My Electric Brewing Cart

Well, it took 6 months of researching, designing, building and testing my Electric Brewing Cart (EBC), but it was well worth it, and I certainly enjoyed every step of the process, including running my first batches yesterday. Those of you familiar with electric brewing and what’s on the internet websites like will notice a lot of similarities in my system, but I made a number of modifications to suit my situation.

Here is the full setup:

[attachment=2]The Full Setup.jpg[/attachment]

I built the control panel directly onto a cart I modified because like most of us, I do not have a dedicated brewing area. I installed a 4 prong 50 amp outlet in my kitchen which is powered by a double pole 50amp GFCI breaker in my main panel. This is a lot of power, and safety has to be on the forefront always. The 50 amps of power feeds into a small electrical panel bolted to the bottom of the control panel seen to the right of the picture. I have 2 double pole 30 amp breakers feeding each heating element. The BK is controlled by a 40 amp SSVR from Auber Instruments. Great company to deal with. Highly recommended. The rheostat dial can be seen to the right of the picture. The 10 gallon BK has a 4500 watt heating element.

 The other 4500 heating element (on the other 30 amp circuit) is in a 5 gallon pot (seen on the kitchen stove) controlled by a typical PID and SSR setup but with a twist.  I installed a timer relay (same size as a PID) that is wired into the DC output circuit of the PID.  Why did I do this?  I too am very short on time with 2 young kids at home.  I too wake up early on a Saturday morning to brew.  I can set up the night before with cold strike water in the HLT and wake up the next morning with hot strike water at the exact temperature I need for the mash.  It used to take me 45 minutes to an hour to heat that strike water up outside on a propane burner.  I add 10 degrees to the strike water temperature, open the drain valve to move the water to the cooler mash tun, and wait about 5 to 10 minutes for the cooler to heat up and the strike temperature of be reached.  I can literally be mashing 10 minutes from waking up which means I got to sleep longer.  I know some of you might think this unsafe.  I have plenty of fail-safes built in including a heavy duty contactor wired to one of the PID alarms that opens the circuit at both hot wires.   Below is a picture of the control panel face.  The timer is in the middle.  The other PID on the right is a very cheap ebay one that I have hooked up to a thermocouple just to monitor cooler mash tun temperature:  

[attachment=1]Control Panel Face.jpg[/attachment]

 Why did I go with 50 amps instead of 30?  I want to run both heating elements at the same time some of the time.  Think about what a time savings it is to start heating up the wort in the BK while still draining the cooler mash tun.  I can literally have the wort boiling within 5 minutes of collecting the last of the runnings.

 You'll notice a smaller kettle under the cooler mash tun.  I find it handy to drain the wort into this kettle and then transfer the wort via the small DC pump pictured to either the cooler for vorlaufing or the BK.  The pump is powerful enough to hook right to the BK drain ball valve and pump all the wort into the BK.  So no hoses running over the top of and into the kettle that at times come loose and make a mess.  There is certainly a lot less hot side aeration this way as well, if we are to believe this is a problem.

 A couple other thoughts:  You don't need to buy fancy clad bottom kettles for electric brewing.  These are the cheapest ebay kettles I could find.  I bet I set up this whole system for about the same money it costs to buy those expensive kettles.  Since the heating element is inside, no need for a fancy bottom to protect your wort from scorching.  Also, since the heating element is inside, all the energy is converted to heat that is actually being absorbed by the wort or water.  Also, since I don't brew in warm months of the year, being able to brew inside the comfort of my home means all that heat is retained in the house, and on those very cold dry days, the moisture from boiling off a gallon of water off the wort will be kind of nice.

 One cheap work-around for the thermocouples that worked great for me is to just buy cheap ones off ebay and connect them like is shown in the pictures below:

[attachment=0]Thermocouple connections.jpg[/attachment]

This is the inside view, but what I did is insert rubber grommets through holes in the control panel wall and then connected the PID wires to it with little bolts that have wingnuts on the outside. I just attach the thermocouple prong connectors to these bolts, tighten the wingnuts, and I get an instant and accurate reading of my HLT water and mash temperature. Much less costly than buying the thermocouple plugs and connectors.

 On the back of the control panel (not shown), there is two 30 amp outlets for the kettle cord plugs and a 120 volt outlet to plug in the adapter for the DC pump.

 Here's a few more pictures including one with everything all cleaned up and put away while the wort is boiling.  The transfer kettle and pump shelf is on hinges and folds up so it takes less room in storage (wouldn't fit through the doorway otherwise).  The pump is screwed in place to this shelf:  

 Of course, anyone attempting this has to have a solid understanding and experience working with electrical wiring and circuitry.  Don't even attempt this without someone who knows what they're doing.  This is a lot of power.  I really enjoyed building this and using it yesterday.  I can see myself adding more automation to this system, but I easily cut 1.5 hours out of my brew day the first time I used it and can see saving at least another hour once I get used to it.  I see myself doing more batches just because this is so much faster and easier than it used to be.

Sorry, didn’t realize I can only post 3 pictures per post. Here are the missing pictures:

[attachment=2]Inside Control Panel.jpg[/attachment]

[attachment=1]DC pump.jpg[/attachment]

[attachment=0]Boil Kettle on Cart.jpg[/attachment]


I was proud of my electric system, but it’s pre-historic by comparison!

I use a single element in a kettle that starts as my HLT then becomes my boil kettle once the hot water goes into the mash tun. My timer is on my wrist, and I transfer with a pitcher. Very nice job!


I was proud of my electric system, but it’s pre-historic by comparison!

I use a single element in a kettle that starts as my HLT then becomes my boil kettle once the hot water goes into the mash tun. My timer is on my wrist, and I transfer with a pitcher. Very nice job![/quote]

Thank you!

Nice job Doc! Thanks for posting! Very similar to what I have in mind but I seem to have trouble getting my mind around the nuts and bolts of electicity, thermocouples, PIDs, SSDs, etc etc…My head is spinning already…Wanna come over an build one for me since you had so much fun? :lol:

Thanks, Danny. After testing this system out on Saturday, I realized just how powerful these elements really are. I designed my system this way because I wanted to try out some new ideas, but if I was in your shoes and were comfortable with your setup and just wanted to move from propane to electric, you can build it very simply. When I heated up my strike water for my second batch while I was boiling my first, I played around with my PID to see how fast I could get that room temperature water warmed up to 178 degrees. So I changed the set temperature to 800 degrees which made the heating element run continously. I had that water up to temp in the HLT in less than 15 minutes. If you have 10 gallon kettles, you could put in 5500 watt elements to speed this up more, but the point is that you don’t need fancy PID’s, SSR’s, heat sinks, etc. to make a very basic but very functional system.

 Here's some suggestions:  
  1. If you have an electric stove that is hooked up to a 3 prong outlet, you could use that and totally avoid running new wire. My electric stove runs on a 3 prong, but I wanted to run some 110 volt equipment in my control panel like an exhaust fan to keep SSR’s cooler and also run that outlet for the DC pump adapter. So I decided to run a 4 prong (the difference here is that 3 prong doesn’t have a neutral wire to make 110v circuits). I wouldn’t be surprised when we have to replace this stove that the new ones will all be 4 prong anyway, so I decided to bite the bullet and have the upgraded outlet ready when that day comes. Whatever you have, I would make sure you have GFCI protection. We are dealing with a lot of power near a lot of water.

  2. Avoid the complexity of PID’s and thermocouples by just setting both heating elements up with a simple rheostat style knob type of system. It’s totally manual just like adjusting the heat on your stove. This is how my BK is set up. Two options for this are an SSVR (solid state voltage regulator) or SCR (can’t remember what this stands for but bought one on ebay that was defective and ended up tossing it). The SSVR is a very straight forward installation. It has a heat sink on top of which is mounted the SSVR which looks exactly like an SSR. Minimal tools too. You wire up your heating element with the 2 hot wires and ground and incorporate the SSVR into one of those hot wires. Then you wire the rheostat to the other side of the SSVR and to ground. You’re done. That’s it. You now have full control of that heating element. You could set both BK and HLT up this way and just keep using whatever thermometer you use now. Since all these systems work on 220v power, a 3 prong outlet is all that’s needed. Another benefit of an SSVR is that you can turn the heat down on a dime if it looks like you’re going to have a boil over. The heat disperses from the element very quickly, and the wort stops boiling within seconds.

    One of the drawbacks of electric heating elements is that you really can’t whirlpool effectively with that big element in the kettle, but considering that more brewers are feeling like keeping all that trub out of the fermenter is probably not as important as initially thought, this might not be a big issue. I chilled my wort and let flow what wanted to go into the fermenter. Got lots of trub in there. Will report back on pros and cons of heavy trub fermentation.

If there is enough interest, I can certainly go into more detail. The most stressful part of all of this was not the wiring at all. It was drilling all of those holes in my kettles. You’ve got to drill perfectly round holes to avoid leakage, and it takes a lot of time and patience if you’re going to do it with a step bit like I did. Two afternoons to be exact. If you’ve already drilled holes for ball valves, etc, and are comfortable with that, then you’re all set.

Go to for detailed instructions and parts lists for installing an electric heating element and spigot on your kettle. You do not need the chassis punch to cut the holes; use a hole saw. Spend a few bucks on a digital caliper: measure the diameter of the heating element(s) and spigot(s), then take the caliper with you to the hardware store and measure the hole saws available. To cut the holes, use lots of cutting oil and run the drill at low speed; take your time!

To control the boil rate, use an SCR (silicon-controlled rectifier - which isn’t really a rectifier, it just trims the sine wave). I bring my kettle to a boil with the SCR at 100%, then lower it to 30 - 45% to maintain the boil and control the rate of boil-off. I’ll try to attach a drawing.

You can also use an STC-1000 and a relay to turn power on and off to the SCR and hit your desired HLT temps. I’ll try to attach a drawing.

To keep my life simpler I use a single kettle as my HLT and brew kettle. I use an STC-1000 plus relay to control the SCR to hit my strike temp (and any additional mash steps I need). I drain the first runnings into an old kettle and sparge. Once I’ve emptied the mash water out of the “HLT” I perform a brief ceremony to redesignate the kettle from “HLT” to “brew kettle”. Works fine and saves money.

SCR: … ge_o03_s00
STC-1000: … ge_o00_s00
Relay: … ge_o00_s00

Old Dawg, I think you were the one who mentioned the SCR to me when I started looking into this last spring, and it is a great option. Two hot wires going in. Two hot wires going out to the heating element. That’s it. Very simple. My mistake is not buying it on Amazon like you did. I got tempted to save money and buy ebay parts from Chinese ebay sellers. I got some good deals and not so good deals. My advice to anyone interested in setting this system up: avoid Chinese ebay sellers. If something didn’t work, I contacted them, and this happened a lot. Sometimes they would credit the cost of the item, and I didn’t lose anything. Other times, I’d receive no response. I’d start a case. The seller would respond by closing the case. Ebay doesn’t seem to have the power to do anything about this. This is what happened to me with the SCR. So avoid the long waits and frustration and buy either from Amazon or a respected company like Auber Instruments. This is how I ended up going with the SSVR because that’s what Auber had. It works great, but an SCR has a bit less wiring requirements. Get a 10,000 watt capacity one with a built in fan so you don’t have to wire a separate fan in. The one I got from ebay was like that. I’m sure it would have worked really well if purchased from a reputable source. The heating element acted like it was on full power all the time, and the fan barely ran. It was toast. The SSVR also produces heat, but it’s mounted on a big heat sink and so technically does not require a fan.

 The hole saw is a great idea!  Didn't think of that. +1 on taking your time and lots of oil.  If the stainless steel gets hot, it hardens making it much more difficult to cut / drill.


Thanks for mentioning the fan! I left my fan unplugged once and the SCR got too hot to touch; I also had to turn it down to 10% to hold my boil down. Oddly enough, it has worked fine since???

Another point I forgot: after you cut your holes, dress the rough, raised edges gently with a fine, round file.