Monday, September 24, 2012

Oooh Shiney!

Ever notice when someone says something will be a "great opportunity" for you, it's always about something that's going to totally suck at first? It reminds me of Calvin's day referring to something that will "build character." Well, I've had a good opportunity fall in my lap at work. It really is one, but that doesn't make it any less stressful. That combined with my typical resistance to change has made this past week more than just a little stressful. So that made it particularly nice to have a quiet weekend. I didn't get as much done on R2-DBREW as I planned, but made good progress none-the-less.

Two out of three kegs are fully polished. Even though I was just standing in the garage with a fan on me, it was exhausting. I spent about 4 hours on Saturday doing two of the kegs, and an hour today starting on the third.

Polishing the keg is easy. I found a great how-to on homebrewtalk that gained such popularity it earned it's own sticky in the DIY thread. Start to finish (without keg, and without angle grinder) it's about a $50 investment. The DIY thread has you go with Gator Grit, but anything similar would work just fine. You need a "medium" grit pad, a "fine" pad, a buffing pad, and number 2 and number 5 polish. To use these pads you need a backing accessory for your angle grinder. Start with the medium and get to polishing. It takes about 3 hours to complete a keg depending on how rough of shape it was to start in.

If there's a bunch of stickers on your keg, you're going to want to get some "Goof-Off" or similar product and remove all the goop. The goop will gum up your grinding pads pretty quick. That being said, getting the sticky off is a pain, and maybe you want to just buy some sacrificial sanding pads instead.

You start with the medium pad, then move to the fine pad, and then the buffing pad. You apply the number 2 polish first, by holding the end of the stick (like a big piece of chalk) and holding it against the wheel. Then polish away like you did before. Apply the polish compound regularly. I wouldn't mix polish compounds on your buffing pad either, your #5 finish probably wont look as nice.

After all the hard work you should be able to see yourself in the keg. Take a rag and soak with mineral spirits or acetone or similar and wipe all the residue off. Now you've got some kegs sportin bling so serious Flava Flave is jealous.

While you're here, visit the link on the side of the site and get yourself a subscriptions to Brew Your Own!

Monday, September 17, 2012

R2-DBREW Update

R2-DBREW is coming along well.

Phase 1 - Frame - is obviously complete. It's been done a while now, and is still holding strong and looking great. We're getting close to the point where it's time for a sweet (black) paint job.

Phase 2 - Gas Train - is complete sans troubleshooting. Also been done for a while, and aside from some errant flame geysers, we're all good.

Phase 3 - Plumbing - has just been completed! Copper now runs to everywhere it needs to. All the solenoid valves have been installed, teflon'd, and are ready to be hooked up to my soon to be controller. I have a spot for future expansion to a wort chiller. Sweating the copper was as easy as I remembered it, but this was a much larger scale. Getting it to line up with the frame was a pain as well. But getting the pump to line up with the system was the biggest pain. It did not want to fit together. Things are all clamped down now, and the water side has been tested. I can't really test the keg side of things until the kegs are all ready to go and the control box is done. Again, complete sans troubleshooting.

Phase 4 - Kegs - will be next. The kegs need to be outfitted with all their fancy new equipment. I have some compression fittings ordered from Brewer's Hardware for my thermocouples. I also have some weld-less sight glasses from Brew Hardware (note the difference). But before all that goes in I have to strip the kegs as they are and get them polished.

Phase 5 - Control Box - should (again, sans troubleshooting) be the last phase of this project. I've gone and purchased a new box and a few components. I'm still laying out the wiring diagram to make sure I have everything accounted for. There's going to be a lot of wires running in this box, but I'm going to do things a little neater this time and have dedicated hot and neutral bars to make everything a little neater. I'm also planning on using the appropriate wire connectors so everything is really neat, and not covered with solder, electrical tape, and wire nuts.

There's still a lot of work to be done! Now I have a deadline as well. The next work competition is December 7th, which means I have to brew by the beginning of November (mid November I'm on vacation!). Which really means I have to be done, up, and operational by the end of October. I plan to be wiring the control box after next weekend, so I should have plenty of time for troubleshooting. I'm tired just thinking about it. 

Finally I will leave you with a picture of where I'm at today! No close ups yet, I plan to do a full write up after I'm done with the project.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Sponsors!

We've got some new advertising on our website here as you'll see on the right side of your page. I've been subscribed to Brew Your Own for some time now and I'm pleased to be able to help spread the wealth. Use the link on this page to get your own BYO subscription!

Make sure to use that link though because I want my kickbacks.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Boston Beer Co. Tour

It's been a long few weeks.

I remember back in June one of my coworkers walking into my cube and telling me about a major deadline that got pushed up from October to July. He asked "What do you think? Is this possible?"

Considering all the other projects going on I responded "Well, July and August are going to suck."

My predictions came true, and I never could expected the additional stuff to happen, some bad, some good. Two of Nikki's family members passed away within the space of a 3 week period. That was really awful. We've done a lot of flying recently. Nikki got a new job downtown, which is awesome! She's loving it there.

But all of this happening on top of me getting slammed at work has been stressful. I haven't even touched R2DBREW for the past 3 weeks. I did just pick up some copper pipe and fittings the other day and I've made a little bit of progress this past week, and I'm going to continue this week. The plumbing is moving along pretty quick. I think plumbing will be done in a week or two. Then keg modifications and shining. Then controls. And at some point, painting.

I haven't been the only one slammed either. The other brewers at work are experiencing the same workload. So much so we've pushed back our next Brew Comp. to December 7th (I think). Which is good because I will have R2-DBREW done by then. God help me if I don't, because that means either major setbacks or that this onslaught of work continues for the next 3 months.

I'm excited for this competition because we're switching it up a bit. We all put a different style of beer up for brewing. When the invite gets sent out everyone who accepts will vote on which style of beer we should brew! I think that makes the whole thing more personal and will get more people's interest.

To continue my last post however, the Boston Beer Co. tour was great! If you don't know Boston Beer Co., A) you should smack yourself, B) after you recover realize that they are who brews Sam Adams. What I didn't know is that they also brew Angry Orchard Cider and Twisted Tea. Who knew? Well our tour guide was very informative and really knew her stuff. I was totally the beer geek in the crowd, being the only one knowing what the Reiheitsgebot is. The tour was short. First she showed us where all the brewing equipment was. Really it is quite a small brewery there. That's where they do all their experimental stuff. Maybe 8 fermenters total. Not large one's either. I learned there that Sam Adam's decoction mashes all their Sam Adam's beers! I had no idea. I didn't think any breweries took the time to do such a labor intensive mash cycle. For those keeping track at home, decoction mashing is where you take part of your mash, put it in a side pot, boil it, and add it back to the mash, thereby raising the temperature of the mash. It's kind of like infusion mashing, but instead of water, it's your mash.  And it takes a lot longer.


The next part was the tasting room which is where things went from good to good-er. We got to taste 3 of Sam Adam's beers, the Boston Lager (of course), the Whitewater IPA, and... huh. I actually can't remember, but there was a third one. They gave us these sweet little sampling glasses. The people at the other end of the table weren't very thirsty apparently. This is where it got really good. They gave up the rest of their pitcher to us, and my brother in law and I proceeded to imbibe. Next was the gift shop, where I picked up some goodies on the way out and then off to Doyle's, where I had another pint of beer so I could get my free glass!

All before noon.

It was a good trip.

Been there? Let us know!!