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Old 12-02-2006, 06:04 AM   #1
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Default What is state of the art these days ? Upgrading after lapse !

I'm an ex all grain brewer coming back after a 5 year lapse ! I like to brew lagers and fruit beers. I also make fruit wines.

My equipment was less than optimal and I'm trying to figure out what I should improve before I start brewing.

I've got 4 Sanke kegs. I cut the tops off of two and I use them as brewing pots. I have 2 untouched kegs. I have 2 propane burners for my pots.

I use one keg as the boil keg and the other as the hot water tank.

I use a rectangular cooler as my lautner tun. I have a copper tube pickup in the bottom of it which I covered with a plastic screen.

I have a small centrifugal variable speed pump that I use to circulate the sparge water through a heat exchanger coil in the HLT. The coil is a bit on the small side and I have to do a bit too much circulation to keep the temps up. I haven't had any problem with stuck sparges, but I think I get more oxidation than I should.

I have a counterflow chiller. It seems to work well.

I have 4 corny kegs.

I've tried fermenting in them with mixed results. I find they are too small and I don't like cleaning them through the small lids. I think a lot of beer gets wasted trying to rack using the pickup tubes. I've made custom pickup tubes.

I have 2 plastic fermenting buckets. I guess they work OK for primary fermentation. I've been using carboys for secondary fermentation.

I hate racking because I hate syphoning when things get plugged up and the flow stops. I hate using the pump because I think it oxidizes the beer. I wanted to use the corny kegs and CO2 to force it from one keg to another but there is too much loss and such.

I have a small peristatlic pump from work. I haven't used it yet, but I think it might make a great pump for sparging and for racking. It will probably be too slow for racking, maybe for sparging too. I don't like using my centrifugal pump because I think it makes the liquor too turbulent and foamy and thus oxidized.

The peristaltic pump very similar to 43045K36 at www.mcmastercarr.com

The centrifugal pump is like item 5771233 at www.princessauto.com. I run it with a dimmer switch, which allows variable speed operation.

I've also got a residential water filter setup that I use for filtering beer and wine. And I have a home made counter pressure bottle filler.

I have a 20lb CO2 cylinder and a regulator. My tank has expired, so I would have to replace it. OUCH ! I am wondering if one can get a small CO2 cylinder like the paintball guys use.

So, if you were me, what would you change about my setup ?

I'm on a wife imposed budget. But she likes the beers and wines I make with my equipment. I have a machine shop with lathe and milling machine and stick welder. I don't have access to a tig welder. Nor a mig, but I am thinking of buying one. I'm a good stick welder.

Thanks.



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Old 12-02-2006, 06:37 AM   #2
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I'm an electrical engineer. I've been thinking of converting the HLT to an electrical heat element and putting a microcontroller on it to easily control the temperature for precise mash temp control. Is this worth the trouble ?

I've also been thinking of putting temp sensors on various points and logging the data on a computer. This would be pretty simple for me to do. Is it worth it ?

I was also thinking of conical fermenters, but the more I think of it, the more I doubt they would work for me. They might work for regular beers, but once one starts throwing skinned fruit into the fermenter or fermenting fruit wines, there is too much debris to go through the ball valve at the bottom of the cone and thus it might be better to rack out of a conventional plastic fermenter.

If that is the case, what I need is a really good racking system. Its one thing to rack a conventional kit wine or regular beer. Its quite another to rack fruit wines or fruit beers. Any ideas ?

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Old 12-02-2006, 09:46 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brewman !
I'm an electrical engineer. I've been thinking of converting the HLT to an electrical heat element and putting a microcontroller on it to easily control the temperature for precise mash temp control. Is this worth the trouble ?

I have made a HLT using an immersion heater element with a built in thermostat. It works a treat the only problem is the thermostats seem to die. When this happens I just use a manual digital thermometer and turn the heater off when I hit strike temperature.
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Old 12-02-2006, 11:33 PM   #4
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Stake of the art...
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Old 12-02-2006, 11:52 PM   #5
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Quote:
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Stake of the art...
I think he's referring to "state of the art" equipment...and wants to upgrade his present gear.

I think his gear is still good to go...brew something!!
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Old 12-02-2006, 11:53 PM   #6
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Stake of the art...
Not really but it does the job automatically.
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Old 12-03-2006, 03:27 AM   #7
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Quote:
I think his gear is still good to go...brew something!!
I think my mashing system needs changes. I think I should change to one of the drink coolers with a false bottom and come up with a more precise way to control the mash temperature. I also think the centrifugal pump needs to go as it aerates the wort too much.

I'll do some searching on the Internet to see what I can find for ideas.

I found out about Better Bottle carboys today and I think they will dramatically improve my fermentation/aging/carbonation setup. I'll be machining some special parts for them. I'll do a post about what I do.

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Old 12-03-2006, 03:48 AM   #8
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I wouldn't worry too much about the pump. The guys at BYO did a test aerating the hot wort and there was no difference between batches that could be clearly connected to the aeration. They made the wort look like cappuccino (their word) using a mixing attachment on a power drill (squirrel cage I presume.) Out of 3 aerated samples and one control only one of the samples was clearly problematic and that one was infected (i.e. gusher) which was almost certainly due to bugs getting incorporated into the wort and not the aeration per se.

You can hear the tastings on Basic Brewing radio. They had a tasting a month and then four months after bottling.
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Old 12-03-2006, 03:51 AM   #9
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So I am worrying about nothing ? That would be great news ! I thought that wort oxidation during sparging was a big concern, having the potential to give beers an oxidized taste.

Is this documented in writing somewhere ?

I like using the rectangular cooler because the bed depth is shallower and I've never had a stuck mash. Maybe I am paranoid.

I've still got a temperature control issue.
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Old 12-03-2006, 03:22 PM   #10
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I'm just thinking here but since you have a pump and you're looking for more control for mashing you could use the pump to recirculate wort through a 2 or 3 inch copper or stainless tube that has an inlet and outlet near each end and thread a $10 water heater element in one end and place a thermocoupler some where in you mashtun or in-line and have a $30 digital control and dial that puppy in. A single 3500W or 4500W element should meet your needs as long as the pump has sufficient flow rate so as to not torch the wort. Welcome back.


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