Misc Good Stuff
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|Milling grain doesn't need to be difficult. You don't need anything more than a decent roller mill and a drill. Mine is a Barley Crusher, but any good brand will do if it is adjustable. My gap is set at ~.036 which gives a decent crush without pulverizing the husks. I don't have a huge hopper or anything fancy, I just scoop grain from the bucket into the hopper as I hold the drill with the other hand, and it only takes a few minutes to mill 20+ pounds of grain. I go quite slow, about the second speed achieved when pulling the trigger on the drill. Don't ask me about RPM's as that it just not a concern. Just go fast enough that the grain feeds nicely and you don't feel a real jerky pressure on the drill. If you are using your arm and a handle, go crazy!|
|Time to Make the Water|
|We fill water jugs a day or two before brewing. We have a standard water filter that is used for the icemaker in the fridge, and it is also connected to a separate faucet on the sink using a "T" fitting. As you see we just run a hose over the tip of the faucet and down into the jugs. Our city water comes from the Floridan aquifer, one of the best sources of spring water in the world, but they add chloramines for sanitation, so we have to add Campden Tablets (potassium metabisulfite) to remove it before brewing. We throw it into the jugs when filling and leave the tops off at least overnight.
The old rule "if it tastes good, brew with it" does not apply when you have chlorine or chloramines. The chlorine will leach out just by simple charcoal filters like we have, but chloramines must be removed chemically.
|Down and Dirty Bottling!|
|We bottle off the keg/tap when needed by using a simple bottling wand in the end of a hose, or in this case the end of a cobra tap (the cobra tap valve is just left open, you are just using the plastic head to jam the bottle filler into). You can just fill from a tap using a hose, but the real magic is that little valve at the bottom of the filling wand. The valve only allows flow when it is depressed, which will be below the beer in the bottle. Without the valve you get air travelling up the hose, problems with bubbles and foam, and a general mess. You don't need to spend $70 on a bottling gun! This was like $3, and with the addition of a CO2 hose and valve you can purge your bottles before filling as well. It is not as pretty as a Blichmann beer gun, but I get the same results. The only important thing is to drop the pressure in your system so that you just get the beer to flow. This is about 1-2psi when using a hose right off the keg, and can be more if you are connecting the hose to a beer tap. I've won medals with beer bottled this way, and we've had beer sit and age for a while after being bottled this way, so it works! I don't chill the bottles or anything special either. I just sanitize and fill them right from the drying rack, and cap immediately. It helps to have a helper.|
|Below are some pics of my down-and-dirty bottle filler rig I made for quick fills off the taps. It is the same bottle filler wand secured to some beer tubing that is secured to the tap nozzle. Inmy case the nozzles screw off, so I can keep this rigged up at all times. Because you already have a balanced system for serving, you don't even need the length of hose I show here. Pressure can be lower than serving, but higher than using the filler wand in the party tap with the keg removed from the kegerator. As usual, chill bottles for best results and have a helper for capping. You WILL need to get this primed and chilled, so expect to fill a pint glass before the bottles. Enjoy!|
|How can I easily know my volumes???|
|This is my measuring stick. No reason to install a sightglass in anything other than the HLT because anything that is in the pot will get into the sightglass and have to be cleaned and sanitized. Why worry about it? Most of the time you already know how much liquid you have moved from the HLT to the MLT, so you know how much you are going to get to the kettle after the grain drinks its fill, so a measure is only used for sanity-checks! After you get used to your setup, you'll know where the major volume levels are anyway. Don't overthink this one.|
|The only place you might need a sightglass.|
|This is my hot liquor tank (water tank or HLT) You can see that I've installed a commercial-grade sightglass and thermometer using a weldless fitting and a stainless "T" pipe so they both fit into the same hole. This is where the mash and/or sparge water is heated. This sits at eye-level in my brewery, so the sightglass allows me to know how much water I'm using. I overfill this so that I usually finish with the water at the bottom of the sightglass, and that is ~4 gallons remaining in the keggle. I use the last few gallons for hot water cleanup. And yeah, I always make extra brew water, just in case I might need to top off something later. I get this water up to sparge temp while waiting for the mash to finish.|
|How can I configure my system for easy changing of commercial and homebrew kegs?|
|This is the magic little piece that allows commercial Sankey beer keg couplers to be hooked up to any system that has 1/4" flare fittings. It is called a "flare to tailpiece adapter."
Your kegerator should have 1/4" female flare fittings (FFL) on the ends of the beer lines to allow you to switch out your Male Flare (MFL) Ball-Lock corny keg connectors. If not, get them!
This piece just installs on your sankey tap as seen HERE.
|Glass flasks on electric coil stoves... Don't do it!|
|OK, so here is why you should never use any glass/pyrex/borosilicate flask or container on an electric coil stove. I'd used flasks on my stoive for a long time now, so imagine my surprise when I heard a huge "!BANG!" from the kitchen stove! Yep, the flask had cracked completely through and was spewing boiling wort all over the stove. I was able to grab it with an oven mitt and it held together long enough for me to get the 4 liters of wort dumped into a pot sitting nearby. This could have been very bad if the glass had shattered when I was lifting it at the time. If you have an electric stove, get a $3 heat diffuser from the store to use. They work great and prevent flas disasters.
Apparently this is a common problem, and warnings have not been clearly communicated to users. The vendor quickly replaced this flask with no question asked when I told them what happened. They were familiar with the problem and were trying to get the word out.
|Keeping Mash Temps with a stainless steel mash tun|
|Some folks have asked about the insulation on my mash tun, but the real secret isn't that silver foil insulation with the closed-cell foam, it's the Mexican blankets I wrap the mash tun with. They cover the keggle as well as the burner underneath, so they really retain the heat and allow me to mash for an hour with barely any loss of heat. I do tend to stir a few times during the mash, but rarely do I have to add any heat. Any blankets will work, and your local thrift store might be a good place to look if the wife or girlfriend has a problem with you using the ones from the house. Mine come off the sofa, and go back when I'm done.|
|Clean your ball Valve!|
|I'm frequently asked why I spend the extra money on 3-piece ball valves for any part of the system that carries wort. The simple answer is that I have the ability to clean them properly if required. Well, reality is that the ball valve on the kettle is sanitized during the boil, and the other valves that have a sanitary requirement also get boiling wort pumped through them during the session, which also sanitizes them. If they are sanitary, it doesn't matter if they have a bit of debris, right? Again, yes, that is true, but about once a year I'll take the valves apart and soak them in PBW. The photo below shows what comes out of a valve after a year, and this is the kettle valve that all my wort has passed through without an issue due to the heat of the boil. Keep in mind that this valve is cleaned and rinsed after every session, and looked clean upon visual inspection. Even though this is a load of debris, it won't affect your beer as it was sanitized by the heat of the boil. If anyone has doubts, a calibrated thermocouple was used to take readings on the valve body and interior of the ball itself during the boil, and the coolest spot on the outside maintained 180F, with the rest averaging 212F. No wonder a dirty valve isn't really an issue, and most folks with 1-piece valves never know what is there unless they circulate PBW!|
|Nope, not real Fat Tire here in Florida, but we like our recipe better! As we can't get Fat Tire, and it is a crowd-pleaser among commercial brews, we keep our version on tap almost year-round at the request of friends. We have bought the tap handles to go along with our clone brews to give it a real New Belgium look.|
|Here we are brewing at The AHA "BigBrew Day 09" at the Beer and Winemaker's Pantry in Pinellas Park|
|Here is our Kolsch beside a Reissdorf Kolsch. The only impact to the clarity is the sweat on the outside of the glasses. As you can see they are almost identical. I'll let you decide which one is the commercial beer.|
Below is a 5-gallon nylon paint strainer bag clipped to the edge of the kettle to be used as a hop bag during the boil. This allows the pellet hops to swim free and not clog up your plumbing after the boil. All the hop additions can be made without ever touching or removing the bag.
|Email me at Dean_Palmer@jabil.com if you find errors, bullshit, or have questions.|