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. 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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:
- Add a ball valve to the pump so the flow can be controlled there.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.