project update

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.

Beer Gardening

When I think of beer garden, this isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, as a farmer brewer this is the first thing I hope to be able to product myself to include in my own beer.
What you see below is the fruits of a few hrs of manual labor, some unused and reused items from around the farm, and a few gifted hop plants. A kind soul, Lyn from Brew Free or Die (more about this later) was very generous and shared some plants with me, a cascade and Hallertau. Along side those two, I planted 3 other pairs of rhizomes Cascade, Glacier, and Columbus. The other pairs were purchased last spring, and due to poor planning on my part, never made it to pots or the ground. I do not know if they will sprout after such a long dormancy, so I have also purchased some additional plants (Perle, Centennial, Galena) that just arrived. After they harden a bit, I’ll look for sprouting bines, and make the call on which to keep / or pot for next season. IMG_0958
     When I originally purchased the hops, I’d thought I’d have enough time to get em in the ground. I was wrong. After doing some research, I knew I needed to do more than just tossing them into the ground. Leap forward a year, and I’ve now read
The Homebrewers Garden and Grow your own hops, and have enough of an idea how to do it right, and just enough free time to do so. It took about 4 hrs all said and done. First step was to desod and turned over a 15x3 patch of soil, I then mix in some rich compost from a well aged pile. Then I made 5 mounds 7 inches high 1/2 a foot apart, then dug a small trough, and planted the pairs of rhizomes, and two plants. I followed that up with a night thick layer of mulch. Mother nature then did it’s deed and rained for the two following days, ensuring they had a good soak.  This past week I finished up the trellis.
To trellis the hops, I’ve put 5 eyelets to the side of the house, and strung a high strength wire though the eyelets. I then tied off bailing twine from the wire, down to stakes behind the mounds. The two plants I’ve started to train up a tail I’ve knotted off the twine, since they are too short to reach the twine at present. When hops are first starting the need to be trained to climbing the twine, until they are strong enough to make their own purchase.
From what I read you can expect very little in the way of production the first year. However with the early start of the growing season this year, It seems to me that the biggest challenges for these guys will be to hops wet, and they should hold their own. We had a very dry winter, almost no mud season, and it’s looking like we’ll likely have a dry spring and summer.  I’m hoping the plants from Lyn will have a strong year, since we are off to such a solid start to the spring, and she has had good yield from the hallertau. The good news is, I think other than the old dried out rhizomes, I think I’ve done everything right, so, in the coming years we should have a good harvest, and be brewing our own fresh hop beer come late fall.  Cheers to being a farmer brewer!
Ps. Working the soil in New England is tough work. This was a small 15x3 piece of soil, that was full of rocks and sticks and debris, I can’t imagine being a real farmer here.