Tag Archives: brewing equipment

How to install a ball valve and thermometer in your brewpot using a weldless fitting…

There are a lot of options out there for brew pots. They range from very inexpensive aluminum turkey fryers up to the Rolls Royce quality Blichmann brew pots. For those of you that have the cash to lay out for the good ones, congratulations! For the rest of us, we may need to get a little crafty. My first brew pot, which I still use, is a 7.5 gallon stainless steel turkey fryer I got from Bass Pro Shops for $99.99, on sale. It even came with a propane burner which, with some modifications, I still use when I’m brewing outside. The existing spigot wasn’t anything I could use for brewing, but it already had the pre-drilled hole which made things easy. With a little work I changed it to a weldless 1/2″ stainless ball valve from Homebrewstuff.com. All I had to do was take a file and enlarge the hole to accommodate the new bulkhead fitting.

After much research and debate about what kind of pot I should get next in order to increase my brewing capacity, I bought a 15.5 gallon Bayou Classic Stainless Steel Pot from Canadian Treasure Seekers for $200 after tax. (they offer free shipping in Canada which is why I went with them, instead of dealing with potential import duties and crazy shipping charges from south of the border) I thought it might be a fairly thin walled pot like my 5 gallon one, but it’s actually not bad. It’s not the optimum, double walled, thick gauged bottom like some of the better brewing pots, but so far it’s worked great, and as long as I give things a stir every once on a while, I haven’t seen any scorching whatsoever. Only thing is, it doesn’t have a spigot installed. So off I go into the workshop to see how I can remedy that. I also received a nice gift from my sister & brother in law for my birthday; a 3” Stainless Thermometer with 2.5” probe! So I’ll be installing that as well. Thanks guys! Continue reading

Reviewing my Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone…

This batch of beer has been a long time coming. I had planned on brewing it a few months back when I wrote my original post, but haven’t been able to pull it together. I finally kegged and carbonated it a few days ago and I’m ready to sample the goods!

This was the first time I successfully used a liquid yeast strain after a few bad shipments in the middle of summer from a Toronto area home brew shop. I made a starter a few days before with a smack pack of Wyeast #1056 & hit my target starting gravity of 1.053. I wasn’t 100% sure if I should pitch the entire contents of the starter. It was still fermenting when it came time to pitch it, so I assumed that most of the yeast was still in suspension. I first decanted the liquid, but then noticed at the bottom was a nice slurry of yeast, so I  pitched that as well. It ended up lowering my original gravity by 0.003 points which was a drag, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I’ve since done some more research on using starters and have a better handle on what to do next time. (I’ll post about that in the coming weeks) Regardless, the fermentation took off like a rocket, and looked very healthy. I’ve kept the yeast and rinsed it properly for use in some future batches.

So let’s get to the beer… Continue reading

How to build your own Temperature Controller Box…

One of the many things I love about brewing is that I get to incorporate not only my love of beer, but my love of building things. Making crazy gadgets to suit the task at hand is something I have a lot of fun doing. Thanks to the many great articles written and shared by other home brewers, some gadgets have been tried & tested, with the rest of us benefiting from those who have gone before. This is one such gadget.

As I move deeper into brewing territory, other variables in the beer making process start to come into focus and the time comes to tinker with them to see if we can continue to improve our beer. Fermentation temperature is something that I hear many people talk about. Jamil Zainasheff has gone so far as saying it’s a “game-changer”. Wow, to say that, intrigues me. Up until now, the area of my basement that I use to ferment has a fairly steady temperature of about 68-70F, which is perfect for most ales. At one point last summer, I was fermenting a blonde ale when the compressor on our AC unit crapped out. It ended up fermenting in the 74-75F range, which is fairly high. The beer actually turned out fantastic, but I don’t know how much of a role the higher temperature played in that. Lagers, on the other hand, are different story. You need to have control over your temperatures. Since we’re now brewing 10 Gallon batches, it gives us the opportunity to split the batches into 2 five gallon carboys and try different yeasts, different fermentation temperatures and different dry hopping rates.

One way to gain control over our fermentation temperatures is to build a dedicated fermentation chamber. I lucked out a few weeks back and scored a medium sized chest freezer that someone down the street was tossing out. I suppose you could use a refrigerator, but this is what I have. A chest freezer will also hold more carboys and/or kegs.  (I’m also not certain whether or not a fridge will allow you to get down to the temperatures needed to properly lager (32F-35F), but I could be mistaken.)

So you’ve got your fridge or freezer, now what? We need to override the internal thermostat and give ourselves the ability to dial in the temperatures we want. There are a few ready-to-go temperature controllers available from Johnson Controls and Ranco that seem to do the job well. They will cost you a little bit more up front, and will also cut out any of the fun building your own, but who wants that?  Well, maybe some of you, and that’s totally cool. For me, I like to build stuff, so that’s what I’m going to do.

To get started, we need to source out the following materials:

Continue reading

Building a copper manifold for your mash/lauter tun…

When making the transition from extract brewing to all grain brewing, the main piece of equipment that is usually missing from a home brewers arsenal is a mash tun. If you’re already brewing from extract, chances are, you probably have most of the other equipment you need. Converting a basic 5 or 10 gallon beverage cooler to use as a mash/lauter tun is the easiest and most economical way to make this transition.

A mash tun is what you use to infuse your crushed grain with water and allow the various enzymes to go to work at breaking down the starches in the malt into fermentable and non-fermentable sugars. Thing is, once you get the those enzymes to work and they’ve done their jobs, how do you separate the liquid from the grain? Well, there are a few different options; one is to use a false bottom, which is essentially a screen that sits on the bottom of the cooler and creates a pocket where the liquid wort can collect without allowing any of the grain in. You can then have a dip tube tap inside that area which will then connect to your ball valve where you can drain the wort off. Another way is to use a type of “Bazooka Screen” which is essentially a mesh tube that filters the husks and other matter, allowing the wort to pass through. I’ve seen people make them out of the stainless steel braiding that comes on the outside of a standard faucet supply hose. I’m a little suspicious of this approach because it sounds like it could collapse pretty easily under the weight of the grains, but perhaps you could insert some kind of wire to help prevent that. Yet another way, is to Continue reading