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Step Mashing – German Style Kölsch

March 24, 2013

I have been all grain brewing for a couple of years that started with a 10 gallon round Rubbermaid cooler from Home Depot that I modified with a brass drain valve and thermometer.  Since I was batch sparging, I never had complete control over more involved mashing techniques that one might do for lagers or beers with a lot of adjuncts.

I finally reached a point where I was tired of lifting vessels to transfer, sparge and boil wort so I took advantage of a sale on a More Beer 1550 sculpture.  No more lifting hot stainless vessels and now I could easily perform more advanced step mashes.  Not that I really need to do that to make decent beer, but since the brew rig is set up for it, I figured I would give it a try.

1550 More Beer Sculpture

During the first year of having the sculpture, I spent each brew session trying to “dial-in” all the losses from cooling and transfers.  When I finally got that nailed, I entered the profile into the Beer Smith software and was finally on track – well, with exception of figuring out how to get the best performance out of the float switch.   So, on my last visit to my LHBS Smokin Beaver, the guys showed me how they set up their More Beer flat sculpture and float switch.  When I got home that day, I modified my sparge set-up to match their specs and was ready to brew the following morning.

Sparge Ring & Float Switch

Sparge Ring & Float Switch

For the sake of changing up my brew day, I wanted to brew a beer that could possibly benefit from a multi-step mashing schedule.  With spring among us and warmer weather on the horizon, I chose to brew a German stlye Kölsch.  The recipe was extremely simple with Bohemian Pilsner malt (95%) and a small percentage of Vienna (5%).  I made a 1 liter yeast starter using WLP 029 German Ale/Kölsch from White Labs which I had picked up fresh directly at their tasting room four days earlier.

With the brew rig set up, brewing water measured and filtered, and grain crushed, I fired up the mash tun and hot liquor tank to get this thing underway.

Fire

Mash tun under fire!

For this brew, I used a water to grist ratio of 1.5 liters per pound of grain; which in the end, allowed me to achieve a planned total brew house efficiency of 70%.  A couple of great resources for multi-step mashing schedules and techniques can be found in John Palmer’s book How to Brew and a few of the shows from The Brewing Network.

Here is a step-by-step account of how my mash attempt went:

Step 1:  Protein Rest for 20 minutes at 122F.  I heated the strike water to 126F to dough in and hit a temperature of 118F.  With the recirculation of wort going through the heat exchanger, I was able to level the temperature at 122F within a couple of minutes and maintain it for the duration of the rest period.

Protein Rest

Protein Rest

Step 2:  Beta Sacch Rest for 30 minutes at 149F.  Once 20 minutes has passed, I adjusted to temp control to 146F and began to raise the temperature (I set the temp control 3 degrees below the target temperature because once the pumps shuts off, the temperature continues to creep higher).  It took about 15 minutes to reach 149F and from there, I let it rest.

Beta Sacch

Beta Sacch Rest

Step 3Alpha Sacch Rest for 30 minutes at 158F.  Following the Beta Sacch rest, I made the adjustment on the temp control to 155F and the pump kicked on to re-circulate wort through the heat exchanger.  Again, 15 minutes later, I had reached 158F and allowed that to rest for 30 minutes.  Easy.

Alpha Sacch

Alpha Sacch Rest

Step 4:  Mash Out for 10 minutes at 168F.  The final step of the schedule was to do a mash out.  I set the temp control to 165F and the pump fired right up and began to re-circulate wort through the heat exchanger.  It took about 10 minutes to reach temperature, and once there, it was held at 168-169F for 10 minutes.

Mash Out

Mash Out

Step 5:  Fly Sparge for 60 minutes.  Throughout the mash schedule, I had the sparge ring sitting about ¼ inch above the grain bed and the float switch positioned about one inch above the ring.  I switched the control box to begin sparging; the pump kicked on and began filling the mash tun with 170F water until the level reached the float switch.  This leaves about 1 inch of water on top of the grain bed and the sparge ring submersed.

From here, I opened the drain valve on the mash tun and began to gravity feed the wort into the boil kettle.  For this particular brew, I planned to boil for 90 minutes, so I collected about 9.37 gallons of wort.  For each brewing session, I target the sparge to take a total of 60 minutes, which equates to about 0.5 – 1.0 quart per minute.  I have learned that slower is better.  The great thing about using a float switch is that as the mash tun drains, the pump will automatically kick on and add more sparge water.  Thus, maintaining a one inch water line above the grain – keeping it undisturbed.

Early runnings from the mash tun.

First runnings. Gravity feed from mash tun.

And that’s it.  That was my first attempt at a multi-step mash schedule and overall, I found it to be simple, straight forward and a fun way to change up an often times monotonous brew day.

Pre-boil gravity.  8-9 Brix

Pre-boil gravity. I’ll call it 8.5 Brix or approx. 1.033

Fermentation

I transferred 5.5 gallons into the fermenter and had a starting gravity of 1.051.  I cooled the wort, added 1 minutes of oxygen and pitched the yeast at 60F.  I checked on the status 12 hours later and saw no activity.

Specific Gravity

Specific Gravity. I’ll call it 1.051.

I decided to add 30 seconds of more oxygen and within 4 hours, fermentation began.  Throughout fermentation I held the temperature at 60F for the first couple of days and then brought it up 2 degrees for the next two days.

I plan to hold the temp at 65F and allow the beer to finish before cold crashing and transferring to a secondary vessel for a lagering phase.

2013 Homebrew Competition and AHA Rally, Stone Brewing Company

The date was March 16, 2013.  The place was Stone Brewing Company is Escondido, California.

This past Saturday marked the annual homebrew competition and AHA rally hosted in the gardens of Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, California.  The 3 hour event was open to current AHA members and those who wanted to register right there on the spot.  The homebrew competition consisted of 30 entries and required 3 to 5 gallons to participate.  A fellow homebrewer and I entered the competition with an american pale ale (Relentless) and a weizen (Backyard Citrusweizen).  Although we did not win, both of these and several other offerings were perfectly suited for the warm, sunny day in the Stone gardens!

Beers 1 - 24

Hey, there’s Ken Schwartz in the background…winner of last year’s competition with his Mint Chocolate Stout.

The crew from Stone did a great job with the set up of entries with 3 sections of 10 offerings.  The kegs in each section were kept perfectly cold and were running off a single CO2 tank and manifold for serving.  Unfortunately though, some of the beers were pouring extremely foamy or very under-carbonated.  For example, number 25 Graham Slam, poured almost entirely flat with exception of a few large bubbles swirling around the top of the pour and beer number 1 poured with nothing but foam!  I never did hear if these swings in carbonation were a result of Stone or the individual brewer’s handling of the beer prior to the event.

Here was the line-up of 30 offerings up for judging by the participants:

Beers in the competition included:

1.  Big Ice Small Wood Ale – 13.25%

Ice Brewed Wood Aged Blended Old Ale

2.  The Red Baron – 5.8%

Red Ale

3.  Dangerzone! – 4.5%

West Coast Pale Ale

4.  Vanilla Chai Latte – 10.6%

Spiced Imperial Milk Stout

5.  Bonne Nuit Saison – 8.3%

Saison

6.  Bitter Sweet Symphony – 9.4%

Double Oat IPL

7.  Touch of Evil – 8%

Imperial Stout with Habaneros

8.  The Rising of the Dog-Star – 10%

Braggot/IIPA

9.  Cup of The Old Chai, Sir? – 6.2%

Spiced Imperial Milk Stout

10.  Relentless – 6.9%

American Pale Ale

11.  Imperial Bourbon Vanilla California Common – 7%

Wood Aged California Common

12.  Hop N Oats Maneater IPA – 6.5%

American IPA\

13.  Dr. J’s Rye Tonic – 11%

Rye Barleywine

14.  Grey’s Kumquat DIPA – 9.2%

Imperial IPA

15.  Muir’s Golden Trout Ale – 5%

Herb/Golden Ale

16.  Mango Habanero IPA – 7%

IPA with Mango/Habanero

17.  Backyard Citrusweizen – 5.4%

Weizen 15A

18.  Fat Crabby – 7%

Chilli-Saison Spice Beer

19.  Orangutang – 7.7%

Citra Hopped Double IPA

20.  Pina Colada IPA – 6.8%

Belgian Specialty IPA

21.  Rusty Lager – 4%

American Lager

22.  Close but No Cigar – Cucumber Saison – 6.5%

Vegetable Saison

23.  Chamotion Witbier – 5%

Witbier

24.  Vanilla Oaked Bourbon Ale – 7.7%

Specialty Beer

25.  Graham Slam – 7.1%

Oatmeal Graham Cracker Stout

26.  Pineapple IPA – 7%

IPA

27.  Black IPA – 6%

IPA

28.  Coconut IPA – 7.2%

IPA

29.  1337 Chirportle – 7%

Porter

30.  Mayan Achocalypse – 13%

Imperial Stout with Aztec Spices and Annatto

The official line-up of home brews for the day.

The official line-up of home brews for the day.

Voting for the best beers was done by the rally participants.  Therefore, there were no BJCP judges or guidelines to really follow.  If the event was geared towards BJCP categories, I interpreted the breakdown of 30 beers to be 11 specialty (category 23), 5 spice, herb, vegetable (category 21) with the remainder of the field representing a wide range of other categories.  Below is a breakdown of my interpretation of the how the offerings might fit into the BJCP style guidelines:

  • Specialty: 11 (6, 7, 8, 14, 16, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30)
  • Spice, herb, vegetable: 5 (4, 9, 15, 18, 22)
  • Wood aged: 2 (1, 11)
  • American Pale Ale: 2 (3, 10)
  • American Amber Ale: 1 (2)
  • Lite American Lager: 1 (21)
  • Porter: 1 (29)
  • Witbier: 1 (23)
  • Weizen: 1 (17)
  • Strong Ale (Barleywine): 1 (13)
  • Belgian Specialty: 1 (20)
  • Saison: 1 (5)
  • Imperial IPA: 1 (19)
  • American IPA: 1 (12)
SP and some of the crew for the day enjoying the beer!

SP and some of the crew for the day enjoying the beer!

The specialty category brought the highest number of entries in the competition.  Six of those were base IPAs that featured a variety of specialty ingredients including mangos, pineapples, pina colada, kumquats, coconut, mango, honey (braggot), and habanero peppers.  The category with the second largest number of entries featured ingredients such as cucumbers and chill spices.

050

Enjoying the perfect “10” – beer number ten that is!

After a long series of raffle drawings by the AHA, it was time for the winners to be announced (there must have been an hour’s worth of drawing numbers for this portion of the event).  When it was all over, the top 3 finishers fell into the specialty category with the coconut IPA edging out the vanilla chai latte brew.  Congratulations to the winning brewers Robert Masterson and Ryan Reschan for their award winning coconut IPA.  You can also check out the Stone blog’s coverage of the event here: http://blog.stonebrew.com/index.php/2013-collaborations.

Our entire group!

Our entire group!

All in all, I found the rally to be a good time, although extremely crowded.  Mostly because Stone crammed the event into the “first garden section” that you come to off the restaurant’s patio.  The rest of the garden was open for roaming, but all of the home brews and judging were situated in one small area.  As an avid home brewer and beer geek, I look forward to seeing (and tasting) more of Robert and Ryan’s coconut IPA and the line-up of competitors for next year’s event.

Finishers!

Finishers!

The Great American Beer Fest 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Since I had been lucky enough to win the local homebrew contest sponsored by Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits and also brew 15 barrels of the beer on their system, I only found it fitting to make the trip out to The Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado.  Not to mention, the beer was entered into the Pro-Am competition along with 93 other entries.

This way to the brewer’s entrance

We hooked up with Ballast Point for the Thursday night session, which kicked off the entire weekend of festival activities and were thankful that we had the chance to get in with brewer’s passes.

Inside!

The Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits booth

This has got to be the best way to experience the event with perks like no entry lines, no waiting in line to sample beers, VIP restrooms and early entry into the exhibit hall to check out the venue and all the booths.

That is exactly what we did and it was so awesome to have no crowds to contend with while we wandered through the huge exhibit hall, checked out all the creative booths put together by Stone, New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, Bear Republic and Victory, just to name a few.

The Pro-Am booth

My pro-am beer “Time to Panic” brewed with Ballast Point was on that night – tap #2

The Stone Brewing booth

A closer look at Stone’s serving taps

Just one corner of the Bear Republic booth

The Sierra Nevada set-up

Odell Brewing

New Belgium

Of note though, was stopping by the Heretic Brewing Company’s booth and bumping into Jamil Zainasheff.  For a complete homebrew nut, it was awesome to chat with a legend from the homebrew world turned pro brewer and also catch a quick photo (hey, is that John Palmer in the back?  Ha!  More on him later!)

Meeting Jamil Zainasheff in front of his Heretic Brewing booth

Finally, just before the flood gates opened to let in the other million people, we made a quick stop to say hi to The Brewing Network people and their booth.

The Brewing Network booth

When 5:30 PM rolled around, it was time to get started.  The exhibit hall slowly began to fill with eager craft brew enthusiasts from around the globe and we headed straight to Dogfish Head for our first sample.

Sam from Dogfish Head pouring our first samples of the evening

Right to front of the line we went, only to be greeted and served our samples by Sam Calagione himself.  I choose the Midas Touch.  From here, we wandered around aimlessly in search of beers we couldn’t get out in So. Cal.

Just one hour into the evening, the first event happening in the Brewer’s Studio Pavilion was a panel discussion with Deschutes Brewery and a five-year vertical tasting of their Black Butte porter vintages XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII and XXIV (2008 – 2012).

The vertical tasting (2008-2012)

The panel included the owner and founder of the brewery, Gary Fish and brewmaster Brian Faivre.  During the discussion which was also open to the audience for questions (standing room only), samples of each vintage were poured for everyone to taste while the panel talked about the beer and its evolution from year to year.  Out of the entire flight, my favorite vintage was XXII.  Interestingly enough too, was that this vintage was never released!

The Deschutes vertical tasting

In addition to the ridiculous amount of breweries and craft beer, there is quite an abundance of other activities to enjoy at the GABF.  These would include a booth sponsored by Ford with a gimmicky soccer game to win a car (of course, we did not win) and the infamous silent disco that is put on my Oskar Blues Brewery.

The Oskar Blues silent disco

Carved out in the back of the exhibit hall is a dance floor, DJ and lots of GABF-ers dancing with headphones.  We never made it out to the floor because the line for headphones was so long (I guess a brewer’s pass doesn’t work too well for this line), but the next time we make it out to GABF, this is something we will not miss.

After checking out the silent disco, I thought to myself, “What one last thing would a homebrewer not miss and who would he want to meet?”  You got it, the one and only John Palmer!

Just before the final pour was announced, we stopped at the Boston Beer Company’s booth and after sipping on their Tripel, I had to jump in and grab my first ever photo with a cardboard cut-out.

Indeed, that is Sam Adams himself.  Sorry for the reach around!

The end of the session reminded me of the end of a concert when the house lights are turned back on.  The hall lit up and people started to make their way to the exits and pour into the streets of downtown Denver in search of bars and after parties.

We met back up with the Ballast Point crew, snapped a quick photo with them for West Coaster and were invited to join them at the White Labs after party.  Of course we took them up on the offer and headed over to The Shag Lounge just a few blocks from the convention center.

We made quick work of the short line to get in and were pleasantly surprised to find out the bar was hosted by White Labs.  And we even bumped into Chris White at the bar!

The host himself!

He definitely wasn’t the only ‘celebrity’ in the place.  We hung out with Neva Parker for a little, the Societe guys and Tasty McDole from The Brewing Network.

Helena and Neva

Hanging with Tasty McDole from The Brewing Network.

After a few drinks and a long day, we called it a night and headed back to the hotel.  We had such a good time and would love to go back in the years to come.  The only thing is that we are certain the experience without a brewer’s pass might not be nearly as fun!

Below is a list of all the breweries we were able to visit during the session and the beers we sampled:

1. Dogfish Head, Midas Touch, Indian Brown and Sah’ Tea

2. Pro-Am, Time to Panic (Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits)

3. Pro-Am, Red Hop Ale (Ghost River Brewing)

4. Flying Dog Brewery, Dogtoberfest

5. Shorts Brewing Co., Peaches n Cream and Bludgeon

6. Victory Brewing Co., Headwaters Pale Ale

7. Ninkasi, Tricerahops and Spring Reign Ale

8. TableRock Brew Pub & Grill, Rye Saison

9. Wynkoop Brewing Co., Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout

10. Rockyard Brewing, Hopyard IPA

11. Deschutes Brewery, Black Butte XX (20th), 21, 22, 23 and 24

12. Russian River Brewing Co., Pliny the Elder

13. Uncle Billy’s, Bitchin’ Camaro

14. Terrapin Beer Co., Hopsecutioner

15. Brick Town Brewery, Kolsch

16. 4 Hands Brewing, Reprise Red Ale

17. Heretic Brewing Co., Gramarye (won gold medal in category 10: rye beer with 62 entries)

18. Kinetic Brewing Co., Afterburner Imperial IPA

19. Iron Springs Pub, Stout

20. Allagash Brewing Co., Curieux Ale

21. Darwin’s on 4th, Lemongrass Saison and Charapa

22. Back Forty Beer Co., Kudzu Porter

23. New Glarus Brewing, Raspberry Tart and Moon Man

24. Miller Brewing Co., Mickey’s

25. Lexington Brewing, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

26. Boston Beer Co., Tripel

Brew Day with Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits

On August 19, 2012, I was invited to brew my winning  home brew recipe “Time to Panic” with Ballast Point; which was part of the home brew competition they hosted along with the San Diego Padres.   I met up with Doug, one of the brewers at their Home Brew Mart location to brew 15 barrels of a 30 barrel batch.

The day started at 10:30 AM and after a quick introduction with Doug, he had me working.  I came prepared and excited to work.  My first task was to mill all the grain.  Now, keep in mind, I am a home brewer and used to milling around 11 -12 pounds or so for a 5 gallon batch.  Well, this was a little bit different. Aside from the first 50 pound bag that Doug milled to show me the ropes, he asked me to finish up the remaining 1,250 pounds!

I’m not sure how many 50 pound bags of grain that ended up being, but climbing a small step-ladder and pouring into the mill proved to be a good shoulder workout.  The good news was that under the mill, the grain is collected and an auger ultimately transfers it to the mash tun.

The brewery is located in the warehouse portion of their home brew shop which was opened in 1996.  In fact, this system is the first one installed and has been here ever since the beginning.  Boil kettle on the right and mash tun on the left.

So, with a lousy iPhone camera, this shot of the system’s control panel is terrible.  But, there really didn’t seem much more to it when compared to brewing on a sculpture from More Beer other than batch size.  Also, the control panel had temp controls for each fermenter.

I can only image that it must be so awesome for the founders of Ballast Point to see the original plaque on their first brewery that is still going strong from 1996!

One thing I especially liked about the brewery and storage areas was that there was no shortage of awards and other memorabilia highlighting the success of Ballast Point over the years.  Also, a shot of the hot liquor tank.

A look into the mash tun.  Around the top is a water line feeding 3 or 4 sprayers inside for sparging and doughing in.  This set up definitely rinses the grain efficiently.

Boil kettle filling after completing the sparge.  Ya, that took a while.

Boil going strong and hops ready to add.  Like that of the huge grain bill, I was a little caught off guard when Doug asked me to measure out each hop addition.  UN-like a home brew set up, I was for the first time measuring hops in pounds rather than ounces.  17 pounds to be exact!

A quick video of the boil – 15 barrels.

After whirl-pooling for about 15 minutes, the wort is transferred to the fermenter.  On its way, it is pumped through the heat exchanger for cooling and oxygen is hooked up.  This quick video shows the wort on its way to the fermenter just after passing by the oxygen.

Just one one of several of Ballast Point’s barrel aged beers waiting to be served!

I had a great time brewing with Doug and seeing the process on a much larger scale that I am used to as a 5 or 10 gallon batch home brewer.  Brewing up to 30 barrels for the 2012 Great American Beer Fest Pro-Am competition, to have on at their tasting rooms and maybe even around town in some beer bars was more than I ever expected for winning a local home brew competition.  For nothing more than a local home brewer who loves the hobby, this was a killer experience and I’m stoked to have Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits and the San Diego Padres supporting the home brew community.

White Labs Tasting Room

Located in the central San Diego area, the White Labs facility totals about 13,720 square feet and is situated in what has become a popular area for San Diego breweries.

I had heard a lot about the new tasting room that they recently finished and was excited to have the chance to check it out.  I didn’t know much about the concept and was surprised to see so many taps and a long line-up of beer styles fermented with a wide variety of yeast strains.

The iphone camera I was using definitely did not do any justice for the pictures, but when you walk in and step up to the tasting bar, I was impressed with all the high end contemporary finishes and a large LCD TV with all the styles on tap.  Each style is also labeled with the yeast strain used for that particular fermentation.

For example, if you like porters, you can get a flight of 4-5 tasters of the same porter, but each one was fermented using a different strain.  This is a great way to get a first hand taste into how each variety of yeast affect fermentation based on its profile and characteristics.

Sean happened to be behind the tasting bar and was very knowledgeable and helpful when I was deciding on which flight of beer style to go with.  I chose the red ale that included a flight of 5 tasters.  He laid out a dry-erase place mat and labeled each taster with the corresponding number from the menu board.  This way, I didn’t have to think much about remembering which one had which yeast.

The yeast strains for this flight included Pacific Ale, Cry Havoc, East Coast Ale, American Ale and European Ale.  I consider myself to have a terrible palate with craft beer that has improved and is still improving the more styles and flavor profiles I taste.  With that being said, I didn’t think I would be able to pick apart the differences in each yeast strain.

Fact of the matter was, I did pick them apart and although I’m not one to have several creative adjectives to describe what I’m drinking, each of these red ales had very different and some similar characters to them.  In the end, it got me fired up to try strains I normally might shy away from because of unfamiliarity.

I would estimate the tasting room to be approximately 2,000 square feet.  In addition, the tasting bar includes 3-4 barrels for resting tasters and two displays of White Labs gear and their new Test Kits – all available for sale.  There is also a window from the tasting room looking into a very labratory-like room where the company completes the evaluations of the test kits.

Finally, the building has a large training room that is set up like a classroom with several tables and chairs.  On my visit, it was empty except for one “student” buried in a laptop.

Again, White Labs is perfectly located in an area of San Diego that can be described as the “bulls-eye” for local breweries.  After stopping in for a flight or two and perhaps a tour, craft brew enthusiasts and home brewers can also visit commercial breweries in the immediate area that include, Ballast Point, Alesmith, Green Flash, Societe and Hess.  Also, within a 15-20 minute drive, you can reach other breweries including Karl Strauss, Stone, Pizza Port, Mission, New English and Iron Fist.

Magnetic Stir Plate – DIY Build

Once I had success with the temp controller, I was amped to embark on another DIY homebrew project.  For the last year or so I have been making yeast starters and nurturing them by the “every now and then” shake the flask or growler method.  Like that of the controller, I wasn’t too excited about spending a bunch of money on a magnetic stir plate.  For example, More Beer sells theirs for $99 bucks.

Again, I turned to Home Brew Talk and found a plethora of DIY builds.  I learned that almost everyone had their own style and preferences on how to mount the fan, but all the other mechanical components were basically the same.  This post on HBT was helpful for me:  Stir Plate

List of what I used:

  • Project enclosure ($6.99 – Radio Shack)
  • 3″ 12V computer fan ($15.99 – Radio Shack)
  • Rheostat 25 ohm-3 watt ($4.99 – Radio Shack)
  • Panel mount coaxial power jack Size N to match the power supply connection ($3.19 – Radio Shack)
  • Rocker switch ($3.19 – Radio Shack)
  • Silver Tone Knurled Knob ($2.99 – Radio Shack)
  • 8-32 2″ screws to secure fan to enclosure ($2.99 – Home Depot)
  • 9V power supply (Free – Old power supply from work)
  • 1 washer (Free – Had on hand at home)
  • 1 hard drive magnet (Free – Taken from an old hard drive from work)
  • Wire for additional connections (Free – Had on hand at home)
  • 1″ stir bar ($6.22 including shipping – Chang Bioscience Ebay Page)

Total cost: $46.55

I was happy with the cost savings with exception of the computer fan.  After I bought the 3″ from Radio Shack, I found that they could be had for much less online.  I stuck with the one I got and went ahead with the build.  $46 still seemed better than spending $100.

I used a step bit to drill the holes for each component.  This allowed me to make a perfectly sized hole without needing to swap out drill bits and spend time figuring out which size would be best.  The rocker switch is mounted on the left side and the rheostat is on the right.  I soldered all of the connections and wrapped with electrical tape.

Since I had no clue on how to wire this thing up, I turned to the net. This is a diagram I used to first make sure I could get the switch wired properly.

I mounted the coax power jack to the rear of the project box.  Again, used the step bit to drill a perfectly sized hole.

I centered the washer as best as possible and mounted to the fan 4 small drops of liquid nails.  After it was dry and secure, I mounted the magnet.  Although the magnet stuck pretty well to the washer, I decided to use a small amount of liquid nails to get a more solid mount.

I used 8-32 2″ flat head screws to mount the fan.  I inserted the screws from the bottom of the project box and had plenty of height to get the fan close to the top of the box.  I secured the screws to the box with 8-32 sized hex nuts and then also used washers to keep the fan raised off the base of the project box.  Lastly, I used hex nuts to complete it all and further secure the fan.

Rocker switch and rheostat installed.

Completed stir plate.

For the test run I used 1,200 ml of water.  I was pleased with the results and got a good vortex going on the first try.  Pretty stoked for the next brew day and not having to try and remember to shake the yeast starter.

This build was a little more involved for me because it had parts I had never heard of before; plus, the wiring looked more intimidating because it included a switch, fan and rheostat.  You Tube proved very helpful and also my online searches for wiring diagrams.  I was stoked that all the electrical was working perfectly the first time.

Dual Stage Digital Temperature Controller – DIY Build

I am upgrading my fermentation chamber to a new chest freezer and wanted to save a little bit of money on a new digital temperature controller.  I started out by checking prices at More Beer and just anywhere on the net that sold Ranco , Johnson or other controller options.  I learned that the approximate minimum I could expect to pay was $100 and didn’t want to pay that much.

So, I turned to Home Brew Talk and a home brew buddy of mine, Big P Brewing for some suggestions.  It was recommend to me that I should look into the DIY build with the ever famous STC-1000 digital temp controller from Hong Kong and follow one of the many builds from Home Brew Talk.  Here is a link to just one of the many – DIY Temp Control.

I am by no means qualified to be doing really any kind of electrical work, so I relied on some other more mechanically talented friends to help out.  Therefore, my post is not to actually demonstrate or provide a wiring diagram of the build.  Rather, my intent is to share that someone with no skill in electrical wiring can save some cash and have a little fun building their home brew equipment.

List of what I used:

  • STC-1000 digital controller ($23.50 including shipping – Ebay)
  • Project enclosure (7x5x3″) ($6.99 – Radio Shack)
  • 14 gauge power cable (Free – old computer power cable from work)
  • 14 gauge wires for connections (Free – taken from a portion of the power cable)
  • 20 amp duplex outlet ($4.99 – Home Depot)
  • Plastic outlet cover ($0.25 – Home Depot)

Total Cost: $35.73

A look at the guts of the build. I did not solder any of the connections.

The temperature controller will come with two orange clips to secure it inside the project box. The temperature probe can also be seen exiting the box.

The 14 gauge power cable exits through the bottom of the project box with a rubber grommet installed to help secure it.

I decided to have the temperature probe exit from the top right side of the project box. I installed another rubber grommet for this as well.

This is my finished product.

Ballast Point/SD Padres Home Brew Competition

I have been home brewing since 2010 and have found myself becoming more involved with the process and equipment in hopes of brewing the best beer possible. I learned a lot about the hobby from a few home brewer buddies and also devoting my morning and afternoon commutes to listening to The Brewing Network and all of their informative programming.

About two months ago, I finally made it to the Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits tasting room in Scripps Ranch and saw their poster for the competition.  Since I was set up to brew that weekend, I figured I would enter that beer.  Plus, entries were free.

An article about the partnership with Ballast Point and the Padres:  San Diego Magazine – A Home Brew Home Run

Ballast Point Brewing Home Brew Contest Info

Ballast Point announcement on their Facebook page

Photo from the judging

A fresh pour of the pale ale from the tap!

The ball for the pitch!

Field pass and game ticket

Charlie Sheen showed up at the game that day too. He threw out a pitch.

I’m one of those people that seems to never win anything.

And here’s the pitch…low and outside!

The next step is to connect with Ballast Point Brewing to get this brewed on a bigger scale and I’m hopeful to have it entered at the upcoming 2012 Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am Competition in Denver this October 11-13.

Whirlpool Install to Boil Kettle

I have been wanting to have the ability to more easily return wort to the boil kettle from the counter flow chiller and also try to get some whirlpool action at the same time. Over the course of a couple months, I scoured posts at Home Brew Talk, looked into Jamil Zainasheff’s whirlpool set up and a few other renditions of DIY whirlpool builds. For the most part, what I found is that most of the builds out there are set up for immersion chillers. Since I already use a counter flow chiller, I definitely didn’t want to be shopping for a new chiller set up just to incorporate a whirlpool into my brew day.

I decided to turn to the guys at More Beer in Riverside. I reached out to Rob in their shop and asked if he uses a set up on their sculpture for when they do weekend demonstrations. After a few emails, he set me up with all the right fittings. Below are some photos of how it all ended up working when installing to the boil kettle.

Boil kettle before any welding.

Here is the list of fittings and quantities I purchased from More Beer and Lowe’s:

  • Male quick disconnect with barb (2)
  • 1/2″ full coupler (1)
  • 1/2″ street elbow (2)
  • 1/2″ x 1.5″ threaded nipple (1)
  • 1/2″ mpt x 1/2″ compression fitting (1)
  • 3/8″ x 2′ copper pipe (1) was purchased at Lowe’s.

All the fittings, minus the 1/2″ stainless coupler that was welded into the boil kettle.

1/2″ stainless coupler and 1/2″ inch male quick disconnect. The barb on the quick disconnect will be removed and filled to create a cap on the front of the kettle.

Coupler installed 1 inch from the lip of the kettle.

1/2″ female quick disconnect installed into the coupler.

1/2″ male quick disconnect with the barb removed and filled (left).

Cap inserted on the front of the kettle.

Inside the boil kettle.

3/8″ x 2′ copper pipe attached with 1/2″ stainless compression fitting.

The first run-through seemed to work well with only a few small leaks from the fittings that are inside the kettle. I will add thread tape the connections and am confident that will remedy that with no problems. The whirlpool is not nearly as vigorous as I expected, but nonetheless, it definitely gets some good action and I can now just “click in” when returning wort to the kettle from the counter flow chiller.