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Brew Monk Magnus 45L - an unofficial review

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Jolum

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Recently purchased a new all-in-one brew system and thought I'd post my thoughts so far.

With COVID-19 forcing me to stay in the UK and working from home, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to get back into brewing on a more regular basis my 1 or 2 brews a month have dwindled to 2 or 3 a year (if I'm lucky).
I also thought I’d try and simplify my setup from my current one, 2 x 100L SS pots (HLT and Kettle), an 80L SS thermobox and a couple of 70L SS pots (fermenters) all from Nordic-Optical Germany plus various pumps and chillers etc. to an all in one system, effectively cutting down from 4 vessels to 2. I just want an easy life and the thought of a combined HLT\MT & kettle appealed to me, plus it meant two less vessels to clean and being smaller, less weight to lug around.

I wasn’t ready to commit a large amount of money, so I thought I’d dip my toe in with something a little cheaper. That meant all the Grainfather, BrewTools and the like were out and the Robobrew\Brewzilla, Brew Monk\Klasrstein and Brewdevil’s were considered.

I kept adding the 35L Robobrew/Brewzilla from Angel Homebrew into the cart so many times but going from 100L to 35L seemed too small somehow. I really wanted something around the 50L mark but I couldn’t find the 65L Robobrew/Brewzilla in the UK for love nor money.

Then I saw that The Malt Miller and GeterBrewed both sold the 45L Brew Monk. It looked almost identical to the Robobrew/Brewzilla system, was nearly 50L and all the videos and reviews I saw were fairly positive, I thought it ticked all the boxes so I pulled the trigger and splashed out £400 at GeterBrewed. The unit arrived last Tuesday (28-07-2020). I finally got around to get it up and running yesterday (Saturday 1 August 2020) and ran through some very basic tests.

The goals of the test were two-fold:
  • Determine how accurate the temperature sensor is.
  • Measure how much power the unit uses compared to that set – the unit’s blurb states that you can set the power usage from 100 – 3000W in 100W increments.

The method I followed was as follows:
  • Set to desired temp @ full power for 1 min (heating stage).
  • Set temp to reduced power and maintain for 15 min (mash or boil temp). During these stages test power usage compared to that set and actual temperature vs that returned by the Brew Monk.
  • After mash temp tests, top up to a known quantity of water (20L) and set to boil temp. Maintain boil temp at reduced power for 15 minutes. Measure remaining water in kettle. Remaining water x 4 = Boil off per hour.
As you can see pretty simple stuff. I used two calibrated digital thermometers to check the temperature and a plug-in power monitor to measure the power usage. I've listed the results in the table below.

StepActionBW TempMeasured TempBW PowerMeasured Power
1Set temp to 66 @ 3000W for 1 min 66.6C66.9C3000W3000W
2Set temp to 66 @ 1000W for 15 min66.6C66.9C1000W0W*
3Set temp to 76 @ 3000W for 1 min76.6C76.8C3000W3000W
4Set temp to 76 @ 1000W for 10 min (top up to nearest litre mark)76.6C76.8C1000W1200W
5Set temp to 100 @ 3000W for 1 min100C98.7C3000W3000W
6Set temp to 100 @ 1500W for 15 min (check boil off quantity)99.1C**99.2C**1500W1800W

* When using full power, the initial temperature shot past the set temperature by more than 6 degrees. As there is no cooling built-in, step 2 required no heating element as the temperature fell gently to the required temperature. I purchased the Brew Monk without the optional jacket so the temperature falls pretty quickly, though it did take 15 minutes to drop ~7 degrees.
** I have no idea what happened at the boiling stage, the Brew Monk indicates that it is in the ‘Boiling’ phase as it says so on the panel but try as I may I couldn’t get it to go to 100C. The tests were conducted inside during the hottest part of the afternoon (it was 24C outside), but anything less than 100% power meant the temperature would drop by up to 10C during the boil cycle.

Conclusions.

I don’t want to besmirch Brew Monk’s reputation after one quick set of tests but I can’t hide the fact that I’m a little bit disappointed.

When you consider that the system I’ve been using for many years is all homemade and, although big and cumbersome, it has worked flawlessly, most of the design ideas 'borrowed' from Vossy, Daab and others from JBK and here. I use two 2.75KW elements in my kettle and two in the HTL (doubles as the HERMS for the mash tun) all controlled by PIDs and I have never had to replace one or had any problem reaching or maintaining a set temperature, even when brewing over 70L.

I’m going to do a brew in the Brew Monk later this week so I will have a better idea of how it works in practice. I was going to list the pros and cons but I’m not sure I have many pros to list, none that jump out at me anyway but here goes.

Pros

  • HLT, Mash tun and kettle all in one unit.
  • The integrated pump is nice.
  • Like the site glass, that was one of the things that pushed me towards the Brew Monk as I like to know my levels without having to open it up.
  • The manual mode works well.
  • Temperature calibration built in -+ 10C in 0.1C increments.
  • Build quality is good, I removed the bottom plate and had a quick look, all the cabling is nice and tidy and is all very well-spaced out.

Cons

  • The material used in the kettle must be the thinnest SS sheet they could find in China.
  • The integrated pump is very low power, it actually stalled with just plain water but once it got going it worked well enough to recirculate.
  • The temperature on the display was just not accurate enough, especially at higher temperatures. Not sure if this is the probe, the unit or the wiring in-between but it doesn’t inspire confidence. I need to know that when I set a temperature it is reached, especially the mash temp! 99 degrees for the boil I can live with but the system must be able to hit and hold the mash temp accurately and consistently.
  • I don’t know how the retailers are getting away with the statement ‘power adjustable from 100 to 3,000 W, in 100 W increments’, that’s on all of the sites and it’s misleading at best. Yes, it is adjustable on the display but that’s it, the machine doesn’t care, if you set 600W, you’re getting 1.2KW. Interestingly, that statement can’t be found in the user manual you get with the Brew Monk just on the websites. The power setting on the machine should have just three selectable levels 1200W, 1800W and 3000W. This is because in the base are 1.2KW and 1.8KW elements that are either on or off. The real settings should look like the following table:
Set powerElements and actual power used
<1200W1.2KW at full power
>1200W and <1800W1.8KW at full power
>1800W and <3000W1.8KW at full power
3000W1.2KW and 1.8KW at full power

  • The plug supplied was an EU one. I know Geterbrewed are located in Ireland but this is a particular bugbear of mine, when selling to the UK would it bloody kill retailers to supply units built for the regions they’re selling into???
  • The handle supplied to lift the grain basket is just too short, if it was just 5mm longer on either side or perhaps bent at the ends or maybe do away with an independent handle and have it attached to the basket. As it is you spend ages trying to get the thing in the holes for it to fall out of one or both of the holes as soon as you touch it. It’s just not been thought out properly.
  • The rubber plug supplied for the top of the ‘malt pipe’ is so small that it falls off at the lightest touch, when stirring in grains I can see this will just drop into the mash never to be seen again and I will have to find an alternative to cover the pipe, again poor on the part of the manufacturer.
  • I would have liked to see some insulation between the elements and the electrics in the bottom section, there isn’t any and although they have ‘probably’ used high-temp cable the circuit and components are in a plastic box right next to the elements.

I won’t go any further, suffice to say that (temp issues aside) most of the problems I have with the Brew Monk could so easily be fixed\improved with little to no extra cost. It’s sad to see that some companies just don’t care enough to go that extra mile yard.

I know some who read this will say that if you want better quality you should just pay more, maybe you’re right but there really isn’t much wrong with this system that could have been worked out with just a little bit of forethought and some better design choices.

As I said earlier, I plan to do a brew this week with the new kit, who knows perhaps it will perform better in a ‘live’ situation and I hit all my temp\gravity targets. I’ll try and write that up though bear with me as it's taken me 8 years to post anything on a forum again 😊
 

kelper

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If you set an intermediate power, doesn't it cycle on and off like most units? You imply it stays at full power. Buy a cheap SSR from eBay and you can get good control of power.
 

Jolum

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If you set an intermediate power, doesn't it cycle on and off like most units? You imply it stays at full power. Buy a cheap SSR from eBay and you can get good control of power.
You're right that the only way is to cycle the power through the element but I never meant to imply anything, the websites are the ones implying that you can set a specific power (say 500W or 1600W) and the unit will somehow turn a 1.2KW or 1.8KW element into something else - check out The Malt Miller or Geterbrewed sites.

They may as well not have the power settings and just let you turn the appropriate element on via switches for the 1.2KW & 1.8KW elements, then set the temp you require. It just seems a bit misleading to me is all.

I take it you have one of these Brew Monk systems then?

I have to work tomorrow but I'm planning to have a go at a brew in it on Tuesday or Wednesday, I think I'll be sticking to manual mode but I'm looking forward to it.
I'm not one for posting brewday stuff but I may put a quick update here on how it went.
 

kelper

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Mine is a Coobra CB5, almost identical to the Klarstein Brauheld 50L.
 

MartinHaworth

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I have the brew monk to (but the smaller one).

Regarding temperature. At full power it tends to overshoot. Sarah pantry suggests a useful power scheme in her guide to this system (full power to get up to temp, very low power to maintain). Also I have found that without the recirc pump switched on to 'swirl' the liquor the probe will read low. Also I recalibrated to get a proper boil, as from the box I wasn't getting boil, it was just stopping short

Like you, I did a test with water and two digital thermometer. I found it accurate to /- 0.5C.

Agree about the low quality metal!

I'm 10 brews in now, and happy overall. I have in mind the random figure of 100 brews for it to pay for itself....i paid just under 300.

As the skin metal is so fragile, I keep it in the original box, as a passing knock could pierce it.

Cheers, martin
 

foxy

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Recently purchased a new all-in-one brew system and thought I'd post my thoughts so far.
Conclusions.
  • I won’t go any further, suffice to say that (temp issues aside) most of the problems I have with the Brew Monk could so easily be fixed\improved with little to no extra cost. It’s sad to see that some companies just don’t care enough to go that extra mile yard.

I know some who read this will say that if you want better quality you should just pay more, maybe you’re right but there really isn’t much wrong with this system that could have been worked out with just a little bit of forethought and some better design choices.

As I said earlier, I plan to do a brew this week with the new kit, who knows perhaps it will perform better in a ‘live’ situation and I hit all my temp\gravity targets. I’ll try and write that up though bear with me as it's taken me 8 years to post anything on a forum again 😊
I have to ask if you got the instructions with the unit?
As mentioned above, and in the instruction manual,the temperature control and actual temperature have to be calibrated before use.
As for the pump I would say most users use it at half choke to prevent it emptying the space beneath the grain basket.
The metal thickness, well its thinner than the Braumeister but thick enough to do what it is intended to do.
They are made to a price point so more brewers can take advantage of the SVB systems, as many have. Of course it it not as efficient or robust as a BM but with a couple of simple modifications can turn out great beers.
 

Jolum

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I have to ask if you got the instructions with the unit?
As mentioned above, and in the instruction manual,the temperature control and actual temperature have to be calibrated before use.
As for the pump I would say most users use it at half choke to prevent it emptying the space beneath the grain basket.
The metal thickness, well its thinner than the Braumeister but thick enough to do what it is intended to do.
They are made to a price point so more brewers can take advantage of the SVB systems, as many have. Of course it it not as efficient or robust as a BM but with a couple of simple modifications can turn out great beers.
That's funny, if you knew how OCD I am about instructions you'd LOL.
I finally had enough and sent back the Brew Monk. No offense to other BM owners, maybe it was just the unit I was sent, but the temperature control was just not fit for purpose. I managed to get hold of a 65L BrewZilla instead from BKT athumb..
BZ65L.jpg

This is doing the leak and temperature tests in the kitchen - I have a 16A dedicated socket there.
Everything was spot on, didn't need adjusting at all. Marvelous bit of kit.

Now just need to rearrange the brew shed to fit it in and plan for a brew asap :D
 

Cwrex

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Recently purchased a new all-in-one brew system and thought I'd post my thoughts so far....

Thanks for this - I've been considering purchasing one myself (if I make the big leap from readymade kits).
I find the lads and lassies in GEB really good to deal with and very conscientious - they would certainly appreciate your feedback.
Looking forward to your thoughts on your new 65L BrewZilla - keep posting and stay safe.
- Conor
 
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Jolum

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Thanks for this - I've been considering purchasing one myself (if I make the big leap from readymade kits).
I find the lads and lassies in GEB really good to deal with and very conscientious - they would certainly appreciate your feedback.
Looking forward to your thoughts on your new 65L BrewZilla - keep posting and stay safe.
- Conor
Just wanted to add that GEB were absolutely great and their customer service was excellent. I did have to absorb the cost of sending the system back, but that's in the T&Cs and a necessary evil we've all come to expect with distance buying.

The return was handled professionally and quickly. I really don't have a bad word to say about GEB and I will definitely continue to purchase from them and I highly recommend them to others.

I have to wait a couple of weeks as my fermentation\conditioning fridge is full but I'm looking forward to getting a brew on with the BZ65. I really need to find a large chest freezer to add to the brewery - I recently purchased a 14 gallon SS Brewtech Brew Bucket and then found it's too big for the fridge, my bad.
 

HeavensBrew

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I finally had enough and sent back the Brew Monk. No offense to other BM owners, maybe it was just the unit I was sent, but the temperature control was just not fit for purpose. I managed to get hold of a 65L BrewZilla instead from BKT athumb..
I have been looking at blackfriday deals and was about to take the plunge on a Bew Monk...but then I read this thread of yours.
I was looking at £295 for the 40L capacity/30L wort Brew Monk. Another option was a 35l Brewziller for £369 - but that includes paddle, spider and jacket. It also includes 'chiller connection fittings', so not quite a wort chiller, but I'm not sure what I would need to add. I don't need the paddle, spider or jacket, but did need a wort chiller.

So....with the clock ticking....how does a brewzilla compare to a Brew Monk?
 

Jolum

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Hi, I don't really want to bad mouth anyone's products, the Brew Monk just didn't work for me but it may have been the system I was sent just happened to be a bad unit.

Others have compared it favourably and they get good results and brew great beers (which is the main point of all of this surely) so I just put it down to a bad item. I have to reiterate GeterBrewed were amazing though, first class customer support, they took the item back and gave me a full refund, can't argue with that and if you went for the deal with them they will look after you.

As stated above, I ended up going for a 65L Brewzilla that is really good, though at almost twice the price of the BrewMonk I can't complain. I have tons of room even to do double batches, though I did enjoy brewing smaller experimental batches of around 10-15L, with the 10L deadspace below the maltpipe there's no way I can do that with the brewzilla :(

Next week will be my 4th brew with the brewzilla. Other than a stuck pump on my first brew, that was entirely my fault as I didn't seat the filters properly and some grain escaped through, it's all been good. Though on that point I must say it's weird that they couldn't engineer a simple bazooka type filter for the pump inlet (belt & braces).
Oh and I had to replace the recirc pipe with a KegLand sight-glass (half price on AliExpress and came in 2 weeks), I just don't know how you can fly-sparge without knowing how much wort you are collecting and lifting up the malt-pipe to see is not an option at my age. In both of those areas the Brew Monk has been better designed, you get a bazooka type filter and a marked sight-glass for the recirc pipe.

Hope you pick the one that works for you and get good results from it. Happy brewing.
 

HeavensBrew

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Thanks for the reply. I discovered that the easiest supplier for me here has a preorder on the system called 'easygrain'. It looks exactly like the Brew Monk, except it lacks the marked sight-glass for the recirc pipe. I can add that for an extra £20, which is the the £20 delivery costs I will save.

I will get the 40L/30L for....drum roll....186 euros (£167), which arrives in January. They also throw in an AG kit at no extra charge. They state that the normal price will be £355, but that will be sales talk to some extent.

I can also add a whirlpool arm for £13, a wort chiller for £31.50 and a pump filter for £6.60. I will add them, but I won't bother with the jacket.

At that price I will take the gamble and let you know......in January!
 

chopps

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My Italian is not all that good, but it would appear to say PRE-SALE DEPOSIT - ATTENTION THE MACHINES WILL ARRIVE AT THE BEGINNING OF JANUARY 2021 - FINAL PRICE € 395.00
 

kelper

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cancel your order now! You will have to pay the balance and that brings the price up to €395.

You will do much better buying from a recognised UK seller, especially if it arrives damaged or if it breaks down in the first year.

Google translate confirms what Chopps said.
 

HeavensBrew

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I spoke with the agent (a pub that resells their stuff) before typing the above messages and he said that will be the price when they sell them in January. That these are special prices for preordering. It would be crappy trick to state the price in that position and hide the full price as a nasty surprise.

Just sent him a message to double check. However, he can't confirm until tomorrow morning.

PS. My Italian is okay and there is quite a lot of contradictory/confusing information in this advert for the 30L model. Checking the advert for the other models and the maths for those indicates that the amount is deposit only. Quite irritating as I checked first. That would make it costly rather than cheap. We will see....

PS. Order was not made yet. We were going to talk about that over the weekend.
 

kelper

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here is the relevant stuff, in English.

READ THE CONDITIONS BEFORE PURCHASING:
-By purchasing this reservation and paying the deposit upon arrival of the car, you will be contacted by one of our staff to close the order and pay the difference in cost (€ 195)
-NO YES ACCEPT presale orders with CASH ON payment method; such orders will be canceled
- Any other products purchased together with the presale will be shipped together with the machine at the time of the order; in case of immediate need for other products it is necessary to place two separate orders.


They can be contacted on +39 0584/752540 or at the mobile +39 347/4205586
 
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Tuizner

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Yes - just seen that is a deposit only. You would have to pay another 195 euros in January!

Final price is 395

ACCONTO PREVENDITA - ATTENZIONE LE MACCHINE ARRIVERANNO A INIZIO GENNAIO 2021 - PREZZO FINALE €395,00


LEGGERE LE CONDIZIONI PRIMA DI EFFETTUARE L'ACQUISTO:
-Acquistando questa prenotazione e versando l'acconto all'arrivo della macchina verrai contattato da un nostro addetto per la chiusura dell'ordine e il pagamento della differenza di costo (€195)
-NON SI ACCETTANO ordini della prevendita con metodo di pagamento CONTRASSEGNO; tali ordini verranno annullati
-Eventuali altri prodotti acquistati insieme alla prevendita verranno spediti insieme alla macchina al momento dell'evasione dell'ordine; in caso di necessità immediata di altri prodotti è necessario effettuare due ordini separati.



READ THE CONDITIONS BEFORE PURCHASING: -By purchasing this reservation and paying the deposit upon arrival of the car you will be contacted by one of our staff to close the order and pay the cost difference (€ 195) - We DO NOT ACCEPT pre-sale orders with CASH ON payment method; such orders will be canceled - Any other products purchased together with the presale will be shipped together with the machine at the time of the order; in case of immediate need for other products it is necessary to place two separate orders.
 
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