Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mash Tun Upgrade Part One: New Valve

So I have been fighting with lower than desired efficiency for a while on my mash, and have decided that part of the problem may be in the way the false bottom I have is connected to my valve.  I bought the entire cooler pre-set up as a kit, and it has a few things that I don't particularly like.

First, almost all of the fittings are brass.  I wanted to upgrade as part of this effort and convert everything to stainless steel.  I know brass can be used, but it isn't as SHINY.  In addition, the false bottom was connected to the valve via a piece of pipe that I felt was potentially too short, and a bunch of compression fittings that I could never get tight enough.  So, I feared that part of the problem might be some leakage at the compression fittings, generating somewhat of a spiral.

Finally, the whole thing leaked.  Twice.  It leaked liquid slowly out the front bottom underneath the valve, and it leaked air into my tube as I was draining.

All of this needs to be fixed.  So, while I am not sure this will fix any of these issues, I have decided to replace the hardware in there and give it a little change.  I'll have to brew once I get it all set up to determine if there is any actual change.  And there are some additional upgrades I want as well (sparge arm or other sparging device, valve on my HLT, etc.) that may help.

As for this part, I bought a stainless bulkhead weldless keg kit from and installed it (more to come in a subsequent post).

  1. Remove all of the hardware from the cooler and wipe it down.
  2. Wash all the new parts in PBW.
  3. Rinse the parts thoroughly, and let them air dry.
  4. Wrap both sides of the nipple with teflon plumbers tape.  Add an O-ring to the nipple and screw on the lock nut
  5. Thread the nipple through the cooler wall and attach a washer and then the valve on the front, hand tighten, then tighten with a locking set of pliers (vise grips) on the inside.  I just used my hand to hold the valve on the outside.
  6. Screw on the coupling on the inside.
  7. Add teflon tape to barb and screw it into the valve on the outside.
  8. Fill with water to a level above the coupling.
  9. Check outside for leaks (YAY no leaks!!!)
So now that that is done, I'll be replacing the inside with a silicone tube kit and barbs and hose clamps...  Should be exciting.  Until next time.

    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    Bottled the Cherry Beer

    Tastes like (shocking) tart cherries.  Bottled today and should be ready in a couple of weeks.  Need to bottle the IPA soon and then get back go brewing.

    Couple of things I've been thinking about lately on brewing are to create a set of "standards" that I would like to have "in stock" pretty much all the time, and then intersperse the experimentals in there as needed.

    Thoughts on the standards:
    American Brown Ale
    Blonde Ale
    and possible an APA or one of these "Dark IPAs or Dark India Ales or Cascadian Dark Ales" if I can find a good recipe

    Then 4 seasonals:
    Scottish Strong Ale - Wee Beastye (Spring)

    Jalapeno Pale Ale (Summer/Fall)
    Annual Rotator (Summer/Fall) - Brew something different as a special brew
    Christmas Ale (Winter)

    Of course, I will probably brew whatever I want, but this is just something I was thinking about in terms of if I were to ever "upscale" the production (aka buy/build a brewery).

    The other things I have been thinking about is getting a little more precise with my equipment.  I intend to add some temperature gauges to my cooler and possibly the HLT and then also potentially come up with some other efficiency gaining equipment improvements.  In addition, I am going to try to calibrate all of my stuff (this really means boiling lots of water most likely and wasting propane).  I might can work some of it into a really long brew day, but otherwise, it will be a less-than-exciting effort that I'll still document here.