“Beer, you will ferment at the temperature I want you to no matter what!”

Well I got busy and put the fermentation temperature controller together. My house is a rental with baseboard heat and with the outside temps dropping the inside temps aren’t very stable and with the cost of electricity I don’t really feel like maintaining the house temp at optimal ale fermentation temps 24/7. Temperature control during fermentation is very important so heating or cooling the fermenting beer is more economical than heating or cooling the whole house so the project was born.

I’ve slowly gather the bits and pieces but been putting it off for a while because I chose a small enclosure and getting all the wiring together correctly in the small space didn’t excite me. It is based on the commonly used STC-1000 controller that is easily found on eBay for $20-$30 with temp sensor. I used a 4″X4″X4″ water-tight electrical enclosure from Home Depot and pieces of 16GA electrical cord laying around. Wiring is straight forward with included diagram or the numerous diagrams online. Everything went together quite easily and by mounting the STC-1000 in the upper half of the enclosure there was ample room for wiring.

Setup is just as easy with the included instructions and allows control of temperature set point, differential and compressor delay when connecting to a refrigerator or freezer to lengthen the life of that appliance. I chose a rather tight temperature differential of 1 degree celsius to avoid big swings in fermentation temps. The temp sensor is either attached directly to the side of the fermentor or inserted into a thermowell that is placed through the same stopper as the airlock. Thermowell stoppers are $25-$35 online through many of the larger home brewing suppliers but attaching the sensor to the side of the fermentor is free and works just as well. A tip I have come across regarding the sensor is when attaching it to the side of the fermentor one should cover it with foam or a small piece of bubble wrap so that it is sensing the fermenter temperature and not the ambient air temperature.

Next step is acquiring a small refrigerator to use as a fermentation chamber that will allow me to heat or cool the fermenting beer to the required temp according to the type and style of yeast used. Until I find a deal on a refrigerator I’ll at least be able to use a heating pad for my next batch I brew.

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Tap-a-draft system thoughts

Well, again, it’s been way too long since my last post but just wanted to share my thoughts on my recent experiment with the Tap-a-draft system. Some time ago I read about the use of Tap-a-draft bottles for small batch kegging and picked up a few used bottles and taps that began life as Coors and Miller home draft kegs. My last batch of English Mild was done fermenting but my kegerator wasn’t finished so I thought what the heck.

Well I am pleasantly surprised. After sanitizing two TAD bottles and taps, I filled from fermenter and put the CO2 cartridges in and let them carbonate for 4-5 days and gave it a try. The carbonation was very nice and the ease of keeping 1-1/2 gallons on tap in any refrigerator is especially nice. Simply use one CO2 cartridge to carbonate and after 4-7 days swap in a fresh CO2 cartridge to dispense. Next step is using modified empty cartridges to connect up a paintball CO2 tank and regulator to carbonate and dispense without taking up too much space in the fridge or paying $2+ per disposable cartridge.

If you like to brew smaller batches or want the convenience of draft home brew without a dedicated fridge/kegerator than I recommend giving the Tap-a-draft system a try. Guess having room in the fridge for food too has its benefits.

Possible change in direction…again

Acquired some 3/4″ triclamp hose barbs for a great price so seriously thinking about changing Blichmann two vessel system to all 3/4″ triclamp fittings instead of 1-1/2″ triclamp. Still early enough into the system build that even with added cost of male and female 3/4″ triclamp fittings on the mash tun and boil kettle I will save a lot of money overall. The 3/4″ triclamp fittings have the approximately the same flow through them as the 1-1/2″ and look more proportionally sized to the vessels themselves.
One hurdle that was overcome in the design change was a sight glass for the wort return on the mash tun. There are several 1-1/2″ triclamp sight glasses but no 1/2″ or 3/4″…until I did some extensive searching on G.W. Kent’s website and found one and it is actually $25 cheaper than the 1-1/2″ one I was originally going to use! At this point I’m kind of getting feeling this was meant to be. Sorta brewing fate. Now the only remaining obstacle is fittings for my center inlet pump which has 3/4″ NPT inlet fitting. Back to searching the web for a solution.

From a non home brewer’s perspective it probably seems obsessive but it’s half the fun of home brewing. The design and build of the brewing system, the design of your brewing style and process all to lead you to the design of your beer recipes.

Cheers