Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rainy Day Amber

I have brewed this recipe before but not put it on the site so I decided to give another crack at it. This was originally supposed to be an Alaskan Amber clone, the recipe has changed too much from the original recipe that this is basically a new beer. With new hops and a different yeast the flavor should be noticeably different. The weather in Hillsboro has been extremely shitty the last few weekends that I could have brewed so I have been delaying brew day until it was nicer. I suddenly woke up this morning and realized that I was in Oregon. There are no more nice days until June. I was not about to go out and sit in the rain for an hour while the wort boiled so I placed the burner dangerously close to my house (Shown Right) by the door so I could stir/add ingredients from inside the house.
I'm not sure if this makes me less of an Oregonian because I didn't brave the rain, or more of one since the rain did not deter me from brewing. Either way since it was raining and some rain water got in the kettle I am calling this brew Rainy Day Amber. Probably my least creative beer name but I didn't have a lot to go on.

  • 8 lbs Light/Pale Malt Extract
  • 2.0 oz. Sterling (7.9% alpha-acid, whole leaf)
  • White Labs European Ale Yeast (WLP011)
  • 10 oz. CaraMunich Crystal Malt (65°L, Crushed)
  • 4 oz. German Melanoidin Malt (30°L, Crushed)
  • 2 oz. Chocolate Malt (350°L, Crushed)

On Sunday December 12th I purchased the all my ingredients through Main Street Homebrew Supply Co. and brewed that day. Main Street was out of Northern Brewer Hops, which was used before, so I substituted with Sterling which according to them has a similar hop profile. Previously I had used a California Ale yeast but the yeast recommended to me was European Ale yeast. This would give the beer more of a residual sweetness. This was a pretty standard brew with steeping the grains, pouring the malt, cooling, and pitching.
The one minor caveat was the rain. Some rain did get into the wort during the brewing process. While the rain was unlikely to affect the taste of the beer it seemed like it took longer for the water to reach boiling temperature. This was caused by some combination of 3 factors.
  1. Cold rain water falling into the the kettle caused it to cool the wort down
  2. Cold rain water hitting the side of the kettle causing it to flash boil and cool the kettle
  3. I was imagining that it was taking longer than it actually was
This was most likely a combination of 2 and 3 but probably just 3. The hop schedule I kept the same even though a different hop was used.

Hops/Ingredients Schedule:

QuantityIngredientBoiled for
1 oz.Sterling Entire 60 min. Boil
1 1/2 oz.SterlingLast 20 min. of boil
1 oz.SterlingLast 10 min. of boil

After the boil was completed I cooled with the wort took a gravity reading and pitched the yeast.


Check back for updates, Also I did not burn my house down.

UPDATE 12/24/2010:
Transferred to secondary and took a gravity reading. Definitely tastes fruitier than the previous batch right now. Still a little cloudy I think this may be because I forgot to use Irish moss during the boil. Not a huge deal still tastes pretty good.
Gravity at Transfer: 1.018
Current Alcoh
  • ABW=105*(1.060-1.018)=4.41%
  • ABV=1.25*4.41=5.51%
UPDATE 12/31/10:
Tranfered my Amber to a keg today while brewing my Double Black Eye-PA and took a final gravity measurement. Tasted good not as good as before but still drinkable. An overall good tasting beer. Probably will not brew with this modification. The last amber clone was much better.
Final Gravity 1.016

  • ABW=105*(1.060-1.016)=4.62%
  • ABV=1.25*4.62=5.78%

Monday, November 8, 2010

Beer the Societal (Not Just Social) lubricant

According to a new Study there is an even stronger link between beer and civilization. There is a great deal of circumstantial evidence in the article. However, wanting something to be true has always been a good substitute for evidence and hard scientific fact... right guys?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

F*CK It's Cold

It's getting cold out as winter approaches and I decided its time to brew a "winter warmer." I decided I would try to replicate my favorite warmer Widmer Brothers Brrr. This Brrr Clone should be quite the treat. I decided to leave out the onomatopoeia and just explain to the drinker, F*CK It's Cold.

  • 11 lbs Light/Pale Malt Extract
  • 2.0 oz. Simcoe (12.7% alpha-acid, whole leaf)
  • 2.0 oz. Cascade (8.6% alpha-acid, whole leaf)
  • 1.5 oz. Nugget (12-14% alpha-acid, whole leaf, home grown)
  • White Labs California Ale Yeast (WLP001)
  • 1 3/4 lb. Crystal Malt (10°L, Crushed)
  • 1/4 lb. Crystal Malt (80°L, Crushed)
  • 4 oz. German Melanoidin Malt (30°L, Crushed)
  • 3 oz. Chocolate Malt (350°L, Crushed)

On Saturday October 16th I purchased the all my ingredients through Main Street Homebrew Supply Co. and brewed that day. This was a pretty standard brew with steeping the grains, pouring the malt, cooling, and pitching. One thing that I noticed that I have not before is when transferred to the primary from the kettle several distinct layers of sedimentation were created. The picture at the left shows the very distinct layers of sedimentation. This may be due to the Irish Moss because that is a new step in my brewing process and has to do with flocculation.
My friend Nick grew some Nugget Hops in his back yard and this year they finally began to produce some yield. He vary graciously gave me some of his crop and I'm using them for this batch. They are a little tighter packed than the standard Freshops I usually get but they worked out great. Once submerged in the boil they expanded to their full cone shape and did their job nicely. I worked the hops into the recipe and hop schedule shown below.

Hops/Ingredients Schedule:

QuantityIngredientBoiled for
1 oz.Simcoe Entire 60 min. Boil
1 1/2 oz.NuggetLast 30 min. of boil
1 oz.CascadeLast 20 min. of boil
1 oz.SimcoeLast 15 min. of boil
1 oz.CascadeLast 5 min. of boil

I pitched the yeast, measure the OG, and sealed it up. (In acutality I sealed it up, remembered to check OG and then sealed it up again)
Original Gravity: 1.070

Today, October 29th, 2010 I transferred my F*CK It's Cold to the secondary after fermenting for a little less than 2 weeks. The results I am happy to say, were exceptional! After taking a gravity I began transferring to the secondary carboy to ferment. Near the end of the siphon the carboy was getting a pretty full, since I started with closer to 6 gallons, and I siphoned a couple of cups into a pint glass for sampling. The unfinished beer was in my opinion very close to Widmer Brrr. I am eager to see what the final result will be after secondary fermentation has completed. At around 6% Alcohol I think there is some further fermenting that needs to happen before it is ready to keg. Ill let it sit in the secondary for another week.
Gravity at Transfer: 1.024
Current Alcoh
  • ABW=105*(1.070-1.024)=4.83
  • ABV=1.25*4.83=6.04%
Today, November 3, 2010 I kegged the F*ck It's Cold. Remeasuring the gravity to 1.022 i determined that the alchohol content is approximately 6.3%. While transferring I noticed that this beer has an extremely high level of clarity. Possibly the highest clarity beer I have ever produced. I don't know if i should attribute this to the irish moss or some other factor. I took a picture but it really doesn't convey what I am trying to show (shown right). I tried another sample and it tastes even better than it did before at sampling. I will most likely turn this into a seasonal brewing adventure. One note is that I started off with closer to 6 gallons of wort before I pitched because I was tired of the amount of trub that was getting transferred to my beer. This turned out to be too much. I think 5.5 gallons of wort will be enough to allow transfer without bringing any zombie yeast over, and still be enough to fill the carboy up and then consequentially the keg.

  • ABW=105*(1.070-1.022)=5.04
  • ABV=1.25*5.04=6.30%

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Another one bites the foam

I finished off the last bit of my Rapist's Wit today. An overall great drinking experience but now I have 2 empty kegs that need filling. Anyone have some ideas on what I should brew next. I was thinking about trying to do a bourbon barrel aged BRRR like the Widmer Brothers are releasing under their limited release brothers reserve. If you look closely at the BAC it's coming in nicely at 10.4% up from the 7.12% of the original. Any other suggestions?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bottling: like kegging... but smaller

There is a very different process when bottling than when kegging. Though different; the concept is the same, make sure everything is very clean and put it in a new container. Some brewers have a slightly different methodology of bottling beer, that being said, this is mine. I am not saying this is the only way or that there are not better ways of bottling, but this is the process I use.

Sanitization: The first thing I do is grab my trusty fermentation bucket, I don't use the sanitization bucket because the beer will be touching the vessel. Since my sanitization bucket has acquired an abundance of scratches (bacteria hide-outs) I only use it to soak equipment in. Fill with water and place 2 tablespoons/five gallons of iodophor to sanitize. Place the hydrometer in the water for sterilization and proceed to the dishwasher. Taking my bottles from their storage boxes I hold up to a bright light and visually inspect each bottle. Ensuring there is no visible trub left over from the previous bottling. If there isn't, I place it upside down in the bottom rack of the dishwasher. It is important that bottles are visibly clean or the probability of off flavors in your beer goes up to around 100%.

The settings of the dishwasher are important here. Some modern dishwashers have a "sanitize" setting and that is just what you need, to sanitize your bottles. If it doesn't, set to the highest heat setting with drying. Turn any energy star settings off this is not going to be efficient. The heat, not the water, is what does the heavy lifting on dishwasher sanitization. Do not add any cleaning solution to the dishwasher, pure water will work great as long as the heat is there. In the top rack I place my siphon, and a bottle cap filled strainer. This will sanitize all your equipment along with the bottles and be ready for you when the bottles are. I chose not to put the hydrometer in dishwasher because I don't know if it is dishwasher safe or if its going to break since it is a sealed vessel. This precision measurement isnsturments accuracy may be damaged by the intense heat. So this is sanitized in the fermentation bucket as described above.

Preparing for Bottling: Now that the dishwasher has started you've got some time to kill, the heating/drying cycle will take longer than normal. The next step after the dishwasher cycle is completed is to empty the fermentation bucket of its iodophor solution and place below the secondary fermenter. Now slowly begin the siphon of the beer into the sanitized fermenter. While transferring you should boil 1-2 cups of water and dissolve 1 cup of corn sugar into the boiling solution. The sugar will give the yeast something to produce CO2 and carbonate the beer once in sealed bottles. There will be a very small increase in alcohol but nothing to write home about. You can use more or less sugar for more or less carbonation but I have found that 1 cup is perfect. However, too much sugar can leave you with exploding bottles.
Quickly cool the sugar water and cover. Once the beer has completely transferred take a gravity reading and record. Add the cooled (~80 °F) sugar water to the beer solution making sure to minimize aeration.

Bottling: Place the now full fermenter on up high and begin transferring to bottles once you clean the siphon. This next process works best if you have a beer wench, or someone else helping you. Using the siphon and a bottle filler fill each bottle as close to the top as you can. When the bottle filler is removed it will displace just the right amount for airspace in the top of the bottle. Place sanitized caps on the top of each bottle and using a capper to seal it up.
Now the hard part wait for about a week while the beer carbonates. Below is a picture of my bottles that I had laser etched with my logo. This is pretty expensive but my friend works for a laser etching company and he and I spend several evenings etching these little guys. Totally worth the beer and pizza.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Troubleshooting Beer

Every home brewer knows that some times a batch of beer will taste a little "off". This is not uncommon and there are ways to determine and fix these issues. I have listed some of the most common problems and how to fix them. By no means is this list comprehensive, I have tried to cover the flavors that can be easily detected and avoided. There is a bit of a recurring theme in off flavors and that is sanitation. Above all to make amazing beer your process must be free from infection and healthy yeast must be used.

In order to fully understand where off flavors come from during the fermentation process you need to understand the chemistry behind the magic. The flow chart to the right from Brew Chem 101 steps through the fermentation process. I would highly recommend getting this book if you are interested in the science behind making truly great beer. The process of fermentation is basically taking carbohydrates and converting them into ethanol by breaking down the sugars. Those are only the two end point though, as you can see the transformation from sugar to alcohol has many steps in between. Some of these stops along the way can actually be the very cause of the undesirable flavor. The first flavor we are going to cover is the last step before ethanol in our chemical reaction, Acetaldehyde.

Flavor: Fresh Cut Green Apples
Cause: (Acetaldehyde, CH3CHO) Green apple flavor is produced during fermentation and is common in beer that is not fully attenuated . The flavors will subside after the beer has reached full attenuation. This can sometimes be the result of using too much cane or corn sugar or bacteria. Acetaldehyde is the last step in the fermentation process before ethanol is produced.
Solution: Age the beer for a week or two and if the green apple taste goes away then kudos. If not eliminate the use of corn and cane sugar. The sugar should be substituted with malt extract. Also starting with good quality yeast will help speed the fermentation process along and reduce fermentation time

Flavor: Butterscotch, Movie Popcorn, Slickness on tongue
Cause: (Diacetyl, C4H6O2) Like Acetaldehyde, Diacetyl is a naturally occurring part of the fermentation process, and over time will disappear if a proper attenuation is achieved. In small quantities Diacetyl is appropriate for some styles of beer. The diacetyl life cycle in your beer comes in two major steps, production and reduction. If either of these steps are interrupted inappropriate levels of diacetyl will be in your finished product.
  • Production: Diacetyl is the product of Acetylaldehyde and Pyruvate to produce α-Acetolactic Acid, which gives off hydrogen ions an CO2 to create diacetyl.
  • Reduction: Eventually diacetyl will change to acetonin, with an undesirable fruity, musty flavor, and then into 2,3-butanedoil which has no flavor
Solution: Properly oxygenate wort before fermentation. Make sure that you allow beer to have a "Diacetyl Rest" and wait for full attenuation before transferring (don't rack to early) . One strain of bacteria called sarcina grow rapidly during the end of fermentation and can irreversibly contaminate your beer with diacetyl. As always it is important to start off with health yeast and maintain a clean environment to avoid contamination.

Flavor: Cooked Corn
Cause: (Dimethyl Sulfide, (CH3)2S) DMS is caused by breaking down of S-methyl methionine (SMM), which is an amino acid caused by malt germination. This is not really controllable by you unless you germinate your own malt. Luckily for you, malt manufacturers have it down to a science an minimize SMM in your malt and malt extract. There will be some SMM in all malt but it can be removed from your final product by following a few
Solution: The main cause of DMS that you can taste is either not cooling wort fast enough or not having a rolling open boil. Any palatable DMS will evaporate during a minimum 60 minute boil if left uncovered, and rapidly cooled. DMS is also removed by gaseous CO2 during fermentation. If you have a weak fermentation the DMS removal will be weak so always start of with healthy active yeast.

Flavor: Skunky
Cause: (MBT, 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol) When humulone (The bittering alpha acid in hops) is exposed to light, specifically blue-green light (400-520 nanometer wavelength), a chemical reaction occurs creating MBT. MBT is part of the mercaptan family, along with the active chemical in a skunks spray, which gives it the distinctive skunky smell.
Solution: Do not expose wort or beer to direct sunlight after hops have been added. While sunlight can be the most damaging because of its intense light source (the freaking Sun), indoor lighting can cause the same damage to your beer. Keeping fermenter inside a dark closet or covered up will reduce MBT content, and NEVER use green or clear glass when bottling this is a recipe for skunk beer. (See: Corona for more details)

Stale,Wet Cardboard, Rotten or Old Vegetables, Sherry, Pineapple
Cause: (Oxidization, O2 -> BEER) When oxygen is introduced into your hot wort it creates aldehydes and produce the stale, cardboard flavor which is unpleasant for all drinkers.
Solution: To prevent oxidization avoid hot side aeration, which is when air is mixed in the wort at temperatures above 80°F. Only allow beer to be aerated after yeast has been pitched to aide in yeast aerobic respiration, after this has happened minimize any shaking or stiring of beer. During transfers from primary to secondary and secondary to bottles/keg is when the highest risk of accidental aeration occurs. Also only leave 1/2" to 1" of head space in bottles and use oxygen reducing bottle caps. If kegging be sure to completely purge air from head space by filling and purging 3 times. In higher alcohol beers this is generally perceived as "sherry" instead of cardboard, and(if style appropriate) not considered a flaw in many aged beer styles, such as barley wine and old ale.

Flavor: Astringent Mouth-puckering, like chewing on a grape skin, Metallic or Powdery
Cause: (Polyphenols known as Tannins, Catechin is shown below) Tannins are stored in grain husks and also in the skin of fruit, and when boiled or sparged with water over 170°F they are extracted. This is because the waters temperature is directly related to the solubility of its ingredients. Over-milling grain makes tannin extraction easier since the husks are further broken down making tannin extraction more efficient. High waters pH (above 5.2) can also increase tannin extraction. Mixing krausen into beer or transferring to secondary will increase tannins because of its concentration of the phenols.
Solution: Don’t boil, over crush or over-sparge grain, be sure to keep water below 170°F. Check your pH and make sure it is below 5.2 and avoid letting krausen get into beer.

Alcoholic/Hot spicy/Solventlike
Cause: (Fusel Alcohols, Ethanol with more than two C atom) Proponol (CH3CH2CH2OH) and Butanol (CH3CH2CH2CH2OH) and other fusel alcohols give beer an undesirable alcohol flavor in high quantities. However, in some beers this is an appropriate flavor, such as barley wines and some bocks. These undesirable/solvent like tastes can come from several sources like excessive yeast growth, high levels of ethanol not allowing proper fermentation, excessive amino acids, and high fermentation temperatures. In other words, when fermentation is is too fast or too strong it can overwhelm the ethanol flavoring. Also, if the yeast start to ferment amino acids instead of sugars the resulting alcohols won't be to your liking. Bacterial infections also can cause solvent-like tastes.
If style appropriate, drink it! If not, try chooseing a different yeast strain, some stronger yeast strains, meant for higher alcohol beers, can overwhelm a flavors and . AAlso maintain a sterile brewing environment and control fermentation temperatures. At temperatures above 80°F yeast produce a much higher concentration of the heavier, long chain fusel alcohols which are the abrasive to the palette.

Fruity (strawberry, pear, banana, apple, grape, citrus)
Cause: (Esters, Acid(*-C=O-OH) +Alcohol(*-CH2-OH)->Ester) Esters occur naturally when alcohols and acids are combined in the wort. These esters give a fruit-like flavor and aroma that are desired in certain beer styles such a lambics and sours.
Solution: In ales ester production is lowest at temperatures between 60°F and 65°F and high at temperatures above 75°F. For lagers the window is much lower with low ester production below 50°F and high esters above 55°F. Try a cleaner yeast strain. Oxygenate wort sufficiently to ensure yeast health. Reduce original gravity. Check hop variety for fruity characteristics and avoid carrying over excessive hot break into fermenter. Be sure to pitch a sufficient quantity of healthy yeast to avoid yeast stress.

Medicinal, Plastic, Band-aid
(Chlorphenol, Cl-C6-OH) The most likely cause of this taste is infection caused by poor sanitation. Can also be caused by using chlorinated water or not properly rinsing cleaning solution from brewing equipment. Sometimes whole hop usage can contribute to this off flavor if a high alpha acid hop is used.
Solution: Clean and sanitize all equipment for brewing. If you really think sanitation is not the issue check your water for chlorine also be sure to rinse off all equipment and make sure no bleach (should you unadvisedly be using it) is rinsed off. If your water has high chlorine levels in it boil the water for 15 minutes to drive out any chlorine.

Yeasty Bready, sulfury, yeast-like
Cause: (YEAST) C'mon really what do you think makes your beer taste yeasty? Large quantities of dead yeast are canabalized by their still living comrades. Yeast on yeast action releases bitter lipids, resins, nitrogen and sulphur containing molecules.
Solution: If beer is young let yeast properly flocculate and settle. Watch your transfer method and make sure not too much trub makes it into your new container. And ALWAYS use healthy yeast.


Pumpkin Transfer

I transferred my Pumpkin Pie Ale to the secondary fermenter today 9/25/10. The bubbling had slowed down to one bubble every 3 minutes so I decided it was time to transfer after 6 days. I tasted it and it was disappointingly pumpkin-less. I measured 1/2 teaspoon exactly to add to the primary boil I have a feeling that was too little. To make up for the lack of Fall taste I added an additional rounded 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice to the secondary fermenter and placed it in the brew closet. Hopefully this will be enough to elicit the taste of pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving.

UPDATE: September 29, 2010. Tasted the beer again today and determined not enough spice yet. Added an additional teaspoon. Bringing total to 2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice.

UPDATE: October 1, 2010. Tasted beer for final time and pumpkin aroma is adequate so I bottled today. I have not covered bottling on this blog since I have always had kegs. But recently I have been spending too much money on brewing so I decided not to buy my final keg for the kegerator. I will cover my bottling methodology in a post coming soon. I measured my final gravity since it is good to track of gravity readings and I have been lazy up to now. This won't really tell me anything because I did not keep get the original gravity but I need to get in the habit of documenting original and final gravities.

UPDATE: October 1, 2010 PM. Foamed my first keg, the bottled blonde. So, I could have kegged the pumpkin ale. This is fine since I have not bottled in a while and it would be nice to give out some pumpkin pie ale. I have also wrote up a post about my theory on bottling.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dihydrogen Monoxide in Beer

Water can be one of the most important factors when trying to brew quality beer. This is because the effect various ions can have on starch degrading enzymes in malt. This is really only a concern when involved in all-grain and partial mash brewing. Malt extract brewers don't need to worry about this because the manufacturer of the malt takes this into account during the production of the extract.
This is not to say that extract brewers don't need to worry about water chemistry because they absolutely do. Though it is more important to like the taste of your water with extract brewing. The quickest way to get poor tasting beer is to start off with poor tasting water.

Hard vs Soft Water
Water hardness as a scale was created a long time ago when people started using soap. Soaps ability to later is directly affected by its mineral content. Typically, high mineral content makes it difficult or "HARD" to lather soap. Inversley soap with with low mineral content is easy to lather, soft is the opposite of hard so they went with that. My guess why they went this way is because "easy water" sounds dirty. I don't know why it just does.

Ranges for water softness follows, water harness is not an exact science so this is approximate:
  • 0-50 ppm = Soft Water
  • 51-110 ppm = Medium Hard Water
  • 111-200 ppm = Hard Water
  • >200 ppm = Very Hard Water

Temporary vs Permanent Hardness
When brewing there are tho types of hardness to be concerned with temporary and permanent hardness. Temporary hardness is a measure of bicarobonates in water [2(HCO3)]. This hardness that bicarbonate ions add is called such because when boiled they are precipitated (made solid) and removed from the water.
Permanent hardness is a a measure of magnesium and calcium ions in the water, both of which will remain after boiled. Permanent hardness can be adjusted for if its ranges are outside of the norm.

If I started this sentence with pH would I have to capitalize the p? The acidity and alkalinity of a liquid is measured in pH on a scale from 0 to 14 with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. In all grain brewing, enzyme conversion occurs best with a pH of 5.2 (Acidic) this can be attained with the addition of Calcium Sulfate (CaSO4) commonly known as gypsum.


Sodium (Na)
Half of the chemical makeup of common table salt this ion contributes to body and full mouth feel. The overuse of sodumn in water treatements will give a seawater taste to the end product. Generally levels of between 10 and 70 ppm are good for brew water.

Chloride (Cl)
The other half of table salt this ion releases malt sweetness and contributes to mouth feel and beer complexity. Generally ranging between 1 and 100 ppm should always stay below 150 ppm to avoid salty flavors

Calcium (Ca)
The most important chemical in "permanent hardness" this element helps lower pH and facilitates precipitation of proteins during boiling. Most beers should be maintained around 100 ppm any higher will create a harsh bitter taste.

Sulfate (SO4)
While second to calcium for effectively lowering pH, Sulfates take the gold for influencing hop extraction and bringing out sharp bitterness. The amount of sulfates suggested will vary depending on your beer style.

Magnesium (Mg)
Magnesium is primarily a yeast nutrient that should be maintained around 20-30 ppm. The addition of Epsom salts can raise Magnesium levels in water. However many experts advise against it because high Magnesium levels can lead to a dry, astringent bitterness in your final product.

Water can be adjusted to meet your brewing needs. Local home brew stores provide chemicals that can be used to adjust ion levels and change pH of your brewing water. Your local home brew store will know the water in your area and can make suggestions on what should be added if anything to your water. The following table shows how to modify your water:

Effect of adding 1 gram of chemical per gallon of water in PPM
Baking soda


Calcium chloride72



Epsom salts


Table salt



Here is the water chemistry of a few famous brewing towns (Expressed in PPM):

Mineral (Ion)
MunichDublinMilwaukeePortland, OR
Calcium (Ca)
Sulfate (SO4)
Magnesium (Mg)2-818-19411
Sodium (Na)3210127
Chloride (Cl)

As you can see different brewing cities around the world have very different water hardness and softness. This water hardness can change the taste of your beer a lot. When I toured the Deschutes Brewery, the tour guide explained that they put gypsum in their water so that it will taste like water from some town in England. Unfortunately, I didn't think to ask which town.

Hopefully this has been a good insight into water and how it affects the brewing process.

  • The Brew-Master's Bible The Gold Standard for Homebrewers - Stephen Snyder
  • The Complete Joy of Home Brewing 3rd Edition - Charlie Papazian

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tap Handle Three (Uno mas)

If there is one thing building this kegerator has taught me it is that Draft beer, though completely worth it, is expensive. I added my third tap handle to my kegerator this week. The final tap will have to wait since I went on beer buying bender on Sunday when I bought ingredients for my Pumpkin Pie Ale. Another tap handle and all nessacary equipment and ingredients made that a $100+ trip to the brew store. The tap handle can be seen to the right with his two new friends.

Stokes' Law and Order - Irish Moss Unit

This was originally going to be thrown in with my Pumpkin Pie Ale post because that was the first time I had used Irish moss but as I wrote it I decided that it deserved an entire post.

What is Irish Moss?
Chondrus crispus
or Irish moss as it's more commonly known is a species of red algae that grows along the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean.

Irish Moss: Why use seaweed in beer?
Irish moss in brewing is used as a fining agent which means it removes suspended particles in the beer that cause it to be cloudy. Sometimes the style of beer requires that you have suspended particles in the beer, hefeweizen for example, so Irish moss should not used.

There are two main causes of cloudy beer, proteins and yeast. When the yeast is at the end of its life cycle and most of the sugars in the beer have been consumed the cells will bond to each other, becoming heavier and dropping to the bottom. This process is called flocculation, and occurs naturally when the yeast go dormant. Not all yeast behave in this manner though, some will stay suspended indefinitely. A method of clearing beer further is to cool it down so that the yeast will go into hibernation mode and sink to the bottom. This is why white labs yeast are refrigerated to keep the cells alive but dormant until they are ready to be used.

There are two popular styles of Irish moss commonly used in brewing applications. Dried moss is just that, the seaweed is dried out, thrown in a jar and sold at brew stores everywhere. The other type is tabs, Whirflocis a brand of Irish moss that is concentrated and put in tab form. Whatever form that is chosen to add to the wort the implementation is the same, during the last 10-20 minutes of the boil throw in a tablet or about a teaspoon or the dried variety.

Stokes' Me, Stokes' Me
The principal used in determining the rate that suspended particles will fall out is called Stokes' Law. The equation is as follows:
V_s = \frac{2}{9}\frac{\left(\rho_p - \rho_f\right)}{\mu} g\, R^2

  • Vs is the particles' settling velocity (m/s)
  • g is 9.8 (m/s2) Assuming your not making space beer
  • ρp is the mass density of the particle (kg/m3)
  • ρf is the mass density of the wort (kg/m3)
  • μ is the wort viscosity (kg/m s)

Irish Moss can aide in this process by making the proteins and yeast stick together creating a heavier particle. Making ρp bigger will make the numerator bigger increasing the velocity that the particles settle.

Pumpkin Pie Ale

Pretty self explanatory I wanted to make a seasonal pumpkin ale for around Halloween and thanksgiving. Since pumpkin pie spice is the ingredient that elicits that response, guess what its called?

  • 9 lbs Light Malt Extract
  • 2.0 oz. Willamette hops (5% alpha-acid, whole leaf)
  • White Labs East Coast Ale Yeast
  • 1 lb. Caramunich (65°L, Crushed)
  • 4 oz. Belgian Aromatic Malt
  • 4 oz. German Melanoidin Malt (30°L, Crushed)
  • 1/2 Tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice

On Sunday September 20th I purchased the all my ingredients through Main Street Homebrew Supply Co. and brewed that day.

Yada Yada Yada... If you are curious about what I did read my previous posts where I go into it in depth my method of brewing. I think I will mainly include deviations from standard brewing from now on. The ingredients and timing are also important so that will be included in all my write-ups as well as any thing different. As you can see to the left the standard generic boil photo.

One thing I did differently this time was to add Irish moss during the last 10 minutes of the boil. For you veteran brewers out there this seems like a rookie mistake, but my beer brewing teacher did not use it so therefore I never knew about it until I really started reading brewing literature.

For those not so veteran brewers Irish moss, or Chondus Crispus is a species of red algae that grow around the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The reason for using this seaweed is because it acts as a flocculation agent and clears your beer. Read my post about Irish moss for the science that describes why this happens.

Hops/Ingredients Schedule:

QuantityIngredientBoiled for
1 oz.Willamette Hops Entire 60 min. Boil
1/2 oz.Willamette HopsLast 20 min. of boil
1/2 oz.Willamette HopsLast 10 min. of boil
1 tabIrish MossLast 10 min. of boil
1/2 tsp.Pumpkin Pie SpiceLast 10 min. of boil

For my Irish moss I used the Whirlfloc tabs, which some brewers scream about how it doesn't work and how the unmolested dried Irish moss is so much better and pure. I have never used the raw dried Irish moss so I cannot speak to its efficacy, but what I can tell you is that the Whirlfloc tabs definitely work. Withing 10 minutes of transferring my wort to the primary fermenter there was 2 inches of cloudy trub at the bottom of my fermenter. I have never seen this effect in my beers before. Within a day the suspended proteins had settled out completely. I used the tabs because they are a lot easier you just toss a tab in the last 10 minutes of the boil and forget about it. I don't know if i will eventually become a purist and switch to dried but for now I am amazed at how well the tabs worked so I will stay with that for now.

Pumpkin Pie Spice is very strong and you don't need very much this is a "less is more" situation where you can add more to your secondary but you don't want to add too much up front. In about 2 weeks I will taste the beer and determine if it tastes like Thanksgiving and determine if it needs more spice.


Ill bet at least one of you is wondering why there is not pumpkin in my Pumpkin Ale. This is because the pumpkin is the Tofu of Fruit. It has almost no flavor by itself and takes on whatever flavor it is spiced to. When you taste pumpkin pie almost none of the flavor is from the pumpkin. If you don't believe me when you're carving pumpkins this Halloween go ahead and take a bite out of the Jack-O-Lanterns eye and let me know how it tastes.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Kegerator Upgrades

I recently made some minor functional and major cosmetic upgrades to my kegerator. Functionally, I moved the CO2 tank to the outside of the kegerator. This was accomplished by a brass pipe placed through a hole in the wooden collar with a 90° elbow and a barbed fitting on both ends(Outside: Left, Inside: Right). I placed a washer to take up some slack and to make a better insulated pass-through. This modification was made because I was having troubles with the tank not producing CO2 fast enough, it would sometimes take almost a minute to produce enough CO2 for the initial air purge when kegging (which has to be done 3-4 times). Another reason to move the tank outside is I recently acquired a 2.5 gallon corneilus keg and the mini corny and the gas tank would not both fit in the kegerator. This was an amazing find since these little guys are extremely rare compared to their 5 gallon counterparts. I found this one on craigslist for $75. A normal 5 gallon corny keg sells for between $30 and $40 where a 2.5 gallon one can sell upwards of $150, demonstrating the simple economics of supply and demand.
The cosmetic modifications were pretty major also.
I finally cut a hole for the thermocouple to pass through, it can be seen next to the barbed fitting on the inside of the chest. I finally got tired of looking at it just dangling over the edge. The other modification I made was to clean up the unruly routing of the gas and product lines. The easiest way i could think to do this was orient the kegs so gas lines were on the outside and product lines in the center. This turned out to work great and the results can be seen below.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Deschutes Brewery Tour

This weekend I went up to Bend to go to a wedding (which was ridiculous) and while there I decided it would be a good idea to take a tour of Deschutes Brewery. While waiting for the tour to start we sat in the tasting room and were given 4 free samples equivelant to that of about a flight. I believe they do this to facilitate learning on the tour.

After the tour started we were directed to look at the two MASSIVE silos in front of the building that contained malted barley. All the spent grain is recycled in some way whether it is in their bakery, that supplies the brew pub with buns and bread, or taken to a farmer that uses it as feed for cattle.

Once inside the building I see 2 gigantic tanks with the which are the tuns for the original brew house (Right: inside mashtun). Which are still in use today. The Next stop on the tour is the employee break room, where each employee gets refreshing beverages after their shift. There is a closet with rotating tap handles for employees enjoyment and to the right of this fun door is a much larger door. The next passage to Narnia is the Hop Room where hundreds and hundreds of pounds of whole leaf hops are stored preparing to be dumped in hot wort.
Deschutes Brewery uses primarily Cascade hops in their beer according to our less than helpful ditz of a tour guide. (Shown left molesting bags of hops.)

The next stop on the tour is the huppmann room. This room is filled with possibly the most impressive pieces of industrial equipment I've ever seen. These were gigantic tanks with conical tops and not a single seam on them. No seams/welds are important in brewing equipment because bacteria can get trapped in the rough areas of the welds, causing the beer to have undesired flavors. These tanks were designed, built, and shipped from Germany to Bend. They had to close down several sections of the highway to transport the tanks to their final resting place at the brewery. (Note: The picture at the right are not of Deschutes a bunch of damn tourists were in the way.) After this we went upstairs and saw the lab and blind tasting room continuing on to the fermenting room. Pictures below:

Following the fermentation room was the bottling room it seemed a little small for the thousands of bottles that get passed through those doors. After bottling upstairs we went to the office section where every Jubelale bottle design was put on the wall.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Still Here

Hey everyone I just wanted to let you all know that I am still going to blog about my adventures in brewing. Unfortunately, drinking 15 gallons of beer is quite the task. One that I am up for but is taking longer that anticipated. It turns out that homebrew depletes much slower when you cant give bottles away due to kegging.
I fully intend on continuing my blog when I have something to write about but it would seem that quantity of posts is inversely related to my quantity of beer. If you have any ideas about something you would like me to cover or have ever wondered about beer I would be happy to research and post about it.
Leave topics in the comments below.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pintley - The Pandora of Beer

I recently discovered this amazing website called Pintley that, like Pandora for music, suggests beer based on what you like. The process is very simple go to and sign up for a free account and start rating beers that you like or dislike. The site has many features above just recommending beers.
Pintley will allow you to leave tasting notes about the beers, have a list of favorite beers as well as wishlists, and also there is a forum that allows users to comment and discuss various beers. I have only started to delve into the vast beer library but it seems to be very complete. I think the biggest problem with this site is its negative affect on my wallet.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chocolate Milk Oatmeal Stout


No clever name for this one. I was going to go with Milk Steak Stout becasue of the added lactose but it was too obscure of a Philly reference to go with so I decided to just call it what it is.

  • 8 lbs Amber Malt Extract
  • 2.0 oz. Northern Brewer hops (7.9% alpha-acid, whole leaf)
  • White Labs Irish Ale Yeast
  • 1 lb. Flaked Oats
  • 1 lb. American Chocolate Malt
  • 8 oz. American Crystal Malt (80°L, Crushed)
  • 8 oz. Roast Barley
  • 4 oz. German Dehusked Carafa II
  • 8 oz. Lactose Non-fermentable lactose.(To be added during bottling)

On Sunday July 11th I purchased the all my ingredients through Main Street Homebrew Supply Co.. Something came up so I put my yeast and hops in the refrigerator. The other ingredients would keep for a while in my cool house.

I decided to finally brew on Wednesday the 14th of that week. Unfortunately I couldnt find the camera but you should know what the brewing process looks like, it was a pretty standard malt extract brew. I placed the specialty grains into a nylon bag, since there were several pounds I had to use two grain bags, and began to heat the water. Once the water reached 180°F I removed the bag and squeezed as much of the water as I could out of the bags. The after the boil began I added hops according to the following schedule.

Hops/Ingredients Schedule:

Quantity Ingredient Boiled for
1 oz. Northern Brewer Entire 60 min. boil
1/2 oz. Northern Brewer Last 15 min. of boil
1/2 oz. Northern Brewer Last 5 min. of boil

After the boil is when I tried out the wort chiller I had purchased earlier that day. The only time I had used a wort chiller before was the first time I brewed, but that was several years ago and did not remember the intricacies. All in all it worked fine it took longer that it should have because, forgetting basic thermodynamics, I did not stir the wort to increase convective heat transfer for the first 5-10 minutes. After I remembered to stir the wort was near pitching temperature.

When I strained the hops from the wort it was more difficult that I thought it would be. I believe that this is because the wort had cooled and was no longer as viscous and because it's just a thick beer to begin with. Eventually, it was all poured into the fermentation vessel and water poured over the hops rinsing the wort and bring it to 5 gallons.

After pitching the wort, the tub lid was placed on, aerated, and sealed with an airlock. I placed it in the brewing closet and there it waits for either secondary or kegging, depending on if I decide I'm rich enough to expand my kegerator. If not I will have to bottle but that is 2-4 weeks away so I have time to decide.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Welcome to the Future. Beer- fetching robot completes your life.

Willow Garage has modified thier PR2 robot to have a beer retrieving application. You can check out a short writeup describing the project at their website. The PR2 has many other applications they have given it from plugging itself in to charge to playing pool.
They have also created a web interface that is accessible from a computer on their network. The video below demonstrates how it can take multiple orders and return with up to four different beers in an insulated holder at its base. Check out the video to see this masterpiece in action.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"BREWED", New Discovery Channel TV Show

I just learned that the Discovery Channel is going to be creating a tv show about brewing beer. Aptly named "BREWED." Sam Calagione, of Dogfish Head fame, will be hosting this show about what it takes to get that beverage from the field to your hands and the rich brewing culture behind it. A must watch for any beer enthusiast.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

An explanation of carbonation

Carbonation is the dissolving of a gaseous carbon dioxide (CO2) in a water based solution, the most important application of this is beer. In beer there are two types of carbonation, natural and forced, both will be covered here. Before delving into carbonation's application in beer products it is important to understand the science behind the process.

Henry's Law

William Henry was an English chemist that lived in the late 18th century. His work with gas analysis lead to the development of what would come to be known as Henry's Law.


p=partial pressure of the gas above the solution (atm)
c= the concentration of the solute (mol/L)
kh=Henry's Constant, : 29.4 for CO2 at 289K (60.53°F) (atm/mol)

Note: kh is actually a changing coefficient that changes rather than a constant. It changes with respect to temperature using this equation: kh = kh,ref Tref.exp(-C.((1/T) - (1/Tref))) This is important when carbonating beer because it will determine how much carbon dioxide get absorbed into the beer.

This relationship tells us that for higher pressures of gas you will get higher concentrations of gas in your solution. This is how the CO2 gets into the beer. Now where does the CO2 come from? There are two different sources for carbon dioxide in beer.

Natural Carbonation

When yeast is put in a solution containing sugar it begins to "eat" causing a chemical reaction producing carbon dioxide and ethanol, two key ingredients in beer creation.
Carbon dioxide is an odorless colorless gas that you exhale when you breathe out. After beer has sat in the secondary and is ready to be transferred to bottles a small amount of priming sugar is added to the solution to help carbonate the beer. During primary and secondary fermentation the CO2 is released through the airlock and into the surrounding air. When bottling there is no place for the CO2 to go so it builds up pressure. And as explained previously when a gas is under pressure over a liquid it is absorbed into said liquid and in our case carbonates the beer.

Forced Carbonation
The process of forced carbonation is very similar to natural but instead of the yeast creating the and the pressurized CO2, a bottle of liquefied gas is used to create the artificial pressure and carbonate the beer.

Dry Ice Carbonation
I have never actually heard of someone doing this with beer but I thought I would put it on here anyway. You can drop a small brick of dry ice (Frozen carbon dioxide) into a sealed container and have it pressurize that way NOT RECOMMENDED because the amount of pressure you get harder to predict and could cause an exploding bottle/keg.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Multi-Body Regulator Installed. Kegerator Complete....?

On Tuesday I received my multi-body regulator and it is going to work out perfectly. I ran into some trouble trying to find space for it though. I had to reorient my kegs so that they are staggered a differently, this way there will be room for 4 kegs, the tank, all regulators and the hoses to fit perfectly. A quick visit to Home Depot got a brass 90° fitting so the gas line would point down to the tank instead of making the hose make the 90° turn.
A stand-off was to be made because collar located the regulator in such a way that the gas lines interfered with the top of the freezer. A 2x4 screwed to the collar gave the correct standoff distance and made mounting the regulators easier to locate.

After closing the lid several times to make sure there was no interferences with my new regulators and the body of the kegerator the only thing left to do was run air to it. I set the pressure gauge on the tank to 30PSI. This will allow me to independently carbonate any of the four kegs at 30 PSI, or to regulate them down to a more drinkable 10 PSI or any intermediate pressure the beer dictates. The Bottled Blonde is a little overcarbonated so i have dropped the pressure down to 7 PSI until the head situation gets under control. I am going to do a write up explaining carbonation and the temperature - pressure relationship later so check back soon for that.

This completes my chest freezer keg conversion... pretty much. There are some small things I still need to do like drill a hole to pass the thermocouple through the kegerator wall so it is not dangling over the edge. I would also like to put casters on the bottom so I can easily move it around. Of course I will be adding 2 additional kegs and tap handles but the cost of this project has been higher than expected. I have put a photos below of the final product. Check back later for more additions and further brewing shenanigans.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tapping into Trouble

I finally have my first keg brewed beer drinkable my Rapist's Wit. However, all is not well in Beeradise. The first pour out of my keg was ridiculously foamy (I filled a pitcher with foam) I quickly realized that it was still on 30PSI so I turned it down to 10 PSI and it flowed much better. The first couple pints out of the keg, after I wasted 2 pints to trub, were piss poor at best. So, I frustratingly stormed off and cried for about an hour.
I actually sat down and pondered why my beer had turned out so poorly and watched a couple episodes of south park. Later in the afternoon I realized that I could put start to carbonate the blonde. This got me in a better mood until I got to the kegerator and realized my grave oversight. I only had one regulator and had two beers in need of differing pressures. Bwa Bwaaa. I did some quick Google recon and discovered that you could put just a little pressure into the drinking Beer while still leaving the other beer on 30 PSI by pressing the disconnect on for a moment and then releasing it. This is about the least accurate way I could think of regulating beer pressure. However, desperate for a quick solution I did it and searched for a better solution.
The best thing I found was a multi-body pressure regulator which would allow me to regulate the pressure of each keg individually. Pleased with my discovery I quickly tried to source one and ran into my next road block. These things are Freaking Expensive. The one at was the cheapest 4 body regulator I could find. I doesn't have check valves built into the line but that is OK because all of my gas valves have one right after the disconnect. So $160 later (shipping) I am on my way to a fully regulated kegerator.

Happy Ending: The next day I decided to return to my crappy beer (suggested name change: Dim-Wit) for one more try I and discovered it had mellowed out and tasted exponentially better. The crisp clean taste with a medium aroma of the orange zests and light coriander was a delight on the semi chilly day. I cant wait to try it on a hot summer day while mowing the lawn. Hopefully my girlfriend will bring it to me and finish mowing. I am reasonably sure I didn't let it sit long enough before drinking.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tap Handle #2

Today I added the second tap handle in preparation for the Bottled Blonde and realized the first tap handle was unusually cold. I quickly realized this was caused by the shank acting as a heat sink and bringing the cold outside of the refrigerator and wasting energy. This is a problem since one of the major benefits of using a chest freezer for a kegerator is that it is more energy efficient. I had a couple of theories on how to fix this:
  1. Fully insulate the shank so that the cold does not pass through to the outside. The only problem I see with this is that the 6-8 inches of beer in the tap handle will not be as cold causing the beer to foam more and may taste poorly.
  2. Insulate the first part of the shank against the wall leaving the last couple of inches exposed to the cold. Thus increasing the thermal resistance between the outside but not fully insulating it. This would effectively cool the shank but not let as much escape to the outside.
  3. Screw it and believe that the amount of energy is small enough for me to count as negligible.
Since it didn't really cost that much to insulate the shanks I decided to try that. I went to Lowe's and bought a 1" water pipe insulation sleeve and ran it around the threaded shanks (Right). Within an hour I could feel the difference in the temperature of the tap handles. The insulation was definitely working. I wrapped the them in electrical tape so that moisture would not enter the porous insulation and have a mold problem. Though I believe it would be minimal since it is constantly cold, I decided to do it since it electrical tape is cheap and I had some lying around. When I hook up the kegs tomorrow I will find out if I need to cut some off and expose part of the shank or just take them off completely . Ultimately the beer is going to decide the thermal efficiency of this kegerator.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Busy Brewing Day

I had a very busy brewing day today. Drove to the home brew store looking to buy a keg to transfer the Bottled Blonde but they were out so I had to to come back later after they received a large order in. To my surprise they were blue topped kegs. So I bought a new keg new In and Out for it and a T-splitter so I could add onto my existing setup. Which brings me to my existing setup. I finally have the temperature controller working like I wanted it to so I decided to finally carbonate my Rapist's Wit by putting it on air and in the kegerator (Shown Right). In three days I should be able to drink the Wit. The blonde should be ready to put in the kegerator in three days and then ready to drink an another few days. The first 2 pints out of the keg will be mostly trub so that will just get wasted and poured out. This is about the same amount that would have been wasted if I would have bottled or some other method.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Recieved my temperature controller today...

Today I received the temperature controller straight from down under. Unfortunately that is all I got, it came with no instructions whatsoever as shown above. There is a wiring diagram on the top of the module but it is not very detailed, but I eventually figured it out. I found a website using the same controller for a chest freezer conversion that was helpful. I also emailed mashmaster for instructions but before they got back to me I found the spec sheet hidden on their site. I don't know exactly where I am going to punch through the wall to put the thermocouple so for now I am laying it over the side of the freezer to make sure the temperature stabilizes before I put my precious beer inside. I used a three wire cable to connect the controller two for power and one to send send the power to the compressor, turning the refrigerator on. I did this so the controller could be mounted remotely and it gave some flexibility. I chose to leave the green light because it tells you the refrigerator has power and I didn't want to have to find something to cover the hole. I thought about putting the screen for the controller there but It would have to be mounted sideways.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bottled Blonde

Origin:The day of summer are upon us so this weekend I decided to brew a refreshing summer ale. I decided to make a golden/blonde ale and should be just what I need after a hot day mowing the lawn. We have not really had a really hot day yet this summer (Oregon) but this is an anticipatory brew. The name I came up with because the label I envisioned was a buxom bottle blonde that is stuck in a bottle trying to get out, and I also couldn't think of anything clever to call it so Bottled Blonde it is.

  • 6 0z. German CaraHell
  • 4 oz. German Vienna Malt
  • 7 lbs. ExtraLite Malt Extract
  • White Labs California Ale Yeast
  • 2 oz. Cascade Hops (6.0% alpha-acid, whole leaf)
My friend Nick was interested in getting into home brewing so I thought that this would be a good simple introduction to brewing for him. I began with the standard boil of 3 gallons placing the grains in with the water while it climbed to 180F. Once 180 was achieved the grain bag was removed and shortly thereafter the water began to boil. After the boil began I added the Extra Lite Malt Extract and stirred to make sure it did not burn to the bottom of the kettle. The boiling subsided and once it started again I used the following hop schedule:

Quantity Ingredient Boiled for
1 oz. Cascade Entire 60 min. Boil
1/2 oz. Cascade Last 12 min. of boil
1/2 oz. Cascade Last 2 min. of boil
After the completion of the hour boil the hops were strained and sparged into an ice filled bucket. Once the temperature reached 80F I pitched the White Labs California Ale Yeast and placed the lid on the brewing bucket. After this the bucket was placed in what will now be called my "Brewing Closet" with the keg of Rapist's Wit that is waiting to be carbonated.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

FridgeMate MKII Digital Temperature Controller Kit

So the kegerator is not working exactly like i want it to, the temperature range is wider than I would like and the refrigerator thermostat is not giving me consistent results. So to solve this problem I am going to throw some money at it! YAY! I just bought a FridgeMate MKII Digital Temperature Controller Kit hopefully this will have a more accurate control over the temperature ranges. If you do decide to go this route, be sure to get the 110v version if you are in North America and using a standard plug in freezer. This will leave an unused hole in the kegerator where the old thermostat went but I might be able to put the new controller in there or cover it up. If all else fails I can just leave the non functioning temperature adjustment where it was.
Now I get to wait for the thermostat to get here from Australia. For some reason the only place that I could find this specific thermostat was MashMaster which is an Australian based brewing supply company. Crazy Aussies.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Chest Freezer Kegerator Conversion

I started off with purchasing a chest freezer from Lowe's, it was $169 I decided not to buy a used one off of craigslist because I really did not want to buy it, put in a bunch of work and then find out later that it was on its last legs and go out in a month. There was not a huge difference in price from craigslist either about the cheapest I could find was 100$ and it was worth the $70 extra to know it would not break as soon as I got it home. The first thing I did was take the old thermostat out and replaced it with a refrigerator thermostat that I bought from an appliance store for $20. I decided not to do the traditional Johnson Controls conversion because there would be no hole to drill or no wire to drape over the side of the freezer like the Johnson Controls method. I removed the existing thermostat taking the sensor out through a hole that was sealed with a silly putty like substance and kept the sensor portion thermally isolated (left). The thermostat can be seen on the right.
The next step was to build a collar for the tap handle to come out of. The freezer is just tall enough to fit a Cornelius keg in and I could have probably fit it in there but it would have been crowded and it would be difficult to get the kegs in and out. I measured the outside dimensions of the refrigerator and build a frame to match. After which I primered, painted, and drilled a 1-1/8" hole for the tap handle. I spaced it evenly so that eventually I can expand to a 5 tap system with as many kegs of delicious home brew stored inside.
The semi-finished product can be seen here with weight on top to hold the glue between the collar and the lid down while it dries.