Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pretty cool.

Pictured above is my new recirculation chiller. Just did my second brew with it today, and I'm blown away by how fast it cools. It took my wort from 212 F to 112 F in 1 minute! Thereafter, the marginal cooling is about 2-3 degrees per minute. So, took 7.5 gallons of boiling wort down to pitching temperature in about 15 minutes. This thing is amazing.

It works by drawing boiling wort out of the ball valve (pictured left) and recirculating it back up to the top of the boil kettle with the aid of my pump. You can see the silicon tubing and copper return piece in the center of all those lines. The copper return is curved so that returning wort enters beneath the surface of the wort and forms a whirlpool that swirls around the coils of my immersion chiller. This is what enables the 100 degree drop so fast. It's basically super-efficient heat exchange. The other lines are your basic input/output lines for an immersion chiller.

The beauty of adding recirculation to an immersion chiller is that the entire volume of wort can be cooled relatively fast. Other chillers like counterflow and plate chillers also cool very fast, but cool only small amounts of wort at a time. The faster that the entire volume of wort cools, the better will be the cold break, and the more hop flavors and aromas will be preserved by late hop additions during the boil. And at $8 for the silicon and copper tubing, a guilt-free equipment addition I must say.

Pretty cool.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Counter Pressure Bottle Filler

Many of us keg our brews. I enjoy kegging cuz its fairly simple and you can enjoy the brew sooner. But there are times that come along when you want to share the beer with others. Times like these call for the ability to bottle from the keg. Two main methods on the market, the counter pressure bottle filler and the Blichmann's Beer Gun. Which way to go?

Well the Beer Gun claims to be better. Its claims to be eaiser to use and to sanitize. Thats probably true. I didn't go with the beer gun for two reasons. 1- i want to be able to bottle under pressure and a blanket of Co2. The beer gun can give you a blanket of co2 but it doesn't bottle under presser. This is its strength (easier to use) and its weakness. And Secondly, which may come to no surprise, i wanted to build my own.

The Counter Pressure Bottle Filler

We all want stainless.....but its expensive and not readily available. Morebeer has a great CPfiller but they are always out of stock. So build my own. I am cost conscious in these tough times so i knew that an entire stainless setup would not be possible. There are numerous designs for every budget out there. I went with a brass valves and compression fittings with stainless tubes. The brass compression fittings are holding the stainless tubes. I have one compression fitting using teflon will the others are using brass. In fact, in use i got a small leak on one of the compression fittings. By no means was it a show stopper but i may change the inner workings to Teflon.

I sanitized the bottles, froze them, sanitized the CP filler and was ready to go. I won't get into the details of how a CP filler works other than to give an over view. You start by purging your bottle with CO2. You then shut off the exhaust valve and pressurize the bottle with CO2. Then you shut off the CO2 and open the beer line. The beer does not flow because the bottle is under pressure. Then you slowly open the exhaust valve and the beer flows in slowly under pressure. The dissolved CO2 stays in solution. You then immediately cap the bottle and you are done.

My first run went well. I bottled 6 - 22 oz bottles. I turned a valve the wrong way at the wrong time a couple times and got a spray of beer but no major problems. I am very pleased. Here is the device. Under $60 in total.