Half Barrel Brewery

Half barrel brewery with full triclover plumbing

The below picture is the most current version of my brew system which included full triclover fittings.  What a difference these fittings make in the ease of the brew.  I have a lot less spillage as I don’t have to switch tubing around, off and on nipple fittings, etc.  It’s a bit more expensive though.

See the menu at the top to learn all about brewing-to-kegging on this system.

The beauty of this system is that you use all of the same plumbing you use to brew, but also use it to clean kegs and transfer beer – it’s all-in-one.

–> See ‘Cleaning and Disassembly

Half barrel brewery

Half Barrel Brewery – November 2012

System specifics

I currently use this system to brew 12 gallon batches to get a clean 10 gallons during kegging. Essentially leaving a gallon of trub behind at pumpout and a gallon of trub/yeast behind during kegging (makes filtering alot easier). I used to brew 15 gallon batches (maximizing the system). I had A LOT of boilovers.  After trub and yeast waste, I actually only ever ended up with about 13 gallons at kegging.  Also I found a link between 15 gallon batch sizes and a lower RDF (I was only fermenting out to 1.018-1.020) which was too high.  I think it has to do with the geometry of the grain bed being so tall.  I am still testing the theory.  You will note that the big breweries have very wide mash-tuns compared to using a 1/2 barrel system.  So even though I can stuff our mash-tuns full of grain for high-gravity brews or try to get it to 15+ gallons, it’s just too tall of a grain bed for efficiency…and if you add any rice/oatmeal as an adjunct, forget about a nice, easy brew day.

Overlapping brews

I also designed this system to do 2 and 3 brews per session.  With this setup, you can overlap recipes to save time.  After your first batch is sparged and pumped to the top boil kettle, you start heating up your water in the mash-tun for your second batch.  Depending on your boil time for your first batch, your second batch will be mashing during pumpout of your first batch.

 Older versions – and cheaper

Here is my second version of the half barrel system replacing many parts with 1/1.5″ triclover sanitary fittings (note that the sparge arm will attach to the ‘T’ that is hanging off of the topmost boil kettle).  I am still using the very bottom ‘Grant’ as the RIMS gravity collecting tank which I have discontinued in the above system.

Here is my original system using mainly silicone tubing and stainless barbs:

Half barrel System late 2011

When designing your home brewery, I would recommend doing a year or so with ‘soft’ plumbing…hose barbs, silicone tubing, etc.  It may be messy, but it’s very flexible so you can figure out what works best with your particular style of brewing before spending more money to eventually hard-plumb it.

7 thoughts on “Half Barrel Brewery

  1. Breck

    Wow, your system looks fantastic. I’m a new (read: stovetop) brewer, but I aspire to a system like this, eventually. I’m a believer in the compact 3-tier system, makes good sense to me. How easily does it break down for cleaning? I’d like to see a post describing that process.

    Happy Brewing,


    1. halfbarrelbrewer Post author

      Cleaning is easy with triclover fittings. You just disconnect what you want to take out and clean (usually only the big cylindrical trub filter). To empty the MLT of grain, you just disconnect the triclover in front and pull it out.

      The day after I brew, I usually hook the wort chiller back up, put PBW in the MLT, hot rinse water in the BK heat everything up to about 160 degrees and let the PBW solution recirculate through the plumbing and Therminator to clean it for about 30 minutes. I then rinse all plumbing with the hot BK rinse water. I usually don’t have to disconnect any of the plumbing. It’s just a spit shine after that.

  2. Luc Gendron

    I’m just starting to build a system. I am planning to use triclover connections, as I have someone to weld them on. I was wondering what you use for pickup tubes; I’ve seen the triclover one available from brewers hardware, but not sure if it will work on a sanke style keg. Any suggestions?
    Btw, great site!

      1. Luc

        Yeah, sorry that was very unclear!
        I was referring to what you would have inside the kettle to pick up the liquid off the bottom. Or perhaps there is no tube inside the kettle and some liquid remains at the bottom?

      2. halfbarrelbrewer Post author

        As far as the kettle innards, the valved opening is an inch or two from the curved bottom…as that is where the trub and hops will settle before you pumpout…so you don’t want to pick that stuff up into your therminator or fermentor. So for the kettle, don’t try to have a tube go in to the bottom center.

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