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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.


Sweet.

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!

Right?
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:

Malts
must use all of these!
Hops
must use two of these!
Yeast
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
Centennial
Challenger
Northdown
Perle
Saaz
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.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

ESB Brew Time!

I've never done an ESB (Extra Special/Strong Bitter) before, but people keep telling me I need to.

Well, I was going to brew a Kolsch today. But then I got to the brew shop and they didn't have the yeast I wanted. They had alternatives and I was considering it, but I've also wanted to do an ESB for a while. So here we go.

Grist:
7lbs Maris Otter
.5lbs of C75, C120 and Biscuit Malt

Hops:
1.5oz EKG @ 60 (28 IBU)
.5oz EKG @ 10 (3.4 IBU)
1oz Fuggle @ 10 (6 IBU)

Yeast:
Wyeast 1968 London ESB




The first runnings look nice, but a tad dark. Meh. Normal enough, let's see the second.



That should lighten it up a tad. Excellent. Second runnings never ran below 1.015. I got a little worried with how much lighter it wound up, but in the end nothing to worry about.

So in Beersmith my pre-boil gravity was estimated to be 1.041. Nailed it. According to refrac and hydrometer, hit exactly 1.041 pre-boil. First time I've ever hit dead on like that, usually off +/- 2-3 points. No big deal, but still a good feeling. And then the gravity into the bucket: 1.048. Exactly as predicted by Beersmith, 80% brewhouse efficiency.

I'm going to ferment this bad boy at 65F for 3 days, allow to rise to 70F over the next 3 days to finish up. I'll decide if it needs to sit higher for a diacetyl rest or not at that point. Apparently wyeast recommends it? But at those temps, I'd need to use a heater to get it up any higher so hopefully those temps get the job done just fine. I can heat if need be (heating pad + STC-1000) but would rather not.

According to homebrewtalk, really shouldn't be necessary. Hope they're right!




Oh my. That is pretty.

I tossed in whirlfloc with the 10min hop additions, and I'm going to gelatin this beer as well. This yeast strain is known for dropping out really nicely, but why not help clear things up faster?

Now for the hardest part: Waiting.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mango Madness & Citra Explosion


So back on 4/11 I had a buncha people over and brewed a Citra Pale Ale and a Mango IPA. At least, that was the intent. It appears I've made a Citra IPA (drunken hop additions may have played a role but it's a good thing) and a Mango IPA, which I'm happy with so that's great.

Grist:
10lbs 2row.
1lbs Munich.
.5lb C60.
.5lb Carapils.

The hopping schedule for the Mango IPA:
1oz Palisade @ 60
1oz Galaxy @ 10
1oz Citra @ 8
1oz Galaxy @ 5
1oz Citra @ 2

I did have a dry hop planned originally, but I opted to skip the dry hop because once I smelled the Mango aroma coming off it while it was fermenting that out I decided I wanted to go with that instead. OG 1.068, FG 1.009 for ~7.75% ABV. The mango nectar was added 3 days after fermentation started, as it was beginning to taper off at that point. I left it alone for about a week and a half after that before racking into the keg to carbonate before bottling.

Aroma: Citrus and tropical fruitiness rides along the awesome that is the mango nectar addition. I can definitely tell the aromas apart, the mango is very distinctive in the aroma. Not finding any malt aroma here, but given the hops and the mango nectar addition I can't say I'm surprised.

Appearance:

Well, as you can see. It is hazy as all hell. The only fining I did was whirlfloc in the boil. I could have done a gelatin and cold crash, but I kinda like it this way. I also feel like the way it looks now really lends itself to the overall character of the beer, especially the mouth feel. If it were crystal clear it'd throw people off I think.

Flavor: I get citrus and tropical fruitiness from the hops, and then a very distinct and lovely mango flavor. If you like mango, you'll like this beer. There is a slight bitterness to it, which I feel could be higher, but I'm very glad it isn't lower. Lower and I feel like this beer might be cloyingly sweet. If I had done my usual no 60min addition and only late hops, I don't think I'd like this beer much despite how much I love mango. The malt is (to my palate) damn near lost in this beer. It's there, but only if you really try to taste it around the mango and hoppiness.

I used a relatively low AA bittering addition at 60mins, was just what I had around. This beer could certainly stand up to a higher AA bittering addition, but what I ended up with here is a beer that isn't overly bitter and probably more appealing for it. It really lets the mango shine through, which was the idea anyway.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full in my opinion. I'm no BJCP judge, but I've got enough beer drinkin under my belt to know this is no medium or lower bodied beer. I'm not getting any astringency, and maybe just a slight bit of alcohol warmth, probably because of the late mango nectar addition. Not unpleasant to me at all.

Overall: I really like this beer. I doubt it's going to last long in my house, and I know a lot of people will want some to try as well which will make it disappear even faster. The good news is mango nectar is readily available at Costco near me and the grist is really simple. Morebeer has always had the hops I used if (when) I want more, so that's lovely too. Will be easy to do again.

I need to get this sent off to competitions in the near future. I understand I'll need to submit it as a 20 because of the Mango Nectar addition and how pronounced it is. I also understand that the mouth feel will probably get it knocked down a bit submitting it as a (Mango) IPA, but since I have to list the underlying style that's gonna have to be it.


Now for the Citra IPA!

Grist:
10lbs 2row.
1lbs Munich.
.5lb C60.
.5lb Carapils.

Notice a similarity? Same grist. In fact, it was done in one mash and two boils with different hop schedules. Add the two grists together and that was the total in the mash.

The intended hop schedule:
Citra 1.25oz @ 15
Citra 1.25oz @ 10
Citra 1.25oz @ 5
Citra 1.25oz @ 1
Dry hop 3oz Citra 4 days.

The actual hop schedule as far as I can recall from the drunkenness of that day:
Citra 1.25oz @ 30 (oops, ~40 IBU there)
Citra 1.25oz @ 10 ~20 IBU
Citra 1.25oz @ 5 ~10 IBU

Citra 1.25oz @ 0 Probably a few more IBU here, but nothing big.
Dry hop 3oz Citra 4 days.

Wound up around 75 IBU rather than the originally planned ~55-60. I suppose I could still call it an American Pale Ale, but it just feels weird to me. It's far too bitter for that. Not unpleasantly bitter, but still too bitter.

OG 1.068 FG 1.012, ABV ~7.35%. In retrospect I probably should have paid more attention to the hop timings (one of the pitfalls of having an awesome time while brewing, I'll take it!) and the preboil gravity. But I'm not unhappy with this beer at all, it's quite nice.

Aroma: Did I mention I used Citra? Citrusy, tropical, passion fruit on the nose. Get a tiny bit of malt if I really try to find it, but that was the idea anyway so I'm happy with that.

Appearance:
So much clearer than the Mango IPA, that's for sure. This beer was poured after a rapid cooling in the freezer. It'll clear up with more time in the bottles and a longer chilling time, but I'm pretty happy with it as it is in the picture. I used GY054 from Gigayeast (Vermont IPA Yeast) and it's supposed to be a medium/low floccing yeast, so this amount of clarity right now I'm pretty thrilled with actually.

Flavor: Very hop forward (to the surprise of none) with the amount of Citra used. I'm getting some guava, passion fruitiness from the hop flavor. My palate for hop flavors is lacking a lot, but that's what I get so far. The bitterness comes in pretty strong, but the malt character is enough to balance it out a bit. This beer is certainly balanced towards the hops, but still balanced rather than tilting the scale and throwing the malt out the window, if that makes any sense to anyone but me. When I taste it I get hop flavor, bitterness, maltiness, and then finishing with a bit more bitterness and lingering hop flavor which is nice.

My intent was a more balanced beer, but rather than throwing the balance out the window it feels like just shifted it which is just fine with me.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, medium bodied beer. I think the bitterness gives it a perception of being lighter bodied than it is, but when I really sit back and feel the beer, can't say it's medium-light, it's a medium bodied beer. No astringency or alcohol warmth that I can detect.

Overall: I thoroughly enjoy this beer. However, unlike the Mango IPA it isn't going to be winning over any "I don't like hoppy beer" people. This is a hoppy beer and there is no mango in it to mask/blend in with that. I doubt this'll last much longer though, as I do know several hop heads and have grown to appreciate them more and more myself as I learn more about the flavors and what certain hops can bring to certain styles.

I'm not sure if I'll send this one out to be judged. I probably will when I send the Mango IPA simply because I'll already be sending out so why not? Plus, feedback. I really need more feedback from people I don't know at all.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Double brew day + BBQ = Great Success

Saturday (4/11/15) was an awesome brew day. Lot of cool people stopped by to help out, including a redditor that wanted to learn a bit about the all grain process since he's transitioning from extract to all grain.

I wish I had more pictures, but perhaps a few too many (haha, yeah right) beers were consumed. Also distractions with the BBQ portion, my 5 year old daughter running around like crazy and my dog that was constantly trying to find scraps of food... erhm, at any rate the actual brew day went amazingly smoothly.

Grist:
20lbs 2row.
2lbs Munich.
1lb C60.
1lb Carapils.

Mashed in with 8 gallons of water, once temp stabilized it came in right around 150F. Closed it up for an hour and heated up another 8 gallons of water.

What we did is drain half of the first runnings into one bucket, and half into another. Then we batch sparged, and did that again. So it's kind of a double brew day, in that two different (similar, but different) 5 gallon batches are being made, but just one bigass mash and then mixing runnings to get equal gravity.

Ultimately we wound up with just over 11 gallons of 1.068 wort. Efficiency right in around 85%, pretty damn happy with that.

The first batch we did was the Mango IPA, hopping schedule here:
1oz Palisade @ 60
1oz Galaxy @ 10
1oz Citra @ 8
1oz Galaxy @ 5
1oz Citra @ 2

In a few days when fermentation dies down, I'm going to add a gallon of Mango Nectar to primary. When that ferments out, I'll be dry hopping with 3oz Citra for 4 days.

The second batch is a Zombie Dust clone (I bought a pound of Citra at a good price, so why not?) Hopping schedule:
Citra 1.25oz @ 15
Citra 1.25oz @ 10
Citra 1.25oz @ 5
Citra 1.25oz @ 1
Dry hop 3oz Citra 4 days.

This batch will be kegged and bottled first since I won't need to worry about adding fermentables. Works out nicely considering I only have the one keg to use currently anyway.

And yes, I am also aware that both batches are likely (the Mango IPA more so) to have some that won't fit into the 5 gallon keg. That's ok. I'll just bottle the leftover normally and enjoy having more beer. It's a good problem to have far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Brewin brewin brewin... and a BBQ.

Been a little while since I've had a brew party, and I was itching to get more brewing done anyway, so here we go!

This Saturday (4/11) I'll be doing two batches. First, a Mango IPA and second will be a Zombie Dust clone. Kind of. I'm too lazy to do two full mashes, so I'm doing one big mash since the main differences will be the hopping schedules and the gallon of mango nectar for the Mango IPA.

Grist:

20lbs 2row.
2lbs Munich.
1lb C60.
1lb Carapils.

Attempting to end up with a gravity of ~1.065 for both batches. It may end up higher or a little lower, we'll see. If it goes as it normally does for me, I'll probably end up closer to 1.070 and I'm ok with that too. Picked up GY054 (Gigayeast Vermont IPA Yeast) from my local morebeer store. Going to start spinning it up tomorrow and end up with enough for both batches. Viability is 68%, or I could probably just spin up one 2L starter and split it, but I've got enough time so I'll deal with it.

Mango IPA Hopping Schedule:
1oz Palisade @ 60
1oz Galaxy @ 10
1oz Citra @ 8
1oz Galaxy @ 5
1oz Citra @ 2

Other addition:
1 Gallon Mango Nectar. Going to add this (chilled) directly to the sanitized bucket. Yes, I know I need to spin up a bigger starter as a result, that's fine.

Why, you ask? Because why not? I love mango. I like both Citra and Galaxy, and I'll have a bunch of people over to assist with tossing hops in and why not give 'em something to do? More fun that way. Also the Palisade has been in the freezer for a while now. It's there, and it gets the Mango IPA some more bitterness to balance it all out (I hope).

Hopping schedule for the Zombie Dust Clone is going to (pretty much) match the HBT clone recipe:
Citra 1.25oz @ 15
Citra 1.25oz @ 10
Citra 1.25oz @ 5
Citra 1.25oz @ 1

Citra 3oz @ Dry Hop ~5 days


Aside from brewing, we're also going to be having a bit of a BBQ. Chicken wings, cheese burgers, and whatever else I manage to pick up next time I go grocery shopping (probably Friday night). Perhaps some loud music to annoy the neighbors during the day (quasi payback for them annoying us at night). It shall be glorious, one way or another. Perhaps all the ways.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Keggging! Bottling! Which to do?!

Trick question.



Yes I realize it's a fucking disaster in my computer/brewing/workout room. Work, being sick, and laziness all took their toll in my cleaning routine. Gotta fix that.

My bottling assistant was much more helpful before picture time. For pictures she likes to cling and hide, and after that I was on my own. Oh well. Moving on.

I decided that I wanted to continue bottling, but I like the idea of bottling without a yeast cake on the bottom of the bottle. The consistency of a batch carbonation, never having to worry about uneven mixing of priming sugar, etc really appealed to me.

Having a keezer appeals to me too. But I don't have the money or space for what I would want, namely an 8 tap keezer. Barring that, I'm perfectly happy bottling because storage is just so much simpler. Shelving is cheap and bottles are free (friends help with that).

This solution makes perfect sense to me. First, I've got the initial investment in a kegging setup down. Second, I can get the ease of carbonation and third I eliminate the yeast cake on the bottom of the bottle. Except for certain styles, it's just nicer to not have it there.

If/when I get to the point where I can further expand and do a keezer setup, I've got a 5lb tank and a 2 way manifold now. Great for the beer gun (to purge the bottles and head space) and if I want to add a second keg, no problemo. It was exceedingly easy to justify, and I think the result below has just convinced me I made an excellent choice all things considered.

First batch I'm bottling off my keg is my first attempt at a Maibock and my second lager using the brulosophy lager method.

Recipe:
5lbs Vienna
4lbs Pilsner
2lbs Munich
8oz Carapils
8oz Melanoidin

2oz Saaz @ 60

2 packs Wyeast 2206 (Bavarian Lager) and a 3L starter.

OG: 1.065
FG: 1.012
IBU: 25




I did gelatin in primary before racking to the keg. Cold crashed with the gelatin in primary for 72hrs before the transfer, let it chill under pressure a couple weeks because life happened and whatnot. I forgot whirlfloc at the end of the boil and just said fuckit, let's see what happens. Pretty damn happy with that.

Ultimately, using the Blichmann Beer Gun was a no brainer to me. Once obtained and all the parts sorted out, it was a breeze to get going. It was more of a pain to get my 2 way manifold going leak free. Once that was sorted, the beer gun was a breeze. Better than a breeze, because a breeze can be chilly. This was awesome. One hand operation to purge with CO2 and fill the bottle? Awesome. Get distracted by my assistant and have to walk away for a few minutes? No problem, it's all under pressure and ready to go when I get back. Just drop it back in the starsan bucket and no worries at all.

So even if you do keg full time, if you've ever found yourself thinking: Wish I had a few in bottles. Well, why don't you?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Roasted Barley


 I had a kilogram of Roasted Barley (European) left over after the summer. Seeing as it was already milled, I decided to spend the dollar fifty and replace it with some unmilled malt in the fall. My friend had mentioned keeping it for darkening beers from cold steeping. Rather than do this, I decided to try making a hot grain beverage. Now, you make tea with tea leaves, coffee with coffee, so I figured it should be called a roasted barley.



I have some small tea infusers for when I use loose leaf tea and make just a cup. They are the size of a very large acorn (smaller than most tea balls). I filled the tip as full as I could with roasted barley and put it in some boiled water. I swirled it around to help extract faster, and once I felt that the resulting brew was dark enough, pulled the infuser and washed it out.


Here it is in my insulated clear cup so you can see the color. It turned out quite dark, very similar to a dark drip coffee.

The taste from steeping a small tea infuser worth of roasted barley for a few minutes  was pretty mild and pleasant. I'd liken it to a weak drip coffee without all the tastelessness. My wife and I prefer it to commercial grain drinks such as Caro and Inka when they are brewed black. All told, a pleasant drink and worth trying.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lager time!

So my last post here was about modifying my mini-fridge to serve as a fermentation chamber.

Today we begin our first lager. Hooray!


7lbs Belgian Pilsner
1lb Munich
.5lbs C60
.5lbs Carapils

1oz Hallertau FWH
1oz Hallertau @20

Whirlfloc @15

Yeast: W-34/70, rehydrated. Two 11.5g packs.


My little brew helper stirring it up! This was immediately after adding the sparge water.


I opted for a 4.5 gallon mash with 4 gallon batch sparge. Very straight forward on my setup, no issues. Mashed at 152F, sparged at ~175F. First runnings 1.073, forgot to take second runnings reading. But pre-boil at 7 gallons into the kettle at 1.040. With 5.25ish into the carboy, looking at 1.052 and ~80% (rough calculation in my head, not going to check because it's a good efficiency either way) brewhouse efficiency. Can't complain about that.

Overall the brew day was fairly straight forward. Aside from having to put new tubing on my immersion chiller, because the old tubing just wore out and a sprung a leak last time I used it. No big deal, but at least today I don't need to worry about the tubing bursting. I know I know, I can use silicone tubing that'll handle the heat much better, that's a problem for future me.


This worked out pretty well. There was an initial leak on the connection to the garden hose, but that was tightened up easily. Other two connections had no leaks at all.


Here it is all hooked up and in the chamber. Door closed perfectly and the compressor is working to get that temp down. Since it went in around 3:15pm I'm hoping to be able to pitch before bed. If not, tomorrow morning is fine too. I didn't want to waste water, so I chilled it down to ~80F before transferring to carboy. Figured might as well, since I've got this chamber now.





I'm going to be utilizing the Brulosophy Fast Lager method to ferment this baby. I'll probably end up cold crashing longer due to laziness/other things coming up towards the end of that fermentation schedule, but that won't hurt anything so not worried about that.

I know his method kegs. But since I can't see any logical reason to think it wouldn't work in bottles, I'm going to do it bottling. Also I don't have kegs. So easy choice to make, really.

Thanks for reading! Off to relax for a while with my family and perhaps go out for dinner. Hopefully I'll be able to pitch tonight, but if not then oh well. Always tomorrow to pitch the yeast! RDWHAHB, as the saying goes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Midea WHS-160RB1 Mini Fridge Fermentation Chamber.

Phew. I just finished this up. I'm typing this as pictures are uploading.

The love of my life picked up on some hints while we were at Costco a bit before Christmas regarding a mini fridge in the 4.4-5cu ft range. In the end she let me pick it out online because she doesn't know much about these things.

In the end I picked the Midea WHS-160RB1 4.4cu ft mini fridge, because the size is right and from what I was able to find online it would be a fairly straightforward DIY to modify. Fortunately I was right! Sorta. I mean, it was easy. But... well, here we go.

First up: Saw off the plastic covering on the hump! I wasn't sure what was behind it exactly, and figured since I only need about an inch to two inches if there was foam behind it I could dremel it down.


That was fairly straight forward. I used the spade bit to open up a little bit of room for the hacksaw to start going sideways. Just made sure to be very, very careful with that part. Fortunately, it is foam under there. Dremel time. Also busted out the vacuum because god damn thats a lot of foam dust.



Keep going! Until you see something that isn't foam. Oops. Probably went a tiny bit further than I needed to, but no harm done.


Once that was done, had to see about fitting a carboy in there. 


Looks good! Or so I thought until I closed the door. Now to remove this fucker:




I removed the rod there too because why not? Not going to be using that anyway.

So after that part was fixed, the PET carboy I use was fitting perfectly. Then I thought "oh shit, what about my buckets?" So I popped one of those in there.

Shit. Ok, more door modification!




Once I got that out, along with the little shelf to the right all was well with the world again. Next step: Bandage her up and make sure everything is still functional.





And now my carboy and buckets will fit perfectly inside this fridge. All told it was about 45 minutes of actual work. But I also went in semi-blind, not being 100% sure what to expect.

I am aware that I could have done the door mod and removed the freezer portion, but this allows me to use the freezer portion in the future if I want to. The door mods were fairly minor too, as I can still reinstall the rod on the bottom and make use of that shelf even though it's a little smaller now. So that was kind of my idea going in, leave the freezer alone.


All closed up and currently coolin down. Going to be brewing up a lager of some sort this weekend, haven't 100% decided yet but it should be an interesting one for me. First lager comin up!

So that's been my adventure in homebrew modifications so far. I thought about posting pictures of the STC-1000 wiring and whatnot but there are so many out there, it really doesn't matter. It works and was pretty straight forward. Followed this guide more or less. That guide is also why I have a mini hacksaw, which really came in handy for this job. Not sure how I would have done it without that little guy.

The picture is one my daughter (5 years old now) made at preschool. Once she realized this fridge was like the big one upstairs, many things being stuck to it.

Next post will be my lager adventure I'm guessing. Should be fun!