Category Archives: Reviews & Top Posts

Hands on Review: Used Ball Lock Kegs from MoreBeer

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.


Limited Time Deal, Review Continues Below:

As of this posting, these are on sale for just $39.99.  Considering the prospect of easily getting free shipping (order two or otherwise put together a $59 order and they ship for free to addresses in the contiguous US) this is an outstanding deal.

Used Cornelius Keg – Ball Lock 5 gal. KEG430  < This is the keg that’s being reviewed in this post


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

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.  review:b3blkeg tag:tpr

Hands on Review: Brew Hardware Cold Crash Guardian!

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

What is Cold Crashing?

The concept of cold crashing first came across my radar when I was researching the benefits of conical fermenters. The idea of rapidly bringing a fermentation vessel down to near freezing temperatures after fermentation is complete is known in the brewing world as cold crashing. The closer to freezing without freezing the beer the better.


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Benefits of Cold Crashing

The reasons that attracted me to the practice are mainly two-fold: to enable nearly full harvest of the yeast and to promote a clearer finished beer. The act of bringing the temperature down promotes the dropping of particulates in the beer, be it yeast, trub, or hop debris, which, in a conical fermenter, settles down into the bottom cone. This can then be dropped out into a sanitized vessel to enable rinsing and reusing of the yeast. Then when the beer is packaged it is done so without a lot of the yeast and other particulate material that may not be desirable in the finished product. This allows for a much brighter beer in the end.

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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.


Limited Time Deal, Review Continues Below:

As of this posting Valuebrew has this on sale for $41.50.  Shipping is also free to addresses in the contiguous US.

StirStarter Stir Plate – via Valuebrew – includes free shipping to US addresses


Compare Prices, Review Continues Below:

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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Hands on Review: ITW Gov Reg – Inline Secondary Regulator by ITW Pressure Regulator Technologies

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.

Keezers are one of the cool inventions homebrewers brought to the world of household appliances. Homemade kegerators and freezers converted to storing and dispensing homebrew allow homebrewers to exercise their creative muscle. Breaking down the function of the homebrew keezer, there are three main categories: 1) Providing CO2 to the beer, 2) Keeping the beer cold, and 3) Serving the beer. For sure, the category of serving the beer is where all the bling comes in, with different style taps and fancy tap handles. But this review is about some gear for the less flashy side- providing CO2 to the beer.


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Regulator Body

ITW Pressure Regulator Technologies is a business focused on pressure regulation in the medical and beverage fields. They focus on unique devices within this space. The Gov Reg is a pressure regulator designed for the commercial bar industry that can be used in the homebrew world. It’s a replacement for your secondary regulator that you’d typically have mounted inside your keezer to adjust supply pressure down to serving pressure. Typical secondary regulators will have their own adjustment knob and a dial gauge to read the output pressure you adjust to. The ITW Gov Reg serves this function, but it breaks it into two parts. The first is the regulator body itself that regulates the pressure down, the other is a stand-alone tool that is used to adjust and measure the pressure. So you set the main body to the desired pressure with the tool while monitoring the gauge, then take the tool off and install the regulator into your CO2 system.

Pressure Adjustment Tool


Also Consider, Review Continues Below:

Duotight Regulator with Gauge

Kegland DuoTight Inline Regulator with Gauge via MoreBeer – via William’s Brewing + DuoTight Hands on Review



There are pros and cons to this kind of 2-piece arrangement. The con is you can’t adjust your pressure on a CO2 line conveniently. You have to shut off the gas supply, unscrew the Gov Reg and screw on the gauge tool, and then adjust. However, you probably know how often you adjust your regulators to know if that’s a real inconvenience or not. At a commercial/bar level, controlling the access to gas pressure adjustment is an obvious advantage. The ITW Gov Reg is stainless steel- meaning it’s easy to clean, can be boiled to sanitize, and connections can be pressure checked under water (which is a robust way to test for leaks). It also means the regulator is super-durable and not prone to breakage as you’re shuffling kegs around inside your keezer.

In addition to the streamlined, durable package, the other benefit the Gov Reg design has is pressure accuracy. Its unique design with large machined threads, check ball, and dual reaction springs give it this advantage. The typical diaphragm regulator with its adjustment knob and gauge is only accurate to +/- 2 psi. The ITW Gov Reg is much more accurate, within +/- 0.5 psi. That’s a big difference if you’re trying to dial in a specific pressure to be true to style for a particular beer.

Hands on Review

Ball Lock Adapter with Regulator- Assembled

On opening the package, the shiny silver finish made the Gov Reg look impressive. Picking them up, the heft of them combined with the high quality surface helped back up the look to make an overall impressive package. The base Gov Reg comes with a tightening nut to screw onto the standard Sankey coupler used on commercial kegs. ITW also has a ball lock adapter available that screws on and provides a ¼” FFL attachment point to screw directly onto a threaded corny keg disconnect. This adapter was easily screwed on by hand to the Gov Reg with a knurled tightening ring with a compressible gasket inside that kept it airtight.

Pressure Adjustment Tool Attached to Regulator

Next, I set the Gov Reg body to my desired pressure. For this, I hand-screwed the Gov Reg body and gasket to the adjusting tool and then connected the Gov Reg to my CO2 line. But when applying pressure, the gauge didn’t move for me. After some investigation, I found if I pulled back the rubber protective ring on the gauge, there was a small plug on top of the gauge. Pulling the plug out, a burp of oil came out. Putting it all back together, the gauge was now working. Talking with ITW about this, they noted they had seen issues were the dampening oil put into the gauge was sometimes being overfilled, and that resulted in the symptoms I saw. They had since made adjustments in their production. With the excess oil out, the gauge needle was moving and I could easily set the regulator pressure.

My initial approach was to put one Gov Reg on each of the 4 tapped kegs in my keezer and be able to set each to a different pressure. The length of the Gov Reg + ball lock adapter sticks up higher off the keg than a simple threaded connection. Measuring off the top of the keg handles, the standard fitting at its highest was 1” above the handle, and the ITW Gov Reg was 2”. This worked for me because I had plenty of headroom above my kegs in my keezer. The Gov Reg has a barbed fitting for a 5/16” ID hose on the opposite end. Depending on your gas line size, this might be a larger size than what you have and require the appropriate attachments on your gas distribution manifold.

Height Comparison between Gov Reg and Standard Fitting

I then re-thought the features of the Gov Reg and how to maximize them in a homebrew keezer. Although I could replace the multiple adjustment knobs/gauges with multiple ITW Gov Regs, I stopped and thought about how often I run a different pressure in my keezer. Although I liked the idea of having a high pressure tap for bust carbonation and a lower pressure tap for normal serving, I rarely did burst carbonating. I would either forget it and over-carbonate the beer, or not do it long enough and it would seemingly have no effect. So in reality, I only needed a single regulator set at serving pressure and that would serve my purposes.

Previous Keezer Design with Large Space Occupied by Gauges and Adjustment KnobsNew Keezer Layout Fitting 6.5 Kegs6-Way Manifold Plus ITW Gov Reg Very Space Efficient

With this new vision of how to capitalize on the Gov Reg design, I set about on minimization. My previous keezer had a 4-way manifold with 4 separate adjustment knobs and gauges. That manifold took up so much space inside the keezer, that it would get in the way of kegs and their beer/gas lines and I struggled to fit 4 kegs inside. With the ITW Gov Reg, I could simplify the secondary pressure regulator in a much more package-efficient design and then just use a simple multi-valve gas distribution manifold. With the extra space freed up inside the keezer, I was able to fit 6 kegs inside easily (plus a 2.5 gallon one on the compressor hump) and be able to put them in and take them out without getting hung up on a bank full of giant gauges and valves.

Conclusions

The ITW Gov Reg might not be the right fit for everyone. But it does bring a few things to the table that are unique. Its stainless steel construction offers durability, and its gauge-less design frees up precious space inside your keezer. And if you’re trying to target an exact carbonation level referenced in some brewing books, the unparalleled pressure accuracy can’t be beat. For me, I’m ecstatic to have the space back inside my keezer to easily fit 6.5 kegs now!

Check Current Pricing, Selection and Availability:

Also Consider: Kegland DuoTight Inline Regulator with Gauge via MoreBeer – via William’s Brewing + DuoTight Hands on Review

More Photos

Adjustment Holes in Regulator Align with Pins in Adjusting ToolBall Lock AdapterBall Lock Adapter with Regulator- DisassembledITW Gov Reg Attached to Gas Distribution ManifoldITW Gov Reg Attached to Individual Gas DisconnectPlug to Relieve Excess Gauge Damping OilPressure Adjustment Tool Storage Case

More Draft Related Reviews:

Homebrew Reviews: Draft and Kegerator

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

Special Thanks to ITW Pressure Regulator Technologies for providing the unit used for evaluation in this review.

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

Our Top Draft Resources!

More: Our Last Fifty Finds!

review:itw tag:tpr

Step by Step Motorizing a Grain Mill

Thank you to HBF Reader Aaron N for this step by step how to!  Aaron is a long time reader and a serial tipster!

This is an advanced project that requires a good bit of materials, tools, knowledge and skill.

Motorizing Your Mill, Purpose Built Solutions

Important: These are the steps that Aaron took to put his build together.  This post does not constitute an endorsement of this process.  It is provided for informational and entertainment purposes only.  Your situation and equipment may by different.  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.  Always exercise caution around electricity, moving motors and moving mills.  If you have questions about wiring, contact a licensed electrician.  We recommend a purpose built solution for motorizing your mill.


Related Resources:


Note: A critical part of this build is incomplete.  This is a safety issue.  Aaron mentions in step 19 that he needs to add a guard and asks for ideas.  Leave a comment on this post if you have an idea or email us and we’ll forward it on.   As mentioned previously we recommend a purpose built solution for motorizing your mill.

How To: Step by Step Motorizing a Grain Mill

Step by step instructions on how to motorize a grain mill for milling barley.
Part of the joy I have in being a homebrewer can also be described as a sickness. Once the buying of equipment and accessories begins one becomes infected and may find it difficult to stop buying and making in the name of supporting the hobby. Writing this in the time of COVID, the homebrewing sickness may be even more appealing – it can help to satisfy the thirst for delicious brew without having to leave home and it also satiates a desire to make and to build at a moment when many of us have more time on our hands. The motorization of a grain mill for me was a project that satisfied my desire to get even deeper into the all grain aspect of brewing, remove the reliance on my local homebrew shop’s mill (which incidentally closed not long after I finished this project), and allow me to engineer something that would help support my hobby for hopefully a long time.

Materials:

  • Grain Mil
  • Drive Sheave
  • Motor Sheave
  • Bore Collar (depending on diameter of the motor and/or mill shaft)
  • Electric Motor
  • Belt
  • Electric Switch
  • Single Gang Electrical Box and face plate
  • 12/3 Romex
  • (2) Cord Clamp
  • MDF Board
  • 2 x 4 board
  • 1 x 2 board
  • Wood screws
  • (2) 22-inch Drawer slides (rated to support weight of motor and mill mounted on the MDF platform)
  • (2) Large worm gear clamps
  • Flat corner braces
  • 2 x 4 joist hanger

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Oxygen Free Cold Crash and Transfer Using a Spunding Valve

What is Cold Crashing?

Cold Crashing is chilling your beer after fermentation is complete.  Typically you want to get as close to freezing as possible, without actually freezing your beer.  These cooler temperatures cause break, yeast and trub matter to drop out of your beer.  This increases clarity, helps to hasten the conditioning process and helps you get a cleaner transfer to your serving vessel.

What is a Spunding Valve?

A Spunding Valve allows you to ferment under pressure, naturally and precisely carbonate in the keg, fix over-carbonated beers and more.  See: Build a Spunding Valve for more info.


Related Gear and Resources, Article Continues Below:

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Imperial Yeast Homebrew Strain Guide

Imperial Yeast Homebrew Strain Guide

About Imperial Yeast:

Compare Prices, Selection and Availability

Strain Guide!

Imperial Homebrew Yeast Strain Guide

More Fermentation Related!

More: Our Last Fifty Finds!

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Food Safe Replacement Keg O-Rings

Food Safe Replacement Keg O-Rings

For whatever reason, in my experience, it’s extremely difficult to find offerings that claim to be safe for food contact.  Maybe some of the o-rings that are available are food safe, but very few are actually labeled as such.

But why?  One possible reason… they aren’t food safe.  Beyond that, one industry insider I spoke with said suppliers have a potential problem with fulfillment.  Since many options and materials are available, It’s difficult for some distributors or sellers to guarantee you’re getting a food safe option.

  • Just because an o-ring is marketed for use in a keg doesn’t automatically mean that the materials and production processes used are food safe.
  •  If you think about it from a random supplier or manufacturer’s perspective… they don’t know what you’re putting in your keg, maybe it’s not even food.  The problem that we, as homebrewers, have is is… beer is food and meant for human consumption.
  • You cannot say all o-rings made from [fill in material here] are food safe.  Certain quality standards and processes are required.

The fact is we’re putting beer (food) in our kegs.

Finally a food safe option!  Valuebrew has a selection of silicone food grade o-rings.  They also have replacement universal poppet o-rings and internal QD o-rings, also food grade.

Sale & Limited Time Shipping Special

  • All options are on sale.  Prices range from $4.99 to $10.99 depending on quantity
  • As of this posting they are running a shipping special.  Your choice of 2 or 3 packs ship for the same shipping cost as a single pack.
  • Applies to 10 and 25 count options.
  • Mix and match – Choose from – post, dip tube, internal QD and universal poppet
  • Valid for US addresses.
  • Check site for current selection, price and availability.

Food Safe Silicone Keg O-Rings3 for 1 Shipping Selection

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

Our Top Draft Resources

More: Our Last Fifty Finds!

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. pst:vbfsor toppost:fsko tag:tpr

Hands on Review: Inkbird IHT-1P Digital, Instant Read, Waterproof, Rechargeable Thermometer

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

Hands on Review: Inkbird IHT-1P Digital Thermometer

Back of the box
A look at the packagingWhat’s under the thermometerAnd the back side of the card they include calibration instructionsThe included USB charging cableThe thermometer itself

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