Working out the kinks

One of the first DIY home brewing projects I undertook was building a immersion chiller. This is one of the easiest project you can do. My first attempt was a fairly sloppy mess. Because I wasn’t patient, and I didn’t have a good form to use to keep the coils organized. Also, I was trying to fit the cooler into a much smaller kettle, so I squashed it to fit. This past brew session while cleaning up, I decided to fix it up. It was pretty easy to loosen it up, and rewrap it around a keg to get approximately the right shape. I did a little weave with the inlet to provide some stability to the chiller, then reattached the in and out tubes. It still needs some type of bracing to keep it sorted, any Ideas?

Keggerator update

This past weekend I made some additional progress on the keggerator, while I’d like to think it’s nearly complete there is quite a bit of detail work left to finish.
However I could have been pouring beer last night with a few more minutes work. But the perfectionist in me said, finish it up right, don’t just jump to the fun part. This is the short list of what I plan to do in the near term.
  • Insulate the collar. Install foam board, and caulk seams and holes.
  • Hook up the gas line to the regulator.
  • Hook up liquid lines to ball lock connectors and shanks.
  • Hang dehumidifier and setup a circulation fan
  • Mount the temperature controller
  • Mount a drip tray and bottle opener

I guess it doesn’t sound so close to complete with all those punch list items. But I did get a lot accomplished, and it even looks ready to pour beer. What I did:
  • Assemble inner collar from 2x10’s and assemble facade of 1x12’s.
  • Drill shank holes, gas line, and temp probe ports.
  • Put the collar on the freezer, and attach the lid to the collar.
  • Assemble shanks, and taps.
  • Took photos and wrote a blog.
It looks ok, the wood work is amateur at best. It will be overkill for the volume of beer I’ll put through it, but it sure beats having to bottle. I have really enjoyed working on it. I want to have it finished and full for a Labor Day party. Also it’s been a work in progress since July of 2011, when I acquired the freezer, and temperature controller. I have been acquiring bits and pieces ever since. I don’t always have luck with that approach, but for this project it worked. I was able to spread out the investment both in cost and labor. Not including kegs, the freezer, or the few remaining items to purchase I’ve invested about $400 in the project. I could have done it cheaper and saved money, but I’d have compromised on worth while areas. I also become a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to these types of projects. At what I have spent, it is approaching the cost of a prebuilt dual faucet keggerator, just something to think about if you plan to go this route, it’s not necessarily the cheaper way to go.

Projects in progress

By now the new page is up. It is still a work in progress. I want to re-theme the blog, and add some details like a logo and favicon. I also need to fix some posts for style, broken links, and insert the missing photos. However, the content should all be there. It’s just one of the projects I’ve been working on here at the bottle farm.
I’ve made a little progress on the keggerator project, Here’s a photo of that progress.
I converted the single regulator to a dual regulator. This will allow me to carbonate at one pressure, and serve at another. The plan is to keep the co2 tank outside of the freezer, and run the second line into freezer to a distribution block. To convert the regulator it’s very straight forward. Unscrew the high pressure gauge (be careful to do so in the proper direction), attach the second regulator to newly vacant spot, then replace the gauge on the second regulator. The only tricky part is finding the right parts, but thankfully Midwest supply carries the adapter and the connection stem. A few tips I picked up for co2 assembly. Make sure to wrap the threads with teflon tape to prevent leaks and gauging from over tightening. Spray down all the connections with starsan after you’ve reconnected the regulators and gauges to the co2 tank. Any leaks will bubble preventing you from finding out the hard way with an empty tank and flat beer. After I retightened the gauge and regulator resolving some of my own bubbling issues, my new dual regulator is all set for keggerator duty.
This is a multiphase project, the next phase is design the collar. The collar in my keggerator serves a dual purpose, to extend the height of the freezer to allow for additional kegs in the freezer, and it’s traditional role to allow taps to be added to the freezer w/out drilling. Once designed and built, all that will be left will be staining and assembly. I can really see this project taking shape.

The next project I’ve been working is a mash tun for all grain brewing.
This has to be the easiest project so far. The basic instructions are to remove the cooler spigot, insert a weld less cooler adapter kit/bulkhead. Take a stainless supply line for a sink or toilet (new), cut it and use the braid to build a filter tube. Attach the stainless braid and you’ve got a good mash lauter tun setup for single infusion batch sparging. I won’t waste bits, rewriting the instructions I found here:

The hop plants seem to be doing ok, of the 5 mounds, 8 plants I’ve planted, 4 are growing. The Cascade, and Hallertau are well established, and seem to be climbing well. They haven’t reached the top yet, which I’m surprised. It has me thinking I might want to use some different twine next year, and perhaps a more vertical trellis. The galena have seem to taken hold and are at the training to climb phase. The centennial are off to a very slow start, but have finally started to show some growth. I’m hoping both the later have a chance to grow some solid roots for next season. That’s the good, the bad is that we seem to have some hop pests (the little guy to the right). I think he’s a leaf hopper. I’ve asked my local farmer if she has any recommendations for organic pest control, so I can save my hops. Hopefully it’s something simple.

I’ve also got a set of components to build a stir plate, but I haven’t made progress on this project yet. It should be
easy enough, soldier the parts, build out a project box. However I’ve never done these types of projects, so there is a bit of a learning curve to it. The next step is to buy some soldier, a project box and a power supply, and get to assembling.
Other than that it’s quiet here on the farm.