Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog

~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog - ~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Using a Bucket Heater for Brewing-Electric Brewing

Allied Precision 742g Bucket Heater

This is a contraption new to me, but boy will this come in handy on brew day. I’ve tested it with just water in my kettle and it works very well. I will be using it in a three days for my next brew. This is a stainless steel electric bucket heater from Allied Precision, used to heat water on a farm for animals in the winter to prevent if from freezing. This one however, is used to actually bring water to a boil, most other models are only designed to warm water to keep from freezing. This one specifically says it will bring water to a boil and is being used by many homebrewers around the country. There a few uses for this device, and I’m sure I will use a few. The first, is you can plug this into a timer in the outlet and set it to start heating water at a specific time. This about this, let’s just say you have a limited schedule for brewing and perhaps maybe you want to brew either when you get home from work, or very early in the morning. Well, heating the initial strike water can chew up a large chunk of your brewing session. So you fill a stainless steel pot with your strike water, insert this heater, plug it in and set the timer to start 3 hours before you wake up or get home from work. When you walk into your brewery, your water will be heated up and ready to brew with.

Another scenario is if you use this heater to heat your strike water and your sparge water (even in one vessel). This will allow you to use your propane for boiling only, saving a little bit of money in the process on propane costs. This is 1000 watt unit so it will cost a little in energy, but I believe the cost is about $0.15/hr. Which is cheaper than propane.

The third scenario, will take a little extra equipment but has potential. While I wouldn’t recommend using this in plastic mash tun, for fear of overheating it and leaching chemicals from the plastic, if you are using a stainless pot for mashing a person could hook this unit up to a temperature controller and set a mash temp of 152, and heat the mash with this. Step mashing is possible. Just be aware that because this unit does not move the liquid in any way you would have to stir it a lot. This could also be used to hold a temperature if you tend to lose a lot of heat in your mash kettle.

One final scenario, while not ideal, it is possible to use your electric heater as a backup energy source if your propane runs out. I only have 1 propane tank and there has been the occasion where I take a gamble on if I have enough propane or not. I did get burned on this one time. But if your wort is hot, at 212 degrees, you could plug this in and bring it back to  a boil in no time. If you are doing a 5 gallon batch you should be able to maintain a boil without issue, however I would be suspect as to how vigorous the boil would be. But it could work in a pinch. I was reading about how some extract brewers use this heater on their stovetop because it heats up and boils harder than their electric stoves, but it sounded to me like those are partial boil batches where the brewer is boiling 3-4 gallons and not 6-7 gallons. But again, that backup source is there.

Here is the electric heater in one of my keggles. The water volume is 8.5 gallons and the water is below the shield and cord(which you want to avoid submerging).

 

Now it’s not all peaches and rainbows for this unit. There are some drawbacks. The first is that you are dealing with electricity and water, so you need to be careful and have the proper GFI outlet in your brewery. Also, if you only have one unit it can take a long time to heat the water. I had mine set in my keggle and poured 8.5 gallons of water from the hose into the kettle (just shy of a typical total water volume I need for brewing a 5.5 gallon batch). Since I live in Wisconsin and it’s fall, the water was about 42 degrees F. It took 3 hours and 15 minutes to heat that volume of water from 42 degrees to 168 degrees. I have read about people using these and using 2 at once. That would cut the time down considerably.

The bottom line for me though is the benefits and the potential far outweigh the negatives. This unit is only about $38-$40 on Amazon and ships for free with 2nd day shipping if you are an Amazon prime member (Something I highly suggest if you shop online often). If you want to purchase on, I will provide a link, but for me…this is a new “must have item”. CLICK HERE to purchase one…or two.

Keep in mind that this is the very scaled down version of an “electric brewing operation” and I don’t think it’s the most efficient. My goal is to shorten my brew day and cut costs on propane. If REAL electric brewing interests you, I suggest you check out the site The Electric Brewery. They have conversion kits that allow you to convert you kettle to a fully electric setup. Granted it’s not cheap, but if a set-up like that interests you, that is the source to check out.

Building a Stir Plate for Yeast Starters, Easy Project for a few dollars

If you have been reading my blog, you know that I am all about building equipment that you can buy. It tends to work just as well and cost a lot less. Today I will show you a quick project you can put together in less than an hour and with minimal purchased parts. It really helps if you have access to old computer parts. Here is what you will need.

1 cigar box or old jewlery box or  equivelant
6 or 9 volt DC Charger
1 Potentiometer and knob
1 Computer cooling Fan
1 Rare Earth Magnet from a hard Drive
2 male and female Quick Connect terminals

The first step is to cut the DC connector (when it’s not plugged in of course) and split the wires. Do the same for the fan. Then to find which wire on the connector is hot, connect the wires together until you get the fan to spin. Mark the pairing wires so you know how to create the loop pictured in the diagram you will see below. Think of the connection between the power supply, fan, and potentiometer as one loop (you can add an on/off switch as well if you wish). So once you find out what wires paired make the fan spin, you will connect wires below as shown below in my crude wiring diagram. Upper left is the plug, below is the potentiometer, and the big square is the fan. As you can see the red wire connects to the potentiometer, then the red wire on the fan connects to the other terminal (sometimes the potentiometer has 3 prongs, 1 of them is not used). The two black wires connect between the fan and the power supply to complete the circuit. Your wires may not be colored, which is why you test between the power supply and the fan to find the wire pairings.

Below are pictures of the project so you can see. I used electrical tape to hold down the wires.

Center the magnet the best you can on the fan and attach it by using super glue. Centering the fan is critical to prevent wobbling and to get proper spin on the stir bar.

Some people attach the fan to the lid, I chose to measure out wood standoffs on the bottom and glue them to the bottom of the jewelry box. The goal is to get the fan and magnet as close the lid as possible without touching it.

Below you can see how simple the wiring is. I used quick connect crimping terminals to connect the wires. Easy as pie. On the right side is a key that can lock the box if I so choose. That’s all that that is.

I’m not sure how much you can see from this picture. but it’s a close up of the potentiometer. Obviously you drill holes to get it into the box properly.

Rear view of the power going into the box.

Below is the end result. You will need a flask and stir bar once the stir plate is complete. You can purchase the same 1000ml flask and stir bar I have below by clicking the links. I purchased a 1 1/2″ X 5/16″ stir bar.

Depending on how vigorous you want the spin, you can use the control the speed.

 

 

 

 

Convert a Refrigerator to a Kegerator with internal taps

If you have a refrigerator and want to build a kegerator out of it, but you do not want to drill holes in the door for the taps, you are in luck. You can do so. However there are a few cons to this setup. First is you will be more limited in how many beers you can put on tap, in an average size fridge you will be limited to about 2 taps, 3 if you have  a larger fridge. Plus the taps are not as conveniently located when they are on the inside as they are when they on the outside of the door. However, there are a few minor advantages as well. First you will not be drilling a hole in our door, so if the thought of drilling a hole in door is not appealing for whatever reason, you can still have the kegerator you dream of. Also, you can get by with smaller shanks in your taps. Below is a kegerator I built out of a fridge with internal taps. This fridge is limited to 2 taps, but since I personally seldom have more than 2 beers on tap at any one time anyway, this shouldn’t be an issue for me. I did have a 10 cubic foot chest freezer, but I found the footprint of the freezer too big for my liking, so I chose to switch to a standard refrigerator.

My first consideration was how will I mount the taps inside. So I purchased some 1500PSI all weather Epoxy and affixed 2 pieces of lumber that were 1″ X 2″ X 27″. Then purchases some one other piece of lumber that was 1/4″ X 6″ and cut it to the width I needed for my fridge. You also have to consider how deep to insert the taps, because the shelves in the door will be inside the fridge to some degree, in my case it was 4 1/2″. So you have to be sure the front of your taps are at least that far deep into the fridge.

Next you will want a way to access the back of the taps. I chose to use a hinge attached to the wood posts I glued to the inside of the fridge. On the other side I used a simple bolt lock to keep the tap assembly in place. Below are the pictures, and it will all make complete sense once you view the pictures.

Hinged Side

Center tap holes

Bolt Lock

You have to make sure you leave enough room for the kegs in the back, yet make sure the shelves in the door do not hit the taps. Here is the whole simple assembly in place.

Here is the assembly in place with the taps. There is room in here for 2 kegs and my CO2 tank.

Don’t forget to utilize your space! The door is the perfect place to store all those commercial beer or bottled homebrews. Plus the crisper drawers can hold even more bottled beer. Plus these bottles are much easier to access than they were in my chest freezer.

I hope this post helps if you are in a situation where you want to make a kegerator out of a standard refrigerator, but do not want to drill holes in the door.

-Enjoy!