Ask The Experts: Finding the Right Pump for Homebrewing

Homebrew expert Brad Smith, author of the Beersmith homebrewing software and the voice behind the Beersmith podcast, offers advice on finding the right pump for your homebrewing needs.

Brad Smith May 16, 2018 - 4 min read

Ask The Experts: Finding the Right Pump for Homebrewing Primary Image

A Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine reader recently asked us the following question:

What should I look for when selecting a brewing pump?

Selecting a brewing pump is not that hard. All of the major beer-pump manufacturers now make reliable, affordable pumps that can last for many years. The first criteria you need to insist on is that the pump is designed for high temperatures—ideally to at least boiling temperatures. You need high-temperature support to handle both the mash and the transfer of near-boiling wort through your chiller and into the fermentor. This, unfortunately, rules out the vast majority of “self-priming” pumps as most can’t support high temperatures.

The second feature you want is a magnetic drive, which means that the rotor is not physically attached to the drive shaft for the motor but instead is turned by a magnet. The magnetic-drive feature, which most modern pumps have, lets you pump slower than the full output rate by attaching a valve to the output of the pump. Pumps typically are either on or off and run around 8 gal/min (24 l/min), so you need a separate valve to control flow. The ability to throttle the rate at which the pump operates is critical both for mash recirculation and for controlling the flow through your chiller to control wort temperature.

Beyond those two basic features, there are certainly a number of “optional” features to consider. Most pumps come with either a “polysulfone” (plastic) head or a stainless-steel head. Many brewers prefer the stainless-steel head for durability and ease of cleaning. The standard connection for the pumps is a ½" MPT connector that works like a small garden hose screw-on connector. Some higher-end pumps have other types of connectors, such as tri-clover clamps. In addition, you will usually need accessories, such as a ball valve, a power switch of some kind, and a relief valve that releases air to help prime the pump.

The “classic” beer pump is the March 815, which has a 7 gal/min pump rate and a good reputation in the homebrew industry. Chugger also makes pumps that are near-clones of the March pumps and have good performance and value. Blichmann recently came out with its RipTide brewing pump, which has some very innovative features, including an enclosed motor that makes it almost silent, stainless head, and integrated flow control valve as well as integrated air relief valve for priming.

I really like this pump as it is quiet, is very easy to disassemble with no tools, and requires no additional valves or accessories to use it. While the RipTide has a slightly higher price point, you save by not purchasing extra accessories. Any of the major homebrew pumps are a good value and will last you many years if you clean and maintain them properly.

If you have a question for the experts or want to share your expertise, email us at [email protected]