Brewing Process Lockdown: RIMS Overview

A logical approach to brewing has many steps and categories, including planning, purchasing, execution, process control, evaluation, analysis, reflection, adjustments, and record keeping.  A lot of these categories and steps are combined and intermixed in ways that are hard to separate and think about logically.  A few of them are standalone, and easy to capture and document in a way that makes it easy to further refine and improve.  With a background in unique high tech manufacturing, my experience shapes how I brew my beer. Without drinking too deeply from the lean manufacturing principals koolaid, or from the lean six sigma voodoo, I have learned enough over the years to develop an approach that should apply well to brewing.  For me, the greatest achievement in my brewing is the ability to brew an award winning beer, judged by my peers and by professionals, and to brew it over and over without variation.

I have made it a goal to capture on this website both my failures and my wins. The starting few posts generally have encompassed a few failures, but with those failures is an opportunity for improvement and change. I believe a post like this one is now in order. From this point, to move forward, I need to capture and document the current process I have been using in my brewing. I will use it as drawing a line in the sand, a reference point, a place to start from and improve on over time. Using this outline below, I will generate specific checklists for tasks and expound on my process.

The way a “beer recipe” breaks down in my head is there are 3 major events or time spans. Each one consists of a temperature profile over time during which actions are performed onto the resulting end product that is ready for packaging:

The first is the Mash cycle, and it can be either single step infusion, or a multiple step decoction process, or anything between with a variety of malted grains, added salts, other adjuncts added, the cast-out flow rate and volume, test/verification steps, and any sparge cycles or water addition volumes and flowrates.

The second is the wort boil, with variations in boil length, hops/other additions and their timing, test/verification steps, kettle fining agents, hop-stand/hot wort recirculation, whirlpooling, flow rate to heat exchanger, cooling water flow rate, temperature into fermenter, and measured wort volumes.

The third is the fermentation profile, once the wort is in the fermenter, oxygen added, yeast pitched, hops additions, adjunct additions, clarifying agents, transfers, rests, and test/verification steps.

I personally do not consider the packaging step to be part of my documented beer recipe, although I do feel there needs to be tight control and consistency in the packaging of beer. In a bottle (or can) should be the same as the beer dispensed from draft, but that may or may not be the case. The aging process of a bottle conditioned beer may produce a small flavor profile deviation from an aged kegged beer flavor profile. Neither should be viewed as better, but effort should be put toward reducing the delta between the two. Solution is to either bottle and keg condition, or force carb in keg and bottle from the keg.

Brief breakdown of brewing timeline:

A Week to 2 days prior to brewing

  1. Finalize recipe selection
  2. Schedule Brewing time
    1. With Family
    2. In Calendar/Beersmith
      • Schedule brew day
      • DryHop additions
      • Adjunct/Fruit additions
      • Gravity tests/taste evaluations
      • Clarifying agents
      • Predicted finish date
    3. Check on ingredients – Purchase if necessary
      • Grain bill
      • Adjuncts/other additions
      • Hops
      • Yeast
      • Brewing salts
      • Whirlfloc/Irish Moss
      • Rice Hulls

A Day prior to brewing

  • Check weather reports
  • Check propane tank
  • Finalize brewing salt calculations in Bru’n Water spreadsheet
  • Yeast handling

Brew Day – Upload recipe to brewstand PLC if version has been edited

  1. Assemble HLT
    • Inspect bottom of keggle for carbon buildup –
    • Inspect inside for cleanliness/blemishes
    • Inspect burner / stand plate for cleanliness
    • Assemble Ball valve if needed attach to HLT
    • Attach triclamp fitting on ball valve to stand plumbing
  2. Haul water by 5 gallon bucket from shower in bathroom
    • Hot water in the house is set for 140 F.
    • Saves almost an hour from heating on brewstand
    • Fill HLT to 14 gallon mark.
    • Add Campden Tablet
    • Start burner
  3. Assemble Mash/Lauter Tun
    • Inspect bottom of keggle for carbon buildup
    • Inspect False bottom screen – screw in standoffs
    • Triclamp attach pickup elbow to fitting
    • Setup Sparge but do not attach
    • Fill MLT with 1 gallon of water by underletting through stand piping
    • Circulate utilizing burner until dough-in temp achieved
  4. Add Grain bill to MLT
    • Begin once HLT and MLT are at dough-in temp
    • Stop water circulation
    • Add brewing salts
    • Add rice hulls
    • Add recipe grain bill
    • Underlet water to fill MLT from bottom up
    • Once all the grain is fully submerged – stir looking for dough balls
    • Allow Grain to settle
    • Attach Sparge/recirculation piping
  5. Begin Mash Recipe
    • Press start on timer/controller
    • Follow onscreen recipe instructions
    • Listen for alarm and action beeps for specific actions
    • Refill HLT to recipe volume – add sparge salts as perscribed
  6. Heat exchanger prep
    • Attach hose connection from hose bib
    • Attach hot water waste hose
    • Attach silicone connections
    • Fill bucket with hot water and Sanitizer
    • Run pump for 20 minutes recycling sanitizer into bucket
    • Attach end of silicone hoses to fermenter
  7. Fermenter Prep
    • Inspect vessel for contamination – use bright light
    • Inspect racking arm for contamination
    • Inspect temperature probe for contamination
    • Inspect lid and seals for contamination
    • Assemble Fermenter
    • Rinse out with tap water
    • Fill with 3 gallons of water
    • Place on kettle burner – open blow-off valve
    • Steam sanitize at 220 F for 20 minutes
    • Attach drain tube/tube coming from heat exchanger
    • Use boiling water/steam to backflush heat exchanger into sanitization bucket
    • Close racking valve/turn off burner/remove from brew stand
    • Allow Fermenter to cool and pull natural Air Free Vacuum on sealed container
  8. Boil Kettle Prep
    • Inspect bottom of keggle for carbon buildup
    • Inspect False bottom Screen – screw in standoffs
    • Triclamp attach pickup tube
    • Assemble ball valve if needed attach to BK
    • Attach heat exchanger silicone hose to BK output
    • Attach MLT cast-out piping into BK
    • Conclude Mash PLC program – save TC data
    • Cast-out high gravity wort into BK
    • Measure Gravity – check BK wort volume
    • Shutoff drain
    • Add additional water from HLT to MLT
    • Stir mash – allow to settle
    • Allow wort to recirculate through RIMS system
    • Cast-out batch sparge –
    • check preboil gravity and volume
    • Repeat batch sparge if necessary
    • Collect all volume in BK – check gravity
  9. Begin Boil Recipe
    • Remove cast-out piping
    • Place hop spyder into kettle if using pellet hops
    • Follow boil recipe and addition timers in brewing software
    • Add salts as required by water calculator
  10. Conclude Boil recipe
    • Place heat exchanger output into BK / hop spyder
    • Begin recirculation – collet hot break into hop spyder
    • Turn off boil burner
    • Whirlpool following recipe
    • Hop additions as perscribed
    • Use cooling water valve to achieve hopstand/whirlpool temps
    • Turn off pump – move heat exchanger output to fermenter
    • Check gravity
    • Transfer first 2 gallons hot
    • Turn on exchanger cooling water full
    • Transfer remaining wort – no pump required – fermenter vacuum pulls all wort through system
  11. Begin Fermentation Recipe
    • Remove silicone tubing used for filling fermenter
    • Relocate fermenter and check temperature
    • Adjust fermenter temp prior to O2 additions
    • While injecting o2 – pitch yeast
    • Follow fermenter profile including testing and additions

2 weeks to 2 months – Fermentation recipe complete

  1. Check final gravity – Transfer to Bright tank (or clean fermenter) vessel for bulk aging or packaging preparation

Each of these steps needs more time and space to define the process further, but this appears to be a good start.




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