Thursday, July 21, 2016

Brew Boss: Single Vessel Brewing Systems Pt1 – Overview

Single Vessel Brewing Systems Pt1 – Overview

Brew-Boss Controller-F

Digital control panel for the Brew-Boss

Brew Boss

Brew-Boss 20-gallon COFI 240V has nice equipment features with good quality, and is easy to clean. None of the other systems come even close to the amount of control and features of its Brew-Boss software/controller and the integration with BeerSmith is a huge plus. The 240V electric power again shows its prowess in time to heat the mash and ability to moderate the boil intensity. (The time in my summary table is for a 13-gallon batch.)

Time Savings

It’s difficult to have a pure comparison in brewing time, as every brew day brings its own surprise challenges you get an opportunity to learn from, batch sizes can be different, grain bills lighter or heavier, etc. With the evaluations here, I brewed different beer styles in order to exercise the equipment through a variety of beer styles. There is also a learning curve on the systems where you figure out little efficiencies to speed up the process. Almost all of these systems have advertised brew times that are notably faster than what I’ve achieved. Those advertised numbers are all probably real, but they should be considered the best you’d ever be able to achieve once you’ve mastered the system and are brewing a simple recipe, not your “average brew day”. That all being said, one of the key aspects I set out to judge across these systems was if they really could shorten the brew day. So here’s an analysis of my numbers (displayed in Hours:Minutes format), and compared to my personal historical times from my start with extract brewing and my more recent all-grain 3-vessel brewing:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Brew Boss- Single Vessel Brewing Systems Pt2 – Reviews

Single Vessel Brewing Systems Pt2 – Reviews


Brew-Boss 20-gallon COFI 240V

Brew Boss

Brew Boss

Brew-Boss has multiple different systems for all-in-one brewing. They range in price and in functionality. They all use the Brew-Boss controller and its impressive software, and make use of custom kettles with tri-clamp fittings to make cleaning super easy. The mashing options start with a false bottom and regular BIAB bag, step up to a stainless steel mesh basket with a type of “trickle down” sprinkler head to drip recirculating wort, and the top of the line option is what they call COFI center infusion basket. With the COFI basket, recirculating wort gets pumped into a rod that goes down through the center of the mash basket filled with your grains, and then sprays out through holes along its surface to circulate wort throughout the grain bed at all levels. There’s also a dizzying array of accessories and add-ons, with the fanciest being a rotating hop dispenser. You fill each cup with your hop additions, and it will automatically rotate around at the prescribed time and drop in your hop additions.

The kettles are high quality and have nice features like etched volume markings, and the tri-clamp fittings. The COFI recirculation mash basket seems to have some logical advantages of making sure you’re getting all corners of your grain washed, but I suppose someone could debate the benefits of almost all of these systems for wort re-circulation during mash. The one thing that’s beyond debate is how special the controller/software is. You simply export your recipe from BeerSmith with hop additions, mash temperature/time steps, and boil times and the software automatically converts it to a program to run your brew day. It will heat your water to the prescribed strike temperature, prompt you to add grains in your basket, and go about whatever complicated or simple mash profile you created. It will then prompt you to remove the basket and get busy heating the wort to a boil. With some sophisticated algorithms, it automatically detects when a boil has been reached and then maintains power output at the boil level you set, and then sets timers for your hop additions. Messages prompt you for hop additions at time left in the boil you’ve set up in your recipe, and when all’s done, kills the power so you can start chilling. It knows when to turn your pump on and off and automatically controls that.

The controller also has Wi-Fi so you can monitor your brew session without having to be chained to your kettle, and you can also adjust power output, mash step times, etc. all on the fly. This level of automation may be over the top for some, and you can always use it in full manual control for turning the pump on and off, and controlling electric output. But if you’re looking for repeatability in process, it’s hard to argue with this type of system. Temperature control on mash steps was impressive with fast rising temperature rates, but without overshoot.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Recipe: Collective Hoppiness

Brew Boss Electric #Homebrew Equipment - Brew All Grain Today!

Recipe: Collective Hoppiness

In 2011, Colorado’s first brewpub, Wynkoop Brewing Company, teamed up with the American Homebrewers Association to create a dream collaboration beer appropriately named Collective Hoppiness. Quite literally a collective effort, Wynkoop hosted a rally in which the brew’s hop additions were continuously added over a 90-minute period by local members of the AHA and 210 members who participated in the hopping of the beer.

Wynkoop describes the beer as “an unctuous imperial red ale made with premium two-row base malt, small amounts of rye, aromatic malts and flaked oats, and five kinds of hops (Summit, Cascade, Sorachi Ace, Amarillo, and Columbus). All fermented with an English ale yeast. Ultra hoppy from start to finish, the beer finished at 8% ABV and has approximately 100 IBUs.” We couldn’t help but think that a bunch of hop-lovin’ homebrewers would want the opportunity to brew this hoppy masterpiece, so we’ve scaled it down to a 5-gallon batch for our members’ brewing enjoyment. This recipe was featured in the 2012 May/June Zymurgy courtesy of Brad Landman at Wynkoop Brewing.

Collective Hoppiness | Imperial IPA


  • For 5 gallons (18.93 L)
    • 12.5 lb. (3 kg) Rahr premium two-row pale malt
    • 2.0 lb. (0.9 kg) Weyermann CaraRye® malt
    • 6.5 oz. (184 g) Flaked oats
    • 6.5 oz. (184 g) Simpsons aromatic malt
    • 3.3 oz. (94 g) Crisp dark chocolate malt
    • 1.0 oz. (28 g) Columbus, 14.4% a.a. (60 min)
    • 1.0 oz. (28 g) Columbus, 141.4% a.a. (30 min)
    • 0.75 oz. (21 g) Summit, 18.5% a.a. (20 min)
    • 1.0 oz. (28 g) Summit, 18.5% a.a. (10 min)
    • 0.25 oz. (7 g ) Amarillo, 8.5% a.a. (6 min)
    • 1.0 oz. (28 g) Sorachi Ace, 14.9% a.a. (3 min)
    • 1.0 oz. (28 g) Cascade (dry)
    • British ale yeast


    • Original Gravity: 1.083
    • IBU: 120+ (estimated)
    • SRM: 19.5 (estimated)
    • Boil Time: 60 minutes
    • Efficiency: 75%


    Mash grains at 153° F (67° C) for 60 minutes. Hops can be boiled as traditional one-time additions or added continuously according to the following schedule: 2 oz. Colombus from 60–30 minutes; 1.75 oz. Summit from 30–10 minutes; 0.25 oz. Amarillo from 10–5 minutes; 1 oz. Sorachi Ace from 5–0 minutes; and the dry hop addition of 1 oz. Cascade in secondary.

    Extract Version

    Use 9.45 lb. (4.29 kg) pale malt extract, 1.5 lb. (0.68 kg) Weyermann CaraRye® malt, 2.5 oz. (71 g) Crisp dark chocolate malt, and 7.0 oz. (198 g) Weyermann CaraVienne® malt. Steep grains for 20 minutes in 150–160° F (66–71° C) water; strain, rinse, add extract, and proceed with boil.

    Thursday, July 14, 2016

    Brooklyn Brewery Tips on Yeast Health

    Brew Boss All Grain Electric Brewing Systems

    yeast starter

    by John Moorhead, National Homebrew Competition Director & AHA Project Coordinator

    Yeast is absolutely critical to beer, which makes it critical to you as a homebrewer. On a basic level, yeast converts sugar to ethanol and CO2, but there is so much to discover and explore with yeast you couldn’t put it in one article (which is why books are dedicated to the subject matter).

    We did ourselves and you a favor and passed on writing a book. Instead, we focused on yeast starters and yeast health, and chatted with Drew Bombard, Brooklyn Brewery Lab Manager & Microbiologist, about how to make happy, healthy yeast.

    What is the purpose of a starter?

    The purpose of a starter is to produce a new, healthy, viable, pure culture of yeast that can be used to carry out the fermentation of wort into clean beer.

    Do I always need to make a starter?

    No, after a starter has been used for its first fermentation, it can be harvested and reused for subsequent fermentations. It is typically better to keep reusing yeast for multiple fermentations than to make a new starter for every fermentation, so long as you can ensure the yeast is stored and handled appropriately in between fermentations.

    When shouldn’t I use a starter?

    This may sound obvious, but if you already have good, healthy, clean yeast handy then there is no need to make a fresh starter. The best way to handle yeast is to plan brews to be pitched with harvested yeast. When one brew is at or near terminal gravity, be ready to brew your next batch so you can pitch this new wort with the yeast from the previous batch.

    Young cultures (starters, first generations, and second gens) and old generations (10th and up) may not always preform as well as mature generations (third through ninth). Making a starter is not only unnecessary, but it can also be less effective than using harvested yeast.

    Should I add hops when I make a yeast starter?

    Yes, but you don’t want to add too many. The ideal wort for a starter should consist of mostly pale malts and little to no roasted malt, and you should target about 8–12° Plato, and maybe 15–25 IBUs. You can propagate yeast in many different worts with success, but ideally the wort you propagate in shouldn’t be too strong in any one dimension.

    Should I add oxygen to my starter?

    Yes, or sterile air. The idea of a starter is to grow many healthy and clean yeast cells from few. Yeast will undergo aerobic respiration in the presence of wort and air or O2and begin to multiply rapidly while also consuming wort sugars and nutrients. In order to increase yeast biomass, you will need to aerate your wort continuously while propagating.

    How much yeast or how big a starter do I need?

    Both depend on how much wort you need to ferment and how strong the wort is. We aim to pitch our wort with about 1 million cells/mL of wort per degree Plato. So, if we brew a wort with a starting gravity of 10° Plato, we would need the pitch rate to be about 10 million cells/mL of wort. If you know the volume of wort you want to ferment and the gravity of that wort, then you can calculate how many cells you’d need to carry out the fermentation.

    Does a starter need to be kept at the same temperature as it is going to ferment the batch of beer later?

    No, it can be propagated at room temperature. But if you can’t use it right away after propagation is done, store it cold to preserve vitality and viability.

    Can too small or too large a starter be bad for the yeast?

    Yes, usually the rule of thumb while propagating yeast is to use a 1:10 ratio of yeast to wort when starting or stepping up a starter. So if you start with 10 mL of yeast, you’d want to prop it in about 100 mL of wort. Once the yeast cells have grown into this volume, it can then be stepped up into 1,000 mL (1 L) of wort and continue to grow. So on and so forth. Using the 1:10 ratio is really easy and provides good results.

    If I’m making a high gravity beer, shouldn’t I make a high gravity starter so the yeast become acclimated?

    I would say no. The idea here being you want to have the happiest, healthiest yeast possible to go into a high-gravity (high-stress!) wort. If you grow the proper amount (for the appropriate pitch rate!) of yeast in a nice, mellow, neutral wort, it will come out super happy and strong and ready to tackle anything. If you try to grow yeast in a high-gravity wort, you’re not giving them the ideal conditions for growing into healthy culture. You then compound the situation by pitching this unhappy yeast into a high-gravity beer.

    I’d grow a large volume of yeast in a nice, easy wort and let the strongest happiest yeast tackle the big, burly, high-gravity stuff. One more thing to add—I would not suggest harvesting and reusing the yeast from really big, burly brews for the exact reasons I just described.

    Can I pitch a smaller portion of yeast into the same sized starter and get the same amount of cells at the end?

    You probably could, but the health of your yeast will be best if you follow the 1:10 ratio for stepping up propagations. After all, just because you have cells doesn’t mean they’re healthy or ready to carry out a clean fermentation. The goal is to grow the best yeast possible. Practice patience and take the necessary steps to do so.

    What are some counting techniques and math for yeast cell count on the homebrewing level?

    For those with a hemocytometer and a microscope, counting can be easy. There are no real tricks that come to mind. Plan your target pitch rate based on wort gravity. and count your pitching slurry cell density by weight. Then use weight to determine how much of your slurry you’d need to provide the given volume of wort with the proper number of cells.

    How do starting gravity and fermentation temperature affect the finished beers in regards to yeast metabolism?

    This is a good question and one that I will admit I wish I knew more about. What I do know is that each strain of yeast is different and will have a different set of ideal conditions for fermentation. Starting gravity, fermentation temperature, wort composition, aeration of wort, and condition of yeast are some of the many factors that play all important roles in fermentation and metabolism.

    Fermentation temperature is a very important one. Every strain of yeast has an ideal fermentation temperature range. It’s my understanding that this range provides the best opportunity for metabolism while giving you a little bit of playing room to try to coax different flavor compounds out of your yeast.

    For example fermenting at the high end of a given range may bring out more aroma compounds in class A, while running it at the lower end might bring out less of A and more of B. What those compounds are depends on many things. So long as your beer tastes good and you’re having fun while making it, you’re doing it right! Kind of a lame answer, but it’s a pretty broad question.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2016

    Recipe: Beer Butter Popcorn

    Electric all grain brewing by brew boss

    RECIPE BY JACKIE DODD, draft magazine

    The smell of freshly popped kernels is reason enough to give this recipe a try. The “three-kernel” method of popping corn is foolproof and will leave you with no burnt and very few unpopped pieces. The secret: Use an already-warm pan to make a quick beer butter.

    Makes: 2 to 4 servings


    3 tablespoons canola oil
    1 teaspoon salt
    1⁄3 cup popcorn kernels
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon IPA
    1 teaspoon brown sugar


    1. In a large pot with a lid, heat the canola oil, salt and three popcorn kernels.
    2. Once the popcorn starts to pop, remove from heat, add the remaining popcorn and replace the lid tightly on the pot. Wait 30 seconds and place the pot back onto the heat.
    3. Popcorn should start popping immediately. Shake the pan back and forth a few times during cooking. Cook until the popping stops and there are several seconds between pops.
    4. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
    5. Return the pot to heat and combine remaining ingredients, cooking until the butter has melted and is well-combined with the beer and brown sugar.
    6. Slowly pour butter onto popcorn, tossing gently.
    7. Serve immediately.

    Sunday, July 10, 2016

    Why Czech lager is just better

    , Draft magazine
    Photo by Joe Stange

    So, I’m hooked on Czech lager. A total goner.

    It’s an unlikely development, bordering on pathetic, given my own absurdly lucky situation. I’m American with plenty of exposure to our own exciting variety; I write a guidebook on Belgium and go there as often as I can, so I get to drink plenty of those beauties and oddities; plus I live in Germany, a beer paradise in its own right.

    Yet a few trips to the Czech Republic over the past year have done a job on me.

    For science and for art I list below the reasons why, as best as I understand them, plus some other thoughts related to the civilized magic of acquired taste.

    Some of this is technical, other bits are borderline stupid. Love is preposterous.

    • It just tastes better. I’ll get into specifics below, but first things first: Czech lager generally has far more flavor than those from the global flood it inspired, including all those international beers that we lazily call “pilsner.”
    • But don’t call it pilsner (unless it’s the Pilsner). The rest of the world has diluted and lightened and emptied “pilsner.” We have ruined the word and it doesn’t make sense to apply it flavorful Czech beer (except the very special Plzensky Prazdroj, a.k.a. Pilsner Urquell). Anyway, the Czechs don’t call it that either. They refer to their golden lager as svetly lezak (say it: SVYET-lee LEH-zhack). I like that better. It sounds exotic, like something worthy of new attention.
    • Balance. It’s not a code word for bland. There is an art to balancing real character, and—with regard to golden lager—the Czechs have been working on it for 170-odd years.
    • The stubborn, arcane value of decoction mashing. It’s an old brewing method from the days before thermometers, and most Czech brewers stick to it religiously. Once or twice or even thrice during the mash, they take a portion of that beautiful sludge and boil it separately. Then they return it to the rest of the mash. It takes much longer and consumes more energy, but benefits to drinkers (that’s us!) include deeper, richer malt flavor, residual sweetness, and sturdier foam. Yet it also tends to have a body that is light and digestible enough to consume in quantity.
    • Quantity! The Czechs drink more beer than anyone on Earth, 142 liters per person per year. Nobody else is close. There might be a reason for that.
    • One of the many ways that brewing scientists are useful: Whenever one of them tells us that some old method is a waste of time and energy—and that’s what many of them say about decoction—that’s our cue to run as fast as we can to a brewer that still uses that method and taste the results for ourselves.
    • Floor malting: looks cool, and is cool. To get the full benefits of decoction, you want malt that is less modified—essentially, less malted—than most modern malts. The Czechs specialize in this, with their old-fashioned Bohemian floor-malted barley. It has a richer aroma and flavor that is best unlocked by decoction.
    • See how this is all fitting together?
    • That color. It is not pale straw, it is more often a deep, burnished gold—another gift from decoction and itsMaillard reaction. That immediately appealing color might be why imitations proliferated in the late 19th century, as clear glassware became more affordable to working people.
    • Also, dark lager. It is not like German dunkel or schwarzbier. Czech tmavy lezak is just as drinkable as those but usually with a richer, deeper malt taste. There is amber lager too. It’s good. But a very large percentage of what the Czechs themselves drink is gorgeously golden svetly.
    • Those great, clear, bulbous mugs, especially the dimpled ones. They accommodate lots of creamy foam and lots of beer, both. They turn a golden liquid into a museum-piece jewel, particularly when touched by light. Their heft and thick handles feel important, requiring use of the entire arm. They promise satisfaction.
    • Hops! You like them. Me too. The Czechs use a lot, almost exclusively Saaz. Your typical svetly has an IBU of 30-40, though a few go lower or higher than that. Typically there are equal additions for bittering, flavor and aroma, teasing out beguiling complexity from the noblest of Noble hops. Tasting several different brands last weekend I most often noted citrus, herbs, mint and nettles (though I always like it most when I stop trying to identify descriptors and just enjoy it).
    • That funny degree system. Czech lager invariably has a number attached to it—usually somewhere from 8 to 14, with the most common from 10 to 13. That number is the beer’s degrees on a Balling scale, similar to the Plato scale used by brewers. Karl Balling was Bohemian, by the way, and he created the world’s first scale for measuring the density of beer before fermentation. Basically it’s a measure of how much sugar was in there; in practice, it gives us a rough idea of how much alcohol we’re consuming. The flagship of most Czech breweries is a 12-degree svetly lezak, usually somewhere around 5% alcohol by volume.
    • Finally… diacetyl! With many Czech lagers you might smell a whiff of something resembling popcorn butter. Whether or not this is a fault is ultimately up to you. I used to hate it, then I learned to like it. An American geek I met in a Czech bar told me he didn’t like most Czech lagers because he found them “unclean.” I found it very sad. So: What if diacetyl is an acquired taste? 

    Here is something I really did last year: I bought a crate of Pilsner Urquell and drank my way through it (not in one sitting), to see if I could desensitize myself to diacetyl. I really wanted to like Czech lager. I suppose it worked. Anyway, the things that are easy to like are usually not as entertaining, or as addictive.

    Wednesday, July 6, 2016

    Hop Options for the Adventurous Brewer


    Whether you love the bitter fruit and flower flavors of the American Cascade hop, the double bitterness punch of Centennial, or the herbal, piney goodness of Northern Brewer, hop-heads around the world have plenty of options when it comes to their favorite flowers. Most novice brewers are familiar with 5 to 10 different hops, but with over 100 varieties in commercial use and many more in development, you may be missing out on some great opportunities to introduce new flavors by using lesser known or newer hop varieties. Here are a few hot options if you’re feeling adventurous!

    1. Nelson Sauvin

    Nelson Sauvin – the white wine hop

    Originating from New Zealand, this hop exhibits the typical spicy characteristic the area is known for, but with one major twist – it has a similar aroma to Sauvignon Blanc grapes! It has also been associated with other flavors and aromas including crushed gooseberry, passion fruit and tangerine. This is a great dual purpose hop that can be added to your boil whenever you want depending on how you want to utilize its aromatic and bittering properties. According to, this hop was developed by the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research and released in the year 2000. If you want to try commercial beers that use this hop, look for the following at your local craft beer store:

    Mikkeller – Single Hop Nelson Sauvin IPA
    Widmer Brothers Brewing – Nelson Imperial IPA
    Alpine Beer Company – Nelson
    Prairie – Merica

    2. Hopsteiner Lemondrop

    Lemondrop – a citrusy, refreshing hop option

    Known as “Super Cascade”, this US bred hop features aromas of lemon, mint, green tea, and a hint of melon. Homebrewers know a true lemon flavor is difficult to pull off, and this hop appears to be an answer to that particular prayer. Hopsteiner released this hop for limited experimentation in 2012, and started migrating it to the commercial stage for the 2014 crop year. It was difficult to find beers that featured Lemondrop, but it should become more prevalent in the next year or so. If you want to try Lemondrop in a commercial brew, you’ll have to snag one of the brews below:

    Deschutes – Hop Henge Imperial IPA
    Stone Brewing – Delicious IPA

    3. Azacca

    Azacca – A distinct, unique tropical flavor.

    Named after the Haitian god of agriculture, Azacca boasts some extraordinarily unique fruity flavors that you won’t find in other fruity/citrusy hops. Mango, papaya and orange flavors dominate with subtle spiciness and a hint of grass. The hops high myrcene content makes it extremely aromatic with very soft bitterness, making it perfect for the late stage boil or dry-hopping. Released in 2014, there are a handful of beers where Azacca takes the center stage:

    Victory Brewing – Hop Ranch
    Cigar City – Azacca
    Wicked Weed – Lupulin Lab IPA: Azacca
    Founders – Azacca IPA

    4. Falconer’s Flight 7 C’s Hop Blend

    Hop ‘blends’ were created to alleviate shortages of high demand hops.

    As mentioned earlier, most novice brewers cut their teeth with a handful of well known hops. The ubiquitous “C” hops include Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Citra, Cluster, Columbus and Crystal. Hopunion saw fit to blend all of these popular varieties plus some experimental flowers into a single hop! Aromatic qualities include citrus, floral, earthy, and grapefruit. 

    Some homebrewers warn that the 7C hop has so much variety that using it in a single-malt-and-single-hop (SMaSH) beer will produce a “miscellaneously hoppy” flavor. Other brewers disagree, and suggest that when paired with the right malt (rye, for example), the flavors and aroma really compliment each other. Experimentation is obviously encouraged, but this hop may find its groove as an early- or middle-stage boil addition with a different, more defined aromatic hop at late-stage or dry hop. Commercial brews showcasing this hop were difficult to come by, and it may be hard to find one outside a local taproom.

    Twains – Tropicalia IPA
    Top Rung – Falconer’s Flight 7C’s Pale Ale

    5. Polaris

    Mint is a surprising dark horse of beer flavors

    Alpha acids are what give hops their bittering potential as they are isomerized during the boil to deliver the final IBU (international bittering unit) value of the brew. Alpha acid content is generally given as a percentage range; multiple factors, such as growing conditions and drying methods, can affect the actual alpha acid content. Some hops like Saaz only have 2 – 5% AA, while heavy bitterness hitters like Chinook can top out at 14%. But even Chinook takes a back seat to the king of bittering hops – Polaris. Polaris hops range from a whopping 18 – 23% AA content. But don’t let the high AA content fool you into thinking Polaris can only bring bitterness to the table. It also boasts an incredible floral/fruity aroma accented by notes of fresh mint and eucalyptus, owing its penetrating fragrance to high oil concentration. Commercial options to try include:

    The Kernel Brewery – Pale Ale (Polaris Apollo Columbus)
    Hermitage Brewing – Single Hop Series – Polaris

    At the heart of homebrewing is (or should be) an earnest love of experimentation through trial-and-error. There’s nothing quite like wowing your friends with a beer you thought up on your own and tweaked to perfection. Recipes and kits are excellent ways to sample a variety of homebrews with good repeatability and known outcomes. But hopefully this exploration of lesser known hops encourages you to get out there and try something new!

    If you want to read more about the DIY aspect of homebrew or see some other cool projects, check out my blog at, or follow me on Twitter (@TheCastleSeven).

    What lesser used hops do you like?

    Until next time, happy brewing!

    Monday, July 4, 2016

    Saturday, July 2, 2016

    Brewing Entrepreneurs – Darin Danelski

    Brewing Entrepreneurs – Darin Danelski

    When you hear the expression ‘Mad Scientist’, specific images come to mind. For me, it’s images from Disney movies – either in cartoon form or black & white movies. Although this image doesn’t match Darin Danelski’s appearance, as I toured around his work at U Brew U in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, that’s the idea that kept coming into my head. I went there to review Darin’s Brew-Boss electric brewing system and controller. But while there, I got to see all kinds on inventions Darin had created, or was in the process of developing.

    entrepreneur Daren Danelski
    Darin Danelski
    As we talked about the Brew-Boss system, conversation would drift one way or the other and next thing I knew, Darin was walking me over to “check this out” or “let me show you how I tried to solve that problem.” His inventions cover the full range of the homebrewing hobby, all with a sophistication that leaves you saying, “Wow, that’s slick!” With a Mechanical Engineering degree, he worked as an Automation Engineer for many years before diving into Brew-Boss full time. That means he has years of experience coming up with ideas for how to make processes faster, more efficient, and more repeatable. And, it’s with that approach that he tries to solve those problems in the homebrewing world.

    Darin Danelski’s Big Invention

    Darin’s first homebrewing invention that met with success was called picoBrew (Not associated with PicoBrew, Inc.), which was an automated single vessel Brew-In-A-Bag system with a touch screen controller. It used off the shelf components for the brewing hardware, but the controller was custom designed by Darin. It was a stand-alone system that could operate independently, or be connected to a laptop. It eventually evolved into the newer Brew-Boss system that he sells today.

    Darin’s First Pico-Brew System
    The origins of this system laid in a problem he was trying to tackle for his personal homebrewing projects. He wanted to create a system that was fully automated, would improve his brewing process repeat-ability, and reduce the time needed to brew his beer. He built a fully-automated 3-vessel HERMS electric brewing system. And by fully-automated, that meant all he had to do was crush the grain at the start, and add yeast at the end. Everything else from measuring and adding water and ingredients, as well as controlling temperatures and wort transfer was fully automated by his system. But as slick as that was, it only solved half of the problem he set out to solve. It made great, repeatable beer, but as Darin explained, “A typical 10 gallon batch took over 7 hours, and most of that time was spent sanitizing beforehand and cleaning afterward. I despised the cleaning and time spent cleaning. It saved me no time over my cooler mash system.”

    Back to the Beginning

    Darin started doing BIAB mashes in the mid-90’s before it was popular, or perhaps even had its own recognizable acronym. For him, it was a way to speed up the mashing process. Seeing the growing popularity of the BIAB process, he decided to take the time-saving aspects of that process and combine it with an automatically controlled electric system, like he had developed with his 3-vessel system at home. When that worked out well, he started getting comments from other homebrewers that wanted him to make them one. From there, he started selling a few on eBay, and eventually launched his own website to sell them.
    In the early days, he was fabricating the equipment himself at home with some high-end machine shop equipment he had. But once demand started to outpace his ability to build them, he had to search out a manufacturing partner. To keep prices within the reach of homebrewers he had to develop relationships overseas. Although per-piece prices were kept affordable, it did require ordering equipment by the container-full, not in small batches. The initial prototype stage required a financial commitment to get the first parts made and shipped. Then he tested thoroughly to ensure it functioned as intended. For perspective, he notes that his first kettle prototype cost him over $2,000!

    After successfully passing through the prototype trials, he had to order his first production parts. With minimum order quantities of 200 parts, and having 3 different kettle sizes, his first shipment contained 600 kettles. Nervous about whether he’d be able to move that much inventory, he was relieved when after 9 months he had gone through all of those parts. Darin describes the growth, “When I started, I was selling about 2-3 systems a week. That has grown to about 2-3 per day, and peaks around Christmas where I sold over 70 systems in one day!”

    Moving Forward

    As he moves forward with his business, he has to decide which ideas he’ll pursue and which ones he won’t. Some products on his website may get very low sales and then all of a sudden he’ll get a lot of orders all at once. He also gets a lot of requests from brewers and homebrewers for equipment they’d like, and they ask him to build it. To sort through it all, he says, “I pursue items that people request, that I feel would have mass market appeal, and be able to be sold at a reasonable price.” So keep an eye on this mad scientist for the creative solution to that brewing problem you have, or maybe even the brewing problem you didn’t realize you had until you saw someone figure out a solution for it.
    brewboss system by Darin Danelski
    The BrewBoss System as it stands today.
    Brad is a full-on craft beer geek, talking about craft beer and homebrewing to any and all that will listen.  He has a small website, where he has craft beer travel stories, homebrewing, and beer reviews, from a Michigan home base (