Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Home Brew Equpment Upgrades

I have recently been searching the web for some brewery upgrades that I could begin acquiring the materials for.  My current brewery consists of a Turkey Fryer Kit that my mom bought me for Christmas, which has a propane burner and 7.5 gal. kettle, and a converted 15.5 gal. Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) and Mash-Laughter Tun (MLT) in one.  By HLT/MLT in one I mean that I heat the water to a pre calculated temperature and pour the grains into the Tun to give me my initial infusion mash temperature; then when the 60 minutes are done, I add water from my kettle to the mash in order to sparge and begin laughtering the wort from the MLT.  This setup gives me quite a few variables that can change from batch to batch.  These variables include things such as temperature and volume fluctuations.  The volume fluctuation problem can be simple to solve should I install a sight glass that includes gallon and half gallon increment markings and calculate the volume of water the grains will absorb during the mash.  However, the temperature fluctuation problem is something I found a bit hard to grasp since I don’t want to scorch my wort nor have to tend to my mash the whole time.  On the BYO website, I found the plans to Lonnie McAlister’s Brutus Ten system that looks like it would solve my problem.  I ordered the BYO re-print of the plans and instructions on how to build the system and thought that I might need to make a few material substitutions and modifications as I acquire materials.  The material acquisition process is going to take a while since I have a very limited budget ($50-$100 per month or pawn/sell stuff, which I don’t like doing).  I am going to have to search the web, go to yard sales and visit all of the discount or used parts stores I can.

Speaking of yard sales and brewery upgrades…  I went yard sale hopping this last weekend with my friend while my wife and sister held their own yard sale.  Yeah, it seems kind of counterproductive spending money at yard sales while trying to make money at a yard sale, but for great deals on things I will eventually get anyway why not?  In this case it wound up being for my home brewery/ bar.  My friend was in search of tools and I was in search of anything that caught my eye... especially parts for my Brutus Ten system build.  We went to probably 15 yard sales and didn’t have a whole lot of luck.  I wound up finding a few tools that I either thought were good deals or that I needed for other projects I have going on… like fixing/maintaining my vehicles.  My friend also found a few tool items.  However, the best deal that I found was at the second to last yard sale that I went to (besides my wifes).  I found a guy selling a Kegerator with one tap and the whole co2 setup for a single standard 15.5 gallon keg.  The only thing missing on the kegerator was the keg… and maybe some beer.  According to the guy selling it, the refrigerator portion worked, but since he was asking $75 for it I figured that it didn’t really matter if it worked or not.  After talking with the guy and explaining how I was a home brewer that really wanted the kegerator, I told him I would be back and I went to ask my wife for the money for the kegerator.  She said she would only give me $50 of the yard sale money so I was kind of bummed out.  I figured that I may as well go and see if he would take that.  To no avail, when I asked him if he would take $50 for it, he said that he really didn’t want to sell it for that price.  I told him that it was all I could offer him.  He eventually gave in and I bought the kegerator for $50.  After we loaded it in the back of my truck and got ready to drive away he said I should keep him in mind and give him one of my home brews.  I told him ok, I will and drove off to give my new brew equipment a new home.  Since I felt a little bad for talking him down that low, I decided to grab two 22oz bottles of a beer I just bottled 2 nights before and drove back to his house and gave them to him.  He said that he was only joking about me giving him some home brew, but I did say I would keep him in mind.

The next day (Sunday) I decided on the improvements I will make to my kegerator.  The improvements I decided I could afford to do within the next week include:

·         cleaning the Kegerator,

·         painting it with black paint (instead of the dinged up white),

·         buying 5 Gallon Cornelius Kegs,

·         replacing the tubing so it is more sanitary,

·         converting the connectors to theball lock type for the Corny kegs,

·         replacing the door handles with more aesthetically pleasing ones,

·         moving the Tap Lever/ Spout to the center of the fridge door (since the tap handle doesn’t allow the freezer door to open),

·         putting a wood plug in the old hole with a wall mount stationary beer bottle opener on top of the wood.

·         and making custom wood Tap Handle.

The improvements I decided that I would eventually make (when I can afford it) include:

·         adding two more taps ( which includes buying two tap levers/spouts, getting a 4 way CO2 manifold with ball valves, getting 4 more ball lock connectors and getting more tubing)

·         adding a Drip Tray below the taps mounted on the kegerator door,

·         and adding wire shelves to one side of the fridge compartment to cool bottled beer.

I have already started on the improvements I can afford now.  On Sunday I cleaned the kegerator and my wife painted the kegerator while I went to Sandpoint to pick up some Cornelius kegs she found on craigslist for me.  The kegs were $20 each and the guy I bought them from had 3 functional kegs and one that had a hole in the side from freezing with beer in it, which he just threw in since I bought all three functional kegs for a total of $60.  The seller thought that the non-functional keg would be a good parts keg should I need to replace the ball lock connectors and I agreed.

On Tuesday, I cleaned and sanitized the Cornelius kegs, then bought and installed the tubing and ball lock connectors.  Next I need to move the tap to the center of the kegerator door and plug the existing hole with the wood and bottle opener setup previously mentioned.  Then I need to fabricate the door handles, which I am planning on using an old galvanized fence top rail I have and putting a spacer nut between the kegerator door and top rail and attaching it with lag screws.  After that I will begin making a custom tap handle.  Well, wish me luck in upgrading the kegerator.

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