2014 Brew Year in Review

It’s 2015, isn’t that crazy?  Twenty-Fifteen. It sounds so… futuristic.  A friend shared an article with me comparing how close certain dates were to each other, like 1980 being closer to FDR, Churchill, and Hitler fighting each other than it is to today.  Cray-zee. Well we’re looking forward to what the future holds for us here at MHB as we look back on the awesomeness of 2014.

2014 Brew Year in Review

  • We brewed 12, 5-gallon batches of beer
  • We brewed 3, 1-gallon experimental batches of beer
  • We brewed 2, 5 gallon batches of mead
  • We brewed 2, 5-gallon batches of hard lemonade (Sweet, sweet lemonade)
  • All in we brewed 83 gallons of alcoholic beverages in 2014 (Maybe we should shoot for 100 this year)
  • We failed miserably at growing Centennial hops, not a single cone
  • We completed OU’s 400 level chemistry course, The Chemistry of Beer
  • We were invited to brew and serve one of our beers at a local brewery (Burnt Hickory Brewery) for their anniversary party
  • We entered 3 of our beers across 4 BJCP sanctioned contests
  • We won 2 awards for our beers: A 3rd place finish for Synesthesia Saison and recently a 1st place (we think, it’s a long story) for It’s The Great Pumpkin, Timmy D!
  • I almost forgot, our label for Atlantarctica was selected as a finalist for AHA’s Label Contest

A few stats about our website in 2014

Looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us in 2015 if we want to top our 2014 accomplishments.  I think we can do it.  Our main/only goal in 2015 is to brew better beer.  We improved our knowledge and process a lot in 2014 and we’ll continue to do that in 2015.  There are a few pieces of equipment we’d like to add our upgrade, since Santa punked me out on the Sabco.  I’ll remember that, Santa.

I hope everyone had a great 2014 and that 2015 is even better.  We’re definitely looking forward to what the year in beer holds for us.

Brewed and Bottled – Rainy Day IPA

This weekend we bottled up our Rainy Day IPA.  It’s a very sessionable at 4.0% ABV and not too hard on the palate at 42 IBU.  This is Brian’s recipe and was based on a few clone recipes of Founder’s All Day IPA.   The recipe included Maris Otter, Caramel and Rye malt along with Simcoe, Amarillo and Centennial hops.  Based on the samples we tried at bottling this should be a great beer.

Rainy Day IPA

Rainy Day IPA

We brewed this one on 12/28/13, our last beer of 2013.  The weather didn’t want to cooperate with us and it was cold and rainy and windy, all around crappy.  We had to set up a tent/awning to keep the rain out of our boil kettle and heaters cranking to keep us from freezing to death, OK… maybe 40°F wouldn’t freeze us to death but we live in the South so anything below 50° is freezing as far as we’re concerned.  Considering how nature was being such a mother the brew day went pretty well overall.

We also got to try out some new gear for this brew day.  We replaced the braided hose in our MLT with a bazooka screen and we got a pH meter that we used for the first time.  I won’t go into a bunch about pH meters as there’s plenty of reading out there if you choose, but we purchased the Oakton Eco Testr pH 2 and we have been happy with it so far.  It has an overall 4 star review and the price was $47.43 when we ordered it.  After we use it a bit more I’ll probably do a more detailed ‘review’ of it.

Capped and Cased

Capped and Cased

There are pros and cons to adding new gear to your brewhouse.  Improvements are always nice but anything you add to the equipment will change the results of your brew, hopefully for the better, but you still have to adjust for the changes made.  As an example, the bazooka screen flowed much quicker when we were lautering and sparging, we had to keep an eye on the flow and adjust so we didn’t move too quickly, I think this may have cost us a couple points of gravity but we know now for next time.  Using the pH meter I found the pH of our water out of the tap is 8.8, normal range is 7.0 – 8.5 so it’s a bit on the hard side.  I haven’t looked yet to see if I need to make any tweaks there however the mash pH was 5.4 so we fell within the acceptable range.

Everything else went smoothly.  We kept this in primary at 62°F for 2 weeks the dry-hopped for a week, cold-crashing it the last couple days before bottling.   I’m really stoked to try this one and with the lower ABV it should be ready fairly quickly.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and it will rain here in a couple weeks so I can try it out in its intended environment.

Here’s a little data porn for those that like this stuff.  I chart out the fermentation temps and then mark the low and high points during primary fermentation and any anomalies.  We use an STC-1000 temp controller on our fermentation chamber and, as you can see on the chart, it kept us within +/-  0.52°F for the whole two week fermentation.  That’s pretty solid control.

Click the chart to view that sucker full size.

Rainy Day IPA - Fermentation Chart

Rainy Day IPA – Fermentation Chart

Heating things up… adding heat to the fermentation chamber.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!  Mine was awesome, my family all lives out of town but I was able to see everyone earlier in the week and then on Thanksgiving Day I had invites to join two groups of friends for dinner.  I shared some of our Horsey Holidays Horse Pop, which was a hit, and ate and drank until I couldn’t move.  I was able to roll myself into my easy chair with a glass of bourbon and a cigar and called it a night.  Good times.

Horsey Holidays - Tis' the Season

Horsey Holidays – Tis’ the Season

A little while back I shared my info on wiring up the STC-1000 temp controller for heating and cooling a fermentation chamber.  At the time there was no need to add heating but now that temps are dropping it’s a necessity.  After researching a few options I originally went with a small space heater in order to help circulate the warm air.  This worked great for about a week but then the heater died, after sitting overnight the heater started working again but I didn’t trust it to keep our beer safe, so I added a Zoo Med Ceramic Infrared Heat Lamp to the chamber.  It’s been going for a couple weeks now and is holding rock solid.  Note that there are a couple types of reptile heat lamps, this one is ceramic and emits no light, probably the better choice for a fermentation chamber.

Fermentation Chamber with Heater

Fermentation chamber with heater.

Close up on the heat lamp

Close up on the heat lamp.

As you can see from the chart below, there was minimal variation in temps throughout the fermentation process.  I started the fermentation at 62°F (all temps converted from °C) for a couple days then ramped it up to 64°F.  The temperature range once the controller was set to 64°F was 63.68°F to 64.40°F, a variance of only 0.72°F  over a 2 week period (not counting the heater dying) and never more than 0.40 degrees off the target of 64.0°F.  Pretty impressive control.  I was also impressed that the heat lamp was able to pull the temp back to 64°F in <12 hours.

Click chart for full size image.

Fermentation Temperature Chart

Fermentation Temperature Chart

We’re getting ready to rack the beer onto some fruit for secondary fermentation this weekend and we’ll monitor the process with temp control there as well.  I’ve read/heard a thousand times that temp control is the biggest change a homebrewer can make to affect the quality of their beer.  This brew is a huge IIPA so I’m can’t wait to see what we get out of it.  We’ll report back once the beer is ready.

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