Heating Things Up – All Set

My heated temp control system is all set and in full swing. I found a great 3 gallon container (The Container Store) to hold the water…and it fits perfectly on my freezer’s shelf. Plus, it has a rubber seal around the lid, so I think I will be able to keep the water from evaporating too fast, or at all. I just may need to use sanitizer instead of water to help prevent algae and whatnot.

For the final test, my garage temp was at 45 degrees when i checked it. With the aquarium heater set to 88 degrees, the radiating heat brought the 3 gallons of water to about 78 degrees and my 5 gallon carboy (test water) up to 70 degrees.

So, I dialed my heater down to about 85, which should be perfect. I taped the cord up and its all set. My concern at this point is how it reacts if the garage gets into the 50s, or the opposite, down into the 30s. Well, I do have a temp controller for kicking on the freezer to cool, so I am hoping that kicks in properly. I will just need to make sure if the ambient temperature in the garage does change for more than a few days, that I adjust the heater so both devices aren’t competing with each other. If the ambient temperature goes lower than 45, I will have to see how it all works at that time.

Heating Things Up – Update

I ended up moving to a 50 watt submersible aquarium heater. I went with the Aqueon (pic below) one – primarily because it had a built-in temperature control. This will allow me to either max the heat out or adjust it if I needed to.



I tested it in a 1 gallon container as well as my 5 gallon carboy. The heater worked well and will heat the water in both congtainers, to about the same temperature +/- 1 degree. If you consider the difference in volume of water, the greater you go, the more heat distribution you should have, so a larger container should provide more efficiency and a steadier temp – I just didn’t have the room to keep a 5 gallon carboy in there, when it could be filled with wort.

I monitored my temps a couple times each day, just to make sure I wasn’t messing anythingup. I did find out that with the 1 gallon container, I had to crank the temp up on the heater to about 80 in order for it to balance out in the freezer and allow my fermometer to stay around 68 +/-.
All-in-all, I think this is going to be very successful during the winter months. I will be looking into a 3 gallon or so container, one that fits on my freezers shelf, in hopes to fine tune my adjustments and distribute the heat more evenly.

Heating Things Up

How many of you store your fermentation chamber (chest freezer) in the garage, and live in a climate where the winter’s are cold? Now mind you, I don’t live in the Northern U.S., however my nights will get to 19 degrees. This poses an issue when you are using a chest freezer, the garage, and you need to maintain at temp around 68 degrees.

Up until now, I’ve been putting warm water in my extra carboy and other jugs, then placing them in the chamber. This brings the temps up and I think its been working ‘ok’, however I want it to be more stable than that.

So…I started searching around. There are many posts about the topic and it seems as though there are many ways to go about it. Most of them I think are clunky, even to the point of point a blow dryer in the freezer. The various ways I came across all seemed to work for that person, but I wanted something different.

After reading about reptile heaters, I decided to look at a pet store. There, I came across a Top Fin Mini Heater. This 7.5 watt submersible heater was geared toward heating 1-2 gallon fish tanks to about 75 degrees +/-. I figured it would be worth a shot, if I placed it in a jug of water, and then in the freezer.


Of course, I had to test it in the house first. I placed it in a 32oz jug of 55 degree water and several hours later it hat hit 88/90 degrees. With a 7 cubic foot freezer, a jug of water with a heating element, I hope it is enough to maintain the freezer at least around 68 degrees.

I will update my results tomorrow…I may need to go up to the 10w, or who knows, maybe even the 50w heater.


End Of Year Purchases

With the holidays coming to an end, it’s now time to settle back into daily life.

I am still hoping to get in a brew day  and in preparation for it, I picked up a needed submersible water pump from Harbor Freight and the Blichmann Floor Burner from Austin Homebrew Supply, with 24″ extension legs and the natural gas conversion kit.

I could use my plain old water hose for the wort chilling, however since I have a pool that typically 60-70 degrees, I thought it would work best. It will also provide increased flow, which speeds up the cooling process, and since it circulates back into the pool, I am saving water.

As for the burner, I came across this early on in my homebrew equipment research and just couldn’t get it out of my head. I’ve used Mark’s Banjo burner for a few brew days now, however for our 10 gal batch we used his Blichmann and it worked much better with my setup. I thought it would be a nice addition to my equipment, especially with the 24″ extension legs which will allow me to drain directly from the pot into the mash-tun and carboy.


Happy Holidays Homebrewers

Happy Holidays to each and everyone!

I found this dual scale refractometer in my stocking this morning, it will definitely come in handy on brew day.


Also, my Wife and Daughter had this made for me along with patches for my brew shirt. What awesome gifts they got me!



There Is Always Room For A Beer

I came across this story and thought it fit well…

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles roll
ed into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed..

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—-your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—-and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else—-the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

Take care of the golf balls first—-the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer is the best part – it just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.


Mash Paddle 2.0

With the second half of the maple board I bought for my mash paddle, I chose to make another. This time I spent less time on what design and chose to stick with a basic 6 hole vent. I wanted the process to go quicker and easier, so I went with my 1″ hole drill bit for all the openings and connected them up as seen below.

I routed all the edges round and sanded away.

The end result came out really nice. The size was based on my large pot, with a 17″ paddle and a 41″ overall length. I though about trimming it down to just have 2 vents, but haven’t really decided. I may just put this on ebay and see what I can get – similar ones are going for $50 easily.

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.