Setting up a pipeline/How do you brew?
I've finally gotten a keezer and fermentation chamber set up to be able to fight one of the biggest problems I see in the homebrew community:
Not temperature control, not contamination, but PATIENCE :fro:.
With only one temperature controlled box, I've only been able make and drink one batch at a time (I've recently started kegging so bottles in the house fridge isn't an option). Also, I live in central FL, so room temperature is close to 80 and the garage is closer to dehydration temps than most cellar temps. Now that I can control fermentation and serving temps at the same time I'm running into some questions:
How do you cold crash (assuming you only have two temp controlled environments - fermenter and keezer/kegerator like me, do you have to get a third controlled environment??)
Fermenting multiple batches - where do you put the temp probe? I've been attaching mine to the side of whatever is cooking, but when I put a second batch into the box, should I be watching the new (warmer) batch or just leave it on the one that is already at temp? I can argue either way so looking for experience here (if you do something different like keeping your temp probe in a separate jar/bottle please chime in too, don't let my ignorance keep you from helping me)
This is the set up that I have, fermentation chamber on the left and my keezer on the right.
(I'm still working on my setup so expect to see finishing things like wood facing and collar on everything)
I have a 5 tap keezer and a fermentation chamber that can hold up to 6 carboys. I cold crash in a 3rd temp controlled vessel that just happens to be a regular upright fridge/freezer combo. I just took a shelf out and when I need to I can fit a carboy or two in there, and when I'm not cold crashing it's our auxilliary freezer and fridge for food and beverage overflow.
I brew mostly 10 gallon batches and brew about every 2-3 weeks on average. I tape the temp controller probe to the outside of my better bottle, then I cover it with foam, bubble wrap, and more tap to make sure I'm getting just the temp of the bottle and not the inside of the ferm chamber. If I brew 2 weekends in a row I move the probe to the newest primary for active fermentation. My beers are usually done or close to being done fermenting after a week so moving the probe to the new beer isn't a problem.
My pipeline works out pretty good except I hate having to guestimate how empty a keg is and how soon I need to dry hop and cold crash. I also hate having to wait 2-3 weeks for beer to be ready once I do get it in the keezer. My next endeavor will be to get a couple extra kegs and another co2 bottle so that I can keg and condition my beers on gas so they are ready to drink as soon as a keg kicks. I plan to carb the beers in my garage fridge right after the cold crash and then move the carbed kegs to the fermentation chamber.
Over time, I've amassed enough equipment to keep my pipeline (and me) happy. I brew every other weekend. I have an old fridge in the basement with a dual temperature controller on it. The fridge has a Fermwrap across the back for heating and of course the fridge does it's cooling thing. The fridge can hold 2 6-gallon carboys. After the first week in the chamber, I remove the carboys and put them in the 'man room', which is also in the basement. The temperature in the room stays between 65-75F all year. There I let the beers bulk condition until kegging time (usually at least 2-3 more weeks). If I feel the need to cold crash the beer, I have a refrigerator in the 'man room' that I can put the carboys in. Now, depending of what the SWMBO puts in there, I can sometimes get two carboys in there at a time. If not, I just put one in, and after a day or two, swap it with the other.
After racking to the kegs, I take them to my "charging station". Basically it's a 20# CO2 tank with about 6 lines coming off of the regulator. After purging the beer, I can carb them up while they wait for a spot in either the keezer or the kegerator. Because I'm carbing up the beer warm, I do have to use a higher setting on the regulator. But, that's no big deal.
Between my keezer and my kegerator, I have 6 taps available, with room in the keezer for one extra keg. Basically when I blow a keg, I have one already chilled and carbed in the keezer. Takes a minute or so to swap and voila......beer! Then I rotate the next one from the "charging station" to the keezer and the process continues.
Now, this didn't happen over night. Took years ( and a lot of cash) to get to this point. I've got well over 20 kegs going now, and I almost exclusively do 10 gallon batches. I helped a friend build a keezer for his home and he comes over and we split the 10 gallon batches now. We recently just split the cost of some more kegs. But all of the fermenting/conditioning happens at my place.
You'll have to find a system that works for you and your home. I have the luxury of some extra space to put all this stuff.....and I guess an understanding wife and a little disposable income to pay the damn electric bills.....
I wouldn't say that I have a pipeline plan per se...but what I do have is a fear of empty carboys. For some reason when I have an empty carboy I cant sleep, cant eat, and cant think about anything besides the batch that will fill the carboy. In all seriousness I am typically racking a beer to a keg while I am mashing.
I have 4 6 gallon BB and 2 5 gallon carboys(apflewein and soon to be sours or RIS once I move)
My ferm freezer holds 2 carboys and once a batch stops "actively" fermenting if I need room for the next round(or to cold crash) it gets moved to room temperature(65-75). The only thing I plan for is making sure I have room in my freezer for active fermentation. I do at times have two actively fermenting batches in my freezer and I am always more careful with the youngest batch, but always very wary of dropping the temp of the other batch and halting or slowing fermentation.
I had been taping the probe to the outside of my carboys with insulation, but actually just purchased this http://www.williamsbrewing.com/THERM...OYS-P2596.aspx today and am super pumped, I think the accuracy it will provide will be much better, and require less guesswork for me(I would usually assume that the actual temperature inside the carboy was a few dg higher than what the probe read)
I let my beers stay in the the primary for 4 weeks or more, cold crash, and then straight to a keg, force carb for ~36 hours at 35 PSI. I have a 4 tap keezer that only holds four kegs, so I unfortunately dont have the luxury of set and forget(yet).
If your ambient temps in your house are 80...thats rough. Hopefully you like Saisons and belgians. With those yeasts you could drastically increase your production despite your ferm chamber restraints.
I live in Texas so we're in the same boat -- a lack of temp-controlled real estate which makes it the pipeline bottleneck.
Here's some advice:
Just To Outline My Pipeline:
Spot #1: Fermentation Chamber (Minimum 4-7 Days @ Temp Control. Batch usually stays until it's kicked out by the next one)
Spot #2: Bulk-Age Room (3 Weeks+ @ Room Temp 68°F-78°F. I'll secondary to a 5g container or keg if I need to free up a 6.5g container)
Spot #3: Kegged & Sealed (Most batches get corn sugar for carbonation. If I'm not in a hurry, they can sit on gas instead)
Spot #4: My stomach (Alcohol is absorbed followed by falling asleep on the couch while SWMBO keeps asking "Are you asleep already?")
Regarding your fermentation chamber probe: I use a water jar to house the probe but it's important that you are chilling your wort to the fermentation temperature before pitching the yeast. If your chamber is set to 65°F, chill the new batch to at least 65°F. I usually go a few degrees lower than target. That way, when you add the new batch to your chamber, the existing batch, probe jar, and new batch are all sitting at the same temp. As fermentation kicks off, it'll radiate heat into the chamber, heat the jar, and the chiller kicks in to bring it back down to target. If you put the new batch in at 80°F, the jar is still sitting at 65°F and the fridge doesn't kick in until the heat has radiated out and into the jar which isn't a quick process and have you fermenting well into the 70's while your chamber is set to 65°F.
I just put a window AC unit in my spare bedroom and no problems with 10 buckets at various stages of fermentation.
I am from Tucson AZ, our weather is not as cool as yours is, but we do experience your weather in our winters. ;)
For you pipe line, accurately calculate how much you drink each month in your household. Then figure out how much you need to brew to keep up that supply. Then brew more. There will be times that you cant brew, and you will need your reserves to get you through the tough times.
I now only do 10 gallon brews. And I brew every three weeks.
Here is my fermentation chamber and kegerator:
The fermentation chamber on the right (the 1950's avocado green) I got on Craig's list for $50, it is a freezer with a temp controller on top. The fridge on the left was Craig's list for $200.00. I wanted the freezer below the fridge so that the beer taps would be at the correct height. (Also that freezer is what I use to make 100lbs of ice for my Immersion chiller. Tap water here is 90 degrees.)
Behind the squirt bottle of star san is my thermometer hanging down. I also have thermometers on all the ale pales, and occasionally i even put my brew thermometer in there to check accuracy. They all read the same. (The hanging thermometer is an old pool thermometer, my son broke the outer glass).
My pipeline is something that I plan on putting a lot of time and money into.
Right now I hit dry spells when the two kegs kick and I don't want to tap in to the longer aging bottles that I have stored away. I almost always have a beer lined up ready to keg but then it's finding the time to clean & sanitize line and the keg. Plus time to carbonate. The biggest things that are holding me up seem to be that I only have 2 kegs, and not nearly enough bottles.
Since I'm in a tiny apartment I have to be very picky when it comes to gear. I always bottle in 22s and recently found some cheap beers that I like in that size. Buying more of those over the next year will allow me to bottle more and therefor brew more. I'd also like to get at least 2 more kegs to use as secondary & to natural carb (or force with a second co2 bottle).
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