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Temperature Probe Placement – To Immerse or Not To Immerse?

cln_1ziptiedcan

After my last test on the effects of a recirculating fan on kegerator temperatures (See: Kegerator Beer Line Temperatures & Reducing Foam with a Recirculating Fan), I decided to test the effects of kegerator temperature probe placement.  I went with three configurations: Immersed vs Ambient Non-Immersed vs… Zip Tied to a Beer Can.  Those tests yielded some interesting findings.

Test 1 Zip Tied to a Beer Can:

cln_img_5553For this test, the probe was zip-tied to a 14.9 Ounce Can of Beamish Irish Stout.  This is the technique I’ve used for years.  At the time, I wanted something with some mass to help regulate temperature and I didn’t want to have to mess with submerging the probe and the required container of liquid.  For this test, the can was placed close to the wall of my keezer on the compressor hump.  The second probe was immersed in 500 mL of water in a Lab Container.  See the picture in test 2 for more info on placement.

cln_ziptiedI also placed a ChefAlarm Thermometer & Timer in my keezer – Hands on Review – as another point of reference, giving me an ambient temperature reading.  The ChefAlarm has some great features, including high and low temperature logging.  Those highs and lows are what I used as a reference.

cln_1ziptiedcanHere are the temperature results for test 1 – zip tied to a can.  The top shows the temperature probe zip tied to a beer can.  The bottom, for comparison, shows an immersed temperature probe.  This method produces and nice clean and reliable reading.

Definitions:

  • High Temp: High temperature in deg F as measured by the primary/controlling probe.
  • Low Temp: Low temperature in deg F as measured by the primary/controlling probe.
  • Variance High to Low:  The variance in deg F between general high and low readings from the primary probe.
  • Cycle Length: Overall length of one typical cooling cycle, measured from high point to high point.
  • ChefAlarm High: Ambient temperature high in deg F as recorded by my ChefAlarm
  • ChefAlarm Low: Ambient temperature low in deg F as recorded by my ChefAlarm
  • ChefAlarm Variance: Variance in deg F between high and low ChefAlarm readings
  • Estimated Freezer Cycle Time: Estimated time that the freezer is running as measured from one high to the following low.
  • Estimated Freezer Time: Hours Per Day:  Estimation of how long my freezer would run in 24 hours based on frequency of cycles and freezer cycle time.

Results Test 1:

  • High Temp: 40.03
  • Low Temp: 37.64
  • Variance High to Low: 2.39
  • Cycle Length: 1 Hour 2 Minutes
  • ChefAlarm High: 42
  • ChefAlarm Low: 34
  • ChefAlarm Variance: 8 degrees
  • Estimated Freezer Cycle Time: 12 Minutes
  • Estimated Freezer Time: Hours Per Day: 4.6

Test 2 Submerged Probe:

cln_img_5520Setup: I placed the probe immersed in about 500 mL of water one of my Bel-Art Scienceware 500 mL Polypropylene Lab Containers.  I covered the top with aluminum foil.  I have used these containers since 2011 for a bunch of things including yeast rehydration water (see tips page, tip #1), sample storage and more.  That container was placed in about the same spot as the can used it test 1.  Also Pictured: Eva Dry E-500Hands on Review – to handle kegerator condensation.

cln_2submergedHere are the temperature results for test 2 – immersed.  The top shows the immersed temperature probe.  The bottom, for comparison, shows the probe zip tied to a beer can.  Notice the stuttered temperature changes toward the bottom of this cycle.  It doesn’t happen every cycle, but periodically, it also comes close to flat lining.  That period of flat lining can last up to 18 minutes.  The mass of the water makes temperature readings inefficient.  That’s what we want to some degree.  We want some sort of a buffer to give a good representation of temperature without quick swings.  However the stuttering temperature changes along with flat lining, make me think that this method has it’s drawbacks.

Results Test 2:

  • High Temp: 40.19
  • Low Temp: 36.76
  • Variance High to Low: 3.46
  • Cycle Length: 1 Hour 59 Minutes
  • ChefAlarm High: 43
  • ChefAlarm Low: 30
  • ChefAlarm Variance: 13 degrees
  • Estimated Freezer Cycle Time: 25 Minutes
  • Estimated Freezer Time: Hours Per Day: 5

Test 3 Ambient Non-Submerged Probe:

cln_3ambientwithandwithoutfan

Here are the temperature results for test 3 – ambient, non-submerged.  The top of this graph shows the ambient probe, the bottom, for comparison, shows a probe zip tied to a beer can.  The left most portion of the graph is part of a previous test, disregard that.  The middle portion shows the ambient non-submersed probe with a recirculating fan.  By the way… all previous tests were completed with a fan.  The right portion shows the same test, without the fan.  I’m not reporting those results here.  That test was much as you would expect it to be.  Similar to the fan test, with larger swings and slower cycles.  Thoughts… I was actually impressed with the consistency of the ambient air results.  When I first looked at the graph, I noticed the semi-wild start of the test and I thought… here we go… this one is going to be all over the place.  However, when it settled in, it was very reliable.  It also has good accuracy.  The difference between the zip tied readings and the ambient readings are small.  The downside of this method is how often the freezer kicks on.  This method had the shortest cycle length, by far, at just 27 minutes.  It also had the highest estimated freezer utilization at 5.3 hours per day.

Results Test 3:

  • High Temp: 40.01
  • Low Temp: 36.39
  • Variance High to Low: 3.62
  • Cycle Length: 27 Minutes
  • ChefAlarm High: 39
  • ChefAlarm Low: 35
  • ChefAlarm Variance: 4 degrees
  • Estimated Freezer Cycle Time: 6 Minutes
  • Estimated Freezer Time: Hours Per Day: 5.3

Overall Results:

Here side by side comparisons of key metrics…

img_comparisons1

The submerged test produced the longest cycle length, by far.  Nearly twice as long as the zip tie test and four times the length of the ambient test.  It had middle of the road temp variances (compared to zip tied) but it’s ChefAlarm (ambient air) test showed a whopping 13 degrees difference.  Those swings are the result of how much time the freezer has to stay on to overcome the mass of the water used in the immersed test.  That mass also causes inconsistent temperature readings and periods of flat lining.

The ambient test produced good accuracy (second best variance and best ChefAlarm ambient air varience) but the short cycle length of 27 minutes means your freezer is kicking on a lot.  That shows up in the estimated freezer hours per day… 5.3 hours, the highest of any method.

I think the zip-tied can approach provides a good middle of the road solution.  It provides the best accuracy, based on it’s 2.39 degree temp variance, has a middle of the road overall cycle length, middle of the road freezer run time and uses the least amount of energy with an estimated 4.6 hours of freezer run time per day.  The can also offers the benefit of not having to mess with containers of water or other liquids.  It’s also easy to move and reposition when cleaning or reconfiguring your kegerator.

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Some Additional Notes: These tests are with my equipment.  Your results will vary based on a lot of factors including freezer/refrigerator, temp controller, amount of liquid used, probe placement, etc.  In spite of those variances, I think these tests give you a good general idea about probe placement.  I used a BrewBit Model T, sourced via Kickstarter, to log temperature.  Look for a review of the BrewBit Model T here, if and (hopefully) when it becomes readily available to purchase.

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!

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Some 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.”

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Kegging CO2 Use Estimations and Calculations

co2weight

Have you ever wondered how much CO2 it takes to pressurize a keg or carbonate your beer?  Read on.

img_4964Here is my 35 lb Digital Scale showing the total weight in grams of a 5 gallon ball lock keg that contains 10 PSI of CO2.  The total weight comes out to 4,320 grams

img_4992This photo shows the weight of that same keg with 30 PSI of CO2.  That means that 20 PSI of CO2, in a 5 gallon ball lock, weighs about 50 grams (1.76 ounces).

That’s 1/2 gram per gallon per PSI.  (.5 grams of CO2 x 5 gallons x 20 PSI = 50 grams)

The pictured 30 PSI test was the most straightforward that I completed, but in all, I weighed 9 different pressure changes using two different CO2 gauges and two different scales.  The average of those 9 tests was very close to the 30 PSI test coming in an adjusted 52.5 grams for 20 PSI of CO2.  Most tests were right in line with the .5 gram/PSI/Gallon rule of thumb, with one anomaly.

It’s worth noting a couple additional things.  First a 5 gallon keg isn’t exactly 5 gallons.  I measured this one at 5 gallons + 1.5 Quarts.  Second, my scales don’t have single gram resolution at this this weight.  The 35 lb Digital Scale has a 5 gram resolution at anything over 1 kg.

What about atmospheric pressure?  The pressure we measure with our CO2 gauges is relative.  10 PSI is really 10 PSI above atmospheric pressure (14.7 PSI at sea level).  That means a serving pressure of 10 PSI equates to an absolute pressure of 24.7 PSI.  My estimate of 25 grams per 10 PSI in a 5 gallon keg is accurate if you’re just pressurizing a keg starting at atmospheric pressure (you’d end up with about 40% CO2 combined with about 60% air).  If you want to purge the keg to begin with you need to offset the the 14.7 PSI of atmosphere.  A completely purged keg would require 61.75 grams of CO2 (.5 x 24.7 x 5).  Of course, this is difficult to do perfectly because as you purge the keg CO2 is going to mix with air.  To accomplish this you would need to somehow pull a vacuum on the keg (which it isn’t designed for) and then flood the keg with 61.75 grams of CO2.  CO2 is heavier than air, so your best bet to efficiently purge is to do it slowly from the bottom of the keg up.  This will drive the air out and minimize mixture.  Of course this ends up being a lot easier and a lot less CO2 with amount of head space we typically have.  You flood that small area with CO2 and purge a few times and you end up with a high concentration of CO2.

Carbonated Beer Estimations.  We measure carbonation in number of volumes.  What are the volumes we’re talking about?  Volumes of atmosphere.  Here’s a formula to estimate this using my findings…

Weight of CO2 Used for Carbonation = Volumes of Carbonation x 14.7 x 1/2 x Volume of Beer

Let’s assume 2.5 volumes and 5 gallons of beer…

2.5 x 14.7 x .5 x 5 = 91.875 grams (3.24 ounces)

That’s 3.24 ounces (weight) of CO2.  That means one lb of CO2 should carbonate 4.93 (5 gallon) kegs of beer.

Serving Estimations.  The CO2 Used for serving would just need to take into account serving pressure, atmospheric pressure and keg size…

Weight of CO2 Used for Serving = (Serving Pressure + Atmospheric Pressure) x 1/2 x Keg Volume

This assumes a balanced system where you would use the same pressure to store, carbonate and dispense.

Let’s assume 10 PSI and a 5 gallon keg…

(10 + 14.7) x 1/2 x 5 = 61.75 grams (2.18 ounces)

CO2 Use in Estimated Kegs per lb.  Continuing with our example… we would use 153.625 (91.875 + 61.75) grams (5.41 Ounces) of CO2 to carbonate and dispense.

That’s 2.96 kegs per lb of CO2 or 14.8 kegs per 5 lb tank.  Keep reading.

Practically speaking, these numbers do not match up with what you can realistically expect to get out of a CO2 tank.  Possible reasons: Variances in temperature, leaks, micro leaks, purging losses, under-filled tanks, variances in atmospheric pressure (14.7 = sea level) and/or higher carbonation levels.  Realistically, I would figure on 1 to 2  kegs per lb of CO2.  At 2 kegs per lb, you’re getting approximately 66% CO2 efficiency.

Take Aways:

  • Rule of thumb for estimating weigh to CO2 in a keg – 1/2 gram per gallon per PSI
  • Purging a 5 gallon keg will take at least 36.75 grams of CO2 (14.7 x .5 x 5).  Practically speaking it will take more.
  • Weight of CO2 Used to Carbonate = Volumes of Carbonation x 14.7 x .5 x Volume of Beer
  • Weight of CO2 Used for Dispensing = (Serving PSI + 14.7) x .5 x Keg Volume in Gallons

Use the comments of this post to add to the discussion and correct me where necessary.  I may have some misconceptions or misunderstandings about how this works.  I will incorporate your feedback into this post as needed.

Credits: Thanks to Redditor speedplayfrog for your help with this post, including help clarifying the concept of relative vs absolute pressure and for correcting my original serving estimation calculation.

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Q & A with Dr Chris White – 27 Questions Answered!

White Labs recently announced new PurePitch yeast packaging for homebrewers.  The new packaging goes hand in hand with a new propagation method White Labs is calling the Flexcell Process.

White Labs Description of Flexcell:
Instead of traditional stainless steel fermenters, the patent-pending FlexCell process allows White Labs to propagate yeast with no exposure to the environment all the way to packaging, ensuring its quality and purity.

More about PurePitch Packaging:

  • Since the yeast is grown and packaged in the same material the new PurePitch packaging is actually a part of the fermentor, and its contents have never been exposed to the environment.
  • PurePitch Packaging is breathable and allows CO2 to escape. Reduced chance of gas build-up.
  • This packaging will maintain the yeast in a more stress-free state.

Look for new PurePitch Packaging on Homebrew Finds – connect with HBF – when it’s released sometime this fall.

As part of the release of PurePitch Packaging, Dr Chris White PhD, President and CEO of White Labs wanted to hear directly from Homebrew Finds Readers.  We asked you for your questions about the new packaging and yeast and fermentation in general back in July.  Questions and answers follow.

Thanks to all who submitted questions and thank you to Dr Chris White!

Look for new PurePitch Packaging on Homebrew Finds when it’s released sometime this fall.

Q 1. When White Labs propagates yeast, what measures are taken to ensure that no mutations take hold?

A.  Our attention for looking for mutations hasn’t changed with the new technology. We built a big back end to our yeast production at the beginning. We have a specialized team that works with freezes – check for mutations, by specialized plating, genetic analysis and performance. We are constantly checking for mutations. In addition we minimize time we have yeast on plates and our propagation is limited to 17 days. These tools and personal that separates us from being a yeast propagator and we maintain these yeast in there integrity is one of our missions.

Q 2.  Gluten-free brewers are mostly restricted to dry yeast strains, because liquid yeasts are shipped in a medium that contains gluten. Is the PurePitch packaging gluten free, or is it still the same as before?

A.  The yeast within the PurePitch packaging is the same as before. We do, however, carry a product called Clarity Ferm, which can help reduce gluten to under 10 ppm in beer.

Q 3.  What are the ideal mash parameters, yeast strains, and fermentation temperatures to accentuate each of the following ester/phenol characters in a hefeweizen: clove, banana, and bubble gum?

A.  Hef yeast strains that we have are selected to maximize these characteristics. Anything that encourages yeast growth will increase those 3 flavors. Pitching less and higher fermentation temperature that encourage growth are 2 examples. Aerating less will also encourage growth – another parameter that can increase esters.

Q 4.  What yeast or blend of yeasts would you recommend to try and recreate keeping at home?

A.  If traditional methods are followed for keeping our WLP775 WL cider yeast is the best choice.

Q 5.  Is it possible to dry yeast at home for storage and later use?

A.  You will get very low viability dry yeast at home, so it’s not recommended. If you did, you would need to check the viability after rehydrating.

Q 6.  Would it be possible to make a Servomyces substitute at home? If so, could you suggest how it could be done?

A.  No, it is not, as it’s a patented process.

Q 7.  The new packaging says it’s breathable so it allows co2 to escape. Even though it’s breathable- I would think if the package is sealed the yeast would be under considerable pressure during reproduction and may have a negative effect on yeast health during its growth. Is that not really a factor or is it accounted for somehow?

A.  During the propagation, the vessel is constructed with blow-off valves to allow all of the pressure to escape while the culture is being oxygenated and growing.

Q 8.  Is the new packaging permeable to oxygen? If so does that negatively affect the shelf life of the product?

A.  We are still conducting trials to test the shelf life, but initial trials indicate the
shelf life may even be prolonged.

Q 9.  As temperature fluctuates there is the chance the package will also take in outside air. Especially for people who get yeast delivered in warm months. The yeast temperature fluctuate from cold to warm and back to cold. Have you done tests to see how much outside air gets in and it’s effect on the yeast?

A.  The film technology is only allowing gas pressure to escape, but not the other way (like a one-way check valve)

Q 10.  You indicate the packaging material is recyclable. What material is it made of as some states have restrictions?

A.  #2 plastic

Q 11.  Will the new packaging have more strain specific information regarding optimum conditions?

A.  Yes, we’ve broken the yeast strains into categories with more specific strain-related recommendations, including Brett/Bacteria.  We grouped them into 6 different strain styles. Within the 6, we have specific information for example, like Lagers. The 6 strain types are differentiated by color on the package. Furthermore we are actively pertaining more information on our strains via our tasting room and brewery to add more information to our yeast descriptions that are found online and printed material.

Q 12.  How is a uniform cell count, or a known cell count, maintained in each unit when the culture is packaged using this new packaging technology?

A.  We’re using automated cell counting technology to validate the consistency of the culture prior to final packaging.

Q 13.  Was there an issue with the old packaging that prompted for the redesign (I understand the improved packaging for retailers to take up significantly less shelf space, but was it a yeast reason or was this a response to increases in vial costs or actual issues with the old storage methods?) Will this keep yeast more viable for longer periods of time?

A.  This was prompted to reduce the amount of transfers yeast makes to be propagated, concentrated, tested and packaged. From our first thoughts of this process, it was driven by the desire to make better yeast. We have always liked the vial, but we didn’t want that to cloud our desire to make better yeast. By utilizing this new technology, we can offer yeast that has never been exposed to the environment. We have seen better viability over time as well, which is due to release of CO2 and from less time and handling to fill packages.

Q 14.  You sell ~100 billion cells per package. These packages include instructions indicating they are directly pitchable into 5 gallons of wort up to ~1.060. However, every brewer of any experience seems to accept as gospel that yeast starters are required for nearly any batch – Jamil Z.’s online calculator claims that 100 billion cells are barely enough for 5 gallons at 1.034, for example. Why, then, has White Labs not marketed a package of 200 or 250 billion cells for homebrew use? This would allow homebrewers to brew beers in the meat of the homebrewing space – say 1.050 – 1.075 – without the trouble of making starters for every batch.

A.  We are actually increasing the number of cells per package to 2.5 to 3 billion cells per ml. And laboratory grown yeast won’t necessarily follow the pitching rate guidelines since they are very healthy. The pitching rate recommendations traditionally refer to re-pitched yeast. Also, you are not getting a lot of growth from a starter unless it is an adequate size.

Q 15.  The number of cells in each pack strains the minimal requirements for a 5 gallon session strength beer (ie. 250,000 cells/ml/P). And that’s given 100% viability, which is almost never likely due to unavoidable transportation and long term storage issues at LHBS. With the new packages will there be options for larger volumes, (e.g. 200e9 cells) to help address these? Minimal costs additions, offset by new pack savings, would definitely drive market share higher.

A.  See answer to #14. With yeast it is similar to beer pricing, if you buy 1 liter of beer it is usually only slightly less than the price of 2 pints, because you have to make twice as much on the manufacturing side.  But we are open to different sizes in the future, it just won’t be as ‘less
expensive’ as people might think. Please keep the feedback on sizes coming to White Labs.

Q 16.  What temperature should I make a yeast starter at? Room temp, warmer or cooler?

A.  Room temperature or warmer (close to 75F or 24C)

Q 17.  How long should I let a yeast starter run on a stir plate? Is there a recommended duration, or some visual indication that the colony is ready?

A.  24-48 hrs. The only visual confirmation you can get would be to count the yeast and examine them under the microscope.

Q 18.  Should I drain the starter wort first? Should I chill the starter to help it settle before doing so?

A.  It is mostly personal preference but if you are decanting the starter wort you should let it settle and chilling it will accelerate that.

Q 19.  What temperature should I pitch at? At target fermentation temperature, or some measure below?

A.  We recommend pitching at 70, then bringing the temp down to fermentation temperature when fermentation begins.

Q 20.  Can I over do it with oxygen in the wort when I pitch my yeast? I have been doing some experiments with extending the time that I run O2 on my wort when I pitch. I have a commercial size O2 tank & regulator and .5 micron stone that I use to oxygenate my 10 gal all grain batches. I noticed that increasing my O2 run improved the start on my ferment and produced better all around results. So, I started extending the time that I ran my o2, just to see what would happen. I expected to see a point where my results started to fall off. This did not seem to happen. I continued to extend my oxygenation up to about 35 minutes at about 1 liter per minute. I do not have the equipment to do cell counts and so my results are fairly subjective, but, it seems to me that at least up to 15 minutes I observed improvements in fermentation. Can I hurt the cells with a 15 minute O2 run and at what point am I just wasting my time. Using the large o2 cylinder, the cost is very minimal and I am not concerned with it. My primary interest is producing better beer. What will make my yeast perform best?

A.  In homebrew set ups, it is very hard to over oxygenate. Once saturation is reached, excess oxygen will not go into solution. So at that point extra oxygen will be wasted. In commercial operations, they sometimes get over oxygenation because they are oxygenating in line, which can create over pressure which allows more oxygen to dissolve into solution.

Q 21.  In your book you mention how important adding oxygen to wort for proper fermentation. Is there a specific amount to add correlated to original gravity? Such as X liters for 5 gallons of 1.040 and Y more for every increase of 5 points?

A.  It is not about flow rate of oxygen, that will be different for every set up and every beer. What you want is 8 to 10 ppm of dissolved oxygen in the wort. The difficult part about knowing that is most people do not have the equipment to measure dissolved oxygen.

Q 22.  Any brewer who’s tasted their wort knows it tastes much more bitter than the beer it is eventually turned into by yeast. To what extent is the pre- and post-fermentation IBU difference dependent on yeast strain? If it does vary by yeast strain, do you think this would be a useful value to include in each yeast’s spec sheet?

A.  Yes, it is affected by different yeast strains. We have been studying this in our brewery/tasting room, and are working on a publication to make this information available to everyone.

Q 23.  Will White Labs be able to produce consistent yeast blends with this new method of packaging?

A.  Yes

Q 24.  Will the work with Yeast Bay migrate over to the new packaging?

A.  Yes

Q 25.  Will the new method of packaging effect cell counts of Bret and Lacto?

A.  No, the cell counts will remain the same

Q 26.  Is it possible to clean up a batch of yeast using water purification drops (the kind used for camping)? What are the chances of killing the yeast or reducing its abilities?

A.  No, the yeast would be killed.

Q 27.  When making high-gravity beer can I viably use distiller’s yeast in the secondary fermentation chamber after the primary yeast has done most of the work to lower the FG a little further?

A.  You can always try it but not all distiller’s yeast are considered high gravity yeast

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Balancing your Draft System + Three Things I learned about Draft Dispensing at NHC

I had the pleasure of attending the National Homebrewer’s Conference held in Grand Rapids, Michigan this past week.  If you didn’t have the chance to go, or even if you did, the AHA will be providing recordings of every seminar held at this year’s NHC.  In fact you can pick up recordings going back to 2012′s conference.  This is a member’s only benefit.  If you’re not a member of the AHA, I think you should consider joining.  Access to conference materials is only one of many benefits.  Join nowCheck out the benefits.

One of the sessions I attended was Tom Schmidlin’s “Draft System Design and Maintenance”.  Having built several kegerators over the years, clarification – several iterations of the same kegerator, I feel like a know a fair bit about putting together a system.  Many things were re-affirmations of lessons I’ve learned.  I did pick up a few new tips.  Thank you to Tom Schmidlin for putting on this great presentation!

Note that all of these ideas are not exactly notes from Tom’s presentation.  I specifically note items that I recall picking up from him.  All three “What I learned about Draft Dispensing at NHC” are from Tom’s presentation.

On to setting your temperatures and pressures and balancing your system…

Temperature and Pressure:
The carbonation level of your beer is a function of your CO2 PSI and your kegerator temperature.  The colder your kegerator, the more CO2 your beer will absorb.  You need to decide two things: How cold do I want my beer to be and what carbonation level do I want to serve it at.

1.  Carbonation Level.  Typically expressed in volumes of dissolved CO2.  Check out the BJCP’s style guidelines for a starting point.  The guidelines give general terms like low, moderately low, high, very high, etc.  Other more specific charts and tools are also available.  Most recipe formulation tools have guidelines or tools on the subject including BeerSmith and Brewer’s Friend.  Tasty Brew’s Carbonation Calculator also has built in guidelines.

2.  Temperature.  Tom said that most bars serve between 34 and 38 deg F.  Of course, this is a personal preference.

After you have determined carbonation level and temperature you’d like you can use a carbonation chart or calculator to determine what pressure you need to store your beer at.

Click To Enlarge.  This graphic is found all around the web.  I believe that credit goes to the great John Palmer of How to Brew fame.

Example:  If you’d like your beer to be 38 degrees and you want 2.4 volumes of CO2, you would find 38 degrees on the far left hand column and then follow it over to the right until you find something similar to 2.4.  After you have located that, follow that column up and you’ll find your required storage and serving PSI.  In this case, 10 PSI.

Serving Beers with Multiple Carbonation Levels

If you want to serve beers at different pressures you’ll need multiple regulators…

This is a secondary regulator meaning that it has no high pressure gauge or connection.  This hooks on to your existing primary regulator and allows you to serve up to four additional pressures.  In combination with your primary regulator you can actually serve up to 5 pressures.  Set the primary to your highest desired pressure level, put in a T or manifold on the primary outlet and feed the secondary from there.  Check it out – Here

This is the double bodied regulator that I currently use.  It allows me to serve at two carbonation levels.  I feed a manifold off one regulator with what I’ll call my standard or house carbonation level – and have a single line going off the other regulator for beers that I want to serve at a different carbonation level or for force carbing a keg at a higher pressure.  Check it out – Here

If you simply want to split one of your pressures for use in multiple kegs, a manifold will do the trick.  These give you multiple tubing runs, have integrated check valves to prevent cross contamination and have valves to control each link.  The list of things that grow with you in homebrewing is… short.  You can’t add on two gallons to your brew kettle.  This expandable manifold system from More Beer is one thing that will actually grow with you.  Check it out – Here

Balancing Your System:

Now that you have your beer at your preferred temperature and carbonation level you need to be able to dispense it at the proper speed and without excessive foam.  A common goal is 1 gallon per minute or about 2 ounces per second.  That’s accomplished by balancing your system.  Essentially, you want to offset most of the pressure (all but about 1 PSI) that is required to store and carbonate your beer with resistance in your system.  Everything on the liquid side of your system counts toward this resistance.

Some resistance estimations…


Tubing – credit goes to the Draught Quality Manual for these figures:

  • Vinyl 3/16” ID 3.00 lbs/ft
  • Vinyl 1/4” ID 0.85 lbs/ft
  • Vinyl 5/16” ID 0.40 lbs/ft
  • Vinyl 3/8” ID 0.20 lbs/ft
  • Vinyl 1/2” ID 0.025 lbs/ft
  • Barrier 1/4” ID 0.30 lbs/
  • Barrier 5/16” ID 0.10 lbs/ft
  • Barrier 3/8” ID 0.06 lbs/ft
  • Stainless 1/4” OD 1.20 lbs/ft
  • Stainless 5/16” OD 0.30 lbs/ft
  • Stainless 3/8” OD 0.12 lbs/ft

Note:  Most Homebrewers that I know use either 1/4″ or 3/16″ ID Vinyl with the majority of those using 3/16″ ID Vinyl.  Lower resistance options are typically used by commercial establishments that are usually trying to reduce resistance.

Note: More Beer has recently EJ Beverage’s Line of PVC Free, Antibacterial, Low Permeability Tubing.  Each of those options include estimated lbs of restriction per foot.  Check that tubing line out – Here

Other:

  • Standard Faucet and Shank – Tom estimates 5 lbs for these items
  • Picnic or Cobra Faucet – .5 lbs
  • Rise in elevation – .5lbs/ft of rise, measured from the center of the keg

Example: Continuing our previous example, we had our pressure set to 10 PSI.  Everything on the liquid side of the system counts toward the system’s resistance.  Let’s say you’re using a picnic tap and 3/16″ ID Tubing.

Picnic Tap = .5 lbs

Estimated Rise from Center of Keg = 2 ft = 1 lb

Total = 1.5 lbs of resistance


That leaves us 7.5 lbs that we need to use up.  We’re using 3/16″ ID Tubing (3 lbs/ft).  We’ll need a total of 2.5 ft of tubing to offset the required pressure.


The total system looks like this…

Picnic Tap = .5 lbs
Estimated Rise from Center of Keg = 2 ft = 1 lb
2.5 ft of 3/16″ ID Tubing = 7.5 lbs

Total = 9 lbs of resistance


Remaining = 1 PSI to serve beer


But wait… you should double the length of the tubing.  Why you ask?…


What I learned about Draft Dispensing at NHC #1 – “Estimates aren’t always right”

Estimations for the resistance of vinyl tubing per foot are… wrong.  Practically I’ve know this for years.  Some time ago I tried to serve Northern Brewer’s Hefeweizen Recipe at traditional carbonation levels (3.6 to 4.5 volumes of CO2) using these figures.  Didn’t work.  Tom’s suggestion: Double the amount of vinyl tubing called for and trim until you get an acceptable flow rate of about 1 gallon per hour and a good pour.  Along those lines, Tom also suggested buying your tubing in 100 foot rolls.

I received two more revelations…


What I learned about Draft Dispensing at NHC #2 – “Longer Shank = Less Foam”

 A longer shank means… a colder faucet.  More mass inside your kegerator or keezer keeps your faucet colder and reduces foam.

What I learned about Draft Dispensing at NHC #3 – “Safety First”

Tom’s advice is… Do not place your kegerator in your basement.  A catastrophic failure could cause the tank to drain, flooding your basement with CO2.  Tom also recommended the use of a CO2 Alarm.  He said he got his at Amazon.  He, rightly, mentions that these are difficult to find and a bit on the expensive side.  Carbon Monoxide alarms abound, CO2 alarms are more rare.  In fact if you search for “CO2 Alarm”  on Amazon, the site believes you’ve mistyped and instead shows you Carbon Monoxide Alarms.  This altered search helps a bit, specifically excluding the term monoxide.  It seems some units only report CO2 levels without issuing an alarm.  Here are a couple of models that have alarms: Indoor Air Quality Meter and Supco IAQ50 Wall Mounted Indoor Air Quality Monitor.  As for me… my kegerator is in… my basement and I have a… 20 lb CO2 tank.  At this point, I’m not planning to move it.  I am, however, going to get a CO2 alarm in short order.

Additional Resources and Related Products:

Pinned: Chugger Pump Sale · Used Whiskey Barrels · $5:Draft Mag · Kettle Therm

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Cost Comparison: Kit Cost vs Individual Ingredients – A Look at Five Kits


Here’s a look at five Northern Brewer Recipe Kits with a cost comparison on buying the kit vs buying individual ingredients and some general thoughts on the subject.


First, A look at Northern Brewer’s most popular kitDead Ringer IPA


All Grain Version
The all grain kit costs $25.45 excluding yeast and priming sugar.  This, along with the rest of the kits and ingredients mentioned here, qualifies for Northern Brewer’s Flat Rate Shipping Promo.

Piecing it out:

11-lbs. Rahr-2-Row @ $1.29/lb – $14.19
1-lbs. Briess Caramel 40 @ 1.79/lb – $1.79
5.75-oz. Centennial -(you must buy 6 ounces) @ $2.25/ou – $11.25

Total = $27.23


You save 7.5% by purchasing the kit


Extract Version

The extract kit costs $40.45 excluding yeast and priming sugar.

Piecing it out:

1-lbs. Briess Caramel 40 @ 1.79/lb – $1.79
9.15 lbs Gold malt syrup (1 x 6 lb + 1 x 3.15 lb) – $25.98

6-oz. Centennial - @ $2.25/ou – $11.25

Total = $39.61

You save .2% by purchasing individual ingredients

Next.. A look at Northern Brewer’s Kiwi Express.  This is the most recent beer that I’ve brewed.  I’ll be kegging it soon and look forward to giving it a try.
All Grain Version
The all grain kit costs $32.45 excluding yeast and priming sugar.

Piecing it out:

11.5-lbs Malteurop American 2 row Pale (You must buy 12 lbs) – $17.88
0.5-lbs. Briess Caramel 20 (You must buy 1 lb) – $1.99
1-oz New Zealand Nelson Sauvin – $3.30
2-oz New Zealand Motueka – $5.98
4-oz New Zealand Wakatu – $6.36

Total = $35.81


You save 9% by purchasing the kit


Extract Version

The extract kit costs $45.45 excluding yeast and priming sugar.

Piecing it out:

6 lbs Pilsen malt syrup – $17.99
2 lbs Briess Pilsen DME – $9
0.5-lbs. Briess Caramel 20 (You must buy 1 lb) – $1.99
1-oz New Zealand Nelson Sauvin – $3.30
2-oz New Zealand Motueka – $5.98
4-oz New Zealand Wakatu – $6.36

Total = $45.21

The kit vs individual ingredients are almost identical in price, just 24 cents separates them.  You save .005% by purchasing individual ingredients.

A look at one more beer… The All Grain Version of Cascade Mountains West Coast Imperial IPA.  I have this kit slated for an upcoming brew day.  A friend of mine brewed this and it’s a great beer.  I was interested to see how this one stacked up primarily because of the copious amounts of ingredients.
The all grain kit costs $42.24 excluding yeast and priming sugar.

Piecing it out:

10-lbs. Rahr 2 row – $12.90
4.5-lbs. English Maris Otter (You must buy 5 lbs) – $8.95
0.50-lbs. Briess Caramel 10 (You must buy 1 lb) – $1.79
2-lbs. Corn Sugar – $5
2-oz Summit – $3.50
8-oz Cascade – $14 

Total = $46.14


You save 8.5% by purchasing the kit


General Thoughts:

With this small sample size, it appears that extract kits are about identical in price and you can save some money by going with the kits for all grain recipes… between 7.5% and 9% savings.

Beyond savings, kits can also be a way to obtain more difficult to find hops.  Some retailers will hold back popular ingredients for use in their kits.

It is a bit of legwork to do these price comparisons.  You also increase your chances of ordering incorrectly when piecing out a recipe.


An advantage to piecing together recipes is some additional control over the recipe including the ability to scale up or down the for volume or efficiency reasons.  Of course, you need to have the recipe to do this.  If a vendor is unwilling to share this information, buy the kit and the recipe is yours for a future batch.  


Another ancillary benefit to piecing together… You may end up with a few odds and ends left over for a future batch.  I have bunches of odds and ends around, which makes me feels good, but in practice, I rarely go back and use stuff.  I’m sure some people do.

Of course, more savings can be realized by buying hops and grain in bulk.

Bottom Line: There are savings to be had with some kits.  Unless you want or need more control… buy the kit.  If you’re on a strict budget (or you need something to do :)… put pencil to paper at your favorite retailer and consider bulk purchases.

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Small Batch, All Grain Stove Top Brewing + Spreadsheet

For many of us, today is a good day to… stay inside.  This small batch stove top technique works great.  It’s my go to technique when it’s too cold outside to brew…


For fun and sport, I’ve been brewing small (1-3 gallon) batches of all grain on my stove top.  It’s a simple, quick and economical way to brew all grain.  It’s been a blast!


What kind of gear is needed to accomplish this amazing feat?  A comprehensive list follows.


1.  A Bag.

That’s about it.  You kind of just need a bag.


My total investment was about $4 for two bags.  This assumes you already have a reasonably sized kettle that you’ve used for extract and a thermometer.  My extract kettle is 6 gallons.


What is All Grain Brewing?
In a (very small) nutshell…
  • Soaking malted grains at a set temp using a set amount of water.  This triggers enzymes that convert complex carbohydrates to simple, fermentable sugars.
  • Separating those grains from the sugary wort.
  • Rinsing to retrieve some of the additional sugar that remains on the grains.

Small Batch Brew in a Bag (BIAB) Step By Step:
  1. Decide on a recipe and a batch size and gather your ingredients.  Buy your grain pre-crushed if you don’t have a mill.  More info on recipe sizing below.
  2. Heat the right amount of water to the correct temperature.  How do you figure that out?  Use the spreadsheet below.
  3. Put an appropriate fine mesh bag in your kettle.  Make sure the bag is large enough to hold your grain.  I’ve found with my 6 gallon kettle, doing one to three gallon batches, that a 5 gallon nylon paint strainer bag is perfect.  It’s plenty large enough to hold the grain and it’s not so large that it sits on the bottom of the kettle.  This helps to avoid scorching the bag.
  4. Put your crushed grain in the bag inside of the kettle.  Mix everything well and take a temperature.  The mash should settle out around your target temperature.  If it’s a little low, add some direct heat and stir.  If it’s a little high, add some ice and stir.  Your temperature does not need to be exact.
  5. Put the lid on your kettle and wait, usually 60 minutes, depending on the recipe.  Your grains are mashing.  Because there is no insulation, I usually take a temperature measurement half way through and add a bit of heat to bring it back up to the right temp.  Again, stir when you are adding heat.
  6. When the mash time is up, grab the bag and lift it out of your kettle.  I give it a spin or two to close up the bag.  Let it drip for several seconds.  I also give it a few light squeezes.  Have a large bowl nearby ready to receive your bag of spent grain.  When you have the time, discard the grains and rinse out the bag.  It’s ready for another use!
  7. Start boiling!

You will notice, there was no rinsing of grains.  The technique that I’ve outlined, is a no sparge method.  You’re just losing a little efficiency.  No big deal in my book.

The Spreadsheet

This is a simplified version of my regular brew day spreadsheet.

(Click the graphic to enlarge)


Green cells are to fill in as necessary.  Blue cells are calculated values.  The directions section is calculated as well and puts all the numbers into sentence form.  


Plug in your numbers under “Beer Info” and go.  You can adjust grain absorption rate and boil off rate, in the constants section, if you know your numbers or just leave the default values in place. 


Microsoft Excel Version

Open Office Version
Google Docs Version (Thanks to Google+ friend Daniel for this!)

How do you get an appropriately sized recipe?

  1. Use a free unlimited duration Brewer’s Friend Trial Account - Here.  Brewer’s Friend allows you to easily scale recipes up and down.
  2. Divide a 5 gallon ingredient kit or recipe down to whatever size you need.  Want to brew a 1.25 gallon batch?  Divide your 5 gallon recipe in quarters.  If you’re physically doing this with a recipe kit, make sure the grain is mixed up thoroughly to evenly disperse specialty grains.  You are losing a bit of accuracy in hop utilization by simply dividing a recipe.  Again… not a big deal in my book.
  3. I’m coming at this from a small batch perspective, but there’s nothing saying you couldn’t do this with a 5 or 10 gallon batch.  You just need get the right sized kettle and bag.


Important Note
However you end up with ingredients and a recipe, pay special note to the “Total Mash Volume” cell in the spreadsheet.  After you plug in your numbers in the “Beer Info” section, this estimates the total volume of your mash.  This should be less than the size of your kettle!  Special thanks to the Green Bay Rackers.  The Total Mash Volume calculation is an adaptation of the excellent “Can I mash it” online calculator.

Gear


The Bag:

Thanks to tipster Todd for this!  By the way, Todd is the guy behind Grog Tag.

These are elastic top nylon paint straining bags.  You get 2 for $3.97 with free pickup at your local Home Depot.

The elastic helps keep the bag from falling into the kettle when filled with grain.


5 Gallon Paint Straining Bags - $3.97

-OR-
2 Pack 5 Gallon Nylon Strainers 11523 - $2.50 + $1.59 Shipping


Kettle:

If you don’t have a large enough kettle to do the batches you’re interested in, check out the kettles tag.

If you’re looking to replicate this 1-3 gallon procedure.  Consider the 6 Gallon Winware Kettle.

Winware Professional Aluminum Kettle 6 Gallon - $40.53 Shipped

These do not sell with lids, so add one on if you’d like.


Larger Batch Sizes…
If you want room to do larger BIAB batches, full boil extract batches and all grain batches.  Consider this 10 gallon kettle and lid.  This doesn’t cost much more vs the 6 gallon size.  As far as a bag for larger batch sizes… More Beer makes a larger bag that works well for full 5 gallon batches.  Some pictures of that bag in action are in our Brewing Pliny the Elder post.

Thermometer:

If need a thermometer, I’ll point you some Top Finds:

Waterproof, Instant Read Digital Thermometer from CDN.  Check out my hands on review here

CDN DTQ450X ProAccurate Quick-Read Thermometer



Manufactured by ThermoWorks.  Super fast response time (5-6 seconds), Dishwasher safe & Min/Max Function.


For the price, this is a great thermometer.  Waterproof, instant read, commercial quality. 

Taylor 9842 Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer


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