Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Carboy Etching

How much liquid is in your carboy?  Sure the 5-gallon or 6-gallon level, depending on the size bottle you have, is pretty easy to hit, but what if I want to mix up a half batch of Star-San and need exactly 2.5 gallons?
Marker won't say, tape will peel off the first time I have to wash and a wooden measuring stick isn't sanitary and requires me to open the carboy.  The solution to these problems is glass etching!  I purchased a Deluxe Glass Etching kit from etchworld.com for $21.95 that I used, along with a bunch of masking tape to label my carboy with 1/2 gallon increments.  The etchworld kit contained lots of items that I didn't need, like flower stencils, a pair of gloves, a small paint bush and razor blade.  The item that I did use from the kit was the Armor Etch chemical.

Just tape off the area that you don't want etched by the Armor Etch chemical and paint a thick coat that will sit for a little more than a minute.  Wash with warm water and remove the tape.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Brew Pot Mod.

Today, with the help of another engineer from work I put a weldless fitting into my brew pot.  I purchased the weldless fitting with high temp washers, a 1/2 inch barb fitting and a sanitary ball valve.  The ball valve completely disassembles so that it can be cleaned and sanitized.  I purchased the entire item at homebrewstuff.com for a good price.  The part was shipped super fast and I got it right away.  They even included a 10% off coupon for my next order, so I purchased some high temp hosing from them. 

All the parts are 304 grade stainless steel and look great.  I'm excited to brew this coming weekend and use this new valve to transfer the chilled wort from my boil kettle to my fermenter.  No more lifting a heavy pot to pour into a carboy.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

...not by beer alone

Man can not live by beer alone, try as we may, there are many other things that deserve our attention.  In what I hope to make a regular feature for School Master, "...not by beer alone", we will take a look at things outside of brewing.

This is our first attempt at wine, "Conrad Concord", named after the local 18th century Iroquois translator and frontiersman, Conrad Weiser, is seen here next to a carboy of "The BN Session Brown", English Brown Ale.  It is quite different making wine; no grains, no boil, gravity readings above 1.100!
We started with 30.0 lbs of Concord grapes picked from a relatives arbor and frozen until we made time to make the wine.
A must was started with...
  • 5 crushed campden tables (sodium metabisulfite (Na2S2O5))
  • 30 lbs crushed Concord grapes
  • 2 gallons water
  • 10 lbs sugar
  • 5 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 2-1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 2 packets wine yeast
A few days later the must was  bubbling well enough to push the "cap" of grape skins to the top of the primary fermenter.  The wine was racked into a glass carboy with an air-lock and set to age after 10 days.  It is now bubbling away next to a batch of beer in the basement brewery. 
Again, there are some serious differences between making beer and wine.  Wine does not involve a boil, so spoiling bacteria, wild yeasts and other "nasties" are removed by adding sulfur-based compounds to wine.  When transferring the wine from the primary fermenter to the carboy we put the grape skins in a sanitized mesh bad and squeezed it with our bare hands.  Granted I washed liked the dickens; trimming my fingernails, scrubbing my hands and arms and then submersing my my arms in star-san. but the process was a little odd.
The wine tastes good thus far and I am looking forward to finishing this batch and making many more.