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Messages - smkranz

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Equipment and Software / Re: Fermentation Heaters...
« on: December 08, 2015, 02:22:35 PM »
My 12.2 gal MoreBeer conical is in two nested collapsable trash cans.  The larger can is the cover and lifts off very easily for access.  Inside the bottom is a space heater controlled by a Ranco controller with the probe in a thermowell inside the wort.  This baby lets me easily ramp my Saison temperatures up into the stratosphere, even when my basement is in the 50's.  Hence, the name Saisonical.

Shouldn't this have been moved to Classifieds?  Pretty clear that the OP is the seller.

Equipment and Software / Re: Reverse osmosis systems
« on: December 02, 2015, 09:44:13 AM »
These write-ups are all great reading.  I am contemplating building a portable (mounted on a cart) system using an off-the shelf solution such as one of the above G.E. systems.

I already use a carbon filter cartridge to strip the chlorine from my municipal water supply.  It is connected to an outdoor garden hose bib.  In between uses, I drain it and let it dry.  I would use the same hose bib to supply a portable RO system.

With these RO systems, is doing the same thing I'm doing with my carbon filter (breaking them down to let them try out between uses) a good or practical thing to do?  Would it affect their useful life.  I would just be concerned about the possible growth of unwanted microbes if they sat full of water for an extended period of time between uses. 

Thanks in advance!

Equipment and Software / Re: Blichmann Breweasy reviews
« on: December 02, 2015, 07:17:57 AM »
I don't think you'll regret the purchase.  No experience with the electric system but I'm guessing it is well-engineered like the rest of their gear.

Let me know if you're going to the Guild's holiday party at Clipper City Brewery on Saturday.


Equipment and Software / Re: Blichmann Breweasy reviews
« on: December 01, 2015, 08:40:54 PM »
See for my earlier review.

I've used the 10 gallon gas system for a year and a half.  Still works great.  64% efficiency is usually dead-on, my minimal water adjustments include diluting with distilled water, adding Lactic Acid, or 5.2pH depending on the recipe.  That efficiency might seem low, but with our sized batches the cost difference is irrelevant to me.  Predicting OG is much more important.

I could probably fit 39 lbs. of grain into this, so that's pretty much the only upper gravity limitation.  No different than any other system.  Need more gravity, either use a bit of extract in the boil, or make a slightly smaller batch as someone has already suggested.

Setup and breakdown are very simple.  One thing I miss from my multi-burner setup is the ability to heat water for a PBW solution to clean out the mash tun while the boil is under way.  There is a loss of time efficiency because of that, though all I would ever need to do to make up that time would be to get my second burner out, or use use cold water and get over it.

The T.O.P. gas controller was a great but $$ addition to the system.  It is badass the way it relights by itself if a gust of wind comes by to knock out the flame.  Because the BE uses the burner's short legs, and I'm not getting any younger, I really appreciate not having to stoop down to the ground to re-light the burner repeatedly throughout the mash.

There is a lag of several degrees between the mash temperature and the temp of the wort coming off the pump.  No big deal, I usually up the controller temp a couple degrees to keep the mash temp where I want it.  The variance in temps depends mostly on the rate of recirculation out of the mash tun.  Blichmann's false bottoms can take a whole lot of flow without sticking, and I have the 1.5 gallon/minute orifice installed in the output of the mash.  I might try the 1.75g/m orifice just to see what happens.  The variance also depends a little on the mash volume...a bigger mash will have a little more lag.  You can also gently stir the top portion of the mash to help even things out, but I generally avoid doing that.  Also avoid over-crushing grain to avoid a stuck mash.  My LHBS's grain mill crushes finer than I prefer, so I crush all grains myself.

The Blichmann false bottoms are really great at trapping bits of grain.  No matter how much I spray them, there's always something stuck in there.  I've come to spray off as much as will come off easily, then let the thing completely dry.  Dried bits of grain are brittle and fall right out with the touch of a little brush.

There are certainly less expensive ways to go about brewing.  This system was particularly attractive to me because I already had both kettles, Therminator, pump, and false bottom.  To finish it all I needed was the adapter lid kit to mate the kettle and mash tun ($250) and later, the controller.  My Therminator and pump are mounted on the little stool, with the pump hanging from the bottom step and covered with a cut-open PBW jar as a splash shield.

The TopLink software and controller cable have worked very well.  But I don't usually do complicated mashes so I typically set a timer, then change the desired temperature manually on the controller.

I love the system's small footprint, but my brewing habits seem to abhor a vacuum.  Since my brewing space is a patio with no table, I use a rolling cart for my work space.  There is a power strip bolted to the end of the cart which supplies power to the operation (controller, pump, computer, cell phone, Bose speaker...I like my conveniences) from an extension cord, and my pump is plugged into its own grounded switch so I can turn it on and off without unplugging it.  The controller and most of the hardware roll in and out from the basement on the cart, which saves time and many footsteps when putting away.

Happy to answer any specific questions I might have missed.  Good luck!

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Hop addiction
« on: November 29, 2015, 11:59:14 PM »
A few years back, I tossed 10-15 lb. of very old hops.  That kinda cured me of over ordering...or at least made me cut back some!

I will more than likely end up giving a portion of each pound away to other brewers.    I gave away a sealed one pound mylar bag of whole Tettnanger not long ago.  Purchasing directly from the West Coast in multi-pound lots to save on shipping brings the per ounce price down to the point where I can be generous with other brewers.  I have yet to meet a brewer who will not take free hops as long as they are still in good shape.  I wish that Hops Direct would sell half pound packages.  Yakima Valley sells half pound packages, but I have received less than stellar hops from them in the past.

I can attest to Mark's addiction(s), having just counted said 1 lb. bag of Tettnanger in my freezer with 3 or 4 pounds of other hops.  Might need to plan something Germanic for them very soon.

And Mark, if you're interested in splitting one pound bags of any particular hops from Hops Direct, just hit me up in advance

Equipment and Software / Re: label making software
« on: November 23, 2015, 11:09:45 PM »
MS Publisher (Windows only) is what I used for a long time.  Then I got tired of pulling labels off my own bottles.  Now, if I want labels that are going on bottles I plan to gift, it's GrogTag all the way.  Use and adjust one of their templates (some let you add your own art), or upload your own complete design.  i've also printed my own vinyl labels from "bumper sticker" stock that Office Depot used to sell, but not any more.

To keep bottled beers ID'd for my own purposes, I use Avery 3/4" round stickers which fit perfectly on the crown.  And I go online to print them with Avery's free label printing software.  You can fit a lot of small, arched and straight text on them.  The software then churns a sheet of 24 stickers into a .pdf file which you print locally.

Ingredients / Re: Post your water report
« on: November 11, 2015, 07:21:39 PM »
Westminster, Maryland municipal tap water.

Test results from Ward Labs, from July 2015.  The sample was taken from the output of a carbon filter to strip the chlorine.

pH 7.6
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Est, ppm 462
Electrical Conductivity, mmho/cm 0.77
Cations / Anions, me/L 7.0 / 7.7


Sodium, Na 33
Potassium, K 1
Calcium, Ca 81
Magnesium, Mg 17
Total Hardness, CaCO3 273
Nitrate, NO3-N 3.6 (SAFE)
Sulfate, SO4-S 6
Chloride, Cl 118
Carbonate, CO3 < 1.0
Bicarbonate, HCO3 229
Total Alkalinity, CaCO3 188
Total Phosphorus, P 0.13
Total Iron, Fe < 0.01
"<" - Not Detected / Below Detection Limit

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Opening Fermenter to check hydrometer
« on: September 21, 2015, 09:22:20 PM »
For a mere $200: (Gives you real-time gravity and temperature readings.  Actually works.)

Otherwise, suggest using one of these to pull a sample:

The Maryland Microbrewery Festival Homebrew Competition is open for Judges/Stewards, and entry registrations..

The Festival and competition date is Saturday, September 26. Entries are due at drop-off and shipping locations by end of business on September 12.

Each entry is judged by at least one BJCP-ranked judge, tho sometimes one of the pro brewers at the festival steps up if we hear from a judge at the last minute who can't make it.

It's a relatively small comp (200 entry cap), so chances of placing and winning a prize are pretty decent. This year prizes are planned for 1st, 2nd, and (depending on prize availabity) 3rd place in each prize category.  Prize categories depend on the entries received.

Best of Show winner is brewed commercially by 2-time Maryland Governors Cup winner Dog Brewing Co. of Westminster, MD for draft sales at Buffalo Wild Wings' Maryland restaurants.  (Dog also brews for its own pubs and bottled sales, under its Pub Dog and its new Rexx Reserve brands, and contract brews for the likes of  Stillwater, and an Omnipollo Agamemnon Imperial Stout with Maple Syrup, among others.)

Entries are welcome from around the globe, but to be prize-eligible an entrant must either:

1. Be a Maryland resident;
2. Be a member of a Free State Homebrew Guild member club (easy & cheap to do...see the Rules); or
3. Register to Judge the comp, regardless of residency or club affiliation.

Entrants get great feedback and win cool prizes...check the site for prize Sponsors.  Judges get the best Judges' Breakfast anywhere, free festival admission, a free Buffalo Wild Wings lunch, and possible free overnight accommodations (based on availability...there are a few spots left).  Again, check the site for Volunteers info.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Controlling sourness
« on: August 16, 2015, 06:40:07 PM »
Best Saison I've ever made was a traditional Saison fermented with Belle Saison at 80+° with no citrus or spices added, but with Brett-like Trois yeast pitched in secondary with a scooch of maltodextose added for it to eat. It's tart, and dry, and tropical.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Bench capper
« on: August 13, 2015, 09:25:36 PM »
The manually adjustable Agata capper (the one with the black button in the capping head) is what I prefer.  Tried the auto-adjusting version and it just seemed to involve more awkward motions during a bottling run.

My capper is mounted to a heavy poly cutting board, and my work space is the top of our clothes washing's right next to the beer fridge with beer and gas lines all ready to go for keg and BeerGun connections.  Works just as fine for bottling primed beers. Spills run into the washer. Cleanup is a breeze.
The capper mounts to the board with four metal "mirror clips" I found at Home Depot.  The clips screw into the board, and the offset end of the clips holds the capper base securely to the board, letting me mount and dismount the capper almost instantly instead of screwing it directly onto the board. 

This capper has done probably a couple thousand bottles. I have marked the side of the shaft with lines for each of the different sized bottles I use.  Super simple and easier to use (for me) than the self-adjuster.

Commercial Beer Reviews / Re: Commercial Saisons
« on: August 11, 2015, 06:55:35 PM »
St. Feuillien Saison has become my favorite commercial version, better and more reliable than DuPont.  All St. Feuillien beers are stellar.

My own recipe is my favorite homebrewed version.  Stupid simple recipe, just Belgian pils malt, Kent Goldings (boil and finish), and shoot for upper 50's O.G.  Sometimes I add some Candy syrup.  Try using a continuous-rising mash from 113-162 degrees over 90 minutes as described in Farmhouse Ales.  I use either WLP565 or Belle Saison yeast, start it off in the mid-70's and crank it up to mid/upper 80's over 7 days.

Always turns out.

Events / Re: GABF AHA/Special Events???
« on: August 11, 2015, 06:32:57 PM »
Will be doing GABF on Thursday and Members Only, as well as the Pints For Prostates Rare Beer Tasting on Friday afternoon.  The Rare Beer beer/brewery list has been released on the FaceBook page.  It looks heavy on barrel aged beers, and a little light on IPAs (thank goodness):

The long awaited Denver Rare Beer Tasting beer list has been released! A very limited number of General Admission tickets remain and VIP tickets are sold out.

•   Abbey Tripel Reserve, Abbey Brewing, Abiquiu, N.M.*
•   25th Anniversary Perseverance Ale, Alaskan Brewing, Juneau, Alaska
•   Vallum, Avery Brewing, Boulder, Colo.
•   Barrel 178, Bear Republic Brewing, Healdsburg, Calif.
•   Bell’s Tawny Port Baltic Porter, Bell’s Brewing, Kalamazoo, Mich.
•   2012 Oak Aged Cherry Biere de Noel, Big Sky Brewing, Missoula, Mont.
•   Samuel Adams Kosmic Mother Funk Grand Cru & Samuel Adams Utopias, Boston Beer, Boston, Mass.
•   Love Child No. 5 & 2013 Bourbon Barrel Quad, Boulevard Brewing, Kansas City, Mo.
•   Brandy-Barrel Rye Wine & Birra Minestra, Breakside Brewery, Portland, Ore.*
•   Brooklyn Hand & Seal, Cognac Edition (Ghost Bottle), The Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.
•   Bourgogne Blanc, Bruery Terreux, Placentia, Calif.
•   Pumpkin Smash & White Raspberry, Cascade Brewing, Portland, Ore.
•   The Cut: Bing Cherry, Casey Brewing & Blending, Glenwood Springs, Colo.*
•   Black Gold, Central Waters Brewing, Amherst, Wisc.*
•   Nightmare on Brett Port Barrel Aged, Nightcap & L'Brett d'Cherry, Crooked Stave Artisan Beer, Denver, Colo.
•   [Banished] Tough Love I Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout I, Crux Fermentation Project, Bend, Ore.*
•   Collage (Conflux No. 1), Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
•   Barrel Aged Palo Santo & Festina Lente, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Del.
•   Mango Tango, Elevation Beer Company, Poncha Springs, Colo.
•   Old Sage Brett & 2011Brainless on Cherries Belgian-Style Ale, Epic Brewing, Salt Lake City, Utah
•   Firestone Walker XVII & Maltose Falcon, Firestone Walker Brewing, Paso Robles, Calif.
•   Bourbon Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate, Foothills Brewing, Winston-Salem, N.C.
•   Barrel Aged Snowed In, Funky Buddha Brewing, Oakland Park, Fla.*
•   2014 Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout, Goose Island Brewing, Chicago, Ill.
•   American Sour, Grand Teton Brewing, Victor, Idaho
•   A Sour Patch Divided, Great Divide Brewing, Denver, Colo.
•   Once Upon A Time & The Count Whiskey Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout, Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, Loveland, Colo.
•   Barrel-Aged B.O.R.I.S. VAN WINK Imperial Stout & Barrel-Aged Silk Porter, Hoppin’ Frog Brewing, Akron, Ohio*
•   Ursae Majoris, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Ann Arbor, Mich.
•   Laughing Dog Tenth Anniversary Barrel Aged Imperial Rye Ale, Laughing Dog Brewing, Ponderay, Idaho
•   Cable Car, The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, Calif.
•   Saranac Javanac & Saranac Imperial Barrel-Aged Rye Porter, F.X. Matt Brewing, Utica, N.Y.
•   Whiskey Barrel-Aged Blackberry Barley Wine Ale, New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colo.
•   2013 Incorrigible White Sour, New Holland Brewing, Holland, Mich.
•   2014 Bourbon Barrel and Vanilla Bean Aged Olde Voyager & Between the Berries and Me, NoDa Brewing, Charlotte, N.C.
•   Genesis 2015, NXNW Restaurant and Brewery, Austin, Texas
•   Ignorance is Bliss, Odell Brewing, Fort Collins, Colo.
•   ProCATstination, Perennial Artisan Ales, St. Louis, Mo.
•   Anniversary Ale #3, River North Brewery, Denver, Colo.
•   Cold Brew IPA, Rogue Ales, Newport, Ore.
•   Twig and Berry, Schooner Exact Brewing, Seattle, Wash.*
•   Barrel-Aged Rain Check Spiced Stout, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Mills River, N.C.
•   Ornette, Spangalang Brewery, Denver, Colo.*
•   Fydoor’s Classic, Stone Brewing, Escondido, Calif.
•   Barrel-Aged Batch 666: Sympathy for the Devil, Sun King Brewing, Indianapolis, Ind.
•   Barrel Aged Balt the More & Barrel Aged Old Pro with Peaches, Union Craft Brewery, Baltimore, Md.
•   Mountain Man & Verboppin' Frogoten, Verboten Brewing, Loveland, Colo.*
•   Dark Arts: Tequila Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout with Brett and Espresso & Montmarretto: Barrel-Aged Sour with Montmorency Cherries and Almonds, Wicked Weed Brewing, Asheville, N.C.
•   Tart Project: Saison, Wormtown Brewing, Worcester, Mass.
•   2014 Chianti Brett Saison With Sangiovese Grapes & Deux Rouges Grand Cru (Batch Two), Yazoo Brewing, Nashville, Tenn.*
(* Indicates brewery's first appearance at Denver Rare Beer Tasting.)

Equipment and Software / Re: Auto-monitoring fermenter
« on: July 14, 2015, 05:51:03 AM »
Cool idea.  Just happens that I recently deployed the new BeerBug I purchased at the AHA conference.  It monitors gravity, temperature and alcohol, uploads data points to a cloud server every 15 minutes, and let you see it on desktop or smartphone app.  My current fermentation is here:

The historical graphing is off, because I was not able to properly calibrate the Bug until this morning.

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