Category Archives: Level 2

Level 2 difficulty

Reflectix Insulation Jacket for your Mash Tun

Do you want to make your mash tun or electric kettle look like it’s been prepped by SpaceX and give it some good thermal characteristics?  Read on…
Sorry if I offended both SpaceX or NASA employees in one statement.

Difficulty: level_5

This is pretty easy.  It just requires some simple measuring, cutting and taping.  The patience portion of this may not be so easy depending on how good you are at measuring, measuring, calculating, measuring, measuring, marking, checking, measuring and cutting.

Time Required:

maybe an hour at the most.  Depending on how meticulous you are and how many do-dads are sticking out of your mash tun.

Background:

In my last post, Mash Tun Insulation Comparisons I ran an experiment on various forms of insulation for your mash tun.  My platform was the new Brewer’s Edge Mash & Boil.  Even though the jacket was made specifically for the Mash & Boil, I’m also going to lay out how to measure out your Reflectix insulation jacket.

Cost:

$15-$30

Tools/Materials Required:

  • Reflectix
    • I purchased a 24 inch wide x 25 foot long roll for mine.  It is about enough for 6 layers , plus lids on a 12 inch diameter mash tun.  I’m only making 3 layers here.

  • Reflectix tape
    • Any other HVAC metallic tape will serve the same purpose
    • I just chose the Reflectix brand, because it didn’t have any writing on it.

  • High temp hook and loop
    • The normal Velcro brand adhesive only listed something up to 140 degF.  Since I was going to possibly be boiling with mine on, I wanted to find something rated higher.  This brand (although pricey for what you get) is rated up to 212 degF (100 degC)
  • Utility knife, get a fresh blade.
    • Believe it or not, the Reflectix dulled a blade from cutting 2 jacket’s worth
  • Long straight edge (great cutting guide) or tape measure

Method /How it’s made:

Here are the basic principles of measuring out a jacket for your mash tun.
  1. Choose a reference start location for your measurements, both in height and distance around the kettle
    1. You’ll want to choose something that you will want to stop and start at (spigot, sight glass, etc)
    2. I chose the spigot for the perimeter and the top lip for the height
  2. Try to sketch out what the jacket will look like rolled out with windows for all of the obstacles (look at my provided template)
  3. Remember, it’s easier to remove material than add, so as they alway say, “Measure twice, cut once!”
  4. When adding an additional layer, remember that the cutout locations will move further from your reference at each layer, due to the additional diameter added with each layer.
    1. For the Reflectix, it averages out at about 0.225 inches thick, so here is quick table that shows the amount of additional length to add for each layer length to just make it around.  If you want to add a tab for velcro, I’d use about 2 additional inches as I did.
    2. The formula for this addition is: 2*Pi*0.225*(layer number)
  5. 025-Layer Offset Chart
  6. Then for each cutout, it will be a ratio of the table above, depending on how far around the circumference it it.
  7. In all reality, you might outsmart yourself with the math, so there is no shame in just doing it all by hand.  Just go one layer at a time, then tape it all together when you are done.
  8. For the lids, I just set the lid on top of the Reflectix and traced around it with the utility knife.  Then I just cut a little tab to go through the handle on the top.
  9. When you are done,  you can simply tape all of the ends together to make it nice and neat.  I chose to just tape the very ends, since on the curve the stiff aluminum tape was going to look pretty wrinkly

Completed Jacket:

Here is the dimension scheme for a 3 layer Reflectix jacket for the Brewer’s Edge Mash & Boil.  Mine sits just on top of the display panel and just under the top lip.  I also rounded dimensions to the nearest 1/4 inch to make measuring and cutting easy.
025-Reflectix Insulation Jacket
The hook and loop was pretty straightforward
025-Velcro
I didn’t want to mess with finishing all of the edges, so I just picked key areas.  I can always go back and add it if necessary.
025-Finished Edge
And here is the completed Reflectix jacket
025-Completed Jacket
If  you enjoyed this post, check out other posts on the site and be sure to shop through some of the affiliates on this site.

Compact Fermentation Chamber Heater

We all know the importance of temperature on fermentation.  However, often when we put temperature controllers on our fermentation chambers, we only need to worry about cooling.   In this post I’m going to show you how to make a simple compact heater for your fermentation chamber.

Difficulty: level_2

This is a fairly easy project.  It just requires some empty food cans, a small light socket and some lamp cord.  It should also not take any longer than 30 minutes once you have collected all of the parts.  The main cost for this project was the light bulb base, which was only about $5 and whatever you need to spend on bulbs.  The remainder are tools and components you can source from around your home.

Background:

Up until now, I’ve only used my fermentation chambers for lagers and since everything inside my house, I’ve only needed to cool.  Well this WAS ok until I needed to do an ale and my fermentation area in the basement only peaks at a cool 60 degF.

I also use converted dorm fridges and didn’t have space for a full size light bulb fixture and didn’t want to bother with the heating pad type heaters.

Necessity is the mother of invention…

Materials / Parts Needed:

  • Standard size container from canned vegetables
  • Tomato paste can
  • Spare lamp cord
  • Candelabra socket
  • Candelabra bulb
  • Electrical connectors and covering of your choice
    • Wire nuts
    • Butt splices
    • Electrical tape
  • Drill
  • Tin snips
  • Deburring tool
  • Stepper bit (helpful)

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - bulb heater parts needed

Obligatory Disclaimer:

If you are not comfortable working with wiring or electricity, please hire or find someone who is competent.  Also, be sure to place the finished heater in a location that will not get wet.

How to make:

Collect the cans and clean them

I used a can from some green beans and a tomato paste can.  Make sure they are all metal and not plastic lined.  Since you are homebrewers and obviously know how to clean and de-label containers, I won’t go into that.  I will however say that you want to try and get rid of as much of the smell from the original contents as possible.  The first use made my fermentation chamber smell like spaghetti sauce.

Cut the cans

Base / Tomato Paste Can

Drill a hole in the bottom of the tomato paste can as a pass through for the candelabra base.  I pre-drilled with a standard drill bit and then cleaned it up with a step bit.  I also used a deburring tool to clean up the edges.

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - hole in bottom of tomato paste can

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - stepper bit drilling in tomato paste can

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - rough hole in bottom of tomato paste can

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - looking into the bottom of tomato paste can rough hole

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - deburring tool

Then to cut it to length, it is easier if you pre-drill a hole to start your cut with the tin snips.  Also, you may need to make another cut up the side to allow you to pull the metal aside as you cut around the can.  BE CAREFUL, THE METAL IS THIN AND SHARP.

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - determine height of base

Since the cans are smooth and curved, it was helpful to center punch your hole location to give your drill bit a good place to start.

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - center punch

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - housing center punched for drilling

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - housing pre-drilled for cutting

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - vertical cut on can

I also cut a simple pass through for the cord and you’ll want to cover the edges with some electrical tape so you don’t accidentally cut the cord.

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - clearance cut on base

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - protective tape on base

Housing / Standard Can

All you need to modify on the housing is to drill a hole for the wire to pass through.  I actually just cut a 1/2″ diameter hole and then used a spare grommet from one of my fermenter lids to protect the cord.

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - housing with grommet

Attach the candelabra socket to the base

This is pretty straightforward.  Just take the collar off of the socket, feed the socket through your hole and tighten the collar.

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - candelabra base assembly

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - candelabra socket installed in base

Feed the wire through the hole in the housing

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - base installed in housing

Connect your power cord to the light socket

For this, I’m going to direct you to the interwebs to figure out which wire goes where:

Lamp cord polarity

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - crimped butt connectors

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - electrical tape on butt connectors

Install the bulb

I started with a 25W candelabra bulb that we had on hand for our sconces in the basement.  It heated my converted dorm fridge from 55 to 65 in about an hour with nothing in it.  I would suggest trying different wattages until you find something you are comfortable with.

Remember, just like electric heating elements in kettles, the concept of wattage density could matter.  If you go too high on the wattage, you might risk melting some plastic inside your chamber, the bucket or create a focused hot spot in your fermentation vessel.

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - finished compact bulb heater

Plug into the heater side of your temperature controller.

020-Fermentation Chamber Heater - testing compact bulb heater

Like this post?

Consider sharing on your favorite social hangout, shop online at my LHBS or any of the other links on my site.

GreatFermentationsLogo

Managing Your Brewing Schedule

In order to brew good beer, you need good preparation.  You’ve probably heard a coach, parent or teacher tell you the 5 P’s.
Prior
Preparation
Prevents
Poor
Performance
Or some variation on that theme…
I’ll show you how I plan out my brewing to make best use of my time, equipment and yeast.

Difficulty: level_2

This just requires a quick read and downloading of the Excel file or creating your own.  What you do from here is up to you.  You’ll be able to download my file at the end of this post.

Background:

I really love Gantt charts and how they can help you to be organized. Microsoft Project is either a really good or really bad tool to use (depending on who you ask). I actually like it for projects that I manage at work, but I don’t get into the fine details. I just use it for basic timelines, since it really helps me see the big picture. I started looking at using it for my fermentation schedules, but in brewing, your yeast are on a 24/7 schedule and I was finding all sorts of roadblocks in using 24 hour schedules in Project.

WarningSign

I ultimately decided to go back to my old trusted Excel spreadsheets for this task. This format has served me well for the last two years. I don’t claim that this is the ultimate way to do it, but it might at least serve as inspiration for someone else to create something grander.

Hover or click on each section to learn how I use this sheet.

Conclusions:

Like I said, I hope that this helps a fellow brewer out for mapping out their schedule or inspires another to build on this or create their own.  Happy Brewing!!

Download the spreadsheet by subscribing:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

By clicking on the download, you agree to the terms of this license and to be added to the awesome fermware.com subscriber list. Don’t worry, you won’t receive a bunch of trub in your inbox.

Please provide your name and email address for your free download.

Please wait...
Loader

All info below is a repeat for those whose browsers or mobile devices don’t like the image map format.

Beer Description and Basics:

014-Beer Descriptions and Basics

These columns simply denote the batch number, size, name and the yeast to use.  I just added yeast this year so I can manage my yeast more efficiently with re-use and/or racking onto yeast cakes.

Yeast Color Codes:

014-Yeast color codes

I heard on one of the brewing podcasts that you can actually go 8+ generations with really healthy yeast, but since I’m not in any kind of production capacity, I’m usually at the third generation before I’ve reached the end of my step ups.

Dates:

014-Dates

Since I typically brew on Saturdays, I just chose the Saturday date preceding the next week as my column headers.  I then highlight the weekends where we were either out of town, that weekend was off limits to brewing or maybe a weekend for a school break for the kids.

Very Top Row:

014-Top_Row

I didn’t enter any beers for NHC this year, but I did enter some in the Indiana Brewers Cup.  I had a week highlighted for the due date for entries and then the actual awards banquet.

Gantt Chart:

014-Schedule

014-Schedule_Key

This is really the core of my schedule, since it helps manage the timing of your brews along with your equipment capacity. As you can see in my schedule, I typically brew two batches at a time (as mentioned in the ABOUT MY BREWING).  When pairs of three are shown, I’ve started messing with maxing out my kettles with 1.5x the grain bill and reducing the water a little during the mash and boil, so that I get 3 batches (~15 gallons for me) out of one brew session.
Since most of my fermentations just follow a similarly timed schedule, all I do is just cut & paste (CNTL-X & CNTL-V for those like-minded keyboard shortcut preferring keyboard jockeys).  You may notice that I plan to try out the condensed lagering schedule later this year that is getting some attention lately.  Here is a link to Brulosophy’s Lager Method.

Conclusions:

Like I said, I hope that this helps a fellow brewer out for mapping out their schedule or inspires another to build on this or create their own.  Happy Brewing!!

Like this post?

Consider sharing on your favorite social hangout or making a small donation to help me purchase something to make another post.