Mar 2, 2014

The best money I ever spent on home brew equipment

Home brewers are attracted to all kinds of shiny stainless steel toys. We're like magpies or something. For all that shiny bling, the reality is that the best money I've spent is not on stainless steel but on things that make yeast happy. Good yeast management has been the key to improving my beer. If I lost everything else but still had this stuff, I could be up and brewing great beer again for less than the cost of a carton.


1. Temp controller for my fermentation fridge - $20


These babies are brilliant. They're such a cheap and easy way to keep the fermentation humming along at the temperature you want rather than being at the mercy of ambient temperatures. It takes a little wiring to get it set up but it's not too difficult. I scored the fridge I use for free so this is the winner of the biggest and cheapest improvement I've made to my beer.


2. Erlenmeyer flasks & stir plate - $80-100



I made the stir plate and bought 4 x 250ml flasks and 2 x 2000ml flasks along with several stir bars. That's enough to grow up yeast to keep up with my regular brewing schedule and keep several samples ready to be stepped up. It's a little bit of mucking around but with the help of a good yeast calculator it improved the consistency of my beer.


3. Oxygenation - $95


For some reason I found this one the most difficult to justify. It took me roughly a year of dithering about it before I finally pulled the trigger. Now I wish I'd done it immediately. I've used it for 12 batches so far and the slight off flavour I had with at least 1/2 my brews has disappeared. The rough routine I've worked out is to oxygenate for 60 seconds for gravities up to 1.060, 90 seconds for gravities between 1.060 and 1.075 and 120 seconds for lagers and beers over 1.075. In some ways this is the most satisfying improvement I've made to my beer. That niggling off flavour was annoying me and it seems to have been the final piece of the puzzle in terms of refining my brewing process.


3 comments:

  1. The flask and stir plate arrangement is fascinating... I wonder if that might be a good hands-free method to get honey wines going better too.

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    Replies
    1. Hmmm... the agitation would definitely help get it going more quickly but if it's anything like beer it'd be important to stop it early enough to avoid getting extra oxygen exposure during fermentation. I guess you could run it for a few hours and see how it goes.

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  2. Interesting stuff Nick, I'll be sure to pick your brains about all three at the Hobart Brew Club session.

    -Sam

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