Tag Archives: home brew

Brew Stand Brew Day

It’s all come together! It is, for all intents and purposes, done. There certainly is some tweaking to do and a few bits and pieces on my wish list but it works and makes a bunch of beer in one go.

My last brew day I took some pics to show the set up. Some of the line set up is not pretty but that is part of the tweaking. I’ll just have to have a few more brew days to figure it all out. šŸ˜‰

This is generally what my driveway/brewery looks like on a brew day. The blue cooler is no longer a MLT but is now a bin to tote material from inside: scale, chiller, pumps, etc.

The Brewery

The Brewery

 

HLT set up for heating strike water. I recirculate the water as it’s heating just to avoid hot/cold layers. It makes the temp reading up top a bit more accurate. This is one place I could use an inline thermometer.

HLT

HLT

 

My fly sparge set up. HLT to pump to MLT. MLT to pump to BK. Flow adjusted so hot water into MLT is roughly the same rate as wort to BK. Works like a charm!

Fly sparge

Fly sparge

 

Top of MLT. Foil with holes just to avoid channeling in the grain bed.

Sparging

Sparging

 

Lauter line into BK. I had originally had the line with the tri clamp fitting as the lauter line and had that attached to the top port. This set up is better with the line going to the bottom of the BK. Less splashing, less foaming, easier to see volume when the wort gets near the top.

Lautering

Lautering

 

This is the set up for sanitizing the chiller. For the last 15 minutes of the boil I just recirculate wort through the lines and chiller. The line set up is not pretty and I’ll be tweaking that so that the moving of lines for cooling in and chasing wort with water is a bit easier and smoother. Using the MLT as a chiller stand was a last minute thought and works well. I had originally thought about mounting the chiller on the stand but knowing now how much back flushing is required it’s easier to have it loose for now.

Sanitizing Chiller

Sanitizing Chiller

 

Set up for cooling in. This basically works. The line from BK to pump needs to be on the other side of the keg the chiller is sitting on. Part of my waste water from the chiller is going back into the HLT so that when wort is done in the BK I chase the wort through the lines with the water from the HLT. This is another place I would use an inline thermometer just to adjust the flow and get the pitching temps right, or at least close.

Cooling In

Cooling In

There you have it! That’s basically a brew day on my new set up. Thanks to Clay for the build and thanks to Scott for the gas plumbing and pump box! Fantastic work!

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Just add gas

Scott was at my house last night to start in on the gas plumbing for the brew stand. He has mad skillz in that regard. I held things. And took pictures.

valve and tools

valve and tools

Burners and pipe wrenches

Burners and pipe wrenches

Dope with pumps in the background

Dope with pumps in the background

Love the red handled valves. Such red.

Love the red handled valves. Such red.


Maxed Out

With the brew stand nearing completion one of the things I wanted to do was run my large volume equipment through a brew day. This is not my complete setup, I used only one of the large vessels instead of both and I don’t have my pumps hooked up yet.

My process is pretty common with this setup:

  • heat large volume of water in HLT but what will become the BK
  • mash in with portion of hot water
  • add more water back to HLT and heat up for sparge
  • transfer all sparge water to coolers and empty the vessel
  • sparge from coolers into MLT and lauter into BK

This gives me two vessels to work with and the need for only one burner. I actually use two burners in case of the need to heat the MLT. The second time I brewed on this set up I didn’t need to heat the MLT but the first time I did.

Here are a few pics of the process…

Mashed into a 50L keggle which according to my calculations would be able to hold 40lbs of grain. It did but it was completely MAXED out. No more room for anything! That was, in fact, my intent with this particular brew: max out every vessel to find out what my volume limits were. I found out. šŸ˜‰

MLT maxed out

MLT maxed out

 

Tried a new technique for me this time: fly sparging. It’s just setting the flow of sparge water to match the flow of lautering. Not difficult it’s just that I had never been set up for that before. Discovered it’s the best thing ever! It’s just too easy and there’s really no babysitting of the MLT or much scooping of water involved.

My fly sparge setup.

My fly sparge setup.

 

I did heat my MLT half way through the rest to bring the temp back up. With the MLT maxed out there was really no room for much stirring so I really didn’t have an accurate sense of the temperature. After emptying the MLT I did see that there was a bit of scorching evident but I’m sure I’ll still end up with beer.

Scorch!

Scorch!

 

Lautering and boiling were just fine and got to about 80L or so pre-boil. Another new addition to my set up is the plate chiller seen in this photo on the work bench. (The pump and burner are courtesy of Scott.) Sanitizing the plate chiller prior to chilling was dead easy. I just hooked everything up in the last ten minutes of the boil and ran the boiling wort through the system. This dropped the temp a bit and halted the boil for a minute or so but I just kept running the system and the boil came back. Super easy!

Sanitizing the chiller

Sanitizing the chiller

 

The chilling and cooling in itself was super easy. Once the boil was done I whirlpooled and rested (manually, just by stirring the BK). My chiller was already set up from the sanitizing stage so all I had to do was get my carboys in place and fire it up. With this set up and the water turned on about a half turn on the faucet I was able to cool and transfer the full volume of about 80L in just 10 minutes! You can also see it’s reasonably aerated, not something I’ve worried about a whole lot but it’s certainly not a gentle transfer.

Cooling in

Cooling in

 

There are a few things that will be changing with this setup and moving to the brew stand: My pumps will be wired in, burners will be in place, less moving of vessels, more space for me to move around. All of this… Soon.


Glass vs Plastic

I’m going to start a new regular column on this blog about my opinions regarding certain aspects of brewing at home. I guess, in a sense, that is already what the blog is about in part, but I’m going to weigh in on a few recurring debates and questions that new brewers have.

The first debate: Glass vs Plastic

Some brewers like to use plastic buckets for primary fermentation versus a glass carboy. I don’t necessarily think there is anything wrong with using a plastic bucket it’s just that I have more confidence in my ability to clean and sanitize and glass carboy.

I have a lingering fear that I’m scratching the inside of a plastic bucket and creating wonderful little environments for bacteria to hide wreaking havoc on future brews. I just don’t feel that way when I use glass.

I know glass can break and I do have a couple of experiences with broken carboys but generally I just try to be very careful when moving them around the brewery. I’m fortunate that I recently came into possession of a small pump so my days of lifting carboys are over. Sometimes.

One thing I love to do with glass carboys that I can’t do with a plastic bucket is to keep on eye on actual fermentation activity. I know after pitching on a fresh yeast cake that the amount of turbulence and convection activity in the carboy is amazing. I also know that I’m not alone in my desire to watch the activity… As often as possible.

I like my glass carboys. Brew in plastic if you like, there’s nothing wrong with it. I just like my glass.

Next debate: Primary vs Secondary (I’m also open to suggestions.)


New Tool

Not a really fancy new tool but more of a re-purposed tool.

I use binder clips for holding the hop bag to the side of the boil kettle. Late in the cooling process I take the hops out of the boil kettle and squeeze the last bit of wort out of them and put the binder clip back in my tool kit or on to the side of the boil kettle again. Today I discovered another use for it:

Binder clip thermometer holder

Binder clip thermometer holder

The thermometer just sits right there with the probe just far enough into the wort to get a decent reading. I stir my wort while it’s chilling so now I can see the progress without having to re-sanitize the thermometer every time I check the temp.

It’s not really a huge advance in my brew set up but it’s a fun little one that I discovered today.


Crushed

I had been hearing from a few other brewers recently about the speed at which they run their mills. Hearing about optimum speeds and not full speed or not too fast. I’m sure I had heard this before but probably not paid attention at the time as I was getting my grain pre-milled.

Now I’m milling my own grain on the brew day and having heard these discussions about milling speed finally decided to see what the fuss was about. I did do a bit of reading over at homebrewtalk.com (this thread) and it seems that there is much discussion (surprise, surprise) about rpms vs face roller speed. I also found this quote on http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/grain-mill:

Milling should be done at low RPMĀ (revolutions per minute)Ā to avoid shredding the husks. Somewhere around 150-250 RPMĀ (aroundĀ 2-4 turns/second)Ā is said to be a good compromise between the time taken and the amount of shredded husk material. At this speed it takes us approximately 2-3 minutes to mill the 15-20 pounds of grain required for a typical 10 gallon batch of beer.

I have to admit, I just wasn’t aware of that. Likely because I spent a fair bit of brewing time not having a mill. Once I did get a mill I just attached my drill and let ‘er rip… or crush, or whatever is supposed to happen.

So hearing about these points I decided to try my own rather non-scientific test to see if there was a difference. I attached my drill and did a run at it’s highest speed and a run at the lowest speed I could maintain. I then photographed the results:

Crush at highest drill speed

Crush at highest drill speed

Crush at slowest drill speed

Crush at slowest drill speed

I don’t really notice a difference.

Now, it may be that if I brewed a batch with a slow crush grist and a batch with a fast crush grist there might be difference in efficiency. It may also be something that is far more noticeable or applicable in larger scales like a commercial brewery would be dealing with. This may be like the many discussions that homebrewers have about hot side aeration.

I’ll leave it to you to assess the results and… Discuss.


Just in time

Just in time for St. Patrick’s day, my most recent stout is on tap! It’s a Maris Otter-based oatmeal stout with some cocoa thrown into the mash for a bit of extra chocolate flavour.

I’ve done a couple of stouts before on my own and felt them to be a bit thin and astringent. This one I deliberately attempted to counter that and mash-in a bit higher than my normal. For this batch I hit a temp of between 156F and 157F for some extra body.

Nailed it!

2013-03-17 20.13.48

“Happy Pils” and “MO stout“. It’s what’s on tap…