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I've always been frustrated in my brewing by cleaning and futzing. I'm a lazy brewer (OK, I'm just lazy in general). I tend to leave all cleaning until the last minute. That means when I do clean it usually involves a lot of hot water, chemicals, and cursing.
My brewing system is an ad-hoc collection of tubes and gadgets that gets the job done, but requires a lot of connection and disconnection and searching through boxes to find the right part at the right time. Since I'm always tired at the end of a brewing session (especially if I managed to clean everything that I got dirty), I never have the patience to organize all these gadgets for the next brewing session.
My laziness and my ad-hoc system leads to delays and mistakes during brewing. And that leads to disappointments in the final product. Although I always make beer that I like far better than many of the commercial alternatives, I know that I can do better.
One of my brewing goals is to have a system that supports recipe and process experimentation. To me, experimentation means comparing two or more beers made by keeping all aspects of recipe and process constant except for one, the variable. To achieve this goal, I need to have a brewing system that is repeatable and flexible. And in order that I may eventually get some sleep, the system must also be efficient with my time.
Recently I went on a tour of Gordon Biersch's brewery, and the scales fell from my eyes. There is a term in industry called clean-in-place ("CIP"), in which an operator accomplishes all the cleaning by pressing a button! WHY DIDN'T MY HOMEBREW SUPPLY STORE TELL ME ABOUT THIS???
Since that trip, I have been brainstorming a small-scale system that will achieve CIP and all my other goals. This blog is the story of my quest for the ultimate automated home brewing system.
The first order of business is to review the state of the art. I have started compiling a database of DIY and commercial brewing systems with various vital statistics and links. The data is sortable and organized into categories. You can browse the list here and you can submit new records to the database here.