20 January 2009

Equipment upgrade

Speaking of improvements to make things run better...

I'm a gear head. One thing I love doing nearly as much as homebrewing is modifying
my system. Fortunately, moderation is brought about by fiscal and practical concerns. Short of three Boilermakers, 30-plate chiller, a 14-gallon conical and a winning lottery ticket, my options are limited. Finishing my basement and brew room have primarily fed this addiction, but lately I've realized that my system as-is could use some improvements.

Some time back I received the HopStopper as a Christmas present. It worked wonderfully initially but after some time, it's claim of being able to strain out pellet hops seemed to be questionable. Even trub would clog mine, leaving precious wort at the bottom of the kettle. Because I use a plate chiller, it's absolutely imperative that as much particulate matter is left behind in the kettle as possible. In my brewery, it soon came to be known as the HopClogger. I'm still using it (even after 2 years), although placing hop pellets in muslin bags and accounting for wort losses in the kettle.

In terms of the mash tun, I initially started off with a Sanke kit from MoreBeer. Grain particles easily got around the screen edge and clogged the plumbing. So I made a manifold out of stainless steel braid and retained the screen to help keep weight off the braid. This too worked well for a while but it's performance dwindled over time. Searching for the better way (again, the gear-head motivation), I grabbed the Bazooka T I used to use in the kettle and married it to the stainless steel diptube from the old MoreBeer kit. Because of piping size differences, the T would move freely, despite a rubber grommet. This too caused lautering issues, leaving wort behind in the mash tun.

Recently I ordered a Sanke adapter for the Bazooka T in an attempt to solidify the mash tun manifold structure and hopefully leave less wort behind. Yes, I could just account for the losses in the mash tun and kettle, but where's the fun in that? Again, gear head! If you're a supporting member of HomeBrewTalk, you already know the story behind the snafu in ordering the part; if not, we won't rehash it here. Suffice it to say things didn't exactly arrive as expected.

Short of ordering a Bazooka T Sanke adapter, I'm thinking of cannibalizing the HopStopper and using the copper tubing to connect to the Bazooka T. Leaving the kettle to be addressed, I'll use either the stainless steel diptube from the mash tun or the errant Kewler adapter kit and the screen from the HopStopper to create a pick-up tube. Instead of picking up directly from the center, the side near the wall would help reduce hop and trub in the chiller. I do have the ability to whirlpool.

Comments? Ideas? Other suggestions? I'd love to hear 'em. I'm not doing any brewing right now, it's too @#$%^& cold!



travis said...

Cool stuff and badass setup. I made a knockoff bazooka screen that worked for a while, I also used the water intake Brade (all for lautering) and they were all useful. However, add the pellet hops and all hell breaks loose.

Recently I have used hops bags and just really ring them out to ensure that we get as much of the hop juices as possible. So far, that seems to be the best solution. I don't think there is a way around it otherwise.

Freak said...

I suggest whole hops. At one time I was the anti-pellet brewer. I would not use them if they were free simply because I didn't want to deal with my pumps and things getting plugged. I learned to make pellets work in my system but I still like whole hops. Back in the day plugs were the way to go but you just don't find them now days. Use whole hops. The store I buy my stuff at has whole hops but you may need to change your recipe from time to time. I thought you were growing your own. You should use that stuff. I plan to plant this summer. Any tips?

OSBC said...

Thanks guys.

Haven't started growing my own yet but I'm planning to this year. Would give my neighbor something else to talk about. ;-)