Category Archives: Reviews & Top Posts

Using a Keg as a CO2 Source for Portable Serving!

This technique uses an economical inline secondary regulator to utilize a spare keg as a CO2 source to serve a keg.  I’m not suggesting this setup as a replacement for your kegerator CO2 tank.  You still need a standard CO2 tank.  What this setup could be very useful for is as a replacement for those expensive little regulators or injectors and expensive (considering how much CO2 you get) little CO2 cartridges.  One inexpensive purchase allows you to pressurize and serve your keg on the go for little to… nothing.  Keep reading.

The Magic Piece of Equipment

Cheap Inline Regulator – via William’s Brewing | via MoreBeer

These inline secondary regulators have been on the scene for a little while now.  At the price I’ve seen them at, sub $10, they are a bargain.  They also add a lot of flexibility to your draft setup, allowing you to easily and cheaply serve using multiple pressures and carbonation levels.

Note that these are inline secondary regulators.  You still need a primary regulator attached to your CO2 tank.  The idea is, you set the primary to the highest pressure you will use (without exceeding specifications of any component of your system) and then use these regulators inline (one per line) to fine tune pressure and carbonation [See: Balancing Your Draft System].  As an example, you could set your primary to 25 PSI for faster force carbonation and set each line to a different pressure based on desired carbonation level.

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A Recommendation For All Grain Brewers – Use Two Scales

UltraShip 55 lb. Digital Postal Shipping & Kitchen Scale

As all grain brewers we are generally weighing things in two categories.  Moderately large amounts of things – grain and smaller amounts of things – like hops and water salts.

Although weighing both types of things involve a scale, they are really wildly different activities.

I’ll take the pictured Ultraship Ultra-55 [Hands On Review] as an example.  That has been my go-to grain scale for years and years.  It has a large 55 lb capacity, the tare feature and the face of this removes so that you can weigh large items (like buckets of grain) and still easily read the display.

The Ultraship Ultra-55 has a resolution of 2 grams when weighing up to 1 kg (about 2.2 lbs).  From 2 lbs to 50 lbs it has a resolution of .5 oz.  If we’re weighing 20 lbs of 2 row, this works great.  If you’re 2 grams or a half an ounce off either way, it really doesn’t matter.  How about hops?  A 2 gram resolution would work in a pinch, but I don’t think most brewers would be happy with that.  Weighing water salts are completely of the question with this sort of precision/resolution.  But.. it’s a great grain scale.

Second example… American Weigh 100g x 0.01g Digital Scale [Hands on Review].  That scale has an outstanding 1/100th gram resolution.  That’s great for weighing hops accurately AND weighing water salts.  How about for your all grain grist bill?  It should be awesome right?  No.  100 grams equates to about .22 lbs.

As scale capacity goes up, resolution, precision and accuracy generally go down.  Very accurate scales with higher capacities do exist, but they’re very expensive.  If you’re looking for something like this or just want to see prices, try this search on Amazon.  It searches “high capacity lab scale” in the Industrial & Scientific category sorting from high to low price.

Because of all of this, I recommend that homebrewers keep two scales.  One for grain and one for hops and water salts.

Some scales I’ve used and reviewed…

If you’re an extract brewer or you can only keep one scale because of budget or space, look for something in the middle, something with an 11 to 15 lb capacity and a 1 gram resolution – something like this.  You can use that to weigh out grain bills – you may need to split your grain bill up into a couple batches to get under the capacity and 1 gram will work for hops.

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My Favorite Size of Star San & Why

Star San – via Amazon

Star San Acid Sanitizer.  8 oz size.  No rinse when mixed properly.  Container includes built in measure.

From the product description, check product page for current description, price and availability:

  • Self-foaming acid sanitizer ideal for brewing, dairy and other food and beverage equipment
  • Extremely effective bactericide and fungicide and is not affected by excessive organic soils
  • Reduces water spotting and can be used without rinsing under the proper concentrations
  • Volume: 8 fluid ounces

Star San is my sanitizer of choice.  It is effective, food safe and no-rinse.  It is also very cost effective if you use the spray bottle method.

My Favorite Size and Why: Considering the shelf life of Star San concentrate is 1 to 2 years, If you’re using the Spray Bottle Method [See: Tip: Star San Tips, Tricks and Guidelines – Using Star San In a Spray Bottle], I generally recommend purchasing the 8 ounce size.  8 ounces of concentrate yields about 39 gallons of mixed solution.  The spray bottle method is very efficient, so you don’t end up using much sanitizer per batch.  Let’s say you use 1/4 gallon (which I personally think is high) for each batch, the 8 ounces size yields enough mixed solution for around 157 batches.  That figures to about 13 batches per month over a 1 year period.  If you use 1/8 gallon (which I think is more realistic) that equates to about 26 batches per month over a 1 year period.  The larger 16 and 32 ounces sizes may be a lower cost per ounce, but if you’re unable to use it within Star San’s shelf life, you’ll just be throwing sanitizer away or using less effective past date sanitizer.  Getting a smaller bottle more often means your Star San is fresher.

Star San – 8 oz


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Hands on Review: MoreBeer’s OxyWand Oxygenation Kit – with Side by Side Trials

MoreBeer’s OxyWand Oxygenation Kit – tank not included

This review is by Homebrew Finds Contributor Brad Probert.  Brad is an engineer, expert homebrewer and experienced reviewer.  Grab a link to Brad’s website at the end of this review.

OxyWand Oxygenation Kit

Frequently cited benefits of proper wort aeration are avoiding these fermentation problems: 1. Long lag time from yeast pitch to start of fermentation, 2. Stuck or incomplete fermentation, or 3. Excessive ester production affecting flavor. What can be overlooked in these explanations is that not all fermentations are created equal. The more “challenging” your fermentation, the more prone to these problems you’ll be. Fermentations for yeast are more challenging if you’re fermenting cold, if you’re using re-pitched versus fresh yeast, the age of your yeast is on the older side, or you have a higher gravity wort. In these cases, adding oxygen can make a difference.

To evaluate this, I brewed a few different batches of beer to test for the presence of these potential issues while evaluating three different aeration techniques. The first technique was a simple process I’ve used for years. While transferring the wort from kettle to fermentor, I let it pass through a strainer and splash down into the fermentor. It’s passive and easy, which is why this is my standard process.

2 Micron Aeration Stone from MoreBeer’s Oxygenation Kit

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Small Batch, All Grain Stove Top Brewing + Water Calculation Spreadsheet

I periodically brew small (1-3) gallon all grain batches of beer on my stove top.  Some reasons I do that… 1.  The weather – it’s too cold, too hot or too something else, 2.  Time or 3.  I want to test something.  It’s a fun, simple, quick and economical way to brew all grain with minimal investment.

For the extract brewer, what kind of gear is needed to accomplish this amazing feat?  A comprehensive list follows…

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Hands on Review: Sensafe eXact Smart Brew iDip Water Test Kit

Contents of the Sensafe iDip Smart Brew Water Test Kit

This review is by Homebrew Finds Contributor Brad Probert.  Brad is an engineer, expert homebrewer and experienced reviewer.  Grab a link to Brad’s website at the end of this review.

Sensafe Smart Brew iDip Water Test Kit

One of the first all-grain brewing books I bought when I moved from extract to all-grain left an impression on me of the importance of your brewing water when doing all-grain mashes. To make it easy to hit my target profile I bought distilled water from the store and then added the appropriate brewing salts to it. That worked well for several years until I got tired of buying and hauling water around and decided to use city water run through some carbon filters.

My filtered water on its own tasted good, but the beer made from it had lost its pizzazz. I knew that to gain it back I needed to figure out my base water and then add the appropriate minerals to hit the target water profile like I used to target when working from distilled water. Knowing my target profile was useless to me if I didn’t know what I was starting from.

App screenshot showing test results – this is one screen of results, scrolling down shows more information

Sensafe makes water test kits targeted to the beer brewer. There is a Smart Brew Starter Kit that contains their iDip digital tester, and test strips for different measurable aspects of your water important to brewing. Once you install the free App on your Android or Apple device, you’ll see you only have access to pH, Chlorine, and Total Alkalinity. To actually use all of the 6 different test strips provided in the kit, you need to pay an additional $18.99 through the App to unlock the full set of beer-centric tests.

Through use of the 6 different test strips (25 strips of each type), and some calculations performed in the App, you are able to get the following readings on your water from the Starter Kit: Total Alkalinity, Calcium, Chloride, Total Hardness, pH, Sulfate, Magnesium, Residual Alkalinity, and Sodium. The Advanced Kit measures the same things, but instead of measuring pH by dissolving a test strip in the iDip reader, it comes with a separate pH/temperature meter.

The heart of this system is the eXact iDip photometer. It is a small hand-held, waterproof (IP67) tester. It has a small sample container that you fill with your test water, then stir around the test strip for whichever test you are running. A push of the button on the iDip gives you a countdown to ensure you mix the test strip in the water for a long enough time, and then it uses a 525 nm light source and a photometer to measure the amount of light that can transmit through. The results are then displayed on the meter’s digital screen as well as transmitting via Bluetooth to your paired smart device running the App.

Ready for testing

Get the Gear: Sensafe iDip Smart Brew Water Test Kit – via Amazon

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Hands on Review: MoreBeer’s Fermentap Magnetic Stir Plate

MoreBeer’s Fermentap Stir Plate along with a 3,000 mL Erlenmeyer Flask

This review is by Homebrew Finds Contributor Brad Probert.  Brad is an engineer, expert homebrewer and experienced reviewer.  Grab a link to Brad’s website at the end of this review.

About Stir Plates and Erlenmeyer Flasks

Stir plates are pretty simple machines. There’s a small electric motor in a housing with a flat surface for you to set your vessel on that has wort needing to be stirred. When the motor spins, a magnetic field is created as a by-product of the electric motor. This is used together with a small plastic-coated magnet that looks like a small capsule, called a stir bar. If your flask is filled with wort, the stir bar spins around at the speed of the electric motor in the stir plate and creates turbulence in your wort. It creates a vortex like an underwater tornado as the spinning motion pulls wort down towards it and then flings it away when it contacts the stir bar.

This underwater tornado is the key to the stir plate’s success in preparing starters. This stir plate motion has two functions: 1) Keeping the yeast constantly in suspense and not letting them settle out, 2) The constant circulation of wort helps expose all of the wort to the surface where it can interact with incoming oxygen and purge CO2 developed by the yeast’s fermentation processes. There have been experiments done that show you can more than double the amount of yeast cell growth in a starter made with a stir plate versus a starter that doesn’t.

The vessel of choice for starters made on a stir plate is the Erlenmeyer flask (named after a German chemist who invented it in 1860). Its wide, flat base make it stable to sit on your brew table or on the stir plate without concerns of it getting bumped and tipping over. And very importantly, its flat bottom allows your stir bar to rest in the center and spin. A glass growler with its domed-in bottom, will not keep the magnet centered and then won’t work to stir the wort.

When looking for Erlenmeyer flasks, you want to make sure you get one made with Borosilicate glass. It is less sensitive to growth/shrinkage with temperature extremes, meaning it can go through thermal shock with less risk of breaking. But there’s an important caution here. Borosilicate is not recommended for direct heating. I heard from a Customer Service Manager at a homebrew shop about the horrific pictures he got from someone that was carrying their boiling starter wort from stove to sink when the glass bottom broke and showered his [sandaled] foot with glass and 200 degree wort. So boil in a separate vessel before pouring into your flask, or let it sit and cool a bit before you move to the cooling stage.

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Adding a Schrader Valve to a Homebrew Keg

Why would you want to add a Schrader style valve to your ball lock or pin lock keg homebrew keg?  Great question.  I’m not sure.  I was interested in doing it as part of a post I’m doing for our Homebrew Hacks series of how-tos.  More on that later.

This was really just a matter of putting the right fittings together.  Pictured: Milton (S-684-4) 1/4″ MNPT Male Tank Valve – Anderson Metals Brass Pipe Fitting, Coupling, 1/4″ x 1/4″ Female Pipe – LASCO 17-6783 1/4-Inch Female Flare by 1/4-Inch Male Pipe Thread Brass Adapter

A quick check to make sure all of this fit together

Everything tightened down with teflon tape

This assembly is a tank/Schrader style valve to a 1/4″ x 1/4″ female to female coupling to a 1/4″ NPT to 1/4″ flare fitting.  All that to say, I have this threaded onto a ball lock QD here, but it could just as easily thread into an MFL pin lock QD.

Installed and pressurized.  This may give you a hint as to what the the related post will be about, but… maybe not.

The parts and pieces I used, all via Amazon:

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Make sure the components you use are compatible and rated for your intended application.  Contact manufacturer with questions about suitability or a specific application.  Always read and follow manufacturer directions.


Convert a Keg Into a Fermenter!

Cornelius Keg Lid for Secondary Fermenter

Kegs has some really distinct advantages as vessels, in general…

  • They are made from stainless steel
  • They are well built
  • They are pressure capable
  • They are generally well made, many times designed for years-long tough commercial use

How about we convert these into fermenters?

One economical way to do this is to remove the gas post and put a small, tight fitting piece of tubing over the top of the male threads.  Many times such a piece of tubing will also snugly accept an airlock.

A purpose built solution, pictured above, is also available that’s basically a modified keg lid.  That comes with a right-sized stopper to allow you to put an airlock in the modified lid.  Both Austin Homebrew Supply and Adventures in Homebrewing sell these.

These lids should work equally well on standard ball lock and pin lock style homebrew kegs.  See: Ball Lock Kegs vs Pin Lock Kegs – What’s the Difference?

Sizing: A five gallon keg isn’t really suitable for a primary fermenter for a 5 gallon batch.  You could use it as a secondary for a full 5 gallon batch, as a primary fermenter for smaller batches (maybe 3 to 4 gallons max) or you could split 5 gallon batches between two kegs.

There are 10 gallon ball lock kegs on the market.  Find one of those and you can do all the same stuff with a 5+ gallon batch.  10 gallon ball locks are difficult to find.  Your best bet is probably ebay.  Try this search, but don’t be surprised if nothing shows up in the search results.

Fun with keg fermenters!

  • Swap the fermenting lid out for the regular lid and use a trimmed dip tube and you can transfer under pressure.  The trimmed dip tube is essential to leave behind trub and avoid clogs.  You could also use William Brewing’s Top Draw Beer Pick Up Tube instead of trimming a dip tube.
  • Ferment under pressure using a Spunding Valve
  • Naturally carbonate in the keg using a Spunding Valve

Related: Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation & Best Sellers in Lab Erlenmeyers – via Amazon | StirStarter Stir Plate | Yeast Starters and Fermentation Resource Page

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Hands on Review: Ferroday Stainless Steel Carbonation Cap for PET Bottles & Draft Line Cleaning Builds

This is a hands on look at a Stainless Steel Carbonation Cap by Ferroday along with some information about what these are used for and some related build projects.

What are stainless steel carbonation caps used for?

  • PET Bottles as Growlers: These are generally intended to convert 1L and 2L bottles to growlers.  Fill up a 1L or 2L PET bottle with your favorite homebrew.  Put one of these on (purge the headspace by squeezing if you want to) and then pressurize for transport.  This should help to reduce oxygen pickup and maintain carbonation levels.
  • Fine tune or rapidly carbonate beer: You can also use this cap to rapidly carbonate beer.  Same process as for transport, just set your regulator to the proper pressure and shake or agitate the PET bottle to help introduce CO2.  Or hook it up to CO2 and let it sit in you kegerator.
  • Draft Line Cleaning Projects:  More recently these have been adapted, for use as a part of draft line cleaning projects.  Examples, using similar SS Caps – Build A Recirculating Draft Line Cleaning Pump | Mark II Keg and Carboy Cleaner Draft Line Cleaning Pump Conversion

Universal Liquid and Gas Carbonation Caps

The really big question that needs to be answered, if you want to build a draft line cleaning setup using one of these, is whether or not it is universal.  Ball Lock Kegs have gas and liquid posts along with corresponding QDs.  Black goes on liquid, grey or white goes on gas.  They ARE NOT interchangeable.  The beauty of some stainless steel carbonation caps is that they are universal, meaning they can accept both gas and liquid QDs.  That’s very important for draft line cleaning builds because we want to connect a liquid QD to this.  The problem is, not all stainless steel carbonation caps are universal.

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