Category Archives: Top Posts

My Most Important Homebrewing Gear


As of this posting, we’re in the process of moving Homebrew Finds headquarters from one house to another.  Moving…. it’s not fun.

In the process of selling our current house and getting ready to move to the new one, I paired down a LOT of my homebrewing equipment.  Some gear was sold and a lot went to storage.  However… I refuse to be without the ability to homebrew, even in a time of transition.  The scant gear I chose to keep, was my inspiration for this post.  It’s an indication to me of what’s the most important gear to me at this time.

That’s about it.  I have a few other odds and ends, Star San, PBW, tubing, some clamps.

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What’s the Difference Between Ball Lock Kegs and Pin Lock Kegs?

cln_img_3150Left [Brand New 5 Gallon Ball Lock from AIHReview] || Right [Used 5 Gallon Pin Lock]

Ball Lock Kegs vs Pin Lock Kegs – What’s the Difference?

The containers we call Ball Lock and Pin Lock Kegs come from the soda industry.  Also called Cornelius Kegs, Corny Kegs and Corney Kegs, they were originally intended to store and distribute soda pre-mix.  The big soda companies decided on different style containers for their pre-mix.  Pepsi landed on the Ball Lock style while Coke uses the Pin Lock style.

Homebrewers have since re-purposed these as homebrew beer kegs.

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Flow Meter for Oxygenating Wort


Most regulators that homebrewers use for oxygenating wort are simple setups – Example.  They attach to disposable oxygen tanks (typically sourced from a local hardware store) and are little more than on and off valves.  No gauges, no pressure control (other than the degree to which you open and close the valve) and no flow control.

Time and rate give you an idea of how much oxygen you’re really adding to your wort.  Time is easy to track.  Rate, not so much, at least with typical homebrew O2 regulators.  If you want more or less oxygen for your next batch, it’s mostly a guessing game.

The Oxyview Flow Meter is a pneumatic (no electricity required) real-time oxygen flow meter that works in any position.  Flow rate is displayed in liters per minute.  This particular model has a range of 0 to 3 LPM.  This allows you to know what rate of oxygen is going into your wort.

I’ve used one of these for years and it has worked great for me.

Note that these are typically used for medical applications.  You will need to figure out tubing and connections to your existing regulator and aeration/oxygenation stone.  I found some tubing that fits mine and use luer locks to connect it to other components.

Oxyview Flow Meter 1 3/8″ X 7/16″/0-3 L/M


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Mark II Keg and Carboy Washer Mod – SS CIP Spray Ball


I’m a big fan of the Mark II Keg and Carboy Washer.  I use mine for lots of things including… kegs, carboys, Speidel Fermenters, buckets, tubing, draft lines [See: Mark II Keg & Carboy Cleaner… As a Recirculating Draft Line Cleaning Pump] and more.  [See: Hands on Review: Mark’s Keg and Carboy Washer] for a comprehensive look at this great homebrewing tool.

A while back I became aware of this Stainless CIP Spray Ball via a Reader Tip.  Thanks to HBF Reader Sam for the original heads up on these and HBF Reader Chris for the idea to use in conjunction with the Mark II Keg and Carboy Cleaner ! [8 Ways to Connect with HBF].

CIP (Clean in Place) Spray Balls are generally used for vessels that are too large to move.  Since they’re too large to move you… clean them in place.  If you have a larger setup, you could incorporate these into your system or routine to help clean your vessels more easily.

Seller QM Stainless on Amazon offers a variety of spray balls including stationary and rotary.

I gave this a try on my Keg and Carboy Washer and I was really pleased with the results.

cln_img_2959This is a heavy well made CIP spray ball assemblycln_img_2962A look at the lower portion  It reads 1/2″ and SS304cln_img_2965A look at the openings on the spray head.  Note that the top portion rotates using liquid pressure.cln_img_2967This threads nicely onto the top of the PVC tube on the Mark II Keg and Carboy Washer.  Replacing the end cap that contains one spray hole.  In the background, My ITC-308 Temp Controller.cln_img_2969This fitting makes the total height a little higher compared to the standard tip.  Note that, depending on the size opening of your carboy, this may not fit.  Look back for an update to this post that has more dimension information so you can determine if this will work with vessel’s with smaller openings.  Here’s MoreBeer’s 6 gallon PET Carboy on the cleaner.  You can see there’s still plenty of clearance.

cln_img_2973A picture of the spray ball in action

A video of the spray action

NEW 0.5 Inch Stainless Rotary Spray Ball Female CIP Tank Cleaning Ball by QM Stainless

I purchased my Keg and Carboy Washer at More Beer.  As of this writing, it’s selling for $99.99 Shipped.

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


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Tip: Checking for Draft System CO2 Leaks – the Pressure Gauge Method

cln_img_0274Pictured: Spunding Valve – See: Build a Spunding Valve

The standard method of checking for kegerator CO2 leaks seems to be… spray everything with Star San solution (diluted of course) and look for bubbles.  That’s a great technique.

There is one place that this method does really work on…. the keg’s gas post.  That spot is only in play when your gas QD is engaged.  The kicker is… when the gas QD is on, you can’t see underneath it to check for bubbles.

The “pressure gauge method” can check the entire including gas QD connection and any connected tubing without soaking everything and the resulting clean up.

My process for that…

  • Charge your keg with CO2 as usual.  Use your usual serving pressure.  Overpressurizing can mask leaks that may otherwise show appear.
  • Remove the CO2 line and replace with a pressure gauge or Spunding Valve.
  • I mark the current pressure with a wax pencil, or you can just remember what it reads
  • Wait for a couple hours to overnight to see if the gauge drops.
  • If it drops quickly, there is a leak someplace in the system.  Note: If your keg has beer in it that is uncarbonated the pressure will drop some overnight (it is equalizing and carbonating the beer).  What you don’t want is a quick drop in pressure.
  • This tests technique tests the entire keg including the gas post, o-ring, QD and any tubing that’s connected.
  • In my experience, over long periods of time there will be some slow gauge movement.  I don’t know if these are micro leaks or temperature realted, but I’m not really concerned with that, I am looking for a relatively quick drop in pressure.  Something that shows up within a couple hours.

This technique also has the advantage of saving Star San and saving some clean up that’s required when you soak gear in Star San.

If the CO2 gauge method indicates a leak, you can start spraying Star San at that point.  If you cannot find the leak, I would suggest changing your gas post o-ring to see if that’s the culprit.

This is one of the uses of a Spunding Valve – See: Build a Spunding Valve.  You can also buy a gauge [Ball Lock QD Adjustable Pressure Valve W/Gauge] or make a gauge assembly for this purpose.

Related Gear and Resources…

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Finding the “Conan Strain” of Yeast – Vermont IPA


If you’re looking to use the “Vermont IPA” Strain of yeast to take a swing at brewing something like Alchemist Brewing’s Heady Topper, I think you have some yeast options.

It’s my understanding that these homebrew yeast options are the “Conan” strain of yeast….

  • Omega Yeast Lab’s Double IPA Yeast OYL-052 DIPA – About: “Ale strain isolated from a famous double IPA brewed in Vermont. Produces a unique ester profile reminiscent of peaches. This strain complements an aggressive use of hops”.  There is a common thought that this is mostly likely the Conan Strain that’s used for The Alchemists Heady Topper.
  • GigaYeast Double Pitch – Vermont IPA Yeast GY054 – About: “The Vermont IPA strain from Giga has a strong, growing following if you search the web. The problem is the supply has not been able to keep up with demand. MoreBeer! worked with Giga to get all they could produce and was able to offer this product via mail order delivery (it is not yet in our retail stores). We are excited because we know you are going to love it. As the name suggests this yeast is perfect in IPA’s where it leaves a beer with more body and a slight fruity ester. What really makes it stand out is that is known for being amazing when combined with aromatic hops. While perfect for IPAs it is also a good choice for any high gravity beers and hoppy styles. Broad temperature range and moderate flocculation make this yeast a versatile house strain.”
  • The Yeast Bay Vermont Ale – About: “Isolated from a uniquely crafted double IPA out of the Northeastern United States, this yeast produces a balanced fruity ester profile of peaches and light citrus that complements any aggressively hopped beer. Expect this strain to take off fast and ferment wort quickly, though elevating the temperature following the bulk of fermentation may be required to raise the attenuation.”
  • Imperial Organic Yeast – Barbarian

If you’re looking for a homebrew clone recipe kit, MoreBeer’s “Topped with Hops” is available in both all grain and extract.


About Topped With Hops: “Based off of one of the most exceptional east coast beers (in our humble opinion) on the market, this double IPA instantly became one of our favorite ingredient kits! Our version of a Heady Topper clone recipe is packed with almost a pound of hops, and is definitely a beer that will have hopheads in hopheaven.

One of the first things we noticed when pouring this beer into the pint glass was the aroma. With a dry hop addition consisting of Amarillo, Apollo, Centennial, Columbus, and Simcoe, we weren’t necessarily surprised. Impressed is more like it. A balanced malt profile helps to tame the bitterness, allowing the hop flavor and aroma to be the true star in this recipe.”

AlsoFinding East Coast Yeast | Yeast Starters & Fermentation | StirStarter Stir Plate | Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation

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Tip: Some Thoughts About… Homebrew Shop Sales Timing and Traffic Patterns

When is the best time (price-wise) to buy something?  I would say the answer (generally speaking)… is when you don’t want it.  Winter coats are the cheapest when winter is over because nobody wants them.  Holiday decorations are drastically marked down after the holidays.  Retailers make these decisions because demand is low.

After running Homebrew Finds for years and years, I can tell you that there are some patterns that seem to repeat themselves.  I’m not going to share everything, not that you would want to hear it, but I will share a couple snippets with you.

  1.  Traffic drops a bit toward the end of the week going into the following week…  Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Yet, many homebrew shops run sales during this exact time period.  Why?  I think it’s a mix.  Mostly retailers understand that their sales traffic and sales volume tend to drop off, so to counteract that, they run sales during this slower time.
  2. Summer months are slower than fall, winter and spring.  People aren’t homebrewing as much.  It’s hot in many places and people are taking vacations and enjoying the good weather.

Why does this matter? Some homebrew shops recognize this pattern and basically sit out the summer.  Their thinking is… why fight it?  Others continue to repeat the same things regardless of time of year.  Still others recognize this pattern and offer some of their best offers during the summer time or toward the end of the week.  It’s that reason that I’m telling you about this.  I think you should Connect With Us and read Homebrew Finds on a regular basis.  If you want to maximize savings be prepared to purchase gear and ingredients that you won’t actually use until “brewing season” kicks back up.

There are 8 Ways to Connect with HBF!

If you’re a homebrew shop proprietor reading this… I’m not saying to move all of your sales to the weekend or to the summer.  Don’t do that.  For the reasons I’ve outlined above… numerically speaking, those aren’t the best times to run sales.  Of course, that depends on your goal.  If you’re looking to stir up traffic during a slow time, then, yep, go for it.  My general guidance would be come out to play often – early week, mid week, end of the week and every month of the year.  If you aren’t playing…  someone else is.  If you’d like some specific guidance from me or you’d to just to chat about the homebrew industry… I’d love to talk!  Send me an email.

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