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Topics - DaveR

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Equipment and Software / Beer Engine Rebuild Complete
« on: December 02, 2012, 11:23:23 PM »
I finally finished rebuilding my beer engine. I bought the engine last year. It was in rough shape when I bought it, but the price was right. The rebuild has taken a while as I was in no particular hurry to get it done.

Here's what the engine looked like when I first acquired it:

Taking apart the engine wasn't difficult. I spend most of my time refinishing wood and polishing the brass. I soaked and cleaned every part and replaced most of the seals. Putting the engine back together was a bit more difficult. Fortunately I took ph0tographs of every step of the teardown process. It's not a complicated device, but it does need to go together in a certain order. 

What the engine looks like now (I still have the Thwait's decal but left it off here):

I'm no expert on beer engines. This was my first experience. I think my Homark is a 1/2 pint model, while many engines are 1/4 pint. This thing is a beast, weighing in at around 25 pounds. Most of the weight is the brass.

I had to replace a few parts. Finding parts was a challenge. The engine was usable last summer. I was still missing a non-return valve. The original valve in my engine was shot. I rigged up an in-line valve temporarily to get it working.  Recently a forum member sent me a PM about a parrts supplier in the UK. I finally consider the rebuild complete.

This was a fun project. I originally bought the engine for decoration. The good news now is it's super clean and it works great. I'm going to have to get serious about making real ales!

Here are some more photos:

Brass could still use more polishing

Most difficult part (for me at least) to find was the non-return valve:
Original with diaphragm that was shot.

Replacement (which works fantastic)

Here's an old thread regarding the back flow preventer. Thanks everyone for the feedback.

I found the part (thanks to Geep) from this source:

They also have a replacement seal kit which would have been handy. Since mine works well I have no desire to take it apart again :P

Yeast and Fermentation / Yeast nutrient, worthwhile or not?
« on: April 11, 2012, 01:14:42 PM »
I read a few posts where people were dissatisfied with WLP090. I've had good luck with it. I'm usually the one that has problems.  I use Servomyces in every batch. I also have yeast nutrient, but I only use that in starters.

Can someone elaborate on difference between Servomyces and regular yeast nutrient? Is one better than the other? Any chance that nutrients are more important with a vigorously fermenting yeast like WLP090?


All Grain Brewing / Grains and Color
« on: April 10, 2012, 01:53:40 PM »
I've made several iterations of an IPA recipe this spring. Below are some photos showing color differences from changes in specialty grains. The second batch has 1 pound less base, and dark Munich instead of Light Munich and Vienna.  Both LM and DM used are Weyermann. In January I made a batch of the base recipe, but used 2 lbs of Vienna and no Munich. I don't have a photo, but it was lighter still. I'll be interested to see the flavor difference in these beers. The January batch was a super tasting beer. Here are the recipes and photos. 

Batch A:
5.25 Gal
1.068 OG
11 lbs 2-row
1.0 lb Vienna
1.0 lb Light Munich
4.0 oz Crystal 20
4.0 oz Carafa I
1.0 oz Columbus @60
0.75 oz Falconer's Flight @20
0.75 oz Falconer's Flight @5
1.0 oz Amarillo dry
1.0 oz Citra dry
Yeast WLP039 Nottingham (Platinum) 1.2 Liter Starter
(This photo was taken 24 hours after yeast was pitched)

Batch B:
5.25 Gal
1.062 OG
10 lbs 2-row
2.0 lbs dark Munich
4.0 oz Crystal 20
4.0 oz Carafa I
Hop schedule same as above.
Yeast WLP090 1.2 Liter Starter. (fermented from 1.062 down to 1.012 in 5 days. Photo taken on day 8.)

I know the beer in the top photo will darken up some after it finishes fermenting. But it will still be lighter than the bottom beer. I find it interesting that the Dark Munich and Light Munich I used looked almost identical in color in grain form. But the beer they make is different, in terms of color (and I assume flavor). I know I'm stating the obvious, but it still surprises me. I need to trust specs not looks.   ;)

Yeast and Fermentation / WLP090 -- interesting yeast
« on: April 02, 2012, 03:47:41 PM »
I'm  amazed at how yeast go about doing their thing, and how hard it is to tell a lot based on appearances.

I had a vial of WLP090 (San Diego Super Yeast) that was several months past expiration. Three weeks ago I made a one liter starter with it. The starter never seemed to take off. After 36 hours on the stir plate and 12 cold crashing very little yeast had settled out. I made a 5 gallon batch of IPA and ended up using a pack of US-05 dry instead the starter.

I almost tossed the starter but left it in the refrigerator. I checked it a week later and slightly more cells had settled out. It was about half what I'd normally expect from a usual WLP001/002/007/etc. starter. I made a small batch of Pale Ale (sized to fill a 3 gallon corny) and decided to decant and use the starter.

I made the batch, pitched the yeast and then left town for about 10 days. When I returned the batch was quiet. There was dried krausen on the carboy but nothing on the beer. (There was still about a half inch of krausen on the IPA I'd made the week prior using US-05).

I did a gravity reading yesterday on the WLP090 batch. It was 1.012. (OG was 1.062). Better yet, the gravity sample tasted amazingly clean for a 2 week old beer. Normally I'll primary a beer for 4 to 6 weeks. But I racked the WLP090 beer to a keg for dry hopping. I did so because I was satisfied with the fermentation. More importantly I needed some yeast for a dark ale I made yesterday. (The decision to brew was last minute. I didn't have any dry yeast, or time to make a starter). 

I pitched about 1/4 of the WLP090 cake. I oxygenated the wort, put it to rest, and hoped to see some activity in a day or two. To my surprise, this morning fermentation was already going strong. At 16 hours there was already a 3 inch krausen. The wort was swirling and airlock activity looked like WLP001 might look at its peak. The temp went from 65F at pitch to 68F.

I've never had a fermentation take off like this. My general rule when it comes to yeast is that it's better to over pitch than it is to under pitch. I hope I didn't go to far this time.  My experience with WLP090 is limited. Yet it appears to be lively stuff.

I'm still perplexed about the starter, simply because I've made starters from other vials of yeast that were many months out of date and they were way more active than this one particular vial of WLP090. But even then it fermented the first batch out nicely.



Equipment and Software / Beer Engine Parts Help
« on: January 28, 2012, 04:00:33 PM »
I recently found and purchased a Homark Beer engine. It was a little messy, but appeared to be in decent shape. I took it completely apart and cleaned it up. The seals and the piston were in surprisingly good shape. The John Guest swivel elbow on the output was cracked, but I found a replacement.

(If anyone ever needs the same part here's a link. Note that it's BSPT thread)

After putting the engine pack together I tested it with water and it works great, except for one thing. The back flow preventer doesn't work like it should. It looks like the diaphragm in the preventer is misshapen. It sort of works, however it allows some back flow. I've searched and searched for a replacement part. I've even tried to contact Beer Engine companies in the US and the UK, but never heard back.

Does anyone know where I might find a replacement part? I would greatly appreciate any advice or assistance in locating a replacement, or an alternative. Here's a picture of the item in question. Thanks.

(Not that it matters, but these photos were taken before the rebuild.)


All Grain Brewing / ESB high gravity help
« on: October 18, 2011, 02:39:08 AM »
I brewed an ESB yesterday. I was shooting for a gravity of just under 60. I used a newly opened bag of Maris Otter for base.

I'm using a new system and my efficiency hasn't been the greatest lately. I thought it quite possible that I'd end up with an OG in the mid 50's.

Here's my recipe:

Batch size: 5.25
70 min boil
Maris Otter  8.5 lbs
Amber         1.0 lbs
Crystal 60    1.0 lbs
Carapils       0.5 lbs

Sonnet Golding 1 oz 4.1% 60 min
Tettnanger         1 oz 5.3% 20 min
Sonnet Golding 1 oz 4.1% 5 min

60 min mash at 154 F

WLP002 1.2 Liter starter

My boil was vigorous and I ended up with 5.0 gallons, or a quart less than planned. The thing that threw me, though, was my OG. It ended up at 1.068.

I double checked everything. I normally estimate my OG based on 75% efficiency and 36 potential points per lbs for the base malts and 34 for the cara and crystal. After reading up it appears that Maris Otter might yield a little more than regular 2-row.

I'm wondering if this OG is too high for an ESB. If so, any recommendations at this stage to salvage what at least appears to be a nice looking wort? I plan to ferment in the mid 60's. I probably won't tap into this batch until December. Just looking for some feedback.



Yeast and Fermentation / Lager yeast slow to act
« on: October 22, 2010, 06:31:40 PM »
After 8 batches of ales I decided to try a lager. I began a starter of WLP830 5 days prior to brew day. I made 1 liter of 1.040 wort (just over a half cup of DME in a liter). I used a pinch of White Labs yeast nutrient. I stepped up using a second liter after 48 hours. I cold crashed everything at 96 hours. The starter didn't look too active. I smelled it and there was a hint of butterscotch aroma. I figured something was going on (whether good or bad, I don't know)..

Twenty four hours after cold crash only the very top (about 1 inch) of the starter cleared. There appeared to be about 1/4 inch of yeast at the bottom of the flask. I'm new to this and still learning but it seems that a lot of yeast remained in suspension.

I used the Top Drop Pilser receipe from "Joy of Home Brewing" as my first lager recipe. The OG came out at 1.052. I cooled the wort to 62 degrees F and warmed the starter to just over 55 degrees F.  I pitched all the entire starter. I should have used glass but I used a plastic bucket. I set my kegerator/refrigerator to 48 degrees. The wort stabilized at 50 degrees F.

After 4 days there was still no activity in the airlock. I was getting worried. I searched the forum to weight my options. I was about to pitch some ale yeast and I noticed activity in the airlock. I'm happy to say that now on the 5th day fermentation is finally going strong (although not "ale" strong).

Is this type of delay abnormal?. The yeast was close to expiration, but not over. I don't know how well it had been stored since I bought it from LHBS just two weeks ago. I think if I had to do it over again I'd make a larger starter, like a gallon,  and I'd start it 8-10 days in advance. Or maybe I'll just stick with Ales (unless this batch turns out great! What should I hope for?).


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