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When A Pot Is Not Just A Pot

Posted by zVulture on 9/03/2015 at 09:57:18 PM

 

With a short break from the dunkelweizen series as I wait for the latest batch to finish fermentation, my investigations turn to equipment. Moving into a place with more space by the end of the year I wanted to price out a set of equipment. I was hitting limits as far as making higher gravity beers or doing new processes for my experimental brews. So I started digging into the research that is one reason I enjoy this hobby, there is always so much to learn (and subsequently rant about). First I needed to get a pot, that can't be hard to pick right?

The right size is (not) all you need

It should just be simple as moving from my old 5 gallon pot when I was doing extract or partial mash brews to the one I have now at 8 gallons for full mash brews. Yet what I saw as the size I needed changed with the processes I used. Now I have this expensive pot and I am looking to replace it in less than a year! My method of no-sparge brewing suddenly became impossible when trying to brew a Strong Scotch Ale as apparently 7 gallons wasn't enough in one go. And that isn't even the only one as I started looking into parti-gyle brewing.

Planning ahead really is the key to a smooth brew day and equipment which is the most expensive piece is the most important. I only plan on doing 5 gallon batches as I love to brew more often. I find that the 8 gallon is perfect for normal gravity or normal processes but who wants to be normal? So stepping up the game to a 15 gallon pot leaves me with plenty of room to do the max batch of a parti-gyle or dual brew day. Not to mention I can then use my 8 gallon as a second boil pot, Perfect.

Would you like a probe with that?

Well there is more I like in a pot than just having it just by itself. Add in a built in thermometer probe and you can enjoy the convenience of back bending and neck stretching goodness as my burners are on the ground. Not to mention just how it likes to catch on the mash paddle when I am mixing or cooling the wart. Let alone that the stick jutting out makes the BIAB mesh get caught up each time I brew making me worry about a rip. Why is this important again? I think I need to save this research for another time...

A port is (not) just a port

A lot of these pots come with nice NTP connectors and ball valves included. That really does make my life easier just getting the kit like the Northern Brewer's Megapot (my 8 gallon). Easy enough to setup and I can just forget about it as it works so well. Until I have to clean it anyway as we have to pull off all those lovely connectors I got nice and water tight with plumbers tape. And that's just one connector, I haven't even gotten to the thermometer or if I wanted a whirlpool port.



lazy people p0rn material

Step in the tri-clover sanitary connectors to save the day. I saw these at NHC this year and was quite glad to find they are not expensive at all as an addition. Just a few quick turns of a screw and it all comes apart and the seals are sanitary (anti-bacterial). This makes pulling off connectors and valves so much easier so I can then work to clean parts much easier or put on new parts easier for that matter.

Just how much does this all cost?

Note: None of these links are affiliated and are just here for examples and ease of use.

My old 8 gallon Megapot is about $180 bucks for an all inclusive setup. Quite the decent cost for going into all grain brewing really at the time. There are less expensive options like the 8 gal AIH pot that is only $80 though it doesn't come with attachments, with the same setup it's still only about $124 which is damn good for getting into brewing. I don't have experience with this but it does look a little on the thin side. Now jumping up to my target 15 gallon pot is a bit different as I intend to make this thing last for a long time. The initial contenders:

  • $140 14 Gallon Economy Brew Kettle from More Beer (no attachments, ~$200 w/ attachments) [or at AIH]
  • $300 15 gallon BrewBuilt Kettle from AIH
  • $310 15 gallon Megapot from Northern Brewer
  • $430 15 gallon Blichman Boilermaker from Northern Brewer
  • Note: I know there are plenty others but I use these as an initial price point

  • These are the 'usual suspects' as it were for homebrew brands and all quite similar yet the prices were quite up there. None of it came with the Tri-clamp and one even without the thermometer included in the package (not even an add-on option). Well at least we have a price range to look for around $300, excluding the economy kettle, for a good pot so to google, our lord and master, we went! Well the results came up with a new set of competitors:

  • $275 15gal kettle from Brewers Hardware (no attachments)
  • $275 15 gallon ProBoiler from Bru Gear (w/ thermometer, ball valve, two triclamps, internal line markings)
  • $280-Up 15 Gallon Pot from Colorado Brewing Systems (w/ thermometer, ball valve, two triclamps, internal line markings)

  • The Brewers Hardware pot seems like back to the 'cheap' AIH pot that just was a bit flimsy and this one is tall as well so heat retention might be more an issue with the increased surface area. The Bru Gear is quite all inclusive, no customization needed and at a nice price which puts it at top chart for me as I remember seeing the brand at NHC as well. Late to the party and quite lively comes Colorado Brewing Systems. Their site allows me to go in and completely customize the pot that I want! If I am paying near $300 I think getting something I can plan for future use. There were so many options I was getting a bit click happy but it really can be customized to your setup. The only downside? "Current manufacturing lead time is approximately 2-3 weeks" and that doesn't include shipping time.



    Tri-clamps in action!

    Overall I think for the price you can't beat either Bru Gear or Colorado Brewing Systems for heavy duty kettles (tri-clover or not). Though it's hard to turn down a $200 economy kettle at that price savings. There are plenty of manufacturers that have I have missed though and I am welcome to update the list with more. For my purpose as I have time till the move, I think I will build out a custom order to do a Minimal Sparge method and get two pots for this. Using my current as an extra MegaPot for doing parti-gyle or dual batches. Now just think you read an entire blog post just about pots...what next, thermometers???



    Note from Homebrewdad: I think these fancy pots are great.  So far, though, I've been doing fine with an 11 gallon Bayou Classic from Amazon, which goes for around $80.  Of course, it has no valve, no ports, no thermometer, etc.



    Steven, otherwise known as zVulture on reddit or in games, is a homebrewer with two years and counting under the belt. Ambitious enough to think he can work his way up to opening his own brewery but knows he has a lot to learn. Beyond having fun doing experimental homebrewing to such an end, he enjoys learning and using old techniques, useful or not, to make beer.




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    Best bang for buck IMO:

    20 gal Concord for $130 - http://www.amazon.com/Concord-Cookware-S5050S-Stainless-100-Quart/dp/B0085ZPZ20&tag=homedad-20

    Sightglass/Thermo kit for $44 - https://www.brewhardware.com/product_p/tp.htm

    Bulkhead/Ball Valve/Hose barb for $37 - https://www.brewhardware.com/product_p/truebulkheadelbarb.htm

    Get fancy with camlock fittings (> triclover) if you want for a few bucks more, grab a hole saw for $10ish and you've got a huge fantastic full-featured pot for ~$215!

    posted by bovineblitz on 9/04/2015 at 10:01:27 AM




    I would like to add that Brewers International has a VERY nice selection of Tri-clad kettles. I personally have the 8 gallon and love it.

    posted by diegodangers on 9/04/2015 at 12:55:25 PM






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    Tags for this post: pot, kettle, equipment, tri-clover clamp

    Reviewing the Lavatools Javelin PRO Digital Thermometer

    Posted by homebrewdad on 9/01/2015 at 09:50:03 AM

     
    It has come to my attention that Lavatools mistakenly shipped normal Javelin thermometers to me, not the Javelin PRO models that I was supposed to review.  Please bear that in mind when reading the following review.
    Accurate temperature reading are an absolute must for serious homebrewers, as variances of even a few degrees Fahrenheit can make huge differences in wort fermentability and the final mouthfeel of a beer. Let us all observe a moment of silence for that glass floating thermometer that comes with so many starter sets. While we may keep it around for fun, one of the first pieces of gear that gets upgraded by the typical homebrewer is that thermometer, as traditional thermometers like this are often neither particularly accurate nor quick (or easy) to read. And, of course, they are made of glass - making them susceptible to death by fall.

    It seems like there is a wide range of very affordable digital thermometers for sale, but if you want serious accuracy and super fast read times, there is only one big name on the market - the Thermoworks Thermapen. Now, don't get me wrong; I received a Thermapen for my birthday a couple of years ago, and I love it. If I'm being perfectly honest, the "bling" factor of having a real top of the line piece of gear probably factors into my feelings, but being able to pull a dead accurate reading in an near instant manner is pretty great. Having a great...
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    Tags for this post: Javelin, PRO, Lavatools, digital, thermometer, Thermapen

    In Pursuit of a Great IPA Hop Bursting and Hop Stands Are they worth it?

    Posted by madcowbrewing on 8/30/2015 at 07:33:04 PM

     

    For the longest time, I have been a very traditional brewer when it comes to hopping and bittering.  Sixty minute addition for my bitterness, somewhere around 20 for flavor and then 0-5 minutes for aroma. Some of it was my not wanting to invest in the amount of hops it takes to do these methods. But as of the last few years you are hearing more and more of these new techniques to insert not only flavor and aroma into your beer but bitterness too. And in search of a great IPA recipe, what would you invest to make it. These techniques are said to be anchored in home brewing and have cascaded into the commercial realm of some of the great IPA brewers. So there has to be some truth that they work.

    Hop Bursting is the addition of late hops, and only late hops. No bitterness hopping at the beginning of the boil. Some brewers use a mash hop or first wort hop to compliment or add some bitterness. With this addition some say the bitterness tends to be softer. I am not sure it does, but I can tell you it lends a massive hop aroma and flavor.

    Hop Stands, simply put, are the addition of hops post boil before the cooling, or sometimes it is during the whirlpool. As the wort is still hot, not boiling, you are extracting some alpha acids, but not as much as you would with boiling. And again, you are...
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    Tags for this post: IPA, Hop Bursting, Hop Stand

    A Dark Journey Through Hefeweizen - Part 4

    Posted by zVulture on 8/27/2015 at 09:44:09 PM

     
    Part 4 - Yeast Blending Continued from Part 1 - The Dunkelweizen Clone, Part 2 - Mastering the Yeast, and Part 3 - Decoction Mashing.

    After the last 'few' attempts it seemed like nothing would get me any closer to the unicorn of a beer I had imagined. After many battles I finally gave up on WLP300 as it was the closest yet too unruly of a beast to manage. Thankfully I have White Labs locally to go try out other yeasts. Their tap room has saved me so much time experimenting by tasting flights of the same beer with different yeasts. Yet each I tasted made it really seem my goal was really just an imaginary creature. It was then in that tipsy daze (drunken stupor) that a light bulb came on...but that doesn't matter because I got a great idea after comparing two yeasts. Mixing them together created a complex yet mellow magical taste that I had been seeking!

    At the time, I searched online and couldn't find many resources for blending yeasts much less any decent resources. Even the White Labs folks had only just started experimenting with their Franken Stout. Guess this was going to be my own adventure with Wenches and Beer! Or really just lots of beer as one of those two are in short supply...



    White Labs Tasting Room, so many to try...

    Recipe: Note, you will find this...
    [ read more... ]

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    Tags for this post: Dunkelweizen, Hefeweizen, Adventure, Yeast Blending, Mixed Yeast Fermentation

    A Guide To Beginning Kegging

    Posted by mr_faust on 8/26/2015 at 01:39:48 PM

     

    Many brewers reach the point where they become tired of the hassle of bottling, and dread the chore.  I reached that point fairly early on in my brewing career and decided that I needed a change.  I got into kegging and have never looked back.  I now run a 3 keg setup and I find that it inspires me to keep brewing and perfecting the craft so I always have something new or better when I have friends over.

    Pictured below is my kegerator in all of its glory.  It currently has a temporary tap list affixed to it.


    Kegging has a lot of advantages over bottling; that being said, bottles still hold the advantage in a few areas.  Let’s see if kegging is for you:

    Kegging has the edge in these ways:

    One vessel to sanitize and fill, this lowers the risk of an in bottle infection.
    Better carbonation control, I found my bottles to never be completely uniformly carbonated.
    No yeast in the bottom of pours, this is huge for people who you are trying to introduce to the craft.
    Your friends will like your beer more, seriously, something about having...
    [ read more... ]

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    Tags for this post: Keg, kegging, home brew, guide, parts list

    Overnight-Full Volume Mash

    Posted by madcowbrewing on 8/26/2015 at 12:16:24 AM

     
    I am a great fan of methods that make things easier, and the overnight mash is certainly a time saver. But I have always wondered if it was possible to maximize the savings by doing a full volume mash (no-sparge) combined with the overnight aspect of it. Whenever I did an overnight mash, I still had to get up, start the water for the sparge and then spend the time to either fly sparge or batch sparge…..where did my time savings go?

    So first to understand that an overnight sparge is okay and works you have to consider the following:

    Attenuation - If you are making anything you do not want bone dry, forget it. This long, slow mash leads the best for those styles that attenuate almost fully. Like a Saison, some Belgian styles, etc. Be sure the recipe you want on this mash is prepared for a low final gravity.

    Possibility of souring or bacteria - Any time your mash temp drops below 130 degrees F the Lactobacillus that live naturally on the grain, have the potential to grow and sour and infect your wort. If you keep your temperature of your mash up, you should have no problems.

    Insulating your mash tun - When you mash overnight you want to minimize the temp loss as much as you can. You do want to stay above the 130 threshold….preferably higher than that. So in order to do that, I employ a three tier system. First, I place a...
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    Tags for this post: overnight, mash, souring, fermntability

    Review: Magnetic Bottle Opener by Hannison Woodworks

    Posted by homebrewdad on 8/25/2015 at 12:56:17 AM

     
    This past Saturday, I received a package I have been excitedly awaiting - a magnetic bottle opener from Hannison Woodworks. Hannison is a sponsor of the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge; they are contributing prizes to three winners, who will receive their choice of a tap handle or bottle opener. I don't keg, but I do bottle; Matt (the owner of Hannison) was good enough to send me a custom magnetic opener to review.


    Full disclosure: as mentioned above, Hannison Woodworks is a sponsor of the 2015 BrewUnited Challenge. This bottle opener was provided to me at no cost, in exchange for the consideration of an honest product review. With that said, the following review is 100% true and accurate, and is in my own words. Hannison did not suggest, edit, or even read my review prior to my public post.



    My very first impression upon unboxing the opener was pretty simple - wow. This thing is beautiful; my wife - who is understandably no longer impressed with me dragging various pieces of brewing-related gear home - made several nice comments about the opener, and was happy to hang this on the front of our fridge. The opener is crafted from one solid piece of cherry wood, and the BrewUnited logo has been laser etched onto the face.

    In what feels like a lifetime ago, I spent three years as a cabinetmaker, and have continued to enjoy woodworking from time to time. Our home features a...
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    Tags for this post: magnetic, bottle, opener, hannison, woodworks

    A Dark Journey Through Hefeweizen - Part 3

    Posted by zVulture on 8/21/2015 at 02:04:33 AM

     
    Part 3 - Decoction Mashing Continued from Part 1 - The Dunkelweizen Clone and Part 2 - Mastering the Yeast

    After my trials with trying to nail down and balance the yeasts elements, I returned to my tomes for further resources. Getting too much banana or clove on a yeast that was entirely too picky had become a chore in itself. Even understanding how each is produced there was just too much variance with minor changes and there had to be a way to help control these better. Researching further I looked into brewing methods that are used for Hefeweizens in the past. Beyond just the Fuleric Acid rest there was a mention of Decocting and it's controversial benefits. This topic has been covered by other blogs, articles and books so I will try to keep it focused to Hefeweizen.



    Adventurer B and his animal companion

    Recipe - Time for a change up Due to the topic, I am changing the recipe off the Dunkelweizen I usually post in order to focus on bringing out the benefits of Decoction Mashing.

    Type: BIAB All Grain
    Style: 15a Weizen/wiessbeer
    Alcohol: ~5%
    IBU: ~12
    Batch Vol: 5.50 gal
    Bottling Vol: 5.00 gal

    Amount Name Type Addition %Bill/IBU 5 lb White Wheat Malt Grain Mash 56% 3 lbs Pilsner (2-row) UK Grain Mash 33% 1 lb Flaked Wheat Grain Mash...
    [ read more... ]

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    Tags for this post: Decoction, Decoction Mash, hefeweizen, dunkelweizen, Adventure

    A Low Tech Solution to Cold Crashing

    Posted by homebrewdad on 8/21/2015 at 01:17:45 AM

     
    As you may know, I currently have a split batch of competition beer going. Four gallons have been hit with WLP820 to become a Festbier, and are located in a carboy inside my fermentation chamber (an ancient mini fridge with an STC-1000 temperature controller). I love the control that this setup gives me; set the desired temperature, then walk away in confidence that my beer will remain within one degree F of my target temperature.

    On the other hand, I have about three other gallons with WLP500, which are then further split between a pair of two gallon buckets; these will become variations on a Belgian Blond. These two gallons have been sitting in my DIY Son of a Fermentation Chamber, which has been brought out of semi-retirement to serve as my backup fermentation chamber. While the SOAFC is a great improvement over absence of temperature control, it is nowhere near as precise as my fridge/STC-1000 combo; luckily, I had planned to keep this Belgian yeast happy with a little heat, anyway.


    Some high tech gear, here.

    Since these are competition beers, my desire for clarity extends beyond vanity. I had planned to cold crash and treat both beers with gelatin, then complete the "fast lager" process on the Festbier. Cold crashing is obviously a simple thing in a mini fridge, but I was drawing a blank as to how I...
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    Tags for this post: cold, crash, fermentation, chamber, ice, cooler, festbier, Belgian, blond

    Adding Local Flavor: Hibiscus

    Posted by tracebusta on 8/20/2015 at 01:12:25 PM

     
    The previous owner of our house was apparently very big into gardening. It's been a lot of fun watching the backyard change over the summer and finding out what's all back there. Three of the largest bushes back there are Rose of Sharon, which is a type of hibiscus. I've been doing some reading on them, and it turns out that they are very edible, both the leaves and the flowers. The leaves are really tough and chewy and have that green, vegetal taste. I probably won't be doing much with those. The flowers, though, are pretty good. They have a very mild floral flavor with a bit of sweetness. Most of the recipes I've seen online are for teas or salads, so I figure that a tea would be a great first start. Right now I'm in the process of drying out some of the flowers, we'll see what happens.


    The two main bushes here are about 12 feet tall.


    I went out and picked/cut about 10 flowers. (these are the "chiffon" variety of the Rose of Sharon)


    I pulled the petals out and put...
    [ read more... ]

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    Tags for this post: local, backyard, hibiscus, dry, drying

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