Monday, May 16, 2016

Sous Vide Supreme... Why Not HERMS?

About a month ago or so this thread popped up over on /r/homebrewing.

That got me thinkin. Why not?

Initially I was going to drill holes in the lid, but I opted to skip that step and use foil to cover it up. Much less of an expensive modification this way.

I've used it twice now. Run #1: Pump controlled by temp with sous vide circulating at 170F. So if the temperature drops below the set point (~152F was the set point here) it would start circulating until it got back up to temp.

This was fine, but I lost out on a lot of the efficiency I gained by constantly recirculating. Not a huge problem, but also not ideal. Worked great, but I wasn't satisfied.
Run #2: Constant pumping, sous vide set 2F above set point (same 152F set point).

It wasn't particularly cold on attempt one or two, so heat loss in the tubing was minimal and the runs aren't particularly long anyway. Run #2 was far more successful, though I did eventually bump the sous vide to 5F above set point which resulted in a fairly consistent 152-153F reading. I imagine I'll have to work on it over a few more batches to get it exactly the way I want it, and that's fine. But it's way more consistent this way.

I also got back to my normal efficiency numbers, which was really nice. Makes life easier when you know what to expect, and though the first test worked fine, it added another variable in pump run time that just... wasn't what I wanted.

For good measure, here is the IPA I made on run #2:

2row - 13#
Carafoam - 8oz

Citra, Galaxy, Mosaic @ 9, 7, 5, 2oz each addition for about 65IBU.

GY054 (Vermont IPA Gigayeast) fermented for 10 days @ 66F ramped to 72F for 4 days. Cold crashed and kegged. No fining. Gloriously hazy, hop juicy as hell and I love it. Simple is better.

“Traditional” Vienna - A Review

Back on 2/16 /u/KidMoxie over on the homebrewing subreddit posted his Geburtstagsparty – “Traditional” Vienna.

I was intrigued and inspired.

So I did it. I followed his outline more or less. The ingredients I followed exactly, because why bother making it if I can't at least do that much.

Vienna Malt (Weyermann) 9.5 lbs
Melanoidin (Weyermann) 4 oz
Blackprinz (Briess) 2 oz
Carafoam (Weyermann) 2 oz

1.25oz Hallertauer @ 60
0.5oz Hallertauer @ 10

Used a healthy starter of WLP830.

Simple, straight forward. Exactly the kind of beer I like to brew lately.

Mashed @152F for 60. Skipped the mash out step because lazy/time constraints, and I really just don't normally mash out.

OG: 1.047   FG: 1.012, ABV comes in a little over 4.5% which for me is perfect.

I fermented 7 days at 52F followed by a gradual rise (~4F per 24hrs) to 68F where it sat for 5 days for a diacetyl rest and to finish up completely.

At that point I cold crashed it for 3 weeks in primary and then racked it into the keg & added gelatin to fine it.

This picture is of the third pint pulled from the keg and I really don't think I can be happier with the result here:

The color isn't quite the same as what KidMoxie got. I attribute that partially to the glassware, and partially to just brewing it on a different system. Either way, I love the color and the clarity is great.

Moderate/high toasty malt. I think I get a tiny bit of noble hop, but my nose for hops isn't particularly good and I could be wrong. I mostly get malt, malt, and more malt.

Very clean aroma, no detectable baddies far as I can tell.

Crystal clear, leaning more towards copper than reddish for me but I'll take it. Fluffy white head that sticks around forever, laces the glass all the way to the last gulp.

Toasty, malty, awesomeness. Low floral hop notes and just enough bitterness to balance out the malt. Not overly sweet at all, just pleasantly malty. Finishes dry, clean, and leaving me wanting another. Or three.

Medium/light body, I carbonated it to around 2.6vols because that's where I like most of my beers anyway.

I am a huge fan of this style and certainly this recipe. I have had people tell me now that I need to make sure this is always on tap at my house.

Monday, February 8, 2016

My Ghetto HERMS + Flanders Red

A while back I posted about my ghetto HERMS system. Here she is.

The hot plate is controlled by the Inkbird ITC-308. That coil there goes into the pot on the hot plate that gets filled with hot water (I just heat 2gal extra with the strike water).

Chugger pump was $93.46 total thanks to a sale at Morebeer San Leandro.
All the fittings & tubing came out to around $110.
The hot plate was $25 on Amazon when I got it.
I already had an immersion chiller that I modified for this, and the 2gal pot I used as well I already had. The ITC-308 was $35.

This is a siphon sprayer and a hose clamp. Channeling is a non-issue with this here. It's lovely. Also incredibly cheap.

On 1/17 it was about 60F outside, great brewing weather. Better still, the ground water was coming out around 50F because of the cold weather we had been having. "Cold" weather. Haha. Suckers where it snows.

Pictures were taken about 45 seconds apart. I just recirculate through a small plate chiller, back into the kettle. It works so much faster than the immersion chiller I used to use.

The plate chiller I got from Morebeer as well, the Shirron. Works if you circulate it through the kettle for ~5mins or so, gets me down to lager temps with the ground water as cold as it is now.

All 'n all, I spent roughly $370 in upgrades last year. I did spread it out a bit, so it wasn't all at one time, and that certainly made it easier. I also had a few things that would have added to the cost, and that's also nice.

That picture is from 1/17, a great day for me. It was the day I decided I wanted to brew a Flanders Red. Why? Well, there are a few reasons. One, I love the style. Two, I've never done it before. And last but certainly not least, my son is due in March and I may not get to brew for a while after he is born. So I decided I'm brewing several batches before he's born, but just in case it takes a while until I can brew after, I'll have this in the works.

That's most of the gravity sample I took. Brewed 1/17, sampled 2/8, from 1.048 to 1.012. I transferred it into a keg with some medium toast french oak cubes and hit it with a bit of gas to seal it. I'll check on it in a couple weeks and see if I need to hit it with more gas or not, but I'm betting not.

I'll need to bleed off pressure I'm guessing to keep it from being over carbonated, but if things go as planned I should be able to bottle from the keg and not need to prime at all.

Currently it is quite promising. I get a tiny bit of tart in the flavor, which surprised me for two reasons. One was the aroma (suggesting more) and the other being the age (expecting none). Pleasant malty/grainy and a bit of dark fruit flavors in there. Going to be interesting and I'm really glad I decided to do this batch.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Operation Kegerator!

So a couple months ago my friend Matt mentioned his work has some merchandiser fridges they beat up for R&D purposes. Functional, but too ugly to actually use for their intended purpose of high end food vending.

Asked if I'd be interested.

So I rented a U-Haul van and went to pick one up. A $1200+ Merchandiser fridge for the cost of a U-Haul to pick it up? Well I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I know that's a damn good deal.

Also, it has wheels. Sweet.

Originally the door wasn't even attached. Matt came over while I was brewing my Bock for the BrewUnited Challenge and helped me sort out how to get that door on there. Was a long rod stuck in there to... I'm not sure. Anyway, long story short he sorted that out and we got the door on.


Buncha holes there though. Easy enough!

Slapped some HVAC tape on the inside so the foam wouldn't expand into the fridge.

Also foamed up around the edges of the glass because the plastic was separating slightly in a few places. Taped it all up, and here we have it.

Wheeled it inside (did I mention it has fuckin WHEELS? this is awesome) and put some beer in there. Worked great, got things cold. But ultimately the goal is a Kegerator, right?

Step #2:

Step #3: Mark off where to put a hole (and for the second one, I have another tap arriving next week). 

Step #4: Drill! I used this bit to drill a 7/8" hole. I used a 1/2" bit to punch a hole through to the inside of the fridge so I could use the step bit to expand it to 7/8" without having to do any guesswork (or measuring) in there.

Step #5: Install shank & faucet! I used a rubber mallet to get it through the hole. It was a tight fit, and it'd be a real bitch to remove the shank. 

Step #6: Pour! This is the Bock for the BrewUnited Challenge. Not drinking too much of it, gonna bottle some up later this week.

Blurry phone picture I took. Screw it. Beer!

Overall, I'm fuckin stoked. Beer on tap is awesome. Now I just need to get/install a drip tray and slap a bottle opener on there too. Easy enough. For now a towel on the floor will do for the drips, though the Perlick 630SS hasn't been dripping much at all. 

My local morebeer store also known as Brewmaster in San Leandro was having a Perlick sale. I wasn't planning to do all that right then, but I couldn't resist.

Bonus picture of my daughter and her art:

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Budget HERMS!

I was talking to a couple friends recently about building a RIMS tube. Great idea, right? Yeah. But the cost! Even a DIY solution would run me around $300-400 or so when you consider pump, tubing, fittings for it all... and a non-DIY solution would come in at least $400. I'm certain that I forgot some things in those builds I threw together online while price shopping. That's how it always goes. At any rate, that's just too high.

Then Bret linked me to this "$50 Dedicated HERMS" thread on homebrewtalk.com.

So I did divert a bit from that. Why? Because I feel like I need to put my own spin on this particular venture, and because I have a two gallon induction compatible pot already. And where I work, obtaining a 1500W induction cooker is both inexpensive and readily available.

So I did.

The above is a CASO Germany C21 Induction Burner. There are many types out there though, this is just what I had available to me at the time and it certainly looks fancy enough!

Alright so, the induction cooker is far too intelligent for this setup. The STC-1000 will kick it on, but then you have to do the power setting manually. One it reaches temp, it turns off entirely and I'd have to redo that every time. That's ok. I'll still use it for decoctions because it does heat shit up really really fast, so I'm still happy with it.

Instead, I'll be using a Nesco 1500W single burner.

So now I've got a burner and a pot. Total cost is nice and low and I'm happy so far.

Next step, a copper coil!

Wait a second... I've got one of those! My immersion chiller!

Drats! It's too wide. Well, I can fix that!

Er... maybe? Ok. So it's a bit big for the pot in question, but I know for sure I'm doing this and I'm doing this right now. Not later, NOW I say.

Alright so, I see the problem. It's way too big. Well, I'm fairly good at solving problems like this. I think. Hacksaw time!

Soooo I really wish I could say hacksaw was my first thought. It was not. Bolt cutters came to mind first, and I used 'em. Cut that section to the left off real easily, so that was cool. And then I had a face meet palm moment when I realized what I had done. And then I got out the little hacksaw I used for my mini-fridge fermentation chamber build. That plus some sandpaper and I got it all situated as you see there.

I did think of one way to salvage my mistake on the other half of the copper coil. Or at least a good portion of it. Hammer flat, bend it, water test it for a while. No leaks? Awesome. Now I have a convenient thermowell for the temperature probe. Boom. More saving.

So excited right now, this is gonna be awesome!

Also for naysayers regarding the STC-1000 and this application, a few things:

First, it's been tested on HBT. It does work.

Second, yes I know the amp rating for the STC-1000 is 10A. But I read around that they're actually 125VAC 15A. So naturally, I took it apart:
Looks like it should be fine. But if you're going to follow this, please take your STC-1000 apart and look at it. The instructions that I have say 10A, so YMMV.

On to the juicy (read: expensive) part.
That 15% off sale was great!

So I got everything situated and realized two things immediately. I need 2x compression fittings and 2 more male disconnects for the coil. Blanked on the diameter of the tubing being 1/2" and the chiller being 3/8. It might work out alright if I just hose clamped tubing on there, but then I can't also use the pump for moving wort to the boil kettle or the fermenter. Oh well, no big deal.
Bah! When I was putting the disconnects on the pump, the one standing upright in the above picture on the pump didn't mate up with the female disconnects at all. It looks just like the other ones, but is just a hair too wide and doesn't fit. Oh well, morebeer San Leandro will make it better on Wednesday, the next time I can get there.

In other news, what the fuck is this?
So good news and bad news. Bad news is I nearly shat myself when I saw that, and it's definitely not something you should ever see.

Good news is it's teflon tape and that's the boil kettle valve.

I disassembled and redid the thread tape. That's my boil kettle valve. Haven't noticed anything off in my beers, but I'm certainly glad to have discovered and rectified this situation.
Nasty. Really glad I took this shit apart to clean it out. I don't care if it gets regularly boiled, it's still gnarly.

I took the opportunity to also disassemble my MT valve and discovered nothing like that. The BK valve was the first one I ever did, and my friend Dain helped and I think (I'm gonna blame him because I doubt he'll see this) applied the teflon tape. If nothing else, at least now everything is way way cleaner than it was before.

The guy on HBT already had a pump and whatnot, so his $50 pricetag is a bit nicer than is actually feasible for a peasant like myself that previously had no pump at all. All things considered though if I don't count the pump and fittings costs, I'm at under $50 at this point. I consider this a successful venture thus far.

I had hoped to be done tonight except the burner (Monday), but alas this build is delayed. I have compression fittings on the way, I'll get more disconnects and the correct one for the in on the pump on Wednesday. Hopefully Wednesday evening I'll be able to water and heat test at the same time. But that may get further delayed to next weekend. Either way, making progress and super excited! I'll be sure to post more information as I'm able to gather it, but for now, this is what I've got.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

BrewUnited Homebrew Challenge!

Today I registered for the BrewUnited Challenge!

I am registered for
5B - Traditional Bock
8C - ESB
10B - American Amber Ale

I'm stoked, this is gonna be great!

Scroll down at this link (or the one up there) and look at the rules and the challenge aspect of it. It's awesome!

What's more awesome: The prizes! If that isn't motivation, god damn I dunno what is. Cost of entry is pretty standard ($10 for one beer, $5 for additional limit 3) for competitions.

I don't have a lot to say about this one yet. I also got a t-shirt ordered and a sticker, because why not? I'm excited, might as well show it off a bit.

I've been a big fan of homebrewdad for more than a year now. I'm happy for him and his blog expanding and growing, and that's what this competition is all about. To celebrate the growth of his blog into a community that has out grown a single person writing a blog.

I have no ambitions of following in his footsteps in that regard, but I certainly plan to participate and watch it grow. Participating in this competition is just one of the many ways you can too. Plus, look at the ingredient list you have to use!

For the lazy and to possibly intrigue you more:

must use all of these!
must use two of these!
Pilsner Malt
Munich Malt (Light or 10L)
Crystal 60L
Flaked Wheat

Extract Brewer Alternatives
Pilsen Malt (LME) or Pilsen Light (DME)
Munich Malt (LME) or Sparkling Amber (DME)
Crystal 60L (steep)
Wheat Malt (LME) or Bavarian Wheat (DME)
Northern Brewer
Any yeast of your choice; dry or liquid, commercial or wild.

For the purposes of this competition, we are using the rule that "pilsner is pilsner, crystal is crystal". In other words, any pilsner malt is legal, be it American, German, Belgian, floor malted, etc. Likewise, any crystal malt of ~60L is acceptable, be it American, British, German, etc.

Smoked Beer & More...

So Bret stumbled into a thread on /r/homebrewing regarding peat in beer.

You're welcome to go and check it out if you want, but the long and the short of it is now I have to brew a 100% peat malt beer.

He has also convinced me to brew a rauchweizen.

I'll be doing both in 2 gallon batches tonight.

Grist for the rauchweizen:

30% rauch malt
70% wheat malt
10IBU probably fuggles.

WLP300 fermented to optimize banananess

Grist for the 100% peat malt beer in case it wasn't clear enough:
100% Simpsons Peat Malt.

10IBU, fuggles.

Probably go with 34/70 for the yeast and ferment it as a lager.

I'm going to mash both high, 158 or so.

I have no idea if I'm going to like this. He insists it'll be good if I like smokey beer, and I do, so I probably will. But I don't know.

I do know I've already agreed to send a couple bottles to other people that are curious about the peat beer as well. So that's that, I'm committed to the process now.

In addition to the above experimentation I'm gonna be doing, this coming Friday I'm heading down to San Jose to brew with my friend Steve. He is going to be doing 15 gallons of an IPA, and then splitting it 3 ways with different yeast. WLP001, WLP644, and The Yeast Bay Vermont Ale.

Off to morebeer I go to pick up the smoked beer ingredients and the WLP644 for Friday! This'll be the most I've brewed in a week in a while, even if I'm not the one in charge on Friday. Still pretty stoked to be involved in this much brewing so rapidly.