Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Don't Drink And Compute

A word of warning: Use extreme caution when handling your laptop after consuming alcohol even if it's just home brewed beer. I've just spent the last couple of weeks and a few hundred dollars trying to replace a damaged hard drive and recover and reload all of my files. I've always thought of myself as more agile when drunk but this incident has proven that I can be very awkward and inept. At this point I would say that I have 99% of the information back on the new hard drive but the 1% that is missing is important. I was using a book publisher called Blurb to create a practical pictorial of the malt extract and all-grain brewing processes. I spent uncounted time and effort to produce what I thought was a pretty good book. Now, it's all gone.

But, being a homebrewer is all about tenacity and perseverance, so I start again with nothing but a renewed determination brought on by a tall cool glass of homebrewed IPA. I've still got all of the photo's that I used and the general outline is printed out somewhere. These should get me started.

In the mean time, I just finished racking a clone of Seabright Brewery's "Blur" IIPA to the kegs. I plan to submit a few bottles for sampling at the brewpub in a competition they've put on that compares how close homebrewers in the community can get to duplicating the one on tap at the bar. If you are chosen as the closest example (judged by patrons of Seabright Brewery), I guess you get to brew it on a large scale at the brewery. I'm not sure if this prize is a good thing. Brewing on a large scale seems like a lot of work. In any case it's cause for brewing more beer.

Finally: What's with fermenting in a roll up storage unit off the highway? Yeah, that's right, I'm on my second ten gallon batch of homebrew that's fermenting in a six by ten storage unit and it's got me coming up with all types of creative ideas to make it work. I've already built a shelving unit to accomodate several ten gallon fermenters and have plans of enclosing this with insulated hinged walls and installing a thermostat to control temperatures. Shhh! Don't tell the management, I'll be running some electrical conduit off of the overhead light to power this idea. Talk about renegade, backwater brewing.
The brewing will happen at home on my little enclosed concrete condo patio. Then I chill and transport the wort in 2, seven gallon buckets (to make it easier to lift), and then at the storage unit I pour those together into one larger fermenter and hope for the best. During the day the ambient temperature is fine but it gets too cool to ferment at night. The remedy at this time is a 75watt. light bulb positioned near the fermenting vessel.
But wait there's more.
Beer tasting class is happening this Sunday at Cabrillo College and I've selected nine beers to sample. I thought I would start with a comparison of a dry, sweet and imperial stouts followed by a variety of Belgians and finish with a homebrewed weizenbock. Should be fun. Next month I begin the five week brewing course.
Back in the States for two months and I'm exhausted!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Make A Counter Pressure Bottle Filler

In this video, I show how you can easily make a 'mock' version of a counter pressure bottle filler. The catch here is that you will not be injecting or pressurizing the bottle with co2 but instead creating pressure within the bottle by stopping the top and filling the bottle slowly with beer, releasing the pressure caused by the volume of beer flowing into the bottle.

I hope this is helpful and if you have improvements on this idea, let us know.

I know this idea is not new but I think it is important that the the key elements are considered when using this technique.
  1. Keep the cobra head open until you are ready to remove the wand.
  2. Close the cobra head before removing the wand from the bottle.
  3. Have at least ten feet of 3/16 hose in line to prevent 'out gassing'.
  4. Chill the bottles to be filled.
  5. Cap immediately after filling.
With these precautions you should be able to fill bottles from the keg without losing any of the carbonation from solution. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Brewing In Confined Spaces

It's been a rough couple of weeks getting moved into a new place. We're now in Capitola, just a short drive up highway 1 from Aptos. A condo. It's going to be a challenge to see how I can brew here because of the limited space. There is a small concrete patio in the back with water spigot and electricity but it looks like I'll have to run a my cooling water discharge hose from the patio, through the living room and out to the kitchen sink. I don't want to run it on the ground because I suspect that others in this manicured complex may not like forty or fifty gallons of water running from under my fence and down through the parking lot.

In the mean time, I have rented a small storage unit a few miles away that I will use primarily for fermenting my beer. This unit has electricity but no water. My main challenge is transporting full fermenters from home (where I'll brew) to the storage unit where it will ferment. I may fill several small buckets for hauling and then pour them into a larger fermenter at the storage unit. This is also problematic because it will be more difficult to monitor and if necessary adjust the temperatures.

I also plan to keep my grain and milling equipment, kegs, bottles, and all of the other equipment that I don't use directly for brewing, in the storage unit.
My brewing process will have to be modified to adjust to these new conditions.

  • Things to consider for storage unit:

    Keeping grain in storage where I would prepare (weigh and mill) for brewing at home.

    Build some shelving to support several fermenters.

    Have clean and sanitized kegs in storage for racking.

    Fill an extra co2 tank to have ready to force carbonate the kegs prior to bring home.

    Have a container of sanitizer for soaking racking canes and hoses as needed.

  • Things to consider for home:

    Have another scale for weighing out hops.

    Keeping some clean bottles on hand for filling from the kegerator.

    Keep an extra keg full of sanitizer for kegerator use.

    Place drip pan under kegerator.

I expect that I'll be discovering new considerations as time goes on and I've brewed a few batches. Brewing in confined spaces may be a regular feature.

Some good news! Susan agreed to allow the kegerator to be placed openly in the kitchen. No more hiding it in the laundry closet or out in the garage. It looks beautiful there.

If you have any suggestion for brewing in small spaces, leave a comment, I need the help.

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