Sunday, June 13, 2010

Brewing in the Rain

I finished all of my planned projects and fired up the brewery with my brother and nephew yesterday to brew our summer ale.  This year's summer ale is a simple all grain recipe with american hops.  It was supposed to be in the neighborhood of 5% abv and 23 IBU....but we broke our hydrometer....and have no idea.

Our expansion of equipment slowed our brew day down considerably.  Most of the slowdown was to figure out how to use the pump to avoid moving large vessels of hot liquid.  Mostly, we succeeded.  The major success was the pump, except for electrocuting my nephew a bit (don't worry, I have two nephews).  Showing the need for some re-wiring, the mash recirculation and wort transfer went off pretty well.  I need to wire a ground fault interrupter (GFI) outlet in the garage (need to do anyway), and mount the pump with its shield to protect it from water and wort and make it easier to manipulate the valve with one hand.

Items of limited success include the new quick connections I inherited from my pump/kettle purchase.  Really, I need more of them and need to figure out where it is most critical for them to go....we kept having to change the configuration of the hoses and connections to move wort where we wanted it to go.

Failures and reconfigurations include my Hot Liquor Tank/Boil kettle siphon wasn't fully secured so didn't work, and got plugged up during the last wort transfer into the fermenter....I need to work with it to see if it will work at all, or if I need another false bottom.  I also didn't get an accurate temperature reading on our thermometers that I mounted in-line to the kettles valve system.  They gave me accurate temperatures of the wort as it was moving, but my strike water got too hot and we weren't aware of it until we started moving water.  I like the in-line idea, but it doesn't substitute for a gauge mounted in the kettle itself.

I also failed in my boil kettle location.  I placed it up high in the HLT location, but in my planning, I never decided to do was a game time decision, and nothing bad happened, but as my brother noted, it was blatantly unsafe as we tend to the boil kettle more than the HLT.  Lastly, I failed to impress my brother with any of my whiz-bang equipment in my diapidated and poorly lit garage.

The new fermentation vessel seems like it will work well as well as the fermentation chamber, but I need to monitor them.  I might yet still install a valve on this vessel.

So, I have a little tinkering yet to go, and need to buy a few items, but have run out of money.  First things first.  I need a new hydrometer....I need to find one that is easier to read.  I also need better lighting in the brewery.  I will have to figure out which projects I can do without new purchases.

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