Category Archives: Tips

RiteBrew – Getting Fresh Yeast and Ingredients & Discounted Shipping

cln_ritebrewyeast

I just placed an order at RiteBrew for a few odds and ends I need to gear up for brewing season.  I got some keg QDs, Some Omega Yeast Vermont Double IPA, an 8 lb tub of PBW, some Star San and a couple of RiteBrew’s Kits that I want to try – Pliny Double IPA and Centennial IPA.

RiteBrew does a few things that really impress me with regards to freshness.  I’ve talked about some of those before… 1. Fresh Wyeast Pre-Orders, 2. They have a tendency clearance yeast that is close to it’s expiration date in their Bargain Bin and 3. “Packed On” dates for their recipe kits.

I noticed a new one when checking out this afternoon… During checkout you’re given the opportunity to have the order held over a weekend of holiday.  That’s brilliant and addresses a big problem.  When orders are packed right before a weekend or holiday, shipping time is extended.  This option helps you avoid yeast sitting in a hot (or cold) delivery truck during transit longer than necessary.

ritebrew shipping discount

Discount shipping.  RiteBrew discounts shipping charges by $5 when you place an order of $75 or more.  That applies automatically at checkout.

Visit RiteBrewRecent RiteBrew Finds

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Also from RiteBrewRecipe Kits from… $14.29 · Omega Yeast – Vermont DIPA – Conan, Heady Topper & More · Universal Poppets… $2.39 · Vanilla Beans · Great Prices on CO2 Manifolds · 8 LBs of PBW – $5.30/lb · Great Prices on Bags of Malt · Fresh Wyeast Pre-Order · Bargain Bin

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Update: PBW Price Comparisons and Buying Guidance

PBW – Powder Brewery Wash is my go-to brewery cleaner. It is a non-hazardous buffered alkaline brewery cleaner and it.. works great.

Using the Spray Bottle Method for Star San means that I use so little Star San that it’s really not even worth price comparing.  I have used the same bottle of Star San, literally, for years.

Not so with PBW.  This is something that I go through relatively quickly.  Under the premise of “buy things in bulk, that you use in bulk” I thought I’d do some price comparisons.

First observation… Buy the bigger sizes (4 lb+).  Never buy the 2 ounce size of PBW.  It’s not even close to enough for one batch of beer.  I’m not including it in the results here, but, you can pay $20 per lb for this size.  I’m not even sure why they make it.  I guess as a sample.  Similarly, the 1 lb size doesn’t make a lot of sense at up to $10 per lb and is not included in this post.

A note about shipping fees.  If free shipping at a certain threshold is available, shipping costs are considered $0.  It’s more difficult to consider calculated and flat rate shipping.  $7.95 flat rate shipping could ship a bunch of stuff, so it doesn’t seem fair to include that entire cost in this comparison.  I’ve divided those figures in half.  50% of flat rate shipping fees are used when flat rate is available.  Calculated shipping is even trickier.  It doesn’t seem right to attribute the entire cost to a single PBW purchase.  Shippers have minimum shipping costs.  You may pay close to the same amount for two of something as for one.  To try and account for that, calculated shipping (in all but one case – as noted) is based on the average of shipping two items.  Cost = shipping for two containers of PBW divided by two.  Note that if shipping fees are calculated, they should be considered an estimate.  I can’t figure these for your location.  Check the retailer for actual shipping cost to you.

Results – 18 Offerings:

Quick Picks:

  • If you’ve got the budget or can go in on a group buy, one of the 50 lb offerings makes the most sense.
  • If you’re not ready to spend $160+ on PBW, at an estimated $5.66 per lb, RiteBrew’s 8 lb offering is a great choice.

Some Take-Aways:

  1. Retailers that charge calculated shipping have minimum shipping/processing thresholds.  Consider placing a larger order to offset that minimum.  Other items may ship for free or not much more.  Along the same lines, take advantage of sellers free or flat rate shipping offers.  Just get ingredients for your next batch or two.
  2. Never buy the 2 oz size of PBW.  If homebrew dentists existed… this size would be a free giveaway after you went to the homebrewing dental hygienist for your regular whatever-those-people-would-do.  Along those lines, the 1 lb size should also be skipped.
  3. Buy the largest size of PBW your budget allows for.
  4. Don’t disregard sellers that charge calculated shipping prices, with regards to cost… It’s the total to your door that matters.
  5. Shop around.  Prices change, sometimes quickly.  With calculated shipping cost sellers, your cost will vary based on your location in relationship to the retailer.

Update: Kegerator Beer Line Temperatures & Reducing Foam with a Recirculating Fan

I have what I would call a reasonably well put together and balanced kegerator.  In spite of that, for years, I have dealt with the dreaded first foamy pint of beer.  After that, the beer pours great.  That is until a significant delay between pours – overnight or a few hours..

The cause of the problem is pretty clear.  Heat rises.  That means the top of your kegerator is going to be warmer than the bottom of your kegerator.  That warmer beer foams when it comes out.  The faucet and shank are also warmer.  That warmth adds to the problem.

How much is the temperature variance?  Of course, this will vary from setup to setup and climate to climate.  I was relatively shocked by the temperature difference in my own kegerator.

img_temps

The top reading about mid keg and the bottom reading is the top the top of my beer lines.  These are about 22″ apart.  This graph shows a point in time variance between the two of 14.9 degrees F.   My beer is about the temperature I want it, but the top of my serving line is much warmer.  That difference in temperature causes the first pint to have too much foam.  Pours that happen soon after the first are fine.  The tubing, shank and beer are relatively cool.

cln_img_5476The setup.  I have two temperature probes in my kegerator.  One is zip-tied to the top of a beverage line.  The other is zip-tied to a can of beer.  That’s how I have kept the probe in my kegerator for a long time with the thinking that the mass of the can of beer will help to stabilize temperature readings and give overall stable and accurate readings.  That can is sitting on the compressor hump of my Kenmore Deep Freeze (8.8 Cu ft Model 16932, out of production).  That puts it about mid keg.

cln_img_5457I placed the fan on my CO2 tank, leaning up against a keg.  Yes, you will notice that there’s no beer in the keg.  That keg was formerly filled with 1 Hr IPA and I’m sad it’s gone.  More Beer’s M-80 IPA is in the fermenter now, with RiteBrew’s Amarillo HopBurst on deck.

61hCqLgiTAL__SL1500_I used AC Infinity’s Pre-Wired LS8038A-X 115 Volt AC Fan, because it is reasonably priced, gets great reviews and it’s already setup to use AC.  I will say… My guess is that the manufacturer would not recommend this application.  If you decide to do something similar, proceed as you see fit.  I’m only telling you what I am doing myself.

Results…

img_kegerator

This graph illustrates the effects of adding the recirculation fan inside of my kegerator.  Prior to the fan, the tubing temperature spiked to around 55.4 deg F.  After the deep freeze kicked on, the tubing dropped to around 53.15 deg F.  Not a big change.  That averages out to 54.275 deg F.

You can see the point in this graph where the fan is turned on.  The temperature drops sharply.  The new is high 47.3 deg F and the new low is 42.13 deg F for an average of 44.715 deg F.

Before – Avg Tubing Temp = 54.275, Avg Mid Keg Temp = 38.83, Dif = 15.445 deg F

After – Avg Tubing Temp = 44.715, Avg Mid Keg Temp = 38.89, Dif = 5.825 deg F

The recirculation fan dropped my tubing temperature by 9.62 deg F (62%).  Practically speaking, that difference is enough to make every pint pour right.  My first pint pours correctly… I like that!

More photos…

cln_img_5467A look down.  You can see my Eva Dry E-500 (Hands on Review) standing by taking care of condensation.  I’ve heard from others that a recirculation fan makes the Eva Dry work even better.  My kegerator has remained dry (with the help of the Eva Dry) since installing the fan.

cln_img_5480A look down my collar.  As you can see, I’m no wood worker.  Having said that, I spent a lot of time working on the fit and finish of this collar.  The end result was good.  If you let the deep freeze door fall shut the resulting noise, sounds like a factory seal sort of thump.  I did put weather stripping on the bottom to seal between the collar and the deep freeze.  Adding insulation to the collar would, presumably, also help maintain temperatures and reduce foaming.

Reader Feedback:  Google+ Friend Justin Says: “I use the same fan in my keezer and it works great.”

img_purchdateUpdate: As of July 2015 my same fan continues to work great.  It has been running continuously in my kegerator for over a year straight.

AC Infinity LS8038A-X Standard Cooling Fan, 115V AC 80mm by 80mm by 38mm Low Speed

Related: Tips & Gear for your Kegerator · Balancing Your Draft System · Temp Probe Placement

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Tip: Using a Pedal Foot Switch for Easy Pump Operation

MLCS 9089 Billy Pedal Foot Switch, 2 Step ON-OFF Continuous Running

I use this on/off foot pedal foot switch for easy, hands free control of my March Pump while brewing.  I’ve used the same one since of March of 2011 and it works great.  I keep it at the base of my Blichmann TopTier, relatively close to where my pump sits.  One foot press turns the pump on or off.

MLCS 9089 Billy Pedal Foot Switch, 2 Step ON-OFF Continuous Running

I use my March pump for: recirculating my mash, transferring from mash tun to brew kettle, chilling using a recirculating immersion chiller and transferring to my fermenter.

Always be cautious when using your pump with hot liquids and read and follow manufacturers directions.

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(12) Half Liter Lab Bottles

Bel-Art 106310007 Scienceware Polypropylene Precisionware Narrow-Mouth Autoclavable Bottle with 38mm Closure, 500ml Capacity, Pack of 12

(12) half liter/500 ml lab Bottles by Bel-Art.  Narrow mouth.  Bottle is made from polypropylene.  Can withstand boiling and be sterilized by autoclave.  Solvent resistant.  Screw cap features deep threads to prevent spills and evaporation losses.

Uses include: Yeast rehydration, yeast washing and slurry storage. Also an easy vessel for making and storing sanitized water and collecting brew day wort samples.  I use similar containers to rehydrate yeast.  Check out Tip 1 on our Tips Page for more info on that.

Bel-Art 106310007 Scienceware Polypropylene Precisionware Narrow-Mouth Autoclavable Bottle with 38mm Closure, 500ml Capacity, Pack of 12

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BIAB Brew Day Spreadsheet – Water Calculations + Narrative Directions

Brew in a Bag (BIAB) is a quick, easy and economical way to brew all grain batches of beer.  I released my brew day spreadsheet some time ago along with a version of that to be used for small batch beers.  See below for links.  Either of those could be modified to work with BIAB by changing variables,  This version is specifically designed for full size BIAB batches.  Related: Hands on Review: The Brew Bag – Purpose Made BIAB

How do I use brew day spreadsheets?  First, I do use recipe formulation software.  Some of those programs have brew day components.  I’ve just never gotten into using those features.  For better or worse, I use a spreadsheet.  I make a copy and name it using the batch number and beer name and then quickly plug in the basics.  This creates a one sheet printable page that I can use on brew day.  That gives me a single piece of paper with all of my numbers and a spot for brew day notes.  Notes can go back into the spreadsheet for archival.

Brew Day Sheet (click to enlarge):

homebrew brew in a bag biab spreadsheetThis is the main sheet where you will fill in information about your beer and your mash parameters.

Color Coding: Green Cells are information that you can fill in and Blue/Light Gray Cells are calculated.

General Layout and Flow: Start with Beer Name, Brew Date, Batch Number and 1:Beer Info.  Fill in current grain temp under 2:Strike Water Temperature and step by step directions are populated under 3:BIAB Directions.  Constants on the right hand can be set once for your setup and adjusted as needed.  The bottom section of this sheet contains three calculators explained below.

1:Beer Info: Basic information about your beer and mash profile.

 “Reserve (gallons)” B12 Cell: Allows you to set aside a set number of gallons for sparge, dunking, topping off, etc.  This is subtracted from the total strike water value.  It is assumed that you will add or use this at some point.

“Mash Volume – Can I mash it?”: This field estimates total mash volume including grain and water.  This is an estimate.  The cell turns red if the projected volume of your mash exceeds the size of your mash tun.  This is an adaptation of the formula found on the Green Bay Rackers Calculators Page.

2:Strike Water Temp: Fill in the Beer Info section and your Grain’s current Temperature (cell B5) and the spreadsheet calculates your strike water temperature (cell B6).  Note that the temperature will be offset by the “Undershoot Mash Temp” (cell H7).  Read the constants section for more info on that.

Strike Water Volume: Calculates the amount of water you will need in both quarts and gallons.

Volume Needed – Start of Boil and 15 Minutes Remaining: These sections list required water volume at two important times.  The 15 minute calculation attempts to take into account expansion of wort at boiling.  Take a measurement at 15 minutes and use this figure to correct a low volume.

Constants: The constants section has some variables that you can adjust based on your setup.  For example, I’ve found that grain absorption for my crush is right around .11 gallons/lb.  I think that will be close for you but you can tweak it here if you observe something different.

A note on “Undershoot Mash Temp” – This cell allows you to come in under your desired mash temp.  Why would you want to do that?  It’s easier to ramp up a degree or two vs cool down a degree or two.  This number is subtracted from the calculated Strike Water Temperature recommendation (cell B6).

I suggest reviewing the Constants section to make adjustments for your setup.

3: BIAB Directions: These are narrative step-by-step directions that you can follow after you fill in Beer Info, Grain Temp and Constants.  Note that you can use the table from the “Summary Tab” for on the go adjustments to the strike temp referenced in step 1.

Calculators – The bottom three sections of this tab are calculators.  These calculators can pull from cells in the top portion of the tab, but they do not affect 3:BIAB Directions.

Gravity: This is an adaption of Sean Terrill’s Refractometer Calculator (used by permission).  Thanks Sean for your excellent work on this!

Efficiency: This calculation uses your recipe software’s efficiency setting for a particular recipe along with target gravity to figure efficiency.  That means no re-entering fermentables for every batch.  I figure efficiency when going from the mash tun to the boil kettle.  This is a calculator in the sense that it is standalone and has no bearing on other calculations or cells.

Anytime Gravity Estimate and Correction:  Plug in volume, boil time and gravity figures at any time during your brew day and this calculator will suggest volume and gravity corrections.  Accepts either gravity or Brix (if both are present the Brix value is used).  If you are under volume, I would suggest correcting volume and then re-checking gravity.  This calculator makes no attempt to correct volumes or gravities that are too high.

Summary Sheet (click to enlarge):BIAB Water Calculation Spreadsheet Homebrew

This is setup to print on a regular 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper and gives a rundown of essential brew day tasks and data.  I use this print out on brew day.

Prepare:  This is a simple to do checklist.  You can modify this section as you see fit based on your procedure.

Water Volumes/Gravity:  This projects the volume and gravity you should have at three stages (start of boil, 15 minutes remaining and end of boil).  The last two columns (lb DME/pt and grams) are meant to allow you to easily correct your gravity at those stages.  Each of those amounts should add 1 gravity point to your beer.  Let’s say you’re three points down at the start of the boil.  With the example in this graphic, you would add .42 lbs of DME to correct the gravity of the 6 gallon batch.  Bam… that’s easy!

Hop/Adjunct Schedule: You can choose either grams or ounces.  If you choose ounces it will also be converted to grams.

Strike Temp:  This is a table version of the calculated strike temp found on the brew day sheet.  The initial temperature can be changed.  This changes subsequent values.  If you’re using a summary printout, you can measure the temp of your grain and refer to this chart for the appropriate strike temp.

Log and Notes Sheet (click to enlarge):homebrewing excel spreadsheet

Log: This section is meant to log actions taken on the beer (fermentation temp changes, dry hopping, oak additions, etc).  It calculates the time that has elapsed since brew day, between actions and since the action took place.

Notes: Simple notes section.

Download
This is a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet.  I would suggest running this through your previous calculation methods to double check that all this makes sense for you and to verify constants.  I don’t want you coming back to me and complaining the your double IPA is a Pale Ale because of me. :)

Homebrew Finds BIAB Spreadsheet

If you have a question or suggestion for the spreadsheet, send me an email.

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Tip: Rubbermaid Commercial Bus Tubs for Brew Day

Bus Tubs Homebrew

Bus Tubs for Brew Day – A bus tub with a Rubbermaid Commercial High Temp Pitcher and my Brew Day Whisk.  Taken while brewing Brain Eater Pale Ale,

I use two of these on brew day and I find them invaluable.  I use them to cart around brew gear and ingredients – saving trips back and forth and time.

As brew day starts, I’ll keep a dry/clean bus tub and a wet/needs to be cleaned bus tub.  Having two helps me keep clean things clean.  That means less unnecessary cleaning.

If I’m using my pump, I’ll keep one below that.  It catches drips and also offers a place to store wet items such as stirring spoons, mash paddles, my mash stirring whisk and my equally invaluable 1 gallon pitchers.

Rubbermaid Commercial Products FG335100GRAY 7-1/8-Gallon Gray Undivided Bus/Utility Box

If you have a Sam’s Club membership, some clubs carry these or similar at a good price – check here – for availability and pricing.

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