I – like many homebrewers – started out as an extract brewer. It was far and away the cheapest way to get into the hobby and see if it was something I wanted to spend more time and money on. After my second batch, I knew this was something I wanted to continue doing.
Brewing in a Bag (BIAB) seemed to be the next logical option for me as I already had most of the equipment needed from the kit I purchased and I only really needed a nylon bag to get started. Switching from extract brewing to all-grain caused the quality of my brews to shoot up significantly. Extracts are good to understand the process of home brewing and to work on your sanitization game, but you can hit a wall with how much you can do pretty quickly.
After about ten batches using my budget BIAB system, I decided it was a good time to consider an all-in-one setup that should allow me to take my home brewing game to the next level. After all, that is the name of the game, right? We didn’t necessarily pick this hobby up to save money.
If you frequent the forums or r/Homebrewing, you will see a lot of people with complete systems from Robobrew, Clawhammer, Grainfather, Anvil and others. I had never even considered spending this type of money on brewing equipment before now, so I came into this research project with little-to-no knowledge on the differences between these systems.
I decided to pick five of the most talked about systems and compare their features, price and quality. What I quickly found is that while many look similar on the surface, they each have their pros and cons.
Must Have Features
I am not a picky brewer. I brew occasionally when I have free time, which seems to be a dwindling amount as my kids get older and are involved with more things.
- 304 Stainless Steel. If you have ever handled a pot that was steel, but NOT 304 stainless steel, then you know why this is high on my priority list. 304 steel is extremely durable and will hold its heat better. This is important as we are only reviewing 120v systems. 120v boils water just fine, it just may take ~30 minutes longer than a propane burner or a 240v system.
- Good Heating Power. I decided to only choose from the lower-voltage 120v systems. Man brands have a comparable 240v system, but it is usually around 25% more expensive. As you will see below, there are large swings in prices already, and tacking on another $200 or so just didn’t seem worth it. I want my kettle to get the most out of the electric I provide it.
- A Pump System. An auto-siphon works OK to start out with, but you are limited in use cases. You can’t do proper sparging without a pump, can’t circulate wort to keep consistent movement/heat, etc. I decided a pump was needed, and I wasn’t going to change my mind.
Choosing my All-in-One eBIAB System
During my research, I found five major brands of electric brew-in-a-bag all-in-one systems, all with varying degrees of features and quality. I’ve listed them below with every specification imaginable that I could find on each of them.
Even though I really liked the idea of the switchable power feature from Anvil Foundry, the fact that they are not 304 stainless steel disappointed me. Add that it was really hard to find them anywhere due to COVID, I reluctantly decided against Anvil. The pump is a $100 add-on product, which I included in my calculations. Without the pump, it would have been the cheapest eBIAB system on my list.
Brewer’s Edge and Robobrew/Brewzilla both seemed virtually the same to me. Both were also not 304 stainless steel and had similar price tags. Brewer’s Edge had a higher wattage heating element and built-in insulation, but Brewzilla had a much better grain basket and held more grain. Out of the two, I would have chosen Brewzilla, but ultimately I decided against both of them.
The Grainfather Connect appears to be a very, very nice setup, but its price tag is just too rich. The Grainfather comes in at more than double what Anvil, Brewzilla and Brewer’s Edge costs. I could not justify almost $500 more for this system, for what seemed like a very similar setup to what Brewzilla was. It does come along with a nice smartphone app, but I see it less important on a kettle than say a fermenter.
That leaves the Clawhammer 120v. Not only is their YouTube channel hilarious (and informative), this system screams quality with full 304 stainless steel construction. I really like that the electric control panel is separate from the kettle, which keeps the electric components further away from spills.
The 20 plate chiller, hop basket and quality silicone hose system is just icing on the cake. The Clawhammer 120v ended up being the second most expensive system on this behind Grainfather. Coming in at around $900 it still was more than I wanted to spend, but quality isn’t cheap.
Note: Clawhammer always runs sales posted about on their Facebook page. If you don’t want to buy on Amazon, you may be able to score a great deal by keeping an eye out for posted promo codes.
Top 5 Electric Brew-in-a-Bag Systems
|Brewzilla V3 (Robobrew)||Brewers Edge|
Mash & Boil
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|Manufactured Location||Indiana, USA||Kegland (Australia)||California, USA||New Zealand||Colorado, USA|
|Recirculation Pump||Included w/ this model||Included||Included||Included||Included|
|Material||Stainless (Not 304)||Stainless (Not 304)||Stainless (Not 304)||304 Stainless Steel||304 Stainless Steel|
|Electric Voltage||Switchable: 120V or 240V||110v||110v||110v (220v n/a in US)||120v|
|Weight||38 lbs||34.2 lbs||25 lbs||45 lbs||43 lbs|
|Temperature Control Precision||+/- 1 °F||+/- 5 °F||+/- 5 °F||+/- 1 °F||+/- 1 °F|
|Insulation||Standard Double Wall||Neoprene Jacket Available ($)||Standard Double Wall||Neoprene Jacket available ($)||Neoprene Jacket Available ($)|
|Grain Capacity||16 lbs||18 lbs||16 lbs||20 lbs||20 lbs|
|Heating Element||120v=1600w, 240v=2800w: Triple element, low watt density||Dual Element (1000w, 500w)||1600w: two element high watt density||Dual heating element (1600w and 600w elements)||1650w, low watt density|
|Chiller||Stainless Immersion||Stainless Immersion||Stainless Immersion||Counterflow Chiller||20 Plate Wort Chiller|
|Grain Basket||Stainless Mesh w/extra perforations||1000 Micron Stainless Steel||Stainless: Perforations only on bottom||Stainless Steel (perforated)||Mesh 304 Stainless Basket|
|Rotating Racking Arm||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Warranty||1 year||1 year||2 year||3 year||Unknown|
|Position of Digital Controls||Top||Bottom||Bottom||Top||Separate Controller|
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