As some of you may know I've always been a “Fire and Kettle” type of brewer. I've had a process that I've become accustomed to and have successfully brewed this way for many years. This included brewing fermentation temperature-specific beers during certain times of the year, Belgians and French styles in the spring and summer and lagers brewed in my cold room in winter for spring. I've done quite well with this process and have made some stellar beers utilizing my environment and what was available to me as a homebrewer to keep variables as even as possible, without too much change in my process or evolution from more advanced technology.
With that being said, there is a place for technology and as a person who enjoys the science of beer as much as any beer nerd, I must move with the times and give more advanced technology a shot in my brewing process. So with the help and generosity of Zack Weinburg from Toronto Brewing Co. I've acquired some tech and will see how and if it ultimately improves my brewing process in the future. I also want to determine if the Grainfather system improves the quality of my end product enough to warrant a change in my current brewing process and the added cost of an update to equipment. I was given a Grainfather G30 connect as my main RIMS brewing vessel, First generation (no connectivity) Grainfather conical pro fermenters and the accompanying Grainfather glycol chiller for fermentation temperature control. I’ve had the equipment for an extended period now and can with some confidence say that I’m capable of writing a fairly honest review and being entirely candid with my opinions. I’ll break this review into two parts and start by reviewing the Grainfather G30 connect 120V RIMS brewing system. The second part will include the Grainfather fermentation gear provided to me by Toronto Brewing. So now onto the good part! In my honest opinion the Grainfather G30 Connect is an absolutely essential tool for the modern homebrewer, especially those with limited space. With the addition of the Grainfather to your brewing kit, you can easily and accurately brew great beer at home, with confidence, with repeatable results. Plus you can accomplish this without any of the hassles that used to be associated with multiple-vessel homebrewing systems. With the Grainfather being an all-in-one system, including a stainless steel kettle, a mash basket that allows full removal of the grain during the sparge step, a capable but somewhat underwhelming counter-flow wort chiller, and a built-in pump for the re-circulation during the mash, it's hard to fault this unit. Or can I?
User interface is pretty simple on the Grainfather, and with the help of the Grainfather App it makes it a much more feature-packed device. The intuitive yet simplistic display on the front of the unit makes it easy to regulate temperatures, and monitor brew progress, and with the help of the ball valve attached to the pump line you can easily adjust pump flow rate. What’s more, the included re-circulation arm ensures that your mash is fully converted and your tasty wort clear and free of large particulates, if that's your thing. On average with a semi fine mill and average size grain bills I can get 85% efficiency with this system. Bigger beers can drop as low as 65%, but that's to be expected with the G30's limited size, and it’s limit in size is a downfall. The pump although capable isn't all that robust, and if you don't have a hop spider I suggest you purchase one. I've brewed with and without a hop spider and the little Grainfather pump can't always push enough volume to clear itself of particulate buildup and the eventual stoppages that ensue. With that being said, with a hop spider the Grainfather G30 system is hard to beat.
With the connected app you to can control your entire brewing process from start to finish with your smartphone or tablet. The App is feature packed and if you sign up online to the Grainfather community you get the ability to have any recipes you design online to sync to your app for on the go brew sessions. From a “High end entry level single vessel” perspective the G30 is made from quality materials and is very easy to use. It’s ability to break down faily simply gives you peace of mind from a sanitation point of view. It also comes with everything you need to get started, including a stirring paddle. The Grainfather is also available in different sizes to accommodate whatever size batch you're brewing, but costs increase as you increase volume capabilities. Cleanup is a breeze too—the kettle/mash basket parts and counterflow chiller are dishwasher safe and the pump can be removed for separate cleaning. In short, it’s a great all-in-one brewing system that makes it easy to repeatedly produce great beer at home. Highly recommended for the novice or advanced user!
1) Easy to use – super simple plug and play device, a simpleton like myself can operate this system easily, so can you ;) . 2) Single vessel – Single vessel means more room for other gear, and takes less work to move about.
3) Capable automation – The Grainfather is equiped with a very reliable system capable of maintaining repeatable results.
4) Intuitive user interface – Easy to navigate user interface with to the point programming.
5) App integration – Being able to control the Grainfather system with Bluetooth integration is fantastic and gives you the freedom of set and forget type mashing. During the boil I’d recommend you watch the system.
6) App capabilities and features – The Grainfather App allows you to seamlessly integrate other Grainfather equipment into your brew day schedule and allows the complete syncing of your Grainfather profile.
7) Easy Cleanup – Cleanup is a breeze, and with the ability to break the system down sanitation is made easy peasy. 8) Large pre-boil capacity at 8 Gallons, allowing for long boils in beers that require some extra boil time to benefit from sugar conversion.
1) The pump in this reiteration of the Grainfather can seem anemic if you’re used to a chugger or Blichmann pump. But in most circumstances with the addition of a hop spyder you can work very effectively with the included pump.
2) Heat up times – The time it takes to heat your mash equates to longer brew days than with fire, but the Grainfather makes up for this with ease of use. But with a smaller beer and a protein rest you can easily overshoot your intended gravity due to conversion during ramp up.
3) The wort Chiller – Although it’s effective it is not what I would consider a high quality chiller. It does the job, and at the price point one can’t complain. But it’s still a con in my mind. 4) Mash capabilities – Unfortunately brewing beers in the 8-12% ABV range is a difficult task with this system, mainly due to the lack of space in the mash basket I’ve topped out at 21 lbs before it becomes futile to try and add another single grain to the mix. The system seems to be catered to smaller beers in the 4-8% ABV range.
All in all the Grainfather G30 Connect in 120V configuration is more than adequate for the majority of those looking to simplify and streamline your brew days. It’s a great system capable of suiting the entry level crowd along with the seasoned pro’s who want to slimline their brewing gear. I can genuinely say that the performance-to-dollar ratio is pretty fair, if not slightly weighed to the consumer side. I can highly recommend this system. If you would like to purchase the Grainfather G30 connect you can find them in store or online at Toronto Brewing co.
In Part two of the review I’ll discuss the Grainfather pro conicals and the Grainfather glycol chiller. Stay tuned for part two.