14 top answers – home brewery controllers | (2023)

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An electric home brewery controller, mash controller or boil controller is a huge investment in your home brewery. But how do you know you are ready or if your house wiring is up to the task? How do you know if you even need a home brewery controller? We have compiled the top 14 questions asked of us over the years and hopefully these answers will help you make the right decision for your home brewery.

1. Does my house have enough power to run an electric home brewery or still controller?

Every house has a main incoming power breaker. This will be in your main electrical panel inside your house or in a panel just under the meter your utility company reads. It’s safe to check these yourself because just opening the main cover or door won’t expose any dangerous wiring. All of the dangerous wiring should be behind another panel that’s behind the cover you can open. But if in doubt, just call a qualified electrician.

If you plan on running a new outlet for your controller and your main power breaker is marked anything less than 200 then we recommend checking with a local electrician before installing one of our 240 Volt electric home brewery controllers. But if you plan on plugging into an existing dryer outlet with a long 10 Gauge extension cord then you should be fine. This is because if you already have an electric dryer then someone has wired your house to support that dryer, and you will run one or the other – the dryer or the controller. If your Electrician determines that you don’t have enough power then you should still be able to run one of our 120V mash or still / boil controllers.

More recently we’ve had customers plug their home breweries into their Level 2 EV or plug-in hybrid charger outlets This is the plug that’s on the wall, not the plug that goes into your car. This solution has a few of advantages. The first advantage is obvious, it’s already in the garage. The second advantage is you usually charge your EV or plug-in hybrid over night which makes that outlet open and available during your brew day. And the third advantage is it’s already a 240V 30 Amp or a 240V 50 Amp outlet and our controllers will work with either one. The one disadvantage is these are usually 3 wire outlets which means if you decide to plug into your EV outlet then you can only run our HERMS or BIAB controller without a GFCI breaker.

(New 2023) I learned a lot more about using Level 2 EV charger power for a home brewery or still since the beginning of last year. To make your charger power run your home brewery, you need to see of your charger is hard wired or plugged into a 220V outlet. If it’s plugged in then the solution is simple – just unplug your charger from wall power and plug your brewery into that 30 or 50 Amp outlet after determining what style of plug the installer used. But if yours is hard wired, you’ll need to have a qualified electrician un-hard wire the charger, add a correctly rated 220V outlet to the existing circuit and add a pigtail and plug to your EV charger to plug into to that outlet. And then you can just swap back and forth to run your brewery or charge your EV.

2. Does my breaker box have enough room for an electric home brewery controller or home still?

If your house has a single electrical panel with a main breaker at the top then open your panel box cover and look at the double row of breakers. If there are what looks like rectangular tabs in spaces under your breakers and there are at least two in a row under the left or right side then there should be enough room for the 2 pole breaker your 220V controller needs.

If your house has a inside electrical panel with just single breakers then look under the power meter for another panel with breakers. If there are what looks like rectangular tabs in spaces under the breakers in this box and there are at least two in a row under the left or right side then there should be enough room for the 2 pole breaker your brewery needs.

(New 2023) In mid-2022 I ran into a home power service entry style I have not seen before. Instead of everything running through a main 200 Amp breaker first, the house had a panel under the meter box with a set of six 220V breakers. I looked a a couple of neighbors panels to see if this was unique, but it seems that the whole neighborhood is wired this way.

A 220V 100 Amp breaker went to a sub-panel on the other side of the house for all of the 110V circuits.
Then a 220V 30 Amp breaker went to the heat pump outside unit
Then a 220V 60 Amp breaker went to the heat pump inside unit and to the heat pump heat strips
Then a 220V 50 Amp breaker went to the stove
Then a 220V 30 Amp breaker went to the dryer
And finally, a 220V 30 Amp breaker went to the water heater.

There was no place for another 220V breaker in the box. To make this work safely, I had to add another outside box next to the existing outside box, then relocate the water heater breaker to the new box and then install the home brewery breaker in the new box. I fed that new box with a new 100 Amp breaker I plugged into the old water heater slot. This is just one example of being safe. If you don’t understand what is going on with your home power then you are far better off hiring a qualified electrician.

3. Can I run my new controller in my kitchen? Can I run my controller off my stove outlet?

One of our 120V mash boil controllers would work great in your kitchen. But a 240V boil controller or a full brewery controller doing a full boil produces too much steam almost any most kitchen exhaust fan. If you plan to run one of our 240V controllers off a dryer outlet or stove outlet, you’d be much happier running it out back or in your garage with a heavy duty 10 Gauge extension cord. All of our 220V controllers work well, even when plugged into a 10 Gauge extension cord as long as 100 feet.

The best long term home brewery setup is one that’s run on it’s own dedicated power circuit. Most customers eventually install a dedicated 30 Amp brewery outlet in their garage or on their covered back patio.

4. I’ve brew with propane and mash in a GOTT cooler, and I have done this for years. Why should I buy an electric brewery controller?

Well… Maybe you shouldn’t because going electric isn’t for everyone! Maybe you should ask yourself a few questions and then decide.

Are you happy with the beer you produce today?
Then maybe you don’t need an electric brewery or boil controller.

Do you want to branch out to new beer styles?
You can do this with or without an electric mash controller depending on how far you want to go. But at some stage you will want to take control of your mash temperatures and that’s where an electric controller along with a good mash tun and wort circulation come in.

Are you interested in saving money long-term?
(Updated 2023) Propane prices have increased 10% from January 2021 to January 2022, and as of January 2022 prices are up 50% from their 2020 low. As of New Years Day of 2023, propane prices are about where they were a year ago – about $2.68 a pound nationwide. On average you’ll use about 5 pounds of propane, or $13 – $14 of propane for a full wort boil. And then there is the hassle of getting your tank filled or exchanging for a new tank of propane.

So, maybe you only need a 240V boil controller so you can stop spending so much money on propane? A typical electric powered homebrew boil will consume about $2.00 of electricity.

Do you want to brew in your garage or a semi-closed space year around?
Then depending on your setup a BIAB, HERMS or Full Brewery controller is probably your best choice. But you also need to have a dedicated outlet installed for your home brewery. You won’t need as much ventilation as a propane fired burner because an electric boil or brewery controller does not produce the poisonous carbon monoxide an open flame produces. But you will still need enough ventilation to pull out the steam produced during a full boil. A box fan under your partly opened garage door or a box fan pulling out of a window will work great.

Do you want the control over your mash temperature that an electric brewery can provide?
A 120V or 240V mash controller will provide all of the temperature control you need, even for a 10 gallon grain bill. Then you need to decide if you want to also run an electric boil. Many of our customers are happy with a 120V mash controller and a separate 240V boil controller. But others install a BIAB or HERMS controller to keep everything in one box.

5. Can I brew in my basement?

Most basements are somewhat closed up with limited air circulation. So, the answer is yes as long as you can provide enough air circulation to handle the steam produced by your boil. You will also need running water and a good drain. Also consider that you will be carrying 50 pound sacks of grain downstairs and heavy water logged spent grain back upstairs. Many customers who originally decide to set up a basement brewery end up setting up their brewery up in their garage instead because it was easier.

6. Can I legally run a still in my house?

In the USA the quick answer is ‘No’, at least not legally without a Federal license. The Federal Government doesn’t care if you run a still. They just want to collect their Federal excise taxes on any distilled spirits you produce, which BTW is $13.50 per proof gallon. A proof gallon is one gallon of 50%, or 100 proof distilled alcohol. Produce 150 proof and your tax goes up to $20.25 a gallon. And don’t forget that you also have to comply with your State licensing and fees. And I disagree with these taxes as much as anyone else. It’s the same product as before passing through your still, you just took most of the water out!

(Updated 2023) And I know, everyone’s seen Moonshiners. I know enough about distilling to say that 80% of what you saw on the early shows was total Bull S&#t. Moonshiners is a made for entertainment program just like any other syndicated program. Most of their early recipes and processes were very incomplete or just plain wrong. You don’t just light up a still, run through a thumper full of cold water and produce product. A thumper or doubler gets pre-loaded with the final proof of your product. You also don’t start a mash by adding table sugar to water and then dumping in a bunch of corn. But the series has much improved over the years and they are showing more and more of the real deal. My only real issue today is the glass jars some of the actors are calling thumpers. And all these glass jars the actors are running ‘whatever’ through aren’t thumpers.

But Moonshiners is still fun to watch! And of all their cast, I believe that Tim and Tickle really do know what they’re doing and they’ve shown their stuff all long. I’m not saying the rest of the cast don’t know their stuff. It’s just that a lot of what they do, they do for TV. And even though they are a ‘made for entertainment’ program, I’d love to be on one of their shows!

7. But can I run a still in my house?

Sure you can, and we can sell you a 220V boil controller that will run a fine home still. Just remember that people talk. Family talks to you and family talks to others. And if you start making enough to share then someone will tell someone who will tell someone else, who will tell someone else, and soon the Feds will be knocking on your door.

8. Do I need a brewery or mash controller to run shine?

(Updated 2023) No, but you might need a boil controller to control the rate of boil in your home still. A lot depends on the type of still you are running and it’s sensitivity to the amount of heat you are adding.

The least sensitive still will be a pot still with a condenser, but even with one of these the harder your boil the weaker your output. The reason is as your boil rate increases your steam will contain more and more water. But as long as you go with a 220V element its easy enough to swap out element wattages until it’s set up right. You could start with a 5500 Watt element, step down to a 3500 Watt, etc.. until you are applying the right amount of heat. But a 5500 Watt element with a boil controller will give you the most flexibility with a simple pot still.

A column still has to balance the heat source at the bottom with the cooling coil at the top of the column. And it’s easy to over-run a column still with too large an element causing the steam to blow past your column’s condenser. Because of this you really need a element managed with a boil controller to set a column still up right.

9. Do I need a Federal license to produce alcohol for fuel, even if I don’t intend to drink it?

Yes, you are still supposed to get a license but you don’t have to pay the same Federal taxes for alcohol produced as fuel. You will need to produce a plan to denature your alcohol as soon as it comes out of the still. Denaturing makes your alcohol undrinkable and most home fuel producers denature their alcohol by adding gasoline. But don’t build a pot still with a thumper and expect the Feds to believe you are making fuel. The Feds know better, they know that a thumper setup can’t run high enough proof to run in a car engine. It takes a high end still that can run at 98% or better to produce fuel.

10. I have natural gas at my house and I’m brewing with propane. Should I invest in a home brewery controller?

The quick answer is ‘No’, and here’s why. The least costly way to boil your wort is with natural gas. Natural gas is cheaper than electric and WAY cheaper than propane, so you should switch your boil from propane to natural gas as soon as possible. And if you are concerned about others knowing about your home brewery then just have the gas company install a port for a gas grill on your deck. No-one needs to know that you are boiling wort in your backyard.

Then once you are saving money on your boil you can decide if you are happy with doing your mash as-is or if you want to spend some of your savings on one of our mash controllers.

11. Which one of your controllers is the best one?

We get this question over and over again. And we really don’t have a ‘best’ controller because all of our controllers from the most basic boil controller to our full brewery controller are manufactured with the same high quality components. Every one of our controllers uses the same quality SSR (Solid State Relay) and every one of our controllers fully disconnects outgoing power from incoming power when the E-stop (red stop button) is hit for safety.

The PWM controllers we use are designed and built in house and our Mash Temperature PID controllers are all purchased from MyPIN in China. Also, all of our housings are made of metal. Our production controller housings are aluminum and custom commercial controllers are built in steel NEMA housings.

But I can tell you that until recently our most popular controllers are were HERMS an BIAB controllers. But lately our 120V and 240V boil controllers have been outselling both. My best guess is Moonshiners is impacting our sales. When the Moonshiners program is on we sometimes sell more 240V boil controllers than anything else. I’m sure you can guess why!

12. Why do you only sell controllers and not brew kettles, fermenters or mash tuns? Who makes the best Brew Kettles, Fermenters and MASH Tuns?

Years ago we sold Blichmann equipment. And Blichmann makes good stainless steel stuff but we over extended ourselves to the point where we almost failed. Then I pulled back to what we are really good at – electronics. Later I looked at importing stainless steel from China but I stopped because there are too many quality stainless steel vendors already in the US. Blichmann and Spike Brewing both make great stainless steel products and you can’t go wrong with any of their stainless.

(Updated 2023) My personal favorite stainless supplier is Spike Brewing. Everything they manufacture is high quality and I don’t think you will go wrong with Spike Brewing stainless. And they will customize! They also manufacture their own controllers but I don’t have an opinion of Spike Brewing’s controllers. My second favorite stainless supplier is Blichmann. All of their stainless steel equipment is high quality and Blichmann has been a great innovator in the market place. I especially like Blichmann’s RIMS Rocket. I do have an opinion of their controllers based on a few customers who have used our controllers and theirs. It’s not positive.

13. I can buy an InkBird controller for less than $150 on eBay or Amazon. Why should I buy one of your controllers when I can spend less on one of these controllers?

For starters you can buy anything you want – it’s your money.

(Updated 2023) We have bought few InkBird controllers and opened them up, and what’s inside is not even close to safe at the power levels they are rated to handle. But I know that a lot of these have sold and a lot of users claim they work great. The few customers I’ve talked to tell me they get hot. If you are using one, please make sure you have your home brewery or still is set up so that if something goes wrong you can unplug everything in a hurry. I’m convinced that if it hasn’t already happened, someone will burn down his house with one of these. So please make sure it’s not yours!

(Updated 2023) In late 2021 and early 2022 we started seeing other cheap InkBird like controllers pop up on Amazon and Ebay. And just like InkBird controllers we cut apart, their cheap prices tell me that they can’t be safe at the current they can supposedly handle. I guess us Americans can’t resist a good deal, no matter the real cost.

(Updated 2023) When an “Inkbird WiFi ITC-308 Digital Temperature Controller Thermostat Remote Monitoring Controlling Home Brewing Fermentation Breeding Incubation Greenhouse controller” sells on Amazon for less than my cost of the internal electronic components of even our least costly controller then there’s something wrong, and it’s not us! And please don’t call me a greedy business because of my ‘high prices’. I guarantee the Chinese who are selling those Inkbird and similar controllers are making more profit on their sales than I am on mine. They aren’t paying for the labor I’m paying for and they aren’t paying the taxes I’m paying.

14. I what to go commercial. Can I use one of your controllers for a small scale commercial brewery?

While we do produce a commercial line of controllers, these controllers are really for a small batch micro-brewery and we have built quite a few small scale controllers for microbreweries. Our commercial and custom series controllers are designed to handle up to a 4 barrel system and we have no problem managing up to 100 Amps, or 24,000 Watts of heating elements. But electric brewery controllers really don’t scale up to larger systems because natural gas does a much better and less costly job at large scale. So you have to ask yourself where you are going with your brewery and if you intend to grow past 4 barrels then an electric setup really isn’t for you.

Because our commercial type controllers are based on the same technology as our homebrew controllers we can custom design a controller for you without breaking the bank. Please contact us if you have a need and we will be more than happy to talk about controller design and options.