Spike Brewing System Review. READ this be before you buy
Your love for beer will make you practically try all varieties that you could get your hands on during the first couple of years trying home brewing. You would start with extract brewing and eventually get into all-grain brewing to have complete control over what you made. My first set up was a total DIY 5, gallon rig with which I brewed some great batches. There were many difficulties associated with my DIY setup, especially with temperature control and the struggle to carry the hot wort to the bathtub for an ice bath. Going through some recommendations, and my experience, you can pick the Spike Brewing System by Spike Brewing. Their set up is robust and appealing, and will help you upgrade to larger batches with some incredible results.
Features of Spike + Brewing System
- v4 kettles which are upgraded - use the industry-standard 304 stainless steel material with sanitary (NSF listed) TIG-welded fittings. The three brewing tanks for the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT), Mash Tun (MT) and Boiling Kettle (BK) feature front to back handle making it a space saver design. The changed handle position saves about 12 inches of spacing in between the tanks.
- A slick PID board gives you control of the two heating elements (one at a time) and the pumps. An upgraded version is also available which controls both the kettles at the same time.
- To maintain precise control of the wort temperature, a 304 stainless steel 50 ft, ½ inch HERMS (Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System) is provided in the HLT. High Quality food grade pumps circulate the wart through the heat exchanger to maintain the mash temperature.
- The counterflow wort chiller is a simple heat exchanger that cools the wort down to the required temperature before inlet into the fermenter.
- Optional heavy duty stainless steel platform with a custom pump-mounting system.
My experience with the brewing system
The first thought right off the bat as I put the system together was about how easy it is to assemble. When set up was complete, I was struck by its commercial-grade looks which could potentially give my old DIY rig a complex. You will notice that the kettle walls are thick and the tanks have a substantial mass to them making them study. It is something you would need when handling gallons of carefully controlled fluids. If you’re a first time user, it’s essential that you understand the flow circuitry well before connecting or starting the brewing process, it’s easy to make a wrong connection if you don’t understand or get confused over where the hoses exit the tanks and enter the pump and vice versa.
The 15-gallon brewing kettle I have allows me to make batches between 5 to 11 gallons which is a doubling of my previous capacity. On this brew, I decided to make a 10-gallon batch and started off filling up the HLT with water enough to well submerge the HERMS. The strike temperature is set at 170 F so when the grains are added you’d hit a final mash tun temperature at about 155 F. Before turning on the pumps it’s essential to open the valves and bleed the air in the system and prime the pumps. Once the mash tun is heated, I add about 18 pounds of grain while stirring continuously for a uniform mix. The liquid circulates for about an hour, and the pumps are turned off and valves closed to prep for sparging.
The hoses are removed to set them up for sparging by connecting them to the Boiling Kettle whirlpool port. The process of transfer of the wort to the BK needs to be done as slowly as possible; I gave it about 45 minutes. You need to ensure there’s more liquid in the BK than your batch size to account for evaporation and hose losses. Once the wort hits boil, I add 3 ounces of hops for the bittering and add about another 1.5 ounces at 15 minutes to the completion of boiling.
Once the boiling is done, the next step is the whirlpool, and the hoses are removed to create a closed circuitry between the BK and wort pump to circulate the wort and cool it. The next step is to chill the wort, and that’s where the counterflow heat exchanger is used. One direction if the flow is of the hot wort and the other is cool water from a source. The cooled wort goes into the fermenting tank in a continuous flow.
The resulting beer matched the taste of my old DIY rig, but only this time I brewed every subsequent batch with consistency. I’ve experimented with a variety of grain and hop combinations and have been able to replicate them time and again.
- This turnkey brewing system is assembled in just minutes after which you can plug it and start brewing with no additional steps or configuration.
- The fittings are universal; therefore the system is compatible with a range of accessories and other equipment.
- The all-electric spike system lets you dial in the temperature which helps produce beer batches that are consistent.
- The Spike + utilizes Tri-clamp (TC) connectors which is common in professional brewing equipment. They are easier to assemble and clean.
- The tanks are available in five sizes between 10 to 50 gallons. So it covers the volume needs of most home brewers.
- Separate pumps work the liquids through the system avoiding contamination while maintaining process parameters. All you need is to change the hose inlets and outlets at four stages without having to move much of your equipment around
- Cleaning the system is a breeze as the recycled water, pumps and hose flow circuitry can be used to clean up the kettles
- The Spike system utilized National Pipe Thread (NPT) connectors which is common among home-brewing rigs. Although it’s not much of a downside, unlike the professional TC connectors in Spike +, NPT rank lower on ease of cleaning.
- You’d also have to wrap new sealing tape every time you take the rig apart and put it back together.
Why Spike + Brewing System is Worth Your Money ?
- The spike system with its modular design, robust build and high-quality feature stack up competitively among the range of brewing systems in the market.
- The process is sophisticated compared to simple DIY rigs, which gives you tight control over the quality of your beer while letting you get an efficiency of 80-90% in each batch.
- Spike system’s reliable process control lets you brew batches with precise taste and consistency every time.
- The Spike+ is definitely worth the investment although it is a bit higher priced compared to other rigs. You can draw great efficiency and productivity from the Tri-clamp connectors alone.
Other than a few glitches during the first brew with the assembled system, I have no complaints about it. I love the amount of thought and engineering that has gone into this product to make it intuitive and user-friendly!