Brew Gear

Fall Back

As fall rolls thru the prairie and winter starts to creep onto the plains, I’ve hit another brewing hiatus.

While my summer weekends are split between quiet days on the patio drinking a beer and attending friends weddings, most weekends in the fall and early winter I can be found in South Dakota on my parent’s farm chasing birds with my 18 month golden retriever.

Time that wasn’t spent brewing hasn’t been a complete waste, however. Read more →

Carboy Thermowell Setup

Just a quick continuation of my last post on the Brewer’s Hardware thermowell. I haven’t had a chance to brew a batch using this yet, but I picked up a couple carboy caps when I was at Northern Brewer Minneapolis las weekend and the thermowell fits nice and snug thru the center opening. Better, the thermowell sits dead center in wort level in either a 6 or 6.5 gallon carboy. One extra thing to sanitize on brewday,  but beats taping a probe and insulation on a carboy every batch.

Thermowell in 6 gallon carboyThermowell in 6.5 gallon carboy

Brewers Hardware Thermowell

To go along with my dual-stage Love temperature controller, I ordered a 16″ stainless straight-wall thermowell from Brewers Hardware. I don’t have a lot to say about thermowells in general, and I haven’t had a chance to use this piece in an actual batch of beer yet, but the quality of these blew me away, so I thought it deserved a quick post and a few pictures since the lone image on the Brewers Hardware site is a bit lacking. Read more →

Love TSS2 Temp Controller

Just in time for the Dead Ringer brewday, I finished up the last of the top three wanted items for this year: a fermentation temp controller. I did a bunch of research on the differences between the budget-friendly STC-1000 and Love TSS2. Ultimately, I found more information on the Love, and I felt more comfortable buying from a company than off eBay, so I spent a little extra and went with the Love and a stainless-cap probe.

Love TSS2 Temperature Controller

I originally planned on splitting the hot feed to a single outlet for the heating and cooling circuit and nothing else, but I decided rather than come back later and re-wire the box to add another outlet should I want an always-on option, I added a second outlet to the build. I used a $9 weatherproof box from Home Depot for the housing, and aside from wresting with getting all the 12-gauge wire into the box, everything was pretty straightforward.

Love TSS2 Build

I’d be happy to post up a wiring diagram if anyone is interested, but generally I have one outlet that’s always on, and the other has a split hot feed from the TSS2 so one plug controls the heating circuit, and the other the cooling circuit. I used a carbide grout-removal bit on the plastic box to cut out the holes for the controller and the outlets. A few tips to anyone that’s building one of these:

  • Mount the controller first, and then figure out where you want your probe and power-supply wires to come into the box. You’re going to need to work around the controller and the outlets, and still make everything fit.
  • Make use of the bridged connections on the outlets. Rather than trying to wire-nut several wires together, make use of the common neutral on the outlets. The screw-terminals are more secure than wire nuts, which tend to come undone just when you have almost everything into place. The fewer connections, the better.
  • Keep your wire lengths reasonable. You need some slack in the connections to make installing everything go smoothly, but unless you have a ton of space in the box, you’re not going to have room for big balls of extra wire.

I also ordered a thermowell from Brewer’s Hardware so I can submerse the probe directly in the wort. Since that hasn’t shipped yet, I had to tape the probe onto the carboy & insulate it for my IPA fermentation. I hadn’t done much reading about how accurate this was, but it seemed very effective:

TSS2 Trial Run

My IPA wort was 85°  when I decided to give up on my immersion chiller, so I racked into a carboy, taped on the probe and insulation, and plugged in the fridge while I cleaned up. The above shot shows the ambient temp in the fridge (69°), and the wort temperature given by the probe (84°), so it was exactly what I expected. My setpoint was 64°, and when I woke up the next morning, the probe was registering 64.2°, so I went ahead and oxygenated and pitched my decanted starter.

Besides finally having proper, accurate control for ale fermentations, I’m really stoked that I’ll finally be able to ferment lagers, and I purchased ingredients for an Oktoberfest that I’ll probably be brewing up in a week or so.

Oxygenation Stone & Regulator

Northern Brewer Oxygenation KitNorthern Brewer finally got oxygenation kits back in stock, so I pulled the trigger on one. I’m planning to brew some higher gravity beers this fall and into winter, so a round of pure oxygen will help those beers excel where they might otherwise have been “meh”.

The kit itself it quite nice. A nice, large instruction sheet, hose clamp for the regulator end, and about 3′ of ¼” beverage tubing. There seems to be a lot of online debate about whether a .5 micron stone is superior to a 2 micron, or vice versa, but I wasn’t able to find anything definitive. There’s also a lot of people complaining about the regulators leaking, and looking at NB’s site, they seem to have a couple versions of the regulator pictured: one with a black plastic knob, and one that’s all brass. I was happy to see I received the latter. It has a fairly precise feel to it, so I’m hoping it’s the plastic knob regulators that are plagued with leaks, and mine will be fine.

Oxygen Regulator

The stones themselves are fascinating from a manufacturing perspective. The pores are 0.5 microns, or about 200x smaller than the width of a human hair. People seem to have problems with these clogging, but from what I’ve read, turning the regulator on before dunking the stone into the wort, seems to help, as does boiling before & after use, so I’m anxious to try it out.

0.5 micron diffusion stone

Coleman Extreme Manifold

This is the hopefully last of the updates to my 52 quart Coleman Extreme manifold. Part One dealt with swapping my brass valve and bulkhead parts for a sweet stainless kit from, while Part Two covered the new manifold layout and the thinking that went into it.

I said in my last post that I was going to use a Dremel to cut the manifold slots, but that ended up not working out. I couldn’t find a cut-off wheel that was large enough to let me cut straight slots in the longer tubes. I did use it for the short runs near the bulkhead:

Mash Tun Manifold Slots With Dremel

Read more →