Brew Stand Update Two

Last week I shared the progress on the brew stand. This week I kept the momentum going and got the gas plumbing mostly done. The stand looks pretty good and the burners seem to fire with just as much power as a stand alone stand. I have two burners going for now, and the third will get down soon.

When I first conceived of building a brew stand I actually figured I would only employ two burners. As a batch sparge brewer this made perfect sense to me. I normally brewed with two individual stands side by side. However, when found the aquarium stand to start this project with, it just made sense to go to a three burner stand. Hence, the reason I only have two plumbed burners at the moment.

It took a bit of time at the parts department figuring out how I was going to plumb up the burner to the control valve, then the valve to the propane source. I’ll post the full parts list in a separate post for those folks interested in the details. The weakest part of the system is the use of water supply line to soft connect the gas manifold, in black pipe, to the valve and burner assembly. I works just fine. I am just unsure of the heat produced under the stand and worry wether the tubing will be able to take it. Having it melt and burst into flames in my garage is not an experience I am interested in having.

This concern stems from the short height of the stand. Because I cut the legs down to save on material its a little short in profile and the distance from the tubing to the burner is less than 12 inches. A test run to heat some water seemed to not create too much heat, but I am still concerned. I may switch over and hard plumb the line with copper tubing and flare fittings.

A second issue with the short height is that I definitely cannot mount my pump under the burners. The heat is too high and the room is just too tight. I figure I’ll get around that reality by just mounting the pump on a separate portable pump stand off some sort. That way I can easily move the pump around and put the stand away while still having the pump out to clean it. We’ll see how that idea develops after the first couple brew sessions.

That covers it. The next time I post about the stand I hope to be doing it during a brew session with all three burners in action. That leaves one last equipment upgrade, which is to build an HLT for that third burner! But that will be a new video.

BIAB Series Update

What do I have going on?

We have a preview of the Brewing in a Bag series.  The first of the experiments is ready to bottle and will be ready to drink and talk about in a couple of weeks.

These Brew Dudes took some video of the brew session and we plan to fuse it with some of our thoughts on the process with one of our future “in studio” tapings.

The new challenge for me is figuring out how much priming sugar to use for a 1 gallon brew.  I have to get my calculators out (yes multiple) and figure out how much I need.  I was thinking of getting a measurement by weight of what I need for a 5 gallon batch in grams and then figuring out a fifth of that for the one gallon batch.

Two 1 gallon beers to bottle over the next few nights.  Love it.  Thankfully, I don’t need that many bottles.  Here a looky look at what the first gallon beer looks like:

White or Red Wheat One Gallon Batch

It’s the wheat experiment so if you’re interested in how the different wheats taste, well, we will have our opinions ready soon.

Mike is convinced that he has only used red wheat in his recipes throughout his brewing career. I am sure I have only used white wheat. That statement is apropos of nothing really, but it is interesting that we think we have only used one variety of wheat malt in our years of homebrewing.

More BIAB stuff will be coming. Outside of just our follow up notes on this experiment, I have three hop experiments to run. Now that I have the start of this test out of the way, I feel comfortable with the whole brewing in a bag process so the other experiments should be find.

That reminds me, if you are a reader of the Homebrew Talk blog, you can read about an experiment I conducted harvesting commercial yeasts for homebrewing.

Brew Stand Update

All the way back in January I announced that I was had acquired an old aquarium stand for a large tank. It looked like it would be perfect to become a brew stand. I posted a video about my plans and set forth thinking about how I wanted the stand to operate.

I can’t believe its been 8 months since originally posting that clip. I am happy to announce that progress has been made. In fact, the project is about halfway complete or maybe even a little bit closer than that.

The big decision came with shortening the height of the original aquarium stand to about half its height. I liked the idea of keeping it tall so that in the event I had a pump failure or clog, I could still go to a gravity feed system either into a bucket, kettle or fermentor. In the end I chose to chop the stand down to half its height, about 16 inches.

I chose to do this to primarily keep the brew stand closer to the ground. I felt like stirring the keg during mash in was going to be a bit of a pain with it so tall once the keg-mashtun was on top. The stand is also a little more narrower than I would have liked if I was fabricating something from scratch. So lowering the center of gravity a bit made me feel safer.

I expect I will eventually put some casters on it so I can wheel it around from a stored position to a brew in position. If I do that I’ll likely put some cross bracing along the bottom of the feet to help widen its stance a bit more. That will help improve stability. But for now it should work out fine.

The low height will still mean I am bending over to control the burners. But the burners I have chosen to work with sill stick out far enough that a control valve right on the burner will make it clear and easy which burner I want to manipulate. The low height also poses a bit of a dilemma for mounting my pump. I use a standard march pump for the recirculating mash tun and then I switch it over for use during a recirculating chill set up. I might need to mount a heat shield around the pump to protect it. But I’ll figure that out on the first run of the burners.

Lastly, A couple readers have asked about the number of pumps. I currently only foresee on pump in the short term. It works for me so far. I think I can rig up enough tubing and quick disconnects that I can pump from an HLT into the mash tun, and then changing tubing around to go from mash to kettle.

So all that’s left is to plumb in the gas lines. I plan to use rigid black pipe and T-fittings for to carry the propane. Then I’ll come up with a soft connection to go from the T’s to the control valves/orifices at the burners themselves. I was thinking I might be able to use stainless steel braided vinyl water supply lines for that part, but I am not sure. I like that they come in different lengths and some pretty short. They are also somewhat cheaper than the alternatives; copper and flare nuts or flexible gas lines with flare fittings. And advice there would be appreciated!

So that’s the update. Stay tuned. I am anxious to brew on it now so I hope to get to functional burners and possibly mounted pump within the next week or so. Wish me luck.


Cleaning Beer Lines

One thing we never covered in our kegorator series was how to clean your beer lines. After a while you vinyl beer lines will get coated in beer stone. Beer stone is a deposit of calcium oxalates and various dextrins and sugars. If left in the lines too long it can cause excess foam issues regardless of how well balanced your gas is or how clean your glassware is. Worse case is that dirty beer lines will change the flavor of your beer. Giving it stale or sherry like notes. Never good. Here’s how I deal with cleaning out my beer lines.

My first step is to make a good gallon of cleanser. I have found PBW to work great. However there are other products available specifically for cleaning beer lines. Cleverly enough that product is called…Beer Line Cleaner.
Next I remove the black beverage quick connectors from the ends of the beer lines. Being careful to not let the beer drip out. Having screw on ferrel type connections makes this chore a bit easier. I will eventually change all my lines to this type of connection.
The reason for not letting the beer drip outcomes next. I put the open ends of the lines in the pitcher of cleanser, placed above the height of the faucets. This allows for natural siphoning of the cleanser through the lines and faucets. Once you have completely pushed through the beer with cleanser you simple let the product sit per the manufacturers instructions.
Five star chemicals recommends 20-30 minutes of contact time for routine cleaning.
After the cleaning is done I like to run some sanitizer through the lines as a rinse but also to kill any microbes that might have snuck in there during cleaning.
Hook it all back up and you are good to go. Expect some foaming at first if you start pouring right away. This is natural due to the warming of the lines and faucets.

Next time you can’t seem to control foaming; or are I wondering why your newest beer tasted great from the hydrometer but is awful in draft be sure to clean those beer lines!

Cheers and happy pouring.

2014 BJCP Beer Style Guidelines

I posted some IPA recipes recently based on the new expanded India Pale Ale category from the draft of the 2014 BJCP style guidelines. Now, that section is just a small part of the full guidelines, which have many categories expanding and/or changing.

For this post, I thought I would take a closer look at the draft and discuss with you some of the changes.

The changes have some solid implications. For one, we have to change our beer recipes page. I mean, isn’t that huge? Ok, it’s not.

The biggest impact the changes will have on these brew dudes and others is beer competitions. With the changing categories, it means you can submit more sub-styles of beers that were not recognized before.

Mike and I are brewing up beers for the New England Regional Homebrew Competition, which is taking place this October. I wonder if the new guidelines will be finalized by then and if the organizers of the competition will be following them. How soon will other competitions make the change?

Not that it matters much since we will brewing styles that are still current with the 2008 guidelines, but looking at this new set, it’s amazing to see how many new kinds of beers will now be recognized by this organization.

Styles like Gose, Kellerbier, and Sahti were not ones you could enter into competition outside of the specialty beer category. I know I have learned about these styles within the past 6 years – It’s cool to see that the BJCP has researched them and has some notes about each.

The other great things I am picking up from the new guidelines is the expansion of categories. Beyond the IPA one, Czech Lagers now have a category all to their own with 4 styles in it. There are some switching around of styles too using geography as a guide. One category that stood out to me was the Irish Beer category. If these guidelines hold, then your Irish Red Ale will be going against someone else’s Irish Stout or Irish Extra Stout.

Not sure everyone is interested in the expansion of the cider and mead categories, but now each of these beverages has more detailed styles within them.

If you haven’t been on the BJCP site to see them, go there now and look through the PDF or for a quick reference of the changes, there is an excel sheet too.

What are your thoughts? It’s a big change if you’re into following the org’s standards of beer styles. Check them out and leave a comment below.