Moving to a BrewZilla(previously named Robobrew) as a first major upgrade from working on the stovetop in a BIAB setup was the best decision my girlfriend and I have made! For new brewers out there who have a kit or a kettle, it makes a world of difference and your brews will thank you. Switching to an electric contained all-in-one (e-BIAB) like the BrewZilla (or Grainfather etc...) has made my brew days more efficient, reduced cleaning time, and has been safer as well.
I was first introduced to a BrewZilla in the fieldstone basement of a family friend. It sat beyond an upright fridge, a chest freezer-turned-kegerator, and a chalkboard listing out the fermentations therein. The BrewZilla’s owner proclaimed that all of these brews (eight kegs on tap) came from that one compact machine, tucked away next to some iodine-filled carboys.
Days later, I peered into my own lobster pot/brew kettle in which a brew mesh strained to contain the mash. In our early brews, we used an electric coil stove in the apartment kitchen. The lobster pot had a tendency to scorch, so a watchful eye was required on the mesh bag during the mash. One such “caramelization” of a brown ale made us throw up our hands and take the plunge into the all-in-one electric brewing wonder that is the BrewZilla.
BrewZilla & Electronic Brew in a Bag (e-BIAB) For the Win!
The biggest change for me in switching to the BrewZilla was the form factor - multiple operations can occur using the same space. This was a game changer for someone living in a little apartment. Your hot liquor tank becomes your mash tun, then you lift out to sparge, continue with your boil, cool it down, pump into an awaiting fermenter, and then begin cleanup. The brew day’s done and you didn’t have to move the BrewZilla once.
A few extra modifications go a long way. The silicone tube you can get with the circulation arm is good, but consider getting different lengths for different purposes. A more flexible tube allows for whirlpool stages at the touch of a button (if you source your own hop spider). A longer tube on the circulation arm allows for hosing down the system with PBW or your favored cleaning agent. If you’re just starting out and still on the stove, you can use a spoon or paddle to whirlpool your wort. But the electric pump on the BrewZilla is an awesome upgrade, getting a little help from a machine after hours of brewing certainly makes it worth it.
Cooling on the BrewZilla versus the stovetop has one key difference - safety. The BrewZilla is on the ground; the tubing goes from the sink to the unit and back. When done, the chilling apparatus is removed, cleaned, and put away. With the stovetop, it was always a bit more rickety. The cooling tubes snake along the counter and up onto the stove. It’s not a huge difference but it feels much more solid to be going “downhill” with the BrewZilla.
It is a little harder to read the volume of the BrewZilla during mash and sparge from my previous setup. I like to adjust based on water absorbed from the grain bed - and each time I want to check on that, I need to lift up the malt pipe and check. In this instance, minor adjustments are easier on the stovetop because the pot is closer to your face (and to light). This is a minor con for all of the pros and can be mitigated by placing your BrewZilla on a table etc.
Our efficiency and the taste of the final product have greatly improved since switching to the BrewZilla from the stovetop BIAB setup. These are big pluses. Also, now we usually reach or exceed 80% efficiency with less work and cleaning, which is just fine with us!
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