Small batch 120V system is finished!!!

After a few weeks of gathering the last few parts, my 120V small batch system is finished…almost. That is the great thing about home brewing, there is always room for improvement. I am very happy with how it turned out and the simplicity of it’s operation. The biggest advantage for me is the use readily available 120V power and the accurate temperature control…an ever important part of successful home brewing.

The last bit of work was the completion of the control box. The center of control box is the Auberin’s PID and RTD temperature sensor. The sensor is a weldless design that was a breeze to install into my 36 quart Bayou Classic stock pot. The system will be used for test batches, small batch BIAB. With the 2000W 120V stainless element it is convenient for use anywhere and heating performance is more than adequate. It quickly heats mash water and then quickly brings the wort to a nice controllable boil. The controller also allows me to use a 120V RIMS tube and pump to recirculate the mash, either in the kettle during a BIAB  session or in a cooler mash tun if needed by simply plugging it in instead of the boil element and changing sensors.Image


One thing I have learned through the control box build is whatever enclosure you choose forget it and go one or two sizes larger. I don’t have huge hands but the 6″X6″X4″ proved to be quite the challenge just assembling it and keeping things tidy. This life lesson will be carried over to the control panel design and build for my two vessel 10 gallon Blichmann Brutus Hybrid system that I’ll be working on this winter.

Meanwhile I’ll be electric brewing!!! Cheers.




42 thoughts on “Small batch 120V system is finished!!!

  1. Hi. I’ve been thinking about something like this for 3 gallon BIAB (approx 5.5 gallon initial volume). I would love to stick with 120V but I’m concerned about the time to boil. Can you give me an idea of how quickly yours heats up? Also, do you plan to use a pump and recirculate? Thanks.

    • Thanks for checking out my blog! I think you’ll be fine. Sticking to 120V makes life easier unless you have 240V access readily available. I mash out at 168º F so from that temp to boil with the 2000W element its about 20 minutes and gives me time to dump grain and clean out bag. You could go with two 2000W 120V elements, just make sure they are plugged into separate circuits, and once boil is going just unplug one element. The second element could be a bucket heater that is available for $40ish. Most newer homes have two separate branch circuits in the kitchen. I checked out the countertop brutus setup a guy did using 120V and a 2000W element and he never complained about times. I usually fill up the kettle with my strike water and set the PID controller for my desired temp and do other stuff while it heats like mill grain or get a coffee and shower. Since it’s PID controlled it’ll hold the temp until I’m ready to mash-in.

  2. Thanks for the reply. How big are the batches you are doing with this? Also, it doesn’t look like you are recirculating so are your mashout temps (I assuming under the grain) accurate?

    • I do 3 gallon batches and started recirculating a couple batches ago and it has completely eliminated stirring to even out temps. I was using a Chugger pump with hose just stuck under the lid but I am going to try a small 12V pump as it is a lot quieter and has been successfully used in England for sometime by brewers. I will post pictures when a few modifications are done and I can test out the little pump.

  3. Is that 3 gallon final output? If so, your experience should directly translate to what I’m planning. It’s nice to see someone who knows what they’re doing using this approach before I take the plunge. BIAB is great but I’m getting tired of the kitchen stove.

  4. Hi. I’m back with more questions. Is it possible to build a controller with just heat and thermo control (no pump)? Is there a vendor that does this sort of thing? Or, is there a good source of detailed info regarding building these things? I’m reasonably technical (mostly math) but haven’t messed mush with electricity (for the usual reason). Thanks.

    • You certainly can omit the pump switch and just use a single outlet for the element. The pump outlet is simply switched and not part of the PID. There are two sources for temperature controllers, High Gravity Brewing and Auberins. The only problem is Auberin’s plug ‘n play controllers will not handle 2000W element and the systems from High Gravity are designed for 240V setups. forums are a good source but sometimes overwhelming with all the responses. One of the members, PJ, is a good source for wiring diagrams but wiring the Auberin’s PID is very easy. The PID itself has power in (2 wires), RTD temp probe in (three wires) and solid state relay out (2 low voltage wires). The solid state relay is wired inline on the hot side of the element outlet. Alarm buzzer/light is optional.

  5. I looked over the others and I think I like your approach the best. I don’t think your heating element is still available but I located a 2000w Rheem LWD. Do you have the part list for your controller and whatever other hardware you used on the pot side? Thanks.

    • The Rheem will work fine. Here is a general parts list for the controller, at least the major parts. Check this link out for a pretty good step by step for the element box setup using readily available parts from Home Depot/Lowes/Menards.

      Liquid Tight RTD Sensor, 2” Probe, Weldless Fitting with deluxe cable option #PT100-L50M14
      25A Solid State Relay #MGR-1D4825
      Universal 1/16 DIN PID Temperature Controller #SYL-2362
      External mount heat sink for 25A SSR #HS25ET
      Carlon 6×6 box from Home Depot but would recommend 8×8 for ease of assembly
      12/3 (short length of 3ft or less to wall and/or kettle) or 10/3 cord (3ft to 6ft to wall or kettle) and heavy duty grounded plugs.
      Standard wall outlet or single outlet if only setting for element – Home Depot
      4 position Terminal strip for connecting 120V wiring
      Small switch for turning PID on and off

  6. Hi. Me again. How do you control the boil with this setup? Does it work by adjusting the temp on the PID? I noticed the High Gravity box has a manual dial…. Carl

    • The Auberin’s PID has a manual mode so when you are ready to boil you switch to manual and choose the percentage of power to maintain a boil. With the 2000W element and 4ish gallons I start at 100% and then drop it down to 90-95% after it’s boiling to maintain a rolling boil. That feature is really useful if you are using a high wattage 240V element, start at 100% and then drop to 60-70%
      Not sure how High Gravity is using both PID and manual rheostat at same time, would be interesting to see the inside of one.

  7. Hi. I’m back with a few more questions. Thanks for your help with this. I’ve done more reading, including studying the PJ information you mentioned. I’m planning on keeping this very simple with no recirculation and just one on/off switch for the entire unit. I’m planning on using this switch:

    I believe this switch will handle the full voltage and avoid the need for the contactor used in PJ’s schematic. Is that right?

    It looks like High Gravity uses the same box that you did. If I mount the PID and switch on the top of the box (similar to HG), will it make it easier to wire in the small space? Also, is the Auberin PID short enough to fit top to bottom in the box?

    I’m trying to figure out the tidiest/simplest way to attach a single outlet to the box. Right now I’m thinking about running a short cable with a female cable end outlet using a strain relief cord connecter ( Does something like that work or do you have a better idea?

    Thanks again. Carl

    • I didn’t use a contactor, I just used a switch to kill power to the PID. To kill all power to the device I simply unplug the unit. I’ll have to open up my box and measure the PID to see if you’ll be able to mount it thru the lid. Passing a cord into the box with female plug will be the easiest way but I’ve found the 3/4″ version of that strain relief works best for the 10-12 gauge cords.

      • Am I right in thinking that if the PID is off the element of off also (so switching the PID switches the element)? Does the PID switch need to be able to handle the full 20V? Also, it looks like I need a 7/8 punch for the ball valve on the kettle. Do you know what size I need for this probe and heating element? Don’t worry about measuring the PID. Once I get mine I can take it to Home Depot and figure out the box. Thanks. Carl

  8. I love this setup and am currently creating something very similar. I was hoping you could provide a little guidance in wiring up the controller you created. I’m going to go with the same Auber pid unit and essentially the exact same parts (maybe different switches). I’ve done a fair bit of soldering and low voltage (Arduino) electric work but 120v starts to seem a little daunting. Do you have any suggestions or a simple schematic of to wire parts up? Thanks for any help you can provide.

  9. Thanks for all your help. My setup is 90% done. I’m trying to get the alarm working. Any ideas on how it gets hooked up? I’ve got it wired up to 13 and 14 (j2) but I feel like it needs to get hooked up to power somehow. Thanks again for all your help. I can’t wait to finally fire this thing up with a full batch of grain in it.

    • Glad I was able to help and glad you are getting it put together. Terminal 13 will go to one connection on the alarm buzzer. One leg of 120V will go to terminal 14 and other leg of 120V will go to the other connection on the alarm buzzer.

  10. Thanks for all your help. Alarm works but emits a faint beep and flash even when not actually going off. Ever hear of this sort of trickle current problem? One last question… I swear it.
    When I’m getting water up to temp I want to supplement the electric element with stovetop heat. Is that feasible? Should I be concerned about how how the housing of the heating element gets? Thanks for any help.

    • I haven’t heard of a current leakage issue, but you could try using the other alarm connection instead of 13 & 14. The element housing will get hot since it is in contact with the element base but probably never hotter than kettle itself. You can supplement using stove top just watch your cords so they don’t get too close to the stove top. Also the PID will shut off element when set point is reached but if you forget the stove will keep going and overshoot. No issue during boil since boiling is boiling.

  11. Could I get away with drilling a 5/8th hole for the RTD probe or do I really need to drill a 9/16th hole? The step bit I have only goes in 1/8th steps.

      • Ok the step bit worked out great…was able to creep up on the right fit.

        So I finally started my build this morning after hearing back from you! I’m excited to get it done.

        I got the valve, the element and the RTD installed…next up the control box.

  12. Thanks for sharing the information on your controller build. I’m looking to do something similar for a small 2.5 gallon system. Do you have a wiring diagram for this that you can share? I really like the simplicity of this design!

    • I don’t have a diagram, mainly done from my head which works better than my ability to sketch anytime on the computer. Very simple to build and if you can change a wall outlet or light switch this won’t be to hard at all. The PID manuals from Auberins have simple diagrams to help. Easiest mistake to make is reversing polarity of the wires going from the PID to the SSR. They are DC so watch the negative and positive. Made that mistake once. The forum has a lot of diagrams and there is a gentleman named PJ that has helped many with diagrams. One note is make sure the 120V AC wiring is 14-12 gauge for elements up to 2000 watts. Smaller gauge wiring is a fire risk. I did 12 gauge just for the added insurance.

  13. This is awesome. I am putting together my order to build right now. Three questions: where did you get your enclosure? How much bigger would you have made the enclosure? Why did you decide to go with no pump(do you just stir)?

    • Glad you like the post. The Carlon enclosure is from Home Depot but I have seen them at Lowe’s and Menards. I think an 8″ x 8″ x 4″ Carlon enclosure is a good size. It’s big enough to make wiring easier yet small enough that you can easily use it on the kitchen counter top and store it inside your kettle when not in use. I actually got a pump a few days after posting the article so it wasn’t pictured in the post.

    • Thanks for checking out my blog. The two switches on that controller are only rated for 6 amps but one only switches the PID and other one switches the pump outlet. The PID draws less than an amp and a typical pump draws less than 5 amps. If you want to add a element cutout switch there are many 20A 120V switches available.

      • Thanks for the quick reply! I ended up grabbing up 3 illuminated rocker switches (125V @ 16A) to control main power, element on/off, and pump on/off. I was wondering if you had a copy of your wiring diagram that you could sent my way. I’ve started a build nearly identical to yours, except I use 12v DC solar pumps in my setup and was planning on incorporating a 12V DC switching power supply and PWM directly to the control box to control the flow of the pump.

        Great blog BTW!!

      • Actually I assembled the controller as I went from mental notes. Sorry. I need to start making notes (other than crappy sketches on post-it notes) since it might help others. I’ve thought about building power supply into the enclosure for my pump also but I always seem to chose the smallest enclosure lol. Keep me posted on the build, I would love to see and hear more as you progress.

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