Super Easy Tap Handles

Ok, so the big party is two days away and you realize that in your months of planning down to the last detail, you actually forgot one important detail.

Beer…Check

Keezer cart…Check

New faucet system…Check

Method to actuate said faucet system…DOH!!!!

A weekend of brewing followed by 9+ weeks of TLC and lagering of your Oktoberfest beer.  This needed some representation.  A couple pairs of vice-grips were not going to work in this situation.

Difficulty: level_2

Time Required:

Once you have collected all of the supplies, about an hour max.  More if you are also going to paint and design your own labels.

Cost:

Less than $10 for two tap handles

Required:

009-Brass Insert

3/8″-16 Brass threaded inserts

009-Spindle
1x wooden staircase spindle

Tools:

Chop saw or miter saw
Some sort of vice or clamping system
Hand drill and drill bits up to 1/2″

Insertion tool (optional if you plan ahead, not an option if only have days).  Make sure you get the 3/8″-16 version.  As of 5/31/14, the price was $10.99 at Rockler.

Insert_tool

 

Or there are T-handle designs

t-handle_insertion_tool

Alternately, you could use a 3/8″-16 threaded bolt and two corresponding nuts, which I also didn’t have on hand at the time of build.  If you are doing these often, I would get a tool.  If not, maybe make the call yourself on how MacGyver you want to get.

How it’s made:

Cut handles to length

First, you need to cut off the little nubbin on the end of your spindle (if applicable).

009-Spindle nubbin

Then, decide how long you want your tap handles to be and cut each of the fancy ends off of the spindle to your desired length.  Try to cut perpendicular to the spindles axis.  I used a quick clamp to hold it to my miter saw (basically because I had misplaced the super handy integrated clamp that went with the saw).

009-cutting spindle

Drill holes

Using your vice or whatever clamping system you fancy, get your tap handle secured for drilling.  If you are seriously cool and have a lathe or a drill press, go for it.  I tried a hole drilling jig, but the problem is that the spindles do not have nice constant diameter sections, which made squaring up the jig virtually impossible.

Drill progressively larger holes in the bottom end of the tap handle to work your way up to a 1/2″ hole.  If you have the means, I highly suggest you don’t drill off center as I have obviously done in these pictures.

009-drill bits

009-drill 1

009-drill 2

009-drill 3

Install the insert

009-install brass insert 1

009-install brass insert 2

November 2, 2014 update:  You’ll see further down alternate methods to install the insert.  This picture directly below shows my most recent “tool-less” method.  I use a standard 3/8-16 bolt along with a wing nut.  You thread the wing nut onto the bolt as shown, then also thread the brass insert almost fully onto the bolt.  Then tighten the wingnut to the brass insert.  You can then use this assembly to thread the insert into the tap handle.  When the brass insert is fully installed, just undo the wing nut and unthread the bolt.

009-alternate install method

Here is the “proper” method below:

Insert_tool

My initial MacGuyver method:

I don’t know how this worked out, but I needed something that would fit in the slot and help me screw the insert in.  I ended up using a cheapie wrench that came with some sort of put-it-together-yourself furniture.

These are hard to get started straight, so do your best. Usually they pull themselves straight after the first full thread or two. If not, you may want to back it out and start again.

009-install brass insert 3

NOTE: This is NOT the proper way to do this.  I just made do with what I had.  If you plan ahead, get an insertion tool or use the bolt method I mentioned above.

Getting the insert flush with the bottom takes a little extra “ingenuity”.

009-install brass insert 4

Finishing

Alright, so it’s functional at this point and you could go ahead and use it.  If you want to make it a little more presentable, you could sand and paint it and add labels.  For painting, I just used a 3/8″-16 bolt I had and used it as a handle while I spray painted.  You can also stain as I did on some other tap handles.  Before you apply your labels, I would suggest threading the tap handles onto the faucets and determine which orientation is best for not looking crooked.  If you drilled the holes by hand this is imperative.  If you drilled using a method that is guaranteed straight, proceed at will.

009-Ready to paint

The first year, I designed some labels and my crafty wife stained the handles, did the burned edge treatment on the labels and sealed them with some mod podge.

 

009-Stained tap handle

These are my painted versions for my Dunkel and Rye PA.

009-painted tap handles

There you have it folks.  Super easy tap handles.

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Grain Storage

Grain Storage

Difficulty: level_1

Time Required:

As long as it takes you to replace a trash bag.  Maybe more if you decide to nerd yourself out.  Keep reading to the bottom if this is you.

Cost:

Less than $5 per bucket assembly.

Background:

So if you are serious about brewing and want to save money in the long run, you are most likely buying your most used grains in bulk.  If you don’t want those savings to go to waste, you need to store the grains in a way that doesn’t degrade the quality of the grain.

Required:

5 Gallon bucket + lid of your choosing
food safe bag

“Let’s do this”:

Whenever I choose a storage solution, I try to find something readily available where that exact same container can be purchased again at some later point in time.  I arbitrarily chose Homer buckets from Home Depot.  Maybe I fell for their marketing scheme of having them available everywhere you look in the store for a reasonable price, but hey, they work.  So now, I just buy these buckets so everything matches.

What is convenient is that each bucket holds just about 25 pounds of grain.  So what I usually do is buy the 50 pound bag of ‘Merican grain when I’m going to use it, then the remainder always fits in two buckets.  The same goes for when I get the 55 pound bags of “Ferrin” grain.

So choose your bucket and then decide which lid you will use.

008-Grain Storage-Crappy lids

Do not buy these lids!  They tempt you with the “easy removal” line, but upon the first or second removal of this lid, this will occur.

008-Grain Storage-Sealed Lid

This is what I buy.  They are a few cents more and in my opinion, worth so much more.

008-Grain Storage-Seal on lid

These lids have a rubber seal, which helps keep moisture out.

008-Grain Storage-Lid as Received

The lids do have this one time seal feature, but just go ahead and pull it off.  If you are just the slightest bit careful, you can remove these lids over and over again.

008-Grain Storage-These lids crack too

 

You might get a crack in the lid where the stress “reliever” is, but as long as it doesn’t go beyond the rubber seal, you should still be ok.

If you want the ultimate in awesomeness, go for the Gamma lids.  I personally don’t use these for my grains, because the highest frequency I need to access my grains is every two weeks and I can cope with the standard lids.  I do however use them for our bulk dog food storage and hay for our guinea pig, since we store them in the garage and we access them every day.

The Gamma lids are surprisingly decently well priced at Home Depot ($7-8).

Ok, enough about lids already!

Since it is mostly accepted that the plastic used in most 5 gallon buckets is not rated as food safe, lets just add another layer of protection.

Once you have decided on your bucket / lid combo, just place a food safe plastic bag liner in the bucket.  Reference my post on food safe bucket liners to get an idea on where to get these bags.

008-Grain Storage-Twist bag

 

Not much to explain really.  Put the bag in the bucket and pour your grains in.

008-Grain Storage-Tuck Bag

I then twist the top of the bag and tuck it in the side of the bucket.  Then just put your lid on.

Labeling

Per my post on Easy Fermenter Labels, I just used gaffers tape to note the grain type and amount of grain in the bucket.  See “Nerd Alert” at the end of this post to determine the amount of grain in the bucket.

008-Grain Storage-Label Contents

Moisture control

Ok, so I admit, I had been using muslin bags filled with rice for “moisture control”.  After some reading on the internet (so it must be true), I came to the conclusion that rice is a poor desiccant.  I fell for the commonly held belief that it absorbed moisture because they use it in salt.  Well, it seems that rice is used in salt shakers to prevent clumping.  Sodium chloride is actually a better moisture absorber.  It all makes sense now, because the container I store our ice melter in always has a pool of water on top.  Now I just say (my opinion here) that if you won’t be using the grain within 3-6 months, you probably aren’t making the best of purchasing grain in bulk.

Nerd Alert!level_5

Ok, so if you aren’t using all of your grain at once, you’ll probably want to know how much grain you have left.  What I do is weigh the bucket plus the bag liner before pouring the grain in.  This is my tare weight.  So whenever I need to know how much grain is left, I just weigh the grain bucket with the grain in it and subtract the tare weight.

008-Grain Storage-Tare Bucket

I also note the date each time I weigh, because I know myself and I know that if I just put the weight on there, I will wonder if it was before or after a certain brew an then end up re-weighing the grain.

008-Grain Storage-Stacked Buckets

So here is “Fermentation Central” in my basement.  Two batches of Cream Ale fermenting, next to my stack of grain storage buckets and my two dorm fridges converted to fermentation chambers.  The top one is running intermittently (had since college) and the bottom one is facilitating a German Alt.

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