DIY

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Temp Controller Overview

It took me a couple of years of homebrewing before I started worrying about my fermentation temperatures. Up until then, whatever the temperature my basement was at, was what my beer would be at. However, I eventually wanted to control my fermentation temperatures to improve the quality of my beer, be able to cold crash, and try my hand at some lagers. So I bought a used fridge on Craigslist and built a simple temperature controller to control the fridge’s temperature more accurately. The small control pad can set a temperature range and the controller will turn something on and off to stay within that temperature range. Just like the air conditioning in a house. I use a generic controller that’s very similar to others that I’ve seen, but they almost all have the same problem. They’re not intuitive. Mine only has 4 buttons and a simple LCD screen to change a dozen different settings, so knowing how to access each menu and what each menu does is vital. Changing the desired...

DIY Beer Gun for Under $40

I have been kegging my beer for a while, now. One of the things I miss is the ease of sharing my beer. I used to just grab a bottle from the case and pass it along. So, I wanted to an easy way to be able to get back to sharing bottles. And it seems that bottle fillers are one of the best ways to go. I have wanted a bottle filler for a while now. I have used the Blichmann Beer Gun™ and looked at the Last Straw, too. I just couldn’t justify the $100 price tag, just to fill a few bottles. I made a simple counter pressure filler. It worked okay, but it didn’t give me the ease-of-use I was looking for. So, I decided to take a closer look at the designs of some bottle fillers and see what parts I might be able to get at the local hardware store or on Amazon. I discovered that most of the parts could be easily purchased. The ones that I could not find wouldn’t be that hard to make or modify from something that I could purchase. I played with design for a while and I combined some things...

Adventures in Home Malting

When I first started reading about brewing in earnest, I noticed that the words written about malting were rarely favorable, more often veering toward discouragement. Tedious, labor-intensive, and lengthy were the consensus; it requires too much space and immaculate hygiene, said home-brewing manuals, when they touch on it at all. Yet the importance of the malt house stands out in history: Anheuser-Busch and Rainier were breweries which started—as many did, from necessity—as both breweries and malt houses (Similarly, Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. of Tacoma, Wa., holds a historic name without a single grain being sprouted in its current operation). The original role of the community brewer was to take grain, as a raw product of agriculture, and turn it into a stable, storable, and cheer-inducing commodity: so what happened? In order to investigate (and fulfill my constant urge to do things other people say not to) I decided to give home malting a go. Over the last year-and-a-half of...

Starting a Home Lab

Starting your own lab at home can be rewarding and fun. Not only does it provide a more in-depth understanding of how yeast and other microorganisms function, but it can be fun at the same time. Now if being extremely sanitary and always on the alert for risk of contamination isn’t your thing, then this may not be for you. This is where you really need to step up your sanitation game. After brewing for a few years, I became more curious about the science behind brewing and fermentation. During research, I came to the realization that yeast is the most important brewing ingredient. I knew this before, but I didn’t understand fully how and why. After all, it is a living organism and, just like any other organism, it needs the proper attention and environment to thrive. This research led me to the book Yeast by Chris White and Jamil Zanishaff. After this, I was hooked on all things brewing science and especially microbiology. I was also interested in sour beers, so this led me to Milk...

Growing Hops: Soil Preparation & Composting With Spent Grains

Before long, any homebrewer with a little yard space is going to start eyeing up the corners of his or her yard and thinking about where to plant some hops. We encourage that urge! As we’ve touched on before, gardening for your homebrew is a great extension of the hobby, and even with a plant as big as hop plants, you don’t need as much space as you think. Hops are a good plant to grow not only because they can be used in your homebrew, but because they come back every year and as long as they get their start in good soil, they are relatively easy to maintain. Plus, they give you another use for all those spent grains left over on brew day. The soil is important, though. Hugely important. Most beginning gardeners know how important both sunlight and watering are, but a common mistake is to overlook good soil preparation. We’re going to help you fix that mistake. In this brief guide, we’ll go over the ideal soil conditions for hops, how to prepare your soil, and some simple home...

Between Brews – DIY Keggle Mash Tun / Lauter Tun Build

Pleased with the HLT/heat exchanger project shown in a previous article, my friend Rick asked me to help him with his MLT build. We used the same techniques and many of the same components for this phase of his three vessel brewing system. This was the simplest kettle of the project, requiring only two 13/16” holes, so it was completed very quickly. He already had a domed false bottom with 3/8” dip tube so we used those. He had a nice clamping sparge arm on hand, so we didn't have to install anything for the input feed. Because of the domed false bottom we did not install a sight glass, as there would be no grain-free region from which to feed it. If he decides later to switch to a full false bottom, we will at the same time change to a 1/2” compression bulkhead and dip tube and will add a sight glass. [/hide]

DIY - Self Contained Efficient Immersion Cooler

I was reading the article posted by Peter Cotton on his no chill brewing. I had no idea of just how the water restrictions in Australia could affect home brewing. I personally have been doing an ice bath for years, but wanted to move up to an immersion chiller to quicken the cool down to reduce my brew day. Peter’s methods works for him but there is a lot of work, cost and time delay involved. I recalled conversations of friends in South Carolina who had issues with the ground water being too warm to be effective. Plus there is all that water that goes to waste. There had to be a better solution, so I had a home brew and thought about what I could do that was compact, cost effective and efficient. Building the Cooling System for Your Wort After 1 minute the wort was 165 degrees and the cooler was 42 degrees. After 8 minutes the wort was now 98 degrees but the wort was 79 degrees. At this point the thermal energy from the wort to the cooler was slowing due to the rise in the temp...

How to Install A Ball Valve on Your Kettle

You have weighed the options, done the math, and made the decision that it is cheaper to modify your own brew kettle than to buy one with the ball valve already installed. Now the prospect of taking a drill to your pristine stainless steel kettle is a bit daunting. Hopefully I will be able to shed a bit of light to the process because it is not that difficult, but to be honest still a little scary because you don't want to mess up a new kettle. A new brew kettle with a ball valve can start at about $150 and go up from there based on the brand, other features, or size, and can be several hundred dollars for the Tri-Ply bottom kettles. For many home brewers, saving a few dollars to spend on other equipment or ingredients is an enticing prospect. For less than $50 you can find a 10-gallon stainless steel pot that will work just fine to brew your “liquid gold”, if it only had a stainless-steel ball valve to drain your wort. Thankfully free markets have supplied us with ample...

Between Brews: Mounting and Motorizing Your Grain Mill

I really, really like my Monster Mill 3+. It is a little heavy to carry around, though, and it feels unstable when sitting on a bucket with a heavy drill motor hanging off the side. I knew that I wanted to make a permanent mounting with a fixed drive for it. That meant that I had to select a suitable motor and platform. Here is how to go about motorizing your grain mill. The Right Motor For Motorizing Your Grain Mill The motor must have sufficient torque to keep the mill rollers operating smoothly under load. When motorizing your mill, you need to have it either operate at a relatively low rpm (200 rpm is about right) or have a reduction system added to achieve the correct rate. DC motors can be speed controlled but this adds complexity and reduces available torque. The effective speed of an AC motor can be reduced by sheaves and a belt, or by a gear reduction unit. I didn't want to get involved with fabricating a belt guard so I decided to go with a gear reduction unit. The...

Between Brews: DIY HLT and Heat Exchanger

I have been using a combo HLT/heat exchanger since I added HERMS (Heat Exchanger Recirculating Mash System) to my original gravity feed brew rig. A friend had an old keg and wanted something just like mine so I offered to do the conversion for him, essentially duplicating my original build. I don't weld so it would have to use weld-less fittings like those I used for mine; if you have the technology you could swap in welded fittings for those described in this article. [/hide]

Cheap DIY Option for a Motorized Grain Mill

If there is one thing that can be said about homebrewers, it is that we are a DIY-type crowd. In fact, the very act of homebrewing is DIY, in that you are brewing it yourself, instead of buying in from the store. It is no wonder, therefore, that homebrewers tend to fabricate or re-purpose items to perform a variety of the tasks involved in homebrewing. Whether a homebuilt stir plate made from a computer fan and hard drive batteries (I’ve made two), re-purposing kegs as brew kettles, or converting freezers into fermentation chambers, there is no limit to the ingenuity of homebrewers to accomplish a task or simplify a process. Oftentimes the goal is also to save money. Take the DIY stirplate as an example. A basic stirplate usually runs close to $100, but can be built from spare parts for less than $20. I am usually combing the homebrewtalk forums for ways to improve my process. I began brewing about two and half years ago and quickly transitioned to all-grain brewing after doing two...

DIY Wine Rack and Display Board

It’s no great secret that a big chunk of the fun of being a wine connoisseur lies in the visual aspect of the bottles themselves. Yeah, we could stuff them all in boxes like so many 8-track tapes, but where’s the joy in that? No… Some sort of wine rack is called for to help keep the corks moist, but most wine racks then hide the beautiful labels. But what to buy, or much better, make? I wanted something that met several criteria: The rack had to be both simple and quick to make It had to be portable I was thinking of giving these as presents, so inexpensive was definitely on the radar The varying sizes of bottles would be a consideration Extensibility is a good thing Everyone likes “cool” After poking at the web, and reminiscing on centerboards, dagger-boards and lee-boards (all with cutout handles), I came up with the following design... How to Make Your Own Wine Board? Well, the photo above tells at least 90% of the story, especially to an experienced woodworker, but...

Between Brews: Controlling Gas Fired Burners Pt 2

In the first segment I described the necessary plumbing and valves to make low pressure gas (either LP or natural gas) burners electrically controllable. To achieve control, we need to be able to apply 24VAC when we want flame, and to remove the voltage source when we don’t want flame. In this segment I will show various means by which such a system can be controlled and the differences between them. [/hide]

Build A DIY RIMS System

I recently had a chance to brew with the professionals at a local brewery. They were brewing on a SABCO Brew-Magic (15 gallon) system that they use for their weekly small batch releases. The brewer explained the components and how they all worked together. The wort would circulate throughout the mash process and that the temperature would be kept constant by an electric heater that was in the circulation loop. And, the re-circulation helped with the efficiency and the clarity of the wort. The price tag for a system like this is way out of my price range, so buying one was not an option. It didn’t take long for me to start putting ideas together to build my own RIMS. My quest began to put something together that I could build cheaply and maybe upgrade over time. So, a low cost system (that was modular) is what I set out to build. Editor's Note: Hello everyone, this article was previously released and the author had used PVC piping for some of the heated elements of the system. After...

Between Brews: Controlling Gas Fired Burners

manifold Each gas valve is mounted directly to a tee connector via a short pipe nipple. Don't forget the dope. Mount the burners wherever and however you choose. Connect a short flexible gas line from each valve to its respective burner. Make sure each valve has the proper regulator spring installed for the fuel you are using. Mount the pilot assembly as directed in the instructions and connect the gas and thermocouple lines (make sure you installed the correct orifice; it comes with both). For propane, rig a low pressure regulator to feed the manifold; for natural gas, just connect a gas line to the manifold. CHECK FOR LEAKS! At this point you can supply gas and light the pilots. If all goes well there, it is time to get the burners going. To do that, we will need the pilots to be lit and 24VAC applied to the solenoid valve. I used a Honeywell AT140A1000 transformer to source the 24VAC; it easily supplies all three valves at once. You will hear a significant “click” as the...

DIY Stir Plate Build

As many home brewers have no doubt experienced, yeast can be one of the more difficult variables to control in the brewing process. Much like an impressionable youngster, yeast requires just the right conditions in order to thrive and therefore become successful in its efforts to produce something of value. There are many environmental factors that can have a lasting effect on your yeast, most commonly known is temperature and of course, proper nutrients – just to name a couple. However, let’s not ignore the fact that a solid foundation for strong, healthy yeast can go just as far in achieving delicious results. In my opinion, the end game as a parent in bringing up a resilient young adult should be that he or she will grow to be resilient enough to contend with the adversities life will throw at them. The reasons for nurturing and bolstering your yeast culture prior to brewing in a non-commercial environment are the same. Sure, “smack-packs” are a great way to give your yeast an...

My Electric Brewery Build

The idea to upgrade to an all-electric brewery started 2 years ago after seeing some similar systems on several forums, including Homebrew Talk. I’ve been brewing for close to 10 years now, starting as most did: with extract in a single pot on a propane burner. When I moved to CT, brewing became a bit more seasonal; it was cold enough that I didn’t want to freeze outside while brewing. There were days that would accommodate a brew, but I found myself brewing much less during the winter. So the idea of brewing in the garage was born and electric brewing was the way to do it safely. I also wanted to be able to brew 10 gallon batches when needed, therefore part of the upgrade was getting everything one size up from my current setup. My plan to upgrade was thought out in phases: Buy something that would be usable immediately, but would also help toward the ultimate goal. Most of the purchases were done over a 6-month period to spread out the costs somewhat. In the end, I wanted to end...

So You Want to Build A Keezer

It’s time; your brewing has advanced to kegging beer, and you need a way to chill and dispense those kegs. You have some options, including making a kegerator out of a small refrigerator or a larger kegerator from an upright refrigerator, or...a keezer. A keezer (kegerator/freezer) is usually a chest-type freezer on which a wooden collar is attached, and through which faucets, CO2 lines, and electrical/thermostat controls may be run. Before you jump keg-first into keezer building, here are some of the issues you need to address. The Freezer Wood skin on a keezer - photo courtesy of Garmoni Consider your look ahead of time, including how you’ll indicate types of beers. As noted, some people build a wooden enclosure or skin around the keezer; others leave the exterior as-is. Still others paint the body of the keezer, sometimes using chalkboard paint on which they may write a beer menu. Be careful how you prepare the surface before any painting, or you may suffer from abrasions...

An Idiots Guide to Temperature Controllers

Up until now you’ve been fermenting your beer in the basement, or in that hall closet that stays nice and cool. What if you want to brew a saison that calls for higher fermentation temperature, want to try your hand at lagering, or even dial in your standard ale fermentations more precisely? You need a way to control the fermentation temperature. Temperature control isn’t just for beers that ferment higher or lower than average. All of your batches can benefit from being at the right temperature at the right time. Homebrewers used to have to come up with clever ways to keep fermentation temperatures in check. Take the “Swamp Cooler” method, where a fermenter is placed in a vessel of ice water and a T-Shirt is draped over it. The theory goes like this: The T-shirt draws up water, which evaporates and keeps the fermenting beer 10-15 degrees cooler than the ambient room temperature. That’s a great way to keep fermenters cool on a budget, but with a little investment, accurate, and...
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