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Preparing the malt - the first step in all-grain brewing [06 Feb 2009|06:01pm]

I've posted pics of my brewing process before, but I had never taken pictures of the actual first step - preparing the barley malt. I usually do this a day or two in advance of actually brewing. The following preparation is for a porter recipe.

Pictures of the process followsCollapse )
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New brewing toys [01 Feb 2009|05:18pm]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Got a chance to get to use my new brewing gear yesterday. I'm going to have to alter my calculations a little since I was a little off, but that's to be expected with using new gear for the first time. I'm not going to detail the whole process, as I've done that before, but the following photos cover some of the process steps that differ from my old methods.

Pictures of new gear followsCollapse )
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New heatstick [29 Jan 2009|12:02am]
I have a bunch of new beermaking gear (read: homebrewer bling - trust me on this) that should ease the process a bit that's getting its first real run this coming weekend; I don't have any pics yet. I also built some new gear this week in preparation for this session. I haven't brewed in six months, so it's about time.

I wanted to build a new low-wattage low-density heatstick to gently heat the wort when boiling on the stove so as to aid the boil but not have scorching issues. My old 2kW sticks were too high density and wattage and would pump out too much heat over too small of a surface area; I ended up with scorching using them. I also was never too sure if the plumber's putty was entirely safe at boiling temps. I rebuilt a stick by cannibalizing parts from one of the old ones; the cord was just long enough to reach the outlet from the boil kettle without slack.

The new element is a long low-density 240V 4.5kW one, but running on 110V so it outputs around 950W. Due to the length of the coil, the wattage per inch is much lower than the old ones and it should heat a lot more gently.

I sealed the pipe with J-B Weld inside and out instead of using putty on the outside.

I had to bend the element for this purpose, and it looks a little weird, but it fits fairly well in my brewpot like this with the bottom of the "foot" resting on the pot bottom and the handle against the side of the pot.

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Adventures in Kegging, or The Little Fridge that Could [20 Feb 2007|12:22pm]

Once I had all the components necessary, it was time to take the Sanyo 4912 I recently purchased and rebuild it for its new life as a kegerator.

How I went from this:

Click for photos and a step-by-step of the processCollapse )

To this:

I was hoping to put the porter I have in secondary in a keg and have that on tap in a week or so, but it looks to have an acetobacteria infection. It's probably mostly vinegar at this point. I thought the fermentation started off strangely, and it was probably due to me accidentally chilling the fermenter too low for the yeast to really take hold the first day, so bacteria took over. Oh well, I can make another batch. I still have over three cases of homebrew to go through, so there's no rush.

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Keg Cleanup [10 Feb 2007|02:25pm]
I cleaned up the five nasty soda kegs last night, and man that was a chore. It took about six hours to get those things clean. I don't have replacement parts yet (they're still at the post office) so I can't reassemble them yet. Not that it matters as I don't have anything to pressure test them with yet either, though.

For an example of how bad these things looked, a couple photos should explain adequately. They also had soda residue inside and just in general were all around disgusting. The posts and old o-rings had been removed before the following photos were taken. I used Straight-A (oxygen-based cleaner) to get the old residue and dirt off, Bar Keeper's Friend (oxalic acid based cleaner) to get rid of rust spots and clean the exterior, a Scotchbrite pad and lots of water and effort. They sure look a hell of a lot better now though.

Click for photosCollapse )
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Step 1: Cut a hole in a box [08 Feb 2007|02:21pm]
The Sanyo 4912 minifridge I mentioned in a previous post has now been purchased. I ran a test to see how cold it gets on maximum by sticking a thermometer in a jug of water in the fridge overnight, and it gets below freezing. 29 degrees is the lowest it has gone, which is far lower than I require for either keg cooling or lagering purposes; after I get a digital temp controller I can just set the fridge on max and let the temp controller maintain the right temp. The next step is to get all the parts I'm going to need to do the conversion and cut into the fridge. The door panel needs to be removed and the top needs a 3" hole cut into it. For now I can just use it as a normal fridge and keep beer bottles in it.

I also have five old soda kegs to clean up and repair. These kegs are in sad shape, and look like they've been sitting outside in a junkyard for years. They have dirt all over them, and there was still old soda syrup remnants inside the kegs. I've mostly cleaned up two of them excepting a couple interior rust spots I need to take care of with Barkeepers Friend and a Scotchbrite pad. The other three have been disassembled and are awaiting new(er) lids and gas-side dip tubes. These kegs are of such an old manufacture some parts are just simply not made anymore like the pressure relief valves on three of the lids, hence the replacement with newer-model lids. I think the gas-in and liquid-out posts are in good enough shape to use after replacing the poppet valves and o-rings, but I'll have to check if these things can hold pressure after getting a CO2 tank and regulator. If I need any more kegs for whatever reason, I'm just going to buy a reconditioned old keg rather than an as-is one - after getting the parts necessary to refurbish them you haven't saved anything.

Including the kegs and replacement keg parts, the project has cost about $435 thus far. The other components I'm going to need aren't cheap either (a two-faucet beer tower runs over $100, for example), but it's still most likely cheaper than buying a ready-made kegerator that's designed for commercial Sankey kegs and converting it to use soda kegs. Plus there's the benefit of it being fully custom and the "I built that myself" feeling.
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Because I really need another project? [19 Jan 2007|03:58pm]
Is it sad that I now feel the need to buy a Sanyo 4912 mini-refrigerator just so I can turn it into a kegerator and start kegging my own beer? It would be a little bit of a project to mod it install a two-tap draft tower on top of it, but there are various FAQs on this model and it seems to be the one of choice for conversion on the homebrew forum I read. It can hold two 5 gallon Cornelius kegs with no issue and a 5 lb CO2 canister, or you can run the gas line out through a drain hole and have the canister outside.

I'm not sure if I want to attempt it. Kegging would be a lot easier and quicker than bottling in the long run since you just transfer to a keg and connect the gas as opposed to having to clean and fill 40-some bottles every time. Plus there's the convenience of being able to draw just the amount you want as opposed to being stuck with 12 or 22 ounces. However, there is a not insignificant initial cost outlay for all the stuff necessary to set it up (CO2 tank, regulator, lines, fittings, kegs, tower kit, fridge, etc.), plus the necessity to cut a big hole in a fridge and mount a tower on it. Bottling could still be done off of a keg with a counterpressure filler if I wanted to bottle a few from a kegged batch for portability.

I did build my own mash tun and braided filter, but there was less danger of screwing that up. Mess up a fridge and I'm out of nearly $200.

... but it would be so cool...
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