Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Brand New Label!

Ladies, gentlemen, and fellow zymurgy enthusiasts... I present to you my new label!  I'm pretty excited about it.  I wanted to do a spoof of the Government Warning, and I am pretty happy with the results.  If you scan the QR code in the top right corner you will get my email contact info and a link to this very website.

Thank you to my lovely wife Mary for applying her graphic design time and expertise to my hobby.  These labels should start appearing on my Parbuckle (extra) Pale Ale, just in time for the Super Bowl.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Dual Stage Temperature Controller DIY

About 6 months ago, I read a thread on HomeBrewTalk in the DIY section about building a dual stage temperature controller.  I got all excited for two reasons.  The first was it would be much easier than the swamp cooler method I was currently using.  The second was the guy made it sound just easy enough that I could pull it off.  I am not an electrician, but I do have experience with telephone wires (thanks dad) and have done some simple electrical repairs around the house.  My pride and joy in this field is when I built the bathroom downstairs, I did all of the wiring myself for the lights, outlets, and exhaust fan.  I even added a circuit to the breaker box just for this purpose, but that is a whole other story.  Let's talk about my temperature controller.  

I bought the controller itself off of EBay.  I bought a plug at Lowe's, and had some electrical wire laying around from past conquests.  I went to Radio Shack and bought a small project box, and had a screwdriver, wire cutters, drill, and a zip saw laying around.  The whole project took about 2 hours start to finish.  If you are a little handier than I am, it might not take as long.  Let's get started...

Here is a picture of the wiring diagram I used, courtesy of android on homebrewtalk.com.  It's not as intimidating as it looks, as you will see in a few minutes.   

Here are the base components all layed out on my bench.  I figured at this point the best place to start was by putting the plug on the wire, because I was still nervous about how chopping up the project box with my zip saw was going to go, and wanted to put it off as long as possible...

This step is pretty straight forward.  Strip the black and white wires, screw them in to the post, and connect the ground.  

Place the cover over the plug and screw into place.  Now the easy part is over, and I have that project box and my zip saw staring at me from across the bench.

My first cut.  It's not pretty, I know, but it doesn't have to be.  The best advice I can give you here is to trace the back of the controller with a sharpie and make the cuts.  You will inevitably have to take it out in a few spots to get it to fit right.  Take care not to go out too much so that it is way loose.

After cutting the hole on the other side for the plug and taking the ends off so it would fit in the box,  I had to break the bridge on the hot side.  The reason is that I am going to have the top plug powered by the heat element of the controller, and the bottom plug powered by the cooling element of the controller.  You don't have to do that on the other side, however, just the hot side.  It will make more sense in a few pictures.

Here is a picture of the box with the temperature controller in it and a hole cut out for the outlet.  You can also see the crazy diagram I am trying to figure out on the small piece of paper next to the box.

This is pretty much the same shot from a different side.  you can see on the back of the controller where the wires will hook up.  From left to right you have the main power, thermometer, heat, and cool.

This is where it starts to get fun.  I grouped the main hot in with 3 other short wires.  One will go to the main power, one to the heating element, and one to the cooling element on the back of the controller.  Soon you will see why I had to break the bridge on the hot side of the outlet.

Here you can see that I have all 3 hot wires in their respective places.  You can also see that I have 2 small hot wires and a return wire cut off to the side.  One goes from the heating element of the controller to top of the plug, and the other goes from the cooling element of the controller to the bottom plug.  This is why I had to break the bridge.  The white one will go from the controller to the return side of the plug, and the white wire will also be hooked up to the return side of the plug to complete the circuit.

I threw this pic in to stress the point that it is never a bad idea to make sure you hook up the ground wire.  In fact, most professional electricians would use the word "Mandatory". 

Now that all the wires are where they need to be, the only thing left to do is to plug in the temperature probe and close up the box.  Well, and plug it in to see if it works...

Seems to be working fine to me.  I know my last several batches are the best I have ever made.  Maybe there is something to the theory that controlled fermentation makes better beer.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Let's get to know each other.

I figured I would start out my first post maybe giving you an idea how I got started in home brewing, and what equipment I use, so maybe you could get an idea of where I am coming from as I write my posts.

I got started in home brewing about a year and a half ago, compliments of a Mr. Beer kit and a love of beer.  Before long I had 2 Mr. Beer fermenters, and spent some serious money on several kits.  As these kits were ready to drink, they weren't bad.  But I had a sneaking suspicion that I could do much better.  So I took my debit card to a local home brew shop downtown called the Beer Nut.  A year later, let me show you guys what I am working with now.

Now the centerpiece of Boats 'N Hoes Home Brewery is a 30 qt stainless steel brew pot.  As you can see I also have a needle thermometer and that is my boil spoon being employed to steep my specialty grains.  More about that in a later post.

Long gone are the days of the Mr Beer fermenters, (although I do still keep them around for Cider and Mead experiments).  I now have 3 Ale Pails that work great.  I try to keep at least two of them fermenting at any given time, because my neighbors have caught on to my hobby and it is hard to maintain a pipeline for personal use.

As those of you who live in SLC know, temperature swings are drastic between the summer and winter months, especially in the canning room where my fermenters used to sit.  I broke down and purchased a 15 sq ft chest freezer that will hold 3 buckets comfortably.  I made a DIY dual stage temperature controller that utilizes the freezer to keep things cool and the reptile stone in the picture to warm things up.  I know what you are thinking... A reptile stone, really?  It was cheap, it doesn't get hot enough to start a fire, and you don't need a whole lot of heat to raise 15 sq ft a couple degrees it you keep the lid closed most of the time.  Trust me, it works!

On average, brewing 5 gallon batches nets me 24 bombers (22 oz) that used to contain Epic, and anywhere from 6 to 10 12oz bottles.

Now lets talk a little bit about what Boat 'N Hoes Home Brewery is and what it isn't.  I am not selling anything.  I do this for my personal gratification and enjoyment.  I share my brews with anyone who is willing to sit down with me and talk beer.  My posts from here on out are going to be geared towards my experiences and antidotes that may help you out with your hobby or at least make you chuckle once in a while.  I will share what has and hasn't worked for me, my DIY experiences, and maybe even some recipes that I really think are exceptional.  Hope you enjoy reading them.