Category Archives: Reviews & Top Posts

Hands on Review: Blichmann Engineering Hellfire Burner!

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 Engineering Hellfire Burner


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These days I brew inside on an electric system, for the convenience of indoor brewing and the repeatability of electric temperature control. However, I still find occasion to brew outdoors from time to time. And although it’s possible to brew with electricity outdoors, brewing with propane allows more freedom in choosing your brew spot. And most outdoor electrical options are 110V, which can’t keep up with propane when trying to heat things up quickly.

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Hands on Review: Blichmann Engineering Beer Gun

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

Blichmann BeerGun v2

After I quickly realized the benefits of kegging, I was happy to forgo the bottling routine and looked forward to never cleaning, sanitizing, and filling 53 twelve-ounce bottles with caps again. Then I decided I would throw my hat into the ring of homebrew competitions. Back to the bottling world.


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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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Hands on Review: Delta Brewing Systems Fermtank!

Delta Brewing Fermtank

The world of fermentors is fairly expansive. On one end of the spectrum, you have the food grade plastic buckets, and at the other you have stainless conicals up on their stilts. In the middle between these two sits stainless bucket fermentors. They’re more expensive than plastic buckets, to be sure. But they have most of the function and features of the full-sized conicals without the full price tag. Delta Brewing Systems Fermtank is a stainless steel bucket fermentor.

Brushed Stainless Exterior and Lid Clasps


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Delta Industries has been in business for 33 years. The main company is an air compressor sales, service, and engineering house. They have worked with various businesses including breweries across the US as well as some overseas, providing clean compressed air and glycol chillers. Delta Brewing Systems is the part of Delta Industries that manages the beer brewing business. They started offering a handful of homebrew products in July of 2019, and have started steadily expanding their portfolio of homebrewing gear throughout 2020.

CO2 Pressure Transfer to Keg!

The Fermtank was one of their first homebrew offerings. It is made from 304 Stainless Steel, and is 8 gallons in size. That size allows you to ferment 5.5 – 6 gallon batches while giving plenty of head space for fermentation krausen and dry hop additions without overflowing. There are volume markings stamped in large size in both liters and gallons, starting from 5 gallons and up. It has a domed lid with an engineered seal which allows it to handle up to 4 psi, for fermenting under pressure or doing pressurized CO2 transfers. With the blow-off hose barb sitting at the top of this dome, the fermentor is 27” tall. But it has adjustable height legs with 4 positions, allowing up to an additional 3” of height.

Adjustable Legs on Shortest Setting

Full-sized conicals in breweries have steeper angles on their cone that allow the harvesting of yeast, or dumping of trub from your fermentation so you can secondary in the same vessel. The angle of the cone on bucket fermentors isn’t steep enough to allow this harvesting or dumping. However, you do get the advantage of the spigot on the fermentor being at the top of the cone. So when you transfer out of your fermentor, you can do this at a level that’s above the fermentation sediment, without leaving behind a lot of beer. The Fermtank’s spigot has an angled pickup tube so it pulls beer from the center of the fermentor, away from any sediment that’s collected on the walls. Although it has a large 3/4″ valve at the very bottom of the cone, its purpose is really for ease of clean-up, rather than the harvesting of yeast.

Dial thermometer

The body of the fermentor has a thermowell, and it comes with a dial thermometer that can be inserted to monitor temperature. The thermowell can also be used to install a digital temperature probe for temperature logging or fermentation control. And for robust fermentation temperature control, Delta offers a Fermtank Heating & Chilling Kit. The kit includes an insulated neoprene jacket form-fitted to the Fermtank, with openings for all of the external hardware bits. For heating, it contains an electric heating belt that wraps around the bottom edge above the cone and attaches with Velcro strips.

Neoprene JacketElectric Heating PadHeat Wrap Attached to Fermentor

The Heating & Chilling Kit comes Neoprene Insulated Jacket with a lid that has additional holes for some extra hardware. There is a large stainless cooling loop that gets secured through the lid with a tightening nut and O-ring. It has barbed fittings to connect the cooling hoses on the outside while the coils extend down on the inside. There’s also a long thermowell that comes in through the lid and sits down in the beer, keeping some distance from the cooling coils to provide a more average/mixed temperature. The cooling lines attach to a coolant circulation pump, to circulate cooling water from your own source of cold water, or to a glycol chiller if you have one. The control of turning on and off the coolant pump or electric heating belt is done via an Inkbird ITC-308 controller, with its hardwired temperature probe.

Hands on Review

The Fermtank was similar to other stainless bucket fermentors I’d used, but had several unique features I was interested to try out. Overall, the build quality was very good- smooth welds, nice finishes, no sharp edges, and smooth functioning moving parts. The inside of the fermentor was shiny and well-polished. Beyond the bling factor, that actually made clean-up much easier, as fermentation crud came off with notably less effort.

Highly Polished InteriorRacking Arm

The 8 gallon size was nice. Other fermentors go for a 6 or 7 gallon volume, and I get yeast krausen pushing its way out through a blow-off tube on very active fermentations. I fermented a few batches in the Fermtank with high activity yeasts, and only ever had CO2 gas coming out of the blow-off. That extra gallon of space was nice at keeping things clean in my brew basement.

Robust Handles for Empty or Full Fermentor

At first, the little adjustable leg extensions seemed tedious as I used a screwdriver and set of pliers to remove two sets of screws and nuts on each leg, and then reinstall at the fully extended 3” of extra height. However, that small boost meant the transfer spigot was easier to access for wort samples or hooking up my transfer hose. And the lid at a higher height meant less bending over when filling the fermentor or adding dry hops. I wouldn’t say it was a “game changer” or anything revolutionary like that, it just made the overall process a bit nicer.

Fermentation with Chilled Water Connected

The Heating & Chilling Kit worked great for keeping temperature controlled during fermentation. The cooling coils arrived slightly compressed, with the loops of tubes close together. I had to stretch it by gently pulling on the coils at either end until it lined up with the holes on opposite sides of the lid. I used a 10-gallon Igloo cooler filled with 4 gallons of water and 5 frozen 2-Liter bottles of ice to put the cooling pump in. With all of the loops and length of the cooling coils, it was super effective at chilling the wort quickly. I actually found I could stop cooling the wort in my brew kettle a few minutes early to save water, and the cooling coils in the fermentor would bring it down to the final yeast pitch temperature easily.

A tip I would pass along is to install the spigot (O-ring on the outside, tightening nut on the inside) before you put the neoprene jacket on. I wasn’t sure if I could properly stretch it over the spigot to get the hole lined up properly, so I tried installing the spigot after the jacket was on. As a result, I didn’t get it tightened properly, and I had a slight amount of beer weep out on one batch. It only amounted to about 2 drops on the floor, but it did get the neoprene jacket dirty. Luckily, this cleaned very easily. I then learned I could install the spigot and its tightening nut first, and stretch the neoprene jacket over it afterwards without any issue.

Spigot and Dump Valve

The last unique feature on the Fermtank was the dump valve on the bottom of the fermentor. This helped the Fermtank excel in its list of things that made cleanup easy. Ease of clean-up is not something you get excited about when looking at a product page on a website, but being the one task I’m certain all brewers enjoy least, the benefits to an easy clean-up are widely appreciated. The drain/dump valve at the bottom was great for clean-up. With my other fermentors, my usual process is to dump all the contents in the sink and go through repeated rinse & dump cycles until it gets mostly clean. Then a repeated version of this with cleaning solution. But with the Fermtank, I just set it in the sink and opened the drain valve. I went through all of those processes without having to do any tipping or dumping- it just ran out the open valve. It sounds like a simple benefit, but it was great. The highly-polished inside made all the yeast & hop scum clean off easily and require very little scrubbing to be spotless again. By leaving the drain valve open after cleaning, any remnants of water would simply run out rather than collect in a little pond in the bottom of the fermentor. If you currently ferment in carboys or anything with a smaller lid, you’ll definitely appreciate the wide opening for easy cleaning without requiring any funky angle bent into your scrubbing brush.

Transfer from Kettle to Fermentor

Conclusions

Overall, the Fermtank delivered the typical benefits of a stainless bucket fermentor, as expected. What was unexpected was how beneficial its unique features were. The ease of cleanup was definitely a factor that stood out over other fermentors. And the heating & chilling kit performed great, and is what I would say is an almost mandatory addition. When you’re ready to upgrade your fermenting system, the Fermtank is well worth the investment.

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More Photos

Accessories IncludedChilling Coil and ThermowellDomed Base LidDomed Lid with Extra Holes for CoolingSilicone Lid SealRinsing Off Hop ResidueHop Sludge Being Cleaned OutRinsed Out Fermentor

More Homebrew Finds!

Last 50 Finds!Reviews | Let’s be Friends!

More Fermenter Reviews!

Homebrew Reviews: Fermenters

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.

Special Thanks to Delta Brewing Systems for providing the unit used for evaluation in this review.

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

More: Our Last Fifty Finds!

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Rebuilding & Reconditioning Homebrew Kegs!

how to rebuild homebrew kegs

This post will walk you through rebuilding your homebrew keg, step by step.  From de-labeling to cleaning to replacing warn out parts.

This post features a used/as is ball lock keg from MoreBeer.  For more about this specific keg see a Hands on Review that will give you a full walk-through.  This process applies nearly identically for pin lock kegs.  A section deals specifically with adjustments for pin lock kegs.


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The keg offering that’s featured in this how-to is on sale for just $39.99 at MoreBeer. Shipping is also free to most US addresses with a qualifying $59 order



What Does Reconditioned/Rebuilt Mean?

The short answer is probably… nothing.  I think reconditioned/rebuilt/refurbished are basically synonyms and there is no standard definition for any of these terms.

Here are the different definitions I’ve seen from different retailers via their offerings:

  • The keg is untouched, but is in okay shape and holds pressure.  In this case, reconditioned means… the keg works.
  • The keg has had been tested and had faulty parts replaced.  In this case, reconditioned means, we did the minimum to get the keg working.
  • All o-rings have been replaced and any faulty parts have been replaced.  In this case, reconditioned means… reconditioned.
  • All o-rings have been replaced and any faulty parts have been replaced and the keg has been cleaned.  In this case reconditioned means reconditioned and cleaned.

Examples of Keg Conditions from MoreBeer

The takeaway is that it’s important to read descriptions when it comes to reconditioned/rebuilt/refurbished kegs.  The post walks through a complete rebuild process.

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Hands on Review: NukaTap Forward Sealing Beer Faucets!

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.

Nukatap Beer Faucet

There are several different beer faucets to choose from when equipping your keezer. The most basic type differentiation is forward sealing versus rear sealing. The rear sealing are the most common type you will find in bars, with a sliding piston visible that comes out through the front of the faucet. Those faucets don’t do well unless you have a continuous flow of beer like is found in a bar. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you pour a lot of beer so the rearward sealing faucets will be fine. They’ll gum up and stick and you’ll be cursing that decision! So the popular homebrew faucets are forward sealing.

The long-time favorite forward sealing faucet for homebrewers was the Perlick brand, but they were expensive. Kegland introduced Intertap – Hands on Review – with a design variation of the forward sealing faucet and a more affordable price. Now Kegland has improved on their Intertap design with the new Nukatap faucet. As everything I’ve tried/researched from Kegland, they take a product and then engineer specific improvements to it- either to make it available at a lower cost or for specific improved homebrew functions.

With the Nukatap, Kegland focused on improving/reducing the propensity of beer to foam while being poured. Beer foaming is simply the act of dissolved CO2 coming out of the beer and then converting to gas at the surface of your beer. Cold beer can hold more CO2 than warm beer, so as carbonated beer warms, it causes CO2 to come out of solution and thus create foam. Similarly, beer under pressure can hold more CO2 than beer that is not under pressure. So as beer goes from the pressurized keg and into your unpressurized glass, this also causes CO2 to come out of solution and create foam.

Nukatap on Left, Intertap on RightNukatap on Right, Perlick on Left

The first design action Kegland did for Nukatap was on the sealing mechanism. One big challenge at fighting beer foam is how to get the beer around the sealing mechanism inside the faucet. Perlick faucets use a ball to seal and shut off the flow. As beer passes by the ball, the flow creates a low pressure zone on the backside of the ball, and thus beer goes from high pressure to low inside the faucet, creating an opportunity to foam. Intertap faucets use a football-shaped shuttle inside the faucet. This shape is less prone to the low pressure zone like a sphere has. Nukatap has a variation on the Intertap football shape, and Kegland kept tweaking it to keep the flow calm as it passed around the sealing shuttle inside. The shape ended up looking like an old-school atom bomb, and hence the “Nuke tap” name was born.


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Hands on Review: Barley Crusher MaltMill!

This review is by Homebrew Finds Contributor Michael Gom.  Read more about Michael below.

Note that this review covers both the 7 and 15 lb Barley Crusher Grain Mill

Hands on Review: The Barley Crusher

Having brewed all-grain for many years, I’ve spent lots of time refining my processes to try and produce predictable results. Things like brewing software make this much easier and do a great job of helping you calculate all your numbers. We can control how much grain we use and how much water, mash thickness, sparge volume, volumes going into fermenters, pitching rates, the list goes on. One thing I hadn’t been controlling, was my grain crush. When I had a local homebrew shop, the owner had no problem with me asking to double mill the grains to help get as fine a grain crush as possible while still not owning a mill. When he closed his shop, I was forced to start ordering my supplies online. Ordering from multiple different locations, having them mill my grain, it was obvious the variable that was changing was the crush size and I felt I was getting inconsistent results. Recently I purchased an all-in-one electric all grain system (Anvil), my brew days got much easier but my efficiency started to really suffer.


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7 lb Barley Crusher Mill

15 lb Barley Crusher Mill

Also: Search Amazon for Barley Crusher Grain Mill – offerings vary

Barley Crusher Motor Kit


Another benefit to owning a grain mill is the ability to use the freshest possible product. Uncrushed grains keep for longer than crushed grains, being able to mill right before a brew day lets you use fresh grains which is always nice when trying to get the most out of your products.

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Hands on Review: Used Ball Lock Kegs from MoreBeer

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The keg offering that’s featured in this review is on sale for just $39.99 at MoreBeer. Shipping is also free to most US addresses with a qualifying $59 order


MoreBeer’s Ball Lock Kegs Explained

MoreBeer has a bunch of ball lock keg options both new an used.  Most of those are self explanatory, but the used offerings can be a bit confusing.


Rebuild It!

The keg offering featured in this review is the same keg featured in our step by step keg rebuilding and reconditioning how-to.


Should I buy a New Keg or a Used Keg?

Used kegs are generally sourced from soda bottlers.  They are built with commercial use in mind and designed to last for many years of rough duty service.

Brand new ball locks may not be made to the same standards.  However… We also don’t generally put our kegs through the same abuse that a soda distributor would.

Not withstanding price.  I think both options are valid.  If you’re up for a little elbow grease and replacing a few parts, used may be the way to go, if you’re more interested in convenience brand new is a good choice.  Practically, at least as of this posting, I think price will cause many to go the used route.

Hands on Review: Used Ball Lock Kegs from MoreBeer

A look at the keg.  It looks quite good.  Dirty, stickers still on it, but overall it’s in really good condition.Top down viewCommercial ball lock kegs are usually used by Pepsi distributors.  Hey, look what we have here.  This hold Pepsi pre-mix.  Side note… Pin lock kegs are usually used by Coke Distributors.  See: Ball Lock vs Pin LockA look at the gas in post.  This has a 6 point post.  Lots more about posts and points in our Craftsman Deep Well Socket ReviewSide view of the post.  The little notches at the base are an indicator that this is a gas post.If you zoom in, you can see that this is a Spartanburg Challenger VI.  If you’re looking to get specific replacement parts for your keg, this is how you do it.  Look for the manufacturer and model imprint on the keg.  That will allow you look up the specific posts and poppets.  O-rings are the same for all standard kegs.  See: Bulk Keg Orings and Keg Repair Part Numbers.  Cornelius/Corny is kind of like “Kleenex”.  It is a specific manufacturer that’s name has become synonymous with the category.  When you get a Corny Keg, it could be from a number of manufacturers.  Note that this photo also shows a dent.  That’s as bad is gets on this particular keg.  If you buy a used keg, expect dings and dents.  Again… these are tough tanks, they were built for regular commercial use.You can see that the PRV has been vented.  This keg came under pressure… a lot of pressure.  It took several seconds to vent.  Kegs arriving under pressure is a great sign.  It means the keg is leak free.If you look at the top of the lid o-ring, you can see that it’s really grimy.  No surprise, this is a raw keg.  Plan on cleaning, sanitizing and replacing all orings when you buy a used/non-rebuilt keg.  See: Bulk Keg Orings and Keg Repair Part NumbersA look at the underside of the lidA look inside the kegAnother look inside the keg.  Hey… it’s Pepsi!  This does have residual soda in it, but looks great.

Conclusions

This keg was in great shape.  It held pressure and had only one small ding.  It does need thoroughly cleaned along with a new set of o-rings.  Obviously, used kegs are a bit hard to review.  Yours will be different.  This is a look at one example keg, MoreBeer’s cheapest option KEG430.

One great thing about kegs at MoreBeer is that they fall under MoreBeer’s $59 free shipping program.  Many shops exclude kegs from free or flat rate shipping programs.  That’s a big bonus.

Availability of these kegs varies.  Check links below for current availability, description and pricing.

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

Our Top Draft Resources!

MoreDeals! at MoreBeer:

More: Recent MoreBeer Finds

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

Price, promotions and availability can change quickly. 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.  review:b3blkeg tag:tpr

How-To: iSpindel Brew Temperature Control – Using Smart Life, IFTTT and Ubidots!

iSpindel WiFi Hydrometer - Samsung Battery *FREE WORLDWIDE delivery*

Thank to you Neil Catley for this write up!   Neil assembles iSpindel hydromters and sells them via eBay

The iSpindel is a DIY Wi-Fi enabled hydrometer.  The project originated in Germany, but an English translation is available.  See: iSpindel Documentation

Compare iSpindel to TILT

Pre-Built iSpindel

As mentioned previously. the iSpindel is a DIY build.  However, it seems that some people are building these and selling them on eBay.  The pictured iSpindel is one such option.

iSpindel WiFi Hydrometer – Samsung Battery *FREE WORLDWIDE delivery*

If that offering has sold out or is otherwise, unavailable… search eBay for iSpindel

Related: Search Amazon for “Smart Life Plug”


iSpindel Brew Temperature Control – Using Smart Life, IFTTT and Ubidots

by Neil Catley

Note that these are technical, step by step directions.  Specific steps may change over time.  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.

Overview

This guide will help you set-up online tools to enable fermentation temperature control using your iSpindel. I find this one of the main benefits of having the device, especially in the cold UK winters when I have a brew going in the garage

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Hands on Review: StirStarter Stir Plate!

This review is by Homebrew Finds Contributor Michael Gom.  Read more about Michael below.

Hands on Review: The StirStarter Yeast Stir Plate

Why make a yeast starter?

A yeast starter can really help insure you have healthy, viable yeast for your beer especially when using liquid yeast. For this reason I always prefer to build up a starter whenever using a liquid yeast (or re-pitching a saved yeast). I won’t get into effectiveness of different starter methods but a popular choice for homebrewers is to use a stir plate, a magnetic stir-bar and a flask of some sort (erlenmeyer flask in most cases).

Full disclosure, I was sent this product for free to do this review. Though I did try and put it through multiple real-world tests and have given my honest opinion on function and performance.


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Also: StirStarter XL 5L Stir Plate – on sale for just $68 – Compare at $80 to $99.99

Also Mentioned in this Review: Cole-Parmer elements AO-34502-65 Cole-Parmer Elements Erlenmeyer Flask| 3 Pack, Magnetic Stir Bar – 50mm / 1.96 Inch


Unboxing and packaging

All the parts and components arrived in a single, compact zip-loc bag.In the bag, an information sheet with info on the company, yeast starters, etc.

Also included is an envelope with an instruction sheet, as well as the “keeper” magnet taped to the back.

As well as the power adapter (in it’s own cardboard box), the stir plate itself, and the stir bar.

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