From Concept to Brew Day: A Three Tier Brewing System Guide

Sooner or later, every serious home brewer starts thinking of moving his home brewing into a space of it’s own. This often includes upgrading the equipment you already have or choosing from one of the many quality three tier brewing system available and starting your own microbrewery with a three tier brewing system.

Since you’re reading this, you’ve probably already started looking at three tier brewing system and the many options available. And there are a LOT of options…  So many, in fact, that you may not now where to start. To clear away some of the confusion you may have about three tier brewing system and their elements, I’m going to break the process of choosing, buying and setting up your brewing stand into a few simple steps.

#1  Choose a stand. (see here) Before you can do anything, you need to decide where you want to brew and how much space you can allot to your brewing. If you’re short of space, you may want to look at two or three tier three tier brewing system, which have the advantage of gravity when it comes to transferring your wort from one kettle to another. If, however, you want everything low to the ground and have the space for it, one of the single tier three tier brewing system could be the right fit for you.

Though in this article I’ll be talking about tiers, understand that if your brewing stand is a single level, the elements will still be the same. You’re just more likely to need a march pump to transfer your water and wort from one kettle to another.

#2  What you’ll need. The basic setup for most three tier brewing system is as follows: hot liquor tank (HLT), mash tun, and brew kettle. The hot liquor tank is your source of hot water which, in the brewing process is often called liqour. The mash tun is where you’ll soak or mash the grains in water from the hot liquor tank. Once this is done,
you’ll strain the resulting sweet liquid called wort from the mash and send it to the brew kettle. I’ve listed the items you’ll need below.

Elements of three tier brewing system:

  • A three tier brewing system*
  • Hot Liquor Tank
  • Mash Tun
  • Brew KettleFermenter

Optional elements for brewing stands:

  • Heating Elements
  • Wort Chiller

*Or a single tier wide enough to accommodate the HLT, Mash Tun and Brew Kettle.

Most three tier brewing system rely on gravity to do a great deal of the work when transferring liquid from one kettle to the other. Because of this, the first tier of most three tier brewing system is the hot liquor tank. Try to get a steel one with a built in thermometer. The temperature of the water you use in the first stages of brewing is very
important. Putting the HLT on the top tier allows you to add water during any of the steps without having to lift what could be dangerously hot water. Let gravity do the work for you. It’s safer that way.

The second tier should be the mash tun. Try to get one with a mash screen or false bottom. It allows the wort to be drained while holding back the solids in the mash. It’s both faster and easier than trying to strain the wort by hand. Again, go for steel with a built in thermometer. If the mash is too hot or too cool, it can alter the
resulting wort, thus altering the final result of the beer.

The third and bottom tier of a 3 tier brew system should be the brew kettle. Like the hot liquor tank and mash tun, this should also have a built in thermometer and be made of steel. Here you will boil the wort with the hops.

Finally, you’ll need a fermenter. Though fermenters don’t actually have a place on most three tier brewing system, they are an important part of the three tier brewing setup because you can’t brew without them. If you’ve been brewing at all, you probably already have a fermenter.

Unless you choose to upgrade it while you’re looking at brewing stands, or simply need a larger one, this is probably not something you’ll have to buy. Just know that you will still need it.

#3  Gas or electric?  Now that you know the basic setup you’ll need, you need to choose your heating elements. Three tier brewing system with electric heating elements allow more precise control over the temperature and allow you to have the levels of the stand closer together, but some people still prefer all gas three tier brewing system. In the end, it’s a matter of personal preference. Choose the heat source that prefer.

You’ll also need to decide how you’re going to cool your wort before adding the yeast and sending it to the fermenter. Most people choose a simple wort chiller that uses cool water to quickly lower the temperature of the wort. You can also add a march pump to circulate and transfer your wort during the many stages of brewing. One of the many
reasons people choose three tier brewing system is that they make the process of brewing easier.  Anything that adds to that is probably a good idea.

#4  Start building. Once you have everything you need for one of these quality brewing stands, it is simply a matter of putting everything together and making sure it’s sturdy. Before you ever brew anything with your new brewing stand, test everything. Fill each of your kettles with water and make sure they don’t wobble or tilt awkwardly. Those are both
obvious signs that something is wrong. Better to find out now and fix the problem than to discover it in the middle of the big brew day with ten or twenty gallons of near boiling water. Once you know everything is nice and stable, test the heating elements. Heat each tank of water with the heating element to make sure they’re set up and working properly.

#5  Brew away! Now that everything is bought, assembled and tested, it’s time to brew. Commemorate this event with a large batch of your favorite brew or try out a new recipe. Then, raise a glass to your new micro brewery and to three tier brewing systems everywhere.