Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Brewery Build #9: False bottom/filter stand-offs

As mentioned in Brewery Build #7, the 0.55mm thick perforated stainless that I used to make the mash false-bottom and kettle filter, is not as heavy duty as the commercial false-bottoms and might not easily hold the weight of the mash (or even sit in place with vigorous stirring). The two threaded pipe fittings arrived today, and after a little bit of work with a grinding disk on the angle grinder, they fit under the false bottom, provide support and should allow the wort to easily drain:
Obviously they'll be installed on the inside of the keg (but would be impossible to photograph there), and the false bottom will sit between the two washers.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Brewery Build #8: Control Box

Our rental property was built before Safety Switches were required so it was a good idea to include an RCD/MCB for each line in - the new system will need to be run from different circuits to ensure that the 16A ceramic-wire fuses do not blow.  Double pole switches were used to provide an added level of protection, since both the controllers only switch the active wire, the switches - located before the controllers - will switch both the active and neutral.  The LED's are simply so that I can have some idea of what is switched on/off at the time, and the reason why I'm using cables instead of GPO's (Power points) is that I had an abundance of left-over computer type cables, which the electric kettle (HERMS), heating elements and pump 12V adapter all use - so it was cheaper and easier to use those, especially in the small control box.

When dealing with 240V there are a number of reasons - legal and safety - why DIY is not recommended, so there is not much more to say, but here are some pictures of my recently-completed Brewery Control Box:

The central gray power-cords are the two lines in.  The white and middle black cord are switched lines out (via the two central switches), for the pump(s) or anything else needed.  On the left is the HLT power, controlled by the TempMate, and on the right is power for the HERMS element, controlled by the PID via the SSR and the to outside black cords on the bottom are direct power for the kettle, switched via the Double Pole Double Throw switches so that only one of those or the HLT/HERMS can be on at any one time..  So, it's actually more simple than it looks at first glance.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Brewery Build #7: Perforated Stainless

A keg-mash-tun false bottom (like the one shown below) costs about $60-70 around here, and while they are solid and do a good job, it was a bit on the pricey side.

I also needed some perforated stainless to use as a hopback filter, and buying even small amounts of it is difficult to find or expensive.  After some searching, I found some perforated stainless on the RS Online website for about $50 inc tax.  The hole-size was the same as the unused false bottom I had, but the open area was a little greater and the steel was also thinner.  But without finding a better alternative, I decided to sell the false bottom and purchase a sheet of perforated stainless from RS Online - the only problem was that their minimum purchase was for 2 sheets.

The good thing about the 500x500 sheet was that I should be able to make the mash-tun false bottom, kettle filter and the two hopback filters from the single sheet.  In order to fit them all from the same sheet, the kettle filter needed to be slightly smaller than the usual 30cm diameter false-bottom, but the slight decrease in size should not make much of a difference.
With a little care the perforated stainless was relatively easy to cut with a cutting disk on the angle grinder.
After cleaning up the edges with a grinding disk and a hand-file, the false bottom fitted in the keg mash-tun well.  However, since it's significantly thinner than the commercial false bottom, it can't easily be bent into a dome, and it may struggle to hold the weight of the mash.  So what I plan to do is use a 1/2 inch connector that attaches to the outlet and supports the center of the DIY false bottom.
The kettle filter was a little smaller and slightly less round, but it still should do it's job more than adequately.
Due to the smaller size, inability to measure exactly and the fact that they must fit inside the container exactly, the filter-plates for the hopback (which can also double as a post-kettle filter and mash-grant) were more time consuming to  make.

By measuring around the outside of the container and then gradually grinding down the edges, I was eventually able to make two round filter plates that fit exactly inside the stainless container.
The hopback (filter/grant) still needs stand-off bolts fitted to hold the perforated stainless filter plates in place and inlet and outlet holes drilled and fitted - so more on this later when it's complete.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Brewery Build #6: Electricals

Unfortunately - from a keeping it simple perspective - due to the addition of the electrical elements, HERMS PID and HLT temperature controller, combined with the fact that the house's electrical wiring does not include RCD's (Safety Switches) - I've had to add a number of electrical components to the build process.
The various electrical bits are as follows:

1x 2200W Electrical heating element for the HLT.
1x 'Fridgemate' temperature controller to control temperature in the HLT.
2x 2200W Electrical heating element for the Kettle.
1x 2000W 'kettle' type heating element (yet to be sourced) for the HERMS.
1x PID to control HERMS/mash tempeature
1x SSR between the HERMS element and controller
Other bits for the electrical control box include:
2x 20A RCD/MCB
2x DPST switches
2x DPDT switches
8x 240V LED control lights
Various wires, cables, cable joiners, cable glands not shown in the photo and a control box.

Except the elements, which were purchased directly from the Australian distributor, most other electrical items were sourced from Ebay.  Interestingly purchasing 3x RCD, the 60A switch and the control box was cheaper than buying just 2x RCD's.

Just like the brewery planning diagrams, I've made a few rough sketches of how things will work inside the electrical control box.
The most recent circuit diagram looks like this:

Sunday, 13 May 2012

GABS: The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular


The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular is the first event in this year's Good Beer Week.  The Local Tap House approached 60 breweries in Australia and New Zealand to brew a special and unique beer for the festival.  Those beers were then presented to the public over 3 days and 5 sessions.


The photo below was taken late on Friday night when it was not busy (photo taken from the VIP lounge),   during the Saturday afternoon session, the queue started at the bar and wound its way virtually back to the front door (back in the middle of the photo).  The event featured two large containers at each end of the hall, with two bars on each side - all bars pour the same 60 beers. A central stage with band and entertainment, various tables through the hall, food vendors off to the right (out of photo) and the 'Craft Beer College' at the far left of this shot (upstairs exactly opposite of where this photo was taken from).





58 beers, some cider, wine and softdrink.  The beer list is shown below, with more info here, and in the guidebook (click link to download).

Some very interesting and unusual beers, gruit, grisette and other concoctions and many other decent craft beers (IPA's, Belgians, porters, stouts, wheat beers etc), most all of which are new and unique to the festival - some made for the first time just for this event.

While the usual-stuff was good, it was the unique and one-off beers, that I've never had before (and may never again) that made the event much more interesting and enjoyable. Some of those unique beers were not my thing (too much chilli, too much funk etc) but I was pleasantly surprised at how interestingly good some of the one-off beers were (rose petals, EarlGrey tea, coconut, Christmas-tree, chocolate, karaka fruit, watermelon).

The 4 bars is where it all happens (see photo below) 60 beer taps lined up on either side of a refrigerated container.  The procedure for most people is to grab their wooden tasting paddle, write on it (in chalk) which beers they'd like to sample, and then take it to the bar-attendants who will add the beer to the paddle, however individual glasses of a specific beer can also be purchased.
I was there on Friday and Saturday, first as a volunteer (helping keep the VIP bar stocked) and then as a punter.  The good thing about visiting on both days was that I had a chance to try each of the 58 beers on offer.  The unusual beers - even if I did not always like them - were well worth trying but I did find myself going back for another glass of beer #51 a 'Double Dubbel IPA'.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Goat, Wiener and Coq

With the rapid approach of Good Beer Week there are many beer related events all over Melbourne.  I'll be helping at at one of the events: GABS (Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular) so the Local TapHouse threw on some free beer to encourage people to get together before the event.  So I took some time to enjoy a Mountain Goat Hightail Ale, before heading off to dinner.

Dinner started at Massive Weines for one of their large, well presented and tasty hot dogs.  I had the Chilli Wiener while she had the pickle Wiener, the bread rolls were fresh, condiments tasty and the 'tailor made' hot dogs were nice too.  But while they were impressive hot dogs, they were still essentially just hot dogs.

 On the way back to the car we stopped at Lucky Coq, which remains one of my favorite non-specialty beer venues.  As usual it was loud, crowded and a squeeze to find somewhere to sit and eat, but the pizza - especially since they're priced at only $4 can make it worth the visit.  Unfortunately they can also be a bit hit-and-miss, delightfully tasty, well balanced and delicious one visit, but burned, hardly any toppings or not well made the next visit.  Luckily the bar has a good range of beer on offer, ranging from Czech Budvar to Colonial Kolsch, often with taps featuring beer from James Squire, Mountain Goat or Little Creatures.  Tonight I thoroughly enjoyed the Mad Brewers Hoppy Heffe with minced lamb pizza, and the new new cherry-choc sweet pizza.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Brewery Build #5: Widening the holes

While the 20mm C.T.C. hole saw, a decent drill, some cutting lubricant and a bit of patience make easy work of drilling holes in the stainless kegs, the hole is just a fraction too small to fit 1/2 inch fittings.

Some attention with a file (or sandpaper or a dremel tool) is needed to widen the hole just a fraction so the fittings fit snugly into the hole.

Unfortunately my skills with a file did not leave all the holes perfectly round, but since the fittings fit nice and tightly, everything should be fine once they're installed with a silicon washer or two.



Monday, 7 May 2012

Brewery Build #4: Fittings

The two 1/2inch threaded 4inch long thermowells (Ebay: mainlandvf) arrived from the USA last week.  They cost $14each, including shipping, which is not bad considering similar cost about $35-45 if purchased locally.  What I like about these is that while the thread that screws into the keg is 1/2 inch, it also has a 1/2 inch thread to fit a probe, most other thermowells are designed differently.

About half the 304 Stainless 1/2 inch weldless fittings arrived from (Ebay: dailyappliance2010) China today.  After checking the prices from four local vendors, two USA based websites, the Chinese Ebay fittings (which are probably exactly the same as all the others anyway) averaged out at about 20-40% cheaper.  The ball valves -3piece valves for kettle and mash tun, 2piece for HLT and pumps- were considerably cheaper from Ebay than I could find elsewhere.
I could not find 1/2 inch stainless or flat-silicon washers on Ebay so I grabbed a few at Keg King when I was there last week.  The small red silicon o-rings were purchased (costing just a few cents each) when I ordered my beer-taps from the USA, unfortunately the website had them listed incorrectly so they are not actually 1/2 inch in size and need to be forcibly squeezed over the fittings.

The fittings are all 1/2 inch NTP a U.S. standard for tapered threads, the theory behind the tapered thread is that it allows them to form a seal when torqued, unlike parallel thread fittings where the threads merely hold the pieces together and do not provide the seal.  This has advantages -sealed thread- and disadvantages -the fittings do not tighten snugly 'all the way up' like parallel threaded fittings do, so washers will be needed where the fittings pass through the wall of the kegs.

The difference between the two thread types is best shown in the photo below.  The tapered thread (1/2 inch stainless) fittings are shown on the right, notice that the male nipple does not fit all the way inside the female valve socket.  With the parallel thread (3/4 inch brass) fittings on the left, the male thread tightens all the way into the female valve socket, but it also relies on a rubber seal to ensure there is no leaks along the parallel thread.

Each of the tapered thread connections here are about as tight as they go.
The reason for using an U.S. standard thread is simply a cost one.  NTP fittings -purchased from the USA or China are generally significantly cheaper than similar local items that have a slightly different thread.  Luckily at 1/2 inch size, the only real difference is the thread-pitch so that my American-standard fittings should still fit with the local standard if I need to buy a few fittings locally.

When I purchased them last year (from Chi Company in the USA) the 'SnapLock' brand camlock fittings were about half the cost of similar local products.

Of course the major problem with using U.S. standard fittings is that it's hard to get just one or two more fittings without paying a significant delivery charge.  Which is why planning and working out exactly what I needed was something that took a fair bit of time.