Product Review: The original Carboy Cleaner

I’m reviewing ‘the Original Carboy Cleaner’ and ‘the Original Keg Cleaner’ as I own both. They have made cleaning up after my brew days easier. Please note no one has paid me to say this or given me the product for review*. I did not however purchase them, as I received them from a family member as a gift.
The product is as easy to use as indicated in the tacky video on
their website. Three steps, add water & cleaner, insert the cleaner, spin! All the fermentation gunk quickly disappears. I generally use a hot water and give it a good swirl, then attack it with the cleaner. My only challenge is cleaning around the neck area of the carboy, it requires a little finesse to get clean, but it’s something you figure out.IMG_1682
Using the keg cleaner is similar, disassemble the keg, swirl hot water, and clean. One challenge with using it, is keeping it centered as you approach the top. It’s a minor complaint, it gets where I can’t reach and can’t see, and does a good job quick. I wouldn’t want to clean either without it. However I wouldn’t recommend it for better bottles, as those require much gentler handling. As far as value, the product would be really simple to DIY project. A steel shaft, drilled at one end, with a nut through it, holding two felted pads on with plastic washers. It’s very simple, but its effective. For the cost, 32.50, it’s reasonably priced for those who can’t build their own, but if I need new one, I’ll build it myself.

*I’m open to offers of brewing gear, ingredients, or software for home brewing. Please note, I’ll be giving my honest evaluation, and

American Amarillo Wheat take 2

I finally got a chance to put the fresh Amarillo hops to use. When I picked up the hops at A&G homebrew I also picked up some DME. I had everything else on hand for a batch, except yeast, a slight oversight on my part. Thankfully one of my fellow home brewers from Brew free or Die was willing to share half a yeast cake of Wyeast 1968 London ale. This is the same strain of yeast I used for my first home brew.
I made a starter from the pitch, not so much for yeast growth, but to wake up the yeast. Since it had been dormant for a little while. My goal with this beer is to improve upon my hoppy amarillo wheat recipe, to be closer 3floyds famous Gumball head. The recipe is similar to the original 2am Maiden, but targeting less bitterness, with more flavor and aroma. Recipe changes include swapping out liquid malt extract in favor of dry malt extract. I also did a full volume boil, but the most significant change is the hop schedule. I started with nugget and warrior hops for bittering, but replaced all the other original hop additions (45,30,15,0) with a single addition of 1 pound of fresh amarillo hops at 15m. Other process changes included skimming the boil, which I was inspired by the mad fermentationist to do. I figure I do it with soups when cooking why not with beer?

The brew day went ok, but as usual I’m having a few process miscues. I have sorted out my boil volume issues, I overshot boil volume a little, but that’s ok for this beer. Hop & trube issues are still a problem. I installed the dip tube, but did not get any filter to prevent the whole hops from blocking the tube. I tried fruitlessly to clear the tube, but I eventually had to pour the wort into the fermentor.
It has been in the swamp heater since sunday afternoon, and was happily blowing off Monday evening. While I’d ideally ferment at a lower temperature, like 65, I’ve been starting beers at 67, and using additional thermal mass to slow temp rise, but also using a fish tank heater to keep the temp from falling once peak fermentation has slowed and temps start to fall. The beer is now sitting at 70, and is slowly bubbling away, It’s nearly ready for dry hopping. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to dry hop with. After the hop floaties I had with the Alpha King Clone, I’m leaning toward whole hops. For the ultimate recipe I’d really like to stick with amarillo, because I’m a huge fan of it’s flavor profile. However the whole leaf hops I have on hand are, Citra, Cascade and magnum. I will definitely use Cascade, choosing between Citra whole leaf and amarillo pellets. I like citra but not as much as I love amarillo. I’ll update when I put it on tap and post a tasting review.

Fresh hop delima

I got the call that my hops were in September 5th. It’s now the 15th and I haven’t used them. They are still languishing in my fridge. This is a post about my dilemma with fresh hops. When I ordered them I was extremely excited to have ordered them. Now that they are over 10 days old in my possession, I’m a little less ecstatic.
In hindsight I don’t think I’d do this again, not this way it’s just not worth it. This isn’t a slam on the grower, the home-brew shop A&G homebrew, or wet hops in general, just that my particular scenario doesn’t seem to make any logical sense to use them. I need to invest in more shelf stable ready to use ingredients not extremely perishable ones.
I had to place my order them well in advance, July for a mid september arrival. I have a hard time predicting if I’ll have time to mow the lawn, let alone brew on short notice. One must understand agricultural product not grown locally subject to the whims of nature, and long distance shipping. I also ordered them from a shop far from home, requiring an hour and a half drive to get them, further complicating the logistics of brewing with them. Due to their freight, perishable nature, and the cost of retrieving them, they are expensive. $19 for 1LB of fresh Amarillo hops. When all said and done, they’ll have the alpha acid of 1/4-1/8th that, making it more than $6 an oz. Finally I don’t have any info on AA. Making it impossible to know what I’ll get from them. When I do get them into some wort, it’s likely going to be a mystery what I’ll get, and next to impossible to reproduce.
With all that said, I still need to get this hops into some wort. My next batch will be based on my first batch, a hoppy Amarillo American wheat, I originally called 2 AM Maiden.
The plan is to make it using the fresh hops as a flavor/ aroma addition at 5m. I am trying to reduce some of the bitterness, and add more hop flavor, the hop schedule I used for the original batch, had additions at 60, 45, 30, 15, and dry. The new hop schedule, which Beersmith calculates at 30 IBU, has 60m, 5m and dry hop additions. It’s an extremely basic extract recipe. Just what I’ve got time to make on such short notice. More later, but I’m off to start my starter.

Troubleshooting my homebrew: Volume into the fermentor

As you start brewing there are issues with your process that will pop up from time to time, and you’ll have to figure out ways around them, or how to better deal with them. I’m a tinkerer always looking for a more efficient way, or method to make it better. The biggest issue I’m facing right now, is too little wort making it into the fermentor.
This problem started when I went full volume boil. When you are doing partial boils it’s easy, pour, and top up the carboy to the 5g mark. However, the last two batches have been full volume boils, the
oatmeal stout and the alpha king clone (which I never wrote up) have had post boil volume issues. I ended up topping up the alpha king, but left the oatmeal stout at a higher gravity.
First step in fixing a problem it is identifying why it is this happening? First major issue is not knowing the volume in the boil kettle. Second issue is not knowing my boiloff rate. It’s hard to estimate w/out testing, and even harder to estimate w/out markings on your boil kettle. This part is simple, fix the first then I can calculate the second.

The second part of my volume off issue is trube losses before and after the boil kettle. I feel like I’ve been losing a lot of wort to hot and cold break and hop sludge. I’ve found it hard to whirlpool / chill and allow the beer to settle so I don’t leave a ton of wort behind. Currently I transfer wort using a ball valve w/out any filtration. If I’m not patient, and don’t whirlpool after cooling, a lot of this trube will come along during transfer to the fermenter. The alternate is worse, basically leaving all the trube and large quantities of wort behind.
So what am I doing to try to address the problems? First, I’ve purchased a stainless ruler, which will allow me to determine the volume of water in my kettle. A simple volume equation showed me that one inch =.76 gallons in my kettle. Now I can calculate volume, I can measure boil off, and should allow me to configure the proper profile in beer smith. In addition to this, I plan on scaling the recipe 20%, aka making it a 6 gallon wort recipe, with hopefully 5.5 making it into the fermentor.
To help stem trube losses, I’ve purchased a dip tube, when installed, this should allow me to pick up the wort well below the ball valve level, and prevent me from having to tip my kettle to get the remainder out. I’ve heard that you can use a chore boy at the end of the dip tube, to provide a corse filter as well. Alternately, I am considering picking up a bazooka tube, if the dip tube doesn’t work out.
I will update when I brew my next batch, if the correctly measured additional volume, and the dip tube works out. Then we can move on to other problems like, floaties after dry hopping, or finding more time to brew.

PS. I unfortunately don’t have any photos of the trube, either in the fermentor, or bottle of the kettle, perhaps because I’m too annoyed to take one, but trust me, it’s there.