Can you Homebrew with 120V Electric Brewing and Sous Vide Devices
Ever since we announced the development of our latest product, the BrewVide™, we have received a lot of interest from folks and many questions. Some of the most often asked questions have been around the BrewVide’s voltage options, wattages, etc. so we felt a blog entry around 120V electric brewing was in order.
First, let’s talk about the basics of home electrical systems...
Most homes in North America have 120V circuits, protected by 15A circuit breakers. Often, homes will also have some higher voltage circuits available (like a 220V 30A circuit for an electric clothes dryer or a 220V 50A circuit for an electric stove) but these circuits are dedicated to a specific use and typically serve a single wall outlet dedicated to that appliance. Most “regular” wall outlets are the 120V variety.
Many newer construction homes have upgraded wiring that allows 120V/20A circuit breaker use, but the average North American home has 120V/15A outlets in most rooms.
With a 120V 15A outlet, the most power you can draw will be around 1,800W. (120V x 15A = 1,800W). In practice, you are likely to see devices listed for less power, as you typically need some margin for safety, you may have other outlets on the same circuit also drawing power, etc.. When it comes to water heating eclectic elements, for example, you will find that 120V elements typically max out in the 1,500-1,650W range, to keep below that 15A limit.
So, can you do electric brewing with only 120V/15A circuits?
The answer to that is “yes”. In testing the BrewVide with heating elements in the 1,500W to 1,650W range you are indeed able to do an all-grain mash and boil, under normal conditions and using a simple BIAB setup which only requires the BrewVide, a kettle, and a grain bag. No stovetop heat, no propane gas burner, no additional vessels. Below we list the actual relevant data for your review, but first let’s list some facts:
Batch size: A 5 gallon batch (finished beer in the keg or bottles) is what we do. Doing larger batches will take longer or may not even be possible if you are really “super-sizing” your brews.
You can optimize heating times: It helps a great deal if the kettle is insulated and if you keep the lid on during heating and mashing. Remember, in this setup there is no gas flame under the kettle. The BrewVide’s heating elements provide all the heat power needed to mash and boil.
Keeping a partial cover over the kettle even during the boil ensures a vigorous boil. Emphasis on “partial”. You do not want the lid fully closed while coming up to the boil or during the boil, if you have ever had a boil over of wort you will know why!
And before you ask, yes, we know it’s important to allow evaporation of the wort during the boil for a lot of good brewing reasons. The fact is that a lid cracked open provides more than enough evaporation to do the job right with no compromise. (If you have ever toured breweries, you will have noticed that the boil kettles are almost never open-topped but rather have some sort of exhaust ducting. You do NOT need the full top of the kettle to be open to the atmosphere!)
Here’s a great advantage of 120V electric brewing: The lower wattage of a 120V element compared to higher power 220V elements means that for the same heating surface area the 120V element will have a lower “watt density”, or watts per square inch of surface area. This keeps the element surface temperature down, avoiding scorching the wort (burning the sugars).
So here are our numbers
- Heating time to take 7 gallons of 68°F water to a mash-in temperature: 45-50 minutes
- We then pull out the grain bag and squeeze to collect 6.5 gallons of wort for the boil
- Heating time to take the wort to boil: ~40 minutes
- Losses to evaporation, cooling, hop, cold & hot break, pump transfer, etc: 1.1 gallons
- Volume of chilled wort in the fermenter: ~5.4 gallons
- Volume lost to trub removal(s): ~0.4 gallons
- Finished beer volume: 5 gallons
Is 45 minutes of water heating time really too much? With the BrewVide™ app, you can start your mash water heating from your smartphone in the morning and your water will be ready for mash-in after a cup of coffee and catching up on messages.
The bottom line
You can indeed brew great all-grain beer with the BrewVide™. You do not need a gas burner outside in the cold or to tie up your family’s kitchen. You do not need to clean multiple vessels. You do not need to hire an electrician to wire your house for new circuits and outlets.
You may also be interested in this article we found on the topic of all electric 120V brewing. These folks are not affiliated with us but we found the story informative:
If you have any thoughts or questions, leave us a comment below, and as always, happy brewing!