Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Overhaulin' the Brewery

I finally bottled our Festivus Ale, and for the first time since Thanksgiving, I don't have a beer in the carboys (fermenter).  I don't know if I will like the Festivus Ale or not.  It does have a lot of spices, cinemon to be exact, that I hope mellow over time.  Even with 8 other gallons of beer around, it will be hard to not sample this beer for a while.  It does need to age.

With empty carboys and the brewing equipment being unused for a few days I decided to do some long overdue  overhauling of the equipment.  I had noticed some deterioration of the weld on the inside of the kettle, and am currently trying to find a welder that will work for cheap to fix it and install another threaded hole to add a thermometer well.  The weld is not leaking, but I don't like all of the rough areas inside the kettle, especially since we use the vessel for bottling.

The various pipe fittings on the kettle are stainless steel and brass.  I took each of them apart and soaked them in Oxyclean.  They all had discoloration and remnants of the teflon tape in the threads which I cleaned as best as I could retaped and reassembled.  I should take it apart more often.  This was the first time in  5 years, and probably it should come apart every two uses or so.  As I expand our brewery this coming year, I have to make a decision about all of the pipes, tubes, and fittings.  I can go with the extremely cheap threaded brass fittings (which I currently use), more expensive threaded stainless steel fittings, or exhorbanantly priced professional grade sanitary tri-clamp fittings.  Tri-clamp fittings have no threads and have all smooth surfaces to easily clean.  They clamp with a two hinged (three or tri piece) clamp around the fitting's ends.  It is a small scale version of what is used in the food industry and almost all professional breweries.  After trying to clean out our fittings, I can see the utility of the tri-clamp, but it would almost be cheaper to buy new brass fittings every year.  If money was no object, it would be the tri-clamp fittings, for sure.  But, if money was no object, I would either buy a Sabco Brew Magic system (computer controlled) for $6,000 or just go into the brewing business for myself (or both).

I can't decide if the threaded stainless fittings would be worth the money or save any headache.  I think that they are just shiny (and that is why I like them).  But shiny also might make them easier to clean, and be more difficult for gunk to embed themselves into the threads.  I don't know.  I put a question into the American Homebrewer's Association Tech Talk Forum to see what the homebrewer consensus is.

In the meantime, we are scheduled to brew again on Saturday (Oktoberfest/Marzen) so, I don't think I will get the welding done in time.

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