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    sennister's Avatar
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    Home Brewery

    Someone was asking that I start a new thread on home breweries.

    I mentioned that I use an old thin client in my pole barn/shop to access things like PDF/CD versions of tech manuals, the internet and to control a brewery.

    I will see what I can dig up for pics as I know a thread without pics is worthless.

    For right now there isn't a ton to see in the brewery. I have been building an electric brewery. Basically I got three old half barrels that were retired from a local craft brewery. Cut the tops off with a plasma cutter to convert them to kettles. It is a HERMS brewery which, to a home brewer would indicate how the system works. I won't get into the details of that process but you can do a search on it if you are interested. For a heat source it is all electric. It uses a 50A 240V connection to a main control panel. Inside the control panel is a device called a BCS460. This is the brains of the operation. There is a web interface which is used to monitor the brew process and control a pair of solid state relays which then drives a pair of 5500W electric water heater elements as well as the pumps and monitor temps at for different points in the process. This can be run in a semi-automatic mode where alarms go off and I have to manually control the valves to route the wort (name for beer before yeast is added) to the proper process or completely manually through the website. Also in the panel are a series of breakers and contactors. While I didn't design the panel, I did build it and modified it from plans I found on the internet. Since we are dealing with lots of electricity and liquids, never a good combination. The system power is fed from a 60A Spa panel. They have a GFCI breaker in a small subpanel.

    From there it goes into fermentation. I have an old wine fridge that I converted to a fermentation chamber. This is needed to tightly control the temps at which the beer is fermenting. It has the ability to heat or cool as needed to hold the temp within 1-2 F of my target. It also allows me to brew Lagers. Most people brew Ales because they are easier to ferment. To do a Lager right you have to be able to control the temps as the temp needs to change at different stages of the brew process. Once primary fermentation is complete, I normally go into secondary. This is where various things can be added to the beer. I like IPAs so a lot of times I am tossing in lots of hops at this point.

    At this point it is ready to be bottled which is what most people do. I have never bottled my beer as I have had a kegerator since before I started homebrewing. For this I use old soda kegs. There are two types pin or ball lock. One was favored by Coke and the other Pepsi. Both types are typically 5 gallons which the normal batch size is 5 or 10 gallons so it works out well. All my kegs are 5 gallon ball locks. There is a kegerator in the house. Well actually in the porch and one in the shop. They were both bought at a local auction site and repaired as they are commercial Beverage Air units. The one in the house is the small one. It would hold one 16 gallon half barrel or since I use it for homebrewing it will hold 4 ball lock kegs. It has a three tap tower on it and the 4th is usually a keg that is carbonating or if I am serving it I will use a picnic tap which is one of those taps most people use at parties that you open with your thumb. The difference is everything is pushed with CO2 tanks like in a bar so no hand pump. The CO2 tank is also used for carbonating the beer. The kegerator in the shop is a huge unit also built by Beverage Air. If I put in the 16 gallon half barrels it will hold something like 4 or 5. I have seen where some people can fit something like 24 of the home brew kegs in there. I only have 8 kegs some of which are used for aging beer. In addition to this I have two Firkins that I can use for parties if we want a cask conditioned beer. The problem with the Firkins are that once opened you need to drink it in a couple days. 10 gallons is a lot to drink in a couple days by myself as my wife doesn't drink beer. So it is really best used for larger gatherings. Or it works really well for aging beer and not locking up a couple of my kegs for a year or so. As for aging, under the pole barn is my "secret room". There is a root cellar that is about 10x15 with 7' ceiling. It is a nice cool spot for aging beer and storing my motorcycle tires.

    Here are some pics that I found so far.

    The control panel from the outside. I don't see any inside shots.



    This is the kegerator that is in the house when I picked it up from the auction house.



    I didn't see any good pictures since cleaning it up but here is one of the taps that are on it.



    Inside of it has this for CO2 distribution and a secondary pressure regulator so I can run multiple pressures.



    Here is the one in the shop when I brought it home from the auction house.



    Fixing a refrigerant leak. The capillary tube was rubbing against the compressor and wore a hole through it. Easy fix.



    Built some wheels for it so I can move it around the shop as needed.



    Rebuilt the steps going down into the root cellar.



    It is hard to get a shot of the root cellar but as you see block walls down there and a cement floor.



    People ask if I save money by brewing my own beer. No way. It is a huge loss. There is thousands of dollars tied up in equipment. Granted if you just do basic brewing you can get by pretty cheap. However I do computer work on the side of a local beer distributor. A lot of times I get beer from them.



    Do I look like a kid in a candy store??? Actually that was my son with when I stopped there for a couple minutes once.




    Oh and since this is a John Deere Forum. Bringing home the bacon... Er Beer.... These dang kegs are heavy when full.

    Last edited by sennister; 01-15-2016 at 07:45 AM.
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    2LaneCruzer's Avatar
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    Wow! Very impressive! A far cry from my indigent college days when my lab partner and I made beer in a 5 gallon carboy by adding half a can of Blue Ribbon malt, 5 pounds of sugar and the rest water. Stir, store in a cool dark place, wait a while. let it settle , siphon and have a ball (not to mention the headache).
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    Impressive, thanks for sharing this with us
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    All verra interesting! Thanks for posting this.

    3 different people have given me brewing kits (like the Mr. Beer kits) as gifts over the years but I never got into brewing. For some reason I have a fascination with growing hops though.
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    sennister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimR View Post
    All verra interesting! Thanks for posting this.

    3 different people have given me brewing kits (like the Mr. Beer kits) as gifts over the years but I never got into brewing. For some reason I have a fascination with growing hops though.
    My pole barn runs East to West. So I have a long wall which is about 14' tall (a little more than that since the ground drops down on that side) with a southern exposure. This past spring I picked up six Cascade rhizomes and put them in a planter. I put hooks along the top of the pole barn near the "soffit" and run hemp twine from eye bolts in the planter up to the the hooks. This gave them a good path to grow. Since this was my first growing season I didn't get enough cones to mess with and I cut them back and tossed them into the compost pile. This past fall I got water run to the pole barn so this year I plan on installing an outside faucet with one of those auto watering heads. They would have done better last year if they got more water.

    Home grown hops are kind of a double edged sword. It is kind of fun growing them and then using something you grew in your beer, but depending on what you are trying to do, they are not the best for most people. The problem is that on a home scale you have no way to test the Alpha Acid content. This is the bitter in the beer. The content of Alpha Acid can vary from year to year with the same type of hops. So if you are creating beer just to drink and don't care about fluctuations from one batch to the next, it is fine. However eventually you will brew a really great beer that is a perfect balance of everything. Since you don't know the Alpha Acid, you can never recreate it. I have software on my PC and tablet that I run which I enter in the AA of the hops and it adjusts the recipe to compensate for this from year to year. But that means I have to use commercial hops. Hops are cheap anyhow so it isn't like I am saving much money growing my own and it is a lot of work to harvest, dry and package it up. Where they are useful is aroma hops. So during your brew day there are various points where hops are added. In general it is two categories. Bittering Hops and Aroma Hops. They can be the same hops that are being added but it is done at different times for a different effect. Any Hops added early in the boil process are bittering hops. This is the bitter flavor. The aroma aspect is boiled out. Any late addition hops adds more to the aroma. Late addition is any hops added in the last couple minutes or after the boil is complete. If you know the smell hops and get that smell from your beer, that is a sign of late addition hops. It doesn't do as much for the bitterness. So if you have home grown hops, it is best to use it as a late addition where it adds more aroma than flavor. Any fluctuation from year to year will be less apparent.

    While homebrewing can seem very scientific, it doesn't have to be. I have had some good beers where people just throw stuff together. Heck I have done that when something didn't go to plan in a brew day. It is good to have an idea of what is going on but not needed. It can be fun to tweak some of the variables and see what you get out of it. Though sometimes it doesn't work. One of my last batches I threw a bunch of jalapenos in while in secondary fermentation. It is OK but I don't care for it that much and I have 5 gallons of it.

    Mr Beer kits are OK. I would recommend, for someone interested in starting, to get an extract starter kit from somewhere like Midwest Supplies or Northern Brewer. A basic kit is probably in the $120-150 range. You use a stock pot that you probably have at home. Brew in your kitchen then bottle to bottles that you have saved up. You just need to keep a couple cases of non-twist off bottles. If you save the bottles have a stock pot and get the kit you are looking at about $200 or a little less to brew your first batch. It is once someone transitions to All Grain brewing from extract that the equipment cost can jump into the thousands. However the per brew supply (ingredients) cost goes down but you will never break even. It does give you more control over the process though. Part of that means a longer brew day and more chances to screw it up.

    The biggest thing to keep in mind is clean, clean, clean. Infection in beer (unless intended like a sour beer) is the quickest way to have to dump one. Also there isn't anything in the brew process that can kill you. Well unless you are playing with electricity or gas lines like I am doing and don't know what you are doing.
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    very cool setup!

    my local brewery just installed a 37k capacity silo. the company that built it didnt install the top cover correctly, so when the snow melted it all ran into the silo, spoiling all 37K of barley.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimR View Post
    For some reason I have a fascination with growing hops though.
    Funny you mention this, a local craft brewery is wanting to take a "community" approach to secure his hops supply. He provides the rhizomes or crowns for individuals to grow. In the fall, whack down the hops, haul them into his brewery eat and drink all you care to while picking the hops from the vines. I missed last year, but will participate this year.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 56Nine View Post
    Funny you mention this, a local craft brewery is wanting to take a "community" approach to secure his hops supply. He provides the rhizomes or crowns for individuals to grow. In the fall, whack down the hops, haul them into his brewery eat and drink all you care to while picking the hops from the vines. I missed last year, but will participate this year.

    I would totally do that! The fact they they can grow 25" (or more!) tall up the lines amazes me. I'd put to the supports so that they'd grow around the perimeter of my pool. They'd make a nice privacy screen for the summer.
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    Very cool and thanks for starting the thread!

    By the way, the word 'lager' comes from the German meaning 'to store.' Ales are 'top fermented' and lagers are 'bottom fermented.'

    The ingredients in Scotch whiskey are essentially the same as beer; therefore I consider Scotch distilled beer just as Brandy is distilled wine.
    Last edited by mjncad; 01-16-2016 at 03:14 AM.
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