June 17, 2009

Brewing your first beer, post I: the equipment

Since this will be your first beer, we're going to keep things as simple as possible. Terms that you likely won't hear in this series:

1) sparging
2) protein rest
3) saccharification
4) isohumulone

Things that you are likely to hear:

1) boiling
2) carbonation
3) bottling
4) drinking

Anyway, there a variety of items that you could use for homebrewing, but I don't want to stress you out. In the motto of the American Homebrewers Association: Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew.

Okay, first things first. You will need a kettle to boil your beer in. Technically, the beer will be called wort at this stage. And now you've added a new word to your vocabulary, although I haven't found a way to use it in conversations NOT about brewing.

Back to the boiling pot. It should be at least 3 gallons, although 5 gallons is probably better and 10 gallons would be better still. But if you want to save money, stick with the smaller pot. Some people get a little too serious about the type of kettle: ceramic coated stainless, pure stainless steel, pots that come with your own personal Emeril to screech "BAM!" every time you add something to it. Me? I went the inexpensive route and bought an aluminum pot. But hey, it's your setup. Whatever makes you happy.

Next on the list as a must have item is a fermentation vessel. You have a couple of realistic choices here as a homebrewer: glass or plastic. 5 gallon glass carboys are easy to find and they're not too expensive. Since you'll typically brew 5 gallon batches, though, you will need to use a blowoff tube for the first couple of days and then add on a fermentation lock. If that sounds like too much effort, a 6-1/2 gallon carboy is probably a better choice because you can stick the lock on top from the get go. And having said all that, I suggest that you go with a plastic fermentation vessel for your first batch. They're usually 6-1/2 to 7 gallons in capacity and have airtight lids with a single opening for your fermentation lock. Also, they're pretty much unbreakable, which isn't the case for glass fermentation vessels. Again, it's your call.

On second thought, you'll probably want to go ahead and order a 5 gallon glass carboy, or at least put it on lay-away. Glass is absolutely required for secondary fermentation. Granted, we won't bother with that for our first beer, but we will for future brews.

How will you get the beer into your fermentation vessel? You're going to need a pretty large plastic funnel. Maybe not for your first beer, but definitely for the next one.

If you want some idea of the potential alcohol in your brew, you'll need a hydrometer, a device used to measure the specific gravity of liquids. The more sugar that's dissolved in the beer, the greater potential alcohol content. And a floating thermometer is useful as well. It's bad form to add yeast to your brew while it''s too hot. Also, you'll need to know the temperature of your wort when taking the specific gravity if you want to correctly determine the specific gravity of your beer.

Since I mentioned fermentation locks in the preceding paragraph, I might as well discuss those next. There are several types available. A picture of the two most common ones can be found here. They both accomplish the same task: let carbon dioxide from the fermentation escape while preventing anything from getting back into the beer.

Once fermentation has completed, you'll need a bottling bucket. I suggest that you buy one with a spigot already attached. You will rack(siphon) the beer from the fementation vessel into the bottling bucket using a racking cane. This prevents having a lot of yeasty sludge from ending up in your bottles. Also, you'll probably want to buy a spring-loaded bottle filler, which makes filling up the bottles a much simpler task. It also leaves about the perfect amount of headspace in each bottle. In my opinion, this small piece of equipment will make your bottling experience less painless.

You'll need bottles, too, about 50-60 12-ounce bottles, or 25 24-ounce bottles. How do you aquire them? Well, you could buy brand spanking new bottles from the store, but I tend to get them from my other friends that drink beer, asking them to save all of their empties. My pals are usually very helpful in this regard, especially after I've promised to give them some samples of my homebrew. By the way, ask your friends to rinse the bottles after they're empty. Cleaning mold out of bottles isn't an enjoyable task.

Okay, you've filled your bottles with your beer. Now you need to cap them. This means, of course, that you will need 50-60 unused bottle caps, as well as a bottle capper to put them onto the bottles. Again, go the inexpensive route and purchase a lever-armed bottle capper. Bench cappers are nice, but more expensive, and they require more effort on your part if the bottles aren't all the same size, which is likely to be the case if you're using castoff empties.

I almost forgot: you'll need a couple of pieces of plastic tubing, too. One piece will attach to the racking cane and another to the bottle filler.

I think that our brewing list is pretty much complete. Let's recap what you'll need:

1 3-5 gallon brewing kettle
1 5 or 6 gallon glass carboy
1 6.5 to 7.5 gallon "food grade" plastic fermenter with airtight locking lid
1 6 foot length of 3/8-inch inside diameter clear plastic tubing
1 racking cane
1 fermentation lock
1 rubber stopper to fit the fermentation lock(It's bad form to not notice until you're pitching the yeast that they don't fit. Not that I know from experience or anything. I'm just saying.)

1 2-3 foot length of 3/8-inch outside diameter tubing which should fit the next item
1 spring-loaded bottling wand
1 large plastic funnel
1 floating thermometer
1 hydrometer
1 bottle capper, for which you'll need lots of new bottle caps.
50-60 beer bottles, preferably the non-screwtop type. Brown glass is the best, but pretty much anything will work.

I forgot to mention how important proper sanitation is. Let's go the cheap route yet again and use unscented household bleach. You don't want your beer to taste lemony fresh. Ugh.

That's enough to get started. We'll go over the limited ingredient list in the next post in this series.

What's that you say? You don't have a brewshop in your town? Have no fear, there are shops all over the country that will gladly ship the stuff right to your door. Check here and here. If you don't find what you're looking for there, then check out these links. Oh, and lots of places sell beginner kits containing most or all of the equipment listed above. Your mileage may vary.

See you next post.

Posted by Physics Geek at 08:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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June 30, 2005

Diplomacy

Van der Merwe got a job on the railways as a steward and the first day he accompanied another steward to learn the ropes. "It's very simple," said his tutor, "just use diplomacy."

"What's diplomacy?" asked Van.

"Watch me I'll show you."

Off they went down the train corridor, rattling compartment doors, opening them with special keys and offering tea or coffee. When the tutor steward flung open one door he was confronted with a buck-naked woman. Without batting an eyelid he asked, "Tea or coffee, sir?"

The surprised woman took the cup of tea and he shut the door. "Wow, did you see that cutie!" Van said excitedly. "She had no clothes on, but hey, why did you call her sir?"

"That's diplomacy! I did not want to embarrass her."

Van der Merwe was most impressed with his teacher. The next day on his own now, he flung open a door to a compartment and found a couple making love n
the bed.

"Tea or coffee, sir?"

"Tea," the man replied.

"And for your brother?"

Posted by Physics Geek at 10:19 AM | Comments (1)

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June 29, 2005

Battle of the sexes

Retread humor
-----------------

Women's Prayer:

Before I lay me down to sleep, I pray for a man,
who's not a creep. One who's handsome, smart
and strong, one who loves to listen long. One who
thinks before he speaks, when he says he'll call,
he won't wait weeks. I pray that he is gainfully
employed, when I spend his cash, won't be annoyed.
Pulls out my chair and opens my door, massages my
back and begs to do more. Oh, send me a man who'll
make love to my mind, knows what to answer to "how
big is my behind?" I pray that this man will love me to
no end, and never attempt to hit on my friends.

Amen.


Man's Prayer:

I pray for a deaf-mute nymphomaniac with huge boobs
who owns a liquor store.

Amen

Posted by Physics Geek at 02:34 PM | Comments (1)

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Broadband access solutions

Live out in the boonies where neither DSL or cable broadband are available? Don't depair: there may be hope for you yet. Excerpt:


Satellite
If you're out in the sticks, DirecWay satellite Internet service may be your first, best, and only hope for broadband access. The service works by connecting your PC to a geosynchronous satellite, which links to DirecWay's terrestrial gateways to the Internet. Today's systems do away with the clumsy landline connections of yesteryear for upstream data. And while data rates can be acceptable (up to 500 Kbps), the delay introduced by a 44,000-mile round trip from home to satellite and back makes DirecWay inappropriate for gaming, voice over IP, and virtual private network connections.

Cost: $50 to $100 per month

Best for: Rural locations

Pros: Available almost anywhere; provides access in rural areas otherwise outside of broadband's reach.

Cons: Expensive; limited bandwidth; high lag times make it inappropriate for many applications; requires southern view of sky to find satellite.

Broadband Over Power LineBPL takes advantage of the same phenomenon that lets DSL share signals with voice traffic--electricity travels at a lower frequency than data signals. Companies have therefore decided to offer broadband over the electrical wires that come into homes. Although BPL tests have been ongoing around the country, working deployments remain limited as power companies weigh whether or not to get into the broadband market. Still, cities such as Cincinnati, Ohio, and Manassas, Virginia, have BPL service. In Cincinnati, Current Communications offers service through Cinergy for $30 to $50 per month, depending on the download speed you want (3 Mbps is the current max).

Opinions on the prospects for BPL are split. Research firm Telecommunication Trends International projects that worldwide BPL deployments will jump from $57.1 million in 2004 to $4.4 billion by 2011. But Radicati Group analyst Teney Takahashi says bluntly: "Power line broadband is not going to happen."

Cost: $30 to $50 per month

Best for: Remote areas not served by cable or DSL, or any area poorly served by cable or DSL

Pros: Power lines are ubiquitous and reach homes not served by cable or by DSL-capable phone lines.

Cons: Not widely deployed; significant issues with the data signal producing broadcast interference; power companies lack the service bundling advantages of phone or cable providers.

Posted by Physics Geek at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

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Marketing genius?

Or extreme stupidity. I have a feeling that the commercial mentioned in this story wouldn't go over so well in the US. Excerpt:


A spokesman for the company said Regional has no plans to apologize for running a television commercial that said the difference between a wife and a lover was 30 kilograms (about 66 pounds), the newspaper El Universal reported.

Women called the advertising misogynist and demanded.

The Regional spokesman said the company wouldn't apologize unless it is forced to do so by the courts. He added: "I bet all these women's groups are run by women who are at least 30 kilos overweight."


Posted by Physics Geek at 12:09 PM | Comments (1)

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April 14, 2004

Waffles R'nt Us

Just say no to Waffles this November. Remember, he's not just for breakfast anymore.


waffles2.gif

Waffles


Also saw this over at A Little More To The Right and it's in line with the theme of this post:



wafflehouse.jpg

You don't want this to happen, do you?

And courtesy of Kevin I give you this:



kerryimg.png

Posted by Physics Geek at 05:46 PM | Comments (0)

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