Category Archives: Reviews & Top Posts

Sourcing a Replacement Pump for Mark’s Keg and Carboy Washer!

The purpose built Mark’s Keg and Carboy Washer is… awesome. It saves on cleaning and sanitizing solution, it’s versatile, doesn’t take up a lot of space and it saves me time. It’s one of my favorite homebrew tools and it has been for years.  Check out my in depth Hands on Review.

Finding a Replacement Pump

The pump on Mark’s Keg and Carboy Washer is, in general, very reliable.  Mine has lasted, for years, with no issues.  According the manufacturer, most pump issues that do arise are resolved by cleaning the pump.  Having said that, it’s possible that a pump needs replacement.  Finding a replacement is a bit difficult.  These are not sold by themselves.  It is possible to get a replacement from the manufacturer, but you usually need to provide proof of purchase and they aren’t cheap.

I put the call out asking HBF Readers [Let’s be friends!] if they had found any third party pumps that work as replacements for the Mark II Keg and Carboy Washer and Adrian got back to me in short order with this recommendation. Thank you Adrian!

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Hands on Review: FermZilla All Rounder Fermenter

Thank you to HBF Contributor Aaron N for this hands on review!  Aaron is an advanced brewer, long time reader and a serial tipster!

FermZilla All Rounder

Fermenting under pressure has been a technique I have had my eye on for some time now and have felt the urge to experiment with it more and more lately. To me the most appealing benefit of pressurized fermentation is that at the end of fermentation the beer is fully carbonated and ready to drink (not accounting for beers that benefit from a period of conditioning). Other benefits include a potentially quicker fermentation, a higher retention of desirable aroma compounds that otherwise might be off gassed (e.g. hop aromas), and the ability to ferment at warmer temperatures without a high presence of unwanted esters.

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Universal Poppets Tips and Tricks!

I use universal style poppets exclusively when rebuilding kegs. Finding the right OEM specific replacement poppets can be a chore. Beyond finding the right part number, these can be prohibitively expensive. Paying $10 to $14, or more, for an OEM poppet isn’t fun. In fact, if you really had to pay that, it may not even make sense to keep the keg.

Enter universal poppets.  These can be picked up at a reasonable cost, regularly under $2 each, and fit the vast majority of kegs.

Tip: Immediately Replace Universal Poppet O-Rings

I remove and discard the o-rings that come with universal poppets.  That may sound a little odd, but there are a couple issues. First, I have no idea what these are made of. They are probably okay, but I’m not sure. This is one spot that has a lot of contact with beer. I want to make sure these are food grade.  Second, when it comes time to replace these o-rings I want replacements that won’t change fit.  I’m aware of a single source for bulk food grade o-ring replacements for universal poppets. Size may vary slightly compared to OEM, so I replace these before adjusting for fit so that the replacements won’t change the way these fit. The stainless parts of universal poppets should last a long, long time, having a reliable source for replacements that you know aren’t going to change anything is a big benefit. Beyond that, being sure you’re using food grade materials at this point is worth a few cents.

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Grow Your Own Hops – Rhizome Roundup! + Hop Growing Resources

grow your own hops rhizomesPictured – MoreBeer’s Rhizome Pre Sale – Check it out

A few retailers have an annual rhizome pre-sales.  The earlier you “hop” (did you see what I did there) on these sales, the better.  That will give you a better chance to reserve the varieties you want to grow in your hop garden.

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Hands on Review: Plaato Keg Management System!

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.

Plaato Keg Management System

If you bottle your beer, it’s easy to know how much beer you have left. You look in your fridge and count bottles. But when you keg, it’s like an advanced version of a memory game, counting how many beers you poured, with which size glass, over several weeks of time. Or it’s like a carnival game where you to try to estimate how much is left by lifting the keg and seeing how heavy it still is. Sometimes these methods work, and sometimes you end up pouring the last beer before you get a chance to bottle one for your friend. Or your neighbor missed the beer you wanted him to try at the party because you didn’t realize the keg was that low.

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Review: MoreBeer’s Soulless Hop, Zombie Dust Clone! – Homebrew Recipe Kit

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

Soulless Hop has ‘Pale Ale’ in its name, but seems more like an IPA to me. The recipe is inspired by Three Floyds Zombie Dust, which tops best beer lists frequently. It’s brewed with 100% Citra hops, and uses a lot of them (5 oz in the boil and 3 oz dry hop). I’ve been lucky enough to have had it a couple times before and loved it, which drew me to try this recipe kit.

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Unboxing and Kit Inventory

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Hands on Review: Inkbird Wireless Temperature Sensor IBS-TH1 and WiFi Gateway IBS-M1 + Keezer Reconfiguration and Temperature Analysis

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.

Inkbird Wireless Temperature Sensor and WiFi Hub

Temperature is important to have control of at all stages of the brewing process. While the biggest area of focus on temperature is the mash or fermentation, there are other areas of the process where temperature is important to understand. And if there’s something you need to monitor or control, you better believe the homebrew hobby delivers with the gear. This review focuses on a wireless temperature sensor and a communications hub that helps make the data readily available remotely.

IBS-M1 in Box

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Inkbird makes temperature sensors and temperature controllers for all kinds of home uses, which can easily find their way into homebrewers’ toolboxes. The Inkbird IBS-TH1 is a wireless temperature and humidity sensor. It’s powered by an AAA battery and connects via Bluetooth to an Inkbird app on your phone. The unit is about the size of a hockey puck (2.2” diameter), and contains the humidity sensor and an onboard temperature sensor. There is also a jack for the provided external temperature probe. The probe has a 6.5 ft long lead that connects to a waterproof temperature-sensing tip.

App Home ScreenTemperature HIstorgram

The IBS-TH1 is unique for thermometers in that it logs data onboard the unit. Through the Inkbird app you set the time interval of data collection, from as frequently as 10 seconds, or as infrequently as 30 minutes. The onboard storage of the unit can hold up to 30,000 data points. Whenever you are within its 150 ft. Bluetooth range, you can review the current temperature/humidity, as well as pull up all of the historical data stored on it. Within the app you can also set min & max limits for the temperature and humidity, and if you’re within Bluetooth range, it will set an alarm off on your phone. It will only monitor one temperature at a time, so if you have the cable plugged in for the remote sensor, it will read/record that, and not the onboard sensor.

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Review: MoreBeer’s Hop Gatherer – Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA Clone – Homebrew Recipe Kit

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

MoreBeer’s Hop Gatherer – Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA Clone – Recipe Kit

Hop Gatherer is an IPA. The recipe is inspired by Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA, which actually isn’t brewed by them anymore. It was brewed using some fancy method supposedly of steam distilling wet hops into a condensed oil while still in the field. It’s hard to imagine all of that, but I did remember liking the beer, so I thought I’d give this recipe a try. They had two versions of this kit, one with El Dorado hops, and one with Chinook. I opted for the El Dorado.

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El Dorado Version, Reviewed in the post

Also Available, Chinook Version

Unboxing and Kit Inventory

Contents of Kit

I ordered un-milled grains, as I like to have control of the grain crush. The malts were packaged in pre-measured bags, with malts from Viking, Great Western Malting, and a package of flaked oats. Therefore it was easy to cross-reference to the recipe card to confirm I got the right amounts of everything. The hops came in light-proof, thick bags, where the hops were nitrogen flushed before bagging. In addition to the pellet hops, there was a tiny vial of concentrated hop oil. There was also a tablet of something called Kick Carrageenan, a clarifier used in the boil kettle. The recipe kits from MoreBeer don’t come with a specific yeast, instead they give you a list of yeast recommendations from the different yeast vendors they carry (White Labs, Wyeast, Gigayeast, Imperial, and Fermentis Dry). I went for the GY001 – NorCal Ale #1. Gigayeast packages contain 200 billion yeast cells, which on the package they say can be used as a straight pitch without a starter to ferment 5 gallons of wort up to 1.070 gravity. So that’s a great time saver. The yeast came inside a well-padded plastic envelope with 6 small ice packs. It had a cross-country journey from California to Michigan in the middle of summer, so in an unrefrigerated FedEx truck, it didn’t really have much of a chance. The ice packs were all thawed, and the yeast pouch was warm to the touch. Checking the surface of the pouch with my thermometer, it measured 76F. In addition to the ingredients, there was a recipe card with basic brewing directions, a cut-out shape to go with the MoreBeer custom tap handle, and a sheet of basic brewing process tips.

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Hands on Review: ProFlow Dynamics Stainless Steel Camlock Quick Disconnects

proflowdynamics homebrew camlock review

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.

Proflow Dynamics Camlock Fittings

If I were to count all the “things” I have the most of in my homebrew collection, it would be a close race between tubing and fittings. Like the freeway system of the brewing world, we all have to get the wort/beer from one vessel to the next as we move through the brewing process. When dealing with hot liquids, that typically means silicone tubing. And when connecting tubing to your vessel or pump, there are 3 most common ways to do this: 1) Barbed fitting, 2) Quick Disconnect fitting, and 3) Camlock fitting.

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Camlock QDs at ProFlow Dynamics

Proflow Dynamics has been around since 2007. They specialize in camlock fittings, but also make a variety of other fittings and ball valves. They service a mix of different industries- including the brewing industry, of course. Barbed fittings are the simplest, but are typically designed to be a very tight fit (require a lot of effort to mate), or a looser fit (require a hose clamp). Either of these situations does not lend itself well to a joint you need to connect/disconnect frequently. Quick disconnects have a slick one-handed operation, which is their main appeal. The downside is their more complicated design makes them more expensive. And more complicated designs usually mean more ways to potentially fail.

Close-up of Silicone Sealing Ring Inside Female Camlock

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Hands On Review: Allied Precision 742G 1000 Watt Heat Stick with Temp Trial

What do heat sticks do?

Heat sticks help you… heat things.  For homebrewing they are helpful for getting strike and sparge water up to temp and helping to more quickly achieve or maintain a boil.  Depending on the heat stick and batch size, you could potentially use a heat stick as the sole source of heat from beginning to end.

Always use caution when handling hot items and when using water around electricity.

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.

Hands on Review: Allied Precision The Premier Line 742G Bucket Water Heater

Front of the box

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