"Wait! What? Is this where I was going?" These are common questions asked by the average visitor to our site. To answer these questions simply: Yes, here you'll find all sorts of interesting information about how to build your own brewing equipment.
Build your own? Well, you could go buy most, or even all of, this stuff brand spanking new, it is true. However, If you're already brewing your own beer, you're more than likely someone like me. And by "like me", I mean that you just don't want to pay for beer! you like making stuff with your own hands.
The benefits of building your own equipment are many. Firstly, you get to say "I brewed this beer using equipment that I built myself". Who, exactly you'd be saying this to, is anyone's guess though. Secondly, you'll be saving a lot of money.
I've put togethere a little challenge for you. If you're up to it that is. Click the preview image below to get through to the full challange.
My previous brew (Watermelon Pale Ale) was an attempt to make a nice sessionable drink for the boiling hot Cederberg. Now, it didn't turn out quite as I was hoping, but I did learn a few things. The most important is that watermelon makes a very interesting adjunct and can work really well, but a lot of the sugars that make watermelon sweet, just aren't there, they've been turned into alcohol. So what's watermelon like without the sweetness? Tart!, but saying that, once you're a third into the beer, you're used to it and it becomes quite enjoyable. But the fact that it has now lost some of the sweetness takes that session quality that I was aiming for.
The main problem that I had with that brew was the fact that the sweetness was missing. So, how do you add sweetness to a beer? Adding sugar is not really a good idea, as the yeast will just go and eat it all up to make more alcohol. The answer is in making a naturally weet beer. The sweetest beer type that I can think of is a Weissbier/Weizenbier/Witbier/Wheat beer. Now I must point out that I was going to make a Watermelon Weizen, but my brew shop was all out of wheat. So I tried the Pale Ale instead.
As a brewer, you know that some things are good for brewing while other things not so much. Sanitizing = good. Bacteria = bad. however, one of the lesser-known evils in the wonderful world of brewing is light. More specifically sunlight. Most specifically, visible and ultraviolet light.
I'm not going to go into the chemical science behind it, but basically, the light causes some of the lovely chemicals that are formed in the kettle to break down. The really bad news is that it forms another chemical that is almost identical to the one formed in the skunk's anal scent glands. Not really the best of flavourants. When this has happens to the beer, it's referred to as "skunked beer".
As the susceptible chemical (iso-humulone) is formed during the boil, it is present in the wort from when it is being boiled all the way through until you've consumed the beer. This means that not only is it best to keep your fermenter as dark as possible, but also to keep your beer bottles out of direct sunlight (or any light if possible). If you're bottling, then another factor which helps, is to use brown bottles. Unfortunately, blue and green glass allow the correct wavelength of light through that will do the damage.
When I made my first batch of beer, the instructions said that I should chill the recently boiled wort as quickly as possible. The reason for this is that bacteria thrives in warm (30°C - 65°C) sugary solutions. Bacteria bad! With a small twelve litre pot, it's easy just to lower the pot into a basin of ice-water. With a 30 litre pot, not so much. So there were a few other options:
Guess which way I went! (hint: I built my own)
Okay, before we begin, it's important to understand what's happening here.
There are basically 2 tubes, one inside of the other. In the very middle, we've got our boiling wort being gravity-fed through a narrow copper tube. Copper is GREAT at transferring heat, and as we're looking to shed as much as possible, it's the way to go. It also helps that copper is pliable. Now this copper tube is inside some regular hose pipe. This is so that the hose can have cold water running up-hill on the outside of the copper tube. As the water coming out of a regular tap is usually around 15°C, and will be on the other side of the copper, it will gladly take as much energy (heat) from the copper as possible. Below is an image explaining this. An added benefit of this, which none of the other cooling options has is that the wort is closed off from the atmosphere (where the bacteria are) while it's in the critical temperature range.
One word, simple short to the point, yet at the same time, relaying both an idea as well as emotion. Beer.
Simple enough, and for the vast majority an enjoyable way to relax with friends and watch the game. However, for most of us (I'm talking about me and you here, those of us that are on this site), it's something a little more than just a way to relax. We've decided to take on the challenge of making our own beer. Not quite happy to settle for the pale lager that we shared with our dads. No, we wanted something a little more adventurous, more exciting.
My first real experience with different beer happened while I was on a month's vacation in Germany in 2009. Although I came back to South Africa and looking for something a little more, I didn't know what exactly it was that I was looking for. That was until I started attending all the local Beer events in Cape Town. There are a few and I'll be surprised if you haven't heard of at least one of them. (Check out the links on the side for just a few)