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Old 12-16-2007, 03:04 PM   #1
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Default First brew in the snow

So I did my first brew in the snow yesterday. What an experience. It was also only my 3rd batch with the keggle, 2nd since starting to use the hop bag, first since installing the weldless valve, first with the heat shield around the burner, and first time chilling outside by recirculating ice water with a pump. All sorts of new variables to make things more interesting.


Heating sparge water - the heat shield seems to be a huge help. It heated about as fast as I remember it ever heating, even in the warmer months. I do think I need to cut some vents in it or something, to let the burner suck a bit more air from underneath. I managed to sort of prop it up off the ground to achieve this for the time being.

Unfortunately, by the end of the boil, my propane tank had gotten so cold it was just barely able to keep the burner going enough for a rolling boil. But, it managed to hang on just long enough. I'll probably have to set it in a container of hot water or something next time. It's too bad that there's such a great heat source right near to it (the burner) but I can't make much use of it because of that whole 'fire hazard' thing... Oh well!

Chilling was an experience. I started with a small amount of water in the bucket, and just kept shoveling snow in. I was expecting the snow to turn right to slush, but instead it liked to clump together and let the warm water channel right through one spot. I'll have to do some more experimentation. I've also come to the conclusion that I REALLY need some kind of automated stirrer in the wort, it would make things more efficient without me having to babysit it so much with stirring.

Before someone asks, yes, I would have liked to have just set the whole kettle right in the snow to help with chilling, but my back was hurting from some lifting earlier in the brewing session, and nobody was around to help me lift the thing off the burner.

Draining into the fermenter was a breeze, and faster than siphoning due to the larger tubing. Wasn't sure if my burner would be high enough to drain directly into the carboy, but it was (just barely).

In all, it was a good experience. I think it'll go a lot smoother with some more practice, and a little more work on my equipment. And maybe I should invest in a pair of warm gloves

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Old 12-16-2007, 03:08 PM   #2
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If you can, I would run that flashing up to the top of both those kettles, and tighten up the clearance on the sparge water shielding. It will help a lot to increase your fuel economy.

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Old 12-16-2007, 03:15 PM   #3
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I love the use of snow to chill the recirculating water. How fast did you bring it down to pitching?

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Old 12-16-2007, 03:15 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr x
If you can, I would run that flashing up to the top of both those kettles, and tighten up the clearance on the sparge water shielding. It will help a lot to increase your fuel economy.
Yeah, but it'll also make them a lot less convenient. As it is, I can set either kettle on there with the flashing in place. If I went higher I'd have to attach the top piece after the kettle was already in place. Not a huge deal, but I'd have to figure out a convenient way to attach/detach it. That, and I'd prefer to keep it from looking ghetto, as I live in an apartment building and I get enough weird looks from the neighbors as it is.

At present, I'm quite happy with the fuel efficiency - it seems to heat just as fast (maybe even faster) with the shield than it did during the warmer months without it.

I also don't want to go too overboard with the shield right now, because come christmas time I should have a banjo burner so I might have to be making new shields to fit that anyway. I may get a little more extravagant with the shielding once I'm making my "final" version.

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I love the use of snow to chill the recirculating water. How fast did you bring it down to pitching?
I'm not entirely sure, I didn't time it. It wasn't quite as fast as I would have liked, but I think that's my fault because I was so busy experimenting with adding snow and avoiding channeling that I didn't stir the wort nearly as much as I should have. Each time I DID stir the wort, the temperature would drop like crazy though. In any case, it definitely seemed faster than when I've chilled using tap water in the past. I can't wait to try it again with better stirring and having the snow additions figured out.
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Old 12-16-2007, 03:34 PM   #5
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Nice use of resources, I do only the boil and water heating outdoors in the winter, I bring it in to msh it, sparge it and to run the wort chiller. I did my first snow batch 2 weeks ago but I am not sure I'd call it a snow batch it only took a broom to brush it away off my deck.

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Old 12-16-2007, 03:55 PM   #6
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Did you only use one bucket of water for the entire chilling?

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Old 12-16-2007, 04:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Funkenjaeger
I've also come to the conclusion that I REALLY need some kind of automated stirrer in the wort, it would make things more efficient without me having to babysit it so much with stirring.
All you need is a heat resistant food grade pump. Use this to recirculate the wort in the kettle. I don't have that set-up yet. Once I have it it will make chilling more of a start and forget thing. Currently I move the chiller around to keep the wort mixed.

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Old 12-16-2007, 04:07 PM   #8
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Where did you get that heat shield? I went to HD and got some air vent insulation and wrapped that around my keggle with some duct tape, but yours looks a lot nicer and easier.

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Old 12-16-2007, 04:11 PM   #9
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It's aluminum flashing (it's what I used anyway, it looks identical to that). It comes in rolls. You'll most likely find it in the roofing section.

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Old 12-16-2007, 04:27 PM   #10
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My brewing process is also split between inside and out... I heated my mash water on the stove inside, did the mash and mashed out with boiling water, then drained the first runnings into the keggle. I set up the burner and heated my sparge water toward the end of the mash. I brought the keggle with first runnings out and started the boil while I brought the sparge water in and did the sparge, draining into a bucket. When done sparging I brought that out and dumped it into the kettle.

Doing my mash strike water and mashout water on the stove indoors cuts down the amount of time I have my stuff set up outside by quite a bit, as well as the amount of time I spend out in the cold also. Especially nice considering I had to dig a little brewing area in the snow, set down cement slabs, get them somewhat level, and then set up the burner, which takes some time that would be wasted if I wasn't already waiting for the mash.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tbulger
Did you only use one bucket of water for the entire chilling?
Surprisingly, yes. I did dump SOME of the water by taking the hose outlet and directing the water down the side of the keggle, where it steamed off and helped bring the bottom rim of the keggle down to a reasonable temp - but that was less than a gallon of water in total, I'm sure.

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All you need is a heat resistant food grade pump.
While you use the phrase "all you need", that's FAR from being a minor expense, as much as I'd love to do it that way, a la the jamil recirculating chiller rig. over $100 for a march pump, $30 for 10' of silicone tubing, plus quite a bit more for disconnects. I was VERY close to getting a march pump when AHB had their recent sale, but it's just really not in my budget. If I had a real brewing rig where a pump is extremely useful, I'd buy one and do it this way. As it is, I'd have to be moving it around so much it'd be a hassle - if a pump magically appeared in my hands, I'd use it, but I can't currently justify the large expense.

I'm thinking something more along the lines of a paint stirrer or similar, with a small electric motor clipped to the rim of the keggle. Just enough to get a small amount of circulation - and it shouldn't cost me much more than 10 or 20 bucks.

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Originally Posted by bradsul
It's aluminum flashing (it's what I used anyway, it looks identical to that). It comes in rolls. You'll most likely find it in the roofing section.
Yep, it's just aluminum flashing from the roofing section at home depot. the roll was about 2 feet wide and 10 feet long, and was about $10. I just used a few rivets to stick it together. It's nice because you can cut it with just a pair of scissors (preferably a pair you don't mind dulling...)
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