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Messages - galapagos jim

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16
Equipment and Software / Re: I'm ready to trash my kettle
« on: June 13, 2013, 03:30:19 PM »
Thanks for the replies, all.

Mostly I guess I was venting in public. That's what forums are for, right? ;)

> Too high evaporation- add back a gallon or so of water after 60-75 minutes

This had never occurred to me. But it feels too much like partial-boil. Wouldn't this affect hop utilization rates?

> +1 to the measuring rod/stick.  Low tech and reliable.

I guess the reason I haven't done this is because the kettle had _some_ markings.

One comment: I'm paranoid about using a permanent marker on the kettle or any kind of stick. What kind of chemicals are in the ink, and will they get into my wort?

> also could partially cover your kettle, and you could reduce the heat input, once you are at boiling, the higher the heat input the faster the boil off and vice versa.

Partial cover had also not occurred to me, having been taught to never cover the boil. I have tried to vary the heat input, but something is funky with either the regulator or the burner. (Never been fully satisfied with those, either.) There's a very fine line between full-rolling-boil and not-quite-boiling that I've got to park the knob on.

> Appears to me that you just have the itch to buy some different equipment.

Maybe. Maybe just distracted by shinies. Never been 100% happy with this kettle, though. Too many compromises.

17
Equipment and Software / I'm ready to trash my kettle
« on: June 12, 2013, 02:35:49 PM »
After last Saturday's brew session I'm about ready to trash my kettle, and probably also the burner, and blow a ton of money on a Blichmann set up. Talk me off the edge of this cliff or egg me on.

I've had the kettle for about a year. It's an el-cheapo thin SS 10 gallon model I got from an online HBS, who pre-drilled holes and included a weldless ball valve and thermometer. It's actually worked pretty well, all things considered.

The big problem is the evaporation rate. The kettle is low and wide so it loses something like 20% an hour. That means increasing my pre-boil volume, which for 90-minute boils puts me on constant boil-over watch.

But the catalyst of my ire this past weekend was judging the liquid volume in the kettle. This kettle has some coarse gallon markings (2/4/6/8 only) embossed into the side. My pre-boil calc for this long-boil batch was about 9 gallons, and I had a terrible time guesstimating where that was. I must have overshot it a lot when draining the MLT because my OG came in about 10 points short. (Oddly, my SG was on target, though I think I get to blame that on better-than-expected mash efficiency.)

I'm aware that I could solve the volume problem by installing a sight glass. I'm not keen on attempting to drill through SS, though. Metal fab is not in my skill set.

There's one other problem with this kettle that annoys me. The hole that the HBS drilled for the valve is so low that it extends into the curved corner at the bottom of the kettle. Net result is that the valve points downward from horizontal, maybe only by 5 degrees, but enough that the kettle doesn't sit flat, it sits resting on the barb.

All this combined is making me dream of a new kettle, a tall, narrow one with little evap rate and welded fittings. Having looked at the Blingmann shinies, I'm pretty well hooked. One thing I'm not sure of is what size to get. I make 5 gallon batches, which in practical terms means 6 going into the fermenter, and I don't see myself going larger anytime soon. That said, the cost difference between the 10 and 15 gallons kettles is relatively small but there are complaints on the 15 gallon model that the thermometer is mounted at 6.5 gallons and not useful for smaller batches. I think I'd be OK with the 10 gallon model as long as the evap rate is reasonable and don't have to worry about boil overs so much.

Hey, that's a lot of words. I guess typing this mostly helps me sort out my own thoughts. But let me know what you think. Always good to get advice from outside one's own head.

18
Every summer I go on a one-week sailing trip with family and friends on the Salish Sea. Last year I set myself the challenge of brewing a beer on the boat on day one and serving it on the last night out. I picked a low gravity (~1.038 IIRC) bitter and brewed about 1.25 gallons. 3 days for ferm, 3 days for conditioning and carb in a mini-keg.

When we first tasted it on the boat, it wasn't great. Thin, barely carbonated, yeasty, and no character. I took the remainder of the mini-keg home, stuck it in the fridge and ignored it, thinking it was a failure. When I got around to trying it again several weeks later it was good. Not great, but pretty darn good for a session beer, especially after the yeast layer had been sucked out.

19
Kegging and Bottling / Re: Stuck Post
« on: April 03, 2013, 06:11:49 PM »
I've been having this problem lately too, but only the gas post on one of my kegs. Started happening a few months ago, the keg was fine until then. It was a frustrating mystery until last night when I noticed that the O-ring on that particular post was sticking out farther than the others. I don't know if it's the wrong size, but as noted it worked fine for a long time. That particular ring is blue, FWIW.

So, maybe replace the O-rings on your posts? That's my plan.

20
Yeast and Fermentation / Re: Expected lifespan of O2 canister
« on: March 11, 2013, 11:01:56 AM »
Thanks for the replies, all. I had been cranking the regulator all the way open, so it looks like no surprise that I was running through them so fast. The instructions that came with the kit from the LHBS weren't very detailed. They did tell me to keep a spare bottle on hand, so I've never been short of O2.

And I'll take the regulator off when not in use. I suspect that doesn't have so much to do with it, but fewer parts that can fail = lower probability of failure.

21
Yeast and Fermentation / Expected lifespan of O2 canister
« on: March 10, 2013, 10:19:20 PM »
How long should I expect a canister of O2 to last? I seem to be changing out every 2nd or 3rd brew, and it's getting expensive.

I'm aerating with pure O2 for about 90-120 seconds, with canisters from the hardware store that are like this:
http://www.amazon.com/WORTHINGTON-CYLINDERS-333666-Disposable-Cylinder/dp/B0086AKIBW/

Hooked up to a regulator and .5 micron stone from my LHBS.

Possible that I've got a slow leak in the regulator head? Should I disconnect it while not in use?

22
Equipment and Software / Pump technique and cleaning
« on: February 27, 2013, 05:21:52 PM »
Finally got to use my new March pump on Sunday. It was (pick one: Useful | Fun | Everything I Ever Hoped It Would Be | A Religious Experience). I used it for transferring strike and sparge water from the kettle to my gravity-fed cooler tuns, and for recirculating the wort during chilling.

As this was my first experience using a pump in brewing, there was an unexpected but not inappropriate learning curve, and there are a couple of issues I'd like to ask about.

First, is there a prescribed order for opening/closing valves and powering on the pump?

What I settled on was: close pump outlet, open kettle outlet, open tun inlet, power on pump, quickly open pump outlet to desired level. After transfer is complete, close tun inlet, quickly power off pump, close kettle outlet.

This worked well except for pumping the strike water, where I completely forgot to close the valves, 2 gallons of liquid flowed back into the kettle, and I lost 5°F in the mash tun. Otherwise, sometimes I had problems getting the flow started, and it seemed like it worked better if I kept the pump outlet valve closed to start, but I wonder if that's bad for the pump.

Second, what cleaning routine do you use? I flushed the pump with cold water at the end of the brew day, and when I cleaned the kettle last night I ran 180°F water through it to kill nasties, then added PBW, then rinsed with hot tap water. That's not the most efficient cleaning routine, so I'm wondering what y'all do.

23
I recirculate like in Jamil's article.
http://www.mrmalty.com/chiller.php

That was most helpful.

Thanks to all for the suggestions. I just bought a recirc arm for my IC from MoreBeer. Yeah, I could just point the hose in there like Denny, but birthday money was meant to be spent on frivolous toys. ;)

I'm going to look into recirculating chilled water into the IC, too. Was kinda already planning on doing that, and your suggestions have been informative in that direction.

Thanks again, all!

24
Equipment and Software / Re: !
« on: December 04, 2012, 12:14:34 PM »
Buy a March pump and recirculate while chilling.  In addition, you can use it for a lot of other stuff, some not even brewing related.  I recently used mine to empty my waterbed!

March pump is on the way. That's why I've only got $100 of birthday money left! :D

What do I need for a recirculating setup? Do I just run a hose from the outlet of the pump into the kettle? Am I attempting to create a whirlpool?

25
Hey brewers, I'm hoping you can help me figure out what kind of a wort chilling solution to buy. I've got some birthday money to spend and an eye to speed up my brew day.

My current solution is a copper immersion chiller fed from the garden tap. Shut off gas, insert IC and stir... stir... stir... after a half hour I'm somewhere around 85F, going nowhere, and usually give up, drain the kettle and put the fermenter in the chest freezer and check it later. (FWIW, ground water here in Seattle is reasonably chilly, less so in the summer.)

I'm impatient, especially at that point when I've spent 4+ hours setting up and brewing and now I want to be done with the project, pitch the yeast, clean up and move on with my day. So I want to find a more efficient chilling solution.

I've read about counterflow chillers. I've read about plate chillers. I've read about recirculation. I have no experience with any of them and no idea which option is right for me. Maybe there's another solution I haven't heard about yet.

What do you recommend? What's a good option for quickly cooling wort? I've got $100 to spend, though if you think it's worth spending more, supplemental funds might be found (or possibly brought by Santa Claus).

26
Equipment and Software / Better way to rig my mash tun filter?
« on: November 19, 2012, 05:31:34 PM »
I've been doing all-grain for a little less than a year now. Built myself a 10-gallon beverage cooler setup and have been getting good results.

One problem I'd like to tackle is how the filter in my mash tun is plumbed to the outlet.

The filter is a 12" SS perforated, domed false bottom (http://www.learntobrew.com/store/item/30k6q/-_All_Grain_Equipment/False_Bottom_-_Stainless_Steel_12_inches.html), connected to the cooler bulkhead via a short length of 3/8" ID hose. The hose is secured by barbed connectors on either end, with SS hose clamps to secure it. (I'd share a photo, but I can't figure out how to do that with this bloody forum system.)

The rig itself works well enough, but it was difficult enough to install that I haven't yet disconnected the parts. Cleaning requires turning the tun upside-down, spraying with the hose, then turning it around to check and see if I got all the little bits of grain unstuck from the filter. Rinse, repeat.

What I'd like to do is replace the hose with a hard-plumbed system that is easy to disassemble so I can get the filter out to clean it properly.

Suggestions?

(I originally didn't try to hard-plumb because I'm not familiar with cutting pipe or soldering or any other way that would fit the custom length I'd need. Also, the elbow connector on the filter is a little fussy; there are nuts on both the top and bottom of the filter that are a tad loose and I'm always afraid I'm going to lose the bottom one. Maybe I should get someone to weld the bottom nut to the filter for me?)

27
Going Pro / Re: Brewery internship?
« on: January 28, 2012, 04:12:18 PM »
Liability had certainly crossed my mind. I suppose it would be up to the individual breweries to make a decision as to whether or not my presence and participation is an acceptable risk. I would not be adverse to signing waivers if necessary.

For my own part, being employed I have my own insurance so any injury to myself would at least be covered for my own sake. Legal exposure to the brewery or injury to other persons certainly is a different matter.

This is an excellent conversation. If nothing else it's becoming clear to me that my little idea may require biting off more than I can chew. Likely my best route is to start small, make friends with some brewers, volunteer to pour at festivals and such non-operational activities and work my way up from there.

28
Going Pro / Re: Brewery internship?
« on: January 28, 2012, 11:01:50 AM »
Thanks guys. This is incredibly helpful. Reading your responses helps take some of the edge off of my current panic. My desire to do this may be a byproduct of my current existential crisis (been in the software game a bit too long, methinks...), but I still like the idea of working in someone else's boots for a while. Comments in reply:

tschmidlin:
Quote
a LOT of people volunteer to work in breweries

Really? Somehow I find this both surprising and unsurprising at the same time. Do you think they're chasing experience like I am, or they just think they can get free beer? Knowing the competition could give me an edge in being successful. :P

tschmidlin:
Quote
if you go volunteer at a brewery they are the ones doing you a favor

I have no illusion that it is otherwise. I'd be extremely grateful to anyone who would let me in their doors on my crazy adventure.

Thirsty_Monk:
Quote
Most of jobs in the brewer are non glamoures jobs. Lots of cleaning. Some heavy lifting.
a10t2:
Quote
Make sure the brewers know that you're willing to do the simple tasks like scrubbing floors or the outsides of kegs, or mucking the mash tun - things that can't really be screwed up.

I anticipated that, at best, they'd limit me to the first two. Mucking out the mash tun sounds like a blast!

Thirsty_Monk:
Quote
I would be more interested in longer term part time commitment then a few full days and you are gone.

THAT is a most valuable response, and makes me glad I came to this forum to ask.

I would not be opposed to this. My current job is full time but flexible enough that I could squeeze in some time at a second job. Staying in this frame of mind, if it were me proposing this to you, what type of commitment would you be looking for? A number of hours per week? A number of days per week? ("Hey, just leave those kegs until Tuesday when the part-time dude is here.") How useful would weekends be? (Most of my brewery visits are done on weekends and they rarely seem busy with actual brewing activities.)

Related to this, I assume that breweries do occasionally have open positions they hire for. What's the best way to go about finding those, to understand what a brewery looks for when hiring?

Also, another approach I've been considering as a first step is to ask a few brewers to do an informational interview. Just a 1/2 hour of doing one-on-one Q&A with me. How do you think that would go over?

Again, thanks for your responses, guys. I really appreciate it. This is very helpful.

29
Going Pro / Brewery internship?
« on: January 27, 2012, 06:57:30 PM »
The short version: What's the best way to go about contacting a brewery to offer myself as free labor in the brewery for a week or a month, in exchange for simply being there and learning more about how a brewery is run?

The long version: I'm employed full time in the software industry, but I'm contemplating a change in career. I enjoy beer and brewing and they say you should do what you love. I'm nowhere near ready to go pro, but maybe ready to apply to a fermentation science program and go the academic route.

But I want to know what working in a brewery is really like. My job affords me a lengthy vacation, during which time I'd like to offer myself to a local brewery (I'm in Seattle, so there are plenty to pick from) as free labor for a week or a month. Maybe multiple weeks at different breweries, if they'll have me. In exchange, all I ask is that I be allowed to observe and ask questions about the brewing process. Consider it an internship.

How do you think a brewery would react to this offer? Would they be likely to take it? Who would be the best person to contact? The head brewer or HR or the owner?

I realize that the obvious answer here is just to go ask some breweries. No penalty for trying, eh?  Problem is that I'm a bit of the shy type. Introverted, maybe. I have a hard time striking up conversations with strangers. In person, anyway; I've got no problem spilling my heart out to all you folks on an Internet forum. ;)  So the idea of waltzing into a brewery and trying to get the attention of one of the proprietors and pitch them my idea is scary to me. I'd like to prepare myself with a good approach and a good pitch, hence a little asking about on the ol' Internets.

Your opinion desired.

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