Thursday, December 3, 2015

Poor Mans Fermentation Chamber

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving we brewed a douple IPA kit called Surly Furious.  I plopped the fermentation bucket down in my dingy basement and left it alone until yesterday.  However, while sitting at work yesterday I realized that there was no way the temperature in the basement was warm enough for the yeast to be doing it's thing so I decided that as soon as I got home I'd put toegther some sort of fermentation chamber on the fly just to get through this beer.

A couple years ago I backed a kickstarter for the BrewBit (note the website is outdated and I don't think it is really for sale anymore).  It's a cool digital temperature controller with a touch screen and a web interface.  However, I'd never gotten around to actually using it for anything other than a over-qualified beer fridge thermometer.  First world problem of the utmost degree.

The BrewBit set at 71


Having the brewbit on hand made the process vastly easier and really makes a lie of the claim that this is a poor mans fermentation chamber.  That gadget was expensive.  But the rest of this "build", and I use that term very loosely, is as poor as it gets.

I didn't have any scrap wood in the garage at all but I did have an old crate-ish box I'd made for my daughters science experiment as an incubation chamber before so I used that as the basis.  I then took an old electric space heater I keep in my bathroom (which gets inordinately cold in the winter) and sacrificed my tush comfort to provide a heat source for the beer.  Finally I grabbed an old painting drop cloth and draped it over the box to hold in the heat.

The Whole Enchilada

That's it.  The whole thing.  You can see the heater on the right and the drop cloth clumped on the top.  Looks pretty damn shabby.


Here is a close up of the heater "vented" into the box.  The box is kind of weird, it's made out of peg board because it needed to allow airflow when it was an incubation chamber.  The big hole wasn't there when I started but I was worried the heater would over-heat the pegboard so I cut out the hole with a utility knife to let the hot air enter.

Inside the box, on the far side is the bucket.  It's about a foot from the heater.  The temperature probe is on the far side of the bucket so that the air in the box really needs to get into the 70s before the BrewBit can turn off the heater.

The basement temperature was down near 60 when I first set this all up and the BrewBit turned on the heater about a minute after I set it up but then, as the temp got close to 68 in the box the surge protector popped and the temperature fell.  I didn't realize it had popped until about 20 minutes later when I went to check on things.  To alleviate that problem I ended up running an extension cord from the brew bit upstairs and taking the surge protector out of the loop.  I didn't want to plug the brew bit in directly to the wall in the basement because if it popped the circuit breaker I didn't want our deep freezer to shut off.

I remembered this morning that from the BrewBit website I could view the temperature activity.  Here is a sample of the variation where the BrewBit is aiming to keep the temperature in the box at 71F.



As you can see it's doing a pretty good job.  It was on a one minute cycle but this morning I changed it to a 3 minute cycle (which was the default setting before I changed it).  I'll monitor it during the day but I think I'll be happy.

Bubbles

In the photo above you can see the bucket in the chamber.  The black thing is the power cord for the BrewBit.  You can't even see the temperature controller wire at all.  But if you look closely you can see bubbles in the vapor lock!

Here is a very crappy and short video of the fermentation in process.

Once this beer is in the keg I'll build a real fermentation chamber that is both more efficient and which will both heat and cool depending on the current conditions.

Friday, October 9, 2015

All Grain Beer

I bumped into this site yesterday and it looks kind of useful.  I've never tried to design my own recipe before so I don't really know what I'm doing with it but I hope to use it in the future.

http://allgrain.beer/

I like that their top level domain extension is beer.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Cleaning the Keg Lines on the Cheap

I killed the keg of Chocoloate PB Stout last night and now I need to clean the keg lines again.  Previously I filled my keg with water and cleaning solution, pressurized the keg, and ran the keg through the tap line a couple times.  It was a bit of a pain and definitely wasted a lot of CO2.

In fact, today I also had to refill my CO2 can.  I think I managed 4 kegs on a 20lb CO2 canister which seems like way too few kegs.  I suspect there might be a CO2 leak somewhere in my setup as well.

Anyway, today I ordered the parts to make a re-circulating keg cleaning system.  It looks pretty straight forward thanks to brewonabudget.com guide.

I am copying his parts list here just in case his page goes away.  You should go use his page and links (if he gets referral $$) because this was his post originally.


  1. Ecoplus Submersible Pump
  2. 1-foot length of 3/8" ID Tubing
  3. 3/8" Barb to 1/4" female NPT fitting
  4. Plug Adapter 1/4" MPT to 19/32"
  5. Appropriate Keg Liquid Post
I already have an extra pin lock liquid post so I didn't order that but I got the other four things.  When it's all assembled it should look like this

Photo Courtesy of brewonabudget.com
I have amazon prime and got two of the items with it (pump and NPT fitting) for 17.23.  I bought the other two items (hose and plug adapter) at homebrewing.com and after shipping it was 14.99).  For a total of $32.22

That's a lot cheaper than the handpump thing they have at midwest supplies and this should work even better since I can connect my quick disconnect right to it!

I'll post a follow-up once I've assembled and tried it out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout

The brew life has been pretty slow lately and thus so has this blog.  I doubt it is going to speed up soon but you never know - with warmer weather may come more brewing.

Logo by my daughter


Sometime in the last quarter of last year I bought the Midwest Supplies extract kit for "Chocolate Covered Beavr Nutz" and a couple jars of peanut butter powder (the kit doesn't include the peanut butter).  Then the kit and powder sat around in my garage until early last month where we finally busted out the equipment and brewed.

Peanut Butter Powder in the Carboy
The recipe was pretty simple.  Basically you make the beer like any extract kit but when you go to secondary just add the peanut butter powder.  Then, a few days later you add the cocoa nibs.  After that let it ferment for another week or so and voila' you're done.

I however let it sit in secondary for a few weeks longer than called for because I was being lazy about the time to prep the fridge for the keg.  It had been keg-less for so long I had put shelves back in it and the shelves all contained store bought beer.  Thankfully, kickball season started so the beer bottles disappeared and I finally found the motivation to fully clean the keg lines and get this beer in on tap about 10 days ago.

My garage is a jam packed mess.


Interestingly when I brought the beer up from the basement and into the warm garage it almost instantly started to bubble in the airlock.  The yeast had been re-awoken and it started to go crazy so I left the beer sitting in the carboy in the garage for a few hours.  Eventually, however, I got it in the keg and into the fridge.  The fridge was sitting at about 42F so I set the CO2 at 11 PSI and left it for this past Sunday (June 21, 2015).  It was hot out and I was in the mood for a drink so I poured a glass a day earlier than I planned but, fortunately, it was fully carbonated and ready to go.

The first pint
The beer has a nice head but it doesn't keep it for long.  It also has a pretty strong peanut butter aroma but a nice mild peanut butter flavor.  In fact, the entire beer, with an IBU of 68, is really mild and smooth.  It has a bit of a watery mouthfeel for a stout but I found that to be refreshing in the summer heat so I don't mind.  Overall I'm really happy with how it turned out and I can see myself making this kit again.  My wife also really likes it so that gives me further motivation to keep this on the keg rotation.

Up next I'll probably make another IPA or a Hefe or maybe some kind of Belgian.    Until then I look forward to drinking the rest of this keg of Chocolate Covered Beavr Nutz