Category Archives: Reviews & Top Posts

Hands on Review: Kegland Cannular Bench Top Can Seamer – Can Your Homebrew!

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.

Kegland Cannular Can Seamer

It’s been a long road for craft beer to be accepted in cans and not bottles. But it has been well established that cans are OK, too, and some take it even further to tout cans as a superior storage vessel for beer. I’ll avoid a full-blown comparison of the pros & cons of each, but I do feel it worth noting a couple of the selling points cans have. One is the claim that cans provide better storage with a more oxygen-proof seal than bottle caps, and 100% light blocking versus even brown colored glass. There is probably lots of debate on those two topics, but one benefit that is universally recognized is transportability. Cans are lighter and more compact, a whole lot less fragile, and you can take them to beaches and pools where glass containers are banned.


Limited Time Deals, Review Continues Below:

This are both somewhat indirect deals on the Cannular

Discount on Cans via MoreBeer:

  • Site Wide Sale: For a short time, MoreBeer is taking 15% off nearly everything, site wide as part of their 12 Deals of Christmas Sale!.  There are a few exceptions.  The Cannular is excluded from this (and most) sales.  But….
  • This deal does work on cases of 207 new 16 ounce cans making them $84.99 per case.
  • Get Free Shipping: Shipping is also free to most US addresses with a qualifying $59 order.  This includes bulky cases of new cans.

Pick Your Own Gift via William’s Brewing:


On the homebrew scale, until recently, the canners available have either been hand-crank monstrosities that look like an exhibit from a museum on the industrial revolution, or electrically driven units that look like steampunk movie props and cost a couple thousand dollars. Then in 2019, KegLand from Australia started exporting their Cannular can seamer that sells for $525 for the unit + power supply and is electrically powered. This changed the landscape significantly in the homebrew world, making canning much more within reach.


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Empty CanLid on Foam

The Cannular operates with a combination of manual lever pulling and electric motor spinning. You start the process out with an empty aluminum can with no top on it. You sanitize the can, fill it with beer, and then take a sanitized lid and set it down on top of the can (ideally on foam, to ensure minimization of air in your canned product). From there, it gets placed on a small pedestal and a lever turn raises the can up into the machinery of the can seaming operation and locks it at that height. The push of a button gets the motor spinning and the can on its platform starts spinning around. Grabbing a different lever, you push back and hold it for a couple seconds, then pull it toward you for a couple seconds, and you’re done. Turn off the motor, lower your can back down on the pedestal, and you’ve canned one beer.

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Keg Quick Disconnect Internal Replacement O-Rings

cmbecker ball lock

Ball Lock and Pin Lock Keg QDs have an internal o-ring gasket that keeps liquid and gas from leaking out the top side.

I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to lose these.  Beyond that, they wear out and crack.  I’ve also had some that have gotten seated incorrectly and ended up becoming mis-formed so that they no longer sit properly.


Related: Keg Gaskets and Replacement Part Numbers


If you’re looking for CM Becker OEM replacement parts, that’s easy… check out Keg Connection.  They have a nice diagram that shows all the parts and pieces – (gaskets, spring, stem and caps) for both ball lock and pin lock QDs.  See: Disconnect Parts List at Keg Connection

This post is a look at a non-OEM replacement option, that I’ve found works well in standard ball lock style QDs.  They may also work in pin lock QDs, but that’s something I’ve never tried.

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Convert Your Chugger or March Pump to Tri-Clamp Fittings

Convert Your Chugger or March Homebrew Pump to Tri-Clamp Fittings

Upgrading your Chugger or March Pump to Tri-Clamp style disconnects is as easy as getting the right fittings.  Here are some options.

Haven’t Purchased a Pump Yet & Want Tri-Clamps?

RipTide Brewing Pump by Blichmann Engineering is worth a hard look.  It’s outfitting with Tri-Clamps and is a well outfitted homebrw pump – Hands on Review

Related Reviews & Resources

More Tri-Clamp Compatible Fittings

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.

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Hands on Review: Weekend Brewer 5L Mini Keg Growler + Ball Lock Lid, Micro Regulator & Tap

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.

Weekend Brewer 5L Mini Keg Growler

You might wonder what a “Mini Keg Growler” is. The name tells you that it’s for draft beer. The Weekend Brewer obviously came up with that name as an indication of the melding of two functions together. One is the transport of draft beer from point A to point B- Growler. The other is using it to store [small amounts of] beer for dispensing in a draft system- Mini Keg.

Size comparison vs a 1 gallon milk jug

The 5L Mini Keg Growler is about the size/proportions of a gallon milk jug. It has a small screw-on lid with a silicone seal, for use as a growler. It’s made of stainless steel to make it much more durable than a glass growler. It’s not insulated, which has the drawback of not being able to keep itself cold sitting out on the counter. However, by not having a double wall construction with a barrier of air in between, that means its overall size is smaller and hence much friendlier to sit inside a refrigerator or cooler. To get something in this size in an insulated configuration, you’d have to decrease the amount of beer you could fit in. So they decided that bigger is better. There is a neoprene sleeve you can buy as an add-on if you want to go that route.


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To use as a Mini Keg, they sell lids that have dispensing hardware built into them for putting CO2 in and getting beer out. The most keg-like of these lids is a small stainless steel machined lid that screws in to replace the regular lid, and has two ball lock posts and Pressure Relief Valve. Yes, exactly like your Corny Keg. With the ball lock fittings, you can stick it in your kegerator and hook up your normal gas and liquid lines to use it for small volume brews (5 Liters is just over 1.3 gallons).

Growler with Ball Lock Lid InstalledMicro CO2 Regulator 30 psi Gauge

Being smaller than a full-sized homebrew keg, you can more easily take it with you to a party and hook up various mobile options to supply CO2 in and get the beer out. The micro regulator they sell screws onto a threaded gas ball lock disconnect and then you can attach various size CO2 cartridges. It has adapters so it can take 3/8” threaded 16-gram cartridges, or the larger 5/8” threaded 74-gram cartridges. The 16 gram size has plenty of CO2 for dispensing 5L of beer. But it can also be handy to have the flexibility of using the regulator together with a Corny keg if you’ve got bigger plans.

Hands on Review

The growler has a brushed stainless external surface to help it stay looking good and not be prone to smudging and fingerprints, and it looked good. The opening size of the growler seemed a bit on the smaller size when it came to washing it out afterwards and being able to do a good visual inspection inside, but as a trade-off, the smaller size made it much more manageable when using it as a growler and trying to pour beer directly from it into a glass.

The dual ball lock top was excellent. This provides a great amount of flexibility in options for how to get CO2 in, and how to get the beer out. Notably, if you’re going to do a fill/vent cycle a few times with CO2 to reduce Oxygen in the headspace, you can kill a 16 gram cartridge pretty fast (learned through personal past experience). Having the option to just hook this up to my keezer CO2 bottle supply, I was able to work through this and keep the small cartridge CO2 just dedicated to serving beer at the party. And I’m not a 1-gallon batch brewer, but if you were, this dual ball lock lid lends itself to the various different low oxygen closed transfer processes out there.

Picnic Tap and Liquid Ball Lock in Dispense Kit

I did have some issues with air pickup in the dip tube while dispensing. I was running a lower pressure of about 4 psi, but the beers were coming out about 2/3 – 3/4 foam. I tried using different dispensing options like a long run of tubing with a picnic tap, but still had issues. If I ran a very low pressure of 1-2 psi, I could get the foam down to a manageable ~20-25%, with a very patient pour. However, I found I could eliminate the foaming issue by replacing the harder plastic pick-up tubing inside with a softer silicone tubing. The silicone was able to conform more to the fitting on the inside of the lid and make a better seal, preventing it from sucking in air on its way out of the growler. I highly recommend you go this route (I passed this suggestion/finding along to the owners of Weekend Brewer, and they were going to explore this more, as well).

Conclusions

Overall, the Weekend Brewer Mini Keg Growler creates an interesting proposition for those that are looking to get into 1-gallon batch brewing, but want to keep their current kegerator/keezer set-up. And the versatility of the double ball-lock lid provides lots of options to allow you to dual-purpose these kegs and take them with you, as well as use them as low oxygen fermentation or transfer vessels.

Get the Gear:

Also: Kegerator Tips & Gear | Keg Repair Part #s | Recent Keg Finds

Our Top Draft Resources

 

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Double Ball Lock Lid- InsideMicro Regulator Customizable Adapter for Different CO2 Cartridges Mini Keg Growler Screw-on Lid with Silicone Seal Ring

Top Post: Tips and Gear for Growler Filling

More Growler Reviews+Related:

More: Growler Reviews & Related

Special Thanks to The Weekend Brewer for providing the unit used for evaluation in this review.

By Brad Probert.  Check out Brad’s website – beersnobby.com

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Hands on Review: TrailKeg 1 Gallon Growler, Regulator & Tap

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.

TrailKeg 1 Gallon Pressurized Growler

I abandoned bottling quite a while ago for the same reason so many do- kegging is so much easier. And draft beer is much more rewarding/special than bottles when drinking at home, or hosting a party. Of course taking that beer to a party isn’t as simple as grabbing a few bottles and heading out the door, though. But like every problem in life that presents itself, solutions are found.

At breweries, their solution is the growler. You fill up your half gallon glass jug with your favorite beer, they put a lid on it, and you take it home. But this has limitations. Akin to pouring a glass of beer and then setting it in the fridge to drink later, beer in growlers lose carbonation and go stale tasting after a few days. The solution to this problem is the pressurized growler.

TrailKeg makes pressurized growlers. They come in half gallon and one gallon size. The half gallon is smaller and lighter, but only nets you about 4 beers. That works if you’re taking a beer to share with a friend or offer small tastings at a party. But the full gallon growler with its 8 beers is a much more social size. You’re obviously not going to fuel the whole party with that, but when the host tells you to bring a 6-pack of your favorite beer to share, you get bonus points.

What makes pressurized growlers “pressurized” is the fact that they have ports on them to let you pressurize with small CO2 cartridges. The small 16 gram cartridges contain enough CO2 to keep your beer pressurized and dispense all of your beer. Effectively, they turn your growler into a mini portable keg. The mini CO2 regulator has a tiny pressure gauge, and after you hook it up, you turn a pressure adjustment knob to dial in the serving pressure you want.

PerfectPour Dip TubePerfectPour Dip Tube Opening Comparison

And speaking of serving pressure, TrailKeg has an optional add-on accessory which was a dip tube with what they call a PerfectPour, which seems to be unique in the industry. It’s a cylindrical length of silicone that slides on over the bottom of their regular dip tube, and has a really small opening in it. With such a small hole, you have to be certain your beer doesn’t have hop bits floating around in it, but the concept solves a common problem on these small pressurized growlers. In the keg you probably carbonate at 10 psi or higher, but if you go over 5 psi in these growlers you get a foamy mess. With the PerfectPour restriction of the small hole, you can dispense out of your growler at the same pressure as you carbonate in your keg. No compromise.

Since your “mini keg” isn’t in your kegerator, it will get warm just sitting on the counter or tabletop. So TrailKeg made their growler insulated, by making it double-walled with an air cavity in between. As you may or may not know, air is an excellent insulator. For it to be effective, you have to trap the air and not let it move around, which is what you get when you hear “double walled insulated”. By trapping the air in between an inside layer (where your beer is) and an outside layer (where the warm air is trying to ruin your beer), you get great insulation. TrailKeg says their design keeps your liquid inside cold for 24 hours.

In transport mode

To get the cold beer out of this growler, the same lid that has the CO2 port also has a ball lock disconnect post, just like a Corny keg. This lets you keep it well sealed to avoid accidental spillage when transporting it to your party, and then you just pop on the ball lock fitting and are ready to go. Within the package that comes with the lid, TrailKeg has a cool set-up with a tap directly connected to a ball lock fitting. This completes the mini keg experience with a “kegerator on the go” delivery of your draft beer direct from an actual tap.

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Hands on Review: Torpedo 10 Gallon Ball Lock Homebrew Kegs!

Larger 10 and 15 gallon homebrew kegs have been very hard to find… for years.  There have been a couple sources, eBay was a best bet, but that was touch and go at best.  When you could find one, prices were… outrageous.  $300++ for a used 10 gallon keg would not be uncommon.  Again, that’s IF you could find one.

Great news homebrewers…. MoreBeer has introduced 10 and 15 gallon homebrew ball lock kegs via their Torpedo line of kegs and accessories.  These are BRAND NEW kegs that are (hopefully) readily available at a reasonable price.

Why a larger 10 or 15 gallon homebrew keg?

The first and most obvious answer is for large batch brewers.  If you brew 10 or 15 gallon batches, it sure would be nice to have a keg that fits your entire batch.  Even if you don’t brew 10 gallons, you may want to brew a couple 5 gallon batches of the same beer (much like professional brewers do) and keg it in a single keg.

A less obvious answer to the question is… to use as a fermenter.  Kegs are well-built stainless steel vessels that are pressure capable.  You can easily move them around and they are built to be bumped around a bit.  Using a keg opens up some really interesting possibilities…. fermenting under pressure with a Spunding Valve [See: Build a Spunding Valve! – How and Why], naturally carbonating in the fermenter/Krausening (again with the aid of a Spunding Valve), transferring under pressure, oxygen-free (or near oxygen-free) transfers, re-purposing expelled CO2 and more.

A third application is similar to the second… Use as a UniVessel.  Ferment and serve in the same vessel.  Save time and simplify your process.


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Hands on Review MoreBeer’s 10 Gallon Torpedo Ball Lock Homebrew Keg

A look at some info on the outside of the box.  Made of 304 Stainless Steel, ISO9001 Quality Assurance.  38 Liter Volume Capacity and a warning not to exceed maximum rated pressure.A look inside the box.  This was nicely packaged and arrived in perfect condition.
A look at the 10 Gallon Torpedo KegClose up of the logo and specifications.A top down view of the kegA look at the bottom of the kegA close of look at the integrated handles.  These are nicely rounded and comfortable to use.The top collar features some knock-outs or cut outs to help with drainage and drying.The top of the keg curls around presumably to strengthen it and provide a smooth surface.  It also features some holds for airflow and drying.The skirt at the bottom of the keg also has some holes for ventilation.  I think these are great.  This is a fairly large keg and the fact that they are built to allow some air movement is a good thing.I wanted to test the keg for leaks.  To do that I hooked up my C02 to fill the keg and planned to monitor with my Kegland BlowTie Spunding to see if pressure changed over time.  I quickly noticed that CO2 WAS NOT flowing.  I did some troubleshooting and finally realized… the keg was pressurized already.Checking pressure with my Kegland BlowTie SpundingHands on ReviewA close of look at the pressure gauge.  This came shipped to me at right around 15 PSI.  This proves that the keg holds pressure well.A look inside the keg.  It’s really hard to tell because of lighting, but the inside looks really good.The collar on this keg means there is little room to turn a wrench.  The pictured wrench is a Craftsman Ratcheting Flat Box Wrench with two sizes 11/16″ and 7/8″.  Those are the most common two sizes of standard posts, so, in my opinion, this wrench is a perfect keg wrench.  This keg has 7/8″ posts.  See: Craftsman 5 pc/10 Sizes Wrench Set, Ratchet Box End SAE 42160 via Amazon.You can also put a wrench through the handles.  In my experience it was possible to loosen and tighten the ball lock posts on this keg with a wrench, however… it’s not easy.  If you’re going to get one of these, you should pick up a socket to tighten and loosen posts.A look at the gas side dip tube, poppet and post.  This uses what appears to be a standard universal style poppet.A look at the liquid side dip tube, poppet and post.The liquid side dip tube is about 14″ in length.A look at the lid.  Standard ball lock/pin lock size lid.  Includes a manual PRV like most ball lock keg lids do.  That’s a good thing.  It should vent automatically for safety reasons, but the manual PRV is super handy for relieve pressure when required. A close up look at the lidFor size comparison next to a standard Cornelius Style Ball Lock KegThis standard ball lock keg measures about 25″ in heightThe Torpedo 10 Gallon Ball Lock is about 18 1/2″ in height

Using your Keg the First Time

New kegs come from factory environments.  It’s important to give this keg (and any brand new keg) a thorough cleaning.  A good soak in a strong PBW solution, maybe a second PBW soak for good measure, followed by a thorough rinse and round of sanitizer.

Official Specs of MoreBeer’s 10 and 15 Gallon Ball Lock Homebrew Kegs


10 Gallon Torpedo Keg

  • Total Capacity: 10.1 gal.
  • Max Pressure: 130 psi
  • PRV Rating: 85 psi
  • Height: 18-1/2″
  • Diameter: 15-1/2″
  • Made from 304 Stainless Steel

15 Gallon Torpedo Keg

  • Total Capacity: 15.2 gal.
  • Max Pressure: 130 psi
  • PRV Rating: 85 psi
  • Height: 24-5/8″
  • Diameter: 15-3/4″
  • Made from 304 Stainless Steel

Top down compared to a standard ball lock corny kegMeasuring the top of MoreBeer’s 10 gallon Torpedo KegI’m seeing a diameter of about 15 1/2″.  That’s right in line with official specs.For size comparison next to what I would call a standard/old style 10 gallon Cornelius style ball lock kegFor size comparison, next to a 2.5 Gallon Ball Lock Torpedo Keg

10 Gallon Torpedo Keg as a Fermenter!

The 10 Gallon Torpedo Pictured with a Kegland BlowTie SpundingHands on Review

Kegs are well-built stainless steel vessels that are pressure capable.  You can easily move them around and they are built to be bumped around a bit.  Using a keg opens up some really interesting possibilities….

  • Fermenting under pressure with a Spunding Valve
  • Naturally carbonating in the fermenter/Krausening – again with the aid of a Spunding Valve
  • Transferring from fermenter to serving keg under pressure
  • Transferring already carbonated beer from fermenter to serving keg under pressure
  • Oxygen-free (or near oxygen-free) transfers
  • Use as a UniVessel.  Ferment and serve in the same vessel.  Simplify your process and clean less.
  • Use CO2 produced by fermentation for flushing kegs and carboys – requires a BlowTie Spunding Valve.

Illustration: Using expelled CO2 from fermentation to flush kegs, carboys and such.  A side benefit if you use the Kegland BlowTie Spunding – for fermentation is that you can use expelled CO2 for flushing kegs and such.  See my Hands on Review for more on that.

Converting 10 Gallon Torpedo Ball Lock to a Fermenter!

Two real things need to be done to use these as fermenters… #1 an airlock solution and #2 a way to transfer or serve without pickup up yeast and hop trub.

Air lock solutions…

  • Spunding Valve.  Use a ball lock Spunding Valve on the gas side – either fermenter under pressure or open up the valve to let gas flow freely.
  • Remove the gas side poppet and use a blow-off tubing going into a container of sanitizer.
  • Modified keg lids are available that have a hole dripped for a stopper and airlock.

Transfer solutions…

  • Replace the liquid out dip tube with a Torpedo Keg Buoy… keep reading!
  • Trim the liquid out dip tube so that you leave trub behind – the downside of that is that it’s a guessing game and changes from beer to beer.
  • Siphon – nah… that’s no fun.  Siphoning takes some of the benefits of keg-fermenting away.

Using the Torpedo Keg Buoy For Fermentation Transfers

The Torpedo Keg Buy consists of a float, flexible silicone tubing and a short dip tube.  It replace the liquid out dip tube of your keg.  It’s designed to pull beer from the top or your keg while serving.  That gets you clearer beer that’s carbonated more quickly (as compared to the beer on the bottom) and leaves trub behind.  The float goes down with beer level and should settle on top of any trub layer.  I don’t know that this was intended to be used as part of a fermentation setup, but hey, it’s a good idea.Here’s the Torpedo Keg Buoy Installed in the 10 gallon kegSo, a problem with this idea, is out of the box, the tubing is just too long to work in the 10 gallon keg.  The excess tubing causes the float to hang up on the way down.  As you can see from all the segments, I had a lot of trial and error while testing.  I ended up trimming about 13″ off.  I’m not saying I have this process completely dialed in yet, but I feel like it’s close, if not all the way there.  If you try it, please test for yourself and don’t over-trim your tubing.Filling up the keg with water for one of several transfer testsA gravity transfer test draining into my stainless steel brew area sink.I also tried a CO2 pressure transfer test.  I considered lifting this full keg to somehow get the test lined up, but that I realized I have EVABarrier Tubing and DuoTight Fittings – which basically makes me a super hero when it comes to plumbing draft lines – so I just got a coil of tubing out and ran across my brewing area.This is the result of my final gravity test.  Hard to see because of lighting, but the Keg Buoy is sitting at the bottom of the keg and almost all of the water is drained.  It’s really just a couple ounces.  I tried to measure, but there wasn’t enough liquid to accurately pour.The modified Keg Buoy.  Using this and a Spunding Valve allows you to convert the 10 gallon Torpedo Keg to a fermenter.  Since the Buoy floats, there’s no guessing dip tube lengths and you can transfer under pressure.  Look for more info in a future revision of this review as I continue testing.

Conclusions

This keg is versatile.  It can function as a keg, as a fermenter and as a UniVessel.  MoreBeer has done a great job with the design and build quality is good.  Availability problems have plagued larger homebrew kegs for years.  I’m glad that MoreBeer has filled this need with these awesome kegs.

Get the Gear

Related: Build a Spunding Valve! – How and Why

Also: Kegerator Tips & Gear | Keg Repair Part #s | Recent Keg Finds

Our Top Draft Resources

 

MoreDeals! at MoreBeer:

More: Recent MoreBeer Finds

Looking for a MoreBeer Deal? – Today’s Deal of the Day | Sale Items | MoreBeer Deals

Special Thanks to MoreBeer for providing the unit used for evaluation in this review.

Prices, shipping and availability can change quickly. Please note that product prices and availability are subject to change. Prices and availability were accurate at the time this post was published; however, they may differ from those you see when you visit the product page. Check the product page for current price, description and availability.

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.

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Hands on Review: Icemaster 100 Glycol Chiller with Stainless Bulkheads

Thanks to HBF Reader Nate for conducting this review.  Nate is a long time HBF Reader, serial tipster and advanced homebrewer

Icemaster 100 Glycol Chiller

If you’ve really jumped into the hobby of homebrewing you’ve probably struggled with ways to keep your fermenting beer dialed in to your desired fermentation temperature.  All in hopes of making that perfect beer.  If this doesn’t describe you, it probably will in the near future.

The fact is… temperature plays a major role and has a significant impact on the finished beer.  A few degrees either way can make a big difference.  I know for my German Hefeweizen I have on tap using WLP3068 yeast if you ferment at around 62 you don’t get near as much banana in the aroma/flavor as you would if you fermented at 60-72.  Fermentation temperature is important!

From starting out in buckets and keeping them in closets/basement, to swamp coolers, to modifying deep freezers to control fermentation temp, there are all sorts of creative ways to control temperature.

When folks upgrade to conical ferments (best investment ever by the way!), temperature control becomes more complicated.  Do I have room for a fridge to hold my conical?  Should I build a larger collar around my keezer and then lug my large and heavy conical in and out? Do I buy an AC unit and temp controller and build a fermentation chamber? Or maybe another alternative.

With all these questions there are now a few different options on the market for folks who have a little money to spend to really take their game to the next level.


Get the Current Price, Review Continues Below

Icemaster 100 Glycol Chiller with Stainless Bulkheads GLY351 – via MoreBeer


Icemaster 100 vs Kegland G40 vs Ss Brewtech Glycol Chiller

Before I purchased this bad boy, I did a lot of research. I looked at the Kegland G40 through Williams Brewing, but decided against it because of the need to purchase a transformer and the space it takes up.  It also seemed more tuned to cooling beer lines.

I looked at Ss Brewtech Glycol Chiller, but for what I want to control (3-5 conicals). their 1/5hp just wasn’t going to do it and their 3/8hp is another 500 bucks!

I also looked at Penguin and others but, in the end, their costs were all closer to 1k+ which for what I was wanting was out of my price range,

The price and features made my choice clear and I decided on the Icemaster 100.

Hands on Review

So the Glycol Chiller got to my house in a week or less.  The setup was well packed and arrived to me in perfect condition.  No damage, not even a cosmetic issue.  This was something that concerned me based on other reviews I’d read.

The one thing I will mention is double check and make sure the plastic piece that was drilled out for the drain hole at the very bottom of the tank is removed.  In the picture you can see how mine was still in there.  I think is why some folks have had issues with draining (based on other product reviews). My theory for people struggling with that problem is that this plastic piece wasn’t removed and made it clogged or partially clogged the drain.  I had no leaks or issues after removing the little plastic piece and was able to drain it using the plug in the back.  The overall factory inspections/QA could have been better, now you know this tip.

Next up, getting pumps and tubing ready. You need a piece of tubing to connect to the inside of the 3/8″ stainless steel bulkhead,  That tubing connects to your pump in the bottom of the water pan. You will need 3/8″ ID tubing for this part of the process so make sure you have the lengths you want/need.

Next you connect lines outside the chiller and take those up to your coils on your conical. I used the left side for my outputs, and the right side for my returns.  Then, of course, on the inside of the bulkhead you need tubing to take the liquid back into the tank.  This completes the circuit.

MoreBeer has a good description of the connections required, per fermenter…


In order to hook up the Icemaster to your fermenter or tank’s cooling system, you will need 4 lengths of tubing. All tubing connections should be secured with hose clamps.

Length 1: Submersible pump outlet to inner barb of 1st bulkhead
Length 2: Outer barb of 1st bulkhead to cooling system inlet
Length 3: Cooling system outlet to outer barb of 2nd bulkhead
Length 4: Inner barb of 2nd bulkhead to Icemaster resevoir (should drain freely, no connection necessary)


A couple things worth noting….

  1. You’ll need one pump per fermenter.
  2. The Icemaster 100 Glycol Chiller has a number of applications and compatibility with a variety of systems. Coolstix, Ss Brewtech Fermetners, Spike Conicals, Grainfather, Speidel and more.  Check the product page for a complete list.

As far as pumps go, MoreBeer has a number of options.  You can also source your own pump.  If you do that I would recommend a pump that has a strong output and height ability. The bigger the better.

It’s Quiet!  One item I was really surprised by is the sound. This thing is so quiet! I have it in my garage and if I’m out there tinkering around, I don’t even hear it really running.

Caveats and Things to Consider

Condensation: You will want to consider condensation on your fermenter.  As the chiller cools it will create condensation.  A pool of water on your floor isn’t fun.  An insulation sleeve can help.  There are some ready made options out there, you can also make your own.

Displays in Celsius:  Not a huge deal, but I wish the controls were in Fahrenheit.

Conclusions

So far, this sucker has been quite impressive to me.  I can dial in fermentation temps for my conicals and cold crash as necessary.

Get the Gear

Icemaster 100 Glycol Chiller with Stainless Bulkheads GLY351 – via MoreBeer

Documents: Icemaster 1000 setup and user guide

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Details and Specifications

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

The Icemaster is designed to cool fermentations in small vessels. It can be used with any vessel that has a glycol jacket or submersed cooling coil/rod. For each vessel you want to cool you will need to buy one of our BrewBuilt™ Chilling Pump Kits. Each tank is able to be separately temperature controlled. Each Glycol Pump Kit includes a submersible pump that is placed in the cool bath of this chiller along with a digital controller. The digital controller includes a thermal probe that should be inserted into a thermal well in your vessel or can be taped to the outside of the vessel if you don’t have a thermal well. The digital controller then measures the temperature of your tank and turns the submersible pump on or off to cool to your desired set temperature. Up to four tanks can be controlled separately with one Icemaster and four BrewBuilt™ Chilling Pump Kit (GLY355).

Compatibility
The Icemaster can be used with any fermenter that has a built in cooling jacket, added Coolstix, or a submersed cooling coil. It works well as the cooling source for the following sytems and fermenters.

  • Coolstix – Coolstix can be added to a wide range of carboys, fermenters, and tanks and the Icemaster works really well in combination. Each Coostix Complete Kit comes with a pump kit and controller.
  • Ss Brewtech Fermenters and Brites with optional FTS Temperature Control Systems – Because FTS systems include a pump and controller you will not need to buy a separate Glycol Pump Kit.
  • Spike Conical with Optional Cooling Package – Because the optional Spike cooling system includes a pump and controller you will not need to buy a separate Glycol Pump Kit.
    Speidel Tanks with Optional Cooling Jackets – You will need one Glycol Pump Kit for each tank.
  • Grainfather Fermenters – Grainfather fermenters have standard cooling jackets. You will need one Glycol Pump Kit for each fermenter
  • Blichmann Fermenators with Optional Cooling Coil – You will need one Glycol Pump Kit for each Fermenator.

Capacity
It is always difficult to determine exactly how many tanks can be chilled at one time as it depends on what is happening in each tank, if the tank is insulated, and what the ambient temperature is. Cold crashing always requires the most energy and requires tank insulation. We have experimented with capacities and can provide this general guide based on a 75 degree ambient and neoprene insulation. Neoprene a modest amount of insulation so you would obtain better results using Armaflex or a higher R rated insulation. If only controlling fermentation temps the capacity would be higher. Four BrewBuilt™ Chilling Pump Kit (GLY355) is the maximum that will fit in the Icemaster. We are working on smaller glycol pump kits, where the pumps have smaller footprints, so the Icemaster right now has the capacity to use 5 pumps through the bulkhead fittings.

Cold Crashing capacity at 75F with neoprene insulation (double for fermentation temperature control):

2 – 1BBL (31 Gallon) Tank with neo
3 to 4 – 1/2BBL (15-20 Gallon) Tanks
4+ – 10-14 Gallon Tanks
4+ – 5-7 Gallon Tanks

Set Up
In order to hook up the Icemaster to your fermenter or tank’s cooling system, you will need 4 lengths of tubing. All tubing connections should be secured with hose clamps.

  • Length 1: Submersible pump outlet to inner barb of 1st bulkhead
  • Length 2: Outer barb of 1st bulkhead to cooling system inlet
  • Length 3: Cooling system outlet to outer barb of 2nd bulkhead
  • Length 4: Inner barb of 2nd bulkhead to Icemaster resevoir (should drain freely, no connection necessary)

Specifications:

  • Tank Capacity: 30L/8 Gal. Water Capacity
  • Compressor: 3/8 HP
  • Cooling Capacity: 950 Watt/3200btu/.26 tons
  • Refrigerant: r134a
  • Voltage: 110V (3.6 amps)
  • Dimensions: 410mm x 410mm x 660mm
  • Includes 10 stainless bulkheads with 3/8″ OD barbs
  • Wheels included

 

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Hands on Review: Blichmann BrewCommander Controller!

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.

Blichmann BrewCommander Controller

Controllers for an electric brew rig are surprisingly expensive. They seem to have such a simplistic job- control temperature and/or modulate output power. But of course that job is the heart of an electric brew system. It’s what allows you to have a more stress-free brew day because you can set the temperature and then go do something else. It’s what enables you to brew inside with electric and not have to battle the weather, or have to drag equipment from a storage space inside to a brew area outside. So I guess even though they do a job that’s easy to describe, the value they provide to the brew day is pretty significant. And thus justify their price tag with that.

As electric brewing continues to grow in popularity, more controller options become available. Blichmann has had a controller out on the market for a while, but they were long overdue for an upgrade. The BrewCommander, however, is more than simply an upgrade, as it leapfrogged itself with more features and came out with a lower price. From a features standpoint, it distinguishes itself from other stand-alone controllers with features like an LCD touchscreen and delayed start timer that previously was only available with built-in controllers on all-in-one electric brew systems. The BrewCommander comes in a version to control your gas-fired rig, but my review will focus on their electric controllers.


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Hands on Review: Blichmann Engineering Riptide Brewing Pump Upgrade Kit – Upgrade Your March or Chugger Pump

This review is by Homebrew Finds Reader Benji S.  Benji has been brewing for 10 years.  His favorite style is Festbier.  He’s an all grain brewer and member of WIZA (Whidbey Island Zymurgy Association).  Check him out on Instagram at neon_hop

Tell anyone that you spend hours cleaning as part of a hobby, and you’ll probably get a few odd looks. Unfortunately this is our reality as Homebrewers. Planning, prepping, cleaning, and waiting take up large percentages of any given batch. We often chase new ingredients, techniques, equipment, and short cuts in an effort to reduce the time we spend on these areas. Sometimes introducing new equipment into your process can make some parts of these tasks easier, while introducing new steps to others.

Pumps help move around lots of liquid in a short amount of time, reducing the need to lift heavy kettles or pots. They also introduce some additional planning needed for connecting vessels in a loop of hosing and cleaning after use. This has essentially been the summary experience I’ve had with my Chugger X-Dry [Hands on Review]. In the never ending quest for reducing the time and effort needed to use it, I looked at what changes I could make to my setup to make using it even simpler.

Blichmann Engineering is well known for high quality and well designed equipment targeted at Homebrewers. It should be no surprise then that their Riptide pump is a fairly feature packed model compared to others on the market. Particularly their TC clamp attached pump head with built in flow control and priming valve. In recognition of their audience, Blichmann also produces an upgrade kit that offers these same features to anyone with a Chugger or March pump.

Upgrading my Chugger X-Dry with their kit seems like a perfect way to take a good pump and make it even better, hopefully shaving some steps off of the prep and cleaning process in the meantime.

Criteria

My original criteria when looking for a pump were largely satisfied by the Chugger X-Dry, but there were a couple of criteria that were lacking, namely:

  • Head assembly should be fairly easy to take apart to aid in cleaning]
  • Flow control valve for use when sparging
  • Easy and intuitive to prime and get started

As the Riptide conversion kit is meant to solve many of these things, it made a natural candidate for trying out an upgrade to see if I could improve the usability experience. Additionally, my experience with the X-Dry suggested it was fairly easy to get into a state where it was cavitating. My hope was that the purge valve would help alleviate, or solve, this issue.


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Hands on Review: Brewfather App – Recipe Formulation, Calculators & Brew Day Tools

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.

Brewfather App

Depending on your brewing personality, you might take notes on paper, do no recipe calculations at all, or use brewing software. I started using BeerSmith when I moved to all-grain brewing, since there were more variables to control when making a recipe and more process steps to keep track of. I’ve been using BeerSmith 2 for the past 5 years, and that’s established my baseline expectations of brewing software. That’s the perspective used when I evaluated the Brewfather software.


Give it a Try!

Brewfather offers a free full feature trial.  After the trial period, you’ll still have access via a limited, non-expiring account

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What I’ve found with BeerSmith is that it pretty much has everything I need, but some features are a bit more cumbersome to use than I would like. Although there are limitations or some awkward features, it works and I know how to use it. And more importantly, my entire recipe history of all-grain exists within it. So when someone told me about Brewfather and suggested I check it out, I was apprehensive. I felt like I had so much time invested in BeerSmith, and I didn’t want to have to go through re-learning everything again in a new software. But I tried it anyway.

The Basics

Brewfather isn’t a software that you load on your computer, the software exists on Brewfather’s servers. So there’s nothing to install or configure. You access it through a web browser interface, but it’s much fancier than that. You have the exact same interface and full toolset whether you’re running it on a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone. Once you’ve created an account, your login credentials work in all of those environments to seamlessly give you access. And since it’s running off a server, all of those devices have access to the same information at the same time. If you change a recipe on your phone, it automatically shows up on your laptop. If you’re running a brew timer on your laptop and then close that down, you open it on your smartphone without missing a beat. And in these settings, it also allows you to work offline and then sync your data when you get back online.

Brew Timer in Action

Because it’s a server-based software, it stays funded by users paying a licensing fee. You can have full access to the calculators for free, but the free membership only lets you store 10 recipes, and doesn’t allow certain features. To go beyond that, you have to pay for the Premium Membership, which is $2/month, or $20/year if you pay for the full year at once.

Recipe generation is straightforward, with a large database of grains, hops, and yeast to pick from to build your recipe up. As you add ingredients, a recipe graphic shows how your recipe measures up against the beer style guidelines that you’ve picked. As you add your grains, you can either add the amount and see the resulting % of mash and OG, or alternatively, you go into your grain list and select the percentage of the malt bill you want each grain to make up and it automatically calculates the weight. Or even better, you select the OG you want, and it will ratio up your grains to meet that OG and keep the percentages the same. Hop additions have similar tools where you can select the IBU and it will ratio your hop weights to hit your target IBU. When you select your yeast, there’s a pop-up calculator where it will calculate the particulars for a yeast starter where you can customize things like pitch rate and yeast age easily. A water calculator is integrated into the recipe builder for easy adjustment of target water profile and auto-calculated mineral additions to hit your target.

Water Adjustment Tool

After you’ve built your recipe, brew day features are built in. With the brew timer directly fed from your recipe, it maps out your brew day with step-by-step instructions. It starts by telling you the strike water volume and temperature and prompting you to get that going. When you click to tell it you’ve reached strike temperature, it spits out the list of brewing salt additions and grains. You confirm that you’ve mashed in, and the timer starts for the mash time you had set up in your recipe. An alarm with pop-up window tells you when the mash step is over, and tells you the next target temperature. When your mash steps are complete, it guides you through sparging and tells you how much wort to collect for the pre-boil volume. Stepping into the boil phase, it prompts you for boil additions at the appropriate time, and even post-boil whirlpool additions. And as I mentioned before, this is all synchronized on whatever device you’re looking at (even if simultaneously open on a laptop in one room and your smartphone in another).

To list all of the features and functions within the software would be exhausting and would just turn into a replicate of the owner’s manual. You can import and export recipes, so if your BeerSmith veteran like me, you can pull over your favorite recipes. You can build equipment profiles and customize them for fill volumes, lost volumes, etc. The equipment profile has a tool to precisely characterize the thermal properties of your brew rig for infusion mash additions with a simple experiment. You can customize water profiles, ingredient profiles, beer styles- pretty much everything.

Hands on Review

First and foremost- bug free. I discovered no glitches, no weird “just click on it twice, even though you shouldn’t have to” bugs, and the transitions from laptop to phone and back were likewise flawless. I loved the ability to start my recipe at home on my laptop before going to work, finishing it up on my work computer, and even tweaking it while at the homebrew shop when I found they didn’t have the particular hop I was planning to use. I didn’t have to take a note somewhere and go back to update the master copy, I had access to the master copy anywhere I went. I was even impressed that during my brew session, when I realized I hadn’t set up the mash profile to what I wanted, I was able to go in, edit it, and jump back out, all without disrupting the brew timer, and instantly incorporating that tweak to the active session.

Brew Session Data Entry and Realtime Statistics

Recipe creation was great. Not that I ever found it that hard in BeerSmith, but Brewfather made it somehow easier, and felt more flexible. But by far, my favorite feature was the “Batch” concept. You build your Recipe, and that becomes your “master copy”. When you’re ready to brew, you click on a button within your Recipe to start a Batch, which copies your recipe as the starting point. But if you want to make a 5 gallon batch this time instead of a 2.5 gallon batch, you change it in the settings for that Batch, and the recipe master remains untouched. If you are brewing your favorite recipe, but in a new piece of brewing equipment, you handle that in the Batch. If the AA% of the hops you’re using are slightly different than your recipe, you change that in the Batch and let the software adjust to maintain your IBU. If you want to experiment with a different yeast this time, you do that in your Batch. All of these brew session variations off your master recipe are stored together as a subset of your recipe. You don’t have multiple copies of a recipe strewn about with minor variations. This is perfect for those of us that try to perfect a certain recipe, or want to keep detailed notes of all the minor set-up variations from batch to batch.

Adding Brewing Notes on Brew Day- Typos OptionalTilt Data Logging Linked to Batch Record – Tilt Hydrometers  – Hands on Review

The other thing that grabbed my attention when I heard about Brewfather was the integration it has with Tilt (or other various brewing devices). Every batch I brew, I track fermentation progress with a Tilt Bluetooth hydrometer. With Brewfather, it gives me an http:// address to type into my Tilt App settings and then it sends all of its gravity & temperature logging data to my Brewfather account. In my Batch tracking, once brew day is done, I can move it into the fermentation stage and then tell it which Tilt is tracking fermentation. Then within that Batch record, you can pull up the exact fermentation profile. Without Brewfather, I map my Tilt to write data to Google Sheets, then print out a hard copy later and tape it into my brewing journal. Having the complete history in one online dataset, seems like a great record-keeping process. And being able to record gravity readings, pH readings, volume readings, and any other notes in one Batch record in the midst of my brew session, pretty much makes my brewing notebook obsolete (in theory).


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Hands on Review: Tilt Bluetooth Fermentation Hydrometer!


Tilt Data Plot on Smartphone with Data Smoothing On

Conclusions

Overall, the layout is well thought-out, with all the various calculators and brewing tools integrated in at logical points rather than having to go search for functions. The operation was flawless for me, which of course is super-important since you don’t want a brew day timer to freeze up on you in mid-batch, or risk losing a great recipe that turned out great. The ability to track Batches off of one Recipe is a feature I really loved, as well as having full access with whatever computer/smartphone I wanted to use. And lastly, being a big Tilt user, it’s great to be able to have this functionality integrated with all my brew records rather than a separate set of data/graphs. So even though I hate the concept of having to pay for software on an on-going basis, with all of this functionality stemming from its server-based operation, I’m on board.


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More Photos

Brew Timer on SmartphoneRecipe Builder with Visual Beer Stats vs Style GuidelinesYeast Starter Calculator Pop-up

Special Thanks Brewfather for access to their software for evaluation in this review.

By Brad Probert.  Check out Brad’s website – beersnobby.com

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