Sunday, July 25, 2010

Systems Upgrade: 2-tier HERMS

Today we are planning a brew called "annihilator doppelbock" which will be the most involved brew to date. I have only brewed one other lager ever, and that was quite some time ago. Today's brew will utilize a newly outfitted hot-liquor tank (HLT, new bulk-head with ball-valve control, site-gauge, and thermometer) and boil-kettle (BK, new bulk-head with ball-valve). We will also be using a crude, 1st design heat-exchanger with ~50' of copper in an insulated stainless-steel vessel recycled from old chemistry equipment. This will be the core of our "heat-exchange recirculating mash system" (HERMS). The lager has to be cooled to 40 F before pitching our yeast-starter. Since it is July and the ground-water is likely higher than this temperature, we will swap the 150 F water in the heat-exchanger with ice water and use this in series with our counter-flow chiller.

Here is a picture of the new platform Joe built out of scrap wood laying around:

2-Tier Platform

The full HERMS setup, heating our strike water in the HLT:

HERMS with Annhilator Doppelbock shown

HERMS, Recirculating action

Monday, July 5, 2010

Irish Red Kit from Morebeer, Inc.

Just transferred to the keg a 5gal batch of one of's kits for an Irish Red. This will by our 2nd all-grain brew. I need to plan number 3 soon.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ready...Set...Brew! (Introduction)

This blog will track the homebrew progress of friends Ryan and Joe.

Ryan's dad started homebrewing in the family kitchen in the mid 80s using simple cooking pots on the stove top and a glass carboy for fermentation. The wort was cooled simply by adding the boiled extract (2 gal) to 3 gal. cold water in the glass carboy, filtering the hops through cheese cloth through a funnel. 2-3 weeks later it was bottled in Grolsch bottles (resealable ceramic tops with rubber gaskets). Only a few batches were produced before Ryan's dad moved on to more fruitful projects.

It wasn't until 2004 after Ryan started graduate school (chemistry) that the equipment his dad used was given life again as Ryan decided homebrewing might be something he would like to try. With meager tools at his disposal, Ryan attempted his first brew:

5 gal. Pot - check
6 gal. Glass carboy - check
Bottling bucket with spigot - check
Spring-loaded bottling cane (this was fancy!) - check
Bottle washer - check
55 Bottles - check
Cleaner and sanitizer - check

After selecting some ingredients from the local homebrew supply store, Ryan was off and running. Highlights from this first experience include incorporation of reverse-osmosis purified sterile water from Ryan's wife's water-chemistry lab, no aeration, no way of cooling (let it sit in a basement for 36 hours; that's okay right?), no yeast starter...not very good beer.

However, each subsequent brew Ryan made improvements to the process. First he scored some copper tubing from a grad-student and purchased compression-fit couplers to build an immersion chiller that adapted to the kitchen faucet with garden-hose (cooled wort in 45 min). Next was an aquarium aeration stone weighted with nuts and washers. After just 2 brews, bottling became too much work, so a keg-fridge (home-built by a ROTC guy) was purchased along with a couple of Cornelius (soda) kegs.

At some point Ryan decided brewing would be more fun with male-bonding involved. Ryan's friend Joe (a master electrician) seemed like a good guy to involve. Joe brought many useful skills to the process and quickly proved his worth with construction of a counter-flow chiller. Now the wort could be cooled from 212 F to 78 F in the amount of time it took to transfer the wort to primary fermentation by gravity feed. That's fast and efficient. Later, Joe added an in-line aeration stone with thermometer so we could maximally oxygenate and carefully dial-in our exact target temperature for fermentation.

At some point life-happened and Joe and Ryan stopped brewing for a few years. Ryan now has 3 sons and Joe a daughter. But the brewing itch is back now stronger than ever. Joe and Ryan started talking about "going all-grain." Joe became a bit obsessed with designing a 2-tier all-grain heat-exchange recirculating mash (HERMS) system and as of today, it is nearly a reality.

Mash-in; checking temperature
3-Tier All-Grain Brewery