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Mash Tun Manifold Progress

Since fitting my new mash tun bulkhead, I’ve been needing to rebuild my copper manifold, but just haven’t really had the motivation. Today, I had 2 batches worth of grain, hops, and yeast arrived via FedEx, and I’m planning on brewing over Easter weekend, so it’s time to get serious.

The cooler I use was picked for a reason. Well, several. But primarily, because the drain sits partially below the floor of the cooler interior, which helps eliminate dead space. It also means that I need to find a way to connect a bulkhead and a manifold that aren’t parallel. Most commonly, I’ve seen barbed fittings on both the manifold and the bulkhead with hi-temp tubing connecting the two. I’m leery of that approach, because I’m just careless enough to know I’d somehow pop the hose loose, or pop the manifold apart. So, I again opted to crudely bend a piece of tubing in order to connect the 12” cup → NPT fitting to the T-fitting on the manifold, which angles down slightly to meet the tubing.

Manifold Fittings

Once the bulkhead-to-manifold connection was figured out, the rest of the layout went pretty quick. I learned from past mistakes and didn’t put the long runners against the sidewalls, so if I had any channeling there before, I shouldn’t with this new setup. I also cut my pieces so that both ends butt up against the cooler walls. Having to actually lift the manifold to separate it from the bulkhead lets me dough in with impunity. Should be no worries about the manifold coming apart while stirring the mash.

Copper Mash Tun Manifold

The last dilemma I  have to solve is cutting slots. The first time I did this, I used a hacksaw, and it was straight up hell. I’m no stranger to a hacksaw, but it’s not my tool of choice for cutting copper. I’d planned on using my angle grinder with a cut-off wheel, but after cutting a few slots in scrap tonight, I’m not pleased with the results. Easy to work with, but arguably the slots seem too wide for me, even though the wheel is paper thin.

Mash Tun - Manifold Slots

Top pipe is my old manifold (hacksaw slots), bottom was done with an angle grinder and cutoff wheel.

After I snapped this pic, I went back out to the garage and threw a fiberglass-reinforced cutting wheel in the Dremel, and I think that’s the best of the 3 options, assuming I can find a wheel large enough in diameter to work.

Stay tuned! I’ll hopefully have more updates this weekend.

Mash Tun Upgrades

Following up on my last post, I decided to pull the trigger on the Bargain Fittings cooler kit. I ended up going with the standard 2-piece valve instead of the 3-piece, and a 38” hose barb. I also picked up two of the new 12” clear silicone gaskets, which I knew I’d need to work around a flaw in my mash tun (more on this later).

The parts arrived a few days later via USPS, and they look awesome compared to the dingy brass fittings they’re replacing.

Bargain Fittings Cooler Kit

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Some Brewery Updates In Planning

Like any homebrewer worth his weight in hops, I find I always have a mile-long list of new gear to buy, things to build, and experiments to test out. Since I haven’t done much in the way of brewing or kegging lately, I thought I’d write up a quick list of what I’m hoping to acquire in the next several months, a much-belated list of brew-year resolutions, if you will.

Mash Tun Fittings

When I started all-grain brewing in mid-2010, I snagged a 52 quart Coleman Extreme on closeout for $28. Since we did a ton of work on the house just as we moved in, I was a bit strapped for cash, so I went with a brass valve and  fittings to craft a bulkhead and connect to my copper manifold. Despite obsessive cleaning, the fittings are starting to tarnish a bit, and I think it’s high-time to move to an all-stainless setup. I’m eyeing the cooler kit from bargainfittings.com, but I haven’t decided if I want to splurge on the 3-piece valve set, or save a bit of cash for an…

Oxygenation Kit

I’ve been reading through the Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation, I’ve become more and more convinced that pure oxygen, along with a more strict control of fermentation temps, is the next tool I need to help my beers excel. If shaking a carboy for 5 straight minutes only gets about half the oxygen concentration into the wort that the yeast require for ideal conditions, then I’d rather forgo that exercise regiment and give my wort a shot of direct oxygen. While there are some disputes to be had, there also seems to be plenty of anecdotal evidence from brewers who’ve experienced great leaps in the quality of their beers after moving to an oxygenation setup. Enough, at least, to convince me to try it. This is begging for a side-by-side experiment with a split-batch.

Accurate Fermentation Temperature Control

I’ve been getting by fermenting modest-gravity beers in a closet under my stairwell, and I usually toss higher-gravity beers in a water bath to keep them from running wild. Neither is ideal, however, and the latter is a bit too demanding of my attention. Since I’m also hoping to do an Oktoberfest this fall, I’ve been scouring Craigslist in search of a cheap, full-sized fridge I can toss in my garage and use as a fermentation chamber. I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading on temperature controllers, thermowells, and the like. I’m leaning toward a Love TSS2 since I’ll probably need a heating circuit as well (garages get cold during Fargo winters). If anyone has any recommendations or ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Of course, the latter two items have something in common: they’re upgrades I’d live to have in place before attempting any giant beers. I’ve been itching to do an American Barleywine late-summer that I can age and start drinking in the winter, and I want to do a few double IPAs to drink this fall, so I’d like to do everything I can to make sure those hops aren’t squandered on a less than ideal fermentation.

If you’ve been using any of these items, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them, the differences they’ve made in your beer, where you bought them, etc. Drop me a comment below!


Updates:

Rebel Mill Unboxing & Review

Since these are still pretty rare compared to the ubiquitous Barley Crusher, I wanted to do a quick write up with a bunch of photos showing my new Rebel Mill from Rebel Brewer. Tom, the founder, has been offering the first several rounds of mills for $180 and has been reserving the initial shipments for members of Homebrew Talk as they become available.

Because of my close proximity to the Twin Cities, I order nearly all my homebrew supplies from either Northern Brewer or Midwest Supplies, which usually means overnight shipping. This was my first order from Rebel Brewer, which is based out of Goodlettsville, Tennessee. You can imagine my surprise when the mill made it’s way over 1000 miles to my doorstep less 48 hours after placing the order.

Rebel Mill Packaging

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