How to Build a Home Brewery

by Matt Giovanisci | Last Updated: October 24, 2020

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I want to introduce myself because this post will be a mix between a journal and a how-to guide. My name is Matt Giovanisci (Jiva-Knee-See) and I’ve been homebrewing since 2006.

I now own a house in Colorado that has space for a home brewery. It has a second garage (with a roof deck) that was added to the house for boat storage since we live near a lake.

Future Home Brewery

I don’t own a boat. So I’m turning the garage into a home brewery.

I Don’t Know What I’m Doing

I’m a 37-year-old web designer and never used a circular saw in my life. I’ll stick to computers where the only danger to my hands is carpal tunnel. Bottom line: I’m not handy.

Matt Giovanisci is not handy

So for this project, I’m hiring professionals. I want it done right. Plus, since I have this site, it’s a business expense. At least with homebrewing, I know what I’m doing.

The purpose of this post is to document building a home brewery, whether you do it yourself or not. I’ll provide details for the DIYers out there and the references I used in the process.

The Brewery Equipment I Already Own

I started with extract batches on the kitchen stove long before I switched to all-grain. Back then, I built my own mash tun and stir plate which failed instantly. Again, not handy.

When I moved to Colorado from New Jersey, I sold all my brewing gear before I left. The good news (and bad news for my wallet) is I got to buy new equipment and start from scratch.

My original setup was a Hot Liquor Tank and Boil Kettle from Kegworks by BeverageFactory.com. And my mash tun was a Fermenter’s Favorite by NorthernBrewer.com.

First Colorado Homebrewing Setup Snow

For a heat source, I went with the Anvil burner because I liked the orange color – damn my designer’s brain! But to be honest, I always hated using propane. It made me nervous and it felt like such a waste of money and energy. I’d go through a propane tank every two batches.

So I hired an electrician to design a few outlets that could be installed and removed with no damage. And this allowed me to buy my dream setup: The Ss BrewTech 3V Electric Brewing System.

Original Electric Brewing Installation

A direct wire from the electrical box (located around the corner of the wall) with a subpanel housing two GFCI 240v twist-lock outlets and a 120v standard outlet. Everything was mounted with the existing screws holding up the siding.

SS BrewTech 3V Electric Brewing System

This system includes an Ss Brewtech Hot Liquor Tank, Mash Tun, RIMS, and Boil Kettle with the 3v control panel. And it has two Blichmann Riptide pumps and an Exchillerator counterflow chiller.

I’m setting this up permanently in the new garage space.

Assessing The Garage Space And Initial Design Concepts

One of the main reasons we bought this house was the extra garage. Once I knew we had the house, I wanted to start planning out the brewery. Problem was, I couldn’t measure. The garage was packed!

Packed Garage Space

Thankfully, my Dad is a kitchen designer and has been for over 30 years. He lives in New Jersey, so we had to collaborate via FaceTime and email.

He was able to count the studs in all the pictures I sent to get a rough estimate of the size. From that, he created the initial design draft in a program called 2020 (how appropriate for the time).

Brew Cabin Floor Plan v1

Brew Cabin Design Render v1

Obviously, the crude visuals of the sink and brew kettles are due to the fact it’s a mainly a kitchen design program. But it gave me a sense of the space to start making a plan.

Here are my initial thoughts on the design:

Access To The Rooftop Deck

On the back wall, I’m adding a door that’ll lead to the backyard so you can access the roof deck. Currently, the only way into the brewery is through the first garage. Also, the door will have windows to add more natural light.

Wort Production

The back wall will also be “Wort Production.” From left to right is a utility sink with hot and cold water, the hot liquor tank, mash tun, and boil kettle on a six-foot table I already own. Plus, an overhead 6-foot condensate hood. And next do the door is the control panel.

Sanitation Station

The sink should be large enough to clean kettles and fermentors. Plus, a space for drying. I heard Brian over at Short Circuted Brewing say he wished he had a drain tray on his older sink. And I’d like to have an RO system attached to a pot filler for brewing water only.

Fermentation Station

The fermentation station is where all the fermentors will be stored on wheels so they can be moved from the boil kettle back to the station with ease. I’ll max out at three fermentors because that’s all my Ss BrewTech glycol chiller can handle at once.

Preparation Station

I already own a 4-foot stainless steel prep table that I want to use to make yeast starters, package hops, can beer, and store small brewing gear. Ideally, I’d like to have shelves above it to store water chemicals and other things. But I might exchange the table for a workbench with drawers for extra storage for things like hoses, parts, clamps, airlocks, and other miscellaneous brewing gear.

Ingredient Storage and Milling

I thought I would have enough room to have ALL my brewing needs in one space. But if I want space for people to hang out and drink, then I have to store my bulk ingredients in the other garage. This will give me more room. I’ll move the chest freezer, grain bins, and milling table there.

The Taproom

One of the walls is the outside of the house. That gave me the idea of making the brewery feel like it’s outside. So I want to paint it white and add a counter bar with outdoor walls lights (I got the inspiration for this on Pinterest of all places) and add some turf with a picnic table in the middle.

I created a board in Pinterest to collect my design ideas I liked.

Brewery Board Pinterest

For serving beer, I already own a bomber fridge, a can fridge, and a 3-tap kegerator. This has been plenty up until now, but I’d like the ability to expand the kegerator in the future. My plan is to keep the taproom towards the front half of the garage.

My dad was trying to convince me to put in a traditional bar. But I NEVER want to be a bartender. Pouring beer from a tap is fun and every patron should do it themselves. Plus, this leads into the idea that I don’t want anything to feel permanent.

Other Considerations

In case, we ever sell the place, I want the garage to function as a garage. I considered finishing the floors and adding tile to the back wall. But then it really can’t function as a garage. So everything will be designed to be removed or useful to another owner if we ever plan to sell.

I’d also like the ability to upgrade to a 10-gallon system in the future. I have the space for it and the controller would still work. Just need to switch out the kettles and mash tun.

Designing The Home Brewery

Once we moved in, we got a better sense of the space and were able to take measurements. Plus, I removed the shelves nailed and screwed to the wall. Told ya I knew how to use a screwdriver 😉🛠

Empty Garage Space v2

Removing Shelves

Over FaceTime with my Dad, I took measurements and he plugged those new dimensions into the computer along with some design changes I had. Here was version two of the design.

Brewery Design Version Two

Concerns About The Home Brewery Design

Again, since I don’t know what I’m doing and being my own General Contractor with this project, I have concerns that have kept me up at night. Mainly because I don’t know what my options are.

I’ve been surfing YouTube for months just trying to learn about every possibility. My hope is that I can rely on experienced contractors to lead me in the right direction.

Hood Ventilation?

Not surprisingly, there are very few videos on adding ventilation to a home brewery. Thankfully, Kal at TheElectricBrewery.com documented his original hood setup. But, at the time of writing this, there wasn’t much info on his new setup, which looks much cleaner.

Also, Brian from Short Circuited Brewers has been promising a video on his new hood setup, but nothing was created as of writing this. But he did mention he was having problems with leaking at first. So that’s something to keep my eye on when the time comes to install the ductwork.

Sink Plumbing?

Pipes freeze. I know this because my main job in life is in the pool industry. And the walls are framed with 2x4s and outside. I don’t think a plumber will run water and sewage lines in the wall.

Plus, I don’t want to run the drain into the concrete floor because that would be too permanent (and also not possible). Thankfully, there are a few YouTube videos I had to reference to come up with a solution. Mainly to add a pump to the bottom of the sink and drain up and over through the garage spaces.

Temperature Control?

With having fermentors, I need to control the temperature of the entire space. But I don’t think it’s smart tapping into our existing HVAC system. So I had to research other systems.

That’s when I found out about mini-splits which would allow me to heat and cool the space independently from the rest of the house. This makes the most sense, but I’m still not sure how necessary it’ll be after it’s insulated and drywalled.

And because of this, pulling permits would be that much harder because the country requires specific R-values for the insulation. And would it be considered extra living space now? More on this later.

Finding Contractors

Again, I’m not handy. I have to hire professionals to help me. Also, I’m new to the area and don’t know a lot of people. So I’m hoping I can find good help through recommendations.

The only contractor I worked with is the electrician who did the original electric brewing set up at my old place. He was recommended by our neighbor at the time. And I’m hiring him to do this job.

Since her recommendation was great, I asked her if she knew a general handyman who could help me with a few small construction projects. Again, she had someone and that’s who I contacted.

We also worked with an HVAC company that we liked in our old place. So I figured they’d be a good place to start for installing the mini-split. They also do plumbing too.

About a few days after we moved in, I started calling contractors to scope out the work and give me quotes and ideas. With this information, I was able to nail down what was possible and what was a pipe dream in my head.

I also chose the contractors based on who I liked and their ideas. Not price.

Staying Organized In Asana and Google Sheets

Now we’re finally getting to my wheelhouse: organization! I pride myself on being extremely organized in life and in business.

I use a program called Asana for project management and just about everything. I run my entire life from this software. I have a saying, “if it’s not in Asana, it doesn’t get done.”

So I created a simple board with three columns to track the progress of the brewery build: To Do, In Progress, and Done.

Brewery Build Board in Asana

This will help me keep track of what I have to do as a general contractor. Mainly, scheduling contractors, and buying supplies. It helps me visualize the order of operations so things don’t get jammed up.

Ideally, I’d like to have the brewery build done by the end of October. We moved in the house on September 19th. And the first contractor gave me an estimate for the plumbing on September 23rd.

On top of that, I’m keeping track of all my spending in a Google Sheet. This includes any new supplies I order and contracting work.

Brewery Build Cost Spreadsheet

Items in BOLD are what I’ve already ordered or work that has been finished.

I haven’t added what I paid for the brewing supplies I already own. But I’d like to include this later because I think it would be helpful to know how much it cost to build this brewery over time.

Adding The Door

After talking to the electrician, he suggested that the door be put in first so he can work around it. I contacted the handyman and he said he could do it if I supplied the door.

I did a bunch of research on doors. Initially, I wanted a door that would swing out into the yard. But neither Home Depot nor Lowes had any outswing doors in stock. So I decided on a pre-hung left inswing insulated door with a window. And this actually turned out to be a better decision.

I ordered it online and picked it up at the store that day. I had to ask my friend to help because he had a Ford Escape. The door wouldn’t fit in my tiny Subaru Crosstrek which is the only car my girlfriend and I own. We stored it on the floor in the garage.

Therma Tru Insulated Door

36-in x 80-in Fiberglass Half Lite Left-Hand Inswing Ready To Paint Unfinished Prehung Single Front. Also a Kwikset Delta Satin Chrome Single-Cylinder Deadbolt and Handle Combo. I’ll probably replace this later with a smart lock.

Two men showed up to install the door on October 1st. This was the first major step of the brewery build. It took them all day, but I’m very satisfied with the work.

The door looks great and provided a lot more natural light than I was expecting!

Door Installation

Door Installation Complete

Installing Electricity

This took a lot of planning with my Dad. My biggest concern was getting the electrical hookup right for the Ss Brewtech 3v control panel which needs two 240v twist-lock outlets and a standard 120v outlet. And I needed it in the right spot.

I was also concerned about the hood and how it would be powered. I decided to just copy exactly what Kal did with his original hood set up over at TheElectricBrewery.com. That means, I only needed a standard 120v outlet to plug the fan into with a switch to control it.

Electrical Planning Back Wall

Then, I had to decide how many outlets I wanted and where I wanted them. Plus, all the lights and where to put them.

For all this, I used masking tape and a sharpie marker to indicate everything I wanted and where. I also shot a video for the electrical, which was helpful for his planning.

House Wall Electrical

Window Wall Electrical

On October 6th, a team of electricians came out for the entire day to install all the electricity needed for the brewery. They ran one line from the basement electrical panel to a sub-panel located in the main garage. This subpanel controls the entire brewery.

Brewery Sub Panel

While they were here, I asked if they could install a spot for a future ceiling fan. I might not add one, but I wanted the option just in case. They also cleaned up the wiring for the garage door opener and moved the opener switch to inside the brewery (instead of in the main garage).

Electricity Back Wall Electricity Back Wall

After insulation, drywall, and painting are finished, they’ll come back to add all the lights, outlets, and switches.

Plumbing The Sink and RO System

The first thing I did was buy the sink and faucet I wanted. Originally, I had the same sink as Kal from TheElectricBrewery.com in my Amazon cart. But after hearing Brian from Short Circuited Brewing lament about his regrets of not having a drying tray, I purchased a smaller sink with a drain tray.

Stainless Steel 18" Single Bowl Commercial Kitchen Sink with Left Drainboard
$295.99

This is the exact sink I bought for my brewery because it had a left side drain tray.

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We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you. 10/24/2020 01:29 pm UTC

Then, I went back and forth on whether to install an RO system. I’m really big on water chemistry since I’m a pool nerd and consider myself a backyard chemist. In fact, I have my water tested by Ward Labs every quarter and always add brewing salts and minerals to my water for every batch.

Having RO just allows me to start with a blank slate and dial things in better. And since I have the space to do it, I might as well.

I watched Brian’s video on his RO set up like 50 times. And I bought all the same supplies he used.

For the plumbing job, I had three different contractors come out to give me estimates. Only one of them gave me an exact estimate, timeframe, and parts list. So I went with them since they seemed to be the most professional.

The plan was to install a Drainosaur under the sink that would pump the wastewater up and over both garages and down to the main drain line in the basement. I was hoping that all the pipes could be fitted behind the drywall, but I’m not that lucky.

Drainosaur Tank and Sump Pump Combination System
$220.62 ($0.55 / oz)

This is what we used for the sink drain in the home brewery because we couldn't run a drain line below grade.

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We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you. 10/24/2020 03:27 pm UTC

The back of the brewery is framed with 2x4s and is an outside wall. While they would do it if I signed a waiver, they advised against it. Instead, they wanted the plumbing to be outside of the drywall so it’s protected from freezing.

At first, I didn’t like the idea of seeing the plumbing. I thought about building a soffit to hide the pipes and the ventilation for the hood. But that seemed like overkill, plus I would have limited access to those things in case anything were to go wrong.

So, I just decided to embrace the idea that you’ll see pipes and ductwork along the back wall. I’ll just have to go for a more industrial look. And it’ll make it easier to fix or replace any parts that might go wrong. In the end, I think this is a good move.

Here’s a mockup of what I think the end result would look like:

Brewery Plumbing and Ductwork Mockup

On October 16th, a couple of plumbers came out to start the initial work of running the hot, cold, and drain lines from the basement up through the main garage and overhead to the brewery.

Plumbing and Electric in Main Garage

Once the insulation, drywall, and painting are finished, they’ll come back to hook everything up to the sink and Drainosaur. Plus, they’re also installing a single PEX line for the RO system to a pot filler on the wall above the brew kettles and mash tun.

Drain Line for Sink in Brewery

My original plan was to store the big-ass RO reservoir under the drain try of the sink. But the Drainosaur has to go there. So I won’t know until everything is set up where this giant tank will go and not be in the way. I may have to do some clever design later.

Insulation and Plans for Hanging the Condensate Hood

The same guy who installed the door was tasked to put in the insulation. First, he came back to take measurements so he could order the insulation and then have it shipped to the house.

Insulation Delievery

At the same time, the condensate hood I ordered from Fast Kitchen Hoods arrived. Before we could install the insulation, we had to figure out how to hang the hood.

Condensate Hood Delivery

He and another guy and came up with a plan for hanging the hood after insulation, drywall, painting, and plumbing were done. He added two 2x6s to the ceiling to install the hood with chains.

On Saturday, October 17th, he installed the insulation in the ceiling which he said was the hard part. Then, he came back on Monday the 19th to finish insulating all the walls.

Insulation Installed

The next day, he dropped off an invoice and some paint samples for me to choose from. Once the drywall is installed, he’ll paint the entire brewery.

Drywall Installation

I hired a drywall guy recommended by the guy who did the door and insulation. He came out to take measurements and emailed me a quote the same day. I accepted and he ordered the drywall.

We scheduled the drywall installation for October 20th, the day after the insulation was complete. He said it would take about two days. But the drywall supplier was backed up and delivery got delayed. The drywall was delivered in the afternoon of October 20th.

Drywall Delivery

To compensate, he said he would drywall, tape, and spackle all in one day. That day was October 21st. They started at 8:00 AM and had the drywall hung by 10:00 AM. Taping and spackling wrapped up around 3:00 PM.

Brewery Drywall

After they left for the day, I noticed the garage door opener kept jamming up. The next day, they sent someone back to look at it and they fixed it.

The following day (now three days for drywall), they came back again to fix mistakes and do a once-over sanding down a bunch of spots and touching up the mud work.

Painting The Home Brewery

On Friday, October 23rd, right after the drywall guy left for the last time the painter pulled in right away. The painter is the same guy who did the door and insulation.

First, he had to put a primer coat on all the walls and ceiling. He used a paint sprayer, so most of the day was just laying down paper and wrapping parts that won’t be painted.

Primer Coat in Home Brewery

After the primer coat, we noticed a lot of mistakes on the drywall. You could see the screw holes. In Colorado, walls are textured so it’s not a concern. But we’re not texturing, so you can see everything.

Thankfully, the painter is extremely thorough with his work and everything will look good in the end. But I’m a little disappointed in the drywall company I hired.

I chose to paint everything white except for the back wall. For that, I chose a gray color called Cyberspace (appropriately named). I thought it would contrast nicely with all the stainless steel.

I also had to choose a white since there are like 200 whites. I simply chose one of the recommended complimentary paints for Cyberspace called Site White (again, appropriately named).

Paint Samples

On October 24th, after a night of drying, the painter came to apply the final coats. Of course, he noticed even more drywall mistakes. It was fixed, but it took a few more coats than expected.

Painting The Homebrewery

Matt Giovanisci, the founder of Brew Cabin, started homebrewing in 2005. He has continued to level-up his brewing skills and wanted to share his journey and knowledge with other homebrewers. He launched Brew Cabin in 2017 to make homebrewing more approachable and scalable for everyone looking to craft the perfect pint.

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