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Old 08-01-2008, 05:49 PM   #1
bernerbrau
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Default Equipment and Process Upgrades

Having just completed my second batch, I've decided to review my equipment and process so far to see what I can do to improve the quality of my brew sessions.

For the moment, I have 6.5g and 5g glass carboys, a bottling bucket, a 5-gallon aluminum brewpot, 3-chamber airlocks with rubber stoppers, a hose and racking cane with a bottle filler, a large funnel/strainer, a small funnel, a turkey baster I use to start siphons, mason jars for yeast prep and yeast storage, 22-oz bottles, oxygen absorbing caps, cheap vodka, a spray bottle and SunOxy and StarSan for cleaning and sanitizing.

I clean everything by soaking it in SunOxy then siphoning off the soak water to clean the interior of my siphon apparatus, then I repeat the process with StarSan to sanitize. I save some of the racked-off StarSan for the brewing process to re-sanitize my hands and anything I end up touching.

I chill my boils in an ice bath; this usually takes 30-60 minutes. I have an extra strainer on hand that I use to skim off the hops after the chill before transferring to carboys. I use cheap vodka in my airlocks, and for conditioning I siphon my priming liquid directly from the pan into the bottling bucket.

To prepare bottles for filling, I prepare a bucket full of SunOxy solution and rack into bottles, then I scrub them out with my bottle brush, dump, then re-fill the bucket with tap water and rinse each bottle three times, then finally I fill the bucket once more with water and StarSan and fill each bottle halfway, give them a good shake and let them sit before dumping them out.

I am thinking of buying either a larger brewpot or a second one so I can achieve closer to a full boil (and since I have a double sink, I can chill two pots at once). Also, I've been having bad luck with volume so far due to boilovers and a great deal of reduction during the boil, as well as not having enough top-off water.

I'd also like to be able to know the alcohol content of my beer and better determine when fermentation is done, so I need to get a hydrometer, and I'm told a carboy thermometer is vital for consistent temperature brews.

I'm also thinking of investing in a blowoff tube since I've heard stories of clogged airlocks and the stopper shooting off mid-fermentation, and if I go to single-stage fermentation I won't have a lot of space at the top of my 5-gallon carboy.

Anyone have any other recommendations for upgrading my equipment or process?

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Old 08-01-2008, 06:27 PM   #2
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My first thought is you should upgrade to a better quality vodka

A hydrometer won't set you back much, and is more basic than having two carboys.

What about a wort chiller? That may be needed before/along with a bigger brewpot.

Alternatively, you can sit tight before you upgrade. Brew a few more batches.

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Old 08-01-2008, 06:29 PM   #3
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I have considered a wort chiller. Unfortunately they're all a bit pricey, even to build from scratch what with the rising price of copper

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Old 08-01-2008, 06:32 PM   #4
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Yup I'd say pick up a turkey fryer kit....it'll come with a 7gal pot so you can keep extract brewing or use it when you step up to AG (you will ) If you do full boils though you'll need a wort chiller....again one step closer to AG. These two things will set you back about $100 total but will make your beer that much better.

and +1 on getting a hydrometer and some stick on thermometors. Also, consider your fermentation temps. How are you controling them?

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Old 08-01-2008, 06:51 PM   #5
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Bigger brew pot #1!!

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Old 08-01-2008, 07:02 PM   #6
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+1 for a larger brew kettle, fermometers & hydrometer. However, if you are planning on full boils, you'll definitely need a way to get that near boiling wort down to pitching temps- and an IC is invaluable in this regard. I may have a spare. PM me and we might be able to work something out.

A blowoff tube would be good for those vigorous fermentations. 1 inch tubing available at Lowe's or HD- cheap stuff. Or you can use the 3/8" from your racking cane.

Just a note on your process- why are you siphoning your priming sugar solution? Completely unnecessary. Just dump 'er in and rack the beer on top of this.

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Old 08-01-2008, 07:12 PM   #7
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carboy thermometers are crap unless you have the ability to control fermentation temperature, if you can't all you can do is watch as the carboy does whatever it wants with regards to temperature... You should get an auto syphon and a hydrometer, all together the two things should set you back less than $20. Also an additional 5 gallon carboy could be helpful in that you can secondary things longer and it will allow you to make things like barlywines or high abv stouts and porters that need to sit for a while, this will let you do a bit more experimentation without tying up a lot of equipment.

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Old 08-01-2008, 10:53 PM   #8
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Get an autosiphon ($10), wort chiller and bigger pot. I got my 1/4" thick 40qt aluminum pot at a restaurant supply store for $50. I use it on an LP burner I got for around $30. I built the chiller I use for around $40 out of 3/8" copper tubing by bending it around a small pot, and attached a $4 10' hose cut in two I got at HD using 95 cent #6 worm clamps. It has a garden hose compression adapter on one end and the other end just runs out into the driveway. Our water pressure is high so I also have a 25psi regulator to keep the fittings from coming loose on the chiller.

If you use BM's wet t-shirt-on-carboy-with-fan method I wouldn't worry about ferm temps much since they should be fine but the fermometers are only $2 so get a couple. I use an infrared thermometer ($45) but it isn't just for brewing. It's also a fun toy.... Err, it's useful in the kitchen too!

I have a blowoff setup (carboy cap and 1/2" hose) but haven't done a high gravity beer yet. If you get blowoff with a lower gravity beer you probably fermented too warm.

The rest of your methods and equipment sound solid. I'm sure you make good beer already.

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Old 08-01-2008, 11:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bernerbits View Post
I have considered a wort chiller. Unfortunately they're all a bit pricey, even to build from scratch what with the rising price of copper
My first big "upgrade" was an immersion chiller. 50 bucks for an IC is not terribly expensive. I know I could have probably saved 10 bucks making it myself, but I didn't feel like it.

Cooling your wort in 15 minutes is spectacular. The speed that you cool off your wort also helps in cold break, which in turn cleans up your beer a LOT. My first batch I did Alton Brown's trick of pouring onto ice, and I lucked out with no infections. It still ended up cloudy. Even after it had settled it was very, very hazy/murky.

Second batch I had an IC and irish moss (which I forgot like an idiot) so I went and used the IC. By the time I racked to secondary to open up my primary, the beer was cleaner than my first batch. By the time I bottled, you could read through the carboy without much issue. Even chill haze isn't as big of a deal with an IC.
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Old 08-02-2008, 12:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flyangler18 View Post
Just a note on your process- why are you siphoning your priming sugar solution? Completely unnecessary.
Thanks. I'm a little scared of aeration is all (homebrew tutorials warn of untold horrors). But I do have oxygen absorbing caps...
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