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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Cart After The Horse

I have been brewing for nearly 18 years now and have had several iterations of various equipment and brew setups.  The old brew cart (shown at right) has served me well since I built it in 2008 to accommodate the original heat infusor shown below.

This was my first attempt at computer controlled heat management, long before The Electric Brewery and many of the other Electric Brewery systems that are popular today.  They are popular because they work.  This heat infusor was difficult to use.  It clogged with grain particles easily, had a very bad habit of scorching wort as soon as you were not looking and had no safety protocols preventing the heating element from running dry.  I burned up a couple of heating elements by leaving the unit powered and running the liquid out.

The cart that was built for this purpose was designed to use propane burners for both the hot liquor and the boil kettle so it had a tile backsplash, a concrete backer board and 18" x 18" ceramic tiles under the burner locations. Since the jambalaya burners I used would throw off tons of heat, and the mash tun the system was designed around was a plastic beverage cooler, there was a lot of space built in around each vessel.  It was originally designed to have drawers under the counter to act as storage space for cleaning chemicals, tools and etc.  That would work great if it had been stationary, but moving it would have made a mess.  It was also heavy.  It was so heavy that I had to use a block and tackle to lift it upright after putting the casters on the bottom.  Adding a bunch of junk to drawers would have made it even heavier.  Everytime I wheeled it out into the carport was a back breaking affair and putting it back was just as difficult.  It was time to rethink this.

One day in February (2017) I just deconstructed it.  I saved very little of this behemoth, sending most of it to the yard waste recycler.  When I designed a new cart in Google Sketch Up, there were basically 4 design parameters:

  1. It must fit all three of my kettles and allow some workspace near the front so a 60" x 30" work surface was prescribed.
  2. It needs to be lightweight.  I wanted to be able to move it easily when unloaded without giving myself a hernia.
  3. It needs to be lower to the ground.  I designed the original cart to be the same height as the average kitchen counter (about 30 inches high).  Completely ignoring the part that my kettles were 24" tall at a minimum and that peering inside these kettles would now require a minimum height of 54 inches.
  4. It needs to support the weight of all three kettles when full.  With 2, 15 gallon and a 20 gallon kettles this is 50 gallons at full capacity.  Assuming 8lbs/gallon + 20%, the math 50 x 8 = 400 + 20% = 480, rounded up to 500 lbs.
So here is the design I came up with.  Using premium pine 2x4 construction, according to the Cornell University Capacity of wood Column Calculator, it should be able to support about 1900 lbs.


Why PAWS and what does it mean?  Portable, Automatic, Wort, System.  Plus it ties in nicely with the 3Dog Brewery theme.  

Construction has begun, but you will have to wait for the next post to see any.  Sure, I could have purchased a stainless steel work table or even a work surface to put on top of this cart, but it would have been 10x more expensive.  Pine 2x4's are cheap.  Plus, using wood as a medium, I can make it exactly the way I want for a very low materials cost. 

At this point, the most expensive component of this cart is going to be the finish.  After using several different types of finishes on many wood projects, and viewing many YouTube videos, I love Waterlox Original.  Waterlox original is the most forgiving, best wearing, warmest finish I have ever used.  This stuff can make cheap pine 2x4 look like art because it uses both boiled linseed oil and a tough resin sealer.

Stay tuned to see how this comes together.

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