Category Archives: Reviews & Top Posts

Hands on Review: Keggle Brewing Pump and Chiller Stand

This review is by Homebrew Finds Contributor Tom Brennan.  Read more about Tom and grab a link to his website and YouTube channel below.

Keggle Brewing Pump and Plate Chiller Stand

After opening the box that came from Keggle Brewing I noticed that this stand was built to last. And it should, considering the abuse most homebrewers put into the equipment…OK maybe that’s just me. It was constructed of mostly aluminum parts and was well welded. It was not difficult to put together, but an addition of instructions would be welcomed.

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This is available in two versions.  Just the stand and the stand complete with pump and chiller.

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Build a DuoTight CO2 Gas Manifold! – for Kegland EVABarrier Tubing

Kegland’s DuoTight Fittings are designed to work with their EVABarrier Tubing.  They offer quick, reliable connections, easy implementation, a variety of fitting options and work with double wall EVABarrier tubing.  These are push to connect and require no tubing clamps.  Combine these features with their generally low price and this system and tubing are a game changer for kegerator/keezer owners and builders.

As of this posting, the system has no native manifold option available.  No need to fear, this post details three DuoTight manifold options that you can put together yourself.

Finding DuoTight Fittings and EVABarrier Tubing

Build 1 – Convert a Flare Based Manifold to DuoTight

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Hands on Review: Kegtron Smart Keg Monitor

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.

Kegtron Smart Keg Monitor

Let’s face it, some homebrew gear is purely a luxury item. You’ll hear people ask, “Yeah, but how does that make your beer better?” Sometimes you can rationalize your flashy gear because it allows your brew process to be more repeatable, or take less time. Kegtron doesn’t make your beer taste better, it doesn’t improve your brew process, and it doesn’t make your brew day faster. But it’s something more than just brewery bling.

When I first saw the Kegtron keg monitor, it seemed just like a silly way to part homebrewers from their money. It looked cool, but it definitely didn’t seem like something I’d get excited about. And then I tried it.

Kegtron sells 2 models. One for a single tap, one for a dual. The measurement is done by some fancy digital flow meters inside the housing of the unit. There is a circuit board that keeps track of how much beer goes through the flow meters and stores that data on the board. It also has a Bluetooth transmitter that broadcasts this information to an app on your phone/tablet that you’ve paired through the app.

Since the flow meters just keep track of how much beer goes past them, you have to enter into the app how much beer you start with. You hook up your keg, tell it how many gallons are in it, and it tracks from there, deducting beers each time it measures 12 ounces has gone by. It’s customizable, so if you want to count beers by the pint (U.S. or Imperial) instead of 12 oz. bottle, you can do that. The display on the app tells you how many “drinks” are left in the keg. And since you also input to the app what size your keg is (2.5 gallon, 5 gallon, 1/2 barrel, etc.), along with telling you how many beers are left, it has a colorful graphic to show what percentage of your keg is left.

In the app, you can name each of your beers, so if you have more than one Kegtron tap being monitored, they all show up on your screen and you can keep track of each beer with its own space on your display. Since the data is stored on the Kegtron unit itself, and it uses Bluetooth to communicate to your app, if you leave the house and get out of Bluetooth range, you don’t see your beer lists. So it’s intended to be a display at home next to your kegerator, or on your phone so you can direct your underlings to run downstairs and fetch you what you want from the comfort of your couch.

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Kegtron Smart Keg Monitor – Dual Tap Expansion Unit | Track Your Keg Levels From Your Phone | Upgrade Your Taps – via Amazon, multiple versions available

Hands on Review

Kegtron provided me a single-tap unit to try out and review at home. I saw it on display at Homebrew Con in Portland, displaying a club’s list of taps and their various stages of keg emptiness. I wasn’t sure that in a less busy setting it would provide the same value. What I found was it got me excited about what I had on tap (like I needed help). It was cool watching it accurately count down the drinks with each glass filled. I have a 4-tap keezer, and I found myself gravitating to whatever I had on the tap with the Kegtron just because it was fun. After a couple weeks I found myself wanting it on all of my taps. It was just so cool, and suddenly seemingly useful to know exactly how much beer was left in each tap. I was a convert.

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Can You Save Money Homebrewing Your Own Beer?

Pictured: MoreBeer’s BRKIT100 Homebrew Starter Kit

A driving factor for a lot of homebrewers to pick up this great hobby is… saving money.  After all, if I make my own beer at home, it’s got to be cheaper, right?

Let’s find out.

Ground Rules

These are estimates and assumptions.  Actual costs are going to vary.  This scenario assumes you drink quality craft beer.  Along those lines, for estimation’s sake, let’s say you like a popular style like a mildly hoppy pale ale and you’d generally spend about $7 or $8 or so on a 6 pack.  Shipping charges will be considered $0 as free shipping options are usually available at certain thresholds.  Taxes will be considered $0.  This scenario assumes an extract brewing technique.

Let’s get started…

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Hands on Review: Kegland BlowTie Diaphragm Spunding Valve!

A Spunding Valve allows you to maintain a set pressure. If pressure in the vessel exceeds the set point, it is expelled. It generally consists of an adjustable PRV valve, a tee, a gauge and a way to connect to your keg.

Why a Spunding Valve?

There are loads of homebrew related applications for a Spunding valve ranging from pressurized ferementation to naturally carbonating to fixing over carbonated beers and lots more.  Check out our resource post on the subject.  It’s arguably the go-to resource on the Internet on the subject

Hands on Review Kegland BlowTie Spunding Valve

The BlowTie Spunding Valve assembly consists of the BlowTie, a DuoTight Tee Fitting, a DuoTight to flare fitting, a DuoTight pressure gauge and two small pieces of EVABarrier Tubing.

Here’s a look at each component…

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Parts lists for putting this together on your own can be found toward the end of this review

The BlowTie is the heart of this build.  It has DuoTight Push to Connect connections on both side as well as an adjustment knob to set pressure. Continue reading

Hands on Review: Brewers Hardware Tri-Clover Sight Glasses

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.

Brewers Hardware TC Sight Glasses

A large sight glass on a brew rig set-up can legitimately be classified as a luxury. There are various ways to assess your wort clarity during your brew session. During recirculation of the mash, or during vourlaf, you want to know when your wort is running clear and free of grain debris. Connect a sight glass into your recirculation loop and you can easily see the wort clarity without having to look for grain bits in a recirculation spray. It’s just right there in plain view.

Sight Glass showing cloudy wort during recirculationSight Glass showing clear wort during recirculation

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Hands on Review: Brewers Hardware Quick Clean Take-Apart Ball Valves

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.

Brewers Hardware Take-Apart Ball Valve

Up until now, I’ve known of two types of ball valves- 2-piece and 3-piece. The key difference between them being that the 3-piece can be disassembled for full cleaning. When I first started buying gear, I figured I’d go for the 3-piece because the idea of being able to take it apart and clean it sounded like something I should probably do. After seeing the complications of needing to use 2 wrenches at a time, while holding the body of the valve stable, I quickly concluded my 3-piece valves would never experience the joy of a ‘deep cleaning’.

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Quick Clean Take-Apart Ball Valves at Brewers Hardware

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Hands on Review: Blichmann Engineering RIMS Rocket

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 RIMS Rocket

I heard the term ‘RIMS’ long before I really knew what it was. The decoded acronym ‘Recirculating Infusion Mash System’ didn’t help much, either. In hindsight, the acronym has all the info in it to describe what it is. It’s a system to control mash temperature by adding heat to your recirculating wort. You use a pump to draw wort out of your mash tun, push it past a heating element, and then return that heated wort back to your main mash tun. Connected to a controller, a temperature sensor monitors the temperature of your recirculating wort and turns your heat source on or off based on the measured temperature, as compared to your target temperature. And since this heating element is outside of your mash tun, a RIMS can be used whether your mash tun is a plastic cooler or a steel pot.

Connected to a RIMS Controller and Mash Tun

Blichmann offers two levels of RIMS. The first is a 120V system that has a 2000-Watt heating element, and the other is a 240V system with a 3500-Watt heating element. The 120V system is designed for up to 10 gallon batches, and the 240V system is up to 20 gallons. To get an idea of the heating potential, Blichmann provides a formula on their website to calculate the heating potential.

°F/minute = 0.0068*(Wattage/gallons of wort).

So with 6 gallons of wort in your mash tun, the 2000W/120V system can heat at about 2.3 degrees/minute. The 3500W/240V system on the same 6 gallons can heat it 4 degrees/minute.

The heating element sits inside a stainless steel canister that holds about 0.75 gallons of wort. With the heating element’s large corkscrew design, it has a lot of surface area to transfer heat to your wort without scorching. There are 1/2″ NPT fittings on the inlet and outlet of the canister. On the outlet you need a Y-fitting so you can install a temperature sensor to monitor the temperature of the wort as it exits the RIMS Rocket.

The heating element connects through Blichmann’s custom heating element connection. The large, robust connection ensures a solid electrical connection and grounding to the housing for safety. You disconnect your cable to make cleaning and storage easier, so you don’t have to drag the cord around like a tail. And although not waterproof to dunk in a bucket of water, it has a good-sized splash shield to protect the connection from the splashes that come with the wet sport of brewing.

Smooth Machined Inside of Housing

The inside of the housing is machined and designed to be free of crevices or cracks. This is important since mash recirculation is practically guaranteed to have some level of grain particles passing through that you don’t want to get stuck. The heating element built into the base seals to the main cone of the housing with a large O-ring. And it is held together and tightened with a circular band clamp with a threaded nut/bolt combination. This clamp makes for fairly easy disassembly to clean inside as often as you’d like.

Finding the RIMS Rocket, Review Continues Below

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Hands on Review: Anvil Bucket Fermentor Cooling 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.

Anvil Bucket Fermentor Cooling System

Blichmann created the Anvil line of equipment to provide good gear at an affordable price. Across the line-up, you can find great quality stuff that’s notably cheaper than other high-end brew gear. By making it more affordable, it allows more homebrewers to step up their equipment. I reviewed their 7.5 gallon stainless bucket fermentor a little over a year ago. It was a great product, but it wasn’t compatible with my existing fermentation temperature control systems. So I was excited to see they came out with a custom system. And as per their formula, it was upper tier brewing capability at an attainable price.

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The system is targeted to those looking to control their temperatures in the 50-55F temperature zone where lager yeast provides its cleanest flavors. It comes with a neoprene insulating jacket to insulate the walls of the bucket, a cooling coil & thermowell mated to a special stopper, a submersible pump and cooling lines to circulate your cooling water, and a digital controller. The neoprene jacket is custom-made for the Anvil fermentor, with cut-outs for the handles, the lid clamps, and the spigot.

Plot of Cooling System Performance

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Hands on Review: Spike TC100 Temperature Control 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.

Spike TC100 Temperature Control System

Controlling the temperature during fermentation is key to getting the right flavor profile out of your yeast. Sure, you can still make good beer without it, but you’ll be limited. It’s like walking vs. driving a car. Sure, you can get some cool places just by walking. But when you increase your mobility, you can explore more places that were out of reach when you were only walking. Getting back to fermentation, if you’ve got a cool basement and a heat wrap + controller, you can get control of ale fermentation. Add to that a cold water source and a method to circulate that water within your beer, and now you can also get control of lager fermentation, too.

Flex Fermentor [Hands on Review] with Neoprene Jacket

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