Category Archives: Tips

Loose Handle Pin Lock Kegs – $27.99

Loose Handle Pin Lock Keg

Adventures in Homebrewing has loose handle (or bottom) Pin lock kegs on sale for $27.99.

Check out our Tips Page (#19) for one readers technique on repairing loose keg handles and bases.

Loose Handle/Bottom Pin Lock keg w/Lid – $27.99

More Keg and Draft Finds from AIH…

RelatedBulk Keg Orings and Keg Repair Part Numbers

Also ConsiderPicoBrew Zymatic Automated Electric Brew House Deal

Also from AIH… over 70 sale items including Perlick Faucets, Deals on kegs – new and used, pin lock and ball lock, recipe kits, kettles, pumps, jockey boxes, grain mill, taps, tower

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Oven Glove – for Minding Yeast Starters

Designed to protect your hand from hot items near the stove, oven or grill.  It is made with with Kevlar® & Nomex® by DuPont.  Works on left or right hands and features silicone grips.

I use an Ove Glove when I’m making yeast starters in an Erlenmeyer Flask.  It’s really handy (pun intended) to swirl around the flask or to quickly remove to keep the flask from boiling over.  No reaching for a pot holder because I already have the Ove Glove on.

These are also handy on brew day for handling hot (but not wet) ball valves and such.

These are not waterproof. Along those lines, I wouldn’t suggest that you stick your hand in hot wort with one of these on. Or, without one of these on for that matter. I guess the take away here is… don’t stick your hand in hot wort. :)

The Oven Glove – Hot Surface Handler

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Putting Together a “Brew Day Box”

Why a Brew Day Box?
Over the years I’ve homebrewed, I’ve utilized a number of storage/organization strategies.  Some could be defined less as strategies and more as “piles”.  These strategies have ranged from, cardboard boxes, to big totes that I threw everything under the sun into to using smaller shoe box size containers and breaking everything out into categories.  The shoe box size organization method has worked well and other than a few large totes for bigger items, it’s what I’m currently using.  At some point after going to that, I realized that when brew day rolled around, I had to collect items from a number of these containers.  I usually forgot something and had to look around, multiple times per brew day trying to find whatever I lacked.  That evolved into putting together a container just for brew days.  I cleverly :) call that my Brew Day Box.  This container houses nearly all the small odds and ends that I use when brewing.  I’ve also tried to make sure those things don’t really need removed at other times.  For example I use a refractometer regularly, not just on brew day, so… I bought another refractometer.  It took a while to get there, but, for the most part things in my Brew Day Box stay there.  This keeps everything in one place and I’m not wasting time trying to find stuff when I should be brewing.

What’s in the Box?

1.  Five Stainless Steel 2.75 ounce Prep Cups from Crate and Barrel – Here

Stock Image

These cups are from Crate and Barrel.  I use them for portioning hops and other boil additions.  I used to use larger cups from Ikea.  Those were okay, but they were too bulky.  I like these stainless cups a lot.  They are a great size and they nest to save space in the box.

Stainless Steel Small 2.5″ Condiment-Prep Cup

2.  500 mL Polypropylene Lab Containers from Bel-Art – Here

This 500 mL lab grade bottle is safe at boiling temps, it’s also autoclave and microwave friendly.  I use this container for rehydrating yeast.  Check out the Tips Page (tip #1) for my technique on that.  I use dry yeast enough that I wanted this in my brew day box.  My brew day refractometer also fits in this, so it saves some space and protects that piece of equipment.

I bought 12 of these in early 2011 and I’m still using the first one (in June of 2013).

Bel-Art 106320007 Scienceware Polypropylene Precisionware Wide-Mouth Autoclavable Bottle with 53mm Closure, 500ml Capacity, Pack of 12

3.  An inexpensive lighter from the dollar store

4.  Teflon Tape for weldless fittings

5.  A pair of Messermeister Take-Apart Scissors – Here

These are take-apart for easy cleaning and sanitizing

They also have a handy bottle opener

These get great reviews from a number of sources.  They have worked great for me.  Check out my Hands on Review – Here

Messermeister 8-Inch Take-Apart Kitchen Scissors

6.  A CDN DTQ450X Quick Read Thermometer – Here

This is a great brewing thermometer.  Check out my Hands on Review – Here

CDN DTQ450X ProAccurate Quick-Read Thermometer

7. KitchenArt Adjustable Tablespoon – Here

I use a measuring spoon for measuring yeast nutrient additions and other boil additions.  This is another space saver.  I wanted to easily fit everything in one shoe size box.  At one point, I kept an entire set of measuring spoons in the box.  This replaced that whole set.

KitchenArt Plastic Adjust-a-Tablespoon, White

8.  FastWeigh MS-500 Gram Scale – Here

This Top Find Gram Scale is great for measuring hops and other boil additions.  I’ve found it to be very accurate and it’s a great size.  Check out my Hands on Review – Here.

Fast Weigh MS-500-BLK Digital Pocket Scale, 500 by 0.1 G

9.  Taylor 5849 Quad Timer and Whiteboard – Here
This allows me to time up to four hop additions and also has a handy white board for noting what hops go in when.

Taylor 5849 Quad Kitchen Timer with Whiteboard

10.  Leatherman Wingman Multi Tool – Here

Another great bang for the buck with regards to space.  This thing is really well made and includes lots of features including pliers, wire cutters a knife, screwdrivers, a bottle opener and lots more.  Made in the US. Check out my Hands on Review – Here.

Leatherman 831426 Wingman Multi-Tool

11. Dual Scale Refractometer – Here

Refractometers use a sample size of just a few drops and can be used to measure gravity throughout the brewing process.  Check out Northern Brewer’s Priming Sugar Calculator for an easy way to estimate after fermentation begins.

Economic Beer Wort and Wine Refractometer, Dual Scale – Specific Gravity and Brix

12. Irwin 9 in 1 Multi-Tool Screwdriver – Here

Stock Photo


9 Functions


Disassembled


The nut driver works on all of my worm type tubing clamps

This is a handy screwdriver that gives you a lot of functions for the space.

IRWIN 2051100 9-in-1 Multi-Tool Screwdriver

13.  Rubbermaid Box – 10 Packs – Single

I have dozens of these boxes.  I like this specific model because: 1. The sides are clear.  That makes it easy to see what’s inside.  2. The lids are easy to snap on and take off. and 3. They stack nicely on top of each other.

You may be able to find these in a local store for less.  I’ve bought some online and stumbled across them another time in a local store for a couple dollars each.

Rubbermaid 6.5 Quart Clever Store Non Latching Bins 10 PacksSingle

Top View – Everything Loaded in the Box


Front View


The lid snaps on easily

10 CC Syringes for Sanitzing – Sanitizing for Pennies a Batch

Why would these have anything to do with homebrewing, you ask?  Great question.  These are an easy way to measure 6 mL of Star San.  Put 6 mL of Star San in 1 gallon of distilled water and you’ve got sanitizing solution.  Fill up a spray bottle and you’re ready to sanitize for pennies a batch.  See: Tip: Using Star San In a Spray Bottle

Quantity 10 of 10 CC Syringes.  These do not have needles.  They do have Luer Lock Tips.  The syringes that I use for measuring Star San also have Luer Lock Tips.  There is no need to put anything on this connection.  You can draw Star San with the Luer Lock end.

10 cc/ml 10 pcs Syringe w/o Needles New Sterile Disposable Luer Lock Tip

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Update: My Brew Day Spreadsheet in Excel, Open Office and Google Docs

The spreadsheet is setup from my perspective, as a batch sparger.  Having said that, almost everything applies equally to a fly sparger with the possible exceptions of the computed mash ratio (more below), planning on a set volume of sparge water and the step by step batch sparge directions.

Brew Day Sheet (click to enlarge):
img_brewday

 This 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.

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

Mash Ratio Cells: Based on your beer parameters, the spreadsheet suggests a mash ratio (cell E12).  That ratio is designed to allow for no mash out water and should produce equal first and second runnings.  Should you want to override that, just fill in a mash ratio in the “Mash Ratio Manual” cell.

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).

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

Water Volume Summary: This double checks to make sure you’re mash parameters do not exceed the volume of water you practically have available.

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 “System Temp Adjustment”, Cell H7: this is the number of the degrees that my mash tun (a 10 gallon Rubbermaid Cooler) generally drops when I put hot water in it.  This gets added to the “Strike Temp” figure cell B6 so that I don’t have to preheat my mash tun to account for this loss.  If you want to figure this for your system, you can put in a typical amount of mash water at a typical (and known) mash temperature.  Wait a minute or two and measure the temperature.  Subtract that temperature from the start temperature and you should have a good value.  You can refine this over time based on your observations.  You can set this to 0 if you preheat your mash tun or if you have a direct fired mash tun.

I suggest reviewing the Constants section to make adjustments for your setup, paying special attention to the mash tun loss, mash tun size and system temp adjustment values.

Age: The age of your beer based on brew date.  Day, Month and Year are totals.  If you see 365 days, 12 months and 1 year, you’re beer is 1 year old.

Efficiency: This calculator is based on recipe or software efficiency.  I did that so I did not have to add up the potential fermentables for every batch.  I use Beersmith and have my efficiency set at 70%.  I figure efficiency when going from the mash tun to the boil kettle.

Conditional Formatting:  “Mash Out Water” turns red if there is any mash out water available.  I don’t usually do a mash out, so I want to know if any water is sitting here.  “Mash Ratio Effective” turns red if the computed value is overridden.  “Total Used Water” turns red if this value exceeds available water.  “Mash Volume – Can I mash it?” 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.

Batch Sparge Directions: These are narrative step-by-step directions that you can follow after you enter data for your brew day.

Summary Sheet (click to enlarge):Homebrewing Spreadsheet

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 do not, generally, open up a spreadsheet on brew day.  I use a print out of this sheet.

You can enter information about your starter and other hop, adjunct and miscellaneous additions.

Prepare:  This is a simple to do checklist.  The water amount figured here is rounded up based on your beer parameters.

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.

Downloads
I’m making both Excel and Open Office versions available to download.  I’ve only tested the Excel version, but I’ve had no complaints about the Open Office Version.  I would suggest running this through your previous calculation methods to double check that all this makes sense for you.  I don’t want you coming back to me and complaining the your double IPA is a Pale Ale because of me. :)

Microsoft Excel Version
Open Office Version
Google Docs Version (Thanks to HBF Reader Dan for this conversion!)

Select File > Download from the resulting page to download your chosen version.

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

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toppost:brewingspreadsheet

Guest Post: Blichmann BrewEasy Brew Day Tips

Blichmann BrewEasy

Many thanks to Dana via Great Fermentations for this special guest post!  Read more about Dana at the end of this post.

Getting the Most Out of Your Blichmann Brew Easy

Tips on Efficiency

The single most important factor in getting good efficiency on this system is pH! I highly recommend purchasing a digital pH meter. The strips simply are not accurate enough. A digital meter allows you to check your mash pH on the fly, and adjust to optimum levels for conversion. You will also have to purchase a set of water modifiers such as chalk, baking soda, epsom salts, phosphoric acid, etc, but they are inexpensive and critical for success in brewing on the BrewEasy, more so than any other system I know of. Information on water chemistry is readily available online or in books, and though it may seem daunting at first, it truly can be made simple.

For my process, I use the EZ Water Calculator spreadsheet, available free of charge. Bru’n Water is also another great water resource. If you have well water, you’ll have to have a sample of your water sent off to a lab for a brewing water analysis.  For me, I have city water, so I called my utilities department, spoke with the lab, and asked for a breakdown of our water chemistry here in the county.  This gives me a baseline set of value to input into the spreadsheet, and from there it’s just a matter of playing with the water modifier values to achieve the desired pH for your mash.  With this tool, you really don’t have to know much about the actual workings of water chemistry, as long as you have a few sets of numbers about your water. It is extremely important to have at least 100 ppm of Calcium in your mash water with the BrewEasy. Without going to in depth into water chemistry, the additional volume of water we use to mash with in this system gives your mash an increased buffering power. Extra Ca in your water will help counteract this.

Although it states this in your manual I feel like it’s worth noting again. Always rake the top 1/3 of your mash bed while mashing. I like to do this every 10 minutes or so.  It will reduce channeling, clumping, and temp gradients in your mash, which in turn will boost your efficiency a few points.

A very important step that is not highlighted very well in your manual: Do not forget to add a mash-out step. I raise the temperature of my mash to 172 degrees for 10 minutes after the mash.  This rest ensures conversion is complete, and will help greatly with your efficiency. You can gain one last little efficiency boost out of the BrewEasy by slowing your rate of drain into the brew kettle at the end of the mash. I do this by installing the smallest orifice that comes with the system after the mash-out step (0.5 GPM). This should be good for 2 or 3 efficiency points.

Tips on General Procedure

I heat all of my strike water to temperature in the bottom kettle before beginning any recirculation. You will inherently get heat loss in the tubing and pump when recirculating, so this just speeds your process up. If you have more total brewing water than the capacity of your brew kettle, which happens often on 15 gallon batches, add half the water volume to each kettle and recirculate up to strike temps without using an orifice. There is no need for an orifice during this step and it does nothing but slow the process down. I just mentioned 15 gallon batches. Yes, the 10 gallon BrewEasy can handle most 15 gallon batches. I have done several medium-gravity 15 gallon batches on my 10 gallon electric system with no issues at all.

Keep an eye on the sight-glass of your mash tun during the mash. It is the only way to tell you are experiencing or about to experience a stuck mash. If you see the level in the sight glass begin diving rapidly when recirculating, stop the pump, close the valves, and install a smaller orifice. This is a sign you are recirculating too fast and will soon have a painful stuck mash. Rice hulls can also be helpful in preventing a stuck mash, though I only use them in my pumpkin ale recipe, which calls for ingredients that are prone to sticking a mash.

Overshoot temps on controller! When performing a step mash, or even when raising temperatures for the mash-out step, the BrewEasy can be maddeningly slow to reach a uniform temperature throughout the system. You can set 172 on your tower of power, and within minutes the controller is reading 172 degrees.  But remember, the controller is reading the temperature of the wort at the outlet of the pump, which is coming directly from your brew kettle. In reality, this is nothing more than 172 degree wort that is slowly being trickled into your mash tun that is probably at 152 degrees.  So either one of two things will happen here. One, you will neglect to take an actual reading from your brewmometer and will trust your controller saying the system is at 172 degrees. This will likely cause you to never reach your target temp in the mash tun, and therefore sacrifice efficiency. Two, you recognize what is actually occurring, and wait for that 172 degree wort entering the tun to raise the mash to the proper temperature. This will add 30-60 minutes to your brew day (in the given example), and now we are starting to question why we bought a streamlined, time-saving brewery that saves us no time. The solution is simple: dial in a temperature into the controller which is 15-20 degrees higher than your target mash temperature when ramping up. If we change the example, and are now adding 192 degree wort to our 152 degree mash, to reach a target of 172, now we are in business. The actual temp of your mash will raise much quicker in this manner. When you see your mash tun brewmometer within 5 or so degrees of target, back your controller down to your target temp (172 in this case), and the temp of your mash tun should land squarely on 172, and you now will have a uniform temperature throughout the system.

The most important temperature reading device that came with your BrewEasy is the brewmometer in your top kettle. Because of the facts I just outlined, the digital controller temp cannot be relied on implicitly.  Only the brewmometer that is stuck right in the middle of your mash tun can be trusted to give you proper mash temps. Once the top and bottom kettle, and the controller are all reading the same temperature, you may then trust your Tower of Power, and make small tweaks with it. Anytime you begin the mash, or are ramping a temperature, always trust your brewmometer first. This being said, it is important to make sure your brewmometers are calibrated!

You will almost always need to add in a temperature offset to your controller to hold a desired temp. I have figured that my system heat loss is about 2-2.5 degrees. As such, if I want to hold my mash at 152, I will enter 154.5 in the controller. Experiment with your setup to figure out your offset number, as it will vary with climate and atmospheric conditions.

On chilling: This may be obvious to some, but if you are using a plate chiller and are not quite getting down to pitching temps, you can use your pump throttling valve to slow the rate of wort running through the plate chiller. This increases contact time and will net you a cooler wort-out temperature.  Here in Florida, my warm groundwater makes for a very slow pumping rate into my conical.

Tips on Setup & Cleaning

  • The BrewEasy can be cleaned in place by recirculating 180 degree PBW, just as you would recirculate during a mash.
  • Quick Disconnect fittings can be installed throughout the system to make your life even easier on brew day. They are especially helpful when cleaning a plate chiller, as they make for an easy back flush.
  • A Hop spider is almost necessary when using a plate chiller. It also makes for less sediment in your final product and much much easier cleanup of your BrewEasy.
  • To sanitize your plate chiller: Because storing starsan in your chiller/therminator is not recommended, I like to recirculate boiling wort out of the kettle, thru the chiller, and back into the kettle during the last 10 minutes of the boil.  This allows you to ensure your plate chiller will not infect your new batch.

Thanks for reading/watching.  This is simply some of my process on the BrewEasy, which I’ve brewed over 100 gallons on since receiving last September. I hope that some of this is helpful in improving your brew day. If you have any questions or comments, I can be reached at dana.messier at gmail dot com, danam404 on HomeBrewTalk, or @4dwm on Twitter.

Check out Blichmann BrewEasy Systems and Accessories at Great Fermentations

Related: All Blichmann Equipment • Replacement Parts

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Universal Poppets – $2.19 + Tip

843332 - Universal Poppet

Universal Poppets from RiteBrew

RiteBrew has Universal poppets for $2,19 each.  This is the best price I’m aware of for universal poppets.  Use to replace leaky gas and liquid poppets.  I use universal poppets exclusively when rebuilding kegs.

Tip: These fit the vast majority of kegs without issue.  I have had a couple kegs that ended up being a bit too tight with these.  It’s an easy fix.  Use a pair of wire cutters or Nipper Pliers to trim the universal poppet.  I suggest taking off about half of a coil and testing.  You want the QD to slide on easily and for it to reliably hold pressure when the QD is off.  Taking off a half of a coil and testing helps you make sure you don’t end up making the poppet too loose.

Check out Recent RiteBrew Finds along with the “picks” section below for more great deals from RiteBrew.

843332 – Universal Poppet – $2.19