Unibräu vs. Grainfather - A Biased Review
There will always be debate, which system is the 'best' system and which is right for me? When we set out to design the Unibräu, we started with the 3 gallon 'mini' version. We've moved through 3 versions now, and we've learned a lot along the way. Initially, my vision was to make brewing easier, in your apartment kitchen, and fun. While that vision hasn't changed, I would say that my process has evolved over time.
As this business has been maturing, I was asked a rather challenging question from my good friend David, who is a very successful entrepreneur and my former business partner, who has taken me under his wing and mentored me along the way. Before my career in home-brew equipment I was a hairstylist, if you can believe that. A bit of a radical departure, but that's another story! The question he asked me was "Do you want to compete on quality or price?" Then he followed up with "because you can't do both".
Good question. It didn't take long for me to realize that making something cheaper was going to be as hard as making something better. Both are challenging propositions, but for me the decision was easy 'Buy once, cry once' were the words my father often spoke, and have guided the process for me and Brau Supply.
I'll make no bones about it, the Unibräu isn't cheap. It's not trying to be either. What it is, is pound for pound a brew system designed to last you for a long, long time. Hopefully forever! There are some features that we've left out of our brew system, such as bluetooth connectivity, but this is done for good reason. We also wanted to make our system simple, without room for error, and from my own personal experience with bluetooth and wifi, it doesn't always work.
So, which system is better, the Grainfather or Unibräu?
The grainfather is a decent brew system, and is the benchmark design right now for all-in-one brewing systems. They've added features like bluetooth, programmable mash steps, and recipe timing which is handy. The grainfather has a great support group, and has been well received by homebrewers.
The grainfather has it's shortcomings. What it essentially is, is a modified coffee maker. It uses only proprietary parts, and nothing can be swapped out. The kettle can't be easily disassembled for cleaning, and therefore must be cleaned while fully assembled. It uses a plastic pump head instead of stainless pump head, and lacks the power that the Unibräu possesses. The kettle can easily be dented, as it's roughly half the thickness of stainless steel, and the same for the grain basket in the Grainfather. It cannot be modified with accessories that do not bear the grainfather name. The weight of the grainfather is less than half of Unibräu, which speaks to the quality of materials used. And the grainfather is smaller, and therefore adding in a sparge step is always necessary when brewing 5 gallon batches. The Grainfather even publishes disposal instructions, which doesn't install much confidence! But most important, should you have element failure, your whole brew system is ready for the landfill.
Unibräu is a fantastic brew system, and is the new kid on the block. It features a durable tri-clad kettle, and can be used as a stand alone kettle. The kettle on it's own can be fired with any type of heat source you desire. Gas? no problem. Stovetop? No problem. Electrical? No Problem. Want to use the Unibräu with a 120V outlet? No problem. Want to build up a 240V 30A rocket ship to brew in the shortest time frame possible? No problem!
The Unibräu uses standard brewery connections, with non proprietary parts to enable customization of your brewery. This means that you can add and subtract any combination of items in the Unibräu system to suit your needs. As our company is maturing, we are adding a host of products to customize the setup. Our customers have made all kinds of modifications to the system, and we encourage it! Move the sensor from the kettle to a tee on the pump output, and you can add a whirlpool arm for the ultra hoppy Neipa. Add a second element to the kettle to speed up the brew. Set the system up with another kettle to create your own custom 2 vessel setup. Add a sparge arm.
Me fooling with a sparge arm for kicks
Add a dip tube and filter plate to go hop crazy in the boil. You can sparge, or don't sparge, the system is large enough to accommodate both. If you want to kettle sour, just add a lid.
Above photo shows the Unibräu with a hop filter and dip tube we've been playing with, and also a 600W element upgrade kit added to the kettle for a little more oomph.
So what if something breaks? Well, our system is built to last forever, really. However things can happen, and elements eventually fail. No need to turf the whole system, simply buy another brewing element, problem solved.
It features a durable stainless steel pump head, and a simple electric controller interface for reliable temperature control. Unibräu is larger, and can accommodate full volume mashes, so users can brew BIAB style, without the need to add in a sparge step.
Below is a comparison chart, to better help you to determine which system is best for your needs. Keep in mind, I'm biased. However if you'd like an unbiased view from a customer, who owns the Grainfather, and the Unibräu, you can read his review here.
Finally, if you want to check out and see what other Unibräu brewers are doing in the community, have a look at the Unibrau Brewers Group on facebook. You'll see all kinds of great ideas from our customers, and their creative problem solving approaches to brewing and modifying the system.