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Messages - smkranz

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Equipment and Software / Re: The Beer Bug?
« on: January 21, 2016, 02:00:44 AM »
Just stumbled on this. BeerBug has anyone used it.

I bought one at the 2015 NHC and think it is pretty cool technology.  Whether it's worth $200 to monitor your fermentations from anywhere, is totally a personal decision.  I also bought the optional external temperature probe which measures wort temps from deep inside the wort.  I must say that among the batches I have used it on, there have been a couple of times where I've seen temperature changes on the BeerBug which alerted me to temp control issues which I was able to adjust.

It does have quirks.  My Bug developed a battery charging issue which the developers quickly repaired.  I'm also a teensy tiny bit concerned that if the company were to fail, the lack of its cloud service to collect data would render the BeerBug pretty useless.

Here is the current Saison I have my BeerBug on.  (Yes, I ramp my Saisons up into the upper 80's).  It's completely done and I don't have the external probe plugged in on this batch, but it'll give you an idea of what you can monitor remotely.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Pump
« on: January 21, 2016, 01:03:37 AM »
This might seem like a silly question, but I want to make sure before I buy all the wrong fittings or have to buy more fittings... In order to clean these guys, do you just load the brew kettle up with some oxi-clean solution and just pump it through then rinse it with water the same way?

Pretty much.  I have both a March 815 pump and a Chugger with a stainless head, and they both work equally well.  I recirculate a hot PBW solution through the pump and plate chiller to clean them after each batch.  But it's a good idea to take the head off the pump once in awhile to inspect and clean the gasket and impeller.  There is also a small nylon washer in there that can wear's called a thrust washer.  Good idea to keep a few on hand.

Equipment and Software / Re: Blichmann Breweasy reviews
« on: January 09, 2016, 03:23:04 AM »
I have the 10G gas version as well, but haven't started using the software to control the Tower of Power. Have you figured out the rise time on the system?

If you mean how quickly the system can raise mash temp in a step mash, I haven't specifically timed it but depending on which orifice size you use, and the size of the mash, I'm sure it could do a couple degrees per minute.  Without the TOP controller, I went slower with a lower flame under the kettle, to avoid over-shooting.

Equipment and Software / Re: Blichmann Breweasy reviews
« on: January 09, 2016, 02:46:17 AM »
You haven't had any issues with the final product that you could attribute to the BrewEasy process? Adjustments that you  had to make, other than projected efficiency?

Thanks for answering.

Nope, don't think so.  Efficiency, and water volume was really the only thing to dial in...and water/pH adjustments which I think are reflected in my last batch.

General Homebrew Discussion / Re: Happy Brew Year - Happy New Beer
« on: January 09, 2016, 02:16:15 AM »
Sunday's Brew Year Saison.  Part of it went to top off a 15 gallon brett Saison barrel, the rest is humming right along in my conical:

WLP565 yeast is knocking it out.

Equipment and Software / Re: Blichmann Breweasy reviews
« on: January 06, 2016, 04:10:49 AM »
Bumping the thread because I'm getting close to pulling the trigger on a BrewEasy system.

How are the beers coming out? Everyone has talked about the process and the system, but the bottom line is does it make great beer?

Of course.  I count about 18 batches that I've brewed on mine.  The last six or so were done with a Tower of Power controller added, and I love it.  But it's no different than any other system, in that it only makes wort as good as your ingredients, recipe, and attention to mash parameters allow.  Then it's still up to you to control the fermentation parameters for your chosen yeast to do its thing.

This weekend's brew was a good 8 hour day, but it was a lengthy mash, and I also lost about 15 minutes looking for and measuring out my first hop addition when the timer went off (and which I neglected to do in advance), and couldn't find the ones I wanted.  I used the Top Link software to send a continuous-rising 1:50 mash profile to the TOP controller from 113-162° (with a 10 minute rest at 148) then a mash-out at 168.

BTW, Sunday's Brew Year's Saison saw a calculated 72% efficiency which was much higher than my usual 64%.  It might be the water adjustments I made for this batch with the help of Bru'n Water, and the extended mash over a wide temperature range.  (Recipe is 75% Belgian Pilsener and 25% Munich malts...never used Munich in a Saison before but I had it on hand and was looking for a little more color and malt flavor, so WTF.)  Gravity is down from 1.066 to 1.022 after just two days, with a combination charge of WLP565 and Belle Saison yeasts.  I've been ramping it up from 68° at pitching to a current 80, and on its way to 85 tonight.

(The ambient temp graph is erratic because I'm not using the BeerBut's immersion temperature probe.  My Ranco temp controller is controlling a heater that surrounds my fermenter, but the BeerBug is exposed to room temp air so it's not showing the actual wort temp.  (I'll eventually drill another hole in my conical's lid that lets me add the BeerBug's temperature probe at the same time I'm using the Ranco and a thermowell.  The gravity and alcohol graphs tell the picture.)

Equipment and Software / Re: Blichmann Breweasy reviews
« on: December 18, 2015, 02:52:17 AM »
SO today i brewed up a 10 gallon batch of my house IPA and must say after some dialing in and advice from here it was a much better brew day!

I used the 1.5gpm orifice and the volume between the MT and BK stayed perfectly even throughout the mash with a really nice recirculation! temperature maintained perfectly through the mash as well with just a few degrees difference between the TOP and the actual mash required once temps stabilized.

No stuck sparge but only hit 62% efficiency on the mash so I think I am going to try and crush a bit finer and have some rice hulls on hand for the next batch.

Once dialing in the boil off and losses from the kettles and tubing I hit my volumes just about perfectly and have two buckets in the ferm chamber holding 11 gallons of pitched wort, pretty happy camper today!

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Growlerwerks
« on: December 18, 2015, 02:39:50 AM »
Why lead with no association with growlerwerks is odd but ok. I am a verified amazon purchaser. I am the one who has the YouTube video of the $130 growler that has mars, off center tap, the cap doesn't really screw in properly  and even with great care taken it doesn't hold pressure. Not to mention how the goose neck is assembled doesn't match the selling photo. But i just thought I would share so other people don't get sucked in. I have a replacement coming that is arriving today. Hope that'd more useful
Yes, it's definitely more useful to know that you are a purchaser rather than someone just bashing the product with only second-hand knowledge.  I appreciate the clarification.

I understood the risks of pre-purchasing a new, yet-to-be-built product.  I'm hoping the production version of the 128 growler turns out well.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: Growlerwerks
« on: December 16, 2015, 03:26:24 AM »
No connection with Growlerwerks here, except that I am (patiently) awaiting a 128 oz. growler.  Original delivery expectations were missed, no doubt.  They've kept us informed, and I'm OK with it because that's what Kickstarters are about.

"Large quality issues" doesn't cut to any chase, it just harps on some negative Amazon reviews.  Is that all you have to offer, and is that why you posted this here?  An actual user review would be much more useful.  Anyone who finds this device on Amazon can read the reviews.  Their last email update explained why they supplied Amazon, with unfulfilled Kickstarter backers still unfulfilled.

I'm looking forward to getting mine in the spring.

Equipment and Software / Re: Blichmann Breweasy reviews
« on: December 14, 2015, 03:27:04 AM »
For Steve, hopefully you can answer a few questions I have:

The first on the orifices. did you stick with the 1.5 size throughout the process. I have read an exhausting thread on HBT regarding various sizes and switching to the smallest one for draining the MT into the BK which seems to me to be a painfully slow option, is it really necessary? Which orifice have you found to be the best at maintaining proper balance between the two kettle volumes.

I used the 1.25 orifice for the first batch, then stepped up to the 1.5 orifice.  I plan to try the 1.75 at some point but just haven't done it yet.  Also, I don't see any reason to change out the orifice when draining the mash.  The manual suggests that you might get slightly better efficiency if you slow down the flow when the wort volume is about at the level of the valve, by just cutting back the valve on the output of the mash.  Another thing I do, assuming there is some head space in the mash tun to do it, is to raise the level of the AutoSparge float valve during mash-out and basically top-up the mash tun prior to draining.  I figure that because this puts more volume of hotter wort above the grain bed prior to draining, this hotter (and thinner) wort would drain more thoroughly through the grain bed.  I don't know if it really matters.

Second, at what level do you set your sparge arm? I have read for it to be a bit above the grain bed, like an inch or two? Seems right but not sure.

That's about right.

Curious to know what you are experiencing in boil off rate, my old set up with a wide low pot was 2 hours over 60 minutes and I thought (Incorrectly) that the taller narrow kettle would be less and boy was I wrong! I know there are various factors that play into this and plan on running a batch of water prior to my next go around but thought I would ask.

I have the boil-off set in BeerSmith set to 1.5 gal/hr.

I am starting all my recipes at 65% assumed efficiency and was curious if you have found any ways to improve on this. Ideally I would like to get closer to 70% since my last set up was 80% consistently, dropping 15% is a lot to swallow......I am already aware of water chemistry and use Bru'n water with great success. I am thinking orifice selection can help from what I've read and proper mash out. All the other typical items like crush and pH I already have accounted for.

It seem to me that you have it all pretty much covered.  I have not tried slowing down the flow while draining except for the last couple of gallons.  Without sparging, all I think we can do is gain slight improvements doing all the things you have touched on.  I knew going in, that I was sacrificing efficiency for simplicity, which is a trade-off I'm happy to live with.

Good luck with your new system!

Equipment and Software / Re: Fermentation Heaters...
« on: December 08, 2015, 09:22:35 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, 04:44:13 PM »
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, 02:17:57 PM »
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 02, 2015, 03:40:54 AM »
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!

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