Saturday, August 27, 2011

Home Made Cool Box Mash Tun - Extra Insulation

I am getting ready to brew again, just waiting on some more grains arriving and so in the meantime I've been trying to address some of the problems I discovered during my first all grain brewday.

Firstly, my homemade, cool box mash tun lost around 6 degrees during the 60 minute mash and the mash temp was only just at the optimum temp for mashing (65c ish). The recipes in Graham Wheelers superb Brew Your Own British Real Ale (Camra) call for a mash time of 90 minutes so the temp loss will be an even bigger issue this time around.

Luckily I found a few slabs of 30mm polyurethane foam in the barn and set about building a tight fitting box around my cool box Mash Tun as well as a tight fitting lid with an additional thickness of foam inside.

The box was relatively easy to construct and is held together with some long screws. I made the lid so that it sites over the top of the box which also means that around 30mm of the sides around the top have a double thickness of foam too.

I haven't tested it yet as I've only just come in from finishing it but I think this additional insulation around the mash tun will make a great deal of difference, especially the 60mm total thickness in the lid (where most of the heat is reportedly lost).
PU Foam Insulation Box for my Home Made, Cool Box Mash Tun
EDIT: Well bollox! After all that it's only made half a degree C difference over 90 minutes. Started test with water at 65C. After 1 hour it was 61C and after 90 minutes it was 59.5 C - FFFUUUUUUUUUUUU

EDIT TO EDIT: Ignore the above, it seems testing a mash tun with hot water only gives less than favourable results. The grain in there also adds to the heat retention. This was proved in my subsequent brews, brew 2 All Grain HomeBrew Courage Directors and brew 3 All Grain HomeBrew Irish Stout when I lost just 1C  on brewday 2 and there was no measurable drop in temp on brew 3 :)

Home made Conical Fermenter project

A Conical Fermenter yesterday.
I've been looking at conical fermenters recently but the price has kept me away. All I really see is a pretty basic thing really, couple of valves, one for the beer take off I guess and the other - bottom one - for draining of the yeast sludge that settles out during fermentation... An airlock, possible even a sightglass but for a plastic one there's probably no need if you can see the liquid level ok through the tank wall.

How hard could it be to make one?

My Mrs pointed out the similarity between the fermenters I was looking at on The Google and a water dispenser we used to have for our chickens - we then got some Geese that promptly destroyed the dispenser. I've now found out they're call poultry drinkers and they look like this:

Plastic Poultry Drinker... A Conical Fermenter in the waiting.
A bit of cutting and drilling for a couple of valves and I think we'd have a pretty close deal and at around £35 (GBP) for a 30l drinker I could make four for the cost of a factory built fermenter. Looking at the photo above I'd need to find a drinker with a wider lid as to fit the valves there's a need to get an arm inside to tighten the back nut on.

Of course it's me and it's DIY so no doubt it'll go somewhat pear shaped but hey ho, that's half the fun isn't it? Hmmmmmn...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New, Bigger Wort Boiler (Brewing Copper)

My new wort boiler on the left sat next to my original that has now become my hot liquor tank to command my mash tun during the mash and subsequent sparging of the brew grist.
After realising too late my original boiler was too small to handle sufficient sweet wort for a 5 gallon brew (see my earlier post about my aluminium stock pan) and having to make a half size brew for my first all grain brew day I have got hold of a much larger pan and converted it into a wort boiler.

As you can see in the above photo I've used the same type of valve (less than a fiver from Leroy Merlin) and on the inside I've used the hop filter from the original boiler. I have fitted the valve slightly lower than on the original for a couple of reasons:

1) The rounding of the sides into the base of the larger pan is less than that of the smaller pan (part of the reason my tap was higher up and not so obvious in the piccy).

2) When filled with just water, the pan drained under syphon from the tap leaving only around 300ml of water behind. However during the brew - possibly due to the restriction of the hops around the filter - the syphon effect broke before the boiled wort was fully run off - losing me more than 300ml of the precious liquid.

The lower tap means I've had to turn my hop filter sideways due to the two, copper 90deg elbows connecting the filter pipe to the tap. I have seen other coppers with the filter to one side so I don't think this is an issue and my wort chiller still fits no problem.

Old hop filter fitted into new wort boiler. Tilted to the side to allow for a lower fitting of the tap valve.
Testing this new setup with water, I achieved a virtually total run off (less than 150-200ml left in the pan) and that was without having a length of tubing running from the down pointing outlet pipe.

Looking forward to getting a second brew on this week although I may be brave and wait until next week when I have a friend visiting us who's bringing some more grains from Blighty.

New Gas Burner For Wort Boiler/Copper

I saw these gas burners in a branch of Gamme Vert in Limoges a couple of weeks ago going for 75 Euros each and was going to get one this week. Luckily I called into our local branch in Ambazac today and picked one up for just 42 Euros!!!

3 ring 9.2 KW Gas Burner - Cast iron and brass manifold with taps.
Here's the website for the makers for those of you who don't have access to a Gamme Vert although of course it might be worth checking out eBay etc

The savings alone have more than covered the gas regulator and tubing (not included) as well as leaving some left over to go into my new (insulated shiny) Mash Tun fund.

This, with my new, larger capacity copper (post coming soon) means I shall be getting another brew on very soon. I ordered a load of bottles and capping gear last night from Brouwland (bit of a dodgy Frames based website - so no links to individual products as the browser address bar only shows the homepage url... SEO? I think not. - but good payment handling and order confirmation service so far)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Stock Pot - Time To Upgrade My Wort Boiler

After realising too late my stock pot I'd bought for my wort boiler was too small!!! Argghh! - (see this post about my supposed 34l wort boiler) - I have got hold of another, much larger one. Unforetunately I've got a very busy week ahead - the joys of freelance and no holidays - so I don't think I'll get it converted until next week.

Lessons learned from pan 1, I'll be fitting the hop strainer a bit lower in this one. Although when empty it syphons to virtually empty the interference of the hops around the filter caused my last brew to stop as I was draining it to the FV costing me around 500ml of hopped wort.

My existing wort chiller also still fits perfectly so no need for any adjustments there.

Watch this space for my second brew. in case you missed it, here's my first all grain home brew.