Brewery upgrades: Boiler modifications!

Two brews, two blocked boiler taps, is not a record I want to keep in the future! The time had come to replace the standard taps on my boilers, and to fit a decent hop-filter in the main boiler while I was at it. Before I started fiddling around with my two £90 bits of shiny stainless steel I searched the home-brewing forums for an idiots guide but couldn’t really find a conclusive post, with pictures, to guide a novice DIY-er like myself. Hopefully this write up of my experiences will go some way to helping other brewers take the plunge in modifying their kit too!

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First steps: Remove the standard tap, this is only hand tight and can just be unscrewed and removed. Once removed I needed to enlarge the hole in the boiler to 20mm (from c. 16mm) – this is done using a 20mm QMax cutter. As you can see this little metal punch is screwed on to the existing hole, and when tightened using an Allen key it punches a clean hole through the stainless steel. You can see in the third picture the tiny sliver of metal removed – this wasn’t cut centrally on purpose as I needed to slightly raise the hole height in order to fit the hop strainer!

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Next, take your Tank Coupling and a pair of washers and insert it through the now enlarged hole. Remember to add some PTFE tape at this point as you tighten this (like I didn’t) as the water, or worse still, the beer will leak from the boiler along the thread of the screw! These were then tightened with a pair of spanners to ensure a good solid fit!

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The Ball valve and Hop filter both simply screwed on to the Tank coupling, along with some more PTFE tape, and were tightened with a spanner. Raising the height of the hole by 2mm worked well as the Hop filter can be easily unscrewed and removed to aid cleaning the element plate of the boiler.

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Finally a Hose connecter was screwed onto the outside of the Ball valve, with some more PTFE tape. Food-grade silicon hosing then just slips onto the connector and helps guide the liquid to the next stage of the brewery with minimal fuss or splashing! The whole process was then repeated on my second boiler (the HLT) without the addition of another hop filter as that would only be holding water.

All in all, (excluding the time it took me to undo and redo the Tank Coupling to add PTFE tape) each boiler took perhaps 20 minutes to complete, and was relatively straight forward even for a novice like me! Most importantly it hasn’t leaked yet!!! I hope this has been of some use!

Parts & Suppliers for those that are interested:

BES.co.uk    
P/N Description Qty Cost (inc VAT)
7786 15 mm x 1/2″ COMP x BSP PM, EXT THRD & BACKNUT 2 £13.97
11209 PLASTIC WASHER FOR 1/2″ BSP PM THREAD 4 £0.19
14558 1/2″ BSP TM, HOSE TAIL ADAPTOR, S/S 2 £5.64
16829 S/S BALL VALVE, 1 PIECE 1/2″ BSP PF x F 2 £16.75
Screwfix    
P/N Description Qty Cost (inc VAT)
76841 PTFE Tape White 12mm x 12m 1 £0.24
71287 Brass socket 1/2″ F to F Connector 1 £0.99
http://www.the-home-brew-shop.co.uk    
P/N Description Qty Cost (inc VAT)
400000 Silicone Tube 1/2″ ( 12.7mm X 3.2mm ) 2m £12.00
846190 Bazooka 12″ Large Mash / Hop Screen 1 £7.92

Now, back to the brewing!

Brewday 2: Crouch Vale Brewers Gold (clone)

Brew day 2:  23/12/2012

Due to the slight technical issues on my first attempt I decided again to follow a recipe from the internet, this time however it would be one of my favourite beers of all time. If I could make a copy of Brewers Gold… life would be good…

The ingredients for Crouch Vale Brewers Gold (clone):

  • 5kg Lager Malt
  • 15g Brewers Gold Hops @ 90 minutes
  • 50g Brewers Gold Hops @ 15 minutes
  • 35g Brewers Gold Hops @ Flameout/Poweroff
  • 1g Irish Moss @ 15 minutes
  • Safale S-o4 yeast

There are less photos from this brewing session, which is mostly due to the fact we had friends over to assist and I spent a lot more time explaining the process, sampling previous brews and generally socialising! Here are a selection of photos from this session, more detailed reports will restart from next time! (I promise!)

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Ingredients and Brewery all ready to go!

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A strong boil in progress, and late hop additions going into the kettle along with the immersion cooler to sanitise it pre-activation.

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Cooling in progress. Even though I was more organised this time around it still managed to go dark outside before the end of the brewing session! Perhaps drinking while brewing is a mistake?!

I also should probably mention my ‘idiot moment’ too; Following the blockage on Brew Day 1, I had invested in a Hop Strainer which was attached to the tap on the inside of the boiler. This was supposed to help catch all the loose hops and filter the other break material (trub) as the wort was drained into the fermenter… I dare say that the filter worked prefectly however, as it turned out that I hadn’t actually removed all of the offending blockage from Brew Day 1 from the inside of the tap, it still got blocked and again I was forced to jug out the wort by hand! Amongst all the muttered curses I vowed to replace the taps on the boiler and HLT before the next Brew Day came around!

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Two weeks later the beer was bottled. Note the two black caps of the plastic bottles used on this batch. These will allow me to gauge the level of carbonation inside the bottle over the following weeks conditioning. The firmer the feel of the bottle, the more CO2 has been produced by the remaining yeast eating the priming sugar.

The two week conditioning test:

IMG_0264Very similar issues to the Summer Lightning. As the filtering from the boiler was not ideal, the finished beer is a lot cloudier that it should be, but as I am now starting to see the Summer Lightning clearing (after 4 weeks conditioning time) then this should do so too. Fortunately the cloudiness is also just an aesthetic problem only and has no bearing on the taste of the beer, which is a great relief as this beer tasted great even after two weeks! I’ll need to find a bottle of the real thing from somewhere so I can compare the recipe to the real thing.

Brewday 1: Morpack Summer Lightning

Brewed on 09/12/2012

So after what had seemed like weeks of woodwork, studying, planning and purchasing equipment the big day had finally come. Brewday 1.  Gulp!!!

I had decided that for my first few brews I would follow existing recipes which I had found on the internet. This would allow me to concentrate on the process of brewing, and as the recipes had all received good reviews by the brewing community, I would know that if it came out terrible it would have been as consequence of something I had done in the making rather than me selecting a bunch of ingredients that really didn’t work together!

The ingredients for Morpack’s Summer Lightning:

  • 5kg Pale Ale Malt
  • 46g Challenger Hops @ 90 minutes
  • 15g Goldings Hops @ 15 minutes
  • 9g Goldings Hops @ Flameout/Poweroff
  • 1g Irish Moss @ 15 minutes
  • Safale S-o4 yeast

The Mash:

IMG_0210The mash called for a temperature of 66C for 90 minutes. To achieve this water was heated in the Hot Liquor Tun (HLT) to 77C before adding to the mash tun full of grain. After a quick stir to ensure there were no dry pockets the lid went on but as this was my first brew using this equipment I checked the mash temperature every 30 minutes and was pleased to see that the mash tun held temperature perfectly!

The Sparge:

IMG_0211After the 90 minutes had passed it was time to move the water (now called wort) from the mash tun into the 2nd boiler. I had decided beforehand, for ease, that I would be Batch Sparging. The first few litres were drawn into a jug and recirculated (very carefully) into the top of the mash tun until the runnings were pretty much clear of any large grain particles. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for at this point so instinct told me that once it looked clearer than it did at the beginning that was probably about right! In a future brew I plan to take photos of 1st running, 2nd running etc as a reference! Anyway, once I guessed the runnings were as clear as they were going to get the tap was opened fully and all the wort was drained into the boiler.

The mash tun was then refilled with water, stirred and left to settle for 20 minutes before it too was drained into the boiler using the same process.

The Boil:

IMG_0214The Boiler trolley was moved to the garage door and the temperature was turned up. Once the wort hit boiling point the foam on the top subsided and the first bittering hops were added.

 

 

 

 

IMG_0215I hadn’t fitted a hop filter to the boiler, and didn’t have a hop/muslin bag handy so I experimented with this ‘floating’ sieve set up. After 5 minutes or so I abandoned this idea as the hops were not fully immersed in the wort and therefore would not be fully utilised. Throwing caution to the wind I decided to tip the loose hops into the boil and crossed my fingers!

 

 

Cooling:

IMG_0219With 15 minutes of the 90 to go the late hop additions (for flavour) and Irish Moss (for clarity) were added to the boil. The immersion cooler was also, urm, immersed into the boiling wort to sterilize it. Once the full 90 minutes had passed the boiler was turned off and the cooler tap on and the wort was cooled to 25C so it could be drained into the fermenter.

 

 

Fermenting:

IMG_0220At this point I should mention that despite my tightly crossed fingers the loose hops in the boiler did eventually get sucked into the tap and caused a blockage. The remaining wort had to be jugged out, through a sieve, into the fermenter. I definitely need to get a hop filter added to the boiler! Anyhow… once the wort had been transferred to the fermenter the liquid was whisked up to ensure there was plenty of oxygen incorporated into it and the dry yeast was added. I didn’t make a yeast starter on this occasion and just added the dry yeast to the wort. The lid was placed on, and the small fish tank heater I use to help regulate the temperature was turned on. The whole fermenter was then covered with a thick rug and left to do it’s thing!

Bottling:

IMG_0227 After two weeks in the fermenter the hydrometer reading told me that fermentation had been completed so the beer was transfered from the fermenter to bottles. Each has 1/2 tsp of granulated sugar added to aid the carbonation of the beer. Once bottled, and labeled, the box of bottles was hidden under the stairs to condition for 3 weeks.

The (almost) finished product:

IMG_0256This bottle was opened after 3 weeks of conditioning. It is still a little cloudy, but I am not suprised by this after the issues I had draining from the boiler to the fermenter. Perhaps this will still clear given a little more time. The taste, well, I am slightly biased of course, was pretty darn good! It did still taste a little young and will no doubt improve with age. I’ll test again at 4 weeks and let you know!

 

 

Overall:

Overall I am very pleased to have completed my first batch of ‘proper’ beer! It wasn’t issue free, but now I know where the tricky points are in the process I can hopefully iron those bumps out on the next batch! Cheers!

Previous Brewdays

Before I took the decision to move to All Grain Brewing I had already made three ‘kit’ beers. Coopers Mexican Cerveza, Woodforde’s Wherry and St Peters Ruby Ale

All of these kits produce very drinkable beers with just the addition of water and yeast and serve as an excellent (and simple) first step into brewing for the inexperienced. If I have inspired anyone to have a go at brewing I heartily recommend that you start with such a kit. Most are available as a Microbrewery box set which will provide you with the basic equipment you require too.

My kit beers constituted the vast majority of the beer drunk at our New Years Eve party (2012) and seeing as there is none left now… I guess that says something about their quality. Or my friends. 😛

Building a Home Brewery

Well it goes without saying that every great/good/average home-brewer needs a home-brewery, and as I hope to fall into the 1st (or at least 2nd) category the decision was already made for me. I needed to build an awesome home-brewery! Here are some photos from the build, please note that until the day I built this I had no woodworking experience.

IMG_0146    First find a space to clear for the brewing rig. This used to be my potting bench, this was relocated to another part of the garage so was dismantled as carefully as I could. Resisting the urge to demolish it with a big hammer was possibly the hardest part of this build!

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0147I then constructed the main section of the wooden frame from basic white wood from a well known national chain of hardware shops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0152Now with the top two shelves added, and the separate box frame built for the boiler to sit on. This small unit will allow the boiler to be moved to the front of the garage when in use so the brewing fumes can escape to the outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0156All woodworking completed. All that is missing from this picture is the varnish and mounting the whole lot on caster wheels so it can be easily moved around for cleaning purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0204And finally all finishing touches added, and with all the equipment in place to give a sense of scale. There is plenty of room on each step to allow for future upgrades in equipment. It’s perhaps not the tidiest woodwork job you’ll ever see, but I still think it ranks as pretty awesome!

Total cost to build the rig: c. £120 (but as you can see I have some wood left over for my next project!)

So what’s in a name?

Picking a ‘cool’ brewery name is not an easy task as it turns out, but picking a ‘cool’ brewery name, with a tie to your personal history or location, is even harder so bear with me here because it is perhaps a little tenuous!

Lucian, was a monk who lived in Chester in the 12th Century and he wrote De Laude Cestrie (‘Of the Praise of Chester’) around 1195 whilst in the cloisters of Chester Abbey. This book was the first known guidebook of an English provincial town! Lucian decribes Chester at that time as follows:

“The native of Chester remembers how three roads branch off outside Eastgate and how beautiful and pleasing are the names of the places to which they lead. The road straight in front straight in front leads to Christ’s Town (Christleton), that on the right to the Old Ford (Aldford) but if it turns to the left it comes to a place which they rightly call the Valley of Demons (Hoole) with reference to the hiding places of those who lie in wait… the wanderer… is despoiled by thieves and robbers”.

The humble beginnings of this brewery are based in Hoole, Valley of Demons, Demon Valley Brewing. The official naming committee approved this name almost instantly (after shooting down a couple of others up for consideration) and so Demon Valley Brewing was born.

Welcome to Demon Valley Brewing!

Check back soon for more updates on my endeavors to build a brewery (literally) and brew the best, darn pint Hoole has ever produced! *

Anyway… Welcome to the grand opening of Demon Valley Brewing! This is going to be awesome! **

* may not strictly be true.

** will definitely be true.