The home brewer’s mind never stops

Well I am still terrible at posting updates but it’s my weekend off and here in Grand Forks ND it is chilly and dreary with a chance of snow so staying inside.

Still the biggest challenge to moving here is getting home brewing supplies. Second would be finding a competent stainless welder, seems that welders here don’t really want to talk to you unless you are needing some sort of farm implement welded. Even with those obstacles home brewing moves forward. It’s almost been three months since arriving here and I will finally be brewing this weekend! I am going to attempt a Toasted Coconut Brown Ale, something similar to Kona Brewing Company’s Koko Brown. If you enjoy really good beer and a variety of that really good beer here in Grand Forks you have to be a home brewer. While the pub scene is improving with one college bar changing their look and feel to more of a pub and expanding their number of taps and another popular pub/burger joint has a decent rotating selection there is basically nothing unique for bottled craft or import beers here. Really sad and hard to adjust to since my home state of Washington is a thriving craft brewery Mecca and there was a very good selection of bottled national and regional craft beers as well as imports from around the world. Oh what I would give right now for a bottle or thirty of Scotch Silly or Traquair House Ale.

I have been working on several equipment projects, as time allows, so that keeps me busy. This winter when temps here drop into the negative numbers I will be completing the BrewTroller control panel that will be designed to work with the two-vessel Blichmann Brutus style system or even my small electric BIAB kettle. I have decided to go completely 120V since I have seen enough proof that you can get small batches to a vigorous boil with one or two 120V heating elements. It is also nice not having to mess with 240V when you rent and have limited access to a convenient 240V outlet. Besides who wants to pull stove away from the wall every brew day just to plug in?

One project I have been meaning to complete has come together after digging through my box of bits and pieces. For the longest time I wanted to be able to oxygenate my wort as it came out of the kettle or directly from the output of my plate chiller and I finally pieced together the part. It has an 1/2″ NPT threaded aeration stone inline with the wort flow, a sight glass to monitor flow and aeration (I got to see the tiny bubbles) and finally an inline thermometer to monitor wort temperature as it leaves the chiller. With a few design changes  I was able to make it fairly compact at just over 7″ long. With limited space I am trying to keep everything in my brewing fairly compact.

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After abandoning the Yeti cooler mash tun idea due to warping I decided to give the Aervoid thermal food carrier, that I rescued from being scrapped a try. It is similar to a big vacuum Thermos so after installing a drain bulkhead I had lost the vacuum insulating properties. Well that is nothing 5 cans of spray foam couldn’t solve (it is absolutely stuffed with foam all around) and I was pleasantly surprised that upon testing it holds the mash for 90 minutes with zero temperature loss! Plus it will never warp. It is smaller at 4.75 gallons but if I do a smaller regular all-grain brew session and I am doing smaller batches (2-3 gallons) it will work just fine. While I have primarily moved to recirculating BIAB style brewing it is nice to have a small insulated mash tun when you want to brew it up “old school”, plus it’s stainless.

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Next project that kept bugging me was redesigning the keg/carboy washer I built to better hold corny kegs. A little web searching gave me little to go forward with to change the design.  After a few trips to the home improvement stores with a tape measure in hand I found it… a $3 PVC drain pipe adapter! Now a corny keg sits perfectly and stable on the washer and my carboy dryer still sits nicely over the top and you are ready to clean the worst fermentation crud from a carboy. I changed the bucket lid to a screw-on Gamma lid which proved to be much more sturdy. This is a multi-purpose piece of equipment that every home brewer that kegs should build. Easy and inexpensive but time saving when it comes to cleaning carboys, corny kegs and even the Sanke kegs I will be using to ferment in.

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DIY carboy washer

DIY carboy washer

The last project I have been able to work on and is getting closer to being completed is adapter caps to use Sanke beer kegs as fermenters, no more risk of broke glass carboys or scratched plastic fermenters and way cheaper than a stainless conical fermenter although if you give me one of those I won’t turn it down ha ha. While one of my favorite online source for stainless brewing hardware has a Sanke fermenter adapter, it just wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I wanted something that would allow simpler transfer of beer after fermentation, with CO2, so I started playing around with a couple designs of my own. They still feature a stainless thermowell for temperature probe to control temp in my little fermentation chamber. Biggest obstacle in getting these from prototype to something I can begin to use is finding a good TIG welder that can finish them for me. Maybe the time is approaching where I get the equipment and start doing my own welding…

 

Well that is all I have to share right now but I’m working on a couple more twists to the systems so check back. Now it’s time to brew that toasted coconut brown.

Cheers

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6 thoughts on “The home brewer’s mind never stops

  1. I just found your blog, and love how you approach your DIY projects. At the moment, I’m researching DIY carboy washers, and I like the refinements you’ve made to yours. Can you share some more specifics on the PVC pipe adapter you used on top? How did you attach it to the Gamma lid? Thanks! Ken

    • Ken, glad you found my blog and hope my posts help you in your brewing adventures. The PVC pipe adapter is known as a PVC DWV Soil Pipe Adapter. They can be found at all the big box home improvement stores like Lowes, Home Depot or Menard’s. I used a 5″ hole saw that was in a hole saw kit from Harbor Freight to cut a hole in the center of the Gamma lid. Because the Gamma lid is molded with deep reliefs you have to go thru halfway from one side then flip it over and using the pilot hole complete the cut from the other side (be careful as the hole saw can grab). The PVC adapter fit nice and snug in the 5″ hole by itself and the wider end of the adapter fits right around the oval opening of a corny keg and still cradles a carboy.

  2. i just stumbled across your blog and was excited to see that you built the exact same device that I had assembled in my head for oxygenating/monitoring temps coming out of the chiller. Looks beautiful! My question to you is (before I go and purchase all the parts to assemble it) how has it been working? Are you happy with it? Would you change anything? I’d love to hear any feedback. Thanks for posting this …

    Cheers!
    Brent

    • Hi. Glad you found my blog. I have been very happy with the inline oxygenating assembly. I’ve found that every few batches through it I take the stone out and boil it in a pan of water to make sure it is clean and free of any residue that normal recirculating PBW and StarSan doesn’t get. I also found that I only need to turn on the O2 for 30-45 seconds during transfer for a 5 gallon batch to get really good oxygenation.

      • Thanks for the response. I think i’ll be ordering some parts tonight! Where did you find/purchase the sight glass assembly? That’s a nice touch! Looking forward to your posts in the future.

        Again, thanks.

      • The sight glass I made from a short piece of polycarbonate tubing and a couple stainless compression fittings and used o-rings instead of the metal compression rings. Seals up tight and doesn’t crush the tubing.

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