Category Archives: Level 2

Level 2 difficulty

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

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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.

Sorry, image map is currently out of order.  Please use the descriptions below to see how each section is used.

[imagemap id=”1206″]

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.

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!!

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DIY Locker Shelf

Do you need a locker shelf, but can’t stomach paying $15 for a flimsy shelf?  Well it’s back to school time here and my daughter needed a locker shelf, so I did what any Tim Taylor type would do and build one myself.
As I stated in my About – This Blog page, I would have some posts that were non-beer related.  Well this is one of them.
I made one last year for my daughter and it screwed together once inside the locker.  I had assumed that they would take them out of their lockers on the last day of school, but they surprised me and did it the day before and I felt like a jerk, because the teacher didn’t have a screwdriver to take the thing apart.  This year, I decided to go with a design that was tool-less.

Difficulty: level_2

If you are even a novice woodworker, this should be a piece of cake.  Actual work time was probably about 15 minutes.  Gathering materials and your tools will add whatever time it generally takes you.

Supplies Needed:

  • 48″ section of shelving
    • 11″ to 12″ is a typical depth
    • I used a melamine board, because I had it on hand, but any shelving material should do
  • Scrap strip of wood for some supports
    • Again, I had a piece that was 3/4″ x 3/4″, but I’ll let you decide
    • something on the order of 40″-44″ should be close enough
  • Wood or drywall screws
    • They need to be shorter than the stackup of your shelf and wood strip (you’ll see later what I mean)

Tools Needed:

  • Drill
    • I’ve got a Makita drill and driver kit that is used in 95% of any of my projects.  If you don’t have a set, you need to.  Bosch, Makita and DeWalt all make good stuff.  A drill is, well, a drill.  But I love the impact drivers.  They make it effortless to run screws into anything.
  • Tape measure
  • Circular Saw
  • Clamps (for securing the wood to your work surface when cutting)

The Build:

Alright, lets get to it.  Measure twice, cut once.  Right??

You should have the interior dimensions of the locker in hand.  Many schools provide this information on their website.  Ours were 13-1/2″ wide, by 11″ deep.  I went just a bit under on width at 13-3/8″.  You don’t want too much free play however, because if there is too much movement, the shelf could collapse on itself.  You’ll know how sturdy it is when you install it in the locker.  The 11″ standard shelf depth worked out well, but I still had to trim a little off due to the frame of the door.

To help you visualize how this is going to go together, here is what each corner will look like.  You can see that the uprights support the weight of the shelf.  Then the stops that are screwed to the shelf basically prevent the uprights from leaning in.  The interior wall of the locker prevents the uprights from falling out.  Easy right?

locker shelf - shelf - how it works

Cut the top shelf piece to length.

locker shelf - Measurement - width

Then decide how tall you want it.  If you got a 48″ section, you should have enough wood to make something around 16″ tall at the most.  That should be sufficient for most books and notebooks.  Remember your total height will be the length of each upright, plus the thickness of the shelf.  And the underneath height will be the length of the uprights.

Now cut the uprights, just as you did for the top.

Next will be the strips that keep the uprights from moving.  These should be shorter than the depth of the shelf.  They will be fastened to the shelf top with screws.  You’ll need two strips per shelf.  I’m building two shelves here (one for each daughter needing one), hence a total of 4.

Mark out a line approximately 1″ from each end and then eyeballing the center should be good enough.

locker shelf - strips - marked for drilling

Pre-drill vs. Through Hole

You’ll want to drill “through holes” in the strips and “pre-drill” the shelf.

A through hole is just that, it allows the fastener to go through a material without actually gripping it and is larger than the major (or maximum) diameter of the fastener.

A pre-drill is used to reduce the risk of the wood splitting when you drive the screw in.  An appropriate pre-drill size for wood is right at the minor diameter or slightly under.  You can measure these dimensions if you have a pair of calipers, but I’m using my “eyechrometer” for these.

You can see below that the drill bit is slightly larger than the screw.  This is what I will use to drill the through holes in the wood support strips.

locker shelf - holes - predrill size

This next image shows selecting the pre-drill size for the shelf.  Notice that the drill diameter is approximately the same as the root diameter of the screw.

locker shelf - holes - through hole size

This next step is optional.  I used a counter-sink kit to allow the screws to sit flush with the top of the wood when fully secured.  Sometimes in harder woods, you’d end up splitting the wood if you ran the screws hard enough into the wood to make them flush.  They basically create a cone shape for the head of the fastener to sit in.

locker shelf - holes - countersink

See, nice pretty countersunk holes.

locker shelf - holes - countersinks completed

Now we need to pre-drill the shelf to attach the support strips.  You’ll need to measure the thickness of your upright.

locker shelf - measurement - shelf thickness

Then use that measurement to determine the spacing from the edge of the shelf to the location of the support strip.

locker shelf - measurement - stop offset

Mark a line so you know if anything moves when you are drilling the holes.

You’ll need screws that are shorter than the thickness of the shelf and the support strips.

locker shelf - holes - evaluating depth

You’ll also want to be careful to not drill all the way through the shelf.  Pointy screws poking out tend to rip books and cut hands!  I’ll sometimes use a short section of masking tape wrapped around the drill bit to mark the proper depth of the drill bit.

locker shelf - holes - drill depth marker

Now take your pre-drill size and use the holes in the support strips as a location guide.

locker shelf - holes - drilling

Once you have everything pre-drilled, it’s time to secure them to the shelf.  Nice and flush!

locker shelf - strips - attached and countersunk

locker shelf - top - with strips attached

Here is the completed shelf sitting up against the screwed together version 1 from last school year.

locker shelf - shelf - assembled and tested

Besides getting it to the locker, you’re DONE!

Getting it into the locker:

  • Set the uprights on the sides of the locker floor
  • Place the shelf on top, ensuring that the support strips fit in between the uprights

Not into brewing, but like to make stuff?  Check out these posts:

Making Belgian Candi Sugar
Rolling Deep Freezer Dolly

Are you curious about making your own beer and would like to learn more?   Try out a beginning brewing kit:

Choosing a Starting Brewing Kit

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