Monthly Archive for September, 2007

Moment of Truth, part 2

I successfully brewed a robust porter on Sunday. The entire process lasted about 5 hours from setup, to tear down and cleaning. The mash tun worked very well, and only leaked a couple drops when I wrenched on the faucet the first time. It held temperature like a champ, though my strike temp was a little low, so I was mashing at 151F for the first 20 minutes. I got it up to 153, but it was a pain with the small 1 gallon kettle. Note to self, get 5 gallon back from Alan.

I didn’t take any pictures, mostly because I was so focused this first time, and because I was trying to fit some other chores in as well, like playing air guitar to a few Primus albums. Pictures will be taken, however, during the next batch for photo proof of the success of the mash tun.

Measuring temperature was a challenge at first. I bought a small thermometer that can be twisted to adjust the sensitivity. The problem was that the sensitivity is in the 10 degree Fahrenheit range, and each twist is in the 10 degree range as well. So,I was on my mashing temp + or – 10 degrees. I quickly realized this wouldn’t work, so I snagged my wife’s electric meat thermometer and set it on Pork, partly as a nod to B.S. Brewing, and partly because 170 (Pork), is the mash out temperature.

This thermometer worked much better and I could see it from the doorway, so I asked Michelle, who was out running errands, to pick me up my own. I don’t want to end up with another Salted Ham IPA. She also picked up a new timer, a kitchen gadget we both use, but the steam from my brewing is probably what made the battery corrode and the LCD go bad.

Anyway, so the mash went really well, though I ended up stopping the lauter process a few times to heat more water. This probably inadvertently mashed it a little more, but the mash looked good and I got 7 gallons that I boiled down to around 6 gallons at an O.G. of 1.060. The tun worked well, and I only had one “oh shit” moment when I realized I forgot to pick up some iodine to check for starch conversion. I remembered what Palmer said though and tried a little iodophor, which did not turn black. Now the beer is happily fermenting away and should be racked to secondary on Friday or Saturday.


This recipe is an adapted version of a Bridgeport Porter clone from a 2001 issue of BYO. I had to modify it a little based on my options from the brew shop and the hops I had in the freezer. I switched the recipe to all domestic grains, not for cost, but for principle.


  • 9 lbs 2-row
  • 1/2 lbs chocolate
  • 3/4 lbs roasted barley
  • 1 lbs Crystal (40L)
  • 1/2 Munich


  • 1/2 oz. Chinook (12.2% alpha) @ 60
  • 1 oz. Chinook @ 5


  • Fermentis Safale S-04 dry yeast (with 1 liter starter)
  • Irish Moss

That’s like the fewest hops I’ve used in a long time, but the Replicator interview with the brewer said to avoid over-hopping it. I figure the folks around me could use a break from hops…. for one beer.

Here’s the qbrew file.

Mash Tun Cooler Assembly

Assembling the mash tun was really quite simple (and quick) once I had all the correct parts. I had to make a second trip, this time to A-boy, to get a smaller close nipple and braided line. The images will link to larger versions when clicked. Well, without further ado.

Step One: Get a cooler

Rubbermaid 10 gallon cooler

I’m using a rubbermaid 10 gallon drink cooler from Home Depot (notice the logo), though this can be done with a smaller or rectangular cooler as well

Step Two: Remove the faucet

Remove the faucet

I did this in the store to make sure I had the right diameter of close nipple. Use a crescent wrench to hold the nut on the inside in place and twist on the outside faucet.

Assemble new manifold and drain system

Out flow assembly

Here’s how the pieces are assembled, though only put one half on, because you have to put the close nipple through the hole in the cooler before tightening up. Use teflon tape on each threaded fitting. I installed the internal compression fitting and washer first, inserted it through the cooler, then installed the exterior washer and faucet. Don’t over-tighten the assembly or you’ll damage the washers. I tightened just a little bit more than was possible by hand.

Moment of truth, part 1

Wet test

If everything seems to fight right, give it a dry run. Well, a wet run. Add hot water to the tun and let it sit for 20 minutes or so to see if the vessel remains water-tight. If so, you’re ready to brew. See, that was cake.

No Leaks

Moment of truth, part 2

To be continued…


Is it awkward or just ironic to walk by an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with 12 pounds of malted barley? Maybe it was ironic that the door was open.

Mash Tun shopping list

A trip to the store.

  • Stainless Steel braided line: $9.49
  • 1/2″ brass close nipple: $2.58
  • 2 – 1/2″ washers: $0.74
  • 1/2″ to 3/8″ compression fitting: $2.39
  • 10 gallon HDPE drinking cooler: $39.97
  • 1/2″ brass valve: $5.77

So, for $60, I have an assembled 10 gallon insulated mash tun. I’m still uncertain if the braided stainless steel is the way to go, but I’m thinking it’ll work well enough compared to a false bottom or scored manifold.

I ended up using a compression fitting to connect to one end of the braided line, which meant I didn’t have to sweat any copper joints. Plus, copper is so expensive right now that even small sections of coiled copper have security tags attached.

Next: assembly….

Building a Mash Tun with a cooler

After some spectacular results using Scott’s cooler/mash tun, I’ve decided to build a mash/lauter tun from a 10 gallon Rubbermaid drink cooler and go all-grain. Joe and I brewed three great beers, and he’s done another couple that have turned out quite well. The quality of each of the beers seems to be as good or better than the best 10% of my extract and partial mash brews. Time to step up.

To start the process, I’ve been scouring the internet and print material on converting a cooler. I’ve been watching craigslist for some time hoping a 10 gallon drink cooler would pop up at the right price, but the only finds have been far enough out of the city that the savings over a new cooler are easily used up in travel and lost time. Luckily, Home Depot sells an orange HDPE lined cooler for $40. I opted for the cylindrical because John Palmer recommended them for 5 gallon batches, which is probably most of what I’ll be doing. There are lots of instructions out there on converting both a cylindrical and a rectangular cooler, which I’ve linked to at the bottom for reference.

I’ll be photo-documenting the process as well, but here are a number of conversions for comparison.

How-To Links

There are many more I’m sure, but this provides quite a variety to consider. I also checked a number of forums for opinions on false bottoms and manifolds. I’ll be going with a manifold design.

Grape Harvest

Michelle, Ella and I spent the weekend in Yakima with family. This time of year, several of our family members are busy with one kind of harvest or another. My father-in-law is busy with hops (another post, I promise) and my aunt and uncle are busy with grape harvest. On our way out of town, we stopped in at Windy Point to see how the grapes turned out, and to pick up some wine for ourselves.

Pinot Noir grapes

The tasting room was quiet, being only ten in the morning on a Sunday, so we did our shopping then headed down to the winery to see what was fermenting. We saw the winery’s first batch of Pinot grapes happily on their way. It was not only the first batch year they had made a pinot noir, it was their first harvest of grapes they’d planted a few years back. If the other wines are any indication, the pinot should be excellent.

I love looking at oak barrels. It doesn’t really matter what is aging in them, the stamped logo of the cooper, the twisting and darting of the grain in the slats, and the stains of the barrel’s contents around the bung. Apparently my ancestors were coopers, which might explain the fascination, but it might just be the wood too. Or the promise of some delicious pay off. I should really try and snag a used barrel once they’re done with it and age some beer in it. Five gallons would disappear into a barrel though, so maybe it would be more effective to take shavings from a barrel instead.

Shoveling merlot grapes

Just outside the winery, bins of merlot grapes were stacking up. Today was merlot day, and we stuck around to see them fire up the de-stemming and crushing machine. My brain thinks of each step as it pertains to brewing, so I’m consistency surprised how much more simple the wine making itself is. The machine was happily de-stemming and crushing the sweet little fruit, Aunt Liz occasionally turning a wheel to adjust how much of the fruit was left on the stem. I helped shovel the fruit pulp around to make sure there was an even layer in the fermenter. Tiny grapes are quite heavy, so we made some excuse to go home. “Well, we’ve got a long drive ahead of us…”

Don't Miss Brewing Man 2007…

…because I”ll have to. Brewing Man is your chance to brew some crazy beers on the Equinox below Stonehenge.