Home brew from scratch.

Discussion in 'Food - Cooking, Preserving & Fermentation' started by Tim C, Aug 14, 2014.

  1. Tim C

    Tim C Two heads are better than one Premium Member GOLD

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    Home-brewing is one of my favourite past-times. Back in the late 80,s as a young buck, I started with the Coopers, brewed in a willow garbage bin and bottled into long-necks(king browns). The beer was ok, but there wasn't the choice of today. Then I bought a proper brew-keg. When I was working around Broken Hill, as a wool-classer in the early nineties, I got a bit more serious. The local brew shop was extensively stocked, and I was spoilt for choice. Of all the tinned homebrews my choice-by far is Black Rock(NZ) East-India Pale Ale.
    The next evolution was mixing recipes from scratch. I bought a book called "Brewing beers like those you buy". It was very informative, but sadly not one recipe tasted like the bought stuff. It was written by a Pommy fella and their beer is quite different to ours, being cold-brewed ales (generally), as opposed to our lagers. I was buying 20kg of light malt powder at a time, and hop flowers and pellets of all descriptions. I never outlayed for a heating pad, and still use the single-bed electric blanket I started with- the one in the bottom of my mini-greenhouse at present! All the beers were drinkable, just some more than others. At one stage I had 288 dozen long-necks bottled! I won second prize at the Broken Hill show for my Nut-brown Ale. I did other brews as well. The best ginger beer was Jads-with a picture of a parrot on the label. The "Old-fashioned" brand ginger beer tasted like muddy water, however their lemonade was superb! I made up a brew of that to about 6% alcohol, and it still tasted like Leed or Halls lemonade. Clear, fizzy and very easy to drink....Too easy!. The girls loved it, but they got MESSY!!!!
    I made Horehound beer once, but it was that bitter it was un-drinkable. I will have another crack at it though, using 5g dried, rather than the 30g (1oz) in the Green and Gold cookbook recipe.(Old school cookbook).
    Eventually I went the next step, doing away with the bottles in favour of 22L post-mix kegs. By doing this you avoid the carbonation step, and the 2-4 week wait for the bottles to gas up. Just brew (7-14days) decant into the keg, cool and gas. They say 40psi of CO2 for 2 days at 3-5C, but I found 20psi for 24hrs was enough. So given ideal temps you were 14 days from mixing to drinking !! You must purge the oxygen. (co2 will sit below it)
    The next evolution was brewing 2x 22.5l brews and putting them into a 50l beer keg. I bought the keg-tap off ebay for about $40- they are $140 from Arndale(commercial) suppliers. Then removed the one-way valves so as to allow water/steriliser to be pumped into the keg. Then just blow it back out with the air compressor, rinse, blow out etc. Gas is expensive to set up, and bottle hire can be too. I just used soda-stream gas through a home-made, dismantled soda-stream fitting, regulating by judgement alone. But it would be better to have a proper gas/reg system.
    Even so, the new screw-top plastics are probably time/energy efficient. If you judge it right you can bottle before the brew has quite finished and avoid the "priming".
    From there I experimented with malting my own grain, but never got the yield, probably because of the available grades of grain. So even though powdered malt can be expensive, it's still the best way to go. Boil your hops/essences, strain and add to your malt/sugar mix. That or discounted, good quality (e.g. Coopers) tins. 700gms of sugar gives you 5% alcohol.Despite the estimations on the tin.
    The next evolution was when a mate got me to set up his double reflux still.(Off Ebay). 2x22.5l brews of 13kg fermentables, then decant into a 50l keg( a beer keg with the valve removed, and a 2200 watt element mounted in the bottom). You NEED to take off the first 200-350 mls. Or it will KILL YOU OR MAKE YOU BLIND, or put you in a permanent coma. Methyl compounds are Nasty Stuff.
    Once the nail polish remover smell has gone you get 93-96% pure alcohol. Still deadly. Mix it with water back to 38-40%, and there is your spirit. Clear,tasteless spirit. He used expensive dextrose, expensive turbo yeast and expensive carbon cleaner, then flavoured it with(expensive) spirit essence. The next brew we used white sugar- half the price of dextrose. The yield was similar. 22-23 x 750ml bottles at 40%
    I was so impressed I bought one. My first batch was 50/50 sugar and molasses from the stock feed store. Fermented with (cheap) beer yeast. Molasses is harder for the yeast to convert, so it was 12 days vs 7 for the top-of-the-range mix. I just let it finish and settle, rather than buy the carbon. Gelatine or beer finings will also work. Once distilled and diluted, I put just enough of the "back-set" (What's left behind in the distilling keg) to colour(and flavour) it like Bundy, on the pale side. After sitting in bottles for a month it was identical in look and taste.
    Then I bought a 20kg bag of maize/corn from the stockfeed store, germinated it in 2 wet hessian bags and made a sour-mash. Put through an electric mincer then carefully simmered at 40c,45c and 55c . Fermented, distilled. White Lightning. Clear bourbon. Nowhere near the yield, only 3x750ml bottles, but with practice the yield can be increased.Addition of sugar can mass the yield. Flavour can be enhanced and colour added by oak chips in the final (40%) distillate. Expensive again. I used Redgum and Gidgee(Acacia). Hand-split. Gidgee was no good,turpentine-ey, but Redgum was exquisite.
    This is another art the guvment scum would rather we were denied, therefore ignorant of, in lieu of filling their coffers and supporting their extravagant lifestyles at our financial and intellectual expense.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
  2. Tim C

    Tim C Two heads are better than one Premium Member GOLD

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    Scum. It's the dirty, parasitic crap which inherently floats to the top, stopping the life underneath from breathing, suffocating it, and and eventually making the pond lifeless. We should all be stirring and skimming off the scum.
     
  3. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    What an evolution in home brewing! Well done Tim - you make it sound easy...

    I've never had a go at making my own beer or wine but I do like the naturally brewed home stuff, not sure if it's psychological but I can't recall tasting a home made beer I didn't like more than the commercial stuff. Although, I have been given some home distilled spirits before by a friend and had to chuck it down the sink - it was awful :vomit:

    What has always worried me about home brewing is the bottling. I'm not sure I trust my judgement to bottle the beer at the right time and I think about all those horror stories about exploding bottles under the stairs through the night etc.

    We have a good brew shop here in Caboolture it has lots of stuff and friendly staff. My wife knows the lady who owns the shop and apparently it's going really well considering the economy at the moment. I guess people can save a few bucks making their own brew (in most cases)?
     
  4. Tim C

    Tim C Two heads are better than one Premium Member GOLD

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    I've never had any bottles blow up. Maybe it's how tight people put the crown seals on. Nowadays with the twist top beer bottles, I don't think It could happen. If using PET bottles I would not over-tighten the lids to avoid it.
    I did once have a terrible disaster though. A glut of apricots saw me try to make apricot wine. After stewing I strained them, but there was a hole in the straining bag, so some of the pulp got through. I was out bush for the week. As it fermented, the pulp(like scum),rose to the top. It aerated and frothed up, blocking the bubbler (air lock). KA-BOOM !- blew the lid off and covered every inch of the room with sweet, sticky, apricot nectar!!!.:facepalm: The ants had moved in by the time I got back. Consequently I never use an air-lock with any of my brewing. I just put the lid on and throw a clean tea-towel over it. :cheers:
     
  5. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    No airlock hey - that's interesting... I could imagine how much fun it would be to clean up an apricot explosion :D

    When I recently made my beetroot fermentation experiment in a jar, I was worried the airlock might get blocked from the froth etc but it went ok (it didn't taste fantastic). I'm going to have a go at sauerkraut next once my cabbages mature. Nothing to do with brew making though so forgive me for sliding off-topic...
     
  6. Tim C

    Tim C Two heads are better than one Premium Member GOLD

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    The trick is to leave enough head-space so that doesn't happen. I thought I did, but the apricot fibre is so stringy that it aerated/bulked out. I should also mention that if distilling fruit wines, more of the Methyl alcohols/nail polish remover needs to be taken off at the start. Fructose (fruit sugars) produces more of these nasties than sucrose,glucose or dextrose. Also any not-so-nice wines/ports/beers/spirits can be put through a still to make some interesting spirits. Maybe you could make up a big batch of strong (high alcohol) ginger beer, distill/dilute it, and then add a small quantity of back-set to get the flavour back ?? Just a thought for later....... Rums, brandies and whiskies all get their flavour from the back-set escaping into the mix when pot-stilling, as this process is nowhere as efficient as a double reflux still. Most pot-still spirits need to be double-distilled to get the alcohol up to 38-40% (and still retain some of the flavour), whereas the 96% out of a reflux is virtually tasteless.
    I must have a gander at your veg fermenting posts......
     
  7. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Hmmm, I think i'll keep with vegetable fermentation for now because I've only just started getting into that. Alcohol seems to be a little too complicated for me (I'd probably poison myself) or at the least waste good produce...

    But you sure know a lot about how to make it. In this fermentation book I'm reading the author talks about why humanity has such a relationship with alcohol and he believes it originally started by a need our body has for fermented food to keep us healthy (gut bacteria etc).

    Interestingly, we are born with particular proteins which specialises in breaking down alcohol in other words we're made to digest it.

    As most of us know, humans aren't the only beings liking a drop. There are several animals that wait for fruit to ferment into alcohol before eating it and sometimes even get drunk. Animal experts reckon they do this because of the health benefits gained by eating fermented food.

    I think our love of alcohol goes much deeper than getting drunk and good feelings. Obviously I'm not saying we need to drink grog to be healthy but the origins of alcohol may well have started from our need to have some fermented food in our diet to maintain good health.
     
  8. Tim C

    Tim C Two heads are better than one Premium Member GOLD

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    Hence the saying "pissed as a parrot"". Down here in the grain season the Galahs eat the grain that is spilt. Once it gets wet it ferments. The Galahs just sit there and you can walk right up to them. Lorikeets and others get the same way from fermented fruit. Never had one try to fight me though.
     
  9. Tim C

    Tim C Two heads are better than one Premium Member GOLD

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    Well. I'm set up for brewing again. This time I'm using the new A system (flat-top) kegs. I have acquired 2, both slightly different in their design. One I had to release the gas(with a proper keg coupler I got from the publican) then push in the rubber washer to grasp the centre. Lift with small multi-grips (or 2 small screwdrivers) and turn clock-wise, it will the drop back down into the keg to allow the top to be screwed off with a large stilzen. You can also carefully loosen the top to let the gas out first. But it will not come out complete because of a tab on the bottom bit (spear assembly). Once the top section is out you **** the spear to one side, to get it past the bent-up tab and it comes out. I then cut this tab off and re-assembled the spear/top. Now to re-fill I just unscrew it holus-bolus. The second keg had a circlip with two tabs underneath the flat-top. This one took some nutting out, as there was no info online anywhere.Gas released. Centre lifted, turned clockwise to allow it to fall back into the keg Eventually squeezing the circlip ends together and twisting the top it released up slightly, into a slot which allowed it to be twisted( can't remember which direction) to another slot, allowing it to come right out. Same deal, cut the security tab off and re-assemble allowing the whole assembly to be removed for re-filling.
    2x 22.5 brews in fermenters makes 45L-perfect for a keg with some head-space. I now have an adaptor for 60L sodastream gas into a type 30 connection beergas regulator, and ordered the reg tonight. I removed the beergas connectors from the keg tap. 1 inch BSP male poly to 1/2 inch barb(dripper line) fittings screw OVER(cutting its own thread into the poly) the keg tap(Australian type 30) threads.That means the thread is on the outside, and the fitting screws inside. Careful use of thread tape makes them seal. Cut the 1 inch (male)thread back about 1/2 inch so the coupler handle can move right up to disengage. Use clear food-grade 12-13mm/1/2 inch line, with a poly-tap as a flow reducer, or reduce the orifice to 2-3mm by another means. The gas line will also need to be reduced to size(8mm) to fit the reg. I just use a short piece of 8mm, inside a short piece of 10mm inside the 13mm. All joints must be clamped and sealed meticulously!!. If you can't afford or get a keg coupler, use the screw-type keg (2") and make your own spear assembly out of a drilled 2"bung, 2 holes drilled/tapped or sealed with thru threads and rubber washers-gas in for one, and beer out(spear-with on-off tap) for the other hole. Just remember cleanliness, and use new fittings/pipe.
    I got an old fridge off my Uncle for $50 to set the keg up in.On inspection, it's actually a freezer-no matter,I'll just turn it down. I will drill a 1/2 inch hole in the door and poke the clear line through. The tap is one of those plastic toggle taps, similar to a hot-water urn tap, which I have used before. Your tap needs to be able to go from full off to full on instantly, or you will only get froth.
    The kegs can be purchased from beermakers (Mine came from Coopers) or disposals for about $50 each. Brewing stores may charge you $200 each, and then suck you in for all the expensive fitting as well. My 2 keg system cost me less than $200 all-up, but a brew shop would see you out of $1000 plus !!! That's just the kegs/reg/fittings. Another $1200 for single a keg fridge. A 60L soda-stream gas will charge a keg for $28, another half one will dispense it. As long as you have NO LEAKS!! You need to drink a lot, or entertain many mates constantly, to warrant refillable or rental bottles of Co2. Total cost, less than $70 for 45-50L beer. Less set-up and my time,(about 30 minutes total) That's enough for 1 man for 2 weeks, working hard(shearing sheds or other hard manual labor) in the hot weather, or a month of tipples for the office-worker needing extra-curricular exercise.
    The method in my madness was that the keg(s) can also be used for my Nixon-Stone still when not full of beer. By having an external heat source (1500W electric single stove, in my case) I don't need to drill holes in any of my kegs. The same kegs and the same fermenters are used for both beer (artisan and unique) and (neutral 96% alc.) spirits.Err...bio-fuel.
    This is not for everyone. Research is essential. Tops must be removed from spirits, that's if you were to drink it in the drought. Methyl Butyls will kill you or make you blind. Some abstinence and control must be self-enforced, or a shortened lifespan will result. I know of people who retired and started making their own homebrew, and were dead within 2 years..........
    All things in moderation- a bit of arsenic never killed anyone, more than a bit of lethargy did. Sugar can kill diabetics, but so can lack of it.
    Whether your scene is ultra-healthy-anti-everything or deep-fried sedentiarism, it's all as bad as each other in extremes. Look at Rosemary Stanton! She was a looker in her day, then went vegan-anti-everything. Anaemic and grey. She went downhill as quick as any retiree on homebrew.
    As an afterthought towards Self-sufficient culture, I would say who-the-bloody-hell needs a city-centric government anyway?? Stuff-'em all. Labor or Liberal we're screwed either way. Bloody nannyist thought-police taxing the guts out of everything. Ever read George Orwells 1984 ??? We still live in a penal colony. Shove it up-ya jumper Canberra.
    Next I will try to make and capture my own Co2-vinegar and carb-soda-suck it in through an air compressor from a big plastic bag.. Once I have enough I might even put it through the air-conditioning in Canberra....Na , those vegetables would thrive on it....
    Anyways, I better go and entertain my other 35 personalities now- some of 'ems are a twitchin' for a little tipple of that bio-fuel. And the dogs have another greenie bailed up out in the big-yard needin' a knock-on-the-head. Bloody summer-time they infest the place like bullants-comin' out of their holes and invading every inch of the rivver in them rowdy speeda-maboats.:censored::censored:
     
  10. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Geez, it sounds like you really have to know what you are doing to home brew with used kegs. But that is a hell of a lot of savings doing it yourself about $800 better off hey, well done!

    I spent a good part of yesterday (till 1am this morning) sampling several of my brother in law's home brews - so much better than the mass produced stuff. You can really taste the character and I'm not just saying that either. ..

    Personally, poisoning myself through making alcohol would be my biggest concern since I'm so ignorant of the process. I don't think I'll ever be competent enough to brew spirit.

    Lol... co2 vinegar. .. :D you really have a way with words Tim. And, those greenies need to stay away from your joint!
     
  11. Tim C

    Tim C Two heads are better than one Premium Member GOLD

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    I've made a few questionable brews when mixing from scratch, but generally once you have it down pat, and are familiar with your ingredients, you can make it how you like. Your brother-in-law obviously has it worked out. I will do a little experiment this week to see if co2 made with vinegar and carb soda is going to be too stinky for beer use, or if it can be cleaned up via carbon filter, or just rested to remove odour..
     
  12. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Any chance of posting a few pics of your modified kegs?
     
  13. Tim C

    Tim C Two heads are better than one Premium Member GOLD

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    Oakley-doakley Matey-here they are-my little camera didn't focus real good on these close-ups, but it should give yez an idea.. camera 054.jpg
    The slot in the thread is where they force the lock-tab(now cut off) through.
    camera 055.jpg
    Sorry-that close-ups a bit blurry, bit shows the tab sitting in the outer bayonet-type slot. camera 056.jpg
    Centre removed. Showing the three tabs-one was longer and bent up, the locking one, now trimmed back. That's the sod that stops you getting it out holus-bolus. The rubber washer is what you need to push down onto the spring (or remove carefully) to get hold of the centre spear, lift and twist it out of the slots to fall back into keg,allowing top to be unscrewed. camera 059.jpg
    The other one-blurry sorry-showing the circlip. camera 060.jpg
    And the neck showing circlip groove. camera 061.jpg
    Keg coupler with cut back 1"poly fittings. Also notice the divet in the keg neck. There are 2 of these that sit in the grooves below the circlip to stop spear assembly flying out if circlip were to somehow give way.
    So there ya go. Clear as mud! The West End keg has Boags on the side???And the Swan keg is also came from Coopers??? Go figure.
     
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  14. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Nice pics! I can understand it better now... I don't have much of a clue in keg assembly so I was getting a little lost in the lingo. There's a fair amount of engineering in one of those things but I suppose there needs to be for safety etc.

    So will the beer be fermented in the kegs?
     
  15. Tim C

    Tim C Two heads are better than one Premium Member GOLD

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    Well, you could brew in the keg, then gas/cool. But the first couple of litres would need to be turfed, as it will be full of sediment. It would also make it hard to check your S.G.(specific gravity), which tells you when it's ready. I am confident brewing without checking the S.G. when I have good brewing temperatures, just checking the bubbles(ceasing) and smell. However for a nice clear beer I will still do the brewing in my 2 fermenters, then decant into the one keg, leaving behind the cloudy stuff and sediment.
     
  16. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Right. Cool! Well, at least I know what a fermenter is :)
     
  17. Tim C

    Tim C Two heads are better than one Premium Member GOLD

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    My new gas reg, adaptor and bottle. camera 089.jpg
    And my "biofuel" still. camera 091.jpg
     
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  18. Tim C

    Tim C Two heads are better than one Premium Member GOLD

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    Put down a homebrew tonight. I thought it was Coopers Ale, but I had Coopers Lager. 2 tins. 2x 22.5 brews, to which I added 15g each of Pride of Ringwood hops pellets, simmered for 15 mins. Finishing hops to give the Coopers a bit more bite. So I suppose I'd better drill the hole in my fridge door this week. Ambient temp inside is still only about 17C, so the single bed electric blanket is wrapped around the 2 fermenters. I don't need it for the greenhouse now , the soil temp is up so I'll be direct seeding from now on.
     
  19. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    That electric blanket of yours gets a lot of use!

    Having a beer tap on the fridge door is every man's dream :D
     
  20. Tim C

    Tim C Two heads are better than one Premium Member GOLD

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    Just had another brainwave/psychotic episode....I got some screwtop homebrew beer bottles the other day, with a view to doing some 22.5L batches of gruit (herb beer) and horehound beer. Only thing wrong with that is you need to prime the bottles with sugar and then wait another 2-4 weeks to try them...unless you can gas them. I got 3x sodastream gas bottles today for the keg/s. Just had a look at the sodastream machine and one of the drink bottles for it. A standard screw-top is a tight fit inside these bottle necks. So I will sacrifice one of my sodastream drink bottles- cut the neck off- and araldite a screw-top inside of it. This will allow me to carbonate brewed, cooled, beer without the carbonation/secondary fermentation process. Ideal for taking to BBQs etc. Because there will be no secondary fermentation, the beer will be clear, without the sediment (like Coopers). Although judging the amount of carbonation will be a bit of a trick, as beer doesn't need as much gas as fizzy softies. I know sodastream warn against carbonating those thinner bottles, but the amount of gas/pressure will be reduced- worse case I may get sprayed with beer...Also from memory, the spring pressure on the relief valve can be wound back....
    I'm out cleaning up my caravan ready for a trip down to see my daughter at Naracoorte this weekend, but will post the pics of the modified sodastream in a few days. :cheers:
     
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