This is my homebrewing story. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
I'll use this thread to document my experiences in homebrewing. I welcome questions and criticism. I'm learning as I go mainly from the internet and books. Hopefully I can help people in their experiences and prevent them from making some of the mistakes I have.
Lets start from the beginning shall we? I started drinking "good" beer way back in 2003 (when I turned 21) because I thought Arrogant Bastard was a cool name for a beer and it actually tasted good too. That opened my eyes to better beers and peaked my interest. I watched a lot of Good Eats with Alton Brown and he did a homebrew episode. I said to myself "self, that looks like something you would get into" and started researching.
I picked up a starter kit from Hoptech. It was a pretty complete kit that could get me into the hobby. I bought an extract ingredient kit and got started.
Hoptech IPA kit.
Chilling in my small sink wasn't working out.
...so I dug out a Rubbermaid container. Worked better, but I knew there had to be a better way.
I picked up a cheap 20qt stockpot and did just enough reading to get me started. I tried to take a lot of pictures to document what I was doing so I could improve down the road. I had no idea what I was getting into or if the beer was going to be any good but hey, at least I was brewing my own beer!
The beer turned out alright. I learned real quick that bottling beer by myself sucks. It's like doing the dishes by hand for 2 hours. Something had to be done about this.
I wanted to take that next step to full boil extract recipes. At this point I started thinking about buying things that would last me a while. Not that I wasted very much at this point, I just did not want to be constantly upgrading things I just spent good money on. So...
I found a keg and cut the top out (the toddler approved)
Picked up some sweet tri clamp fittings
and had a friend weld the ferrules in while I made a stand out of some scrap metal I had lying around. I was off brewing at a full 5 gallons!
Chilling down with me new immersion chiller.
I wanted to use natural gas. My water heater is right next to where I brew so I installed a T fitting and shut-off valve to hook up a 60"x3/8" gas connector to. This way I don't have to worry about filling up propane tanks. I am using this burner from Brewer's Hardware and I have gotten pretty much all my fittings from them.
You'll notice in the sight glass how low 5 gallons actually is in a keg. Well I didn't think about that at first and put my dial thermometer port way to high. Pretty useless where it is.
Well my next step was to stop relying on bottles. I'm not a big fan of cleaning 50+ bottles, sanitizing, filling and capping by myself. I had an extra mini fridge from the days when my parents were my roommates that just might work. As it turns out it would, but only with a pin lock keg because of height restraints.
Fridge kit from Keg Connection
This worked out for a couple of batches but I really wanted to brew more styles to have a little variety on tap at once. So I picked up a chest freezer from Sears and threw a collar and cart together. It's controlled with a Johnson A419. I can fit 4 on the floor of this unit but I figured 3 was a good start. This stuff gets expensive!
After using my BK for a few batches I made a list of a few changes I wanted to make to improve my process. First on the list was to move my thermometer port down so I would get an accurate reading. Next was to have a tangential port welded in so I could whirlpool with a pump. My immersion chiller was not working as well as I would have liked. I even picked up a pre-chiller to bring down my chilling time. Stirring wort with my spoon always made me feel like was going to contaminate it.
I picked up a 3" long x 1.5" ferrule from Brewer's Hardware. I also got a Chugger pump and tri clamp dip tube from them so I wouldn't have to tip the keggle over to empty it.
I couldn't believe how much a whirlpool while chilling helped. I didn't use the pre-chiller as my tap was coming in at 60 and it brought it 5 gallons down below 70 in ~12 min. The dip tube fit great and took out all the wort minus the nice cone of pellet hops in the center of the kettle. I think the BK is configured how I like. I have and extra port right about the 7 gallon mark that may come in handy in the future.
I would like to make the step to all grain this year and I am slowly gathering parts for it and will share here when progress is made.
I'm 90% sure I want to go with a 2 burner HERMS system with a bottom draining MLT so that's the direction I've been working towards. I cut the bottom (or top) out of my MLT today.
I drew a circle!
Cut it out by hand
I won a false bottom during Nor Cal Brewing's 13 Days False Bottom giveaway so I will be adding a 15" hinged false bottom and a tri clamp port for temp readings to this vessel. I would like to make something to fly sparge out of my round cuts from the BK and MLT but I haven't figured out how yet.
Oh and I got a stir plate for Christmas! Much better than swirling the flask by hand.
I'm currently fermenting in buckets. I put them in a cool dark spot in my house but in the summer this can be problematic. I had Belgian golden ale fermenting that got way too warm and put off some pretty funky flavors. I plan to build a fermentation chamber off of that brown mini-fridge before it warms up again.
Also on my short list is a brew stand. I like the idea of a 2 tier. I could get away with only one pump (please correct me if I'm wrong on that) and my boil kettle will be easier to get the immersion chiller in and out of.
Well that's where I currently am with my setup. Please let me know if you have any suggestions, critiques, or words of wisdom.
Cool start for your thread.
This should be a great learning thread for people getting started.
Well I was going to send you a PM and ask if you needed a hole in the false bottom for a dip tube but I guess this thread answers that question! I am stoked to be a part of this build! Looks killer!
Thanks for the compliments guys! And thank you Jay for your awesome giveaway! I can't wait to make the move to AG and false bottom will get me one step closer!
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