Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hiatus

Due to some unforeseen circumstances I will be taking a temporary Hiatus from my responsibilities to A Tale of Two Brewers. Keep checking back from articles from the Brew Crew however.

Don't worry, my brewing equipment didn't get hit by a truck.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Klutz

Today was another brew day.

I In-sink-erated my stir bar.

I bent two thermocouples.

I shattered my hydrometer.

But, today was a good day. I almost hit 60% efficiency. For the first time since maybe last November, I will have a higher starting gravity than I expected. Ooorah!

The stir bar was unfortunate. It started two weeks ago when I brewed and forgot to take the stir bar out of my yeast starter. I dumped it into the fermenter with the rest of the starter and thought well, I'll get it next week. That's not entirely true I guess. My true stream of consciousness was Well, shit. There's no way I'm going to remember that's in there. I'll try to get it next week. Well I did forget. And I never even saw it hurtling down into the garbage disposal. The advertisement says you can grind almost anything. So far, it's true. It took a little doing, and it wasn't even until I ground that little puppy up for a few minutes until I even looked down. Which is when I saw the cracked carapace of my little stir bar. Looked liked one of Universal's Minions took a dive into a snow blower. I only ever found bits of the shell, the magnet is now part of the Ocoee waste management system. 

This just in! As I write this, my wife is cooking dinner and made an attempt to grind some leftover chicken guts. Well, it sounded like my little chewed up minion was jumping around the inside of the disposal with a big ol' monkey wrench. Turns out, the magnet was not part of the Ocoee waste managment system. But broken up into three tiny magnets, all stuck to the walls of my disposal. Fun.

The thermocouples were the only things that broke because of me being a jackass. Which is pretty good for today because most of my accidents are from me being a jackass (see: welding sunburns, broken anti lock braking sensors, and a torn tire sidewall). While returning R2-DBREW back to the garage i made a run to get over a tree root. I didn't get over it, and my kegs fell off R2 and bent the thermocouples attached in half.

Yeah they're not supposed to bend like that.

Finally, and this is the accident I'm most excited about, I shattered my hydrometer. I was done with everything, just doing some final cleanups. Took my wine thief out of my sanitizing tube, went to slide the hydrometer out, and where my hand was gripping, the hydrometer just slid right through. But now I have an excuse to get a pair of cool narrower scale hydrometers from Northern Brewer.

Friday, August 2, 2013

IPA Kit and a New Chiller

When the IPA kit arrived in the mail the first thing I noticed was the enormous bag of hops.  My first kit had
3 oz of hops in it.  This one had over 14 oz.  As a new-found hophead, needless to say, I was excited.

The recipe called for a few brewing techniques new to me.  The first was dry hopping, a process where you add hops (either pellet or whole) to the fermenter directly without boiling.  Additionally, the recipe called for secondary fermentation, also known as racking, where you siphon the beer from a primary fermenter to a secondary container for further fermentation and polishing.

But these weren't the only new brewing techniques I would be trying on this batch.  I was also going to be using a wort chiller. I know I've gone on about not buying a bunch of expensive equipment when you are just starting, which I still believe.  This was a freebie.

My boss, a former homebrewer, gave me his copper wort chiller that had been sitting in his garage for the last ten years (the coils looked a little gnarly).  After reading various blogs and forums, I learned that you can clean the chiller by boiling it in a vinegar solution.

So now there were three new brewing techniques I would be using.  All this had me a little nervous again. Add to the fact that the kit with all the hops was a little more expensive, I did not want to mess this one up.

I used the wort chiller cleaning as a practice run for brew day.  I boiled the chiller in a mixture of vinegar (10% by volume) and water for 15 minutes and then set up the tubes to see how long it would take to cool down. It was faster than my ice tub method, but not as fast as I thought it would be.  But I had to remember I was in Florida and it was June.  The garden hose was in direct sunlight, so the temperature differential was not as good as it could be.  One of the tubes was leaking water into the pot - a potential source of contamination.  So I remedied that before the brew session.

All in all this batch went well.  No major mishaps.  The wort chiller did take much longer than I thought it would, around 22 minutes.  I attribute that to the hot temperature outside and direct sun baking the 50 feet of garden hose. My next project will be figuring out how to reduce the wort chiller time.  I have a few ideas, but I'm not sure which will work best.  Time to experiment...

-Brewer Brendan