If there is one thing homebrewers are, it’s frugal. Well, most of us anyway. Well, this is an easy post for those who like to use hop shots. If you are not familiar with hop shots, they basically extract the hop resins with some process that is mysterious to me using CO2 from the cone. Look, I personally don’t care how it works. All I know is it does. Some craft brewers have moved to using hop extracts for their bittering in highly hopped IPAs just for the purpose of getting a lot less kettle loss due to water being absorbed into the plant matter. Hops shots make sense in this application since you are just looking at bitterness, not flavor or aroma. Hops shots themselves will run you about $4 per 5ml syringe on most homebrew supply shops. What if I told you that you can buy a can of co2 hop extract that is the exact same stuff for $21 per 100g? What if I told you that a 100g container will make you roughly 40 of the 5ml syringes at home? What if I also told you, that you can buy empty syringes and caps on Amazon for a few bucks and that in the end you can make your own hop shots for about $1 each? Well, if you or you and your friends use hop shots, I’m sure you are thinking “Tell us more!” That is just what I am going to do.
The first step is to buy your ingredients and equipment. That would be your hop shot extract, which you can buy at Yakima Valley Hops for about $21 for a 100g can. You can also buy their hop shots as well, but why would you when you are still going to save money this way? You also want to buy syringes. You can get 5ml or 3ml syringes. I chose 3ml because I got a box of 100 for under $10 and 50 caps for under $5. I figured I can either use 2 hop shots or 1 depending on my beer style. I also found the 3ml syringes to be a better value. Just don’t forget to buy the caps, they don’t come with the syringes unless you buy them that way, and they tend to be more expensive together than separate. Not sure why that would be. So to recap, below is what you need to buy.
Hop Extract (about $22 for 100g) Syringes Either 5ml (About $18 for 100) or 3ml (about $7 for 100) Caps (about $5 for 50)…….that’s it.
Total investment (not including shipping $34-$45 depending the syringe). I split the cost with a fellow Manty Malter member and each of us got 25 hop shots for about $18 each. Not a bad investment.
In order to make the extract easier to work with, you will want to soak it in warm water, just like malt extract. From there, you can just open the can and fill the syringes fairly easily. Essentially that’s it. Just fill them then cap them. The hop shots should remain good in the fridge for up to 5 years if you don’t have any air in the syringe itself. I did have a few that had a tiny bubble of air in them, so I marked those to be used first.
The FTSs (Fermentation Temperature Stabilization System) from Ss Brew Tech
Today I have the FTSs (Fermentation Temperature Stabilization System) from Ss Brewing Technologies. If you remember a few months back I got both a Stainless Steel brew Bucket (Read the review here) from Ss brew tech and a 7 gallon conical(Read the review here). I ended up having issues with the conical because it was too tall to fit in my fermentation fridge, so I had issues controlling fermentation temperatures. Enter, the FTSs. The price for the FTSs is $250 but it’s worth it in the long run in order to be able to accurately control the fermentation temperature in my conical and maximize it’s potential.
The FTSs control the temperature of your beer by pumping warm or cool water through a set of stainless steel coils that dips down into your beer. So to use the FTSs, you need to know if you are going to cool or heat your beer and use the right method to do one or the other. Some people find this to be a drawback and on a few forums I saw some people call this a “deal breaker”. I am actually surprised by this because first off, you usually know if you need to either warm or cool your fermentation based on your ambient temperature of your fermentation area. I don’t know anyone who has such massive swings in their fermentation area that they would need the ability to do both during the course of one fermentation cycle. You know if it’s summer and your ambient air temperature is 75 degrees, you are going to want to cool. You know if you are going to be brewing a lager you want to cool. You know if you live in Wisconsin and it’s winter and your fermentation area is 55-63 degrees you may want to warm up the fermentation. The FTSs has the ability to be set to either warming or cooling mode, so you can choose which method you want to use. Below I will be showing the guts of the FTSs and providing a video on what I used to set my FTSs to warm fermentation this winter.
In order to supply the cool water, it is suggested that you use a cooler and jugs of frozen water or ice blocks. Remember, you only need to keep the temperature of the water below your desired fermentation temperature. So rotating a supply of ice into the FTSs is not too difficult. You should only have to rotate once a day.
In order to warm the fermentation, you will want to buy an aquarium heater from just about any store that sells aquarium equipment, these will run you $10-$15. That heater will warm up the water to at least 70 degrees and that water will be used to bring your beer to ale temperatures. Some people have said that because warm water will rest at the top, that there will be cooler wort at the bottom of your fermentor. I don’t think these people have seen active fermentation and that the wort is far from static and is in constant motion. It’s not like a jug of water. If you don’t believe me, check out this video. There is no temp control on here and you can easily see that the liquid inside is moving on it’s own. This action will also distribute the heat.
Assembly of the FTSs
What’s in the box? Below is a photo of everything that is included. You get a new pre-drilled lid for your conical or brew bucket (yes, it fits on both), a neoprene jacket that will fit either the conical or the brew bucket depending on which one you ordered, a power adapter, the temperature control unit and probe, a submersible water pump, some tubing, a stainless steel weldless thermowell for the probe to go into, the stainless steel coil, and all the proper fittings and o-rings. What’s not included is the aquarium heater I have pictured below. This is what you can use to warm your water for heating mode.
The FTSs temperature system
Assembly was very straight forward and quite simple. Below I will show a series of pictures that show how to put on the neoprene jacket and demonstrate how the coil is installed.
To put on the jacket, I found it easiest to just flip over the conical, line up the holes with the legs, and just start sliding up the jacket. Be sure you have the holes for the racking port and thermowell in the right side. From there just flip the conical over and slide the jacket up all the way.
As you can see below, attaching the coil and thermowell to the lid are very self explanitory. Just be sure the o-ring is on the inside of the lid. You are provided with extra o-rings which are not needed.
Once the coil and thermowell are installed, just place the lid onto the conical or brew bucket. Simple as that. You are now ready to assemble the pump and temperature controller.
The rest of the assembly doesn’t take all that much. Below is a photo of the next few steps. You will want to cut the provided tubing into 2 parts and connect one end of each piece to the ports on top of the lid. It doesn’t matter which side, since the water just flows through one side and out the other. Then just place the other end of tubes into your bucket or ice chest and the other end of one of the other tubes is connected to your water pump which is submersed in the water. Plug the pump into the temperature controller where it says “to pump” and plug the power supply into the side that says 12VDC. Insert the temperature probe into the thermowell and you are are fully assembled and ready to set your temperature mode and temperature.
To set the temperature, if you are cooling all you need to do is turn the unit on, press set, and adjust the temperature up or down based on what you want your temp to be. To set the unit to warming mode, you will follow the instructions based on the video below. But to recap, you will simply press and hold set, press set again, choose heating or cooling mode, press set, wait for the temperature to display, press set, and adjust to the desired temperature. That’s just about it for this review. Feel free to contact me with any questions.
I recently had the pleasure of appearing on the Super Brewers podcast (www.superbrewers.com). I spoke with the host, Jake Woldstad, about various aspects of dry roasting grain and making caramel malts. You can listen to the 2 part series by clicking the links I provide below. If you like the podcasts, be sure to check out his other topics, or better yet….subscribe!