Homebrew Recipe Calculator, Blog, How To, & Recipes

Sep
18
2012

How To: Modify a Turkey Fryer Burner To Support a Keggle

 

Homebrewing equipment can be expensive, and if you're anything like me, you quickly realize the limitations of your homebrewing equipment and find the need to upgrade.  Part of the fun of homebrewing, outside of making delicious homebrew, is using your creativity to handcraft thrifty solutions to homebrew challenges.  We've already shown you how to create a Keggle out of a keg but what if you've upgraded from a Turkey Fryer to a Keggle but haven't yet upgraded your burner to a tiered system?

I started homebrewing using a 4 gallon canning pot on the stove.  Aside from my wife complaining about the smell, I wanted to start full boils so I picked up a 7 gallon Turkey Fryer on sale at Home Depot for $30.  This setup worked well for a few brews but I did get boil overs with nearly every batch because 6.5 gallons of water in a 7 gallon turkey fryer only leaves about an inch of empty space at the top of the pot.  

 

I've recently upgraded to a Keggle but I'm not ready to invest in a tiered gravity system yet, so I planned on using the burner that came with my turkey fryer.  Unfortunately, the bottom of the keggle is rounded (unlike the turkey fryer) and the keg's outer rim is larger than the diameter of the turkey fryer which makes for a very uneven surface. When I placed the keggle on the burner its rounded center rested on the burner's center support and the keggle easily swung around in a circular fashion.  To solve this issue, I welded a support structure on top of the burner, allowing the weight of the keggle to be evenly distributed and eliminate the rocking altogether.

It was my first ever welding project and I knew I would eventually be upgrading so I wasn't too concerned about making it look pretty, which is quite obvious when looking at the pictures.  

What's most important is that the added support can handle the weight of the filled keggle and remain steady to prevent boiling hot wort from dumping on you and ruining your brew day.

 

Required Tools and Equipment

  • Keggle
  • Burner from a Turkey Fryer
  • 4 Feet of Weldable Steel (I used 1.5" Wide X .25" Thick to support the weight.  I paid about $15)
  • Something to Cut Steel with (i.e. grinder or cutting torch)
  • Welder and welding supplies

Instructions

  • Cut the weldable steel into 4 pieces.  (I used 2 X 15" pieces and 2 X 9" pieces).
  • Weld the four pieces into a rectangle. 
  • Place the turkey fryer burner upside down on top of the welded rectangle.
  • Position the burner, centered in the rectangle so at least two opposite sides of the rectangle are touching the frame of the burner.
  • Weld the new rectangle to the burner.
  • Let it cool off before touching or moving it (it gets really hot)
That's it!
 
If you are not an experienced welder, make sure you have someone experienced to help you so that you don't get hurt or burn down your garage.
 

Overall, I'm happy with the upgrade which only cost me $15 for the steel and some time to put it all together.  It was also a fun lesson in welding which was way easier than I had expected.  Now that I've welded a bit of steel I can start thinking about designing and building my own tiered gravity system (future post).

Happy Brewing!

Jul
31
2012

What Ingredients are used in commercial beers ?

This article on LifeHacker highlights a new text messaging service that will help you find out what ingredients are used in commercial beers. 

Jul
18
2012

Convert a Keg to a Keggle/Brew Pot

Building a keggle (brew kettle) from an old keg is a great way to get an inexpensive large stainless steel brew pot for your homebrew. Manufactured brewing kettles can be very expensive, they offer a variety of features but what if you just want to brew larger batches of beer without spending lots of money, the converted keg could be your answer. Make sure that you get your keg from a reputable source. I know there are many legal concerns with obtaining old kegs so make sure you find out what is legal. Also make sure that you know what you are doing, the keg can be under pressure and you could get seriously injured. We do not recommend doing this without expert help.

To convert my keg to a stainless steel brew pot I first had to cut off the top. I created a jig for my angle grinder to cut the top off the keg. I used a short 2x4 bolted to an angled piece of steel. A door handle drill bit, 2” I think, bolted to the 2x4 worked perfect to fit in the top of the keg. The handle of the angle grinder unscrewed and I was able to use it like a bolt to the angled steel.

After I cut the top off the keg, I used a Dremil and sandpaper to clean up the rough edges on the opening of the keggle. You don’t want to cut yourself on those rough cuts when cleaning out the keg.

I used a step drill bit to drill the holes for the weldless valve and sight glass. I picked up the wedless valve from my local home brew shop and the weldless sight glass/thermometer came from http://www.brewhardware.com/.

I built the keggle pickup tube from copper pipe purchased at my home improvement store. The pickup works okay. I try to whirlpool my wort in the brew pot, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then drain. I still seem to pick up quite a bit of hops. I might need to come up with another design or add some type of filter. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

I have brewed about 6 batches of homebrew in my converted keg and I absolutely love it. No more fear of boil-overs when doing 5 gallon batches. I have yet to do a 10 gallon batch but if I am ever so inclined I am ready. Not sure if I could mash for 10 gallons in my 10 gallon water cooler, it would have to be a small beer.

Jul
18
2012

Growing Hops At Home Is Fun and Easy

I planted two varieties of hops a few months ago with the hopes of using them for making a delicious home brew.  I ordered Hop Rhizomes for Nugget and Kent Golding and put them in the ground hoping they would turn out...supposedly they don't typically grow very well in my area but so far they are looking great.  One of them is showing little baby hop cones forming.  I plucked one off and ate it, but it tasted like I was eating grass...there's no bitterness there yet.  I wonder when the Alpha Acids are produced.  At any rate, it's looking like these bad boys will produce at least some hops to use in a home brew later this year.

 

Baby Hop Cones Grown From Rhizomes

Hop Plant Climbing a Pole

Mar
22
2012

Convert Fridge into a Kegerator

I finally decided to pull the trigger and invest in a kegerator system for my home brew. I went with a door mounted Kegco Standard Homebrew Kegerator Conversion Kit from the Beverage Factory. I already had an old fridge in the garage, so I just needed the equipment found in the kegerator kit. If you purchase a kit it should contain installation instructions, these are just a few photos of how I did it, not a detailed installation guide.

I first marked where I want the kegerator taps. I decided to mark out 4 taps even though I was only installing 2, I can always add the others later. I drilled a hole on the inside of the fridge, only through the first layer of plastic, not through the insulation.

I then drilled a larger diameter hole from the outside of the fridge, through the metal exterior, through the foam insulation, and then stopped at the interior plastic shell.

Here is a cross section illustration of what the hole in the door would look like.

I then inserted a piece of PVC pipe into the two holes for the taps. This just helps make it a little stronger, you can tighten down the taps and not worry about crushing the soft fridge door. This definitely isn’t necessary but i had some PVC lying around that was the right size so I added it.

I then inserted the taps through the holes and hooked up all the hoses.

I am not sure if the bottom shelf is able to hold 10 gallons of beer, 2 corney kegs, and a full CO2 tank. It seems okay but I will probably install some kind of reinforcement.

That’s it, ready to fill, chill, carb, and drink a home brew. I have tried three beers so far in the corney kegs and absolutely love it. It makes bottling day go much faster. I also like having control over the CO2. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Mar
9
2012

Beer was meant to be enjoyed, Responsibly of Course

Here's a news article that shows which countries consume the most alcohol.  Of course, we know alcohol should be enjoyed in moderation. As always, drink responsibly.

http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-204_162-10011155.html?tag=page;previous

Mar
6
2012

Do It Yourself Immersion Wort Chiller

Chill out man!

Immersion Wort Chiller

I had a ¼”” outside diameter 15’ wort chiller that I would use for my partial boils. This wort chiller combined with a sink ice bath would usually get me to yeast pitching temp in a feasible time. Now that I have switched to all grain I am boiling at least 5 gallons of water. This can take a significant amount of time to chill down to yeast pitching temperature. I also use a keggle, so immersing that in a tub of ice water isn’t really practical.

Old Small Wort Chiller

I decided it was time to build a proper immersion wort chiller. I bought 50’ of ½” copper tubing. I was going to solder on connections but I decided to just fit hose over the ends with hose clamps, it was much cheaper.

Immersion Wort Chiller Hose Clamps

I tried to use hose benders, those spring looking things, but they didn’t seem to work on the sharp bends. Oh well, I could always cut those off and reform the copper.

Immersion Wort Chiller Copper Crimp

I made sure the output hose on my work chiller was long enough to reach the washing machine. I drain the hot water from the wort chiller into the washing machine and then run a load of laundry.

The input on the wort chiller hooks up to a garden hose so it didn’t really matter how long this was.

Input for Immersion Wort Chiller

I didn’t have a corney keg to wrap the copper around so I use a large pot strainer. It was a good diameter but it is a little too skinny for my 15 gallon keggle. The top 4 coils are out of the wort.

Immersion Wort Chiller

If you have any tips or comments on how to build or use an immersion wort chiller, please leave a comment.

Feb
28
2012

How To Reuse Home Brew Yeast From a Previous Batch of Home Brew

Yeast Bed

If you're new to home brewing, you might think that when fermentation is over, the home brew yeast that you pitched into your wort has done it's job and died off.  Actually, the yeast consumes the sugars in your wort, and when it can't do that any longer, settles down at the bottom of the carboy. Lucky for us, we can extract it and reuse it in another batch of delicious home brew.  

In this blog post, I'm going to walk you through the steps needed to get the yeast out of the carboy, wash it, and reuse it.

Equipment Needed:

  • Carboy with home brew ready to be bottled or put into a keg system
  • Auto Siphon or other mechanism for removing home brew from a carboy
  • Sanitizing Solution
  • Small stove pot
  • 2 Cups of Water
  • 2 large jars with lids
  • 1 small jar with lid for storage

Step 1: Siphon Your Beer

Before you can get at the yeast, you need to siphon the home brew out of the carboy.  That sludgy tan colored nastiness at the bottom of the carboy is the yeast cake or yeast bed.  It may have some home brew, hops or other miscellaneous things in it, but don't worry, you'll take care of that later.

 Siphon Beer

 

Step 2: Boil and Cool 2 Cups of Water

Boil two cups of water for 10 minutes to sterilize the water. Cover the pot with a lid and allow the water to cool to room temperature.  You can use an ice bath if you are in a hurry, but don't fret...why not sit back and enjoy a home brew while you're waiting.  You're going to combine this water with the yeast cake in a few steps.

 Stove Pot

 

Step 3: Prepare the Jars

While the boiled water is cooling, wash the jars and lids if needed and sanitize them.  Set them aside for later, making sure they aren't able to collect any bacteria or wild yeast while you're waiting. 

 

Step 4: Pour the Water Onto the Yeast Cake and Shake It!

Once the water that you boiled in step 2 has cooled down to room temperature, you're going to pour the cooled water directly onto the yeast cake inside the carboy.  Next, you want to shake and swirl the carboy...juggle it if you like, just don't drop it or spill it. The goal is to dislodge all of the yeast, trub and other gunk at the bottom of the carboy and mix it into the water, forming a thick tan colored concoction. There may be some larger particles in there...don't worry.

Water and Funnel

 

Step 5: Pour the Yeast Mixture

Once you have thoroughly mixed the water and yeast cake and most of the yeast cake has combined with the water, pour the yeast mixture into one of the sanitized jars.  Secure the lid on the jar and shake the mixture as much as you can for a good 2 to 5 minutes.  This will help break up the larger particles and mix everything together.

Sludge in Jar

 

Step 6: Wait 10 Minutes

After shaking, set the jar down somewhere and let it rest for 10 minutes or more.  You should start seeing distinct separation of layers in the jar with the sludge and other gunk collecting at the bottom, yeast in the middle and water on top.  Depending on the type of beer you made, how much you shook the jar and how long you let it rest will affect the distinction between the yeast and water layers.

Separation

 

Step 7: Pour off Yeast and Water

After everything has settled fairly well, slowly pour the top layers of the jar into the other sanitized jar.  As you do this, the layers will mostly remain intact and you can watch the water and yeast layers getting smaller as you pour.  Stop pouring just before the sludge layer starts getting transferred.  Discard the sludge that is left over in the first jar then clean and re-sanitize the jar. Cover and seal the jar that now has the yeast and liquid.   Continue to shake, wait and pour as many times as you need to to get rid of the bulk of the sludge. In this process, you're simply moving the the yeast back and fourth between jars and getting rid of more sludge with each transfer.  Typically, doing this 2 to 3 times is sufficient.

Yeast Pour Off

Layers 

Step 8: Label and Refrigerate

Once you are satisfied with how much sludge has been eliminated, you're going to transfer the remaining yeast and water into a small jar or other vessel that will hold the yeast until you decide to use it in another batch of home brew.  Make sure the jar or vessel is sanitized, pour in the yeast water mixture and seal with a lid.  Label the jar or vessel of yeast, making sure to include the yeast strain as well as the number of times it has been reused.  You don't want to reuse your yeast more than 4 or 5 times as it will begin to mutate and no longer produce predictable flavors in your home brew.  After the yeast has been in the refrigerator for a few days, the yeast will solidify at the bottom and the liquid will be on top.  You can now take this out and use it in a batch of home brew, though I recommend using a yeast starter to get the yeast active before pitching into your wort.  Yeast that is stored in the refrigerator should keep for a few months, but using it sooner than later is always recommended.

 

Harvested Home Brew Yeast

If you have any tips or comments on how to reuse home brew yeast, please leave a comment.

Feb
9
2012

Home Brew Yeast Magnetic Stir Plate

For years I have used liquid yeast in a vial and have always had trouble getting the final gravities I was after. In the last few batches of home brew I have also noticed a few off flavors. I decided to start using a yeast starter. A five gallon wort should have about 200 billion cells pitched. This is much less than what is in the vials or smack packs. My first starter was made in an 1000ml Erlenmeyer Flask using White Labs California Ale Yeast WLP001, without a stir plate. I boiled 2 cups of water with ½ cup DME for 10 minutes, cooled, and pitched the yeast. It worked fine but didn’t seem like the yeast was as active as it should have been. I noticed a lot of the yeast was settling on the bottom of the flask.

Homebrew DIY Stir Plate

I decided to build a stir plate. A stir plate keeps the yeast in suspension and in contact with the nutrients. It will aerate the small batch of wort and this oxygen is essential for yeast propagation. The constant moving of the wort will also knock the carbon dioxide out of suspension, you don’t want that in your solution as it inhibits yeast growth.

Homebrew DIY Stir Plate

I was able to make the stir plate from parts lying around my house, mostly a computer.

Parts For Stir Plate

  • Computer Fan
  • AC/DC Adapter, that matches the volts of the fan
  • Box to hold everything
  • Switch (I had an extra)
  • Rare Earth Magnet from a hard drive
  • Stir bar, I used the middle of CD-Rom drive
  • Nuts and bolts to hold the fan in place
  • Rheostat, also called a Potentiometer (I didn’t use one of these but hope to add one soon)

Homebrew DIY Stir Plate

Homebrew DIY Stir Plate

Feb
9
2012

Homemade Homebrew Mash Tun

When making the jump from extract-brewing to all-grain home brewing you are going to need a mash tun. One of the least expensive homemade mash tun designs is made out of a cooler. You can use a square cooler, like the ones you would use to hold cold drinks, or a round cooler, like you would use to hold water at a soccer game. Using a cheap rectangle cooler, hoses, and plastic spigot you could build one for about $20, depending on the cost of the cooler. Many people will also convert stainless steel kettles or old kegs into mash tuns, however they don’t hold the heat like a cooler will. A homemade mash tun is not only easy and fun to build but will allow you to brew some amazing home brew.

Homemade Mash Tun

I decided to use an orange round water cooler from Home Depot for my homebrew mash tun, partially because I had a convenient spot to store it and I also liked how it looked. I purchased everything from Home Depot, except a stainless steel washer that is needed on the inside of the mash tun. The total cost for the do it yourself mash tun was $81.65 with tax. Here is a checklist of the tools and supplies you will need:

Tools to Build Mash Tun

  • Hacksaw
  • Screwdriver
  • Needle-nose pliers (or regular)
  • crescent wrench or pliers
  • Teflon tape

Parts for Homebrew Mashtun

Parts for Homebrew Mash Tun

  • 10 Gallon water cooler
  • ⅜” female to female ball valve (plumbing)
  • ¼” male brass pipe plug (plumbing)
  • ⅜” x ⅜” female pipe to barb adapter (plumbing)
  • ⅜” x ⅜” male pipe to barb adapter (plumbing)
  • ⅜” x ⅜” male to male 1 ½” long extension (plumbing)
  • ⅜” oring (over by the faucets)
  • 2 - ¼” x ⅝” stainless steel hose clamp (plumbing)
  • ½” x 12” stainless steel braided faucet supply line (over by the faucets)
  • 3 - ⅝” fender washers (hardware)
  • 1 - ⅝” stainless steel fender washers (not sure where to get these)

Homebrew Mash Tun

Steps to Build Home Made Mash Tun

  1. Use a wrench and remove the spigot on the cooler mash tun, keep the rubber insert.
  2. Use the hacksaw and cut the ends off of the faucet supply line.
  3. Use the needle-nose pliers and remove the hose found in the supply line.
  4. Add the hose clamp and the ¼” male brass pipe plug to one end of the braided mash tun filter, tighten the hose clamp.
  5. Add the hose clamp and the ⅜” x ⅜” female pipe to barb adapter to the other end of the braided mash tun filter, and tighten.
  6. Add Teflon tape to both sides of the ⅜” x ⅜” male to male 1 ½” long extension.
  7. Insert the ⅜” x ⅜” male to male 1 ½” long extension into the hole in the cooler mash tun, it is easiest to do this from the inside of the mash tun making sure the rubber insert stays in place.
  8. Screw on the newly created mash tun filter.
  9. Screw on the ball valve.
  10. Add Teflon tape to the ⅜” x ⅜” male pipe to barb adapter.
  11. Screw the ⅜” x ⅜” male pipe to barb adapter into the ball valve.
  12. Tighten everything up with a crescent wrench.
  13. Test by filling with water to make sure there are not any leaks in your new mash tun.
  14. Brew a batch of all-grain homebrew.

Those are the tools, parts, and directions for building a homebrew home made cooler mash tun. I would like to add a site glass and thermometer to mine so stay tuned for more.

Homebrew Home made Mashtun