Tuesday 31 October 2023

Custom Triple Tap Kegerator Font Decal Holder

We've previously shared the details of our 3D printed beer tap decals that we had installed on our converted fridge/kegerator with a simple decal holder that attaches to each of the taps.

The original tap decal holders we used but were no longer suitable on our triple tap font

However, after upgrading to our new outdoor kitchen setup featuring a KegLand Series X kegerator with black triple tap font, these decal holders simply didn't work for us any more.

When installed behind the tap, the decals are obstructed by the tap handle. This isn't typically a problem since most bars have the customer behind the tap, so the handle doesn't get in the way. A home bar/kegerator setup is different though, since we want to see the decal from in front of the tap. We worked around this on the previous keg fridge by off-setting the decal holders to the side as you can see in the picture above, however there just simply isn't enough space around the taps for this to work on the triple tap font as the taps are too close together.

Not wanting to give up on our on-going project of 3D printing beer decals for each of our brews, we got creative by designing and 3D printing a custom decal holder to integrate with the triple tap font.

The design itself is pretty simple and is comprised of three individual pieces. 

The first is a cap the sits on top of the font with a hole in the middle of it. 

The base/cap sits on top of the font tower with a hole in the top that the post slides into

The second component is a cylindrical rod/post that slots into the hole in the cap.

The post that joins the base/cap to the cross bar (below)

The third and final piece is the "cross bar" that sits on the post and has 3 round backing plates that the decals attach to (the decals are separate pieces and are fixed to the cross bar piece by blu-tack).

It's simple, yet effective and we love the flexibility of messing around with different fonts, colours and styles for the tap decals.

This is our second iteration of the design. We may look at making some other minor tweaks like lowering the cross bar height a little, and potentially moving the decals a little bit closer together.

The finish isn't perfect on the pieces either - some light sanding would help to smooth it all out but for a bit of fun we like the concept, and as far as we're aware there's nothing like it that can be currently purchased.

What do you think? Would you make any further adjustments to the design? Let us know in the comments below.

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Thursday 26 October 2023

Product Review: The "Brewing Boondoggle" Homebrewing System

AI is all the rage at the moment, and in the homebrewing community many content creators are leveraging the power of artificial intelligence to generate things like beer recipes. So for no reason other than my own curiosity and entertainment, and in keeping with the theme of this site, I thought I'd ask ChatGPT to write a satirical review for a fictional piece of homebrewing equipment. The results did not disappoint.

On top of this, I went and step further and asked several AI image generators to draw up what they though the Brewing Boondoggle would look like based off this review. Once again, was not disappointed. Enjoy.

The "Brewing Boondoggle" Homebrewing System

Well, folks, gather 'round, because I've had the distinct pleasure of trying out the Brewing Boondoggle homebrewing system, and let me tell you, it's a real head-scratcher. If you're looking for a convoluted, time-consuming, and utterly confounding way to brew your own beer, this is the contraption for you!

Appearance and Build Quality: 2/5

The Brewing Boondoggle looks like something a mad scientist would cook up in their garage, and it's about as user-friendly as a Rubik's Cube. The assembly process is a puzzle in itself, and the various mismatched components and leaky hoses give it a certain "Frankenstein's brew" aesthetic.

At least everything has been laid out neatly for this one

Ease of Use: 1/5

To say that using the Brewing Boondoggle is a test of your patience and sanity would be an understatement. You'll spend more time scratching your head and consulting the cryptic instruction manual than actually brewing beer. The labyrinthine controls and confusing interface make you feel like you need a degree in quantum mechanics just to get the thing started.

Simple and easy to use, right?

Performance: 1/5

As far as performance goes, the Brewing Boondoggle manages to consistently underwhelm. Its temperature control is about as precise as a sledgehammer, and it seems to have a knack for overheating or underheating your brew at the most inopportune moments. The whole process is akin to a rollercoaster of fluctuating flavors and inconsistent results.

Is that the remnants of a "Grainfather" logo I can see there?

Versatility: 2/5

Versatility? Well, you can technically use it to brew beer, but I wouldn't bet on the results. Want to experiment with different styles and recipes? Good luck, because the Brewing Boondoggle seems to have a personal vendetta against consistency. You're just as likely to end up with a barleywine resembling dishwater as you are a crisp IPA.

Price and Value: 1/5

The only thing more bewildering than the Brewing Boondoggle itself is the price tag. For the amount you'd spend on this Rube Goldberg machine, you could buy several top-tier homebrewing systems that actually make sense. It's a bit like paying top dollar for a Picasso that's been painted with a potato.

Final Verdict:

A three legged vessel would be perfectly stable, right?

If you're a fan of brewing chaos and appreciate a good laugh at the expense of your sanity, the Brewing Boondoggle might be just what you need. It's a surreal journey into the world of overly complicated homebrewing, where the only thing you can count on is a good story to tell your friends about your misadventures. But if you actually want to brew drinkable beer without losing your mind, you might want to look elsewhere. Cheers, and may the brewing gods have mercy on your soul if you decide to take the plunge with this baffling contraption!

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Wednesday 25 October 2023

KegLand - Sergeant Sparge Head - Wort Spreader/Aerator - Hands on Review

KegLand have recently released the Sergeant Sparge Head - a wort sprinkler aimed to integrate with their range of BrewZilla all-in-one brewing systems.

Sergeant Sparge Head assembled and connected to our recirculation hose

To be honest, we're surprised it's taken KegLand this long to design and release this product as most other all-in-one brewing systems feature some sort of mechanism to help evenly spread the wort over the mash bed when recirculating.

The BrewZilla systems do include a perforated top plate which sits on top of the mash bed to ultimately try and achieve the same thing, but in our experience with our BrewZilla 3.1.1 brewing system we found this top plate would sink and ultimately compact the grain bed which can potentially have a negative impact on mash efficiency as it reduces the ability of wort to recirculate back through it. It can also make it difficult to retrieve and take out this top plate to stir your grain bed during the mash (which is something we like to do) if it has been sunk down well below the top wort level with ~65°C wort above it.

So what is the Sergeant Sparge Head exactly? It's essentially a threaded plastic tube which attaches to the output hose of your re-circulation pipe. The wort travels down through the tube, and hits the round diffusion disc at the end which then redirects and distributes the wort outwards, spreading it evenly across the grain bed.

Failure to use some sort of method to distribute the wort like this can result in "channeling", where the wort being recirculated creates a path or channel through the grain bed which results in a drastic loss of efficiency since the recirculating wort isn't coming into contact and wetting all the grain within the grain bed. Less wetted grain means less starches converted to sugars, which means less efficiency. Got it? Good.

Packaging is minimal, but is all you need

Like with many KegLand products, packaging is minimal and Sergeant Sparge Head is no exception, coming in a simple plastic bag. Included in the pack is a 1/2" diameter threaded body which is 50mm in length, a 12.7mm stainless barb tail with a seal which is what essentially connects the sparge head to the output hose of your recirculation pipe, and lastly a 1/2" stainless steel retaining nut to hold it in place.

The 3 key components of the Sargeant Sparge Head

With only three components it takes seconds to assemble, and connects very easily to the 10mm ID diameter silicone hose included with the BrewZilla systems.

The threaded body also means that an additional locking nut (not included) can be threaded onto the sparge head to adjust it's height and secure it to the centre hole on the lid of the BrewZilla units.

10mm Internal Diameter (ID) silicone hose fits perfectly to the Sergeant Sparge Head

Speaking of silicone hoses, one slight issue we discovered is that if the silicone hose you're using isn't perfectly straight, the sparge head won't sit level resulting in an annoying off-centered spread of wort. We had a small roll of 10mm ID silicone hose that we'd purchased some time ago, and since it comes packaged in a coil the curve of this coil persisted after being cut. Surely there's a way to straighten these hoses out, however something like the Stainless Flexi Arm from Kegland would be a really good addition with the Sergeant so you can set and angle it exactly how you want it. We can see a purchase of one of these in our immediate future.

We performed some initial testing using water in our BrewZilla - check out the video below which demonstrates the different spray patterns depending on the flow rate set by the ball valve on the recirculation pipe/arm. Note the annoying curve in the hose as we previously mentioned.

We also gave the Sergeant a go in a recent brew, and after cutting a much shorter piece of hose to have the sparge head sitting just above the level of the grain bed we found it worked really well and did exactly what it was supposed to do. 

A shorter length of hose also meant there wasn't as much bend in it so we could get it a little closer to straight and into the centre of the grain bed. We typically recirculate quite slowly and this batch had a high amount of wheat so we couldn't open the recirculation flow rate right up, but for us it was definitely an improvement over the top plate, or using nothing at all and having to secure the hose to the side of the BrewZilla some how to prevent any channeling from occurring.

The sparge head is versatile too, with another couple of potential uses in addition to wort recirculation. Firstly, you could also use the Sergeant Sparge Head when transferring to your fermenter to help aerate your wort. How effective this would be in actually introducing oxygen into your wort is debatable, as is the requirement for aeration and oxygen of wort in the first place (if you're not using liquid yeast) - but that's a discussion for another day. We certainly agree that it could be used for this purpose and you certainly wouldn't cause any harm or detriment to your wort by doing so when transferring to the fermenter.

The other additional use would be when sparging to help distribute your sparge water evenly over the grain bed to prevent channeling like we've talked about with wort recirculation. This is great in theory, however you would need a recirculation arm extension or other method to hold the sparge head in place when the grain basket is lifted on your BrewZilla, since the included recirculation arm isn't high enough to allow this.

If you're using an all-in-one brewing system like the BrewZilla and don't have something like this already to aid in recirculating or sparging, we think it's well worth considering. It would also be compatible with other brewing systems so long as you can connect a suitably sized hose to it, so don't think you have to have a BrewZilla to be able to use it.

At only AU$9.95 from the KegLand website, the Sergeant Sparge Head Wort Spreader and Aerator is a worthwhile and cost-effective upgrade, and in our opinion is definitely a better option than using the stainless top plate that comes with the BrewZilla systems. We also prefer it to using no top plate and having to fix the recirculation hose above the grain bed to get the wort flowing around evenly over it without creating a hole or channel through it.

We'd also highly recommend the flexi arm to be used in conjunction with it so you can angle and set the sparge head exactly where you want it, though you can definitely use it with some good old silicone hose if you have some already available.

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Wednesday 11 October 2023

Hard Seltzer - BrewZilla Brew Day

This has been on our To-Brew list for some time now, and we've finally gotten around to trying our hand at making a hard seltzer. Here's a quick run down on how it went.

We started off with 20L of spring water - we went for 2 x 10L boxes of Pureau branded water. Tap water isn't really well suited for making seltzers because of it's relatively high mineral content, and other contaminants like chlorine or chloramine which can make it difficult to get that crystal clear final product and avoid any potential off-flavours.

As you can see from the water analysis on the side of the box, there are 0mg/L of all elements in the water making it similar in composition to distilled or reverse osmosis water - an ideal 'blank canvas' making a hard seltzer.

Since we knew each box had 10L in it, it was a good opportunity to check the accuracy of the graduation markings on our BrewZilla. Was pretty accurate at the 10L mark which is good to know!

We heated the water to 80°C as warmer water will dissolve dextrose more easily than cold water. Whilst waiting for the water to heat up we measured and weighed out our 2.2kg of dextrose - 2 x 1kg bags plus a separate bowl of 200g.

203g - close enough

Once the water hit 80°C we switched off the heating elements and began adding the dextrose, stirring as we went. As expected, it dissolved really easily and once done we switched the heating elements back on and set the BrewZilla to HH in order to reach boiling temperature.

When boiling temperature was reached, we added our immersion chiller to the BrewZilla in order to sanitize it in the boiling water.

We're only boiling for a short period of 10 minutes, essentially to sanitize the water solution - there's no hops required for a seltzer like there is when brewing beer so no isomerization of alpha acids need to take place.

After the 10 minute boil is finished it's time to add our Omega Yeast Propper Seltzer Nutrient

There's alot of information out there about what nutrients are required to make a good seltzer, since there is next to no nutritional content for yeast within the dextrose/water solution. We figured the easiest solution to (hopefully) get a good result would be to use this nutrient which has been formulated especially for making seltzers.

As you can see from the instructions on the rear of the pack, you simply add the nutrient at the completion of the boil during the whirlpool period.

After opening the pack, we can see whatever is inside it is mostly yellow in colour - interesting.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this ended up causing our water to turn a green-yellow colour after adding the nutrient. It also made some interesting fizzing and popping noises when adding it in.

After whirlpooling for 5 minutes or so, we proceeded to chill the solution down to around 30°C at which point we transferred it to our Apollo Titan stainless conical fermenter and pitched our Omega Lutra Kveik yeast.

We also used the opportunity to take a gravity reading, which gave us 1.038 - close enough to the 1.040 we were aiming for

We set our RAPT Temperature Controller to maintain a steady 30°C in our fermenting fridge (along with a heat mat to help maintain the temperature). According to our RAPT Pill, fermentation appeared to be underway within just a few hours of pitching the yeast!

We're curious to see how this one turns out, particularly the colour after starting off with a yellow-tinged solution! We'll update this post once the final results are in.

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