Brewery build pt 1: control panel exterior

I’m building a new brewery! An all triclover, hard plumbed, 2 vessel, recirculating, no sparge, kettle-RIMS. My goals in the design of this brewery have been to cut down on the length of brew days (hence the no sparge), to have a totally sanitary design, and to have the ability to brew 10 and 15 gallon batches.

On the weekend, as my old electric brewery went out the door, I began work on my new control panel.

It started with your standard waterproof NEMA box. This one is about 14″x14″x8″ in size.

 

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The receptacle layout on the control panel required some planning. I’m using 8 XLR ports for digital temperature probes (DS18B20s). For the main power connection I’m using an L16-30 flanged male receptacle. An L6-30 female receptacle is used for the connection to the 5500 watt element. 3 duplex L5-15 receptacles are used for keg fridge heating and cooling, fermentation chamber heating and cooling, and two pumps for the brewery. For anybody building their own control panel, I highly suggest getting quality receptacles. The Pass & Seymour receptacles I used for the L5-15 duplex receptacles were much nicer than the no name receptacles I bought from China on ebay. You can usually find deals on quality new-old-stock receptacles on ebay – they’re worth the money! For this build I decided to go with locking receptacles when possible. I like the extra security the locking receptacles provide. The locking receptacles cost a bit more, but I thought it was a justifiable expense here.

 

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Once I decided on a layout, I did some math to make sure everything was spaced nicely…

 

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Next we cut everything out. I used a combination of a hole saw, a cutting disc on my angle grinder, and a step bit to do all of this.

 

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Next job is to sand around all the cuts and prep for painting. I used a sanding disc on my angle grinder, sand paper, and metal files for this bit.

 

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Paint! Electric brewers always seem to go for the “hammered black” look on their control panels. It hides imperfections well and leaves a durable, rugged looking finish. I didn’t stray from this formula.

 

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Everything fits! I added wiring to all receptacles before installing them, with lots of extra length to work with (the actual wiring of the control panel is saved for the next instalment of my build log). The XLR connections weren’t very fun to do. Each XLR connection requires 3 wires soldered, which is tricky because the plastic in the connectors melts very easily when the pins heat up. I’m glad I bought 10 XLR connectors. I soldered all 10 up, and chose the best 8 to use in my panel. I also included a panel fan, to keep the internals nice and cool when the SSRs are working hard.

 

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Lastly, I made all of these power cords with the appropriate gauges of SOOW cable. This type of cable is ideal for DIY power cords as it has a very thick rubber sheathing, internal reinforcement, remains quite flexible as all wires are stranded, and is oil resistant. They all fit nicely into the bottom of my control panel.


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The most challenging part of my control panel build has yet to come. I decided to make my wiring more difficult on this control panel build by including LED buttons on the front of the panel. I think they will look snazzy, but I’m half regretting it already!

  6 comments for “Brewery build pt 1: control panel exterior

  1. July 11, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Your panel designs are truly works of art. When I did mine, I was going purely for functionality and simplicity. I still haven’t drilled for my XLR ports and I’m brewing.

    I’m excited to see your new system in action and follow your build progress.

    • Justin
      July 11, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      Thanks man! The XLR ports are definitely a bit tedious. Using a patch panel like on my previous build would certainly have been easier… so quick using a punch down tool to chain a bunch of ports together. XLRs seemed like the more durable option, so that’s why I went this way with this one (not that I was having any problems with the last panel).

  2. Rick Hutfloetz
    July 11, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m going to take the plunge and go electric at some point and would love to model mine after yours.

  3. July 12, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Looks fantastic, Justin! We recently had solar installed on our house and it’s looking like we’re generating more power than we’re using, even with these AC-always-on Summer days, which has made electricity effectively less expensive than natural gas. As such, I’ve been considering swapping out my current NG setup for electric… I’m just scared of killing myself and don’t really know where to start.

    • Justin
      July 12, 2016 at 10:15 am

      That is so cool! Solar powered brewing… I wonder if there are any micros that tout themselves as making their beer with sunlight… The setup required to do parallel brews for your experiments would be pretty intense.

      I’m sure your propane costs add up. For a 10 gallon batch I wouldn’t expect you’d use more than 10 kwh of electricity – about $1-2 here.

      In Ontario there used to be huge subsidies for solar power generation. It was really the only thing that made it economical for residential installations. Those have largely tapered off now. Even still, I love the idea and would like to look into it for my next place.

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