Tag Archives: DIY

2012 Learn 2 Brew Day hosted by Amsterdam Brewery…

The home brewing community has always been big on encouraging and supporting up and coming brewers. Learn 2 Brew Day is a testament to this spirit. Started in 1999 by the American Homebrew Association, it is an event held around the world to encourage people to come out and learn how to brew their own beer. Seasoned veterans and newbie’s alike, it’s a place to share ideas and to be inspired by new ones. Everybody brews just a little different, so there’s always something to see.

The 2012 Toronto Learn 2 Brew Event was hosted by Amsterdam Brewing at their new brewery location in Leaside. The folks at Amsterdam have always been huge supporters of the local homebrewing scene in Toronto. We sincerely thank them for being so generous with their time and their space. The new brewery looks fantastic and we look forward to many more years of great beer from Amsterdam!

About 10 homebrewers showed up bright and early on saturday morning, cars full of gear and gadgets, with apprentices in tow. Everything from a ‘3 tier gravity system’, to a fully automated ‘R.I.M.S system’, to a ‘brew in a bag system (B.I.A.B)‘ complete with a pully system to haul the spent grain out of the brewpot. There was a porter, an IPA, an ESB, a Hefeweizen and many other styles to watch as they came into being.

The atmosphere is very Continue reading

Adding a personal touch to your homebrew: roasting your own grains…

If you’re anything like me, you’re always seeking out how to brew a better tasting beer. There seems to be endless possibilities and learning opportunities that can be had when brewing. Thankfully home brewers and craft brewers, by nature, like to experiment. Perpetually fiddling with recipes, equipment and the overall process is what we do.

A fellow home brewer tipped me off to a recipe he thought was amazing called “Lake Walk Pale Ale”. It showcases the famous Amarillo/Simcoe hop combination that I’ve read so much about. Unfortunately, up until recently, Simcoe hops have been very scarce around these parts. I’ve since scored a pound of them, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try it. An interesting twist to the recipe is the use of ‘home-toasted’ malt. I had read about roasting your own grains in “Radical Brewing” and “Brewing Better Beer“, but hadn’t really thought much about until now. Since we are so incredibly fortunate to have access to a myriad of different malts from all over the globe, some would say, why bother roasting your own?

I say, why not? It’s something else to do that involves brewing!

You can achieve any number of roasts at home. Try roasting them dry, or try roasting them wet to get a caramel/crystal type malt. You can also play around with the temperature and the length to get flavours that you want. For example, Randy Mosher’s “Radical Brewing” outlines the following flavours you will get at various temperatures: Continue reading

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

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