Thursday, February 25, 2010


I'd like to start off by saying, I love curling. Aside from aerials, border & skier cross, and the biathlon, curling remains one of my favorite events of the Winter Olympics. Which for the past week and a half, and the remainder of this week, has been permanently tuned to on our television. That and American Idol suppose, which I can't stand. The wife watches that while I'm out coaching. Thankfully.

The picture I posted last was the vision of my next major project. While the ESB finishes, I'll be working on a number of brewing related (yay!) and non-brewing related (boo.) projects. What you see in the picture is part of the collection of products for my HERMS (heat exchange recirculating mash system). In the picture you see (from left to right) my March pump, my (orange) mash tun, Auber Instruments PID temperature controller, and Blichmann Autosparge mechanism. I also have a pair of solenoid valves along the way. I have redesigned the schematic from the last time I wrote about the HERMS system (Link). I'll post that when I go into greater detail about the system. Once the valves get here I'll have most of the parts. Major items remaining include a vessel for the hot liquor tank (a craigslist keg hopefully), a slew of quick disconnects, and a buttload of 1/2" copper pipe.

I will also be building a few bottle boxes and will put the plans for them online. My cardboard boxes currently holding my bottles are getting all warped and squishy. I'm not so sure they're going to last too much longer, and I sure as hell don't want the bottles to fall out the bottom when I'm carrying them from one place to another and shatter getting beer everywhere. The dogs will love it of course. Well, until they ingest the glass, then my vet (you know who you are) will love it cause i'll be paying her half my life savings to fix them. So inadvertently breaking beer bottles will please my vet... but I digress.

Unfortunately on top of all this will be competing another project for my wife. She manage to take a wonderful gesture of my genorosity and turn it around to bite me in the butt. She's been asking me to make a kitchen island for a number of months now. A trick, a kiss, and a smile later, she got me promising to make one. There's a reason there's the term SWMBO (she who must be obeyed).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sick day.

You ever noticed when you stayed home from school sick and watched cartoons all day that the cartoons always seemed to be about the characters getting sick? For the longest time I thought this was some surreal coincidence. But then a few years ago I had this epiphany that maybe the tv networks would play cartoons where the characters got sick during the week because kids that were home during the week, were likely sick. Years of mystical belief got burst by 30 seconds of rational thinking.

Anyway, I've been fighting this wicked cold since last Wednesday, which is why I'm posting about nothing in particular. I'll just end this with a teaser picture of a lot of seemingly random (unless you're a homebrewer), and peculiar, items.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A dollar short?

Nope. But I did brew Monday! It was fantastic! Dave ended up being a no-show, something about a "job." But the weather was absolutely beautiful. I'm pretty convinced that it prettied up just so I could comfortably brew in the backyard, because that night the temperatures plummeted all over again, and now I'm back to whining about how blessed cold it is in the morning. That to the right is one of my brewing partners.

Brewing went absolutely great. While I brewed I did a lot of reading, I read my inaugural issue of Brew Your Own (a subscription my wife got my for Christmas, awesome!), which had an awesome article about the collapse of the cellular structure of foam (aka the head on your beer). Of course that article really appealed to the engineer side of me.

I learned a few things as well too. The simple bit of education was my mash tun is leaking around the bulkhead valve. Re-caulking the bulkhead and putting it back together should be easy enough, if they indeed make high-temp caulk. Oh, and as a result of my leak I also found out that all three of my dogs love sugary wort.

I had an epiphany while brewing as well. Leading up to my HERMs upgrade, I've been doing a lot of research on sparging. It seems that I keep getting hung up on this area because of all the different trains of thought, and what appeared to me, not all of them accomplishing the same thing and breaking each others rules. Maybe it's a rookie mistake, but I was under the impression that you lauter (let all the wort run out) THEN you sparge (pour in the sparge water). From what I understand (and please correct me if I'm wrong), you sparge WHILE lautering. Which totally makes sense to me now. I'll go more into my HERMs design at another time.


So now my wort is bubbling away in the fermenter, and quite vigorously. So much so that I noticed some krausen had bubbled through my vinty airlock. So I ripped it out and replaced it with my 3-piece filled with vodka. All is well.

In finishing, I started getting paid for my coaching position this week, and I just put in some orders for some brewing goodies... I wonder what I may have in store... Hmmm...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I don't want to hear about your snow...

I know I've talked about the cold weather already. But I just want to reinstate how damn cold it is down here in Florida. I realize I didn't have to get up 2 hours early this morning to dig my car out of snows. I realize that by living in Florida I'll NEVER have to do that. But one of the reasons I moved down to Florida was so I didn't have to deal with this cold weather! It was 33 degrees this morning!!! That's almost freezing! It's not supposed to get that cold down here. I left my ice scraper up in New York. But I digress.

The picture you're about to see isn't pretty. I'm not proud of it. It's not the typical DIY I like to show off. You see, a few months ago I slid my kegerator into its cubby filled with kegs and ready to dispense. It dispenses beautifully. But I haven't been able to slide it out since. When I built out the corner I measured things perfectly. I had exactly 1/4" of space on either side. Well that 1/4" space went missing a month or two back. Where? Dunno. But I haven't been able to get it out. If you look closely in the picture you see a piece of rope. That was a semi-failed attempt at yanking it out of it's hole. Well yesterday I purchased a handicap bath handrail. It's supposed to hold up to 500 lbs. I also bought some insane epoxy. It says it can hold 1,250 pounds per square inch of glued area. The way I see it, if the bar doesn't break, theoretically I have over 2500 pounds of bonding force.

Now I realize I'm an engineer. I'm suppose to get this stuff. But I just don't see how it will work. I know it's supposed to. But I still haven't yanked on the handle yet. I'm going to let it cure for another day just for good measure. If it works, it'll be a great idea to give your kegerator a handle. Otherwise... well I don't want to think about what I'm going to do then.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rainy day update

Well it's raining in central Florida again. Which is unusual for this time of year. Usually I wouldn't have too much of an issue with it, but it's supposed to rain like crazy in the summer not the winter. Oh well. Mother nature will have her ways.

In more beer related news I'm about a third of the way through Charlie Papazian's "Joy of Homebrewing." Of course a later post of my review will surface when I'm finished, but as a small spoiler, I like it alot. It's good reading, a lot more than just a dry how-to.

I have to apologize, this is a beer brewing blog, and mostly what I've been writing about is my do-it-yourself projects and reviews of books I've been reading. That's due to the recent lack of brewing. I've been cursed (or blessed, depending on how you look at it) with copious amounts of beer. Basically, unless I want to start filling the bathtubs with beer (which wont please the wife), I'm out of containers. I've got 1 set of bottles, and 4 kegs, and they're all full. Well, at this point not "full" just occupied. And I am diligently working towards emptying them. The good news comes in that I believe one of them is very close to being done. That said, I believe the outlook for brewing in the near future (Monday) is bright. I'll keep y'all posted.

And on with the DIY. I finally made a drip tray for my kegerator. I ran into the dilemma a while back. I made the wonderful 4-tap setup, but decided to worry about the drips later. For a few months I had a towel hanging over the taps to wipe off drips after pouring a pint. And much to my surprise, purchasing ready made trays is EXPENSIVE. Much like purchasing ready made towers, but that's another can of worms. Well I got to work and found the rubber bar mats on for about 12 bucks. Just one table saw (which one may argue is more expensive than a wide drip tray, but I say it's more versatile) and some lumber later I finished my tray. And in all the beautiful splendor and cherry wood stain, here it is.

As you see in the second picture the rubber mat is removable, so periodic washing is easy. I'll add a few more images over at homebrewtalk, and I'll add the link when I finish the post.

Edit: Check the post out at

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Strength in numbers

Or my first blog-by-email. So please pardon me for any horrible typing mistakes if you read this before I get home and correct it. I'm sitting at the SWMBO's softball game. She plays at our towns local league. It's wicked exciting. Really. That's why I'm writing at the game. Well, she supports my brewing, it's the least I can do!

On beer news, I finally got my membership card for the American Homebrwers Association! Now I get access to the forums over at their site, discounts at select pubs, and discounts and invitations to homebrew events and competitions. Pretty sweet actually (check it out @ And apologies for missing my early-week update. I was out of town inspecting houses at my real job. You know, the one that pays me.

After some discussion and a lot of aging, Dave and I have agreed that our Irish red could be a contender. We'll begin discussing what we should do with it next time we meet. Next week I'll post some pics of the new drip tray. It really works great and completes the look of the kegerator!

Sent from my iPhone