Nick’s Grainfather G40 Review – Part 1

In early January I purchased a Grainfather G40. These are my early impressions of the system. For reference, I am a long term (6yrs) Braumeister BM20 user. Because this is likely to be a long missive, I will be splitting my initial review into three parts…

The second part will be “Sea Trials” – pre brew testing with water alone. The third part will be my observations from my first brew day. But firstly, we will kick off with…

Part 1 – Purchase Rationale and Unboxing

The Braumeister is a well-regarded piece of kit, so perhaps it is fair to highlight some areas of the BM’s performance/design that could be improved upon or how it sometimes did not meet my brewing requirements.

  1. The 6-6.5kg practical limitation to the grain in the malt pipe does not make brewing higher gravity beers easy. Yes, you can brew short, or do an iterated mash….yes you can about squeeze 7kg in if you use a “yield increase disc/filter” or you can add fermentable’s (D/LME) to the boil…but at the end of the day they are all compromises to the “process”
  2. There are times that I want to brew longer brew lengths than the 20-25L that is typical on the BM20.
  3. Without a lower drain, wort extraction on the BM from below the tap requires “other solutions”…springer filters, racking arms, tubes to make use of the BM’s own pump….all to recover the 5L or so of wort from below the tap. Dont get me wrong…all work to a greater or lesser degree…but its just another addition to the process.
  4. The 2kw element can result in longish temperature ramp times, which all add to the length of the brew day. Also does not help the boil which can be quite weak, especially outside and in the winter.
  5. Cleaning…it is a real pain to clean behind the circular elements of the BM20
  6. Handles…my personal bugbear about the BM20…to enable you to lug the BM from place to place BM have kindly provided a pair of handles that have been formed from flat 2mm wide sheets of steel….being flat they cut deep (figuratively) into your hand when you lift the BM….I’m pretty sure that the first thing most BM users must do is to add some padding to the handles.

Sure, there are solutions and workarounds to all these issues and none of them make the BM unusable, far from it, but at the end of the day they all result in some compromise in process or additional equipment to alleviate them. I want my brew day to be simpler, not more complicated.

In the past year, other brewing vessels such as the Brewtools B40 looked like they may potentially be a successor to the BM20, but as a system, once you bought all the additional accessories, pipes, fittings etc to make a system of decent functionality, the costs got utterly prohibitive…getting close to the £2k mark. Then, following issues experienced by early adopters of the B40 it was apparent that it came with its own compromises that required the manufacturers to release a number of accessories to alleviate said issues (better filter plates, overflow pipes to cope with stuck mashes etc)…all at additional cost.

So, I held off waiting for something “better” to come along…and lo and behold, Grainfather announced the G40 late last year…

  1. Grain bill from 3kg to 13kg (12kg is the practical upper limit)
  2. 46L max pre-boil volume
  3. 2.9kw element (larger in surface area than the G30 to reduce risk of wort scorching)
  4. Simple pump system with a lower tap to facilitate easy cleaning and maximum wort extraction

So, it seemed to fit the bill and I devoured all the videos posted by the early purchasers to see what they thought of it…I even tolerated the soporific tones of David Heath. Despite some of the video reviews being conducted by utter klutzes, who I would not let through my garage doors into my “brewery”, there was some useful snippets of information to be had. I thought I would wait for more information to percolate out into the electronic ether, but surprisingly not much new stuff seemed to be forthcoming throughout December.

Then one of the lads in our Ipswich club announced he had bought a G40 and had brewed once on it and loved it. A quick interrogation and a few of my remaining questions were cleared up. I did plan to go round his and watch it in live action during a brew day, but events conspired against me. In the end, shortly after New Year I saw that the Malt Miller had 5 in stock, then a couple of days later they only had 3, so I thought I had better strike whilst the iron was hot, before they all got sold off….who knows when they might be restocked with the current general supply issues!!!

A big, scrub that…huge box arrived on my doorstep one Friday in January…beware…this is not an easy purchase to hide from one’s spouse….especially if you must move it through the house into your brewing space!!!

So, my first impressions on unboxing were…

  1. My god this thing is a beast of a vessel….it’s much bigger, more butch, than I imagined it would be…even having seen various videos of it I never quite got the correct impression of its scale. Even looking at its quoted physical dimensions, you do not quite get what that means, until you see it for yourself.
  2. General build quality was very good, everything fits together neat and snug. Speidel could perhaps give the Grainfather guys a lesson in how to manufacture a punched steel plate as the GF one looks like some madman with a machine gun has had a go at making the holes, rather than the neat and ordered lines that perforate the BM malt pipe plates (but that’s just me picking holes where I can….pun intended).
  3. The only real minor let down is the connection of the controller module to the GF. The cable is quite stiff and kinked (not helped by the cold) and, where you see in the advertising materials it is hanging in a nice straight line from the controller down to its plug-in port, this does not actually happen in practice….it just looks messy.

It took me fully two weeks of ownership before I was able to brew on it….but more of that later. In the interim period I was able to play around and check water volumes, try to determine boil off rates, build mash profiles, and just learning the G40 process with just water, rather than brewing. But that’s all for part 2…click the link below

Part 2 – Sea Trials

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