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Brew Day Disaster!

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AlchemyBrewing

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It was supposed to be the first batch of beer my wife and I brewed in 8 years. It was supposed to be perfect. Instead it was the Brew day from hell. I open up the discussion to allow for tips, tricks, and general scorn of my lack of skills.

Problem 1. The east starter (WL California Ale) never really took off. I am used to seeing a lot of activity in a yeast starter. It never smelled bad, the firm-lock had a few bubbles coming out of it and I could see small bubbles riding up the side of the beaker. I never got any foam on top and really had no vigorous activity. I would have thought that there would be no activity or a bad smell if it was contamination. We added more malt and still not much activity.

Problem 2. I got a new March pump and brass McMaster Carr QD for the system. I was able to get it to work at the beginning but then I must have lost prime and had to sparge by hand with a quart container. What the hell causes this and what do you do to fix it. The wife wants to go back to three tier now!

Problem 3. I followed instructions to waterproof the digital probe cooking thermometer but it seemed to jump all over the place. It stayed one temp for ever and then shot up 20 degrees, all with the burners off. It seemed very unresponsive. Aren't they usually instantaneous? What is the most accurate and then the easiest way to monitor mash temps.

All of these were overcome-able ... or at least would have produced something at the end. It might have had problems, it might have been a learning experience but then this happened...



In case you couldn't tell that is a split in my immersion chiller. Can you guess what happens when this happens. The short answer is six gallons of water in your beer! It's Dead JIM!

I didn't know quite what area to post this in but most of the folks that read this seem to have lots of experience and are helpful.

I welcome any and all suggestions and mockery!

:confused:
 

JOHN51277

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What a hell of a way to start out the first brew in forever, and with the wifey. If nothing else, ya learned alot of lessons the hard way. Sounds like it would have been ok had the IC not have broken like that.

Hey, it can;t get any worse next time!
 

Catt22

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Looks like the IC had some water in it an froze during the winter. This is a fairly common occurrence. Even a small amount of water in the IC can do this if it freezes. I can't help much on the pump problem without knowing more details. Post some pics of your pump and how you have it hooked up and maybe we can figure it out.
 

r2eng

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OUCH!

Don't give up: fix the IC and brew again. Sh!t happens, and it sounds like you earned many good experience points from this brew.

Get back on the horse... soon!
 

david_42

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1. You may not see much activity in a starter. If there is plenty of oxygen and food, the yeast just keeps multiplying.

2. The pump might have been cavitating and losing suction. Try adding a throttle valve at the outlet.

3. Many digital thermometers have a sampling interval. Cooking normally doesn't require fast response times and it may only be checking every 15-30 seconds.

Bummer on the split. My chiller has flare fittings that can work loose and 'pee' into the kettle.
 

InfernoBrews

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Bad Brew Days Happen time to time.. Just gives a reason (If you need a Reason) To Drink more home brew that Day!:D

Better Luck next time.. Don't let a Bad day get you down for the next brew day!
 

ForRealBeer

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Wow. I thought I had it bad brewing in thunderstorms and pouring rain last night. Everything seemed to go well for me, but it seemed that every time I had to do anything, the rain picked up and I got soaked in the process. The storms were bad enough to get a severe warning from the weather people and my wife came out to tell me that it looked like Zeus had decided to join Bacchus for this brewing session.

Naturally, I was following the rule of drinking homebrew while making homebrew....

Your day, well, that was about 100X worse than mine.

Ah well, it's a learning experience every time you brew and no sense in crying over spilt wort. You'll get it right next time.
 
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AlchemyBrewing

AlchemyBrewing

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@david_42 - Do mean a purge valve of some kind?

The good news is that after several beers (might be a bit conservative), SWMBO looks at me and said, "I think we have time on next Saturday to try again and still make it to the baseball game." I am a lucky man!

Please chime in with more suggestions. I think I need all the help I can get. I will be trying all week to get the pump situation worked out so at least that doesn't kill me again!
 

Catt22

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I would suggest adding a small bleeder valve on the outlet side in front of the flow control valve. This will solve your priming problems. The other thing I would do is shorten the hoses as much as possible. This will reduce the resistance and help with the priming problem somewhat.
 
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AlchemyBrewing

AlchemyBrewing

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Thanks Catt22. Bleeder valve is coming for sure. Do you think I can use that with out change pump head orientation? Right now it is left to right. I see a lot of folks go down to up with them.
 

Catt22

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Thanks Catt22. Bleeder valve is coming for sure. Do you think I can use that with out change pump head orientation? Right now it is left to right. I see a lot of folks go down to up with them.
Yes, left to right will work just fine. I actually have mine mounted vertically with the pump head at the bottom. The inlet and outlet are on the same horizontal plane. It looks like you have sufficient drop from the kettle to the pump and that should be plenty to push any air out of the pump head. To operate the bleeder valve, close the flow control valve first, then open the bleeder valve until you get a strong flow. Then close the bleeder and open the flow control valve as desired.
 

brewmonk

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mock, mock.
scorn, scorn.

*BUT*, basically what I got out of the thread was that your WIFE likes making beer with you, so quit yer kvetching! That's great. sorry bout the malt soup you made.
 
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AlchemyBrewing

AlchemyBrewing

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SWMBO has instructed me not to try and repair the old IC but to go buy materials to make a new one. YES DEAR! I will convert the old one into a pre-chiller for brewing in hotter months. Take two brew day will be this Saturday. Wish us luck!
 

Sawdustguy

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SWMBO has instructed me not to try and repair the old IC but to go buy materials to make a new one. YES DEAR! I will convert the old one into a pre-chiller for brewing in hotter months. Take two brew day will be this Saturday. Wish us luck!
You have a very wise woman there. Relax, chit happens! Remember that lightning rarely strikes the same place.
 

Sacdan

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Nope. I drop it right into my HLT and MLT. They have a SS probe with a silicone (I believe) coated wire. They also have alarms when you get to temp and a timer.
 
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AlchemyBrewing

AlchemyBrewing

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Wow! I have heard nothing but horror stories about these probes getting wet. BobbyM even has an all out process for getting a silicone tube over the wire. That is great. I will go get one for sure.

Thanks!
 
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AlchemyBrewing

AlchemyBrewing

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Saturday Brewday was a success (so far!)!

Basically had no problems with the equipment and we have two happy fermenters going right now! Thanks to all!

:D
 

Kauai_Kahuna

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That is great to hear, if your wife is into brewing you got a keeper there!
Remember to brew a few batches that she may like just to keep things going the right way, maybe a cider?
Welcome back to the obsession.
 

WAdamC

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Want to test the limits with SWMBO? Tell her you want this: http://www.acitydiscount.com/Cooper-Atkins-Waterproof-Thermocouple-w-Hardwired-Probe-FW2000-3.0.30567.1.1.htm
It works great, has about a 3 foot cord, most of which is regularly submerged in my mash tun or boil kettle, is extremely quick and accurate, and indestructible.
I had no idea that the thing cost that much, though. My wife used to manage a taco bell. When they tore it down to rebuild, she got to take pretty much whatever smallwares she wanted. Apparently her district mgr didn't check pricing first. I just realized I need to be a bit more careful with the thing:)
 
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AlchemyBrewing

AlchemyBrewing

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It gets even better! She is a hop head! We have to brew a wheat every now and then for our friends that need something a little lighter. She is a huge fan of IPAs and it was her idea to make that our first batch in 8 years.
 
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AlchemyBrewing

AlchemyBrewing

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All is well that ends well! Kegged up the second batch on Saturday and it tasted great! Even with out carbonation. Can't wait to crack that suck for real! Thanks to all!
 
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