Tell Me How to Spend My Money

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NothingRhymesWithCurtiss

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Like a lot of people that home brew, I’m on a budget, so whenever I get some “spending money” it’s a battle to decide what to buy.

Here’s what I already have:
  • 8 Gallon Tall Boy Kettle
  • 2 Gallon Pot
  • Darkstar 2.0 Burner
  • 2 - 6 Gallon Ale Pales w/Lid
  • Bottling Bucket
  • 2 - 2 Gallon PET Fermenters
  • 2 - 1 Gallon Glass Fermenters
  • Wort Chiller
  • Misc equipment: Airlocks, Bungs, Bottle Filler, Caps, Auto-Siphons, Tubing, Funnels/Strainers, Caps, Bottle Tree, Thermometers…

Given my $90 budget, here’s my dilemma/options:
  1. Buy equipment to dedicate to brewing Sours.
    - I’ve priced out a 3 gallon carboy, auto-siphon/hose, and ingredients for a 3 gallon batch, and I’m at around $75 before shipping
  2. Convert a 36 quart cooler that I already have into a mash tun.
    - It is a standard Coleman cooler from a few years back, so I have concerns about temp dropping too quickly
    - It does not have a drain, so I will need to drill through the body/insulation, which also concerns me
    - Best guess is that it would cost me about $40 for the parts, and with the $50 left over I could put together a few all grain recipes
  3. You tell me what to buy/do

Thanks!
 

dyqik

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I'm guessing from the equipment that you max out at 5 gal batches, but also could do 3 or 4 gal batches - bottling means that you don't need to fill a 5 gal keg, so you can work in arbitrary increments of batch size.

Option 2 is a biggish step, and may make brewing less fun for you - depends if you want to dedicate the time to all-grain brews, which can easily take 4 hours. Maybe a few 3-4 gal BIAB runs in the 8 gal pot with a 5 gal paint strainer bag is worth trying first. BIAB is definitely the cheapest way to get a feel for all-grain before committing to a mash tun. And you may decide that one of Wilser's BIAB bags and maybe a larger kettle is a better investment than a cooler mash tun.

Option 3a: Fermentation temperature control. $50 and some patience should score you a secondhand dorm type minifridge from craigslist etc., which with a bit of modification (add a wooden collar around door) will fit a 6 gal ale pail. Then $20 plus a few odds and ends should get you an STC-1000 temperature controller for it, to at least control the cooling, and to control heating when you are ready to add that if required.

I also don't see a wort chiller listed. Let's call that 3b)...

For sours, maybe you should wait until you are ready to replace hoses (needs to be done every couple of years, IMO) etc. and then move those over to the sours. Again, patience should score you a glass carboy from craigslist or the for sale forum here etc. for not much money to give you a fermenter dedicated to sours - mine cost $10, I think.
 
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NothingRhymesWithCurtiss

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I'm guessing from the equipment that you max out at 5 gal batches, but also could do 3 or 4 gal batches - bottling means that you don't need to fill a 5 gal keg, so you can work in arbitrary increments of batch size.

Option 2 is a biggish step, and may make brewing less fun for you - depends if you want to dedicate the time to all-grain brews, which can easily take 4 hours. Maybe a few 3-4 gal BIAB runs in the 8 gal pot with a 5 gal paint strainer bag is worth trying first. BIAB is definitely the cheapest way to get a feel for all-grain before committing to a mash tun. And you may decide that one of Wilser's BIAB bags and maybe a larger kettle is a better investment than a cooler mash tun.

Option 3a: Fermentation temperature control. $50 and some patience should score you a secondhand dorm type minifridge from craigslist etc., which with a bit of modification (add a wooden collar around door) will fit a 6 gal ale pail. Then $20 plus a few odds and ends should get you an STC-1000 temperature controller for it, to at least control the cooling, and to control heating when you are ready to add that if required.

I also don't see a wort chiller listed. Let's call that 3b)...

For sours, maybe you should wait until you are ready to replace hoses (needs to be done every couple of years, IMO) etc. and then move those over to the sours. Again, patience should score you a glass carboy from craigslist or the for sale forum here etc. for not much money to give you a fermenter dedicated to sours - mine cost $10, I think.
Yes, I'm maxing out at 5 gallons. I just bought the Mega Pot, so upgrading to a larger pot this soon won't exactly go over well with SWMBO.

Good call on BIAB. I've done it for some 2 gallon batches, so definitely worth considering stepping it up.

I forgot that I just bought a wort chiller. Updated my list. It's currently in-transit.

I have been using my basement floor in the winter and a swamp cooler in the summer to regulate temps. I'm able to keep temps between 61 and 63 using these methods.

I didn't consider using my "old plastics" for sours when the time to replace them comes, rather than rushing out to buy "new" equipment for sours. Thanks.
 

wilserbrewer

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Try BIAB in your 8 gallon pot, you can either pour over sparge or dunk sparge in a bucket with water heated in your 3 gallon pot.

You should be able to squeak a full 5 gallon AG batch.
 

Calder

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5 gallon paint straining bags from hardware store; about $4 for 2. You should be able to mash 4 or 5 lbs of grain with no issues (save on extract). After getting the hang of it, you might want to invest in one of Wislerbrewers tailored bags and go all-in for BIAB.

Sour beers: Save dregs from any sour you drink, and make a quick gallon in the glass carboys. Basic sours can be made really easily from extract. No long boil, minimal hops. I went crazy into sours for aq while, and now I have way too many sours; I probably have 50+ bottles, and 30 gallons in fermenters (and most of it is over 2 years, some coming on 4 years). Work on 1 or 2 bottles a week, and not get a big pipeline going. ..... I think I might bottle some next week!!!

By swamp cooler, do you mean big tub? If so, you might want to invest in a fish tank heater to get temps up to ferment warmer - Belgians and Saisons like that. Also good for diecetyl rest at the end of fermentation.

Pint mason jars - I use them to store slurry, for re-use of yeast.

I wouldn't use a cooler without a drain. Leakage into the insulation could be an issue. I PM/PB, and use a 5 gallon Coleman cooler. It cost me about 10 - 15 dollars to convert. I use drilled CPVC tubing as a manifold, and a 5 gallon paint straining bag fits perfectly, so the combination of the two makes a great strainer for the wort.
 

Brewsncrabs

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Fermentation chamber should be tops on the list. Save a few bucks a week and you will have one soon. Ask swmbo for $20 for gas and put in $15. Put the $5 away for future brew use! She will never know. It works. I did it for years.
 

TX_Brewing

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Agree with fermentation temp control. You could BIAB/batch sparge in the cooler..... It would need a bit of manual labor on transfer of the wort but really would probably work quite well..... So spen $5 on some nylon paint strainer bags from Home Depot and use leftovers to sort out temp control on fermentation.
 
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NothingRhymesWithCurtiss

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Thanks for all the advice.

Ordered some bags from Wilser on Friday. Now I'm researching ways to maintain mash temps for BIAB, as well as a means to better control fermentation temps.

Cheers!
 
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