Brew-Boss automated electric brewing review

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by rhilferding, Feb 29, 2016.

  1. rhilferding

    rhilferding Initiate (0) Feb 13, 2016 Florida

    Hi,

    This is my review of the Brew-Boss system I purchased in late 2015. I hope you find it helpful.


    Some background:

    I am the 2014 AHA Homebrewer of the year and am in the process of opening my own brewery. It is a nano-brewery with a tasting room and I wanted a small pilot system that was electric and automated. I did all the research and I selected the Brew-Boss system, with a COFI filter and hops boss in the 20 gallon size. The purpose of this review is to share what I have learned. I was previously a BIAB brewer (5 gallon batch) so it made sense to me that this would be a good way to go.

    Set-Up:

    I was completely impressed with the equipment when it arrived. The packaging was precise and well executed! No damage, nothing missing, and easy to unpack. Smaller boxes were nested so nothing shifted in the large cartons. I did the Set up following the instructions well and the only issue I had was finding a table the height I needed. I eventually went to a used restaurant supply and bought a 2’ x 4’ stainless table. Cut the legs down, cleaned it up and that was that. The COFI filter or a Brew in the bag bag needs to be lifted out after mashing and grain for a high gravity 15 gal batch is heavy so I needed a set up low enough to get a block and tackle ( a small one - not ship sized) above it.

    I had a GFI Outlet already so wiring was easy. The tablet came pre-configured so once I figured out how to use it(I’m an iPad guy so Android was —ummm— different) I was ready.

    The water test:

    I confess that I was a tad worried so I actually did the water test before brewing. Those of you who know me realize that following directions is not my strongest attribute... Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Everything went smoothly and I was surprised when the tablet voice prompted me. I would prefer a different voice (maybe Scarlett Johansen) but it was still cool.



    The Software:

    For my first batch, I decided to make 15 gallons of Way Off Kilter, a Scottish Ale that won BOS in 2014. I make this beer a lot in different ways (BIAB, conventional and a collaboration with a local brewery in 10 BBL lots) so I felt that it would be a good test to start.

    I up-scaled my recipe using Beersmith and then programmed the software with my recipe. I opened an existing program and did a “save as” then modified the steps. Honestly, I had a couple of issues (see iPad note above) and had to ask Darrin to help. He was prompt with his response, and solved my issues immediately. Now after 5 brew days, I finally understand what is going on in the software. The problems I had were caused by me not thinking in an automated way, but in a conventional way. By batch three everything started to fall into place.

    The features I like (a lot) about the software are (in no particular order):

    • The boil is automatically maintained at the temperature I want.
    • voice prompts along the way
    • automated hop additions with the hops boss - this was always an issue for me, I’d get distracted and miss the addition.
    • Did I mention she talks to me?
    • Recipe programs can be saved and reused.
    • I wrote a “cleanup” program for cleaning the kettle, pump and lines - heats up some water - tells me to add PBW - then recirculates through all the hoses! It’s sweet…

    The features I struggled with were:

    • The programming steps require a lot of attention to detail. there are a lot of settings and you have to be sure you set each flag for each step to do what you want it to do. See note above about me and directions.

    • The window that you “type into” is a little awkward on the last line or two… I figured it out, but at first it caused me some issues.

    The Hardware:

    In addition to the controller and the 20 gallon kettle, I also purchased the COFI Filter, the Hops-Boss, and the Swirl-Boss whirlpooling wand.

    Kettle: Well made, good welds, clean. No issues at all and it seemed heavy.

    Element: Mounts to the kettle with a TC Clamp and plugs into the controller. Well made - be sure to keep it clean!

    COFI Filter: This is a stainless mesh cylinder with a center copper pipe that forced water (then wort) into the grain while the mash recirculates. Once mashing is complete, you thread on a lifting ring and hoist the COFI out of the kettle. I actually think its way better than BIAB except you can’t add dark grains at the end of the mash. If you do that on a regular basis, you need to find an alternative method as you can’t easily open the COFI Filter to insert the grains. I have made a cold tea of the dark grains that worked quite well when I add it at the end of the mash in. I also tried a batch where I put the dark grains in on the top and found that worked as well. I suspect that there is an optimal way to avoid dark grain astringency and I will continue to experiment.



    Hops Boss: Oh man this is a cool idea! You mount the hops boss after you pull the COFI or BIAB and load the little tubes with hops, whirl flock, or whatever. The software tells it when to advance and the hops just slide right in! You only have 7 tubes but you can load them up more than once. Takes all the “crap - I missed the alarm” out of brewing. Very well made and easy to take apart to clean.

    Swirl-Boss: OK I was skeptical about this one. It’s a copper pipe with a funny hole in the end. And the whirlpool is supposed to be done in hot wort allowing air to enter! Crazy stuff- right? Having said that - I did that exactly on my test batch of Scottish Ale and can report the following”

    • The cone of hot break and true was beautiful! I never before got whirl pooling to work so well as it did.

    • The tablet reminded me not only to mount the swirl-boss but to open certain valves. The software took it from there!

    • There was no difference in taste between hot side aeration with the swirl boss and the way I did it before! I saved time and no carboy shaking either!

    Support: Honestly, the most important thing to me is support. I want someone to talk to who can answer my questions. At the same time, I want to be able to develop my own solutions. Darrin was there for me and provided concrete solutions and advise.

    Conclusion: This is a great solution for me! I can repeatedly brew small batches, try out recipes before going to the main system while having repeatable steps, and do other things while the software ( I really need to give her a name) keeps track of everything. I recommend Brew-Boss to anyone seeking an electric brewing system with automation.
     
  2. MachIPA

    MachIPA Aspirant (231) Feb 25, 2014 New Jersey
    Trader

    I bought a Brew Boss system as well. I ran the water test and I am making my first batch of beer on Sunday. It's a great system for dialing in recipes.
     
  3. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (2,297) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Premium

    Welcome to the BA site, rhilferding. Great review info, and I'm glad it went well for you. Good luck in getting your brewery up and running. Do you have an estimated time frame to be open? Soon, like in May? And where are you? I'm going to be in the Orlando, Tampa/St. Pete area then, and would love to be an early customer.
     
  4. rhilferding

    rhilferding Initiate (0) Feb 13, 2016 Florida

    Sorry to take so long to answer -- its been crazy. We are in Zephyrhills, FL north of Tampa. details at zbcbeer.com or Facebook Zephyrhills Brewing Company.

    Thanks for the kind words,
    Robert