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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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How to Build a Mash Tun from the AHA

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This setup is based on Denny Conn’s great design.  Denny is the co-author of Experimental Homebrewing and the keeper of Wyeast 1450 Denny’s Favorite 50.  Check out some of Denny’s recipes now available from Brewcraft.

See the AHA’s Article on this: Building a Mash Tun has Never Been So Easy

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Video: Mitch Steele – Stone Delicious IPA – Reduced Gluten using Clarity Ferm

 

Stone Brewing’s Mitch Steele (Brewmaster and author of the book… IPA)  talking about Stone Delicious IPA and their use of White Labs Clarity Ferm to reduce gluten.

White Labs Clarity Ferm WLN4000 – MoreBeer · AIH · Great Fermentations · Midwest Supplies · Northern Brewer · Amazon · love2brew · Home Brew Stuff

Clarity Ferm reduces chill haze and reduces the amount of gluten in your finished beer.

Description via White Labs “CLARITY FERM is a product containing a highly specific endo-protease which only cleaves polypeptides at the carboxyl end of the amino acid proline. Protease is derived from Aspergillus niger.”

Read more about Stone Delicious IPA (and it’s gluten content) over on Stone’s Blog

White Labs Clarity Ferm

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Ohmbrew Automations Fermostat – Dual Stage Programmable Temp Controller

Fermostat Ohmbrew Automations

The Fermostat from Ohmbrew Automations is a dual stage temperature controller.  That means it can control both a heating and a cooling source to really dial in temperature.  The Fermostat allows you to program set fermentation profiles and also has the ability to log temperature data.

Features:

  • A dual-stage programmable thermostat to control your fermentation chamber.
  • Create and share the perfect automated temperature profile for fermenting your beer.
  • Automate slow temperature shifts between ferment, diacetyl rest, cold crash or lager temps without shocking the yeast.
  • Micro SD Card allows for external program creation and data logging (card not included).
  • Includes Temperature Probe, 1 input power cord, 2 output power cords.
  • Available in 120V or 240V variants.
  • Capable of up to 10 Amps nominal current per output.

Video overview of the Fermostat…

The Fermostat sells for $159.99.  A number of accessories are also available including temperature cables and thermowell probes.

Update: Promo Code 15FOR2015 takes $15 Off!

Check it out – Here

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Hands on Review: Mark’s Keg and Carboy Washer

Review Marks Keg and Carboy Washer

Here’s a Hands on Look at Mark’s Keg and Carboy Washer, including a couple of videos with it in action.

Mark's Keg and Carboy WasherThe front of the box.  “Clean and Sanitize Carboys, Corny Kegs, Brew Pails and Hoses” and “1 Year Guarantee”

Mark's Keg and Carboy WasherSide of the box.  It says: •Clean and Sanitize Carboys. No need for a bottle brush. Clean every square inch of the inside of a carboy in minutes. •Clean and sanitize Corny Kegs. No need to disassemble the keg. Clean the inside of the keg and the dip tube. •Clean and Sanitize Brew Pails and Hoses. •Spend your time brewing beer, not cleaning your equipment.

Mark's Keg and Carboy WasherOther side of the box.  It recaps features and then let’s you know what’s in the box: 1.25 gallon high density polyethylene basin, center holding rack with powerful jet nozzle, 520 gallon-per-hour pump with three adapters, instruction manual and warranty.

cln_img_4168The Keg and Carboy Washer unboxed.

Mark's Keg and Carboy WasherA look at the individual components.

Mark's Keg and Carboy Washer1.25 gallon basin.

Mark's Keg and Carboy Washer NozzlesA look at the four included nozzles/adapters.  From left to right: 1. T for use with cleaning Corny kegs.  The barb goes to tubing that feeds you keg’s dip tube, 2.  Barb for cleaning 3/8″ ID tubing, 3.  Jet nozzle for both carboys and kegs.  For carboys it goes directly on the vertical pipe, for kegs the T goes on first followed by the jet nozzle, 4.  Barb for cleaning 1/4″ ID tubing.

Mark's Keg and Carboy Washer PumpTop of the Pump

Mark's Keg and Carboy Washer PumpThis is the back side of the pump.  It has an adjustable louvre for regulating intake.  You’re probably going to want to just always have this wide open.  If you’re having flow issues, double check this to make sure it’s open.

Mark's Keg and Carboy WasherFully assembled and rigged to clean a carboy.  The bottom part of the basin holds about 1 gallon of water, cleaning solution or sanitizer.

Keg and Carboy Cleaner TubingFully assembled and rigged up to clean a ball lock keg.  You provide the Ball Lock or Pin Lock QD along with tubing.

cln_img_4246The Keg and Carboy Cleaner, cleaning a… Carboy

Keg and Carboy Cleaner BucketIt also works with buckets

Keg and Carboy Cleaner Ball Lock Kegand of course… kegs

cln_img_4401and can clean and sanitize tubing

cln_img_4255Mark's Keg and Carboy Washer Speidel Fermenterand… it works with Speidel Fermenters.  This is the 5.3 Gallon SizeReview.  The 7.9 Gallon Size has the same size opening and also works.  I will say that with a bucket, carboy or keg I feel pretty comfortable walking away for a bit while it’s working.  Not so with the 5.3 and 7.9 Gallon Speidels.  The opening is about the same size as the top of the carboy washer.  That means it sits on top instead of inside (like a carboy) or outside (like a bucket).  If you use this for your 5.3 and 7.9 gallon Speidels, you’re going to want to keep your hand on it to keep the fermenter in place.  I’m guessing, but do not know first hand, that larger Speidels, with their larger openings, work well with the Keg and Carboy Washer without such support, much like a bucket.

B2CAGkiIYAA1PBAUpdate: and… some kettles and keggles!  Thanks to Twitter Follower Christian for this tip and photo!

Mark's Keg and Carboy Washer Keg LidOne of the great things about this washer is that you do not need to disassemble your kegs to clean and sanitize them.  I ran through 5 kegs the first night I used it.  All were clean and sanitized when all was said and done.  Of course, you do have to take the lid off.  That, along with other small parts, can be tossed in the basin for cleaning and sanitizing.


This video shows the kind of flow rate you’re getting to the keg QD.   Looks good to me.

Mark's Keg and Carboy Washer Ball Lock KegFor keg cleaning, the instructions say to run with the QD connected for about 15 minutes and then disconnect the QD.  “This will maximize the pressure for cleaning the keg’s interior”.

One issue that I had with it when I first started using the washer for kegs was… the QD was a bit difficult to get on.  There isn’t a lot of spare tubing (and you don’t want a lot for pressure purposes) and requirement to exert pressure up on the QD while trying to hold the keg down is an awkward set of motions.  There isn’t a lot of leverage.  This problem ended up being a poppet issue.  I use universal poppets on nearly every keg.  Those work great, but can be on the tight side with some kegs.  I know that can be an issue.  The fix for that is and has been… simply trim a bit of the spring with a wire cutter.  I just hadn’t noticed it as a problem when trying to use the kegs in question in the typical orientation.  Using a wire cutter to trim a bit off the poppet spring fixed the issue making it a lot easier to hook up to the carboy washer.


Here’s a video of the Keg and Carboy Cleaner cleaning a 6 Gallon PET Carboy from MoreBeer – Review

I’ve owned this keg and carboy washer for quite a while now.  I had been using a DIY cleaning pump setup and that worked pretty well.  The purpose built Mark’s Keg and Carboy Washer works markedly (did you see what I did there :), better.  It uses less cleaning and sanitizing solution, it’s more versatile, takes up less space and… I don’t have to take apart my kegs to clean and sanitize them.

I’ve heard great things about this unit for some time now.  I’m happy to confirm that it works really well.

I purchased my unit at More Beer.  As of this writing, it’s selling for $99.99 Shipped – Here

Mark’s Keg & Carboy Washer can be found at…

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Mark's Keg and Carboy Washer Speidel Fermenter

New Hop Variety: HBC 366 Equinox

Equinox is a new hop variety from the breeders of Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe.  

Description: Also known as HBC 366, Equinox was developed by the Hop Breeding Company, and is now available to you the homebrewer. A pronounced aroma profile with citrus, tropical fruit, floral and herbal characteristics, this hop is sure to be great for your next hoppy masterpiece.


Check it out – Here


A video about Equinox from Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver

From Hop Union: “A pronounced aroma profile with citrus, tropical fruit, floral and herbal characteristics. Specific descriptors include lemon, lime, papaya, apple, and green pepper.” and “The diversified and pronounced aroma characteristics combined with extremely high oil content and a tight cone structure make this hop variety very unique”

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