Tragedy at the brewery.

Sometimes I like to just jump into things without thinking about them too much.  Actually, that’s usually the way I do things.  Then I screw something up and I think, “Oh, OK… I shouldn’t do that.”  This is how I like to learn things.  So far I haven’t killed myself with this method so it’s working for me.

I took this approach with kegging beer.  Buy a keezer and kegs and put beer in them.  Done.  This is where the learning part comes in.

Since I had a fancy-shmancy kegging system I wanted some tap handles to go with it, so I made some.  I wanted to make sure that I got the insert in the bottom on the handle straight so I figured the best way to do this was to put the insert on the tap and screw the wood into the base.  This worked well for getting the insert into the tap handle.  It also snapped the faucet lever inside the tap.  This gave my tap handle a nice, smooth 360° rotation thing like one of the Apple computer joysticks, anyone remember those.  However the nice and rotaty tap quickly turned into the will not close tap and I found myself standing there with a 12 oz glass trying to catch 5 gallons of beer.  After about 10 seconds of confusion my ninja-ing skills kicked in and I yanked the keezer open and pulled the beer line from the keg.  However I did not pull the CO2 line off the keg.  I closed the lid, confident that the crisis had been solved because I’m a friggin’ genius.  This is what I found the next day…

Just go ahead and scoop yourself a pint outta the keezer.

Just go ahead and scoop yourself a pint outta the keezer.

My best guess here is that there’s about 3-4 gallons of Rawktoberfest ale in the bottom of the keezer there, the keg was still foaming out of the beer plug when I opened it up.  He’s where I got some learning to do, I’m not sure if it did this because I failed to remove the CO2 or I have a faulty seal on my plug.  I’m sure my Google-fu will solve this one soon enough.

On a positive note I’ll have the parts today to fix the tap and I have a great opportunity to gain more knowledge of the kegging system.  I imagine I’ll be building my own Corny kegs from old paint cans within a week.

How to make super sexy tap handles.

Some more DIY action here at The Mostly Harmless Brewing Co.

With our recent keezer addition we kegged our first beer last weekend, an Oktoberfest Ale dubbed RAWKTOBERFEST!  We also brewed a Pumpkin Pie Ale that we hope will be our most awesome and highest ABV beer to date, estimated to hit ~9.5%.  With amazing brews like this coming along we needed some awesome tap handles to pull our pints from.

Disclaimer:  I am not a carpenter or wood finisherer.  There may be better methods to do this but this worked for me.  If you have a suggestion please feel free to leave it the comments.  Also, I probably should have taken some pics along the way but I didn’t, sorry.  I’ve just got a nice pic of the finished product but you’re smart guys and gals, if you figured out how to brew beer and make a keezer then I’d bet a dollar you can figure this out.

Super Sexy Tap Handles

Super Sexy Tap Handles

What you’re going to need.

  • Wood.  Pick whatever you like to use but just make sure it’s thick enough to install the threaded insert and not break.  I used maple for mine.
  • Threaded wood inserts.  Probably a 3/8″ x 16.  You can get a pack of 10 on Amazon for $6.37 with free shipping for Prime customers, that’s the best price I’ve found.
  • A saw.  I used a jigsaw, it got the job done but a tabletop scroll saw would be even better.
  • Screwdriver.  A thick flat tip for installing the threaded insert
  • Paint or stain of your choice
  • Wood glue
  • Foam brush
  • Plastic squeegee.
  • Lint free clean-up rags
  • Protective finish.  I used gloss spray polyurethane with good results.
  • Fine sandpaper.  I used 400 grit wet sanding pads, worked well for me.   It will depend on the quality of your lumber and your finish.
  • Optional: Pre-stain wood conditioner.  Good idea for woods like maple that tend to blotch when stained.

How to make this happen.

  • Decide on a shape and length for your tap handles and mark the outline on your lumber.
  • Cut that sucker out.
  • Sand it real good.  Get it as smooooth as you can as that’s going to help get a good finish.
  • Mark the center point of your tap base and drill the hole for the threaded insert.  The insert I used required a 1/2″ hole.
  • Install the threaded insert.  Be careful here, if the hole you drilled is too small the insert can break when you’re trying to screw it in.  Make sure to get this straight and centered when you install it.  Use an extra-wide flat head screwdriver.
  • Touch up any rough edges with your sandpaper.
  • Stuff a piece of paper into the threads before you start finishing the wood.
  • Optional step, use wood conditioner if you’re going to stain your handle.  Follow directions on the can.
  • Apply paint or stain.  I was going to stain these but wanted it darker than the stain I had so I used gloss black spray paint.  You’ll likely need a few coats to make it look nice.  Don’t get sloppy here.
  • My paint had a bit of the orange peel look to it.  After painting I sanded with wet 400 grit sanding pads and it smoothed out nicely.
  • Affix the label (if you’re putting a label on yours) with wood glue.   Put a very thin layer on with a brush, coat the entire area where the label will go.  Place the label and then use the squeegee to get out all excess glue, make sure to really squeegee it well.
  • Use a damp cloth to clean up the residue.  Make sure it’s not too wet or you’ll damage your label.
  • Chill out and have a beer and let this dry.
  • Apply your finish.  I used gloss spray poly and like the way mine came out.  You’ll need a few coats, just eyeball when it looks like you’ve got a nice layer on there.
  • Let it dry for a day or two
  • Polish the finish with wet sanding with super-fine sandpaper.
  • Install on your tap and party on.

And there you have it, handmade tap handles.  A pretty simple project that gives you a nice custom touch to your setup.  I can’t wait until our beers are ready to flow with these fancy tap handles, I’m sure they’re going to make the beer taste even better.

Keezer Temp Controller Using the STC-1000

We recently added a keezer to our arsenal and the person we purchased it from was controlling temps by adjusting the internal thermostat.  We wanted a bit more control over the temps for storing and serving our beers so I built a temp controller to add to the keezer.  A match made in beer heaven.

If you’ve done a bit of looking around at temp controllers you’ve likely seen the STC-1000 mentioned, it’s the go to device for those that don’t mind a bit of DIY.  If you have at least some mechanical/electrical abilities this is very easy to build and total cost is only around $40.00.  The project can be completed in about an hour once you gather everything up.  You ready?  Let’s do this.

STC-1000 Temp Controller Completed

STC-1000 Temp Controller Completed

KEEZER TEMP CONTROLLER BUILD INSTRUCTIONS

Parts List:

  • STC-1000 temp controller  Make sure to get the one rated for 110v and NOT 220v or 12v DC!  (At the time of this post you can get one for $17.92 via Amazon.com, shipped free with a Prime Membership)
  • STC-1000 Temp Controller with FAHRENHEIT display Just added to Amazon, no more messing around converting from Celsius! UPDATE PLEASE READ!  This is not the same as the °C version of the STC-1ooo.  The °F version and only control heating or cooling, it cannot be setup to control two outlets at the same time for simultaneous heating/cooling.
  • Duplex Receptacle Outlet
  • Duplex Receptacle Trim Plate
  • Project Enclosure (I used the 8x6x3 from Radio Shack)
  • Power Cord (I used a 15′ cord and cut pieces from it to use for the internal wiring. You can also use an old computer power cord.)
  • Wire nuts
  • Spade wire connectors (optional)

Tool list:

  • Pencil
  • Ruler or other straight edge
  • Wire cutter / stripper
  • Fleshlight (Just checking to see if you’re reading all of this.)
  • Dremel or other cutting tool
  • Flat and Phillips screwdrivers
  • Electrical tape
  • Drill and bits

Instructions:

  1. Lay out all your parts and make sure you’ve got everything there.
  2. Mark the outline of the STC-1000 and the wall receptacle on the lid of the project enclosure and cut them out.  REMEMBER, you want the inner dimensions of the STC-1000 cut into your enclosure!
  3. Mark and drill holes on the front and back bottom sides (does that make sense?) for the power cord and temp probe to come out of the box, you want these on opposite ends of the enclosure.
  4. Break the hot side jumper tab off of the wall receptacle, this allows you to control each outlet independently.  This is much easier to do before mounting and wiring… trust me.
  5. Mount the STC-1000 and the receptacle in your enclosure.  Attach trim plate over receptacle.
  6. Cut and strip the ends of your power cord.
  7. Run power cord and temp probe into the holes you drilled in the enclosure.
  8. Using the wiring diagram below, wire everything up.
    • On the STC-1000, terminals 1, 5 & 7 are connected via wire nut to the black wire on your power cord.
    • Terminal 2 will connect to ‘cold side in’ on the receptacle.
    • Terminals 3 & 4 will be for the included temperature probe
    • Terminal 6 goes to one hot side connection on the receptacle for your heating control.  Make a note of which outlet you wire for heating and cooling.
    • Terminal 8 goes to the other hot side connection on the receptacle for your cooling control
    • Connect the other cold side connection on the receptacle to the white wire on the power cord.
    • Connect the green wire on the power cord to the ground on the power receptacle.
  9. Wrap electrical tape around the power cord and temp probe to use as a stopper inside the enclosure.  This will prevent the cords from being pulled and damaging your wiring.
  10. Making sure all connections are secure and you have no crossed wires, gently lay the lid with the controller and outlet back on the enclosure.  Plug in the enclosure to verify it powers up.  If you have an outlet tester or multimeter you can set the programming and test each outlet as well.
  11. Place the lid back on the enclosure and secure it with the 4 screws.
  12. You. Are. Done.
STC-1000 Temp Controller Wiring Diagram

STC-1000 Temp Controller Wiring Diagram

Temp Controller Wiring

Temp Controller Wiring

Break off the tab connection these terminals.

Break off the tab connecting these terminals.

So there you have it.  You’ve just built a temp controller you can use on your keezer to keep your brews right where you want them or in a fermentation chamber for lagering.  Add a heat wrap and kick it up for those Saisons and Belgians.  Oh yeah, the STC-1000 only reads in Celsius and since I’m an AMERICAN I don’t know how to read that crap.  I solved the problem of reading in this Commie temperature scale by printing out a Commie-to-‘Merica conversion chart and attaching it to the controller box with gravity.  I’ve included the chart below if you’d like to use it, it prints nicely on business card sheets.  You’re welcome.

Celsius to Fahrenheit Conversion Chart

Celsius to Fahrenheit Conversion Chart

We be Keggin’

Another brewhouse upgrade!  We added a Keezer setup to our gear and we’ll be kegging our first batch this weekend, our Oktoberfest Ale.  We’re also going to brew a Pumpkin Pie Ale that should be ready just in time for the crisp Fall weather.  Just a single tap for now so we’ll either need to add some taps or slow down our brewing.

I also got the parts to build a temperature controller.  I picked up an STC-1000 off Amazon for $17.96, it seems to be the most popular controller, as well as a project box and wiring to get this thing together.  I’ll share some pics when it’s done… provided I don’t electrocute myself.

Oh yeah, we also bottled our Mostly Mosaic, a Mosaic pale ale.  Samples out of the carboy tasted great, hopefully this one develops well.

Da Keezer

Da Keezer