Posts Tagged how to

How to build a kegerator

This kegerator is build out of an old chest freezer, and ends up being a badass 4 tap kegerator. Anyone can do this, with the right tools and a little bit of time on their hands, the only hard part is brewing four great kegs of beer!

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How To Re-use Your Yeast

So you’ve brewed your beer, and it’s fermented in primary for a week. You’ve racked it on over to secondary and stashed that bad boy someplace cool and dark. Now it’s time to clean up. You look down into your primary and see all that goop in the bottom. Throw it out? No way! That’s a lot of viable yeast down there, and I’m going to show you how to use it again in your next batch (and maybe the next, and the next…).  

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The easiest way to re-use your yeast would be to just dump a new batch of wort on top of the trub (a.k.a.yeast cake) and let it go to work. No problem at all with that method; you just have to brew and rack on the same day. It’s not that big a deal to rack one beer while you’re cooling down another. If you do it this way, just remember to go from lighter to darker (both in color and in alcohol content of your beer). And you probably will want to use a blow-off tube. Fermentation is pretty fast and furious this way.

There’s another way of re-using the yeast, though, that doesn’t require you to have a new batch ready to go. It’s called yeast washing, and it’s pretty easy too. For this job, you’ll need some things. First off, you’ll need the yeast cake from a batch of beer.

Secondly, you’ll need a few jars. I happen to have Ball/ Mason style canning jars around my house, so I just use those. You’re not putting pressure on them, though, so they don’t really have to be ‘canning’ jars. They just have to be sanitized thoroughly and not have cracks running through them. 

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Notice mine have aluminum foil hats on in the picture. That’s because I’ve already sanitized them. Aluminum foil is like the home brewer’s duct tape. It’s got a million and one uses, and one of ’em is to keep bacteria and other beasties that like beer out of yours (most of those beasties are airborne, meaning they travel on air currents and fall into your beer). Plus, the foil is oxygen permeable, so it allows any co2 buildup to escape. 

So your equipment is ready. Swish your primary around, get everything in there good and mixed up. Now take your jar (quart-sized, if you have it; if not, 2 pints will get the job done as well, though you’ll need at least 4 total) and carefully pour the yeast cake into it. Depending on how much trub there is, it probably won’t all fit into your jar. That’s ok; you don’t need it all, but if you want to get crazy, just increase your jar collection and get everything you can next time.

Re-foil your jar. It should look like this: 

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Stick it in your fridge, and get busy cleaning up your primary and racking equipment. Make sure to take everything apart to clean it, and drip-dry those hoses; don’t give the bugs a chance to contaminate your gear.

After about an hour, look in on your yeast. It should have started to separate as the trub gently sinks to the bottom, leaving the yeast suspended in beer at the top. Now’s when the next jar comes in. GENTLY pour off the top liquid into your second sanitized jar. Put the foil back on top of it.

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You’ll probably wind up with some of the trub in this jar, too. Don’t worry about it. You’re going to repeat that last step, anyway, so get this sucker into the ‘fridge. Give it 30-45 minutes, then check it again.

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Here we have very clear separation. The trub has settled to the bottom again, the lighter stripe in the middle is yeast in suspension, and the darker band at the top is the beer. Again, you’re going to pour this off into another (or the first, if you only have two) sanitized jar. Follow the process one more time, and stick it into the ‘fridge. 

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After another hour or so, about the amount of time it took to type out this article. Separation is very well defined. You can see the yeast beginning to settle out on the bottom of the jar. This will continue until all of it has settled, and you’ll have a nice protective layer of beer over everything.

You can leave it in your fridge as-is (covered in foil), though if you do that I’d recommend using it within a few weeks. A handy trick I’ve learned, though, is to sanitize an empty beer bottle, and using a sanitized funnel, pour the yeast into it. Cap it like you would a beer, and store that in your fridge. The brown bottle will protect it from any harmful light rays, and the cold will force the yeast into hibernation. When it’s time to brew again, remove the bottle to room temperature for a day, then pitch it into a yeast starter a day before brewing to wake everything back up. Pitch it as you normally would.

You can repeat this process as much as you like, though the prevailing wisdom in the homebrewing community is that 3 generations of yeast is probably as far as you want to push it. After that, genetic mutations within the yeast can begin to change the flavor profile.

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How to Build a DIY Wort Chiller

If you homebrew, one of the most useful tools you can have in your kit, is the wort chiller.  This, put simply, is a coil of copper tubing that sits in your wort, and takes the heat away.  There are two main advantages to using the wort chiller.  Number one, it cools the wort from the boil temperature to your pitchable temperature much quicker, and thereby reducing the time that the wort is in the “danger zone”, and at risk for infection or contaminants.  Number two, it speeds up your total brew time dramatically.  Most properly constructed wort chillers will take your wort down to pitchable temperature (70-75 degrees typically) in 15-30 minutes.

There are two general types of wort chillers.  The first is the immersion chiller (the device sits in the wort, and cold water is pumped through the copper to remove heat).  The second is the counterflow chiller (the wort is pumped through the copper coil in one direction, and cold water is pumped in the other direction in a surrounding coil of tubing, typically rubber).  The instructions in this post will be for an immersion chiller.  It is less expensive to build, and eaiser to keep clean, as you just put it in the pot with about 15 minuts to go in the boil.

In order to build your immersion chiller, there are a few items youll need to pickup from your local hardware store.  The first, and most important item is the copper.  Youll need a minimum of 25 feet, 50 is ideal.  And the diameter of your tubing should be 3/8″ OD  as this allows the best compromise of surface area in the wort versus flow of the water inside.  This is the most expensive peice to the wort chiller.

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When you buy your copper, hopefully, it will be coiled somewhat already.  Mine came in this nice neat box and already had most of the shape i was looking for.  You can also purchase a copper bender, which will help you prevent kinks when bending.  If you do get a kink, youll need to cut the copper and start over, as your water will slow down and not allow efficient heat transfer.  So, depending on your tube bending skills, you may or may not want to purchase the extra tool.

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Pull your copper out of the box, and stretch it a little vertically to make a long/tall coil of copper.  Then find something cylindrical to wrap your copper around, and help create a uniform coil.  (i started with a paint can, but it didnt work so well so I switched to a small CO2 tank I had, which made the perfect coil.

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Note the vertical peice with the 90 degree upturn at the bottom of the coil.  Dont forget to add this, as you will not want your connectors, in or out, to be inside your wort.

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Once you get the coil you are looking for, you should then solder on your connectors.  I used a small propane blowtorch and regular plumbers solder to make the connections.  Put one on each end of the tubing.  Now that you have your connectors on, and your copper coiled, slide the cylinder in the tubing, and fine-tune your copper coil so that you have as much copper as possible in the wort.  Your in/out connectors need to be angled  and long enough so that they can rest outside of the wort pot.  If one of your connectors springs a leak, you dont want that water in your brew!

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To use your chiller, youll need a short peice of hose for the output (a washing machine hose works great).  This hose will go in the drain of your sink, or on the ground outside, depending where you are using the chiller.  For the input, simply connect a garden hose from the kitchen sink, or an outside spigot, again depending on where you are using your chiller.  Place the chiller in the brewpot with about 15 minutes to go in the boil and it will sanitize anything on it. (its a good idea to keep it fairly clean all the time though)  Once your boil is complete, turn the hose on high and cold, and wait.  Your tap water normal temperature will also help determine the rate of cooling you will observe.

There you have it, a DIY Wort Chiller!

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