Temperature Controller #1 #homebrew

Homebrew (http://www.homebrewfinds.com/2012/02/temp-controller-round-up.html) finds regularly posts controllers on sale at eBay, like this:

D2381_1 (2)

These appear to be aquarium controllers.  Hey get sold on eBay for $13/$20 or more, including shipping.   You have to be careful to select the right voltage, look to see if they are dual stage (heat and cool), and wired or not.  The unit I bought  is dual stage, un-wired, and reads Celsius only.  The seller has been awesome when there have been issues, and shipping was fast (from Hong Kong).

My plans for this is a fermentation controller since I want to have both heat and cooling, but I also want to play with it.  The controller can handle 10A at 220V, which is 15A at 120, sorta, I would not want to push it with something like a heat stick, but an aquarium heater, immersion heater, hot plate, even a fridge should be fine.

I did some quick tests, mostly hooking up power up and attaching it to an outlet.

When I went to look for ways to mount the controller, I did a quick search.  A few just mounted it into random boxes, and some into the device they were controlling (like a keezer).  But then the awesome Revvy from homebrewtalk posted his build in a long thread.

So I had to build that!  I modified the circuit in a few ways.  I saw no need for a different outlet for heat and cool.  You can split an outlet and I would never need to plug two things at once.  That gave me room to put a switch in the unit. Then I ran the entire circuit through a GFCI.  All down stream circuits are protected and I have a GFCI circuit for tools.  Given that this will be used for water areas, this is critical.

I really like this package, as it is portable, clean and protected.

Temperature Controller Box

The circuit I used:

controllercircuit1

Temp Controllers: Smokers, Fermenters, and Mashes, OH MY! #homebrew

I’ve been playing with temperature controller ideas for a while.  But the need really came to me this spring.

One of the many advantages of living in the Pacific Northwest and brewing beer is that we basically have ale fermentation temps year round.  Bit cool in the winter, move the carboy inside.  Bit hot in the summer?  Find a cellar room, or wait a day for summer to pass.  So unless you are lagering, the pressing need most homebrewers have for temp control doesn’t hit until  you want to dial a beer in, or you are a gadget freak…

Last spring my wife decided to go look at smokers.  I was thrilled!  Paleo diets for spouses are awesome to induce this kind of behavior (previously she did not like BBQ, let alone smoked meats and veggies).  The only problem was I knew this would invoke a 5-6 hour research project for me, and it did.  I spent the time reading reviews on sites like Amazon and I found a simple hierarchy to smokers:

  1. Gas/charcoal — Better for chicken since it can go higher temps, worse for fish
  2. Electric — Better for fish, harder for chicken, but easier to control the temp.
Both had issues with access: how many doors you opened to put in more wood or water, as well as cleaning.  Metal cabinets do not hold heat as well as ceramic..
I liked the idea of smoking for long periods of time, but not leaving an open flame near the house. So I looked into Electric and the order seemed to be:
  1. Temp Control
  2. Time Control
  3. Remote sensing
  4. Multiple Thermometers
  5. Temperature Range
  6. Alarms
  7. Weatherproofing
As you add each of those items in, the price goes up.  And weatherproofing was probably the most important issue.  If you read 1-2 star reviews of the products you will almost always see the review is for a purchase over a year, and things started breaking, especially the controls, even more so when the author lived in the PNW.  The more electric controls and sensors and displays, the more things broke.  This explained why so many people I know, round here, with smokers, do it on their front porch:  it is the only truly covered area for many of the houses!  So this meant paying a lot of money for a smoker, or getting a year out of it (bringing inside after done is just not going to happen).

That’s when it hit me, I have need for temperature control for brewing (Mash temps, natural Lacto souring, Saisons), as well I wanted to start cooking sous vide, and I already made a remote temperature sensor for the hot tub.  So clearly I just needed to make a temperature controller that would meet all of these needs and then make it remote accessible! Well 6-7 months later, I’ve succeeded 🙂 More in future blogs.

B-Day Labels #10 Mango Madness #2

MORE MANGO!

This is follow up to Mango Madness.

This time around I had more mango, I also added 3-4 perfectly ripe peaches, and I left the pulp and pits in the mango (it was only in the fermenter for 2 weeks, I removed the peach pits but did not peel them).

The results was more mango, but also, over time, a bitterness from the pulp (or more like an astringency).  This turns out to be a good thing.  I brought the keg to Beer Stock shortly after kegging, and people loved it, and most said “Needs more Hops.”

Not a surprise at a NW Homebrew Event.  But in reality, what was happening was the mango cloyingness was overwhelming the 50 IBUs already there.  As the CO2 has taken effect and the astringency kicked in, it has balanced better.  I still might crank up the IBUs 5 more anyway.   Also the efficiency of the grist was way off (1052 instead of 1060) and that may be adding to the sweetness.  When I racked from secondary, before adding Mango,  it was thickkkkkkkk.

The picture on the label seems to be a screen shot from some flash game I could not find.  I did use a new trick.  Word seems to be struggling with all the Word Art (the CPU spikes when I move the labels as it renders everything).  I create one document with the word art, and just one label.  I then paste it into another, “As a Picture.”  then I use that picture to make 6 labels.  The second document is does not cause all the CPU loading.

image

Hopville.com recipe:  http://hopville.com/recipe/841437/american-ipa-recipes/mango-madness-2

Do you need a starter for Dry Yeast?

When I was doing the chili and oak experiments I was brewing two batches of the Nutcastle clone.  I was using Nottingham Dry Yeast for both batches.  I decided to make a starter with one packet and rehydrate the other.

Experiment

  1. Make two of the same batches of beer with dry yeast.
  2. Hydrate one packet.  Because of some other factors I wound up rehydrating for 4 hours.  This may have skewed the results (but made better beer).
  3. Make a starter with the other.
  4. Look for difference in fermentation time, power, or flavors.

Results

No difference.  Both beers were bubbling strongly in less than 12 hours.  No flavor differences that I could attribute to yeast.

Conclusions

Dry yeast will do wonders if rehydrate it for a long time, and creating a starter will not help for a 5 gallon batch.  Jamil’s show on Mead covers rehydrating in detail.

Do you need a starter for Dry Yeast?

When I was doing the chili and oak experiments I was brewing two batches of the Nutcastle clone.  I was using Nottingham Dry Yeast for both batches.  I decided to make a starter with one packet and rehydrate the other.

Experiment

  1. Make two of the same batches of beer with dry yeast.
  2. Hydrate one packet.  Because of some other factors I wound up rehydrating for 4 hours.  This may have skewed the results (but made better beer).
  3. Make a starter with the other.
  4. Look for difference in fermentation time, power, or flavors.

Results

No difference.  Both beers were bubbling strongly in less than 12 hours.  No flavor differences that I could attribute to yeast.

Conclusions

Dry yeast will do wonders if rehydrate it for a long time, and creating a starter will not help for a 5 gallon batch.  Jamil’s show on Mead covers rehydrating in detail.

%d bloggers like this: