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What Are The Different Types Of Wort Chillers?

wort chillers

Choosing an efficient method to chill your wort is an important decision when brewing. To achieve excellent beer, you must bring the wort from a boil to the appropriate temperature to pitch yeast quickly. A wort chiller helps ensure a clearer beer, minimal off flavors, a reduced risk of contamination from airborne enemies, and a stress free end to your brew day.  If you are a stove top brewer, you can probably manage with an ice bath in the sink.  For those who have moved into all-grain brewing, you need to use a wort chiller to achieve a quick cool down.

There are many different types of wort chillers out on the market.  However, you have three main styles to choose from. An Immersion Chiller, Counterflow Chiller, or Plate Chiller. All do a great job, but here are the differences between the three.

Immersion Wort Chiller:

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Most all-grain homebrewers start out with an immersion chiller. These are simply submerged into the wort while water is pumped through the coil and out of the other end. Cool water enters the coil and passes through the wort to bring the temperature down. They work great, but can reach a stalling point when your ground water temperature and wort temperature reach a similar range if you are not stirring. Stirring the wort around the coils helps cover more surface area and you’ll achieve good results with an immersion chiller.  Immersions are great for up to 5 gallon batches.  If you want to brew anything larger, I would recommend moving to a counterflow or plate chiller.  

Pros: Cheaper, Easy to Sanitize, No pump needed
Cons: Slower chilling speeds

Some people run with two immersion chillers and run the water through a second chiller that is placed in an ice bath.

Counterflow Wort Chiller:

 

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A counterflow wort chiller is similar in visual design to an immersion chiller, but they function differently.  You will likely need a pump to use both counterflow and plate chillers.  A counterflow works by placing a coil inside of a surrounding hose or tube.  Picture a smaller tube inside of a slighter larger tube.  The hot wort is pumped through the inside tube while cool water is pumped in the opposite direction through the outside tube.  This results in the more surface area of the wort coming into contact with the cooling element (water) than an immersion chiller.  This will cool your wort much quicker.  It is also dependent on how cool your ground water is.  Ice baths may be needed.

Pros: Quick Chill, Sanitary
Cons: Price, Pump likely needed

 

Plate Wort Chiller:


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A plate chiller works in the same way as the counterflow wort chiller by bringing more surface area of the wort into contact with the cool water.  This is done by passing the hot wort and cooler water through multiple plates within the chiller in separate chambers.  The plates have a large surface area resulting in a quick temperature drop.  Some people believe these pull some of the hot break into the fermentation vessel.  They also need to be cleaned immediately after use and thoroughly.  This should not be an issue for most and plate chillers are the preferred design for commercial brewers.

Pros: Quick Chill, Durable
Cons: Price, Cleaning, Pump likely needed

Or, you can just create a frankenstein chiller like I started out with here.  It is ugly, but has never failed me.  I still use it today for smaller batches.




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15 “Other” Hop Varieties You Must Try In A Homebrew

Hop Varieties

If you brew beer, ideas and recipes often pop into your head. There are few things more rewarding than a hop bill that fits together perfectly. Everyone knows about the Centennial, Cascade, Columbus, Citra, Simcoe, and many other mainstream hop varieties. These are all wonderful and make any ale outstanding. However, why not try some of the lesser known hop varieties that are way underrated. Did you know about Nelson Sauvin and its grape profile? Have you ever dry hopped with Apollo? On your next batch, try a hop that you have never used before! Here are 15 hop varieties you may or may not know about. Try one…or more of them. Your beer will love your for it.

 

Waimea
Recently released in 2012, this is the grand baby of Pacific Jade.  It has a fresh squeezed citrus profile with hints of pine.  Waimea has high alpha acid levels and can be used as a bittering boss or an aroma phenom.

Buy Waimea Hops

 

Calypso
A cross blend by Hopsteiner.  This is a dual purpose hop that works for both aroma and can also be used for bitterness.  It has a floral profile with a kick that some describe as melon, pear, or apple with a squeeze of lemon.

Buy Calypso Hops

 

Zythos
This is a fairly new hop blend that most of us have heard about by now.  It was created to satisfy the West Coast Style aromas addicts like myself.  Citrus, tropical fruit, pine, and a little spice make this a serious player in the game.

Buy Zythos Hops

 

Falconer’s Flight
This is an amazing blend of Simcoe, Citra, Sorachi Ace, and a few other undisclosed hops.  HopUnion developed this blend to honor the legendary Glen Hay Falconer.  It is a perfect late addition packing a floral and tropical fruit profile.

Buy Falconer’s Flight Hops

 

Mosaic
This is a very unique creation by Washington’s hop breeding company.  If Nugget and Simcoe had a love child,  Mosaic would be her name.  It has an unexpected floral and fruity profile accompanied by the piney Simcoe DNA that shines through as an earthy addition. 

Buy Mosaic Hops

 

El Dorado
Developed by the CLS Farms and released in 2010, this masterpiece has mostly sat in the shadows with no excuse.  The blend is kept a guarded secret but I will tell you this one is blasted with citrus and tropical fruit.  I would best describe the flavor as a mouthful of Jolly Ranchers.

Buy El Dorado Hops

 

Nelson Sauvin
One of the most unique hops varieties available that can be used as a dual purpose.  It has an aroma and flavor similar to Sauvignon Blanc grapes and really balances out with most bittering hops.

Buy Nelson Sauvin Hops

 

Meridian
Developed by Indie Hops out of Oregon in an attempt to bring Columbia Hops back from the forgotten tomb.  Well they ended up creating a new variety.  Meridian packs lemon zest, sweetness, and some describe it as Hawaiian Punch.

Buy Meridian Hops

 

Galaxy
Most of us have heard of Galaxy.  Have you tried brewing with this beauty from down under?  It is a very nice aroma gifted dual purpose hop loaded with citrus and fruity notes.  The uniqueness comes from the grassy/earthy finish.  Find it and try it!

Buy Galaxy Hops

 

Motueka
This New Zealand creation that some refer to as B Saaz is a relative of the legendary Saaz hop that we all love in our pils and lagers.  It has a smooth citrus/fruity profile that adds a clean finish to any ale.  Motueka would fit well into the IPL fad that is currently working its way through the craft beer realm.

Buy Motueka Hops

 

Riwaka
Motueka has a little brother and his name is Riwaka.  This is also referred to as Saaz D.  If you have ever wondered what a west coast style Saaz would be like…here you go.  It is not an easy hop to locate.  However,  if you do find it,  buy it!

Buy Riwaka Hops

 

Palisade
Developed by the Yakima Chief Ranch, this is a solid dual purpose hop that is better used on the aroma end.  It packs a grassy yet fruity punch unlike most hops.  Looking for a unique IPA?  Try it as a late addition and you will be surprised!

Buy Palisade Hops

 

Stricklebract
Strickle what?  Another New Zealand hop developed by DSIR Research that can serve as a dual purpose hop.  Simcoe similarities of pine with a Sorachi Ace lemon zest.

Buy Stricklebract Hops

 

AU Summer
This is a seedless variety developed in Australia as an aroma hop.  Summer is one of only few hop varieties that pack a apricot and melon profile.  It would pair nicely with some of the popular west coast style American hops.

Buy AU Summer Hops

 

Apollo
First cultivated in 2000, this totally underrated hop packs an alpha acid bite and an orange citrus aroma.  This is a solid hop to use in a double or imperial IPA as a first addition and late addition.

Buy Apollo Hops

 

Of course there are plenty of other amazing hops that are often forgotten.  Please let me know if you have any ideas as to some that I should add to this list.  Cheers to brewing good beer and cheers to drinking that good beer!

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10 Tips For Clear Homebrew Beer

Clear beer

When it comes to brewing beer at home, we all want a clean and clear homebrew.  Some of us want to pour a beer that looks like it came from a commercial brewery.  The sad reality is, most of us do not have the expensive filtration equipment to get that commercial quality.  The yeast, proteins, and unwanted tannins are the offensive threat and you need to put on your best Defense to succeed.

Believe it or not, achieving a clear beer is not very hard to do at home.  There are many ways to help you achieve that clear homebrew.  Here are 10 steps that I personally do each time I brew.  If your beer still has issues with clarity, it’s not a big deal at all.  The beer will still taste just as delicious!  As a matter of fact, hazy is the new clear.

1. Grain/Yeast Selection
homebrew grains

You may not think the grain selection would play a major part in the clarity of your beer, but it does.  When building your beer recipe make sure you take the time to understand what is going in and how it may impact the clarity.  The dark malts, wheat malts, and malts used for head retention will throw a wrench in your goal of a crystal clear beer.  If those malts are part of your recipe, don’t sweat it.  The beer wasn’t meant to be crystal clear anyways.

Choose a yeast that accommodates the style of beer you are brewing as a number 1 rule.  You will also want to find a yeast with a high flocculation rate.  The higher flocculation, the faster the yeast will drop.  Once again, do not let your desire for clear beer change the recipe and do not over pitch the yeast.

2. Let Your Mash Tun Do The Work!
homebrew mash tun screen
Your mash tun has one of the most important jobs in the brewing process. It does a great job by itself and does not need your help.  Do not try to push down on the grain bed to extract more wort.  That is a really dumb idea and I promise you will end up frustrated.  Know your strike volumes and have a game plan before brew day.  If you just leave it alone, the wort will come out clear.  If you are using a square cooler, go with a bazooka screen.  If you have a round drink cooler, you can also go with a false bottom.

homebrew mash tun filter

You also CANNOT forget to vorlauf until your beer runs clear! When I am draining the wort from my mash tun to the boil kettle I use a funnel to grab any additional surprises (like a bug) that could make it into my beer.  This may be a little obsessive but it works for me.

3. Hot Break
Boiling Beer
Make sure you hit a boil quickly to achieve a good hot break.  When you start to see a smooth foam forming on top of your wort, get ready to stir and adjust your heat to avoid a boil over.  You can also spray it with water.  You are close to seeing the hot break forming.  The hot break is crucial to the binding of proteins.  When these proteins bind together, they clump, making it easier to get haze out of your finished beer.  Failing to achieve a good hot break can cause suspended proteins that can eventually make it all the way to the keg or bottle.  Check your burners and make sure they are ready to perform well before starting the brew day!

4. Cold Break
counter flow wort chiller
It is very important to chill your beer as quickly and sanitary as possible.  The cold break is your second chance bind those remaining proteins together before making it to the fermentation vessel.  If your wort starts looking like an egg drop soup, the cold break is a win.  It is nearly impossible to chill the beer quickly without a wort chiller.  While you are running your wort chiller, stir to create a whirlpool powerful enough to see the bottom of your kettle.  Here is a little lesson on wort chillers.

I am sure you are asking “what in the heck is he using?”.  My secret to a fast cold break includes a wort chiller, a floor pump, an under the bed shoe storage bin, and ice water.  I usually run my wort chiller through an ice bath and recirculate the ice bath through the chiller.  210 to 70 in a few minutes if I create a nice whirlpool too.  If I am doing something larger that 5 gallons, I use my plate chiller.

5. Filter During Boil
Homebrew Hop Spider
If you are adding hops, use a hop bag.  The deliciousness of the hops will make it into your beer without throwing them directly in.  When the boil is over, do not squeeze the bag.  Let the bag drip into the kettle and to avoid hop trub squeezing out.  If you want to get fancy, make a hop spider.  Google it.

Boil Kettle screen
I also use a bazooka screen in my boil kettle to serve as a filter for the wort that is exiting to the fermenter.  I have had good results with just using one of these.  If you want to spend the money, a false bottom is another option.

6. Irish Moss/WhirflocIrish Moss
In the last 10-15 minutes of the boil you can add Irish Moss or a Whirfloc (enhanced irish moss blend) tablet to your boil.  This stuff works like a magnet and pulls those tannins and proteins to a clump in the center before dropping to the bottom.  I will not brew without these.  Amazing stuff!

7. Transfer To A Secondary
homebrew secondary
I think this picture is a great visual as to what you leave behind when transferring from a primary to a secondary fermenter.  This is not always needed and really is a matter of preference unless you are dry hopping.  Just make sure you sanitize everything and create a smooth flowing transfer from one to the other.

8. Add A Clarifying Agent
Gelatin finings
Gelatin finings are cheap to buy and you can even pick them up from your local grocery store.  It is collagen based and can be added to a secondary to help round up those remaining proteins.  Chillguard, Isinglass, and Polyclar are also great to use.  You can find write ups all over the internet on how to use these.  Very simple!

9. Cold Crash After Racking To A Secondary or Keg
Six Point Resin
This is not rocket science.  Chill your beer at a minimum of 38 degrees for about a week after transferring to a secondary or keg.  This will drop more of those remaining haze contributors.  Do not cold crash it and freeze your beer though!  That would make the toughest beer drinker cry.

10. Pour With Precision
clear homebrew
If you keg, pour off a pint for yourself before serving to your guests.  After the beer has carbonated and settled another week, more proteins will settle into the bottom of the keg.  This can usually be drawn out with the first pour.  Drink it…do not throw it out.  If you bottle, switch to kegging.  You will thank me later.

I hope this has helped some homebrewers who are fairly new to the art.  Once again, a clear homebrew does not make it a better beer.  A hazy beer does not make it a bad beer.  Do what makes you happy with your beer.  Some of my techniques may not be recommended by all.  That is what makes homebrewing so great.  We are a large network of people willing to share our secrets, mishaps, and successes.

 



 

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A Simple DIY Cooler Kegerator In 4 Steps

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Some people cringe at the idea of BYOB.  However, craft beer drinkers and homebrewers love the opportunity to bring their own beer to any party.  I have been contemplating the idea of building one of these for some time and put that cooler to use.  Here is my DIY cooler kegerator with step by step instructions.  

This was a very easy build and only took a few tools and minimal hardware investment.  If you already have a kegerator, this DIY cooler kegerator is very cheap to build.  Feel free to comment with your own ideas below!  Cheers!

Tools Needed

RotoZip (Anything that will cut a hole in plastic will do)
Scissors
Nail
String

Hardware Needed

Roller Cooler (something with a flat surface area on the lid for your large hole)
Gas Disconnect
Corny Keg
Beer Faucet w/Liquid Disconnect
Tap Handle
Pipe Insulation
CO2 Tank w/regulator
Hose
Pencil or Sharpie

Step 1

Find the center of your cooler lid and drive a nail.  Using a string around the nail, create a 9.75 inch circle just like below.  Mark the string 4.875 inches from center.  Tie the string around a pencil or Sharpie and make a circle.  I recommend 9.75 inches because this will allow both a Corny keg (9″) and a Sixth Barrel (9.25″) room to fit.  A sixth barrel will need additional hardware to pour beer.

portable kegerator


Step 2

Trace a spot in the back for your CO2 tank.  I have a 5lb tank and it will not fit inside.  If you have a 2.5lb tank, you can probably skip this step since it will likely fit inside of the cooler.

Portable Kegerator

 

Step 3

Cut out your holes with the Rotozip or saw.  Make sure you do this outside and take your time.  If your cuts are not even, that is OK.  You will be placing insulation around the edges anyways.  I have terrible RotoZip skills as you can see.  

Portable Kegerator

 

Step 4

Trim the pipe insulation to fit around the edges of your cut hole.  Sit the keg into the cooler.  Lift your lid and add ice.  Attach the gas disconnect and the faucet with liquid disconnect.  You are now ready to start pouring beer.  Since the beer will be traveling such a short distance, adjust the PSI very low.  

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A Simple Video Guide To All Grain Brewing

All Grain Brewing

Check out these very well produced and explained video guides to All Grain brewing by 4KingsBrewery on YouTube.  If you are curious about the process and and equipment needed, watch the four videos below.  I spend a lot of my time searching homebrew videos and tutorials to continue growing my knowledge base.  There are a lot of good videos and a whole lot of bad videos out there.  

He has put together videos covering his brewing equipment, the all grain brewing process, and kegging homebrew.  I thought it was appropriate to give him a shout out for taking the time to make these nice videos.  They are informative and can help those new to the hobby.  Even if you are a veteran, it is nice to see how others brew and the equipment they use.  Cheers!

The Brewery Tour

Guide to All Grain Brewing – Part 1

Guide to All Grain Brewing Part 2

Kegging Your Homebrew


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Simple HomeBrew Mash Tun – Box Cooler Conversion

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Stepping your brew game up from extract to grain is a smart choice.  Not only will you find it MUCH cheaper to brew a batch of beer, you will also find the beer tasting MUCH better too.  After all,  beer is a product from extracting grain.  Buying a commercial mashing system can prove expensive and is not within the budget of your average home brewer.  What is the solution?  Bust out that old 50 quart cooler and make it into an efficient mash tun cooler!  Total investment $40 if you already have a cooler and $100 if you do not.  Savings?  How about $10-$20 per 5 gallon batch of beer.  You can also do this with a round cooler.  Both work great!

Step 1:
Find a 45-55 quart box cooler that has a drain plug.

Step 2:
Buy a 1/2″ Stainless Steel Valve Weldless Bulkhead For Home Brew Kettle  (any 1/2 valve will do), a 1/2 female / female pipe fitting and a 1/2 male/male extension piece.  Measure the thickness of the cooler wall before buying this piece.  You want it just long enough to create a snug fit from both sides when its all said and done.  A little thread on each side is ideal.  Stainless steel would be ideal but brass works just fine.

Step 3:
Remove the drain plug and its components.  It should be a simple threaded piece.  Save the rings because you will need them.

Step 4:
Install the new ball valve and former fittings.  Your cooler should look like the one below.

Now that you have the exit piece in place you need to put together the inside of your mash tun OR as I call it…the balls of the mash tun.

Step 5:
You have two options for this piece of your mash tun and both are considered efficient.

Option 1
a. buy a stainless steel washer hose and snip both ends of the hose.
b. work the stainless steel coil off of the hard plastic hose on the inside.  Be careful to not cut your hands doing this.
c. on the inside you will need a 1/2 “T” splitter with two 1/2 nipples.  Go stainless if you can afford it.  Brass will work though.
d. coil a copper wire small enough to fit inside of the washer hose and then connect to your T splitter

Option 2
a. go with a 12 inch Bazooka Screen.
b. hook it up to the extension piece that is connected to your ball valve on the other side of the cooler.  MUCH EASIER!
c. buy some rubber weather stripping and line your lid all the way around with it.  This is much better at holding in heat than the plastic on plastic connection.

Option 3:
a. build a false bottom with copper tubing as seen here at Brewer’s Friend.  All designs work just fine.

You are now ready for some ALL GRAIN beer brewing.  Welcome to the world of brewing real beer!  Cheap investment yet a good one!


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How To Create A Yeast Starter

Yeast starter

Yeast starter

If you are not treating yeast kindly, your home brewed beers are probably a hit or miss.  A yeast starter is used to provide a jump start so fermentation is a success.  This is done by increasing the cell count before brewing beer.  It can be compared to a runner and the preparation they go through before a race.  The runner will stretch and take a few trial runs prior to the big race.  This ensures strength and stamina are at 100% and helps to avoid injuries.  That is exactly how your yeast works with the addition of cloning themselves.  You do not want to put strain on your yeast. Unless, you want off flavors in your beer.


There are a few reasons why a yeast starter would be created:

  • Original Gravity is above 1.060 (some yeast can handle higher gravity beer).
  • The yeast is a little old and needs revived.
  • A quicker fermentation is needed.

 What do you need?


 Instructions:

Before starting, you need to figure out what size starter needs to be created. These are ratios for 5 gallons batches. If you are brewing larger batches, just calculate the difference.

Standard 5 Gallon Starter: 2 cups water to 1/4 cup DME
Rejuvenate Old Yeast: 4 cups water to 1/2 cup DME
High Gravity Beer: 4 cups water to 1/2 cup DME

Steps:

1. Before starting, sanitize everything that will come into contact with the starter. This may be slight overkill since we will boil the wort. However, it is another safety net from infection.

2. In a sauce pan, mix the needed water to DME ratios. Make sure you mix this well to break up any clumps.

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3. Bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. This will sterilize anything that still needs sanitized. It will also help create a nice liquid wort.

4. Pour the solution into your Erlenmeyer Flask (the larger the batch…the larger the flask you will need) and immediately chill the solution to room temperature.

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*Do not worry, these flasks will not crack. They are designed for extreme temperature swings.

5. You now have a wort with an Original Gravity of around 1.040-1.045. This is the optimal range needed for yeast growth.

6. Using a sanitized funnel, pour the yeast into the flask and cover the top with a sanitized piece of aluminum foil. This will allow CO2 the ability to escape. Do not use an airlock. The starter needs the exchange of O2.

7. Put you hand over the foil to prevent a mess and shake the mixture of wort and yeast for 30 seconds. This will oxygenate

8. Drop a sanitized magnetic stir bar into the flask and set your starter wort on the stir plate. Fire it up!

9. After about 2 days, the yeast have consumed all of the sugars/oxygen and generated new cells. Your yeast army is ready!

Brew Day Options:

Option 1 – Save For Later: If you are not going to pitch the yeast that same day, just store it in the refrigerator. However, make sure you leave the foil on. On brew day, bring the yeast to room temperature before pitching. Decant about 80% of the liquid that is sitting on top of the yeast cake. Swirl the flask to create a slurry and pitch.

Option 2 – Use It Now: Make sure it is at room temperature. Decant about 80% of the liquid that is sitting on top of the yeast cake. Swirl the flask to create a slurry and pitch. Pitch the starter right into your wort. It will start attacking immediately. Some people skip the decanting and pitch the entire starter. Just make sure you smell it first to rule out possible off flavors.

Cheers!


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How To Build A Simple Homemade Stir Plate

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If you are searching for a way to bring your homebrewing to the next level, it is time to build a stir plate. A stir plate has one simple purpose…stir like a boss. There are plenty of commercial grade stir plates out there for $40-$200. That is nonsense and keeps you from enjoying the second best thing about homebrewing, building stuff.

To maximize yeast and fermentation, it is essential to make a starter.  This will help the yeast get a head start and ferment better and faster.  If you have no idea what a yeast starter is,  Google it and return to this page afterwards.

What do you need?

Here is a quick 5 minute video that I made (after drinking three cans of Resin) showing the different parts and the wiring in my homemade stir plate.  I am sure I forgot some things in the video but you will get the idea.  That is all that matters.

DIY - Build A Homemade Stir Plate In Minutes


The photo tutorial:

Stir plate
Use your circle cutter/hole saw and cut a hole in the top of your cigar box. This is one of my finished boxes. You have to make sure it is in the dead center. You will mount a fan here.
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You will need a rare earth magnet. These can be removed from an old hard drive. Just look for this piece and remove the magnet attached to it. Be careful, these will break and need to be removed using something flat with a large base. Pry them off.
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Position and temporarily secure the REM in the center of the fan hub that spins. Placement of the REM is critical in minimizing fan balance (like your car tire or ceiling fan). Turn on the fan to check for vibrations or wobbling. Turn off the fan and adjust the REM if required. If you are satisfied, then super glue to the REM to the fan hub. Remember, balance is critical to the life of the fan and strip plate. If you short cut this step, you will shorten your stir plate life.
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Close up of rubber grommet ring. Make sure there is enough space under the fan to allow airflow.
Stir Plate Diagram
Run the power from the AC adapter to the On/Off switch and then to the middle of the Rheostat using a small connector wire. Next, run the power wire from the PC fan to one of the side posts/prongs of the rheostat. Connect the ground from your AC adapter directly to the ground from the PC fan. Wiring is done!
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Now that you are all wired up, attach the fan to the underside of the cigar box. Test it to make sure it turns on and make sure you have enough space with the grommets to allow airflow. Close the lid.
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This is a view of the REM and fan through the drilled hole.
Finished Stir Plate
Here is one of my finished and painted stir plates.

If you have done everything correctly, it should fire up and function properly. Make sure the rheostat is not hot when you touch it.  I made the mistake of crossing one wire incorrectly and it got very hot to the touch.

Good luck on your build and I hope my tutorial helped!


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A Simple Wort Chiller To Chill Your Beer Faster

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Ok, so maybe the method isn’t unconventional since it is basically the same process used in a Whirlpool Immersion Chiller. However, the use of random supplies is.  This is a simple wort chiller upgrade to chill your beer faster.  I have used it for years and it has never failed me.

One of the most important steps in homebrewing is chilling the wort to an optimal temperature for pitching yeast.  The primary objective is to chill as fast as possible.  There isn’t a magical additive available on the market, so this step should be taken serious. Why?

1. The longer wort is exposed,  the greater chance infection can occur. Infected beer = FAIL and wasted effort.

2. The possibility of oxidation increases the longer the wort is exposed to the elements.

3. Creating a quick “cold break” results in clearer beer. The cold break is essential to avoid the haze look to your finished product. 

I think you get the point!

We have all experienced the “stalling spot” during the cool down wishing we could find a way to speed things up. What is the “stall spot”? The wort cools quickly from a boil down to around 85°-90°. At this point, the outside temperature and wort temperature are starting to run a parallel side by side race. This is even worse in the summer heat.  To pitch yeast, wort temperature generally needs to fall below 80°. The last thing anyone wants to do is leave wort exposed to mother nature’s wrath.

My father-in-law came up with an unconventional work of art to chill the wort to pitching temperature quickly and efficiently. He found the supplies sitting around the house and pieced together his odd yet awesome contraption.

Supplies:
– Standard wort chiller
An under the bed storage bin
Submersible Pump
– Bag of ice

Cut out a hole in the lid of the storage bin so the pump can sit flush against the bottom.

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When the wort reaches around 100°, dump a bag of ice into the storage bin and add some water. You want an ice bath. You can also start this method from the end of boil as long as you have enough ice. The hot wort exchange melts the ice bath quickly. I personally found 100° to be an ideal target for two reasons.

1. The wort generally chills pretty quickly with a wort chiller for the first half of the the chill.

2. When I brew, I tend to drink. I can remember 100° pretty well when I have had a few.

Hook up the wort chiller to the pump so an ice bath can be recirculated through the coiled copper and back into the storage bin. It works like the cooling system on a car. The objective is passing the ice cold water through the chiller. Add a solid whirlpool with a drill and sanitized paint stirrer (paint stir what) and you are in business.

This will cool the wort within a few minutes. Be careful you do not over chill the wort. That would defeat the whole purpose.

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This concept can easily be applied using any chiller and submersible pump. Cheers to brewing beer and cheers to inventing odd ways to brew like a pro for half the dough.


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An Inexpensive Homebrew Water Filter

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The other day I was brewing a collaboration with The Brew Professor and he showed me a simple yet effective water filter that hooks up to any hose. It was an RV water filter! If it can filter water for an RV, why not beer?

This isn’t a fancy RO system but it is a great way to brew with better water for very little money. The 100 micron fiber filter helps reduce some of the bad tastes, chlorine, and odors that can come along with public or well water.  Treat your beer with love and pure water.

You can buy these for under $20 through Amazon and it is well worth the small investment. I really liked the simplicity of the Camco 40043.  If you want to get even more fancy pants, add a Drinking Water Hose for less than $10.

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A Simple Guide To Planting Your Own Hops

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So you have decided that it would be exciting to grow your own hops at home.  Growing hops can be a very fun and rewarding project as long as you have the time, space, and desire to lay out the effort required.  You cannot grow hops at home to replace those you are currently buying from your home brew store.  Why?  The alpha acid levels of those you grow at home will basically be unknown.  Hops grown as an amateur at home can be utilized for aroma and late hopping.  Fresh Hops!  It really does not get better in my opinion.  Here is a simple guide to planting hops at home.

Before you begin the hop mission you need to consider a few things…

1.  Do I have room to grow hops?  They are not like growing a tomato plant.  Hops require room to grow.
2.  What kind of beers do I like to brew the most?  This is the driving factor as to what you should attempt to grow.
3.  How many hop varieties can I handle?  No reason to go overboard.

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1.  Make sure you pick a nice looking brood of rhizomes.  Look for a mid to high level of buds sprouting.  You do not want something with no bud sprouts.

 

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2.  Dig a hole about 8 inches deep and fill with nice soil.  I mixed in some spent grain with each hole just for good hop luck.  Put enough soil in the hole to create a nice mound about 6 inches above ground level.

 

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3.  Use your hand and make a divot in the mound about 4 inches deep.

 

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4. Make sure you face the buds up or the side of the rhizome with the most buds.

 

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5.  Lightly stomp the mound to compact the soil.  There is no need to level the mound with your Hulk strength.

 

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6.  Drive a growing pole into the ground.  I used a 10 foot pole to make sure I allowed enough vertical growth.

 

Now wait until you see about 1-2 feet of vine coming out and help start it on the growing pole.  Eventually,  you will want to create horizontal growing lines.  These are just pictures of what I did.  You can find an awesome instructional PDF here,  which I really recommend reading.

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Homebrew Tip: Inexpensive 15 Gallon Fermentation Vessel

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So you are currently brewing 5 gallon batches and they keep turning out so damn good.  You start day dreaming about upgrading to a 15 gallon or larger system.  This is something that most homebrewers eventually go through.  The problem is, most of us lack the funds to upgrade to that larger system whenever we feel the initial urge.  Our extra cash is usually spent on craft beer mix packs that we refuse to give up.  There is no reason to max out your credit cards and drop 2-5k on some fancy stainless steel beer brewing system.  Upgrade layaway style!  Slowly buy the small things you need to upgrade to a larger system.  Doing this will also give you the opportunity to learn each component as you attain it.  Being creative is another great skill to unleash!

How about a CHEAP fermentation upgrade idea?

If you buy homebrew supplies from a local supply store,  you probably have a decent relationship with the employees.  These homebrew supply stores usually have Briess liquid extract barrels that eventually become empty.  Considering their priority is putting more extract out, these empty barrels get tossed in the garbage.  Ask them if you can have their next empty container.  They may have some sitting in the back waiting for you to ask.

The smaller extract barrels are what you are looking for.  They are food grade.  They have a liquid scale on them,  they have openings on the top, and they have a damn good handle! 15 gallons of beer is not easy to toss around. All you need to do is install a #13 rubber stopper with an elbow for your blow off and you are good to go.  These types of barrels are plastic so you will need to make sure you have optimal temperature control during the fermentation process.  If you can manage that,  your beer will ferment very good inside of one of these.

A handy scale on the side
Install a standard #13 rubber stopper and an elbow for your blow off hose.

 

 

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5 Important Tips When Brewing With Kids Around

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 If you are like me,  you are a parent who enjoys the pleasure of brewing your own beer.  It is your time to feel like you can still serve a purpose outside of changing diapers,  wiping butts, and wiping noses.  Finding time to brew a batch of beer is damn near impossible.  Therefore,  you have to make time while maintaining your duty as a parent.  Since you generally work Monday-Friday and are busy doing meaningless shit on Saturday,  you tend to brew on Sundays.  That is also a day when your kids are bored and need your undivided attention.  It is best explained as trying to brew beer in the bed of a truck while driving down a country road.

Whether you want them to or not,  your kids will want to know what you are doing.  They will also feel the urge to “HELP” you.  This is not the same kind of help as a friend who is there to assist with the brewing process.  It is the kind of help that somehow makes you late on adding your hops,  boiling off your wort until you have 2 gallons of beer left, or forgetting to check the temp before dropping the yeast.  Brewing with kids basically sucks.

The funny thing is you still brew despite the odds not being in your favor.  Beer is your escape and you are going to brew this batch of beer no matter what!  Here are some tips to keep in mind when brewing with kids around.

1.  It is OK to brew beer and allow your kids to play a  helper role…however…make sure your kids do not go to school and tell their teachers they make beer with Dad.

2.  Keep an eye on all of your supplies at all times.  Otherwise,  you will be making a trip during your boil to the home brew store.

3.  Make sure you establish a safe zone for your boil.  Not only are you dealing with a hot flame,  you are dealing with 200 degree wort!   See below for my homemade contraption.

4.  Keep all glass items away from your kids!  They will break it if they can find a way to touch it.

5.  Do not dump your mash tun in a place your 2 year old will find it.  It does not make good sand castles but its like removing glue from a kid’s hands and hair.