Fixed Plumbing Considerations
I know it's very tempting to add a lot of shiny stainless steel hardware to your system, after all it looks great and can reduce hose changes. But honestly, that's where the advantages end.
Consider some of the downsides to adding lots of stainless steel elbows, valves, tees and tubing:
- Additional cost
- Additional support may be required due to the weight
- Higher heat loss due to stainless steel components
- Cleaning effort - CIP will be required
- More difficult to remove your pump for cleaning
- Drainage points to empty the liens must be included
- Many curves and corners can affect your flow rate
- Some connections are simply not possible with stainless steel
In a well-planned system, hose changes can be minimized to 2-3 per brew session. Perform your hose changes above the wort level or with the help of valves where the hoses are clamped to prevent leakage.
Last but not least, let's not forget the advantages of silicone tubing:
- flexible; ideal for complex bends
- transparent, you can see water and wort in the pipes
- less heat loss
- easy to drain the lines, simply disconnect and put the end in a bucket
If you're desperate to install enough fittings and valves to avoid a few hose changes, you should still try to keep it simple. There are many ways to make connections, and it can get very complicated (and expensive) very quickly. Often, allowing a single hose change can make a big difference.
Yes, anything is possible! But, I would recommend you try to build something compact and simple like the example below. Here, silicone tubing is used for the longer runs and the core manifold is compact with a minimum of stainless steel fittings. The pumps and valves are right at the front for easy access. A single hose change is required during brewing (moving the left pump inlet from MLT to BK).
Be aware of how easy it is to drain the lines or take samples with a sampling valve. You should be able to quickly remove the pumps or pump heads individually to clear blockages or to clean and drain them completely. It also helps to be able to easily remove the mash tun for cleaning.
Compare this with e.g. this design, which has more heat losses through the stainless steel and also needs additional support for the manifold, because otherwise too much force will be acting on the pump body:
Or this design below, looks pretty amazing, but it will be really challenging to keep it clean and drained of water between brew sessions. Don't forget to support the manifold and good luck removing the pump for cleaning.
If it's worth it to you to avoid making hose changes, build the system that will make you happy. Personally, I like being active in the brewing process and see the hose change as just part of the process. I also appreciate the simplicity and lower cost.
After all, I designed Craft Hardware's kettles and fittings to be as modular and flexible as possible. My advice: take advantage of that and start simple. Get to know your system and your process and decide later how best to make changes.
Feel free to send me a sketch and I'll help you evaluate it and determine if it's possible to implement.