Saturday, February 27, 2016

Kettle Upgrade

I've upgraded my boil kettle with a sight gauge and spigot. I went with weld-less fittings for both of these because the pot I have is aluminum and the fittings are all stainless steel. I've been told that welding stainless to aluminum in possible, but is expensive. So we go with the weld-less fittings. For those of you who enjoy watching how-to videos I have posted a Kettle Spigot Install on my YouTube channel.

The sight-gauge kit I picked up from my local home brew supply store for $26.

The Spigot I used is the Bayou Classic 800-775 Stainless Steel Brew Spigot from Amazon and a bazooka kettle screen. It was $34.47 for both. I figured since I have a Bayou Classic boil kettle it made sense to use their spigot, and it didn't hurt that it was one of the less expensive spigot kits available. Also it didn't come with any extra pieces. I wanted a Female Quick Disconnect at the end of the spigot so I didn't need the barb most of the spigots came with.

I decided to put the spigot next to the sight gauge. Keep all the controls in the same area and such. Using a step bit for my drill to make the hole. This was much easier to use then I anticipated.

The bulk that came with the spigot included 2 high temperature teflon washers and two nuts with a washer grove on one side. The double threaded fitting is put through the hole with the washer/nut combination on each side. Make sure to tighten these all the way. The washer is what creates the water tight seal here so it has to be partially compressed against the side of the kettle, or it won't seal properly. You can see the washer nested inside the groove of the nut below.

With the bulkhead in place, I put 7 wraps of teflon tape around the threads to ensure a water tight seal with the spigot. Then attache the spigot. I used a wrench on the inside to hold the bulkhead in place while tightening the spigot.

The female quick disconnect (QD) is added the same way the spigot was added to the bulkhead. 7 wraps of teflon around the threads of the QD fitting, then thread it into the spigots threaded port. Tighten with two wrenches, one on the spigot, the other on the QD.

Now I won't have to rely on a siphon to rack the wort to the fermentor, I can use gravity from the port, or I can use the pump. Either way it will be a lot faster through a half inch port then through a quarter inch tube.

Until I get the sight gauge marked off it 1/2 gallon increments I can still use my notched stir paddle to determine volume. Seems like a waste of 14 gallons of water to just pour it in, then dump it. Perhaps I'll do the marking a couple days before brew day and save the water to use on brew day. I like that idea.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

RIMS fiacso

With the PID controller all wired up, I connected the temperature probe to the DIP unit to discover that it doesn't work. There are some possibilities for this issue.

Firstly the probe may not be wired to the controller correctly. There are, after all 4 ports on the DIP and 3 wires from the probe. My first attempt was following the wiring diagram shown in the directions. Nothing. So I switched the wires because the probe didn't say at all what the wires it has are. The assumption is that every one who is using this temperature probe already knows how it is wired up internally.

So with 4 ports and 3 wires, two of which are the same color so, there are 12 possible arrangements of the wires. If the single wire is to be jumped to the empty port, as the diagram implies, there are 24 combinations. I didn't have it all worked out in a spreadsheet when I was testing it, but I have a pretty logical mind and was able to go through the various combinations. None of them worked, some less wrong than others. I then went online to get advice from those who have used these two items before me. The consensus was the went wires were to connect top and bottom and the white wire to the second port. There was some differences in opinion as to if the white wire should be jumped or not.

With all that in mind I thought it might be a bad probe, so I purchased another one. Same result, which implies something is wrong with the PID controller. After purchase research, which was much more in-depth than pre-purchase research, revealed that these particular controllers often have a live span of less than one year. To my mind this implies inferior craftsmanship which lend credence to the defective PID controller theory.

So now I am left with wondering if I should purchase another PID and try again, or just cut my losses and let this project go. Considering how much time and money I have in this I am loath to let it go. In hind sight it would have been cheaper to just buy an already built RIMS unit.

Live and learn. At least that's the theory, but I find that often its live and repeat often until learned.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

RIMS Control Unit

Last year was not the best year for me. And my brewing, or lack there of, was affected by that. However, after my short absence from brewing, I'm getting back to it. First thing I want to do now is get the RIMS unit operational. So I finally wired up the RIMS control unit. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, RIMS stands for Recirculating Infusion Mash System. It's a method for maintaining a stable mash temperature by circulating the wort past a heating element and thermometer that will keep it at the desired temperature.

First let's start with the standard disclaimer. I am not a licensed electrician. Wiring anything that uses electricity incorrectly can result in shock, fire, and possibly death. So with that in mind I proceeded to make a wiring diagram first. A friend who had wired many circuits gave me some tips on the first diagram I made and I was able to update it to the final diagram that I used, shown here for illustration purposes only.

The idea of the control unit is that main power is controlled with a switch as is power for the recirculating pump and the heating element. If the pump is turned off, the heating element is not allowed to be turned on. So the heating element switch needs to only get power if the pump switch is on. And the element itself only powered if the PID calls for power and the switch is on.

First step was to cut the holes in the cover of the project box I had. measuring out the sizes of the holes was a pain. The only controller I had that told me what size hole it needed was the PID temperature controller. The others I measured, marked and then tried to cut in the lines. My main power inlet and switch ended up with a hole that is a little large. I haven't figured out how to adjust for that yet. The other items I managed to make the holes the right size. My recommendation is to make the holes smaller than you think and then use rasp and file to enlarge them as needed to fit.

I was going to use connectors on my wires since all my items have posts or screws, however the post connectors I bought are too large. So instead of having to wait to get more I decided soldering would be the way to go. I watched a couple videos for soldering switches to refresh my memory on how to do that and then started cutting and adding my wires.

The wiring may not look super tidy, but it follows the diagram as far as the components are concerned. Using my Ohm-meter I confirmed that the 'hot' only passes power along the switches as desired. Note that the empty space on the cover of the control box is due to the Solid State Relay being used to control the power to the heating element outlet.

There is room around the heat sink so I can add a fan it needed. I'm going to run it a couple times first to see if I need the extra cooling of a fan or not.

I am hoping to do a 'wet test' in the near future to confirm the temperature controller is operating correctly. But before I do that I do need to hook up a power supply cord to the heating element of the main RIMS unit.


Friday, September 18, 2015

House Yeast

Well, since I ended up blending the American Ale and California Ale yeasts in the Keep Ryedyn On, I decided to harvest it as my house brew.

After racking it all into two kegs, 1 half gallon growler, and 1 liter bottle, I added 4 pints of prepared water (see previous post). The water is swirled around a bit to bring the settled yeast back into suspension. Then I was able to pour it off into 6 pint jars.

Such a beautiful sight! I'm not sure how much yeast I will end up with from this. It depends on how thick the slurry was and how much trub was in it. From the look of it, I don't think there was much trub in there. So I'm hoping to keep using this yeast for a long time. Well that is provided the beer it made for me is good, which I have every confidence it will be.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Preparing jars for yeast harvesting

Last night I made preparations to harvest some of the yeast that's working for me in Keep Ryedyn On beer. I thought others might like to see this process. I may make a DIY video of this in the future, but didn't think about it last night.

Typically when I make a batch of Ryedyn, I make a batch of Pumpkin Porter one to two weeks later and dump the porter on the yeast cake of the Ryedyn. Since this has worked well for me I don't really want to mess with that procedure. However since I have a mixed yeast strain this year (see Inadvertent Experiment post) I'd like to harvest some of it before I get to the Pumpkin Porter. So I may not dump directly on. Or I may scoop some of the trub and yeast from the bottom of my fermentor before putting the porter on top of it.

Either way I need some prepared jars for my yeast friends. I got out my canning pot, which was my very first brewing pot, back when I did it all on the stove in 5 gallon batches, and prepared 6 pint sized mason jars and 3 small jelly jars, which I think are 8 oz. jars. It looks like a lot of steps, but it really doesn't take too long to do.

Preparation steps:

  1. Clean jars and lids and rinse well.
  2. Fill each jar with water nearly to the top and put the lid on snug, but not tight.
  3. Put the jars in the canning pot and fill it with water to just below the lids of the jars.
    1. Regular pot can be used too, but the canning pot has a rack that makes removing the jars so much easier.
  4. Boil the whole thing for 5 minutes.
    1. This took for ever to reach a boil on the electric stove. I'll be breaking out the propane burner next time.
  5. Remove the jars from the water. Carefully!
    1. If you have a canning pot just lift the rack and hook it to the edge of the pot.
  6. Tighten the lids while they are still hot. Carefully!
    1. I used a couple of silicone pot holders to do this.
  7. Allow the jars to cool a bit before putting them in the fridge for future use.
    1. They will vacuum seal due to the contraction of the steam created in each jar during the boil.

Now after you rack off the beer, you are ready to harvest. I have a Yeast Harvesting Video which shows one method of harvesting yeast. This method is often called 'washing' the yeast.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Inadvertent Experiment

When moving my fermentor, with the wort from my recent batch of "Keep On Ryedyn", to my new fermentation chamber, I make a mistake. Not the 'whoops, i put this in the wrong spot' kind of mistake, but the 'Oh, No! I pitched my yeast starter too early kind of mistake.

The yeast starter was on a stir plate in the fermentation chamber. So to get the wort in, I had to move the starter out. I also had to clean up the mess from the stater. So when I took the starter out I poured it right into the wort. Totally forgetting that the wort had only cooled to 90F. I put the fermentor in the chamber, closed it up and started the temperature controller to my desired temp 18.7C. I bought a Celsius only temperature controller for reasons that are not entirely clear to me.

Two days later there was still no sign of activity in the fermentor. So last night I turned off the temp controller and let it all sit. I figured since I had effectively killed all my little yeast friends, I would let the whole thing sit for a day. I went to the homebrew store and picked up a smack pack of yeast. At lunch time I smacked it to activate the yeast and by the time I got home, it was good to pitch.

When I opened the fermentation chamber, I noticed there was finally activity. So what did I do? I poured in the new yeast anyway.

Thus it's now a little experiment because I started with California Ale yeast 001 from white labs and added American Ale yeast 1056 from WYeast. I'm thinking I'll need to harvest this yeast and keep my new hybrid strain around for future brewing.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Nugget Hops Dried

The Nugget hops are in the oast and are drying nicely. I checked them yesterday and they should be ready to package today. I haven't weighed in to see how much I harvested, but it can't be more than a couple ounces. Didn't get such a good crop since I moved the plants this spring. Fingers crossed for next year!


I ended up with 1.25 oz of nugget hops. Not even enough for one full batch. Oh well, better luck next year.