DIY Hopback

I migrated from a three vessel brew system to BIAB a few months ago and it’s been an interesting journey. I really like the brew day efficiency of BIAB – less to prepare and clean and a much shorter brew day.Hopback assembly However, there are a few things about BIAB for which I’m actively developing solutions. One of those things is filtering the particulates from my wort prior to chilling. Enter the DIY hopback.

I first got the idea from a youtube video and thought ‘That would make a great filter, too!’ I bought an asparagus steamer from Bed Bath and Beyond, drilled some holes and installed my fittings. Here’s a shot of the finished product.

 

Hardware Specs

Inlet Connection

1 x 1/2″ Hex Nipple
1 x 1/2″ Machined Coupling
2 x 1/2″ Lock Nut
1 x 1/2″ Type B Camlock Coupler
1 x 7/8″ ID Washer
1 x 1/2″ Food Grade Gasket

Outlet Connection

1 x 1/2″ 90* Street Elbow
1 x 1/2″ Lock Nut
1 x 1/2″ Food Grade Gasket
1 x 1/2″ Hex Nipple
1 x 1/2″ Type F Camlock Adapter
1 x 1/2″ 2-Piece Ball Valve
1 x 7/8″ ID Washer

Finished Product

Here are some pics illustrating how this is assembled. Right now, I’m using a very fine mesh hop bag as the filter. It prevents pellets and other particulates from clogging my plate chiller.

HB-outlet2HP-outlet1

HB-outlet3HB-ballvalve HB-inlet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some future plans:

  • I’m replacing the vessel with this one. It’s 2 inches shorter and 1.5 inches wider and doesn’t have handles.
  • Replace the hop bag with a stainless steel fine mesh screen. This will help with cleaning and durability.
  • Weld 1/2″ spuds to the inlet and outlet and ditch the gaskets.
  • Install an electronic flow control sensor to turn my pump on and off at specific fluid levels.

I bought a Crouzet NNR110A fluid controller from Mouser. Here’s the link. Right now, I’m using a remote to turn the pump on and off as the vessel fills but sometimes I’m not quick enough and the vessel empties and the pump runs dry for a moment. This will ensure that there’s always fluid inside the vessel preventing any pump issues.

That’s all I have for now.

Cheers!

Christmas Ale – 2014

Each year, I try to make my signature Christmas ale that I first brewed a few years ago. The original batch was an experiment where I dosed the wort of an American amber with some mulling spices. The result wasn’t bad but had too much clove. I’ve since refined the recipe and have cut back significantly on the clove.

The first ever batch of my Christmas ale was an extract brew – 2 x 3.3lb cans of amber LME and some hops. Pitched some dry yeast and I had beer a few weeks later. The end result didn’t taste bad, but the beer lacked body and depth. I played with the recipe and incorporated steeped specialty grains, which helped the beer a lot.

I now brew all grain and lately I’ve been brewing a lot using the brew in a bag (BIAB) method. I brewed my Christmas ale two weeks ago and it’s happily fermenting away. I’m feeling a bit festive so I’d like to share the recipe with you all for my Christmas ale.

Grains

11 lbs Pearl Malt (an English Pale Malt)
1 lb Munich Malt
1 lb Flaked Wheat
12 oz Crystal 45 (English)
8 oz Chocolate Malt
8 oz Crystal 120

Hops

1 oz Chinook pellets – 60 minute boil
.5 oz Centennial pellets – 15 minutes whirlpool

Mash

Add 42.34 qts of water at 163.1F
Mash at 156F for 60 minutes
Heat to 168F for 7 minutes and mash out

Specialty Ingredients

1 Whirfloc tablet, last 15 minutes of boil
.5 oz of mulling spices with whole cloves removed, last 15 minutes of boil
3-5 whole cloves, last 15 minutes of boil

Boil

Bring to a vigorous rolling boil for 90 minutes and add hops and specialty ingredients at their respective times

Fermentation

I normally use either WLP001 California Ale liquid yeast or Nottingham dry yeast, but I’m trying a different yeast for this brew at the recommendation of a my LHBS.

Chill and oxygenate the wort
Pitch 2 packets of rehydrated Mangrove Jack M44 West Coast Ale yeast
Ferment at 65-70F for 15 days

Dry Hop

I dry hop toward the end of fermentation for 5-7 days.

.5 oz of Centennial
.5 oz of Cascade
.5 oz mulling spice (whole cloves removed)

Notes

This yeast was a very slow starter. There were no visible signs of fermentation after 24 hours. Finally after about 30 hours, a thin krausen formed on top and grew to about 2 inches thick. Things finally settled after about 10 days.

Here are some pics of the ingredients and brew process. I have a few more days before I measure gravity and decide whether to keg or condition. I’ll post an update then. Again – this is for the BIAB method. If you would like this to be converted to extract or standard all-grain, let me know and I’ll post the converted recipes and process.

Cheers!

14.75 pounds of malty goodness

Mmmmm...hops! Boil!Pre-boil Gravity 1.046CA-ferm

 

Hefeweizen Yeast Starter

I’m planning a hefeweizen brew day in a couple of days so I got my yeast starter going today. I’ve only recently started using starters with good success and now I won’t brew a beer without one. Making a yeast starter is super simple and I’d like to share my quick recipe.

Ingredients

2 cups of water
1/2 cup of DME or 2/3 cup of LME

hefe-starter1

Stir in the malt extract and bring to a boil for about 10-15 minutes. While this is boiling, sanitize your flask or mini-fermenting vessel, stir bar (don’t sweat it if you don’t have a stir plate), funnel, bung, airlock, and the yeast pack/vial. 

After the boil, chill the wort to about 65-70 degrees. If you have a refractometer, take a quick look and check the OG. You want to target no more than 1.040. Vigorously shake the flask, pitch the yeast and drop in the sanitized stir bar. Plug the flask with the sanitized airlock and place on the stir plate.

No stir plate? No problem. Just give the flask/vessel a gentle swirl every few hours. You should start to see some activity in the airlock in a few hours.

 

Cheers!

Homebrewing Hose Clamps

OK – lesson learned here and I’m sharing with all of you. I experienced a minor catastrophe during a recent brew session. I was brewing an all-grain chocolate oatmeal stout and everything was going my way. I was hitting my mash temps, keeping up with cleaning, had plenty of cold beer to enjoy – all was right with the world.

This was also the first time I was using some new equipment: silicon hoses, quick connect camlocks, and my new plate chiller. The boil completed and I let the whirlpool rest. I started to slowly transfer the wort from the brew kettle through my plate chiller and into the fermenter. Catastrophe struck about three minutes into the transfer. The silicon hose attached to the out port camlock on the pump slipped off of the fitting and 200 degree wort was just spilling everywhere. I quickly closed the ball valve on the kettle. I lost about a gallon or so.

I really learned two lessons here:

  1. Add a ball valve to the pump so the flow can be controlled there.
  2. Always, and I mean ALWAYS use clamps on your hoses. Yeah – that sucked.

I found some of the stainless steel clamps and used one of those to keep things secure. OK – so what’s the point of this post? Well I want to show off some of these awesome clamps I picked up from Amazon. I hate those stainless clamps – they look like shit and they get in the way if you need to unscrew something with a host attached to it. I knew which clamps I wanted but I had a hard time finding them. They are single bond nylon hose clamps. The size that works for my setup is 3/4″ with a minimum ID of .730 and a maximum OD of .830.

Clamp-2

A box of 25 cost about 12 bucks with shipping from clipsandfasteners.com. Totally worth it. The one con is that they are a bit of a pain in the ass to take off, but I don’t plan on removing them that often.

Here’s what they look like installed – much better than those stainless steel things.

Clamp-3

Cheers!

 

HERMS Kettle Conversion – Update 1

Quick update on the HERMS kettle conversion. My last post on the HERMS concluded with a dead drill battery and me calling it quits for the day. Since then, my battery completely recharged and I completed the coil installation. Here’s a pic of the coil installed using compression fitting bulkheads.

Coil-Installed-1

 A word of advice: Install the compression fittings on the coil FIRST and then feed the bulkhead connections through the holes. It’s a lot easier than trying to tighten the nuts with large wrenches and very little room.

The external connections are 1/2″ female camlocks for quick connecting/disconnecting. I picked up these camlocks at proflowdynamics.com. They are reasonably priced and make brew day much easier.

External-1

Next will be a leak test followed by a mock boil/mash setup. I’ll do the polishing last since I’m anxious to see this thing in action!

Cheers

HERMS Kettle Conversion

I started a new project today and I’m pretty excited about it. My mash tun is a 10 gallon cooler and it hasn’t be easy to keep the mash temps at a constant temp. I researched possible solutions, which included using a RIMS or a HERMS setup. I opted for the HERMS since I’m not as awesome as I think I am when it comes to electricity. Cool – now I just need a new HLT and all of the shit that goes along with building a HERMS.

I picked up a used brew kettle from a fellow homebrewer. Aside from some cosmetic ugliness and the Coors logo embossed on it, the kettle was in pretty good shape. I replaced the fittings and the thermometer with all new stainless and a Blichmann Brewmometer. Next up is to get the parts needed for a HERMS coil.

Kettle-1

Copper vs Stainless?

Copper is really cool looking when it’s nice and shiny, plus it’s readily available in Lowes or HD. However, it looks like shit when it gets funkified and has potential for leaks if you don’t know how to properly sweat pipes.

I saw some pics of a stainless coil and was like “Oh shit! That looks awesome. And it would totally look like I know what I’m doing ;)” I found a coil that met my needs at stainlessbrewing.com. Small hiccup: the stupid Coors keg has the “spare tire” thing going on and I need a coil tall enough to span the bulge. Of course that only comes in 1/2″ OD and it takes 50 feet. This adds up to the higher priced coil – about 96 bucks. I scored a pretty nice deal on the kettle so the 96 bucks was doable. Sold.Coil-1

Next up on the parts list are the bulkhead compression fittings. Holy shit these things are expensive! They came to about 28 a piece x 2. Aside: If anyone tells you that homebrewing is cheaper than buying craft beer, they are full of it.
I picked up the compression fittings from BobbyfromNJ – he surprisingly has reasonable prices.

Fittings-1

I finally had the time to put this thing together. The first step in assembly is to clean this kettle. I want a fresh new look since this is a new addition to my brewery. I picked up some finishing pads for my angle grinder (medium, fine, and polishing) and spent a few hours cleaning the kettle. Remember that before pic? Here it is after the a couple of rounds with the finishing pads. I haven’t polished it yet but I’ll tackle that next week.Polished-2

I started to drill the holes for the new compression fittings but I could hear the drill making this noise. That was the sound of me packing it in and heading down to the local brewpub for a growler and some pints. I’ll charge the battery and play tomorrow :)

I’ll post an update in a few days after I complete my HERMS kettle.

Cheers

New Blog, New Brews

First I’d like to say thanks for visiting stuntBeer. I’m really excited about the new blog and I hope you find the content helpful. This isn’t my first beer related blog. I had another one a few years ago but I let it go so that I could focus on my professional career. Don’t worry – I still have a job. :)

I am in the process of importing the posts from my old blog. That should be done in a few days. They are categorized as paulbeer.com and tagged with archive. Do check them out!

Most of the posts will be about homebrewing. I’ll share tips, tricks, other links, my successes, as well as my failures (hence the name stuntBeer.) Occasionally I will write about some beers that I’ve tried or maybe share some food recipes (I enjoy cooking, grilling, and smoking.) However, the primary goal of this blog is to share knowledge…and brag about my awesome homebrews. ;)

If you have suggestions or comments, please feel free to drop me a line in the comments section.

Cheers!

Paul

lazy-ass wheat ale

I have a tendency to be a little lazy at times…

I bought a recipe of the month kit from Beer‐wine.com last summer and I finally made it two months ago. Why did it take so long?

The recipe called for a pound of crushed wheat, 1 pound of flaked oats, 2 pounds of DME, and 1 quart of Briess Bavarian Wheat LME. It also included some Tettnanger hop pellets, Irish moss (which they forgot to include), 10 packets of “real” lemon juice, and 3⁄4 of a cup of priming sugar. The “real” lemon juice was gross so I ditched it in favor of fresh lemon zest. Good choice.

Wheat ale in the Primary Wheat ale after it's been racked

That is the brew right before I racked it. It looked a little dark in the primary, so I got a little nervous. Once I start to siphon it out, I could see the real color and all was good. That’s much better looking, isn’t it? I thought so as well! Looks good. More laziness…

I hate sanitizing bottles. I thought I’d get a jump on bottle‐duty by sanitizing a case of bottles in the dishwasher. I’ve used my d/w before for sanitizing bottles and it works great. It has a special sanitizing setting where it uses hi‐temp water and very hi heat to dry and kill bacteria. Only one small problem…Jet Dry. Yep. Beer bottles do not like Jet Dry (or any other rinse agents for that matter). Rinse agents kill the head when you pour the beer. Oh the beer stays fully carbonated, but you get no head. And no head we all know what it’s like to not get any head…when we pour beer. John Palmer explains why in his book. If you don’t already have it, get ‘How to Brew’. This is one of the best brewing books available. He does a great job at explaining everything you need to know. It even has pictures of what things should look like and it has some recipes in it. Well worth the money.

I digress. Bottles, I hate sanitizing bottles. I decided to invest in a mini keg system. I don’t really have much room in my house for a kegerator and I really do not want to run downstairs every time I want a beer. Mini kegs are small enough to fit in the fridge and the tap‐a‐keg system fits onto them with an adapter. Beer‐wine.com has a Mini keg system available at a reasonable price. Check it out. I should be receiving that soon, I hope. I’d like to try this beer and play with the mini keg tap system. That should be pretty cool.

Cheers!

amber ale gravity test

OG 1.049 Amber Ale
By the time I was done brewing Saturday night, it was about 12:30AM. I couldn’t pitch the yeast yet because the wort was still way too hot. I left it outside with the lid on for about an hour or so but that didn’t help much. I decided to just bring it back in and pitch the yeast in the morning.

I checked the temp again in the morning and saw that it was at 80 degrees. I also did another gravity test to compare it to the initial and I’m glad I did. There was a difference of 7 points between the two tests. The most recent one is just about where I want it to be The target is 1.050, and my actual reading is 1.049.

I think this will turn out just fine. I’m already thinking about what I can do to enhance this beer. I plan on dry hoping with some Hallertau hops. I really do enjoy the aroma that Hallertau hops have. Hmmmn…could there be an all Hallertau brew in the future? Possibly!

Cheers!

recreating a good ale

I’ve been working on creating an ale recipe that will hopefully taste like one of my very first ales. The problem with this is the first ale was a kit that is made with cans of hopped malt extract. The varieties of hops used are not listed and I have no idea what the malt mixture is, but I’m determined to recreate this beer.

I’ve been doing some research on hop varieties and what their characteristics are when added at various times of boil. Since the ale I’m trying to brew is not very bitter, I’m looking to use hops that are low in alpha acids and have a great aroma. I’ve decided to use mainly Kent Goldings with small amounts of Fuggles and Hallertau. I’ll use most of the Hallertau in the dry hopping process.

I paid my local homebrew supply store a visit this weekend to pickup the ingredients I need. Since there is a global hop shortage, the amount of hops I can purchase is limited. I picked up a couple of ounces of Hallertau and Kent Goldings along with some extract and Nottingham ale yeast. The recipe will call for about 5 ounces of hops total, but that’s ok because I have a secret stash. I started to order a couple ounces of miscellaneous hops whenever the need to refresh supplies came about. They are shipped in vacuum sealed packages and they are kept cool.

When’s brew day? Next Saturday! I’ll also be bottling the Belgian wheat that’s been sitting in one of my carboys for a few weeks.

That’s pretty much all I have for now. I’ll be back later this week.

Cheers!