Tap Handle Take Over

Since I had a great outcome with my dark stained tap handle, I thought I’d make some more and sell them online. Mostly I guess I was so bent that no one sold chalkboard ones less than $39.

On one of my many trips to Lowes, this time at one in another city, I came across some shorter table legs on clearance. They were a type of oak wood and I figured I could make it work.

Another one of my distractions when I’m in DIY mode, is that I have brainstorms of ways to improve my workshop environment. This time, I wanted to have an easier way to set in the threaded inserts. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I ended up finding the proper inserts at Lowes, I just wasn’t looking in the right spot. These, as you can kind of see in the first picture, are brass and insert all the way in without any metal showing like it did on my first tap handle.

I was also on a quest to finally finish Mark’s second, matching one. I was thrilled that in lined up just right on the first try.

As you can see in this picture, I had quite the assembly line going.


I would’ve ended up with 4 of the same kind, however I had used one of the short table legs for my Walnut (mixed wood) tap handle. On the remaining 3, I had bought a strip of oak wood for the chalkboard part – this way the wood grains would match. I routed the edges, trimmed the leg, and assembled. The picture below shows them in two stages – initial stain and second coat. I will end up finishing them all with 3 (possibly 4) coats, so they get that nice glean.


I had also bought a larger table leg, similar to the ones I did for Mark, but this one was Oak and had grooves in it. I shaped a piece of my Oak strip, but this time decided to get a little fancier and curved it in to meet up with the base. I then followed up with and chisels to blend to grooves as best I can. Once this one is painted or stained, I will post pictures.


Improving My Equipment

The next step in my equipment gathering, was to convert my pot and Cube and add valves. I bought a cooler valve kit and a standard valve kit from MoreBeer. They look identical, however they have a few minor differences.


They were really easy to install, however it took me days of messing around and re-configuring to get both leak-free. It was a very frustrating process, especially since there wasn’t much documentation out there and some people say they had no problems from the start.

Here is what worked for me…

On the cooler (48qt Igloo Cube), I ended up using as-is, minus the outer washers. So basically valve, lock nut, o-ring, {cooler}, o-ring, washer, coupler. The key is to only hand tighten. On the pot, after I drilled my 7/8″ hold and filed it smooth, all I added was an o-ring. So basically, valve, o-ring, {pot}, o-ring, washer, coupler. Again, the key is to only hand tighten.

Note: on the pot, having the o-ring on the outside is not the best way, especially cause it can melt from your burners flame. I couldn’t get it to work any other way.

I removed and re-installed as described above, fille them both with water and actually let them sit for two days just to make sure it didn’t leak. They didn’t, whew!
I also added a wort chiller to my equipment. It’s 50′ of 1/2″ copper tubing, with brass hose connections on both ends. Brewing down to only 5 gallons in a 20″ wide pot, was a concern, however after setting it in the pot, I saw that nearly 3/4 of it would be covered at the end of a boil.

If I Can Stand On It – It Should Be Fine

I wanted to cure the entire pot and give it nice oxide coat inside, but I also didn’t want to go through a whole take of propane. Looking at my kitchen stove, I was worried that a 25 gallon pot filled with water would break it. Then something crazy came to mind… If I could stand on the stove and it hold me, why wouldn’t it be able to hold my 25 gal pot full of water. I had to put it to test, but I only went for 20 gallons.

Based on my prior calculations and the pot size, for every 0.7″ of my pot, it yields 1 gallon. 1 gallon of water weighs approximately 8.35 lbs. Therefore, I would need to fill my pot with about 14″ of water to get 20 gal, and that amount should weigh about 167 lbs. That along with the 20 lb weight of the pot, brings my test to a total of 190 lbs approximately. I weigh smidge more than that, so again, why wouldn’t it work.


Now, with the pot on the stove and water added, time to boil. It took for-ev-er to bring it even close to boiling. It never actually boiled  but did end up getting a nice looking patina. You can see my 7.5 gal markings below the water line (the darker aluminum), now to get that on the entire pot.

Now here’s the dumb moment… One thing I failed to consider, was how the heck I would get the water out. At the end of my boil, I wasn’t thinking clearly and decided to try my auto-siphon. I now have a new one…yeah, it was too hot and ended up warping the plastic. I finally got it drain with my tubing portion, but I had to throw away the rest of the siphon.

Lesson Learned: Had I only thought of letting it cool first…duh!

Go Big Or Go Home

Since I was able to use Marks equipment, my brew days worked out well, but now I needed to start obtaining my own stuff. And what better way to go about it than to go big, right. I bought a 25 gallon, yes a Twenty-Five gallon aluminum stock pot. And yes, I am only doing 5 gallon batches. And no, that is not too big – 5 gallon batches work great in it. And the best part is you don’t have to worry too much about boil over.

I had struggled between using stainless steel $$$ or aluminum $. There are several posts on either side of the discussion, however I figured restaurants use them to cook food in, even acidic ones, so what’s the difference. I bought mine from Instawares.com.

Here’s a discussion about the two options that I found helpful…Aluminum Brew Pots v. Stainless Steel Brew Pots

Wow, this thing is huge. I did think how cool it would be to make a huge batch of mac n cheese. Then I just had to figure out the boil off rate, before I brewed – how many gallons of water does the increased surface area boil off.

Here’s how my test went. At the same time I decided to mark my mash paddle with measurements so I knew where I was at during my boil.

On the left is my 1 gallon and the right is 3 gallon. Barely looks like there is any water in there. It started getting dark…Light It Up!!!


My boil off test breakdown:

  • Outside Temp: 77 deg w/ 10mph wind
  • Boil Size: started with 7.5 gallons of 68 deg water
  • 170 deg at 23 min.
  • Boiling point (for my local) 206 at 43 min.
  • Started 60 min. boil countdown
  • 1/2 gal gone a 54 min.
  • Another 1/2 gal gone at 37 min.
  • Just a hair of 6 gal remaining at 30 min.
  • 5.5 gal left at 10 min.
  • 5 gal even at 0 min. (flame out)
It was too late to go through the cool down process, so I did just base my boil off rate at 2.5 gph. That proved to be a little high based on a brew day that followed. This was because during cool off, there still is loss of water.

Some Ideas Just Don’t Last

I took me only 24 hours of staring at my new DIY Cube Fermenter to realize that I just wasn’t satisfied enough. Costco also had this great deal on a 7 Cu. Ft. Chest Freezer that I just couldn’t pass up. I looked for used ones, but none were quite good enough. Besides I wanted to minimize my electricity usage and was hoping a newer freezer would be more energy efficient.


Shortly after, I found myself at a local hydroponics store, which has a nice little corner for homebrew, and I picked up a Johnson Temperature Control so I can keep the freezer around 64-68 degrees.


Then off to Costco I went and picked up the freezer. Once home, I immediately plugged it in and cranked it all the way down. I wanted to get my day and a half old brew in it right away. The great thing about the freezer is that I can fit 2 – 6 gallon carboys and a short 5 gallon carboy (top cut down), if I wanted. So ultimately that leaves me with 2 on tap, 1 aging in my kegerator, and 2 fermenting.  That can be a good flow.


Nice little setup going here….keep out!



Dual Wood Tap

I found my self at a Crate & Barrel that was closing, which sucked, but I came across  this set of Walnut Curtain Tie Backs (which was missing one), so I instantly thought it would be cool to try it as a tap handle.

With an oak table leg I picked up at Lowes, I attached them and blended them together..tada, another tap handle was done. I still haven’t stained/painted it – I’m kind of stuck as to what to do with it, it is a rather odd shape.

No More Closet Fermenting

2012 August
After a good brew day, you need to ferment – that’s basically the process of making alcohol. Living in a desert climate can be difficult to keep the wort between 64-70, without a little help. When I was brewing with Mr. Beer, it was early enough in the year that the closet maxed out at 75 – good enough for that type of brewing, however going to full 5 gallon batches, I needed something better.
I saw a post online about someone converting an ice chest (Igloo Cube) into a fermentation chamber, so my DIY kicked in again, and I just so happen to have the Cube on hand. I had already bought 2 – 5 gallon plastic carboys from MoreBeer, so I set one in the cooler to see what I was up against.

The instructions called for 1″ styrofoam, typically used to insulate garage doors…which I also happened to have just enough on hand. So far, no additional costs…looking good! I laid it all out, traced the cooler and began cutting. I cut out the middle to fit right over the rounded top of the carboy, then added 3 more layers, changing the hold size as it got taller.


My end result.  turned out well and looked really clean.

Now it was time to test, so I filled the carboy with water, put a water bottle with thermometer next to it, and let it sit. My goal was to maintain a constant temperature, regardless of the temp inside my garage. It succeeded for the most part and without adding any cooling I was at 75 deg, so my next thought was how do I cool it a little more. Considering, when the wort is fermenting, it is actually heating up – I knew this would result it me being more proactive and possibly adding frozen water bottles each day. I really did not want to  haved to do that.

Sitting in my garage, thinking, my eyes spotted this other ice chest I had that plugged into the car to keep sodas cold. Gears-a-moving, I thought again, can you guess where I’m going with this? I disassembled the cooler and found the cooling device (peltier cooling part) was attached to the aluminum casing. Since the Cube was plastic, I went and bought a strip of aluminum with the intent of attaching it to the peltier and some how sticking it inside the cube to cool.

My design came out really cool (no pun intended), and after getting the right power cord to convert ac/dc, I ran it for several days, starting out with 90 degree water. It finally cooled it all down to 75, however that wasn’t good enough.

 I then filled the Cube with water and thought that maybe if my aluminum strip was in water, it would transfer heat/cold better. It cooled it a bit more, but was still a little hokey. So, I called it a bust, and converted my lid back into a solid piece – just in time, since I was brewing that week. I just figured I’d keep replacing frozen water bottles within the Cube to keep it cool.

Black And Tan Tasting

2012 September

Time for another tasting… At this point I was out of Mr. Beer and finally got past the Ruination, so I decided to grab a few more. This time, ‘Tis the Season, I picked up some Octoberfest style and other seasonal beers.

Left Pic – From left to right: New Beldium’s Sommersault – I had tried their Belgo not too long before, on National IPA Day and liked it, so I thought I’d try their other styles; Sam Adams – because of popularity; Spaten (true German), Rumble – because I am obsessed with ‘smoked’ flavors and this was aged on oak chips (too piney tasting); Shock Top – I like their original and thought I’d try the October style; Widmer – I like Hef, so why not.

Right Pic – From left to right: Deschutes Mirror Pond – I had tried their Black Butte and really like it – I think I’m steering towards a Porter/Stout preference; Levitation – everyone said this would be something I like…don’t hate me yet, but it was ‘ok’; Sweetgrass and 1554 – not bad.

You may say, ‘what is he thinking’, but keep in mind, my tastes are changing daily and I’m liking more variety now that earlier in 2012.

Finally, next on my list was Black & Tan – I’ve always heard about it, but never new what it was or tried it. I was at World Market one day and saw this turtle thing, so I bought and it had all the varieties of mixtures as samples.


Essentially the turtle (or you can use a spoon), allows you to poor the Stout over the Pale ale and keep it separated. Let’s see how this works.

It was retty good, I like the combination, definitely the Guinness  however I think I would prefer a different Pale than Bass. I think though, that its more appealing to create than drink.

Sometimes Used Is Just As Good

2012 August

Now that I have a kegerator and plan to brew bigger batches than what Mr. Beer offers, I needed a keg. I spent hours researching kegs and trying to determine if I should buy new (at $100+) or used at ($50). The new ones are all stainless steel, shiny, no scratches or dents, and look very ‘purdy’. But, after long debate, I decided to get used and with most sellers they guarantee no leaks, however they don’t all clean or replace the o-rings.

On the day I received the keg, I took it out of the box and was actually very impressed with the condition it was in. One minor ding, several scratches and stickers, however it still looked good.

The funniest part of getting a used keg was that it still had diet Pepsi in it. With the family sitting around in the living room, I pull the release valve and POOF…diet Pepsi smell litterally filled house.

After sticker removal, wire brushing, and cleaning, the end result was an almost new looking, shiny ball lock cornelius keg. I replaced all the o-rings, except the poppet ones, which don’t come in the kits, but are sold separately. The basic reason for replacing is so that you don’t get any left over soda flavors in your beer.


I threw it in my kegerator to see how it fit, filled it with sanitizer and then just waited…I didn’t have any beer to put in it, darn it!


Custom Tap Handle

2012 July

Now, my friend Mark has two kegerators at home and in several discussions with him we both agreed the chalkboard tap handles sold online were really cool, however they run $39. Being a man of DIY, I said, I bet I can make one and thought I could on the cheap.

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s off to Lowes I go… Down their wood isles I came across ‘table legs’. The gears started turning, so I started piecing some ideas together.

After sharing the ideas with Mark, he really liked this idea and said if I made it, he would buy it. And the dollar signs came falling from the sky like rain drops and ….not really, but it was definitely a fun concept to make and bunch of these and sell them.

My first draft, shown below, was pieced together using a trimmed table leg, square block that I routed the edges on, and a threaded insert into the bottom. Now, that specific insert was the first thing I saw at Lowes that would work…I didn’t bother looking further – at this point. Check out my later posts for the second ‘twin’ tap handle, to see a better insert…

Here comes the stain. Since Marks home bar is a darker wood, with a light red, I went with a Bombay Mahogany. This is only after the 2nd coat – 2 more and it would be dark enough.


Add the chalkboard paint and vuala..I now have a Chalkboard Tap Handle at only ‘an undisclosed’ cost, but definitely less than buying.