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.