Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ready to brew!

Man, oh man, oh man. Somethings just come together.

I needed three last pieces of equipment and was going to make them all. I ended up making two and purchasing the third. Here's the latest gear that I have that now makes me ready to brew!

I had an old cooler that I wanted to convert and with the help of Robert from the Merced Lowe's and about $12 worth of stuff we got it setup in no time!

Notice the spigot on the right side instead of the drain plug that used to be there.

This is the inside of the cooler with a bulkhead replacing the drain plug and a 24" braided stainless steel water supply line with the plastic insides removed to act as a strainer when we seperate the liquid from the grain.

The hinges on the cooler were old and broken. Not to worry, a couple of new stainless steel hinges did the trick. But, now the cooler occasionally flips over backwards because of the heavy hinges.

Ric Kirby had an old keg he didn't mind contributing to this project. His wife just wanted the darn thing out of their garage! ;-)
*** UPDATE *** Ric let me know today that the garage is his domain and that he is master of that domain. Dana has no say as to what goes on in the garage except to banish Ric there when he oversteps his bounds. I bet Ric gets to sleep in his domain the next few nights!
Ric was also nice enough to cut the hole in the top with his plasma cutter and let me borrow his grinder to finish the job nicely. Jody Burdick and her husband John were nice enough to lend me their step drill bit and tapping oil so that I could get the spigot hole drilled in the side. Morebeer.com was happy to sell me the weldless spigot. ;-)
Here's the results:
Holy half barrel keg Batman! So that's what the inside of one of those things looks like!

30 minutes of drilling and I was finally able to install the new spigot. It's drilled in just above where the floor of the keg attaches to the side. The middle of the floor slopes down just enough to catch the "trub" or junk left over after brewing. Sweet!

I had to finally tell myself that I was going to have to buy my wort chiller instead of building it. Bummer. When I checked the prices of copper tubing I found that it was just as expensive to buy the copper and make it myself as it was to buy a premade one. Then, at the last minute, I checked Craig's List and TADAH! Someone had an OLD wort chiller for sale in Merced. I talked the owner down to $25 for a chiller he had built himself about 15 years ago. All I have to do now is dip it in a little muriatic acid and get all of the gunk off.

Cold water goes in. Hot water comes out. Wort gets chilled in the process.
So, I'm now ready to brew. Now all I need to do is buy the ingredients. I'm thinking of a nice English Bitter or a Pale Ale for my first venture into all-grain brewing. Got to get paid first. I'll probably be brewing in the first week of December!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Eating your desert first

OK, so I'm kind of doing things a little backwards, but - hey - that's just the way I roll.

Today I got one heck of a bargain off of Craig's List . It's a Tap-A-Draft system that is basically a small kegging system that allows you to "keg" your beer in 1.5 gallon batches so you can easily store it in your refridgerator and take it with you to a party, picnic, fottball game, etc.

I got two extra bottles and an extra tap for a pretty good deal. Yup, I'm a thrifty guy and anything I can do to save money and still make great beer you can bet I'll do it.

I've also purchased a basic deluxe (oxymoron?) starter system to get me almost everything I need to brew for $99.

I still have a keg that I will convert into a boil kettle and an old ice chest that I'm going to convert into a mash tun. Hopefully I'll get both done this weekend and post the results and pics.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Wanna know how to brew beer? Want to know how long to boil it, why yeast works, what causes off-flavors, how to build your own mash tun, what the hell a mash tun is, and when your beer will actually be ready to drink? Then buy this book and RTFM.

Honestly, this is the homebrewer's bible. It talks about everything and is written by one of the premier homebrewers of all time, John Palmer.

I'm learning a lot from this book. The most important being that brewing beer is only sort of like cooking. It's more like math and chemistry that actually produces something yummy!

Every infection has a host that started it all

About 20 years ago I brewed a batch of beer from a kit that came in a 5 gallon fermentation bucket. The beer turned out sort of OK, but mostly not good. We still drank it wondering why there was a thick blanket of gunk (yeast) on the bottom.

20 years later and a much more refined palate and I want to give it another try. I attended a "Teach a friend to brew day" event at my friend Mark's house. The bug is back and I now want to brew great beer. This blog is setup to chronicle my journey into the world of brewing beer. Not beer from kits, but from scratch, also known as all-grain brewing. This is a more "purist" way of brewing, and from what I tasted at Mark's house (7 beers on tap) I know it's the only way to go.

So, stay tuned. I've got stuff to buy, stuff to make, and deals to negotiate before I can brew my first batch. Oh yeah, and a wife (SWMBO) to keep happy all along the way! ;-)