Category Archives: Reviews

Temperature Probe Placement – To Immerse or Not To Immerse?

cln_1ziptiedcan

After my last test on the effects of a recirculating fan on kegerator temperatures (See: Kegerator Beer Line Temperatures & Reducing Foam with a Recirculating Fan), I decided to test the effects of kegerator temperature probe placement.  I went with three configurations: Immersed vs Ambient Non-Immersed vs… Zip Tied to a Beer Can.  Those tests yielded some interesting findings.

Test 1 Zip Tied to a Beer Can:

cln_img_5553For this test, the probe was zip-tied to a 14.9 Ounce Can of Beamish Irish Stout.  This is the technique I’ve used for years.  At the time, I wanted something with some mass to help regulate temperature and I didn’t want to have to mess with submerging the probe and the required container of liquid.  For this test, the can was placed close to the wall of my keezer on the compressor hump.  The second probe was immersed in 500 mL of water in a Lab Container.  See the picture in test 2 for more info on placement.

cln_ziptiedI also placed a ChefAlarm Thermometer & Timer in my keezer – Hands on Review – as another point of reference, giving me an ambient temperature reading.  The ChefAlarm has some great features, including high and low temperature logging.  Those highs and lows are what I used as a reference.

cln_1ziptiedcanHere are the temperature results for test 1 – zip tied to a can.  The top shows the temperature probe zip tied to a beer can.  The bottom, for comparison, shows an immersed temperature probe.  This method produces and nice clean and reliable reading.

Definitions:

  • High Temp: High temperature in deg F as measured by the primary/controlling probe.
  • Low Temp: Low temperature in deg F as measured by the primary/controlling probe.
  • Variance High to Low:  The variance in deg F between general high and low readings from the primary probe.
  • Cycle Length: Overall length of one typical cooling cycle, measured from high point to high point.
  • ChefAlarm High: Ambient temperature high in deg F as recorded by my ChefAlarm
  • ChefAlarm Low: Ambient temperature low in deg F as recorded by my ChefAlarm
  • ChefAlarm Variance: Variance in deg F between high and low ChefAlarm readings
  • Estimated Freezer Cycle Time: Estimated time that the freezer is running as measured from one high to the following low.
  • Estimated Freezer Time: Hours Per Day:  Estimation of how long my freezer would run in 24 hours based on frequency of cycles and freezer cycle time.

Results Test 1:

  • High Temp: 40.03
  • Low Temp: 37.64
  • Variance High to Low: 2.39
  • Cycle Length: 1 Hour 2 Minutes
  • ChefAlarm High: 42
  • ChefAlarm Low: 34
  • ChefAlarm Variance: 8 degrees
  • Estimated Freezer Cycle Time: 12 Minutes
  • Estimated Freezer Time: Hours Per Day: 4.6

Test 2 Submerged Probe:

cln_img_5520Setup: I placed the probe immersed in about 500 mL of water one of my Bel-Art Scienceware 500 mL Polypropylene Lab Containers.  I covered the top with aluminum foil.  I have used these containers since 2011 for a bunch of things including yeast rehydration water (see tips page, tip #1), sample storage and more.  That container was placed in about the same spot as the can used it test 1.  Also Pictured: Eva Dry E-500Hands on Review – to handle kegerator condensation.

cln_2submergedHere are the temperature results for test 2 – immersed.  The top shows the immersed temperature probe.  The bottom, for comparison, shows the probe zip tied to a beer can.  Notice the stuttered temperature changes toward the bottom of this cycle.  It doesn’t happen every cycle, but periodically, it also comes close to flat lining.  That period of flat lining can last up to 18 minutes.  The mass of the water makes temperature readings inefficient.  That’s what we want to some degree.  We want some sort of a buffer to give a good representation of temperature without quick swings.  However the stuttering temperature changes along with flat lining, make me think that this method has it’s drawbacks.

Results Test 2:

  • High Temp: 40.19
  • Low Temp: 36.76
  • Variance High to Low: 3.46
  • Cycle Length: 1 Hour 59 Minutes
  • ChefAlarm High: 43
  • ChefAlarm Low: 30
  • ChefAlarm Variance: 13 degrees
  • Estimated Freezer Cycle Time: 25 Minutes
  • Estimated Freezer Time: Hours Per Day: 5

Test 3 Ambient Non-Submerged Probe:

cln_3ambientwithandwithoutfan

Here are the temperature results for test 3 – ambient, non-submerged.  The top of this graph shows the ambient probe, the bottom, for comparison, shows a probe zip tied to a beer can.  The left most portion of the graph is part of a previous test, disregard that.  The middle portion shows the ambient non-submersed probe with a recirculating fan.  By the way… all previous tests were completed with a fan.  The right portion shows the same test, without the fan.  I’m not reporting those results here.  That test was much as you would expect it to be.  Similar to the fan test, with larger swings and slower cycles.  Thoughts… I was actually impressed with the consistency of the ambient air results.  When I first looked at the graph, I noticed the semi-wild start of the test and I thought… here we go… this one is going to be all over the place.  However, when it settled in, it was very reliable.  It also has good accuracy.  The difference between the zip tied readings and the ambient readings are small.  The downside of this method is how often the freezer kicks on.  This method had the shortest cycle length, by far, at just 27 minutes.  It also had the highest estimated freezer utilization at 5.3 hours per day.

Results Test 3:

  • High Temp: 40.01
  • Low Temp: 36.39
  • Variance High to Low: 3.62
  • Cycle Length: 27 Minutes
  • ChefAlarm High: 39
  • ChefAlarm Low: 35
  • ChefAlarm Variance: 4 degrees
  • Estimated Freezer Cycle Time: 6 Minutes
  • Estimated Freezer Time: Hours Per Day: 5.3

Overall Results:

Here side by side comparisons of key metrics…

img_comparisons1

The submerged test produced the longest cycle length, by far.  Nearly twice as long as the zip tie test and four times the length of the ambient test.  It had middle of the road temp variances (compared to zip tied) but it’s ChefAlarm (ambient air) test showed a whopping 13 degrees difference.  Those swings are the result of how much time the freezer has to stay on to overcome the mass of the water used in the immersed test.  That mass also causes inconsistent temperature readings and periods of flat lining.

The ambient test produced good accuracy (second best variance and best ChefAlarm ambient air varience) but the short cycle length of 27 minutes means your freezer is kicking on a lot.  That shows up in the estimated freezer hours per day… 5.3 hours, the highest of any method.

I think the zip-tied can approach provides a good middle of the road solution.  It provides the best accuracy, based on it’s 2.39 degree temp variance, has a middle of the road overall cycle length, middle of the road freezer run time and uses the least amount of energy with an estimated 4.6 hours of freezer run time per day.  The can also offers the benefit of not having to mess with containers of water or other liquids.  It’s also easy to move and reposition when cleaning or reconfiguring your kegerator.

Related:

Tips and Gear for Your Kegerator:

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Some Additional Notes: These tests are with my equipment.  Your results will vary based on a lot of factors including freezer/refrigerator, temp controller, amount of liquid used, probe placement, etc.  In spite of those variances, I think these tests give you a good general idea about probe placement.  I used a BrewBit Model T, sourced via Kickstarter, to log temperature.  Look for a review of the BrewBit Model T here, if and (hopefully) when it becomes readily available to purchase.

Hands on Review: The Brew Bag – Purpose Made BIAB

thebrewbag

The Brew Bag is a Made in the USA, purpose designed BIAB bag.  It has four loops for lifting the bag out of your kettle, every seam is reinforced for long life and it is available in a number of sizes for kettles, keggles and coolers.  If they don’t carry the size you want, The Brew Bag will custom make it for you.

Here’s a hands on look at the Brew Bag…

cln_img_2283I’m using the 30-42 Quart Size for my 10 gallon kettle.

cln_img_2846cln_img_2846A look at one of the handles and the tag

cln_img_2299A close up of one of the reinforced corners.  Every seam is reinforced.

cln_img_2309The bag hanging by all four handles from my Bulldog Ultimate Pegboard

cln_img_2287I received a sticker with my bag

cln_img_2351So you can get an idea of the material mesh, here is a picture of the bag on top of the included sticker.  Click to enlarge.

cln_img_2342For comparison, here is the mesh of a paint strainer bag that I have used for BIAB.  Noticeably different.  Click to enlarge.

cln_img_2314Installed in my Blichmann G1 BoilerMaker Kettle.

cln_img_2320Inside view installed in my Blichmann 10 gallon kettle.

cln_img_2775Mashing Great Fermentations’ 1 Hour IPA in the Brew Bag

cln_img_2777Stirring the Mash using my 24″ Stainless “Brewer’s Whisk”

cln_img_2785The mash temperature for 1 Hr IPA settling in.  Tip: I mashed out this beer.  That’s one of the benefits of BIAB – direct fired mash tun = easy step mashes and mash outs.  During that process, one of the Brew Bag handles got a little too close to my propane burner and melted just a bit.   Don’t do that.

cln_img_2832At the end of the mash.  Worth Noting: Some people wrap their kettles up with some sort of insulation to maintain the temperature during the mash.  I think that’s a great idea.  However… I don’t do it.  When you add in all the water up front, the mash for a 5 gallon batch is considerably.  It maintains temperature reasonably well with no insulation.  Sometimes I will fire up my propane burner half way though (stirring the entire time) to get back up to desired mash temp.

cln_img_2979Draining the Bag.  I recommend using High Temp Gloves to make this easier.  BIAB has a bunch of benefits including 1. Cost, 2. Simplicity, 3. Generally faster than other methods, 4. Less to clean up, 5. Less to store and 6. Because you have a direct fired mash tun, it’s easy to do step mashes and mash outs.  I’ll add one more to the list… if you have a Kettle with a sight glass in it, like Blichmann’s BoilerMaker (Great FermentationsMore BeerMidwest Supplies and Adventures in Homebrewing), or you otherwise have a way to easily measure volume, you can… hit your pre boil volume every time.  I’m holding the bag here, and looking at the sight gauge.  I did that until I hit my desired pre boil volume.  Whammo.

cln_img_3177Cleaning your mash tun (the bag) is as easy as dumping the grain out and rinsing the bag.  Here is what the bag looks like after rinsing it with… discarded wort chiller water.  I do take it in the house and clean it more thoroughly, but…it’s in pretty good shape after a rinse with re-used wort chiller water.

cln_img_3263A soak in hot PBW followed by a good rinse and dry and it’s ready to be used again.

cln_img_5290A look at the final product… a Spiegelau IPA Glass filled with delicious 1 HR IPA

cln_img_5118Here’s a look at the Brew Bag installed in the Blichmann G2 (First Looks).  It’s pretty well the exact same size as the G1, so it fits the same.  The G2′s flat handles are a great place to use a clamp to secure the Brew Bag in place.  Tip: Install the Brew Bag in your dry kettle first and make a note of where it should sit in the kettle so that the bottom of the bag doesn’t touch the bottom of the kettle.

cln_img_5129Mashing More Beer’s M-80 IPA

I’ve done quite a bit of BIAB brewing.  I’ve used a few different types of bags.  Having used the Brew Bag for a while, I can tell you that it’s the highest quality bag I’ve used.  It is purposed designed, by a homebrewer, for homebrewing and that shows.  From the reinforced seams to the handles to the availability of a number of sizes to the quality of the fabric.  I can wholeheartedly recommend the Brew Bag for BIAB brewing.

Features (from brewinabag.com):

  • Use again and again – not a throw-away bag
  • 1″ polypropylene straps for easy pick up using your hands or a pulley and hook
  • Seams are on the outside – no particulates get trapped in the bag
  • Use it as your hop bag – but it must be suspended above the kettle bottom
  • The straps cover the seams and bear the strain on every use – this bag will last and last
  • Holds over 100 pounds of grain
  • Hand wash and drip dry

The Brew Bag is available in a variety of sizes for kettles, keggles and coolers.  If they don’t have the size you’re looking for, they will custom make it based on your needs.

Check out the instructions page on www.brewinabag.com for step by step instructions on BIAB.

Check it out - Here

Special thanks to Rex at The Brew Bag for providing me with a bag to try out.

First Looks: Blichmann G2 BoilerMaker Kettle!

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The recently announced G2 Kettle is available in 7.510152030 and 55 gallon sizes.  The BoilerMaker G2 is designed and manufactured in the US.  It includes a Sight Glass w/Laser Etched Volume Markers, Adjustable Angle BrewMometer Thermometer, Linear Flow Valve and tool-less dip tube.  The G2 also features a 1.2 height to diameter ratio.

I had a chance to unbox my new Blichmann G2 BoilerMaker kettle last night.  Here are some photos along with my initial impressions.

cln_img_4415Here’s the box

cln_img_4420In case at any point you thought to yourself “I should probably drop this box”, there is a handy sticker that reminds you not to.

cln_img_4441A look at the kettle straight out of the box.  The new “Linear Flow Valve” comes installed, the Brewmometer Thermometer is not installed upon delivery.

cln_img_4465Here is the Blichmann Engineering name plate and BoilerMaker G2 name plate.  They’ve really stepped it up a notch here vs the G1 as the G1 just has a sticker.  This has no functional importance, but it does look cool.

cln_img_4467Just above the Linear Flow Valve, there is a small plate that reads… “Made in the USA”

cln_img_4448Here’s a look at the sight gauge

cln_img_4449This picture shows the laser etching for the sight glass

cln_img_4537The included Allen wrench allows you remove the top portion of the sight gauge for cleaning

cln_img_4545A brush is included to clean the sight gauge.

cln_img_4423A look inside the kettle.  The included dip tube is on the left hand side.

cln_img_4435A close up of the installed dip tube.

cln_img_4510The dip tube is a tool-less design, meaning, no tools are required to install or remove it.  From what I can gather, it’s the same as the G1.  Works great and it’s easy to use.

cln_img_4477When a first unboxed the G2, I went directly to the Linear Flow Valve.  After turning it a bit, I thought, yeah… it’s pretty cool.  After figuring it out, I can tell you that it is… revolutionary.  Keep reading.

cln_img_4478The Linear Valve’s Cool Touch Handle

cln_img_4483The side of the Linear Valve, emblazoned with a Blichmann Logo B.  Note that the Linear Valve can be configured at any angle.

cln_img_4522This is the revolutionary part.  That’s light you see through the Linear Valve’s body.  After a while, I started looking through the manual to see how the Linear Valve comes apart.  What would I need to do to clean this?  What tools are required?  The valve simply unscrews and the entire inner workings pop out.  No tools.  When the thing just came off, it was a near jaw dropping moment for me.  I’ve got my fair share of 3 piece ball valves that can be taken apart for thorough cleaning.  How often do I take those apart for thorough cleaning?  I wouldn’t use the word… often.  The Linear Valve comes apart so easily that it will be cleaned every time I use the kettle.

cln_img_4515The inside of the linear valve.  There isn’t much to it.  Easy to clean and sanitize.

cln_img_4518Side view of the inside of the Linear Valve

cln_img_4536The valve body

cln_img_4484New handle design

cln_img_4492New lid handle design

cln_img_4505The lid handle is designed to fit in the kettle handle.

cln_img_4567G1 and G2 10 Gallon Blichmann BoilerMaker Kettles Side by Side

cln_img_4553The G2 with Bremometer installed

The G2 line is available at a number of retailers including Great Fermentations, More Beer, Midwest Supplies and Adventures in Homebrewing

Shopping Tip: Blichmann gear is price controlled.  You’re not going to see a lot of difference from retailer to retailer, other than shipping fees and taxes.  For this particular purchase, I went with Adventures in Homebrewing because they are currently offering free shipping and I received the equivalent of 5% back via their rewards program.  That offer also applies to the TopTier Stand (and any options you include on the TopTier page) and the Tower of Power – Check it out – Here

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Hands On Review: German Made Speidel Fermenters

German Made, Speidel Fermenters are available in 12L (3.2 gal) 20L (5.3 gal), 30L (7.9 gal),  60L (15.9 gal), and 120L (31.7 gal) sizes.  A selection of Accessories and Replacement Gaskets is also available.

I’ve owned a 5.3 gallon Speidel fermenter since October of 2011.  I use it for small batch BIAB beers.  I’ve been very impressed with that fermenter.  More recently, I picked up the 7.9 gallon version so that I can ferment full 5 gallon batches with all the same advantages.  This is a hands on review of both fermenters.


Here’s the 7.9 gallon fermenter with lid and storage cap on.  It’s made of heavy duty HDPE that can handle up to 140 deg F.  HDPE is not… glass.  The benefits of that are… no dropping a glass fermenter down a couple steps and having it shatter and getting glass shards in your feet and spending the day cleaning up the beer you just made and never getting to drink any of it.  Ask me how I know :(.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have glass fermenters, there are pros and cons.  A pro of this design is safety.


The lid disassembled.  There are two parts.  An outer ring and the inner lid.  Notice the O-ring on the lid portion.  Every connection (lid or cap) has an O-ring.  I like that a lot.  I’ve used other plastic fermenters that are leaky.  The net result of that, for me at least, was no airlock activity because CO2 is leaking out other places.  Because the Speidel is well built and has airtight O-Ring connections, that has never happened when I’ve used the Speidel.  As a bonus, replacement lid gaskets are available.


The center portion of the lid with the storage cap installed.  The storage cap and spigot are the same size and threading.


Storage cap installed on the spigot port

 
The spigot (top) and storage cap (bottom).


The stopper, airlock and spigot


The airlock installed

 
Speidel logo on the front of the fermenter


Heavy duty handles.  Per the product specifications, each handle is rated for up to 66 lbs or 132 lbs in all.  That fact shows up in the product description starting at the 15.9 Gallon size.  I’m assuming it’s true of all sizes.


A look at the inside of the fermenter


Assembled


Side by side.  The 7.9 gallon/30 Liter next to the 5.3 gallon/20 Liter.

This is how I’ve been storing the 5.3 gallon.  Assembled with the spigot on bottom and the storage cap on top.  I leave everything threaded but loose.  That keeps out most of the dust, but still provides a little airflow.

cln_img_4295Here is the 7.9 gallon Speidel with a batch ready to be kegged.  As you can see I continue to keep the spigot oriented sideways during fermentation.  The O-Ring provides a good enough seal that you can carefully loosen the spigot slightly and rotate without leaks.  I flush it with Star San and then drain a bit of beer to clear up anything that might have settled in the spigot or in the area just beyond the spigot inside the fermenter.

cln_img_4298Slip some sanitized tubing over the spigot and make sure the tubing goes all the way to the bottom of the keg and you’re transferring.

cln_img_4310A look at the keg

cln_img_4311Clear beer transferring to my keg.  No siphoning required.

cln_img_4348Here’s the trub.  This was an IPA with a good amount of hops both in the boil and some dry hops.  The recipe had quite a few late addition hops.  I transferred most of that over from the boil kettle.

cln_img_435320.15 Seconds.  One thing I have been impressed with from day 1 (with my 5.3 gallon) is how easy these are to clean out.  There’s something about size and height of the spigot hole that just seems to make it easy.  To illustrate this, I had my son run a timer.  That timer started after I removed the spigot and got the hose and got the hose turned on.  I did not wait for trub to drain out of the fermenter.  I quickly took off the spigot, grabbed the hose and turned it on.  It took 20.15 seconds to go from the picture above to…

cln_img_4364You can see that it is nearly clean.  There is some stuff sticking to the walls toward the top of the fermenter.  It’s not completely ready for PBW and it’s not what I would normally do.  I was going for speed.  I would have taken another 30 or 45 seconds and sprayed the rest out.  My point is that it’s easy.

sidebysideSide by side

cln_img_4374After rinsing out the Speidel, I put the solid cap on the spigot hole and fill with hot water and PBW.

cln_img_4385The 7.9 Gallon Speidel with hot PBW solution soaking in it.  I’ll let this sit for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight.  A quick drain and rinse and the fermenter is good to go.  I’ve never scrubbed the inside of these with anything.

cln_img_4260

If you’re a Marks Keg and Carboy Washer owner or prospective owner and wonder if this fits on that, the answer is… yes.  It’s not like cleaning a bucket, standard fermenter or keg in that I would feel comfortable walking away.  The openings (both 5.3 and 7.9 gallon versions) are large enough to sit on top, but not so large that I would trust them to be stable on their own.  So, plan on staying close.  As illustrated, it’s a breeze to clean this thing without the Keg and Carboy Washer, but the two do work together.

Some Benefits of Speidel Fermentation Tanks (via product description):

  • High quality, German manufactured.
  • Made of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
  • Heavy duty and much thicker than traditional plastic carboys
  • Oversized top opening makes for easy cleaning.
  • Integrated spigot
  • All connections have o-rings to insure you have no liquid or gas leaks.
  • Integrated handles for easily moving these around.
  • Unlike traditional carboys, these will not shatter.
  • High density construction is highly resistant to oxygen ingress, making these suitable for longer term (up to 12 month) use.
  • Up to 31.7 gallons

I have bought my 5.3 gallon Speidel back in October of 2011.  It’s a great fermenter.  Quality construction and a great set of features that make easy work of the job of fermentation, transfer and clean up.  The 7.9 gallon version is nearly identical, with the exception of capacity.

Speidel Fermenters are available in 12L (3.2 gal) 20L (5.3 gal), 30L (7.9 gal),  60L (15.9 gal), and 120L (31.7 gal) sizes.  A selection of Accessories and Replacement Gaskets is also available.

From HBF Readers:  

Ronnie: These are the best! Having gone from bucket to glass carboy to better bottles to the 15.9 speidel, the speidel tops them all. Easy to clean and cheap!

Facebook Friend Sean: Speidel fermenters are AWESOME!! Thanks for posting those.

Google+ Friend Kyle: Mine is full right now! Love this fermenter, no more differences in flavor because I had to split my batch to ferment. Easy open top makes is a breeze to clean. Should be on every homebrewers wish list. 

Facebook Friend Tim:  I have of the 7.8L Speidel fermenters and I love them, simply the best for the money!

Muncie : I have the 30L and it is my “go to” fermenter. Just a great product. No need for a blow off tube for this 5 and 6 gallon batches.

Anonymous: I have the 60L and it is awesome. Very high quality and easy to use / clean. The handles are sturdy even completely full, but if you do fill it up all the way, be prepared to get a friend to help you move it.

Tony: Gotta pipe in on these. I have the 20L and 60L tanks. The quality is high. They come with a bung and airlock made for these larger tanks. They also have spigots and big lids to make cleaning a snap.  The spigot on the 20 is about 1 1/2 inches above the bottom of the tank. On the 60 it is closer to 3″. This allows for transfers with the spigot without pulling in too much of the yeast cake.  I just line up the spigot and pour directly into my keg. No hoses, siphons, funnels, etc. Easy.  The handles are great. You can lift the huge 60L one alone, but it’s really heavy, even with only 11 gallons… there’s lots of room for more, so you could easily make a 12 gallon batch in there too without needing a blowout tube.  Headroom is great on these. With the 20L, it has room for the 5.5 gallon batches I make, and I have no issues with blow-outs, even with big IPAs. NOTE: I do use defoamer, which I think helps a lot. On the 60L, there’s tons of room above an 11 gallon batch. My current batch of amber ale had only about 2 inches of foam and another 6″ of headspace.  There are other cheaper options, and you can find nice HDPE tanks on ebay that are similar, but they won’t have it all together, purpose built like these.

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A First Look at M-80 IPA

cln_img_4088

I received a recent More Beer order yesterday afternoon.  That order included the all grain version of More Beer’s newer M-80 IPA.  That recipe features American Pale Malt, Crystal 15, Columbus for bittering, followed by Simcoe, more Columbus, more Simcoe and a generous dose of Centennial for dry hopping.  I’m using WLP-001.  More Beer’s recipes also come with Priming Sugar, and a Whirlfloc tablet.

The directions call for three medium sizes oranges to be added a couple of days into fermentation.  That’s both the zest and the fruit (discarding as much of the pith as possible).  Sounds delicious to me.

From the beer description: “… Because of the similarity of hops, one MoreBeer! staffer dubbed it a mini “Pliny The Elder... but with orange”. High praise indeed.”

M-80 was designed by fellow homebrewer Carlos Musquez.  Carlos is also a graphic designer and designed matching labels to go along with M-80.

M-80 is available in both All Grain and Extract Versions

Limited time March Pump Sale at MoreBeerLimited Time: 20% Off March High Flow Pump - Use promo code PUMPITUP20

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MoreBeer! Picks:

First Looks: The Brew Bag – Purpose Made BIAB + Sticker Collection Update

 Update: The full Hands on Review has been completed.  Check that out – Here

cln_img_2314

The Brew Bag is a Made in the USA, purpose designed BIAB bag.  It has four loops for lifting the bag out of your kettle, every seam is reinforced for long life and it is available in a number of sizes for kettles, keggles and coolers.  If they don’t carry the size you want, The Brew Bag will custom make it for you.

I’ve been using The Brew Bag myself.  Here is a quick first look…

cln_img_2283I’m using the 30-42 Quart Size for my 10 gallon kettle.

cln_img_2846cln_img_2846A look at one of the handles and the tag

cln_img_2299A close up of one of the reinforced corners.  Every seam is reinforced.

cln_img_2309The bag hanging by all four handles from my Bulldog Ultimate Pegboard

cln_img_2287I received a sticker with my bag

cln_img_2385Now is as good of time as any for a sticker collection update.  My recent attendance at NHC helped to significantly bolster the collection.  Yes, I am a grown man and have a sticker collection.  I also recently ordered an Army Man Bottle Opener.  At least this is all beer related, that makes it okay… right?

cln_img_2351So you can get an idea of the material mesh, here is a picture of the bag on top of the included sticker.  Click to enlarge.

cln_img_2342For comparison, here is the mesh of a paint strainer bag that I had been using for BIAB.  Click to enlarge.

cln_img_2314Installed in my Blichmann G1 BoilerMaker Kettle.  If you’re interested in a First Generation Blichmann, now is the time to pick one up… Limited Supply on G1 Kettles

cln_img_2320Inside view installed in my Blichmann 10 gallon kettle.

Features (from brewinabag.com):

  • Use again and again – not a throw-away bag
  • 1″ polypropylene straps for easy pick up using your hands or a pulley and hook
  • Seams are on the outside – no particulates get trapped in the bag
  • Use it as your hop bag – but it must be suspended above the kettle bottom
  • The straps cover the seams and bear the strain on every use – this bag will last and last
  • Holds over 100 pounds of grain
  • Hand wash and drip dry

The Brew Bag is available in a variety of sizes for kettles, keggles and coolers.  If they don’t have the size you’re looking for, they will custom make it based on your needs.

Check it out – Here

Pinned: Pellet Hops from $10.59 *The Brew Bag BIAB *IPA Glasses *Boilermaker G2

Recent Finds:

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Hands On: Captain Crush, Adjustable Three Roller Grain Mill – Including Mash Tests

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Here is a Hands on Review of Northern Brewer’s Captain Crush, 3 Roller Grain Mill.  It includes thoughts about the mill, photos of the mill in action and a crush/mash trial.

The Captain Crush Grain Mill


The box.  It’s large.


Not only is it large, it’s heavy.  My Ultraship 55 (usually my grain scale - Review) shows a whopping 21 lbs 7 ounces.


Over half of that weight is the roller mill assembly itself.


Top of the mill

 
Bottom of the mill


Base.  The circular pieces in the middle are designed to fit nicely on a bucket.


Assembled.  This mill is huge and it looks cool.


Profile view

 
One of the nice things about the Captain Crush are the easy adjustment knobs.  You can change settings quickly and without tools.  The current setting is NB’s recommended “optimal setting”.  Also notice the drill connection shaft toward the top left of the mill body.

 
Installed on a bucket.

 
The base fits perfectly inside this 5 gallon bucket.

 
Front view

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For size comparison side by side vs my Barley Crusher Grain Mill

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Profile view compared with the Barley Crusher.  As you can see the Captain Crush Mill is considerably larger.

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Top down view vs Barley Crusher

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The official size of Captain Crush’s Hopper is 11 lbs.  I’ve found that it can hold at least that much.  This picture shows the vast majority of the malt bill for 1 Hour IPA – continuously hopped IPA.  The malt bill for that is 13 lbs.  The hopper is holding just under 12 lbs… 11 lbs 14 oz.

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Front View

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A picture of the crush

Mash Trials:
These are side by side mash tests using the Captain Crush Mill on “optimal” setting vs store crushed grain.  The Rahr 2 Row both milled and unmilled were sourced at a reputable local homebrew shop.  Note that it did not come from Northern Brewer.  To produce as consistent results as possible, I measured everything (water and grain) in grams to the nearest single gram.

Procedure:

  1. Weigh 906 grams (1.997 lbs) of grain
  2. Weigh 2,715 grams of strike water (.717 gallons)
  3. Heat up strike water to 162 deg F.  Overheat by a degree or so and then stir back down to temperature.  It’s easier to hit a stable temp going down vs hitting it going up.
  4. While strike water is heating pre-heat mash tun with 1/2 gallon of 212 deg F water.
  5. Place grain (inside of bag) in cooler.
  6. Add strike water.
  7. Stir and record temperature.
  8. Mash for 60 minutes.
  9. Drain first runnings.
  10. Grain back in mash tun.
  11. Add 1,884 grams (.497 gallons) of 212 deg F water to the grain and stir.  I normally would not sparge with boiling water.  I used boiling water to take one more variable out of the equation.
  12. Drain second runnings.  Let grain bag sit on strainer for 5 minutes.
  13. Record volume and gravity.

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Each test used 906 grams (1.997 lbs) of grain

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Each Test used 2,715 grams of strike water (.717 gallons).  For some reason I didn’t use the tare feature when I weighed the water.  The pitcher ways 547 grams.  That makes the water 2,715 grams.

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This 2 Gallon Rubbermaid Cooler Served as a Mash Tun.  I used a paint straining bag to contain the grain.  This process worked pretty well.  This would be good equipment and technique to use for small batch all grain brews.  For consistency, I pre-heated the cooler prior to placing grain and strike water into it.

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A 5 gallon paint straining bag contained the grain.

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My Thermapen reading mash temperature.  The temperatures of each trial mash were close but not identical.  One read 151.5 deg F, the other read 152 deg F.  I consider that to be within the limits of what I can test and produce in my kitchen.

Results Store Milled:

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Store Milled Grain

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Collected Wort.  With the help of an on-screen ruler, I’m going to estimate this at .859 gallons collected.  That means that .355 gallons were absorbed.  Making the absorption rate for this grain and crush .177 gallons/lb.

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My Atago Pal-1 Digital Refractometer reads 10 Brix.  That’s on OG of 1.040.  Rahr 2 Row should provide 37 points per lb.  That means there are a total of 74 points in the two lbs of grain I used.  .859 gallons of 1.040 wort comes out to a total of 34.375 points or an efficiency of 46.4%.  That’s low.  Although, the point of this particular experiment is to compare two grinds, not to measure the efficiency of one technique vs another.

Results Captain Crush Milled:

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Milled Grain

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Collected Wort.  I’m going to estimate this at .875 gallons collected.  That means that .339 gallons were absorbed.  Making the absorption rate for this grain and crush .170 gallons/lb.

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My Atago Pal-1 Digital Refractometer reads 13.2 Brix.  That’s on OG of 1.053.  Rahr 2 Row should provide 37 points per lb.  That means there are a total of 74 points in the two lbs of grain I used.  .875 gallons of 1.053 wort comes out to a total of 46.375 points or an efficiency of 62.6%.  Again, the point of this particular experiment is to compare two grinds, not to measure the effectiveness of a particular set of equipment or technique.


Store Milled Grain (left) vs Captain Crush Mill using “optimal” setting (right). Click to zoom.

Mash Test Conclusion:

  1. The store Milled Grain I used produced an efficiency of 46.4% vs an efficiency of 62.6% when using the “optimal” setting on the Captain Crush.  That’s a comparative improvement of 34.9%.
  2. The Captain Crush’s “optimal setting” produces a great crush.
  3. Grain crush is a big part of efficiency.  Store crushed grain can be on the under crushed side.  Some stores do this to help prevent stuck sparges.  That’s a valid strategy and it may be way you want.
  4. If you are looking for more control over your mash milling your own grain provides you with quite a bit more control.  It also allows you to buy grain in bulk and crush right before brewing.  That preserves freshness and leads to better tasting beer.

The Captain Crush is a solid grain mill.  It has a good capacity, produces a great crush on the optimal setting and can easily be adjusted.

Check it out - Captain Crush Grain Mill

Also note that the full product manual is available on the “Additional Info” tab of the product page.

Also Consider:

801121-2Great Prices on Bags of Malt