Brewing without scales

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Dr_Jeff

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Out here on the island where I work, a friend and I have a Klarstein all in one brewing device and a couple of Speidel 30L fermenters.

We also have a kegerator that I built from a fridge that we reallocated, it has three taps through the door.
We also have five ball lock kegs.

So initially, we had ordered the grain measured and milled from the homebrew store in Anchorage in "brew batches" of malt.

The I was able to arrange to get several sacks sent out, along with 10 pounds each of several crystal malts, roast, chocolate, wheat, ect. so that we have some inventory of grain.
We also have a mill.
I brought out about 7-8 pounds of hops so that we could have some choices on what we want to brew.

Getting on with the story, we have no scales, all I have is a 24 ounce Folgers coffee container to measure.
Latest one with no measurements is a double/triple IPA. (likely 10%+ and 80-100 IBUs, mighty tasty)
I decided on how many "scoops" of grain, a bunch of two row and a bit of crystal 20, and then looked at the hops, chose what I wanted, and eyeballed the hops, package says four ounces, well that looks like half, so here we go. Same with the other to varieties that I used. CTZ, Centennial & Cascade in the IIIPA
Now clearly I can't duplicate any recipes, but the beer has come out good.
With work and everything, I had about a ~15 hour mash, then brought the temperature up to 208 and it stayed there for about 5-6 hours, until I could get off work and finish it up, adding hops, boiling and chilling, into the fermenter with the yeast.

Next up is a Belgian Wit, and another IPA.

I'm happy with the Klarstein, although it is a 110v unit, it is slow to get to a boil, but if I set the temperature on 230, it will boil pretty hard.
It seems to be good unit, it comes with a grain pipe, a little ring to set the grain pipe on while it drains and one sparges, a lid and a stainless steel immersion chiller. (about $229)
We have the 30L unit, for what its worth.
My only complaint about the unit is, it's not marked inside as for volume.

I've had to "relearn" how to brew on this system, as at home, I've always brewed on a 3V system.

All the beers that we have brewed have turned out great, so far.

I've also made several ciders, cysers, mead and am going to start a pyment tonight. (I brought out EC-1118 and K1V-1116)

The people in the kitchen will see me and pull me aside and tell me that they have a container of juice concentrate, that the seal got broke in shipping and ask me if I want it.

Prior, I would fill jugs from the juice dispenser, and get a bag of sugar, sometimes that would give me a partial container of the juice concentrate, when they saw me filling jugs.

I had sent out a bottle of StarSan and a couple of containers of OxyClean along with a few other items, thermometer, long spoons, small funnels. (ordered other small stuff from Amazon)

We also found several cases of 1L swing top bottles that someone else had left behind for any "overage" in the fermenters.

Do what you have to do and make the best of what you have.
 
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Dr_Jeff

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No, not yet.
We likely will.

The guesstimate method is working for now, lol.

I'd need two, one for the hops and one for the grain.

So far, we have brewed, a super Saison, a blond ale that really turned out to be a braggot with all of the honey that we added during fermentation, a Belgian Quad (likely 13-15%), a coffee Porter/Stout, and the IIIPA. Another buddy out here brews Hefeweizens and gave us a couple of kegs of it. He had told us that he had a couple of batches that he didn't have time to bottle and was going to dump, and we were like, hey put them in these instead, and he was like, great, no problem He has since ordered 4 kegs setups for himself and others here on the rock.

He supplies a bunch of people, he likes to brew and give it away, usually has 4-6 batches in process, mostly brews extract batches.

We also have a vacuum sealer to seal up the hops after we open a bag and keep the grain fresh.


Now if I could get someone that has a 24 ounce plastic Folgers container to fill it up with two row and tell me how much it weighs, that would be helpful. My guess, is that the grain would be close in weight to the coffee.
 

IslandLizard

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Now if I could get someone that has a 24 ounce plastic Folgers container to fill it up with two row and tell me how much it weighs, that would be helpful. My guess, is that the grain would be close in weight to the coffee.
Your wish is my command...

I just weighed a "27.2 oz" Folgers container for you, filled flush with the edge, it holds around 52 oz of whole grain (Rahr Pilsner, unmilled).
That's the net weight of the grain, excluding the tare weight of the container itself, of course.
I reckon 2-row ale malt weighing approx. the same, but I could measure it for you too.

I don't know what the fill level of the (fairly coarsely) ground coffee was, it's an old container. But with this experiment, it shows the density of whole grain is not close to that of ground coffee, it's nearly double.

Do you need it measured milled too?
 
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Dr_Jeff

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That's good enough, thanks.
So a little over 3 pounds per scoop. (3 pounds 4 ounces)
I'll measure the container and put marks at 1 and 2 with a sharpie.
 

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I'll measure the container and put marks at 1 and 2 with a sharpie.
That won't work due to the space the built-in handle takes up inside.

To get around that, you could fill it with water using a half pint measure or so and get a good idea where the 1/3 and 2/3 marks (1 and 2 pound resp.) would be.

Mind, my container is 3.2 oz larger than yours... ;), so you may well be closer to 3 pounds even, filled.
 

IslandLizard

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You really need a scale. Or two.
There are many types.

I started out with mechanical dietary scale, then a flat glass kitchen scale (Escali) with a weighing capacity up to 11 lbs, but also weighs in grams, oz, etc. (hops and such) down to one gram, with "one gram accuracy."
When weighing grain it maxes out at 11 lbs, including the tare of the 2-3 gallon "icing bucket." So I usually measure in a 2nd bucket, especially the grain that needs to be milled at a smaller gap than barley (wheat, oats, flaked). That's for 5 gallon batches I brew most for sake of variety.

Over time I acquired 2 other scales.

For (water) minerals you'd need a small scale. The .01 - 100 gram types are very common and useful, for $10-15 (Amazon). I also use it for weighing baker's yeast, and other small amounts.

I'll weigh the pellet hops for you, in volume measures. Stay tuned.
 
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Dr_Jeff

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Well, a nickel coin weighs exactly 5g. Pennies are 2.5g.
Make a beam balance from a ruler and a nail, hang a couple Solo cups from it, and you're good to go.

Send us photos of it in action.

Tom,

I have no change.

Thanks, but there is nowhere to spend money out here except the barbershop, no store, at the post office, one has to print postage online for outgoing packages, and the food is "free". Although I have cash, I don't even need it to get home, the company/government pays for all expenses round trip, flight, taxis, snacks, etc. Anything out here one has to bring or order it online from a vendor that will ship to Alaska, a bunch of them won't ship to Alaska or ship it yourself from home. Even amazon has a lot of stuff that they won't ship to Alaska, sometimes I'll find something, and it will say not available for your location. I haven't even seen a solo cup out here.

One has to be resourceful and keep an eye out for stuff.

I found some wood on the fire pile from crates, plywood, pallets, etc., collected those and took them to the carpentry shop and built a brewstand from an old crate for the Klarstein, a step, and a table for the fermenters. BTW - It's a super nice carpentry shop, and very few people use it. I found out about it after I had been here over a year and asked how one gets access. Went to the B&G lead and he just wanted to know that I knew out to be safe around power tools then gave me the combination to the door. Then he told me if there is anything you need, just let me know.

Also made coasters from ~150+ year old Douglas fir. The wood had been part of a hangar that was built in the 30's and I have counted 70+ rings on the sections that I have and they weren't close to the center of the tree.
 

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Still lmao! 🤣

I don't know if the Doc is a front-line listening spook or doing oceanic research - and he'll likely not tell us either way - but this is hilarious! :D
 
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Dr_Jeff

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I have nails.
I looked around and found some peanut butter in the little containers like jelly comes in at restaurant, and they weigh 1/2 ounce and a small block of packaged cheese, it weighs 3/4 ounce, I also have paper clips that I can use for hooks.

I'll have to look around for a ruler, or make something.

The other problem is, one isn't allowed to take pictures out here, a big no no.
To take pictures - One would have to put in a request, get it justified and approved, then the pictures would then have to be viewed by AF personnel to get final approval to insure that no assets were in the picture.
 

IslandLizard

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I have a SS measuring cup set and SS a measuring spoon set.

How much is an ounce of pellet hops?
1/4 cup?
1/2 cup?
Hops:
1/4 cup (stainless) measure of (the usual, small) T90 pellets weighs 40 gram (~1.4 oz).
1 tbsp of hops weighs 9 grams (~1/3 oz).

That's filled, flush, not heaped.

Note:
When you have a certain measured (small) amount, it's fairly easy to split it into smaller, even sized heaps by just eyeballing them.
 

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This is great stuff! Getting back to coins as weights, UK readers may be interested to know that 20p=5grams, 50p=8grams and £2=12grams. I use these all the time with my old fashioned balance scales for weighing hops.
I have the European version of your Klarstein kit by the way, 240volts with choice of 1.5 or 3kw. It is prone to scorching if there's too much wheat in the grain bill but otherwise Ok.
 

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Might be a good time to convert to Metric system.... 1L of water=1kg you can work out any weight within reason with that configuration.... Use a counter balance or a make shift pulley system with shoe laces....
 
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Dr_Jeff

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I have the European version of your Klarstein kit by the way, 240volts with choice of 1.5 or 3kw. It is prone to scorching if there's too much wheat in the grain bill but otherwise Ok.
I would much rather have the 240v version, but here getting 240v in the room we brew in would be a problem.

Thanks to all for the input on measurements.
 

IslandLizard

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I would much rather have the 240v version, but here getting 240v in the room we brew in would be a problem.
If there are 2 110V outlets on separate circuits (and on opposite sides in the main panel), there will be 240V between them.
You'd need 2 extension cords and bridge them. I'm quite sure that would violate your "installation's" fair use policy.

Also any electric stove, clothes dryer, and such will be 240V.
 

IslandLizard

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Thanks to all for the input on measurements.
YVW! Any time.
Let me know if you need additional ones.

I use 1 gallon plastic mayonnaise containers for "accurately" measuring water volumes, as well as 1 quart "take out" soup containers, with Sharpie markings for 8, 12, 16, and 24 oz.
 

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Might be a good time to convert to Metric system.... 1L of water=1kg
Although it makes an awesome amount of sense for everyone to go metric, it's simply not gonna happen, definitely not in our lifetime.

I was born and raised in metric (North Western) Europe, but when I moved to the US at age 30 I had to convert and think in SAE and Fahrenheit. It took a few years, but it became 2nd nature.

Now conversions back and forth, from and to metric, are still the most puzzling, online calcs are a great boon for that. But as long as one thinks and acts in either, life is quite simple. The measuring part that is. ;)
 
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Dr_Jeff

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I use a gallon vinegar jug to measure water.

I've also used them (the vinegar jugs) to ferment small batches, and at times used a condom with a pinhole for an airlock, when I didn't have enough airlocks.
 
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Dr_Jeff

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If there are 2 110V outlets on separate circuits (and on opposite sides in the main panel), there will be 240V between them.
You'd need 2 extension cords and bridge them. I'm quite sure that would violate your "installation's" fair use policy.

Also any electric stove, clothes dryer, and such will be 240V.

There is a dryer in a room across the hall from where our brew room is, but there would be too many eyes that could see what is going on. It's not against the rules, as people have been brewing on and off out here for a long time. After I had been here a little while, I was told that folks used to brew out here and where the leftover equipment was, I went and looked around, found some swing top bottles, liter and half liter, grabbed those, a big kettle, a burner with a windshield, a broken auto siphon, and a number of other small items, but there wasn't enough left. Also didn't have a clue as to how they ran the burner, as there is no propane out here, and really no feasible way to get any out here. Although it may have been available in the past.

I'm pretty certain that all off the outlets are on the same circuit, and messing with any wiring would be a surefire way to get into trouble.
 

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Although it makes an awesome amount of sense for everyone to go metric, it's simply not gonna happen, definitely not in our lifetime.

I was born and raised in metric (North Western) Europe, but when I moved to the US at age 30 I had to convert and think in SAE and Fahrenheit. It took a few years, but it became 2nd nature.

Now conversions back and forth, from and to metric, are still the most puzzling, online calcs are a great boon for that. But as long as one thinks and acts in either, life is quite simple. The measuring part that is. ;)
Yeah definitely understand that but was just thinking in this one guy's case in his sphere of brewing (only) converting recipes to Metric would make his life a lot easier...
 

IslandLizard

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Yeah definitely understand that but was just thinking in this one guy's case in his sphere of brewing (only) converting recipes to Metric would make his life a lot easier...
The main issue is there are no liter or kilogram measures in the U.S. or at least very hard to come by, outside the scientific world.

Volumes here are typically in gallons, quarts, pints, fl. oz, tbsp, tsp. etc., or whole fractions thereof 1/2, 1/4, 1/8...
For example, the OP said he uses a gallon vinegar jug to measure water volumes when brewing. He probably drew a line somewhere at the 1/2 gallon level.

Weights are in pounds or oz. You do find amounts in recipes such as 7.25 gallons, 4.5 pounds or 2.5 oz... so decimals are used, but don't show in decimal measures, they would have gradations in 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 etc.
 

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The main issue is there are no liter or kilogram measures in the U.S. or at least very hard to come by, outside the scientific world.

Volumes here are typically in gallons, quarts, pints, fl. oz, tbsp, tsp. etc., or whole fractions thereof 1/2, 1/4, 1/8...
For example, the OP said he uses a gallon vinegar jug to measure water volumes when brewing. He probably drew a line somewhere at the 1/2 gallon level.

Weights are in pounds or oz. You do find amounts in recipes such as 7.25 gallons, 4.5 pounds or 2.5 oz... so decimals are used, but don't show in decimal measures, they would have gradations in 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 etc.
That's true but OP said he had these:
We also found several cases of 1L swing top bottles that someone else had left behind for any "overage" in the fermenters.
 

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My opinion - unless you are brewing to numbers, or BJCP styles, or for judging at competitions, or trying to replicate a precise recipe, you don't need a scale. I started off with a small scale that gave issues, so one day I simply took a bucket, measured out specific weights of malt, added them to the bucket and made marks. I now know to what level, roughly, to pour the malt in the bucket to get a rough "weight", and I brewed like that for almost 18 months. The only stuff I weighed were my hops and specialty malts, in small amounts.

Hell, I can't even remember the last time I used a hydrometer in my "just for myself" brews at home. I boil, pour into cube, and next day I pitch yeast. Once the fermentation stops, I typically seal the fermenter and leave it for another 5 days or so before cold crashing and kegging. Done. Nice beer on tap. And it works:



Pseudo-pilsner. I have no idea exactly how much malt went in there, what the OG or FG was, or what the ABV is. I just know that it sits (well, sat, the keg kicked it this past weekend) at 23 IBUs, bittered with the cheapest, high IBU hops I could find, and has some Perle and Saaz hops at flameout. Fermented with S-04.
 

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My mate never weighs anything. He just chucks in malts and hops and has no idea what strength his beer is. Most of his beer is decent but impossible to recreate. FFS.
 

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I have scales and I have hydrometer, but I really haven't had reason to use either one, lately. Two 5lb bags of Viking pale 2-row, about a fifth of a bag of 350L Chocolate, a cannister of quaker quick oats, a cannister of quaker quick grits, two closed fistfuls of Helga hops, BE-134 or Voss Kviek or harvested yeast, for a 5 gallon batch. Fermentation is indoors, climate controlled, room temperature. (typically about 74F.) This is a simple recipe and I am not going to bother fine tuning it because frankly I don't think my palate can discern the difference between the 10lb 2-row and 9lb 13oz or whatever. The amounts are partly influenced by ease of measurement, and it just happens to work nicely for me. Scales don't make your beer taste better. They just give you another detail to agonize over, and trivia to share with other HB'ers.
 

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I have scales and I have hydrometer, but I really haven't had reason to use either one, lately. Two 5lb bags of Viking pale 2-row, about a fifth of a bag of 350L Chocolate, a cannister of quaker quick oats, a cannister of quaker quick grits, two closed fistfuls of Helga hops, BE-134 or Voss Kviek or harvested yeast, for a 5 gallon batch. Fermentation is indoors, climate controlled, room temperature. (typically about 74F.) This is a simple recipe and I am not going to bother fine tuning it because frankly I don't think my palate can discern the difference between the 10lb 2-row and 9lb 13oz or whatever. The amounts are partly influenced by ease of measurement, and it just happens to work nicely for me. Scales don't make your beer taste better. They just give you another detail to agonize over, and trivia to share with other HB'ers.
I hear ya. I'm crashing a cyser right now. I put all the ingredients in a BMB, waited a few days, added another pack of yeast in a starter (that kinda gave it a good "reboot" for a few days where the krausen got kicked up a bit. Let it go for another week or so.
I just dumped two vanilla beans in there for an extra bit of flavor. O haven't even sampled it yet.😅😅😅
 

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I agree with the beam balance idea. A somewhat round rock and a stick would do in a pinch as long as you can find some consistent sized shells or pebbles to use as your counter weight.
That's the old method is to just adapt your brewing method to "eighty shells of hops" or "10 stones of grain"...it'll be a new unit of measure, call it a stone! (Oh wait)...
 
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