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Scope All o’ Mine

And the punning has reached a new low…

This will be a quick update, but at least it’s more than just a recipe post. (See below for the recipe.)

Jamming a digital camera against the eyepiece is surprisingly effective provided you have steady hands.

Jamming a digital camera against the eyepiece is surprisingly effective provided you have steady hands.

Yesterday’s brew session marks the first time in over three years that I was actually able to do a cell count, courtesy of my shiny new microscope. Who knew eBay had sales? If you need a refresher — I certainly did — the BSI handbook is a terrific resource. Long story short, my pitching rate hasn’t changed appreciably; a 2 L stirred propagation starting with a small amount of slurry yielded around 250 billion cells. I’m hoping this slightly higher pitching rate will address the overly phenolic character I occasionally encounter using 3522 in low-gravity beers.

If you want to play along, feel free to count the center grid pictured. I get 63.

Backside Blonde Mk6 recipe (PDF)

Build a Better Spunding Valve

I’ve actually been doing a lot of brewing over the past few months, creating and refining pilot recipes for 2MBC. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make for the most interesting brew days, let alone the most compelling blog material. Suffice it to say that NHC in San Diego lit a fire under my ass, and I hope to get back into some more experimental home brewing. Being able to go outside again doesn’t hurt either.

Anyway, one problem I’ve been trying to troubleshoot during this process has been the performance of my Belgian ale strains, specifically Wyeast 3522. It was turning out what I, at least, thought were some great beers in the past, but since moving to Leadville they’ve been chronically over-attenuated and phenolic, lacking in the ester profile that made me a fan of this strain in the first place. At this point, I’ve all but convinced myself that this is the result of switching from fermenting at about 12 psi to just under 10 psi, but lacking any way to control for that variable there is of course no way to be sure. Enter the spunding valve, a relatively simple device that allows one to ferment under controlled pressure.

I’m just kidding with the title, by the way; I see no major flaws in anyone else’s design. I just like callbacks. If you aren’t mechanically inclined enough to screw some fittings together, you can also stop reading here and buy one off the shelf, although it appears to have some issues, like maxing out at 15 psig and requiring a wrench to adjust the valve.

I do think that using an adapter as opposed to a length of tubing lends it a certain aesthetic appeal, but the chief advantage of this design is that all the parts are available on Amazon, which is convenient if, like me, you don’t have a big-box hardware store nearby — or if, like me, you just don’t like to leave the house. You can actually put one together for a few pennies less; I selected these particular components because they total $35.07 and therefore qualify for free shipping:

You’ll also need a ball- or pin-lock quick disconnect (grey for gas), a nylon flare washer, and some thread-sealing tape (yellow for gas), but if you’re reading this I assume you already own a keg and therefore have that stuff on hand.

Assembly instructions are left as an exercise for the reader.

Assembly instructions are left as an exercise for the reader.

Piecing the spunding valve together was the work of just a couple minutes, obviously, and I’ve spent the subsequent week playing with testing it prior to my first actual pressurized fermentation. Here’s the procedure I’ve come up with for setting the pressure:

  1. Attach the spunding valve to the liquid-out post of the (empty!) keg.
  2. Tighten the PRV to maximum pressure.
  3. Pressurize the keg via the gas-in post until the pressure gauge is reading somewhat higher than desired.
  4. Slowly back off the PRV until gas begins to flow.
  5. Once the gauge has dropped to the desired pressure, tighten the PRV until audible flow stops, then an additional one-quarter turn.

Using this procedure, after 48 hours the pressure had dropped from 10 psig to 6.5 psig — not ideal, but more than sufficient given the rate of CO2 evolution during fermentation.

Incidentally, don’t think you can cheap out and ignore the pressure gauge. These little PRVs are designed to be safety devices, after all, not precision instruments. You may be able to see in the photo below that the pressure is about 12 psig while the valve is set to a little over 30. You could elect to use a higher-range gauge, but with 30 psig being roughly what’s needed to carbonate at room temperature I don’t anticipate needing to go any higher than that.

Pressure-testing the assembled spunding valve.

Pressure-testing the assembled spunding valve.

Freaky French Fry-Day

Instead of the customary excuse for not posting for a long time, I give you a pun that would have worked out better had I gotten this up yesterday.

Just editing this image made my mouth water.

As co-owner of Two Mile Brewing, one of my sacred duties is to personally taste-test everything on [...]

Batch Sparging Theory

This post is intended to serve primarily as documentation for the Batch Sparging Calculator. If you’re looking to skip to the end of the page, head over that way instead.

One great thing about batch- or no-sparge brewing is that it’s fairly easy to predict lauter efficiency, and with good results. This is due to [...]

Batch Sparging Calculator

Like many brewers, I use recipe software (BeerTools Pro in my case) to design recipes, log notes, track inventory, etc. And I really like it; the only thing it won’t do is estimate my efficiency based on the actual mash parameters. Hence this little tool, which does exactly that (and pretty much only that). For [...]

Batch 100 (and 101)

Last week, without any real pomp, I brewed a couple beers for that thing in the desert. Turns out they were my 100th and 101st batches of homebrew. Yay! They’re both finished – or at least they’d better be, since I’m kegging them today. I had to use Wyeast 1056 (courtesy of DBC) for the [...]

10K, Bitches!

Obviously I haven’t updated in a long time. For the most part, that’s because my brewing equipment is packed up in expectation of moving somewhere or other. Pretty much all I’m doing these days is running in the mornings and trying to avoid heat in the afternoons.

Anyway, I ran 10 km this morning. Probably [...]

Success Sits on a Sliding Scale

It’s only been spring here for about a month, but I’m starting to get back into a groove. I’m sure I’m positively dogging it by most people’s standards, but it’s gratifying to be seeing improvement almost daily.

Name: Track 096 Date: Jun 5, 2013 9:41 am Map: View on Map Distance: 1.51 miles Elapsed Time: [...]

A Tale of Two Yeasties

Brewing test batches isn’t necessarily a whole lot of fun, but it does lend itself to some potentially useful experimentation. Throughout my (home) brewing career, I’ve bounced more or less randomly from one Belgian strain to another, in the process collecting most of the common strains, but without really settling on a “house” yeast. For [...]

The $30 Electric HLT

It is exactly as dangerous as it looks.

Heat sticks are becoming popular among home brewers, and for good reason. Having two heated vessels really streamlines a brew day, and makes double brew days significantly less painful. And the economics of electric heat are compelling (in fact, that’s the way I’ve decided to go [...]