Saturday, 20 August 2011

Beer Day Out

Yesterday was a bit of a beer-adventure to various venues in Melbourne.  First was a lunch-time visit to Biero, which from the outside is this small un-assuming little red-brick building:

The reason for my visit was their advertised "Black Friday" promotion, all of their taps would be devoted to black beer, 8 stouts and 2 black IPA's. Given the promotion and Biero's reputation as one of the craft-beer-venues in Melbourne, once inside, I was surprised to find I was the only customer!

While the barman was friendly and knowledgeable none of the black beers had been tapped yet (some of the promoted beers were not even in stock yet), so there was some wait while they were tapped and run through the lines. However after a bit of a wait (and lots of foam) I did get Karma Citra Black Ale that I wanted to try:

Feral Brewing Company's Karma Citra India Black Ale advertised as "a rich malty black ale that showcases the tropical fruit character of the hop variety citra."  The fresh citrus type hop flavour and aroma reminded me very much of what the house smells like in late summer when all the freshly picked hops are drying, very pungent and refreshing.  Unlike with pale IPA's the dominant hops in this 'India Black Ale' are balanced nicely with the dark roasted malt flavours.

After enjoying the beer at Biero it was time for a tram-trip to Abbotsford for the CUB Brewery tour.  The Carlton and United Brewery is a huge imposing building taking up several city blocks, and I was looking forward to seeing how the 'big boys' make their beer.  Unfortunately, the experience was a waste of time and there was little to see or learn or do that was interesting or entertaining.

The 'brewery tour' consisted of a 1/2 hour 'beer information and CUB advertising session' held in the 'visitor center' where we were told the basics of how to brew beer, by a tour-guide who obviously knew nothing about making beer other than what's in the PR brochures. That was followed by a 1/2 hour look at the bottling line which likely would have been impressive if it had been working, however since it's winter and production is on the low-side this week's quota was finished yesterday.  This left our tour guide to ineptly try to explain the grandeur of what we'd have seen when it was working. There was no mention of seeing, visiting, looking at or even being told about any of the actual beer production details or gear (other than they make 2million L per day), no look at the big mash tuns, filters, large tanks, fermentors or any large shiny stainless bling, or other interesting stuff to look.

The tour also included a "complimentary tastings of fresh, cold beer" so I sampled a couple of CUB beers that I don't remember trying before: Carlton Black and Fosters Lager, neither of which I feel the need to drink again.  However the Bulmers Pear Cider and something 'triple hopped' from Fat Yak (neither of which were brewed at the Abbotsford CUB plant) were both worth of an additional glass.

After being so disappointed by the CUB 'tour' at least Mountain Goat was well worth the walk up the street and around the corner.  Mountain Goat are one of Melbourne's oldest (and more famous) micro-breweries.  They are open to the public on Wed and Friday nights and are situation in an industrial area of Richmond and inside another un-assuming red-brick building:
Lucky I got there early and had a chance to look around and ordered my beer before the place filled up with black-suited business-men for whom it seems to be a popular location.
The beer here was Mountain Goat's IPA served through what they affectionately call 'Randy'; their Randall filter through which the beer is run (this time loaded with fresh hops) as it's served:
As you'd expect the beer was packed with fresh hop flavours and aromas backed with a noticeable but subdued malt backbone, and overall a very tasty IPA.

Just a few steps away from the bar is Mountain Goat's brewery area (tours are offered on Wednesday) so at least I got to see some bits of stainless beer making gear after all:
With Mountain Goat quickly filling with mostly business suited patrons it was time for a walk down to the tram and a trip back into the City, this time to the European Bier Cafe for a nice malty German Lager:

We then visited the Comedy Club Friday night gig, enjoying a couple of stubbies of Coopers Sparkling Ale from the limited bar selection available, before finishing the night with an interesting pizza.  Panned Pizza is located adjacent to Melbourne's Greek Precinct, with 'American Style' (thin based pizza) served by Asian shop attendants - a very multi-cultural mix and tasty pizza:

Sunday, 14 August 2011

German Weiss

24 hours after pitching (at 16degC) as seems to be using for a Weiss-Yeast, it's nearly crawling out of the top of the fermentor:


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Brew Day: DunkelWeizen

Another chance to try one of the Brewtek yeasts today, this time it's CL930 "German Weiss".  It's listed as being "Milder than CL920" which is why I wanted to use it, but since they also say it's "from a famous German yeast bank" it may be that it's actually the same yeast as Wy3068 and WPL300: 'Weihenstephan 68'.

DunkelWeizen
Estimated OG: 1.054 SG, Estimated Color: 17.1 SRM, Estimated IBU: 16.5 IBU
Boil Time: 65 Minutes

Wheat Malt, Pale (Best Malz) (2.0 SRM)    52.0 %       
Munich I (Weyermann) (7.1 SRM)            42.0 %       
Crystal (Joe White) (72.0 SRM)            4.0 %        
Carafa Special II (Weyermann) (415.0 SRM) 1.0 %        
Wheat Malt, Midnite (Briess) (742.0 SRM)           1.0 %        
0.68g/L Hallertau Aroma 09 [8.10%]  (60 min)      16.5 IBU     
0.09g/L Calcium Sulfate (Mash)
0.18g/L Calcium Chloride (Mash)
9.1 billion cells/L  (Starter)  German Weiss (Brewtek CL930)
This is also my first chance to use the two new wheat malts I picked up last weekend.  Best Malz list their Pale Wheat Malt as being 2 SRM - they actually say it's 3-5 EBC, 1.6-2.3 °L, which works out about 2 SRM.  However, while the bag does say 'Best Weizen Malt' 'Best Wheat Malt' it looks to be much darker than the last sack of Wheat Malt I had (from Barrett Burston which was listed as 1.2 SRM).  The Best Malz wheat almost looks a similar (but more orange) colour to the Weyermann Munich which is about 7 SRM (and also the colour listed for Best Dark Wheat Malt):
Best Wheat Malt (left), Wyermann Munich I (right)
Midnite (yes American spelling) Wheat malt from Briess in the USA is a glossy pitch-black colour that they say "will deliver intense color and subtle, smooth flavor ... without bitter or harsh flavors" so it seems like a good choice for darkening the DunkelWeizen when combined with some Carafa Special II:
Carafa Special II (left), Midnite Wheat (right), JW Crystal (bottom), base Munich I (top middle).
Mash schedule was a double infusion, the first for a protein rest at 55C and the second for the Saccrification at 67C.  A single decoction was used to setup the temp up to mash-out at 76C.
Decoction boiling on the stove.
When brewing beer using only hop-pellets I usually remove the slotted pickup tube because a decent whirlpool is enough to concentrate all the hop debris and break material in the middle of the kettle.  Without the pickup tube in place, the tap essentially siphons off the clear wort from the edge of the kettle without any additional complication:
With more than 50% wheat some haze is probably expected into the fermentor, but with the wort chilled well by the CFC the yeast was pitched almost immediately.:
The style guidelines suggest the colour should be "Light copper to mahogany brown" as you can see at the very top of the photo above, the wort leaving the copper CFC is pretty much exactly the same colour as the copper pipe, so it should be spot-on what is expected for the style.


Old German Ale

After 3 days in the fermenting fridge at 16C the Brewtek (CL400) 'Old German Ale' is already past the high krasuen stage and appears to be happily fermenting the Altbier from a few days ago:

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Brew Day: AltBier

I've been looking forward to using the Brewtek (CL400) Old German Ale for a while now, and a Dusseldorf Altbier should be the ideal style for it:
AltBier

Estimated OG: 1.052 SG, Estimated Color: 14.1 SRM, Estimated IBU: 47.2 IBU
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Munich I (Weyermann) (7.1 SRM)            52.5 %       
Pilsner (Best Malz) (1.8 SRM)             41.2 %       
Melanoidin (Weyermann) (30.0 SRM)         3.1 %        
Caraaroma (130.0 SRM)                     1.6 %        
Carafa Special II (Weyermann) (415.0 SRM) 1.6 %        
Northern Brewer 08 [9.60%]  (60 min)      32.6 IBU     
Wuertumberger (HG '10) [4.50%]  (FWH)      12.1 IBU     
Mt. Hood (HG '10) [5.00%]  (15 min)        1.6 IBU
Wuertumberger (HG '10) [4.50%]  (15 min)      1.2 IBU     
0.022ml/L       Lactic Acid (Sparge)
0.025g/L      Calcium Sulfate (Mash)                      
0.05g/L       Calcium Chloride (Mash)                      
0.075g/L       Calcium Carbonate (Mash) 
0.05g/L       Whirlfloc (Powder/Granules) (Boil)                     
0.05g/L       Yeast Nutrient (Boil)
13.6 billion cells/L  (Starter)  Old German Ale (Brewtek CL400)
The Style Guidelines suggest "Moderately carbonate water" but I didn't want to overdo it so there is a mix of Calcium Carbonate, Chloride and Sulfate.  Low temp single infusion mash @65C so the Munich and specialty malts should provide ample rich malty flavours balanced by the decent amount of hops.
CaraAroma,  Melanoidin, Carafa Special, & Pilsner base
Here is the new grain-crush (same size roller gap, just no pre-conditioning of the malt:
The other new addition to the 'high tech plastic fly sparge arm' is a tiny bit of aluminum foil that 'floats' on top of the grain bed and helps distribute the flow just a little better:
Both the MtHood and Wuertumberger hops were home grown (the MtHood by myself and the Wuertumberger by another home-brewer), hopefully they will add some more interesting flavours since Alt beers traditionally use very spicy Spalt hops.

Since it's virtually impossible to know the exact IBU level of home-grown hops, they're being used mostly for flavour and aroma additions with the bulk of the bittering from the commercially grown, packed and lab-analyzed Northern Brewer.  Even if there is a bit of a difference between the home grown IBU estimation it should not have a large impact on the end result.

First wort hopping (and pre-oxidation of hops) have gotten some attention on various forums recently, with all sorts of theories about how much bitterness and flavour FWH adds.  Some people have suggested that FWH adds less bitterness, others that the bitterness is more rounded and more palatable so it is perceived as a lower bitterness level, others say you should take a percentage of your late hops and add them as FWH but not adjust the bitterness levels.  While there is probably some logic (but not that much testing) behind many of those suggestions, most hop calculations are simply best-guesses anyway, especially when working with home brew quantities and conditions, so it's more about trial and error and finding a beer that tastes good rather than reaching some specific commercial type IBU target.

With this in mind I'm happy to let the brewing software assume the FWH add bitterness at the appropriate level for the full boil duration, but also presume that there may be some perceived roundness and more flavoure from the FWH additions when compared to typical 60min additions.  Besides they look good and make the wort smell so good, so who needs other reasons than that:
Wuertumberger FWH hop addition.
When brewing with all commercial pellet-hops a decent vigorous whirlpool is usually enough to settle the hops and break material in the middle of the kettle.  However whole hops are too bulky, retain too much wort and take up too much room in my kettle to settle neatly in the middle, even if Whirlpooled.  When using a percentage of whole hops, I use a simple 'hop strainer' which is just a slotted copper pickup, much like that on the mash tun.
The hops seem to provide a good filter bed and actually help filter out all the break material, leaving the wort very clear and bright right out of the kettle, which is one reason why I generally prefer to brew with whole hops.  However they do tend to retain a bit more of the wort, resulting in a decrease in efficiency of up to 5%, in the past I've decanted the hops, trub and remaining wort into 2L glass bottles.  The hops and break will settle to the bottom of the bottle and if you were paranoid about efficiency the wort decanted into the fermenting beer, however I typically keep the kettle-dregs and use them to make yeast starters.
Kettle dregs after being left to settle in the fridge for a few days.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Beer & Pizza

Stopped at Mojos Weird Pizza on the way home from the airport today. It's almost adjacent to Purvis Beer but unfortunately they closed an hour before we got there. There was another bottle shop almost next-door, so still got some beer to go with the pizza, however given the stock and quality of what was on offer, most beer drinkers probably shop at Purvis.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Brewtek Yeast Starters

I've finally have the chance to use some of the 'new' Brewtek yeasts I got earlier this year.  Recultured the slants into 10ml of wort before stepping them up a couple of times (100m, 500ml).  They are nearly ready to go now so should be brewing with the new grain and the 'new' yeast in the next few days.

 The yeast starters 2x CL400 (at the back) and a small CL930.
About BrewTek
A number of books, online recipes and brewing software (such as BeerSmith) reference BrewTek yeast, these yeast strains were used very successfully in many home-brewed beers.  Until about early 2003 Brewers Resource supplied BrewTek yeast (numbered as CL-#) on slants via their website.  As of about 2004, Brewsters Yeast offered BrewTek strains , however in 2007 Brewsters Yeast also closed their operation.  Since that time the only way to obtain BrewTek yeast (except in large volume or commercial situations) is via home-brewers who have saved this these yeasts at home or in their on labs.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

All that Grain ... and nothing to Brew.

This is what AU$6500 worth of grain looks like.
While only a small portion of it is coming here, I did spend half the day distributing it to fellow home brewers from the AHB forums.  Luckily most of it went well, only 1 sack of grain out of 135 was sent to the wrong home.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Plastic Bits 'n Pieces

Although the box got pretty battered up on it's way over from the USA, all the plastic bits for the new beer fridge arrived today.  There are a couple of beers lagering in the keg-fridge so it's still going to be a few weeks before I fit it out.
Jim at Apex was a great help in getting the stuff selected and even had to order some things in for me (since the 'Australian' 5/16 OD Beer and Gas line is not used that much in the USA).  While shopping locally is nice, I saved about AU$275 by ordering all the bits shipped from the US.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Freezing Goo ... it just wont do.

While making starter wort - from the old tins of good that were on chuck-out at the supermarket - the stuff was dribbling and sticking everywhere as usual.  We have some large stick-ice-cube-trays so I thought it would be a good idea to freeze the goo so that it could be distributed without mess the next time I wanted to use it.  The idea was that a single 'stick' of frozen goo could be put in the starter without all the mess of having to measure it out each time.
While the theory was good, after spending a few days in the freezer the goo was still as runny and sticky as ever, I guess that the super-high sugar-content means that it doesn't freeze until it's much colder than the beer-fridge wanted to make it ... so much for that idea, now I have to clean the mess off the bench and out of the ice-trays.

Friday, 29 July 2011

First New Brewery Bling

Managed to score the first of the new Brewery Bling when I was visiting the LHBS today.  The idea is that the new setup will be all-stainless and silicon.  The plate chiller was an 'engineering sample' and so it was in the reduced-to-clear corner, while the newer production versions have barbed fittings this one has 1/2inch male threaded fittings, which was exactly what I was looking for, so I'm very happy about that.
The mill is nice and solid and will replace the Marga that has done a good job over the last few years.  The false bottom is for the new keggle-mashtun and I'll be trying out the carbonation cap in a couple of weeks when the current batch of lagers come out of the fridge.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Brew Day: Munich Dunkel

The last of this winter's 4 lager-beers is a Munich Dunkel and it will be using washed yeast from the Vienna Lager that has just gone into the fridge for lagering.
Munich Dunkel
Estimated OG: 1.053 SG,  Estimated Color: 13.5 SRM,  Estimated IBU: 27.9 IBU
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

86%    Munich I (Weyermann) (7.1 SRM)
10.8%    Vienna Malt (Weyermann) (3.0 SRM)
2.7%    Caraaroma (130.0 SRM)
0.5%    Chocolate (Simpsons) (630.0 SRM)
0.86g/L    Northern Brewer 08 [9.60%]  (60 min)    24.7 IBU     
0.42g/L    Hallertau Aroma 09 [8.10%]  (20 min)    3.3 IBU

0.01g/L    Epsom Salt
0.125g/L    Calcium Carbonate
20.83billion cells/L  (Repitch)  German Bock Lager  (WLP833)

Mash Schedule:
Protein Rest    Infusion    52.0C    30min
Infusion    62.0C    20 min
Decoction    Decoct and boil    Step @ 71.0C    40 min
Mash Out    Decoct and boil    Step @ 77.0C    10 min
After some debate, I decided to treat the water with Chalk.  The Style Guidelines suggest using "Moderately carbonate water" and there was no other way to emulate that without adding chalk instead of the usual brewing salts.  It's likely that I'll bottle this beer and store it for the Christmas Case Swap, which is usually in November, which should work well since it will go into the bottle in early Sept.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Brew Day: BoPils

Had a go at brewing a triple decocted Bohemian Pilsner today, with the recipe adapted from the info here at Brewing Techniques.
BoPils
Estimated OG: 1.056 SG, Estimated Color: 3.4 SRM, Estimated IBU: 44.9 IBU
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Pilsner, (Joe White)        96 %       
Carapils (Wyermann)         4%        
1.9g/L Riwaka 09 [5.90%]  (90 min) (FWH)         32.7 IBU     
0.42g/L Saaz 09 [3.60%]  (60 min)          4.5 IBU
0.83g/L Saaz 09 [3.60%]  (30 min)           4.6 IBU           
0.83g/L Saaz 09 [3.60%]  (15 min)          2.4 IBU      
0.42g/L Saaz 09 [3.60%]  (5 min)           0.7 IBU      
0.0625g/L Calcium Chloride               0.125g/L Calcium Sulfate            
20.9billion cells/L  (Repitch)  PC European Lager (Wy2247)
Totally messed up the mash schedule and decoction, added a couple of extra hours to the brew day, the steps ended up something like this:
Protein Rest    @ 56.0C    40 min       
Infusion    @ 58.0C    20 min       
Decoction    Decoct & boil  Step @ 62.0C    30 min       
Decoction    Decoct and boil  Step @ 71.0C    40 min       
Mash Out    Decoct and boil  Step @ 75.0C    10 min
 But other than that things went well.  The new milling setup continued to improve the efficiency - managed to over-shoot the target gravity by 2 points, and since it's cold outside the counter-flow chiller cooled the wort to 16.5C nice and quickly.  The yeast was pitched after resting the wort in the fridge at 7C overnight and then racking off any break material and trub, the samples tasted good, so hopefully the 200ml of yeast slurry harvested from the Munich Helles will do a good job.

Monday, 11 July 2011

One man's trash ...

After spending Saturday drinking and sharing beer at the AHB 'Melbourne Christmas in July Case Swap' I couldn't help but notice how much I need a fridge for the new kegs. After a late night trip to the supermarket I noticed that our next-door neighbors (who have sold the house and are moving out) left a fridge out on the nature-strip for the council clean up. Given that it was about 5 steps from our drive-way it was almost too-good-to-be true, even if it needs a good clean.
The bottom seal was 'fixed' with a bit of gaffer-tape and an old fermentor gasket:
After a decent scrub and clean, it looks almost 'good as new':
After running the fridge to test it for a few hours, it seems that the compressor stays on without turning off, indicating that the thermostat might be stuffed (which is probably why it was being thrown out), however since I'll be using a temperature controller on it, that actually makes it more suited for my purpose.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

10 Min IPA

Here is my 10 Min IPA after being bottle conditioned for a few weeks:
The beer is surprisingly balanced, rich grain/malt, subtle and much lower than expected bitterness with an interesting hoppy aroma.  When they were drying, the home grown Chinook had an intense 'pine forest' aroma, but in this beer they are much more subdued and impart an interesting and different flavour.  The resulting bitterness level means that the beer is not really an 'IPA' as it's named but much like an English Pale Ale.  In hind-sight (and if I had had not used the last of the hops in that batch) a 60min bittering addition combined with the large 10min addition would probably have pushed the hop bitterness to where I was expecting it to be and balance the malt sweetness just a little more.



Saturday, 2 July 2011

Cornelius Kegs

MyBeerShop were running an 'End of Financial Year' sale, so I couldn't resist the price they had on their corny-kegs.
The new (2nd hand) kegs are genuine Cornelius kegs, stamped 'SuperChampion' and appear to be in great condition.  In the near future, I guess I'll have to do some keg cleaning, maintenance and other related posts.



Thursday, 30 June 2011

Accidental Efficency Jump

Over the last few Brew Day's the brew house efficiency has been a bit lower than I'd have liked, with numbers coming in around 70% or even a little less.  How the grain is crushed is probably the most important part of achieving decent efficiency.  In the past the procedure I had been using involved conditioning the malt (adding a small amount of water and mixing it well, just before milling) with the theory that this should result in less damaged husks but still produce a fine crush.  The crush has always looked good and I've never had a problem with sparging:
When crushing grain for the Vienna yesterday, I managed to bump the mill, knock the hopper over and spill about half the grain over the ground.  By weighing what had already been crushed I was able to compensate for the lost graind and measured out and crushed some more.  However the new grain was not conditioned with water first, but at the end of the Brew Day the numbers told me that I was looking at an increase in efficiency of a bit more than 5%.

It would appear that the combination of the mill roller gap setting and conditioning the malt before crushing it was decreasing and not increasing the extract efficiency.  Next Brew Day I'll run the grain through the mill without conditioning it first and hopefully  notice a similar efficiency increase.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Brew Day: Vienna Lager

Second Brew Day in as many days, it's cold outside and the fermenting fridge is turned down to lager temps, so making the most of it to brew a few lager beers.
Vienna
Estimated OG: 1.054 SG  Estimated Color: 10.3 SRM  Estimated IBU: 29.1 IBU
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

45.5%    Vienna Malt (Weyermann) (3.0 SRM)
27%    Pilsner (Weyermann) (1.7 SRM)
24%    Munich I (Weyermann) (7.1 SRM)
3.5%    Caraaroma (130.0 SRM)
1.13g/L    Hallertau Aroma 09 [8.10%]  (60 min)    27.4 IBU
0.65g/L    Mt. Hood '10 (HomeGrown) [5.00%]    1.8 IBU      
0.043g/L    Calcium Carbonate
0.087g/L    Calcium Sulfate
0.26g/L    Calcium Chloride
17.4 billion cells/L  (Starter)  German Bock Lager  (WLP833)

Single infusion mash @ 67C.
 Other than knocking over the mill-hopper while crushing the grain and spilling half of it onto the ground, it was a mostly un-eventful Brew Day.  It was interesting to note that there was a 5% efficiency increase, most likely related to the replaced malt not being conditioned before crushing.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Brew Day: Munich Helles

Now that winter is here, and it's time to brew a few lagers.  Today's Munich Helles is the first of 4 that are planned this winter, one of the reason for brewing the Munich Helles first is so that I can grow enough yeast to pitch into the BoPills in a few weeks time.

Munich Helles
Estimated OG: 1.050 SG, Estimated Color: 3.7 SRM, Estimated IBU: 21.0 IBU
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

90.6%    Pilsner (Joe White) (1.6 SRM)
5.7%    Munich I (Weyermann) (7.1 SRM)
3.8%    Carapils (Weyermann) (2.0 SRM)
1.43g/L    Hallertau 08 [4.90%]  (60 min)    21.0 IBU     

0.217g/L    Calcium Sulfate
0.26g/L    Calcium Chloride
17.4 billion cells/L  (Starter)  PC European Lager ( #Wy2247)
Mash schedule was adapted from the  Hochkurz Double Decoction on Braukaiser.  Two infusions for rests at 55.5C and 62C and two decoctions for rests at 71C and 76C.  Wort was chilled to 16C out of the CFC and then to 8C in the fridge overnight before it was racked off the trub and break material before the yeast was pitched.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Lager Starters

With a bit of patience and lots of trial-and-error, the new Stir Plates manage to work with the decidedly-not-flat-bottomed 5L glass demi-johns I have.  Luckily I don't need to make such large starters that often, since it was a bit tedious getting it balanced and working and it's not something that I have the patience to do every day.  Here is a 4L German Bock Lager yeast (WLP833) starter that for the Vienna Lager that will be brewed in a few days:

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

DIY Stir Plate Build

Posted this DIY Computer-fan Stir-plate build on both the AHB and JBK forums.  The first stir-plate I built this way has been in use for the last 2 years, and is still going fine, but another one (or two) will be helpful to build large lager starters.
There are many variants and online guides including this epic 6-year-old thread on the AHB forums.

Equipment
120mm speed-controlled Computer fan, I have used a "Scythe 120mm Blue LED with VR Fan (SY1225SL12VBL)".
12V DC power adapter, (cheap) from Ebay.
8x 8mmx1mm rare-earth magnets, same as the cheapest ones on Ebay when searching for 'rare earth magnets'.
A standard (cylindrical) teflon-coated stir-bar (from lab-supply shop), I find that 20mm and 26mm long ones work well for starters from 50ml to 5L.
An enclosure, screws etc to mount the fan/stir-plate.
Superglue to stick the magnets to the fan-hub.
Optional
On/off switch.
Solder, a few bits of wire, gaffer-tape, electrical tape, heat-shrink-stuff.

The good thing about the 'speed controlled' Computer fan is that it comes with its own adjustable speed-control knob, so you don't have to worry about adding that yourself:

The tricky part seems to be getting the magnets positioned correctly.  I use 8 of the 8mm x 1mm round rare-earth magnets, with 2 stacks of 2 on each side of the fan-hub, as you see below.  This size and arrangement seems to work well with the fan, and works with all flat-bottomed stir-containers that I have tried.

Attach the magnets with super-glue, but some care and attention is needed, since they will 'interact' with the copper coils inside the fan and once you have placed one, all the others want to try to stick onto them.  Draw a line across the middle of the fan-hub and then arrange the magnets along that line.  Try to space them evenly since that will help keep the fan balanced (try to do a better job than I did here, also try not to stick your fingers together or to the magnets or fan with the superglue).
The ends of the stir-bar will have opposite magnetic polarity, so each set of 4 magnets (on opposite sides of the fan-hub) must be arranged so that their magnetic polarity is the opposite to the ones on the other side.  Essentially one set of magnets 'push up' and on the other side of the fan-hub the magnets 'pull down', this way the corresponding 'opposite' magnetic attraction from the ends of the stir-bar will 'lock on' to the magnets as the fan spins (even at 1600RPM the stir-bar shown in the picture below will stay firmly attached to the magnets).
(If you placed all the magnets the same way up, one side would repel rather than attract one end of the stir-bar.)

If you buy your stir-bar before you place the magnets, I have found that the best spacing for the magnets is to have them as wide apart as the stir-bar is long (as per the picture below), closer or further apart does not work as well, but the distance is dependent on the length of your stir-bar.
By using 2 sets of magnets, both a smaller and larger stir-bar can be used.

To assemble the stir-plate, cut the plugs from the power-adapter and the fan, and then strip the wires.
Connect the appropriate wires (positive/negative, usually red/black) from the power supply to the fan (red and black wires, the yellow wire is not used, so simply cut it off and ignore it).
The connection will be 12V and only work one way, so you can easily join the wires together to ensure that it works before you attach them permanently.
Solder and shrink wrap are the best way to go, but the wires can simply be wound together by hand and then wrapped with electrical tape.

An on/off switch allows the stir-plate to be controlled without having to pull the plug from the wall, simply wire the power-supply wire(s) to one of the switch's terminal(s), and the fan-wire(s) to the other.
There are many variations of equipment that all work much the same way, you might already have most of the items, and so any additional costs will be minimal.  Any size computer-fan will work, however I find the 120mm fans are easy to work with and the fan-hub is a good size for the size stir-bars that I use.  Most any old computer, or computer power supply will have a fan you can use, simply remove it, strip the wires and use it as outlined above.

(Old) Computer disk-drives have strong magnets inside them that can be removed and glued to the fan-hub, this works fine, but is more effort and since the magnets are a U-type shape with both poles on the same magnet, they are harder to adjust and tend to be a little more uneven.  The rare earth magnets are very cheap on Ebay, so I find them a much better solution.

Any 12V DC power supply should work fine, if you have an old (unused) one from a mobile phone, cordless drill or other electrical device, there would not be any need to buy a new one.  Computer fans also function from about 5V up to about 15V, so in theory any DC adapter in that range will work, however it will change the speed the fan works at, and may make it too fast or too slow.  Old computer power-supplies can also be used, however they tend to be large and cumbersome, but if you have one it is possible to short the on/off leads and use the 12V supply from that to power the stir-plate.  It is also possible to use power-adapters used for external computer-hard drives or the like, since they will usually supply 12V, it is just a matter of identifying which wires are which.

If you do not have a 'speed controlled' fan, you can adjust the speed of the fan by altering the voltage, this can be done with a variable power supply or by changing power supply, however I have found that the continuous-dial-type-speed adjustment works much better than the 'steps' that variable power-supplys offer, and that it is much easier to get the stir-plate working correctly if you can fine-tune the fan-speed.  A potentiometer is also a good way to control the fan-speed, it just requires a little bit of extra electronics.
A search on Ebay for "LED Dimmer" should result in a number of (different types) of LED Dimmers, used for LED lights, these would also make a very good pre-made speed controller for a DIY stir-plate.  Simply wire them in between the power supply and the fan, and they would provide continuous speed-adjustment.

While the teflon stir-bar will not be cheap (for something so small) they are designed for the job and work very well, some people have used various magnetic or metalic items, but especially if you have lab-glassware the additional expense of a real stir-bar is well worth it.  They can also be boiled/sterilized when you make your starters simply by dropping them into the starter-flask while it is on the stove.  The standard cylinder type stir bars work best and are much more quiet than the strange shaped ones or ones with a pivot in the middle, and if you are going to use the stir-plate in your house, keeping it quiet is good. :)

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Brew Day: 10min IPA

This 10 Min IPA will be for the case-swap that is in a few weeks, using this amount of hops is not something I usually do so hopefully it will be an interesting brew.  There have been some comments on the UK JBK forums that suggested I like to use too much brewery-bling (mostly because I've got temp controlled fermentation fridges) so there are lots of pictures today.
10 Min Chinook Greenbelt IPA
Estimated OG: 1.060 SG, Estimated Color: 9.5 SRM, Estimated IBU: 62 IBU
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Pale Malt (Joe White)    95%
Crystal (Joe White)    5%
0.17g/L    Calcium Chloride
0.43g/L    Calcium Sulphate
10g/L    Chinook '10 (HomeGrown) (10mins)
10.9 billion cells/L  (Repitch)  Wyeast Greenbelt

Single infusion mash @66C.
Brewery at rest

Pre-brew day water filter
(no Chloramines here and Melbourne tap-water is close enough to RO water not to think too hard when creating water-profiles)

95% ale malt, 5% crystal

Malt conditioning (1-2% water, mixed well and left to sit for 15 mins before crushing)

The joy of crushing 6kg malt by hand


The crush

Grain temp & salt additions (Gypsum & dash of calcium chloride)

'Disassembled' mash manifold

19L strike water/preheating mash tun

Strike temp was as expected (but I have no idea what it is reading in that pic)

Not so high tech thermal insulation

Fly sparge/sparge arm

Draining the mash tun

Seems to be no channeling, so in theory that's a good thing

Still waiting for fittings for the 'solar pump' so a bit of lifting required to fill kettle

Hot break removal system

Single hop addition, 230g hops (both packs) @ 10 mins

Hops trying to climb out of the boiler

CFC

Pitching temp right out of the CFC

Rinsed yeast, shake jar for 20mins to aerate well

Shake well for a few mins every-now-and-then for an hour-or-so

Cling wrap 'lid' add temp probe and into temp controlled fridge

About 36h later, fridge smells nicely of hops and yeast seems to be happy doing its thing

Recipe adapted from here.
... with more details here.