When we started out, years ago, we were mostly messing about on a ‘three vessel’ home-brewing system. Messing being the operative word. They say you aren’t a proper brewer until you have to throw a batch away. By that paradigm we were on track to better Dom Perignon.
Three vessel systems are - shock - three separate containers: Hot Liquor Tank, Mash Tun, and Boil Kettle. All of these vary in size, shape and technological advancement but it is the same theory behind the same processes no matter where or what level you are brewing at (one of the many things that makes this process so beautiful). Grain + water - grain + heat + hops + time - heat + yeast + heat = beer.
The hot liquor tank has the least intuitive name - brewers refer to water as liquor. The only thing you use the Hot Liquor Tank for is heating up water. The Mash Tun is where you mash grain. Crushed grain is mixed in with water, deliberately and carefully, at about 150°F to convert starches to sugar. The bottom of the mash tun has a metal screen at the bottom, which allows you to drain the wort (which is what you call the water in the mash tun after it has mixed in with the grain) without getting any grain along with it. The Boil Kettle is exactly what it sounds like and is the most recognisable aspect of the brewing process. It’s where the wort is boiled and hops are added to get the particular flavour and style. Bluffer's guide to brewing tip - the kettle heats the wort not the water.
The biggest problem on the traditional ‘home-brew’ setups is consistency. Brewing is delightfully contradictory sometimes - it’s about controlling all the controllables, embracing the uncontrollables and enjoying that mix. With three vessel brewing you often find yourself working hard to control one thing at the expense of the others. Mashing temperature, say - so dependent on the external climate conditions at the best of times, is focused on at the expense of so many other matters that should have your attention. There are too many unknown unknowns - whilst beautiful in one way, it makes for replicating a recipe extremely difficult.
Step forward our old friend the Braumeister.
Brewing your own beer from scratch can be back-breaking work and it can be complicated. Novices - like us when we started out - often struggle with the subtleties of a big three vessel kit (not least when the place that owns them goes bust) and frankly, even proficient brewers could do with a little mechanical help if only to reduce the time between starting a fresh batch and sitting down to drink it.The Speidel Braumeister is an automated brewing system that does almost everything for you short of drinking the beer on your behalf lol lolololl sorry.
There are two big differences. It is automated and all three vessels are in one. So it cuts out both some of the manual and some of the mental labour for us. We don’t have to worry about mashing malt, which the unit does automatically. The system also boils the wort and it doesn’t need to be stirred constantly. Their malt pipe technology - which they have patented, clever buggers, gently circulates the beer wort which, they claim, enhances the malty flavour of the final product. But the big, big advantage is that the system maintains consistent temperature and timing throughout the brewing process. This is crucial for small breweries, as it allows them to easily and cheaply refine recipes, which itself is a tangible contribution to the excellence of some of the smaller breweries around.
We have been using Braumeisters for all our recipe testing since before we were a going concern. We knew we needed to get as accurate a small batch as possible and that the traditional three vessel setup was not going to be able to do that for us without wasting a lot of time, money and beer. Work smart as well as working hard, and all that. Be careful though, this isn’t a set-and-forget kind of system. You still need to manually lauter the wort. You also need to add the hops in yourself during the boil.