Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Racking the Dandelion

  As I've been turning this entry over in my head I am thinking of all the jargon used in home brewing that may not make any sense to someone new to the practice.  At some point I will post a short entry about what means what, but for now try to hang on if you don't know what us brewers or wine makers are talking about.

  What brings me to this is the dandelion wine I posted about back on 5/15/2013.  It sat in the secondary fermenter for about two months and then I racked it back into my plastic bucket, cleaned out the carboy, and racked it back into the 3 gallon glass.  By doing this I cleared up a lot of yeast that had dropped out.  I was just over the 3 gallon mark enough that inserting my auto siphon caused a small overflow of wine (that I drank).  Racking always loses a little so I'm hoping to end up with exactly 3 gallons when it is all said and done.  I'm tempted to bottle the wine, but I have a bottle of last year's brew sitting on the shelf and I keep comparing that to the carboy so I know it's not as clear as it can be.

  I have some clear wine bottles ready to go, so when it's all clear I will have to run and get some corks, and try (for the first time) to cork some bottles.  I got these for free from the local recycling center and cleaned them up:

  After having tasted some of the dandelion wine, even though it is not finished, I can tell that this is much better than the first batch I made last year.  It has more complex flavors and it is still sweet, but just enough.  I am hoping this will be a good balance.  I dare you to try it, anyone can brew it in their kitchen.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chilling Tales

  For about 13 years I have been brewing beer on and off.  In New Mexico (thanks to Jeff Jenkins) I brewed my first batch of beer.  Then I learned the method of doing a 1 gallon boil, chilling with an ice bath, and than cooling even farther by adding 4 gallons of very cold water.  Even if your ice bath ins't completely effective, the 4 gallons of near freezing water brings the temperature down fast.

  Since then I have begun doing 2.5 or 3 gallon boils.  To move beyond the 3 gallons I would have to get a larger pot and a bigger burner than my stove top.  Keeping everything in the kitchen and brewing with what I have has worked out very well and produces some great beers.   However, I have learned that cooling 3 gallons is much more difficult and time consuming than cooling 1 gallon.  With a three gallon boil I have more boiling water than cooling water, and of course the ice bath isn't as efficient.  I have tried the ice bath, putting the pot in a mound of snow during the winter months, and even putting pre-boiled frozen blocks of ice into the wort.

  Finally I have decided to construct an immersion chiller. If you google immersion chiller you can find all kinds of articles and how to videos on how to build one or what is the best method, shape, size, or metal.  Below you will find links to the ones I liked the best.  To coil my chiller I wrapped the copper tubing around a paint can, and to make the 90 degree bends I used a tubing bender I got on ebay (for $2) which is much like one you would use for bending brake lines on a car.  I found this is ok up to a point, but when you want to bend to 90 degrees it is not quite enough.  If you are concerned about making the bends 90 degrees and want to avoid kinks, you get what you pay for when it comes to tubing benders.  Here is another idea I came across that maybe I could have tried: , but in the end I have a couple of small kinks in my chiller as the photos show.

Small kink in the bend

  The bending tool cthuliz used is the best type for getting a good bend.  If you don't care if your bends are 90 degrees or how they look then you can get by without it.  To start off I've used two stainless steel clamps on each copper to vinyl connection.  If that leaks on me I will refer to the connectors cthuliz used (which is a great design), but I think I will be ok.  Now on to the next brew so I can give this a test.

If you're really interested in how heat exchange works:
Coiling your copper:
The best how to I've seen: