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SeanTerrill.com http://seanterrill.com If accidentally read, induce vomiting. Thu, 19 Sep 2019 03:53:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.7 CSEYHO http://seanterrill.com/2019/09/18/cseyho/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cseyho http://seanterrill.com/2019/09/18/cseyho/#respond Thu, 19 Sep 2019 03:53:36 +0000 http://seanterrill.com/?p=3072 For those not fortunate enough to live two miles up, I shall attempt to sum up the experience of looking up at the night sky.

For starters, to look up is not to see the void, but rather its absence. From horizon to craggy horizon, your field of view consists of stars. Twenty, a hundred, [...]]]> For those not fortunate enough to live two miles up, I shall attempt to sum up the experience of looking up at the night sky.

For starters, to look up is not to see the void, but rather its absence. From horizon to craggy horizon, your field of view consists of stars. Twenty, a hundred, a million, nigh-numberless in their infinite majesty. To look up is not to see black, but indigo:
the purplish hue of worlds upon worlds as yet uncharted, a Milky Way forward if we have only the audacity to grasp at it.

To look up, from two miles up, with all the murky present below you, is to see the distant past and the oh-so-nearly-gotten future.

Also, that bright dot is Jupiter.

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Build a Better Counterflow Chiller http://seanterrill.com/2019/04/16/build-a-better-counterflow-chiller/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=build-a-better-counterflow-chiller http://seanterrill.com/2019/04/16/build-a-better-counterflow-chiller/#respond Wed, 17 Apr 2019 00:18:06 +0000 http://seanterrill.com/?p=2929

     If it’s stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid.

                                                                                          – Engineer’s Creed (apocryphal)

I’ve finally checked the last two items off my home brewing bucket list, replacing all my cold-side hardware with stainless steel. This definitely falls under the category of “luxury” upgrades for a home setup, but as I transition [...]]]>

     If it’s stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid.

                                                                                          – Engineer’s Creed (apocryphal)

IMG_1093fullsizeoutput_263d

I’ve finally checked the last two items off my home brewing bucket list, replacing all my cold-side hardware with stainless steel. This definitely falls under the category of “luxury” upgrades for a home setup, but as I transition into more and more half-barrel (15.5 US gal) pilot batches, I wanted a bit more peace of mind regarding sanitation, with the ability to use brewery chemicals (chlorinated caustic, e.g.) down the road. The first half of that equation was swapping out the nearly-200-batches young plastic pump head for an all-stainless model, which was exactly as eventful as it sounds; sourcing a replacement for the even older copper tubing-and-garden hose counterflow chiller proved a bit more difficult.

In the professional brewing realm, the de facto solution would be a plate-and-frame heat exchanger, a collection of contoured stainless steel plates sealed together with gaskets, using the compression force provided by a fixed frame and set of bolts. By virtue of the bolts, the entire assembly can be broken down for visual inspection. When it comes to heat exchange, though, surface area is the name of the game, and what gives plate chillers their ungodly surface area is their multitudinous nooks and crannies. From my time working in breweries, I know just how prone those nooks and crannies are to accumulating crud — that being the brewing term of art, of course. Plate chillers are also marketed to home brewers; there are “Cadillac” options, of course, as well as more DIY-oriented offerings. But they all rely on the same basic construction, brazing stainless steel plates together with copper seams. So from a chemical resistance — and therefore, at least potentially, a sanitation — standpoint, there’s little to recommend them over a copper heat exchanger. And unlike their big cousins, the brazing approach means that the chiller can’t be broken down for cleaning or inspection.

At least for my personal sensibilities, the apparent solution was a tube heat exchanger along the lines of my (soon to be) old copper unit. And yet somehow my searches turned up only two commercial models, either of which makes some compromises: active lengths are either 12 or 18 ft, so performance would likely be inferior to my existing CFC, and I would have to use either 5/8″ (needlessly large) or threaded (needlessly unsanitary) wort connections. I just wanted a stainless steel replacement for my existing chiller, and apparently such a thing doesn’t exist.

So, reluctantly-but-not-really, we embark on yet another installment of “Sean Buys a Perfectly Good Commercial Product and Starts Cutting Holes in It”.

Seriously, this represents an hour of work.
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
Final Testing for Fit
The Finished Product

Parts List

Note that I elected to source most of the stainless hardware from Stainless Brewing; they have a huge range of fittings at prices that more than cancel out Amazon’s free shipping advantage. They also offer 0.035″ wall thickness tubing versus the 0.020″ that would typically make up an off-the-shelf immersion chiller, and while the thinner tubing would offer marginally better heat transfer, I thought a thicker wall would be better for long-term durability, what with it forming the actual structure of the chiller. The total from SB should be about $67 depending on your shipping costs, with the $43 or so from Amazon bringing the total to about $110, roughly the same as a brazed chiller of comparable surface area (0.52 m2) and the fittings needed to adapt to your water/wort connections. For the time being, lacking a clear plan for how I’ll be connecting things once the pilot system moves into the brewery, I’m sticking with 3/4″ garden hose for water and 3/8″ barbs for wort.

Assembly

Stainless Brewing doesn’t offer an off-the-shelf 25′ coil without bends (though they do sell a 50′ coil, so I have no doubt they’d ship one as a custom order). In my case, the bends were easy enough to cut with a hacksaw and polish with a diamond Dremel bit. In fact, my tubing shipped with a full 27.5′ length, so I had to remove an entire coil at one end, leaving 25.5′ to match up with the length of the garden hose.

That done, I cut 3″ from one end of the garden hose (the hacksaw once again proving to be the right tool for the job) and started threading it onto the stainless coil — a straightforward description that belies just how physically demanding the process was. It took two hours (not counting frequent and well-deserved beer breaks), most of the skin on my knuckles, and no small measure of my sanity. I debated using some food-grade silicone lubricant to expedite things, but ultimately my obsession with neatness won out and I relied on elbow grease alone.

Cutting the other end of the hose and getting the stainless NPT fittings assembled and sealed with thread tape took just a few minutes, of course. The next task was to straighten the ends of the tubing enough to allow the fittings to slip on; once more my improbably inexpensive tubing bender was somehow up to the task, even if the final result looked a bit less professional than I would have liked.

Unfortunately, that was a far cry from the tolerances required for the compression fittings I had planned to use. My workaround for this prototype involved drilling out a pair of regular galvanized steel 3/8″ x 1/8″ NPT bushings to 3/8″ ID, but in the end they were a pain to install, seriously beat up both the mild steel and the outside of the stainless tubing, and weren’t even water-tight once it was all said and done.

So, if you’re taking on this project (and unable to weld stainless) I would highly recommend going with the parts list above, knowing in advance that you’ll have to seal the water side of the chiller with something. But at any rate, after a couple beads of epoxy[3] were applied and allowed to cure overnight, the ends of the tubing polished smooth, everything locked down tight with zip ties, checked for leaks, and ready to go, all that was left was the best part of any DIY project…

Rigorous Scientific Testing

The new pump head and CFC set up for testing.

Since I would be recirculating near-boiling alkaline cleaner through the CFC anyway, I decided I could justify the water needed to run off a couple gallons and put some numbers to just how efficient this thing is ultimately going to be.

I ran two quick trials running off 1 gal of “wort” each, simulating ale and lager conditions, and the results were encouraging:

Wort In Wort Out Water:Wort Ratio Water-Wort ΔT
89.0°C 18.0°C 2.3 12.5°C
87.5°C 9.0°C 3.9 3.5°C

It seems to do reasonably well compared to a properly-sized brewery heat exchanger (which would generally give a water:wort ratio of 1.5-2.0), but I was really more interested in how it stacks up against homebrew-scale offerings. That meant finding hard data on the performance of someone else’s design, and, knowing John Blichmann, it should be no surprise that I needed look no further than the aforementioned Therminator page. The Therminator can knock out at a 2.5:1 ratio given a ΔT of 80°C for wort and 5.5°C for the wort-water interface; by making the hopefully not-too-egregious assumption that both heat exchangers are of arbitrary length we can apply Newton’s law of cooling and determine that for the tested ΔTs of 78.5°C and 3.5°C, respectively, the Therminator could be expected to achieve a water:wort ratio of about 3.9 — bear in mind that the underlying errors are significant (±15%), but that’s statistically identical to this tube design.

On the other hand, at the 12.5°C ΔT of the ale-temperature trial the Therminator would be expected to achieve a 1:1 ratio by this approach, where it sees an actual (and still laudable) ratio of about 1.4:1. Clearly, this just indicates that the assumption of an arbitrarily lengthy heat exchanger is invalid. And in practice we know this to be true: provided an adequate water supply is available, finding an optimal knockout rate is a balancing act between thermodynamic efficiency and the more practical concern of how long knockout is able (or desired) to last. Regardless, the bottom line is that this chiller can easily knock out a half-barrel batch of ale (or lager given the right groundwater temperatures) in less than 30 min, and at the end of the day that’s all I need to know.

Notes

1. Only four of these are actually needed; the linked product was just the least expensive option I could find on Amazon.

2. Of course, you probably have some of these things on hand, or could save a little by buying them locally.

3. I used regular epoxy which, per the label, has a maximum working temperature of 200°F, which happens to be above the local boiling point. Plus I already had it on hand. For more “normal” elevations (ha!) I would strongly recommend using the J-B Weld.

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Built a Better Bartop http://seanterrill.com/2017/11/11/built-a-better-bartop-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=built-a-better-bartop-2 http://seanterrill.com/2017/11/11/built-a-better-bartop-2/#respond Sun, 12 Nov 2017 03:47:01 +0000 http://seanterrill.com/?p=2883

In this case, the world (or at least a tiny subset of it) is actually beating the proverbial path. Everyone loves free beer.

The cut, sanded, and stained finishing boards (1/2″ x 6″ nominal). My plan was to use beetle kill pine for this, but it turns out the economics of [...]]]>

In this case, the world (or at least a tiny subset of it) is beating the proverbial path. Everyone loves free beer.

In this case, the world (or at least a tiny subset of it) is actually beating the proverbial path. Everyone loves free beer.


The cut, sanded, and stained finishing boards (1/2" x 6" nominal). My plan was to use beetle kill pine for this, but it turns out the economics of that have flipped, at least at retail. Lowe's had these poplar boards marked down to $0.99/ft. Incidentally, the two difficult "cuts" were done by hand, making dozens of holes with a drill, snapping the waste out, and then covering up my misdeeds with 50-grit sandpaper and copious elbow grease.

The cut, sanded, and stained finishing boards (1/2″ x 6″ nominal). My plan was to use beetle kill pine for this, but it turns out the economics of that have flipped, at least at retail. Lowe’s had these poplar boards marked down to $0.99/ft. Incidentally, the two difficult "cuts" were done by hand, making dozens of holes with a drill, snapping the waste out, and then covering up my misdeeds with 50-grit sandpaper and copious elbow grease.


Test-fitting before gluing everything down. The freezer itself is a Whirlpool 15 cu ft, same as the 2006 model it replaced. It actually has a bit more useful volume than its predecessor thanks to a smaller compressor, but at the expense of being much louder.

Test-fitting before gluing everything down. The freezer itself is a Whirlpool 15 cu ft, same as the 2006 model it replaced. It actually has a bit more useful volume than its predecessor thanks to a smaller compressor, but at the expense of being much louder.


I never thought to take a clean shot of the structure before covering it up. The actual frame is good ol' 1x2 whitewood, with the finishing boards screwed into it from the bottom for a clean surface. In the center is a sheet of 5/8" plywood, screwed into both the bar top and the whitewood frame. The result is a little heavier than the original lid, but rock-solid. You may be able to see the liberal use of wood glue to secure everything, and hopefully make it nearly airtight.

I never thought to take a clean shot of the structure before covering it up. The actual frame is good ol’ 1×2 whitewood, with the finishing boards screwed into it from the bottom for a clean surface. In the center is a sheet of 5/8″ plywood, screwed into both the bar top and the whitewood frame. The result is a little heavier than the original lid, but rock-solid. You may be able to see the liberal use of wood glue to secure everything, and hopefully make it nearly airtight.


Red oak trim attached, and just waiting for the second coat of stain to dry. I used the lightest "natural" stain I could find; hopefully the natural colors of the woods dominate. So far so good anyway.

Red oak trim attached, and just waiting for the second coat of stain to dry. I used the lightest “natural” stain I could find; hopefully the natural colors of the woods dominate. So far so good anyway.


About this time my shop assistant decided to make his presence known...

About this time my shop assistant decided to make his presence known…


...By jumping onto the 3/4" foam bottom layer, ruining my perfect air gap. You may be able to see the foam shims and (again) copious amounts of wood glue ensuring an airtight seal.

…By jumping onto the 3/4″ foam bottom layer, ruining my perfect air gap. You may be able to see the foam shims and (again) copious amounts of wood glue ensuring an airtight seal.


The final product, with clear topcoat drying. I used Minwax Polycrylic, and the 8 fl oz can was enough for three coats on the top and one on the trim. I'm going to have to pick up another can and put down one more, thicker coat to seal up all the little gaps.

The final product, with clear topcoat drying. I used Minwax Polycrylic, and the 8 fl oz can was enough for three coats on the top and one on the trim. I’m going to have to pick up another can and put down one more, thicker coat to seal up all the little gaps.


The finished internals, including a bottle for the drip tray drain and a PC fan for extra tower cooling — not that we need it much in the mountains. Other than cutting up one of the baskets to mount the CO2 hardware, there are no modifications to the freezer at all, so I should be able to return it under warranty if needed. In the background you can see my newest toy, a 19 gal kettle. More on that later.

The finished internals, including a bottle for the drip tray drain and a PC fan for extra tower cooling — not that we need it much in the mountains. Other than cutting up one of the baskets to mount the CO2 hardware, there are no modifications to the freezer at all, so I should be able to return it under warranty if needed.
In the background you can see my newest toy, a 19 gal kettle. More on that later.

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Observations on Attenuations http://seanterrill.com/2017/04/21/observations-on-attenuations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=observations-on-attenuations http://seanterrill.com/2017/04/21/observations-on-attenuations/#comments Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:41:55 +0000 http://seanterrill.com/?p=2839 As you may know, or at least have inferred, I’ve been brewing a lot of pilot batches for 2MBC lately, which may not be the most stimulating way to brew, but does lend itself to collecting some pseudo-scientific data. Specifically, I’ve been able to generate a fairly comprehensive plot of temperature vs. attenuation for my [...]]]> As you may know, or at least have inferred, I’ve been brewing a lot of pilot batches for 2MBC lately, which may not be the most stimulating way to brew, but does lend itself to collecting some pseudo-scientific data. Specifically, I’ve been able to generate a fairly comprehensive plot of temperature vs. attenuation for my three “house” strains: Wyeast 1272, 2206, and 3522. These are not controlled studies; there are some controls, to be sure, just based on my brewing process and ingredients. Most of the Belgian-style recipes use some flaked wheat, but otherwise there are no adjuncts included. The 44 batches represent 17 different grain bills, not counting minor changes, with original gravities from 10.0°P to 19.0°P, and it shows in the spread of the data. I’ve added trend lines connecting the (arithmetic) mean attenuations to hopefully make things more clear.

attenuation

One (perhaps self-evident) takeaway is something that has been pointed out on various brewing forums ad nauseam: the attenuation ranges published by yeast labs are comparative, not prescriptive. The total attenuation range given by Wyeast for these three strains, for example, is 72-77% ADF, and almost all the batches plotted exhibited higher attenuation. Looking at the plots with the benefit of hindsight, you can even see what appear to be two stalled fermentations.

Another result I’d like to highlight is the relatively small range of attenuations for each strain within the “normal” single-infusion mash temperature range. In fact, from 66.5-70.0°C (151.7-158.0°F) the average attenuations for all three strains only range from 79-86% ADF. While it’s likely possible to distinguish beers at the extremes of that range, at least for some recipes, for my own brewing purposes I don’t see any reason to take corrective action provided the mash temperature is within a couple degrees of the target.

Now, on to some analysis of the individual strains:

3522: Either the least interesting, in that the attenuation curve is what might be expected, or the most interesting — because the other two aren’t. The relationship between temperature and attenuation is nearly linear (R2 = 0.95), though with the caveat that this is the smallest data set, at only eight points.

2206: Exhibits no strong correlation between temperature and attenuation — in fact, setting aside the presumptive stalled fermentation, the entire attenuation curve is very nearly within the standard deviation (±1.7% ADF). The caveats here are that the data set is again relatively small (10 points), and covers the smallest temperature range (4.0°C). Unfortunately, the unseasonably warm weather this spring put an early end to my lager brewing.

1272: Given that this is my most commonly-used yeast strain, it should be no surprise that this is also the largest data set. Interestingly, it appears to be a composite of the other strains’ behaviors — the attenuation curve is more or less flat from 64-70°C, above which it drops off sharply. (An argument can be made that the average attenuation at 69°C is artificially depressed by incorporating two batches of porter with high fractions of both crystal and roasted malts.) Again, though, the overall spread in attenuations is quite small. Setting aside the other presumptive stalled fermentation at ~76% ADF and the aforementioned batches of porter, the 19 grists mashed at 64-70°C vary by just ±3% ADF.

So, can we synthesize these results into something like a holistic view of yeast behavior? Probably not. My hypothesis is that what we’re visualizing here is the result of two, or possibly three, yeast phenotypes differentiated by their ability to metabolize maltotriose. Palmer gives a characteristic breakdown of barley wort sugars:

Typical Sugar Profile Extracted From Malted Barley

Maltose 50%
Maltotriose 18%
Glucose 10%
Sucrose 8%
Fructose 2%
Other Complex Carbohydrates including Dextrins 12%

How to Brew, p. 29

As any brewer knows, every wort is different, but taking these values to be canonical would allow for a difference in apparent attenuation of up to 22%, more than enough to explain the effects seen here. This difference in maltotriose fermentation can in turn be ascribed to the origins of the yeast strains themselves:

[…] it is speculated that the primary Dupont strain descends from red wine yeast […] Beer yeast usually can ferment maltotriose, most wine yeast cannot.

Dr. Clayton Cone

Now, I have no information on the provenance of 3522, other than it was probably sourced from Brasserie d’Achouffe, but given the speculation regarding Dupont’s saison strain, it’s far from unlikely that other strains we think of as “beer yeast” could be maltotriose-inhibited. Conversely, the lack of temperature dependence of the lager strain can also be explained:

The second most abundant fermentable sugar in wort, maltotriose, is often poorly utilized, leading to incomplete fermentation. Moreover, ale yeasts are frequently less effective in maltotriose uptake then [sic] lager yeasts. Maltotriose can be assimilated by the aid of Agt1p, Mph2p, Mph3p, and Malx1p (x = 1-4 or 6) but with a lower uptake rate (Day et al., 2002). Moreover, lager yeast strains contain the gene MTT1, which encodes a maltotriose transporter (Dietvorst et al., 2005).

Applied Mycology, p. 117

In other words, when it comes to fermenting maltotriose, lager yeast good, ale yeast bad. So why the flat attenuation curve for Wyeast 1272? It’s certainly possible that 1272 has been hybridized or selected for maltotriose uptake, but my guess is that it comes down to choice of base malt, or more accurately, to diastatic power, the concentration of α- and β-amylase in the malt. My American-style ales almost exclusively use Rahr two-row pale malt for a base, as opposed to Weyermann Pilsner and/or Munich for my Belgian-style ales and German… well, German-inspired if not necessarily “German-style” lagers. The higher diastatic power of the Rahr malt (it’s hard to say just how much higher, since Weyermann doesn’t list it in their lot analyses) means that by the end of the mash rest relatively little maltotriose remains, most of it having been reduced to simple sugars — up to a point. Above roughly 70°C, at least in a one-hour mash rest, the malt enzymes are denatured faster than they can break down maltotriose, and attenuation begins to suffer as a result. A follow-up experiment utilizing 1272 to ferment worts from the two base malts would be needed to lend some validity to this hypothesis.

One of the most interesting areas of research within the brewing industry is undoubtedly White Labs’ recent effort to sequence the genomes of their 157 S. cerevisiae strains. The phylogenetic tree generated (Figure 1) provides a handy visualization of what we’ve long suspected — many brewers’ yeasts are, genetically, actually descended from wine strains. Hopefully, as this research continues to trickle down to commercial and home brewers, we’ll rework our expectations for yeast behavior into categories based not on tradition or even sensory analysis, but on hard data.

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Things I Hate: 2016 Edition http://seanterrill.com/2016/12/31/things-i-hate-2016-edition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=things-i-hate-2016-edition http://seanterrill.com/2016/12/31/things-i-hate-2016-edition/#comments Sun, 01 Jan 2017 00:59:32 +0000 http://seanterrill.com/?p=2826 This is the rare purely autobiographical post, after which we’ll return to your regularly scheduled lack of updates.

If you use the modern Gregorian Calendar, it’s New Year’s Eve, at which time it’s customary to reflect on the year past and make some (traditionally wildly optimistic) plans for the year to come. [...]]]> This is the rare purely autobiographical post, after which we’ll return to your regularly scheduled lack of updates.

If you use the modern Gregorian Calendar, it’s New Year’s Eve, at which time it’s customary to reflect on the year past and make some (traditionally wildly optimistic) plans for the year to come. Why, I’ve never been quite clear on. Some misplaced sense of constancy owing to the fact that Earth has returned to its location of last winter’s solstice, I suppose, though of course in reality I and the sun and just about everything else you can see are cartwheeling around a supermassive black hole at a relative velocity that makes me faintly nauseous if I think about it too hard.

At any rate, 2016 was the year my brother died, the year my grandmother died, the year my cat died, the year I lost two friends far too young. It was a year of heartache and depression and opportunities lost, of potential as yet unrealized and potential that now never will be. This year has tested, more than any before, the conviction of my belief in a chaotic and uncaring universe. Also, we finally voted a literal hairpiece into the White House.

Well, I made it through this year, and if anything out there bigger than a supermassive black hole wants to take me on, bring it, because I’m gonna make it through next year too.

Fuck you, 2016.

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Scope All o’ Mine http://seanterrill.com/2015/12/21/scope-all-o-mine/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=scope-all-o-mine http://seanterrill.com/2015/12/21/scope-all-o-mine/#comments Mon, 21 Dec 2015 22:21:11 +0000 http://seanterrill.com/?p=2800 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.

Yesterday’s brew session marks the first time in over [...]]]> 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)

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Build a Better Spunding Valve http://seanterrill.com/2015/06/25/build-a-better-spunding-valve/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=build-a-better-spunding-valve http://seanterrill.com/2015/06/25/build-a-better-spunding-valve/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2015 19:30:17 +0000 http://seanterrill.com/?p=2756 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 [...]]]> 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.



Update: 23 Mar 2019

I hadn’t realized how popular this post was until I checked some statistics; the combination of parts listed is actually a recommended combo on Amazon! At any rate, I’ve updated it to some items that are less expensive and/or in stock.

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Freaky French Fry-Day http://seanterrill.com/2014/11/01/freaky-french-fry-day/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=freaky-french-fry-day http://seanterrill.com/2014/11/01/freaky-french-fry-day/#comments Sat, 01 Nov 2014 17:57:57 +0000 http://seanterrill.com/?p=2738 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 [...]]]>
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.

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 the menu. So, over the past couple weeks I’ve been eating a lot of french fries. It’s a dirty job, etc.

It turns out that – as you can see from the ingredients – there isn’t really much to making great french fries. It just takes a little more time than making bad french fries. Not using a commercial deep fryer and several quarts of oil makes it take that much longer, but who cares? They’re worth the wait.

The perfect french fry should have a skin that’s crunchy and savory, never charred, with enough oil still hanging around to make things interesting, but not enough to get soggy once the fries cool. Inside, they should be uniformly fluffy and tender, like a well-steamed baked potato, and neither bland nor noticeably seasoned. The subtle variation in proportions of these contrasting textures and flavors is what makes each fry its own experience, something to be savored and sought out again and again.

Anyway, let’s cook some.

  • 1 pint vegetable oil (I use canola)
  • 2 lb Russet potatoes
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • seasoning blend, to taste (see below)

If we were making potato salad, skins would be our friends, but in the fryer they’ll just turn into carbon, so peel the taters and slice into batons about 1 cm on a side. In a large bowl, toss with salt and vinegar, then add just enough cold water to cover. Rest for 30 minutes, then drain and thoroughly shake off any excess water. Blot dry if you’re really paranoid about spattering.

Pour the oil into an 8 qt stock pot – it should cover the bottom to about an inch. Heat to 150°C. Working in small batches (for 2 lb, probably six batches total), add the potatoes and fry for 3 minutes or until the batons are not quite cooked through, monitoring the temperature to maintain 150°C. Remove to paper towels and allow to cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. The residual heat will fully cook the interior of the spuds without letting more oil penetrate, and the outsides will firm up. The smaller fries may pick up a little color, but there shouldn’t be any significant browning. We’re just setting the stage for the Maillard products that will create our perfect crust in the second frying.

Once the fries have cooled, heat the oil to 180°C and fry for another 3 minutes, or until golden-brown. Again, work in small batches to keep the oil temperature up. Remove to paper towels and shake or blot dry of any excess oil. Toss with your seasoning(s) of choice and serve.

As far as seasoning, anything other than salt is of course optional. I’m still playing around, but here’s what I’ve liked best so far:

  • 1½ tbsp coarsely ground salt
  • 1 tbsp flaked parsley
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
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Batch Sparging Theory http://seanterrill.com/2013/10/08/batch-sparging-theory/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=batch-sparging-theory http://seanterrill.com/2013/10/08/batch-sparging-theory/#comments Tue, 08 Oct 2013 16:45:55 +0000 http://seanterrill.com/?p=2686 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 [...]]]> 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 the fact that in batch sparging, the actual mechanics of the lauter tun – the way that wort flows through the grain bed – are neglected. Some of the wort is drained, and a set fraction is left behind in the tun. We begin with a few assumptions:

  • Conversion efficiency is 100%.
  • Conversion is complete before lautering begins.
  • No additional grain is added during lautering.
  • Each infusion is fully drained, less any deadspace.

The lauter efficiency is then a simple ratio of the two wort fractions:

E = V1/V0

Where E is the lauter efficiency, V1 is the volume run off to the kettle, and V0 is the total strike volume in the lauter tun. As a practical matter, efficiency is maximized when the tun is drained as completely as possible, and so the volume run off is equal to the infusion volume minus the volume absorbed by the grain and any deadspace that can’t be drained:

V1 = V0 – Va – Vd

There is one additional factor that must be considered, and that is the expansion of the wort due to dissolved sugars. When measuring the volume and gravity of the wort, the apparent extract will be less than the estimated efficiency. We can compensate by defining an expansion coefficient, C, which is the inverse of the wort specific gravity:

C = 1/SG

When it comes to analytically determining the expansion coefficient, however, we encounter a Catch-22: the efficiency determines how much extract is in solution, but the amount of sugar extracted also depends on efficiency. In practice, the calculator just takes a brute-force numerical approach of iterating the efficiency calculation three times, approximating the expansion coefficients. The full expression for lauter efficiency is therefore:

E = CV1/(V1 + Va + Vd)

For a no-sparge beer, this is all that is needed. When considering one or more sparges, however, we have to add the extract contributions from the additional infusions. The extract available for sparging is, by definition, whatever remains after draining the previous infusion(s). This is the complement of the lauter efficiency:

(Va + Vd)/(V1 + Va + Vd)

And so the overall efficiency contribution of the n-th sparge is:

En = Cn(Vn/(Vn + Va + Vd))*((Va + Vd)/(Vn-1 + Va + Vd))

Summing the individual extract efficiencies gives the overall lauter efficiency. Expanded to four terms (three sparges), which is about the most that would ever be reasonable, the expression becomes:

E = C1((V0 – Va – Vd)/V0) + C2((Va + Vd)/V0)(V2/(V2 + Va + Vd)) + C3((Va + Vd)/V0)((Va + Vd)/V2)(V3/(V3 + Va + Vd)) + C4((Va + Vd)/V0)((Va + Vd)/V2)((Va + Vd)/V3)(V4/(V4 + Va + Vd))

Which I realize looks ridiculous written out like that but is computationally really straightforward.

With that done, all that remains is to multiply the efficiency by the (apparent) total extract, and divide by volume to get gravity. If you look at the source code for the calculator you’ll see that everything else is just parsing input and prettying up the results for output.

By the way, this is nothing new; batch sparging analysis has previously been taken up by Ken Schwartz and Kai Troester, among others.

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Batch Sparging Calculator http://seanterrill.com/2013/10/05/batch-sparging-calculator/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=batch-sparging-calculator http://seanterrill.com/2013/10/05/batch-sparging-calculator/#comments Sun, 06 Oct 2013 01:22:13 +0000 http://seanterrill.com/?p=2581 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 just that (and pretty much just that). For [...]]]> 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 just that (and pretty much just that). For documentation, please see Batch Sparging Theory.
 

Mash Parameters Infusions
Grist Mass: lb
kg
First Infusion: gal or L
Post-Boil Volume: gal
L
Second Infusion:
(First Sparge)
gal or L
Potential Extract:
(AICG; Default 77%)
%
point-gal/lb
Third Infusion:
(Second Sparge)
gal or L
Lauter Deadspace:
(Default 0)
gal or L Fourth Infusion:
(Third Sparge)
gal or L

If you have any feedback on the calculator, feel free to contact me.

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