Tag Archives: Equipment

Yeast adventures, capping it for now

The second round of experiments with yeast are done. Over a couple evenings in the last week I bottled the Pale Trial Zwei.

Pale Trial Zwei - carboy 1-5

Pale Trial Zwei in carboy 1 to 5 (left to right)

From the first impressions it looks like the yeast characteristics from Pale Trial Ein have carried over. There’s a strange tart and dry-sourness, especially from the first carboy. Carboy 2-5 were bottled on a septate day, so I can’t do a five-way comparison.

The good news is that the Galaxy hop flavours have come out well. There hasn’t been the big bitterness that I was getting with the Victoria Secret hops. Nice tropical aroma and flavour at the front. One these condition for a few weeks they should be good for the spring sun.

Pale Trial Zwei - sample 1

Pale Trial Zwei the sample from carboy 1

The one thing I really wasn’t sure about was how healthy the yeast might be. I didn’t know if there would be too much yeast, grown from the last batch. Maybe it wouldn’t be healthy enough, stressed from the last brew. Or maybe it would need more nutrients, which I deliberately didn’t put in. Plus I didn’t keep an eye on the fermentation. That said, it looks like things went smoothly.

Final gravity readings ranged from 1.010 to 1.008 and I’m happy with that. The OG was 1.047 and after bottle conditioning alcohol should be between 5.6% and 5.4%. That’s very respectable for a pale ale. The cause for the range in final gravity may have been due to a few things. Possibly sediments in the sample, possible yeast health, or a number of other things with the yeast.

Pale Trial Zwei - samples 2-5

Pale Trial Zwei samples from carboy 2 to 5

The bottling by myself was a bit of trial and error. The first carboy I used the old hand siphon. That is, two tubes with a pump thing. Have been using it for a while but works as long as you’ve got the flow going and don’t stop-start too much. For the rest (done on another night) I was able to use the Auto Syphon as the other carboys have a bigger opening. Had a bit more trouble with this due to the seal between the top and the tube. After a lot of trial and error I worked out better to pull the end out of each bottle and fill the next without trying to stop the flow. Lost a little, but not as much as stop-start. Something to work on. In an attempt to try and reduce beer loss, I left beer in the Auto Syphon between carboys, so mixing left over from one with the start form the next. Bottles marked, but not expecting anything noticeably different.

Pale Trial Zwei bottled 2-5

Pale Trial Zwei all bottled with bottles from carboy 2 to 5

Looking forward to trying these brews. I’ve had a bottle of each of the Pale Trial Ein bottles. They’ve settled down a fair bit. I didn’t do a side by side comparison, but the differences seam to be there. Will do a proper review in a week or two.

Been a bit slow getting new content up. Few reasons for that. I’m letting my fermentation times run a bit longer, like this one for three and a half weeks. I’m brewing less, next one in a few days. Chas isn’t brewing, he’s got a bit of a stockpile. But might be fixing that this coming weekend. And a few reviews haven’t gone up yet. I’m going to try and get a few of them up over the next couple weeks.


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Gift of the Dad, the brew

A few weeks ago I got some old home brew equipment from my dad. Then I cleaned it. Now it’s time to brew with it.

I realised the first brew had to use some of the ingredients from the find. This means trying to sanitising with Sodium metabisulfite. That’s going to be interesting as I’ve never used the stuff before. Nutrient salts I already use and will be straight forward. Using a Campden tablet looks like that should be easy. I can see that tannic acid will be helpful in stabilising the beer and clearing it up at the end. But, there’s a fair bit of info saying I need to filter afterward which I’m not set up for. Will have to skip that. One thing I can’t see any use for is Pectinase . That’s more for cider and wine where you need to breaking down plant material.

Plenty of options. Plus, I’ve got eight carboys. Maybe I could test some with and without stuff. One could be a control with a beer I’ve made before (or as close as can be). Then make a second with Sodium metabisulfiteas the sanitiser. Then a third with Sodium metabisulfite, plus a campden tablet… you can see where I’m going with this. To summarise I’m thinking the following.

  1. Control – using the existing yeast nutrient normally use
  2. Same with a Campden tablet and sterilised with Sodium metabisulfite (and all the others after this)
  3. Just the found nutrient salts
  4. Just a Campden tablet
  5. With the found nutrient salts and a Campden tablet
Pale Trial Ein cooling down

Pale Trial Ein cooling down in the sink

Now, what to brew? Should it be the second attempt in the not-beers? Maybe another attempt at an IPA? Or should it be something completely new? What I needed to brew was something simple that worked out. The Pale Ale with just Vic Secret hops was ideal.

As there was going to be a large volume of beer I decided to swap out the dry malt extract with liquid malt extract. It’s cheaper that way. Have decided to call this Pale Trial Ein, ‘cos it’s a pale ale and a trial. Ein is German for one as this will be the first of probably a few goes, and German is the language my Dad grew up with.

  • 14 litre boil
  • 1.5kg Golden LME @ 40 mins
  • 15 grams Vic Secret hops @ 30 mins
  • 10 grams Vic Secret hops @ 15 mins
  • 1.5kg Golden LME @ 5 mins
  • 15 grams Vic Secret hops @ 0 mins
  • 1 flat teaspoon of US-05 yeast in each carboy
Pale Trial Ein done

Pale Trial Ein done and in the carboys

Simple but long day. It took 30 mins to heat up water. And chilling took over an hour even after dumping in four trays of ice and a whole two litre ice block. Might be time to invest in a wort chiller if I continue these big batches.

Worked out that there was about 17 litres of wort at the end. Didn’t top up the carboys. The original gravity reading came in at 1.055 which is pretty good. If the yeast brings that down to 1.014 then I’ll have 5.6% beers. But that’s all dependent on what happens in each carboy.


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Gift of the Dad, the clean

I mentioned last week about some home brew equipment I got from my dad. A pretty good hall of equipment, some ingredients and some print stuff. The equipment was filthy.

The whole lot had been stored in the cellar. It’s really dusty down there. Over the years dust had built up, and caked on. Plus, it looked like there was sediment from the last wine made. And that was many years ago. This was going to be a tough cleaning job.

Lucky a few weeks ago I picked up some Oxyper. It’s a strong cleaning agent. My mate Michael had recommended it to me as an alternative to PBW, a more well known powerful cleaning agent. Both are good for removing gunk and stuff from your brew equipment even when you let stuff dry on, everyone does it at some point.

Clean equipment

Clean carboys, tubes and airlocks with rubber bungs.

Given the size of the carboys and amount of build up I wanted to soak as much as possible. That meant filling the laundry trough with 20 litres of water and 14 teaspoons of Oxyper. This wasn’t done one, or twice, but three times! The new bottling brushes came in quite handy. I was surprised with how much crud came out of the equipment. And, I was just as impressed on how clean I could get this stuff. There’s no proper ‘before’ shot to compare to the clean carboys.

The airlocks only had build-up on the rubber bung. Didn’t try to get the airlocks out of the bungs as I’m not sure how old it all really is. Plus I don’t want to break anything.

The tubing was tricky. Tried a mixture of soaking and running water through. The two wider tubes were by far the dirtier ones. It all appears to have come up well. One exception is a dark mark in one tube which I can’t seam to be able to remove. I’m going to assume it’s fine. If it hasn’t come out yet it shouldn’t when I brew.

And that’s a nice lead into the brewing I’ll be doing. But, that’s for another day.


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Gift of the Dad, the find

A couple Sundays ago went to visited my dad and step Mum. They’re going to moving out of their place and are slowly cleaning out things. Was looking through some old stuff and found was some old wine making equipment.

I knew my dad had made wine in the past. I didn’t realise how much equipment he had. And until then I hadn’t joined the dots to realise that I could use this stuff for making beer. As I lifted each piece out of the cellar it dawned on me that this was going to be really helpful.

Jars of ingredients stuff

Jars of some Some really old ingredients stuff

All up the equipment totalled:

  • Eight x 1 gallon (UK) glass carboy/bottles
  • Four x 2 litre glass bottles
  • Ten ‘Senior’ airlocks with rubber bungs
  • Two spare rubber bungs
  • Three different lengths and size of tubing
  • Test jar/flask
  • Hydrometer
  • Hand Corker
  • Bunch of corks
  • Wine filters
  • Three different sized bottle brushes
Ingredients stuff

Some really old ingredients stuff, some known and some not

On top of the equipment there was some ingredients and stuff:

  • Jar of nutrient salts
  • Jar of sodium metabisulphite
  • Jar of Pectinase (No.5)
  • Jar of white stuff, no idea
  • 30+ Campden tablets
  • Tannic acid
  • Small bag of something without a label. Looks like sand.
  • Bag of more nutrient salts
  • Bad of more Pectinase.

Not sure how much use I’ll get out if the ingredient stuff. The sodium metabisulphite [edit: this is a non-rinse sterilising and only part of Campden tablets]. Campden tablets are help control fermentation and a few other things. Might give it a go. The nutrient salts might be ok. Will have to test them. Pectinase is for getting more flavour and cleaning wine, unlikely that I’ll need that. Tannic acid is for clearing and flavour enhancement. Might need to try that. Rest, got no idea what they are and will probably go in the bin.

Range of print stuff

Range of print stuff, plenty of wine and brewing things

The last part of the stash is a whole bunch of print. Some of it is home brewing catalogs. Some of it is single sheets of instructions on something about brewing. Some of it is recipes for home brew wine. And the one big piece is a book on home brewing wine, photocopied and bound.

What will come of all this? Firstly a whole lot of cleaning! The carboys and bottles have a whole bunch of caked on dirt. The tubes have stuff through them. The airlocks have sediment and dust. Plenty to clean.

Once all cleaned I’ll give an update.

If you’ve got any advice on this stuff it would be great if you want to comment below.


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Seven brewers, seven beers and seven chillies

There’s not much home brewing going on at Chas’s or my place. Chas is heading overseas soon and won’t be around to bottle anything he brews. I’ve got the Super Stout in the fermenter but haven’t got around to bottling it yet. That’s because it’s Good Beer Week here in Melbourne.

It all kicked off on Saturday 17 and goes through to Sunday 25. Heaps of stuff on lots if beer tasting, dinners, talks, tours, and of course brewing. Originally I wasn’t going to put up anything on this blog because it’s about home brewing. Then I realised the first event I went to was about home brewing!

The brewers

The brewers for System Wars – Iron Brewer

At the un-fun hour of 9 am on last Saturday morning the System Wars – Iron Brewer event officially started. It was hosted down at Grain and Grape in Yarraville. The idea was fairly straight forward, seven professional/near-professional brewers bring their own home brew equipment and make a beer. The catch, there’s one ingredient everyone needs to use and showcase in their beer. Plus, the have to commit to the base malt before finding out what the secret ingredient is.

Checking out chillies

Couple brewers talking about the chillies and what to do

Most brewers got in early and started around 8-8:30. So, by the time it started at 9 there was a lot of grain already converting to malt sugar. As the brewers had their own equipment there were a range of techniques going on. Each one was all-grain but with wide range of methods.

Chatting to one of the brewers he was talking about how he and another brewer had decided to do a saison. Both were working on the idea that the style works well as it really absorbs the flavour of whatever you throw at it. As long as the secret ingredient isn’t chillies they’d both be fine. It was only another 10-15 minutes later that chillies were announced.

Adding Candi Syrup

Adding Dark Candi Syrup to the brew

Rather than have the same type of chilli for everyone, there were seven types, one for each brewer. Those that started first got first pick. And the brewer who started after 9 got last pick.

A few brewers had picked a dark base to start with and the general feeling was that they were in the prime position to make a great beer. Of the seven there was a chocolate chilli brew, a smoked chilli and an Old Fashioned inspired brew which looked really interesting.

This was a fun day. Talking to people who do brewing at a much higher level and picking their brains on everything brewing related. There was a band and a BBQ going to keep things lively. I’m thinking next year I’ll be back.



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Wired for fun, and heat

First up; wow, sorry, um… and ta-da! This post has been sitting as a draft for months! I’ve finally sat down tidied it up, added in the photos and sent it out to the wide world. So with that, onto the post…

Temp Control - unit on

Working Temperature Control unit turned on

Back in April last year I bit the bullet and bought a temperature controller. I picked it up on eBay for around $10 and a few weeks later it came in the post. It’s quite a small unit with a simple interface. The instructions are basic and just a single A4 sheet covers everything. And that’s where things stop being fun.

Temp control unit back top

The top back end of the Temperature Control unit

The wiring diagram is only a slight step up from incomprehensible with everything in Chinese as well as on the unit itself. Google searches for wiring diagrams on the exact same unit name/number were no use. Trying to find similar units was the first real starting point. Comparing what others had done with similar-ish units gave me an overview if what the wiring structure should be. Then it was a mater of throwing in words like “positive”, “negative”, “current”, “live” and the like into Google translate to work out the right way to wire the unit. Ended up Googling terms like “Chinese character for Positive” to confirm. After all that the unit finally got wired.

Temp control unit wire up

Back of the Temperature Control unit all wired up and ready to work.

Plugged it on and turned on the mains. Let’s just say that it wasn’t wired right the first time, and move on. An not one word about who wire it… A bit more time on Google and everything was sussed. Turned on and worked fine. There is a sensor on a wire which measures the temperature. My original idea was that this would be dropped directly into the wort. Then after a few discussions with fellow home brewers I decided to take their advice and put it on the side.

One noble, and rarely used, stubby holder gave up its life to be used. The ex-stubby holder was placed on the side of a fermenter and stuck down with a whole lot of masking tape. Then the sensor was placed between the fermenter and ex-stubby holder . Overall effect is that the sensor can read the temperature and insulated from everything else. Plus, its nice padding to prevent it from being damaged.

Temp control unit in action

Temperature Control unit set up with carboy and heating blanket.

The unit works by having a set temperature. Then there is a range, or threshold, above and below. Once the actual temperature is beyond that temperature range it turns on the power to the “thing”. This can be for heating or cooling depending on what device is attached. If you plug in a heater and have the unit set to heat then once it’s below the set temperature the heater turns on. Neat. This can be done for cooling as well. The temperature control has a minimum plus/minus range of one degrees Celsius. What that means is when I set the temperature at 21°C it can drop as low as 20.1°C before the heating kicks in. And in theory it could get up to 21.9°C before turning off, but in reality it doesn’t go that high. So, the unit has a bit of flux which isn’t ideal but also isn’t too bad.

This unit only has one switch it means it can heat or cool. It can’t do both at the same time. There are a few units out there that do both and you can find them pretty easily. I was just a bit lazy, and cheap. Plus I’m not sure when I’de need both working. But if I ever do then I might just pick up another unit.

Temp Control sensor on carboy

Temperature Control unit sensor on carboy. It’s under the sliced up stubby holder, which is tapped to the carboy.

Am I happy with the unit? Yes. Was it easy to get set up? No, but proper units with English instructions exits. And for those of you who are not, can’t not find, and still need to find a certified electrician… there’s units out there that don’t require wiring which do the job well and safe.

I recommend any and all home brewers who are after good flavour beer to get some kind of temperature control. It doesn’t need to be a unit like above, it might just be a cool and stable room in the house/shed. Big changes in temperature and high temperatures makes a (negative) difference to the taste of your beer.


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New equipment is fun, and some bottling

Christmas was good for me. Got a couple vouchers for home brew shops. Yay. Oh, and the Australian Pale Ale #3 needed to be bottled. Was a bit distracted, and a bit lazy, so only got around to bottling on Thursday.

Bottling Tree

Bottling Tree with just the first two levels and full of bottles.

As I had some hot vouchers in my hand I went down to Australian Home Brewing to pick up some new equipment. First thing was a bottling tree. I’ve been wanting one of these for a while. Will be using it for both bottling days, and cleaning bottles. So, this is something I’ll be using a lot. As you can see from the photo I’ve only put the first to parts on, it’s all I need.

Also picked up some hops, bigger capper with caps for big bottles and a small 15 litre fermenter. I’ll keep the hops under wraps until start brewing with them. Tried the capper on a wine bottle I had saved, didn’t quite work. Will be looking for the right bottles in the future. The small fermenter is really useful as I can use it for bulk priming, like for this brew, or other brews between the carboy and 30 litre fermenter.

Bottling took a fair bit longer. Partly because I was trying new equipment and partly because I kept getting distracted. The carboy was poured directly into the small fermenter which had the dissolved sugar. Hopefully I didn’t get too much air into it, I think I might. Hopefully I didn’t get too much trub transferred, I’m pretty sure I did. Again, I split the bottling up into some stubbies, a bigger 500 ml bottle and some plastic bottles.

There were also two 1.25 litre bottles with the brewing caps. Just to see what happens I’ve decided to leave one bottle as it for condition. The other bottle I transferred into a new bottle and left the yeast/trub behind. That second bottle is sealed and without any extra sugar for carbonation. Strange, the beer from the bottle that was transferred wasn’t that carbonated. So, this could go either way.

Australian Pale Ale 3

Australian Pale Ale 3 in original bottle, gravity reading and re-bottled.

Gravity reading was really good, 1.012 for both the carboy and 1.25 L bottle. That means the beer from the carboy will end up about 5.0% with the bulk priming, while the 1.25 L bottles will remain at 4.5%. That’s pretty good. Plus the flavour was good. Quite a bit of orange flavour with some other citrus and other fruit. Hints of some floral and grassy notes. Will be interesting to see how it all settles down.

Given the heat in Melbourne is finally starting to kick in there’s not going to be another brew at my place for a bit. That might change if I get my act into gear and sort out a brew fridge. Will keep you all posted.


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