and despite my numerous failed attempts to contact the city for an updated report, I was forced to buy my water from the grocery store.

I should point out that making the transition to “blank slate” Reverse Osmosis water has been a change for the positive. Measuring my mash and sparge volumes has never been easier. It took a couple brew days to get my water adjustments dialed in, but because there is essentially no alkalinity to worry about pH adjustment is very simple. The downside is that I was forced to haul 20 one-gallon jugs with me to the grocery store, spend all that time filling them, then hauling them back....
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Tags for this post: RO, water, pH, adjustment, filter, profile

A Brew in the Life - Enchantress (Irish Red)

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/10/2015 at 12:01:05 PM

After my recent forays into the hoppier side of life, I decided that it was time to circle back to my roots and brew something maltier. After kicking it around for a bit, it occurred to me that it had been far too long since I'd had a supply of my Enchantress (a big Irish red) on hand. I'd be lying if I pretended that the fact that the timing was just perfect (this beer should be ready to drink a day or two before St. Patrick's Day) didn't enter into the equation at all.

Enchantress holds a special place in my heart, as this was the first recipe I ever designed. Back then, it started out as a partial mash, and it has evolved a bit over time. I was very happy with the last incarnation of the beer, save one small item - it had a brick red color, where I would really prefer for it to be more of a vibrant red. So naturally, I decided to start fiddling with the process again. This time around, I would completely remove the small amount of carafa III special I had used in the past, and instead, up my roasted barley ever so slightly. Also, I settled on the idea of cold steeping that roasted barley in an effort to smooth out the roastiness it might contribute; honestly, I want that beautiful red color from it, but little else.

This past Christmas, I got a couple of two...
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Tags for this post: brewday, Irish red, ale, brewing, cool steep, split batch, fermentation temperature

Community: Why I brewed a beer for Christmas in January

Posted by zeith on 2/09/2015 at 11:10:45 AM


When I first started brewing, there was very little community, majority of the time it was just me.  I got introduced to homebrewing after a cross country drive quickly turned into a brewery tour from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Seattle, Washington for an internship. After my roommate/driving buddy and I arrived in Seattle after trying 20+breweries along the way, we quickly bought our first homebrew kit and brewed our first batch. We brewed a few extract + steeping grains beers by following LHBS instructions and learning as we went. We drove back to college after stopping at another 20ish breweries and I knew I needed to continue this hobby. However, time got the better of me. Next thing I knew I had graduated, moved out to Seattle full time, and slowly picked the hobby back up.

I had been a long time lurker of reddit (/u/zeith) and figured the only way to improve was to read and practice. I picked up a few basic brewing books and started reading reddit daily. I failed a ton of beers, experimented a lot, swore a lot, and brewed a few average beers. I rarely shared my beer with others except with my brewing buddy from the internship who ended up becoming my roommate again. We would occasionally brew together, but I spent a lot of time on my own; reading, planning, thinking and dreaming.

After eventually moving to All...
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Tags for this post: Christmas, beer, belgian, barleywine

Success! The Wandering Barbarian IPA is Excellent

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/06/2015 at 12:06:38 PM

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the motivation behind the most "international" beer I've ever done - my Wandering Barbarian IPA, which features ingredients from seven different countries and at least four US states. At the time, I was pretty excited about this particular brew... but, in all honestly, I'm always excited about new beers, so I will forgive you if you didn't share in my enthusiasm.

The highlights of this beer - in case you don't care to read the article - are that it features ECY-29 (Conan) yeast, some interesting, fruity hops in El Dorado and Motueka, and a fairly unique grain bill starring Golden Promise and honey malt. On a lark, I ended up picking up some palm sugar from my local Asian market, which is used to both dry the beer a bit, and to hopefully give it some subtle flavor.

Of course, my six ounces of dry hops were intended to be anything but subtle - I was looking for a fruity aroma bomb. Combined with moderate first wort hopping for bitterness, some minor late boil additions, and a big flameout/whirlpool addition (all told, I used 9.5 ounces of hops in this beer!), I was really hoping for smooth bitterness, huge hop flavor, and the aforementioned MASSIVE hop aroma.

Finally, this would be the first beer that I have ever used gelatin on. I planned to follow Brulosopher's gelatin instructions, but I'll confess - I couldn't be...
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Tags for this post: conan, IPA, beer, homebrew, international

A Walk Through My Brew Day

Posted by vinpaysdoc on 2/02/2015 at 09:09:24 PM

I brew indoors in my kitchen. My set up is for 5 gallon all grain batches. Today I brewed a Traditional (uh, sort of traditional) Bock. It's the third time I've brewed this because it's popular with the wife. I'll post the recipe at the end. 
Brew day started a week before by making a 3 liter starter of WLP920. Once the starter was done, I split it into two 2 Liter flasks to cold crash in the refrigerator (5 liter doesn't fit well). Once they had settled out after 48 hours, I decanted beer off both flasks and consolidated them into one. That sat in the refrigerator until today.
After dragging all the equipment out of the basement, I began to collect the 8 gallons of water for the mash. The water is filtered through a charcoal filter, but, I could probably use tap water just as well. I do this by hand with a 2 quart pitcher.

After collection, I add the Campden and water adjustments before beginning to heat.

While the strike water is heating, I measure out the grain and mill it. I use a kitchen scale to measure the grain and a Cereal Killer with a drill attached to mill it.

Once the strike water is heated, I pour it in the mash tun and wait until it comes down to the proper temperature before adding...
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Tags for this post: brew, day, equipment, brewday, process, brewing

Bru'n Water Primer

Posted by vinpaysdoc on 1/27/2015 at 06:52:09 AM

Bru'n Water is an Excel Spreadsheet created Martin Brungard, a homebrewer and Environmental Engineer. You can read his bio at the bottom of the Bru'n Water website. This spreadsheet is a great tool to help brewers adjust their water and grain bill in order to reach an optimum conversion pH for the style of beer they are brewing. The download is FREE! If you do download it and find it useful, send the man a donation and he'll send you a personalized (your name on the sheet) version that has a few improvements.
Read the Instructions (sheet 0) and Water Knowledge (last sheet) Pages
The pages are not long and you'll learn a lot. Much of the information presented in these pages is also available in the program, but, read it here first. It will help you as you start working with the program.
Enter your Water Report Input (sheet 1) from your municipal water report or other water report. Even if you plan on using Distilled or Reverse Osmosis water, go ahead and input your municipal water report. The program will still allow you to use Distilled or Reverse Osmosis water, it's just nice to have your municipal water inputted in case you need to use it in the future.
If you have questions as you input the numbers, hover your cursor over the cell of the value you are putting in. For example, when you hover over the cell "Calcium" a pop-up box with information about how...
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Tags for this post: Water chemistry, Water Adjustments, Mash pH, Bru'n Water

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