Friday 28 June 2024

Homebrewery - Undersink Water Filter Installation

There's no disputing the importance of water when brewing your own beer - being the single biggest ingredient, it's critical you're using quality and good tasting water when making your beer. Unsurprisingly, if you're water quality and taste is poor, then this will likely have a detrimental impact on your beer.

We had a water outlet installed in our garage as part of your new house build specifically for brewing purposes, and we've finally gotten around to installing a water filter to be able to treat our brewing water prior to use.

The tap water itself is pretty ordinary straight out of the tap - with a very strong chlorine taste and smell. We've been using our built in fridge water filter for drinking and brewing water, which is only a basic, single stage filter, so we figured something similar should be all that's required to treat our brewing water - and will save us carting 30 odd litres of water from the kitchen to the garage every time we want to brew!

We opted for the Britani Undercounter Single Stage Filter kit - selling for around $90 at Bunnings. It comes with a tap which we've opted not to use for now, but may come in handy later as we could potentially install it into the industrial sink we've installed in the garage.

The kit comes with everything you need to install using the tap, but since we're opting for a slightly different installation, we opted for an additional ball valve and some extra line/tubing - more on that shortly.

Installation was super easy, with push in fittings that were familiar in operation to us as we almost exclusively use Duotight push in fittings for all our brewing connections.

The filter housing itself is mounted using four included screws onto the wall. Handy tip though, make sure you unscrew the housing and remove the plastic wrap from the filter itself located inside (we didn't realise this was required and nearly blew the housing apart when we first turned it on!)


Here's how the final installation looks - and while it could arguably be done a bit neater, we were hindered a little bit by the fact that the water flows from right to left through the filter, where we really needed it to flow from left to right.

From the T-piece adapter on the tap, you can see the hose then connects to a flow restrictor/non-return valve, and then loops around and into the right side of the filter housing. The hose then comes out of the left side of the filter housing.


Here's a close-up of the included adapter which screws straight onto the existing wall outlet. The existing hose for the regular kitchen tap screws back onto the top, and the white line is then connected via push-in fittings to the water filter as outlined above. There's also a handy shut off valve you can see there that is recommended be switched off if the filter is not going to be used for more than a day or so and gives an element of protection against a push-in fitting failure or blow out.


As previously mentioned, we fitted a ball valve which also uses the same push in fittings so we can easily open/shut the flow of water without needing to use the main shutoff valve we mentioned in the previous photo. After a couple of brews this has worked incredibly well, as we bought a 3m length of tubing that gives us good flexibility so we can fill our BrewZilla and Digiboil units in-place in the garage without needing to lug them around when they're full of 20L of water.


A simple clamp on the top of the unit holds the hose in place whilst filling - which does take some time but certainly faster and easier than carting water from the fridge water filter.

The included filter is a 5 micron carbon filter which removes chlorine flavours/odours, as well as sediment, but doesn't change the ion content of the water. This works well for us and leaves us with chlorine-free, great tasting water to use as a base for our brewing. We may look at replacing the cartridge in the future with one that filters out a bit more but we're certainly happy with the performance we're getting from this one.

It's well worth considering a water filter system like this if you aren't currently using one to help improve the quality of your brewing water. It's also super easy to install and setup, especially if you don't need to use an actual tap and are happy with a simple ball valve solution for controlling the flow of water from the filter.


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Thursday 27 June 2024

Stone & Wood Pacific Ale - Official Recipe

We've had a couple of attempts at brewing the Stone & Wood Pacific Ale, and whilst our attempts have been OK, we're still not quite there in terms of accurately replicating this awesome beer.

In a recent breakthrough though, we have stumbled across a post on the Aussiehomebrewer forums where a user claims to have obtained the official recipe from an ex-Stone & Wood brewer.

You can check out the forum thread here - but we'll outline the quoted recipe below;

Original Gravity: 1.043
IBU: 24
Malts: 60% Pilsner Malt, 40% Wheat Malt 
Hops:
Galaxy @ 20 mins - 6 IBU
Galaxy @ 10 mins - 9 IBU
Galaxy @ 5 mins - 9 IBU
Galaxy Dry Hop - 3g/L - 7 Days

Yeast: Safale US-05

Most of this was already known - though we had been using pale malt instead of pilsner. Pilsner makes sense and explains why ours always turned out darker, but the 60/40 split is fairly well known and is what we have used. IBU's were also known, as well as the fact that it uses only Galaxy hops, but having a hop schedule like this certainly helps!

Needless to say, we're going to have another crack at this one very soon. We strongly suspect that our water profile has previously been a shortcoming in getting the flavour and mouthfeel right for this (too much sulfate) so this is something we'll also be addressing in our 3rd attempt at brewing this.

This should provide an excellent starting point for anyone looking to make this themselves.

Full recipe is below;

Vitals

Batch Volume: 23L 
Boil Time: 30 minutes
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.043
Final Gravity: 1.009
IBU (Tinseth): 24
BU/GU: 0.57
Colour: 6.1 EBC
Expected ABV: 4.5%

Mash

Temperature: 67°c - 60 minutes
Mash Out: 75°c - 10 minutes

Malts

2.6 kg - Gladfield Pilsner Malt (60%)
1.8 kg - Gladfield Wheat Malt (40%)

Hops

20 mins - Galaxy - 7g - 13.4% (6 IBU)
10 mins - Galaxy - 15g - 13.4% (9 IBU)
05 mins - Galaxy - 30g - 13.4% (9 IBU)
00 mins - Galaxy - 30g - 13.4% (0 IBU)

Dry Hop - Galaxy 70g - 7 days? (3g/L)

Yeast

Fermentis SafAle US-05 (1 packet - dry)

Fermentation

20c for 14 days

Carbonation

2.4 CO2-vol

Water Profile 

Ca2+ (Calcium): 75
Mg2+ (Magnesium): 5
Na+ (Sodium): 10
Cl- (Chloride): 50
SO42- (Sulfate): 150
HCO3- (Bicarbonate): 0


Monday 24 June 2024

Pacific Pale Ale - BrewZilla Brew Day


Here's the rundown from our latest BrewZilla Brew Day for our Pacific Pale Ale

We started off collecting our source water. We recently installed a single stage under sink water filter so we can fill our BrewZilla and Digiboil sparge water vessels much more quickly than our previous method of using the in built fridge water filter in the kitchen.

Not a particularly large grain bill at 4.7kgs. With 21L of mash water, there was plenty of head space left and made for a quick and easy mash in.

We left the grain bed to settle for 10 minutes before taking our first pH meter reading. 5.54 was a bit high so we added another 0.5mL of phosphoric acid.

Second pH reading 5.39 - right in the middle of the 5.2 - 5.6 range, so we were happy with this.

We began recirculating the wort using the sargeant sparge head

We had really good recirculation which we were a little surprised by. Even with a relatively low amount of malted wheat (~8%) we expected to have to work the grain bed a bit more (but it was nice that we didn't!)

Mash temp was a consistent 65°C. Since we didn't need to mess with stirring the grain bed too much, our mash temp was bang on for pretty much the entire mash with only very minor temperature adjustments on the BrewZilla required.

After the 60 minute mash, we raised the temperature of the grain bed to 75°C for the mash out.

Wort starting to run much clearer at the end of the mash compared to the start

Raising the grain basket out of the BrewZilla is always a nerve-wracking experience for us. The handle doesn't fit perfectly and we're always worried it's going to slip out and send the grain basket crashing back into the unit which would splash hot sticky wort everywhere. Hasn't happened to us yet though.

Grain bed lifted and sparging begun. We tried using an automated sparging system using a pump but we find manual sparging using a simple 2L jug gives us better efficiency.

Much like the mash, the sparge went really well with no stirring of the grain bed required to get the sparge water flowing through.

Pre-boil gravity of 1.047 - a couple of points higher than expected. Nice win and a tiny bit more ABV now to be expected.

Pre-boil mash pH remains pretty much the same at 5.42 (3 points higher than measured value at start of mash)

Simcoe and Mosaic hops ready to go

Measuring out our first hop addition - 11g of Mosaic to be added at beginning of boil to provide the majority of bitterness.

Waiting for the boil - hot break starting to from on top

Pre-boil volume of 25.5L - spot on. 

Boil now underway, so first hop addition to be added.

Measuring out our second hop addition of Simcoe and Mosaic hops (to be added with 10 minutes left in the boil). We always like to document these to remove any doubt as to whether we added the right amounts or not!

Yeast nutrient and 1/2 a whirlfloc tablet also measured out to be added with 10 minutes remaining.

10 minute hop addition going in.

Measuring out the final whirlpool hop addition

At the conclusion of the 30 minute  boil we chilled the wort to around 80°C (83 is close enough) and added the final hops and began recirculating the wort using the whirlpool arm attachment for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes we continued chilling until the wort was around 25°C. 

One of the great things about winter brewing is the town water is super cold so we're able to get from boil/whirlpool temp to low 20's in around 10-15 minutes, which we can't get anywhere close to in the warmer months!

Starting gravity of 1.050 - a couple points higher than the recipe, but expected after we had a slightly higher pre-boil gravity.


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Tuesday 18 June 2024

Pacific Pale Ale - All Grain Recipe

Foreword

We've produced a couple of beers that haven't turned out recently - more specifically, they are way too bitter and really lacking any hop punch or aroma. We're thinking the culprit here may be excessive sulfate levels in our water profile (using the Brewfather Hoppy water profile), so for our next batch we're going to make a fairly simple "Pacific Ale" recipe - aptly named as a nod to the original Stone & Wood Pacific Ale that features galaxy hops and wheat malt.

Simplicity is the name of the game here, so we've got a basic malt bill consisting of mostly pilsner malt, with a bit of malted wheat thrown in as well. We originally planned to use Galaxy hops, but as they were out of stock from our local homebrew shop, we've substituted Simcoe instead, along with Mosaic hops for some fruit forward and citrusy hop flavours and aroma, and some leftover Nelson Sauvin in the dry hop. We buy hops in 100g packs, so our Simcoe and Mosaic calculations use whatever is leftover from the boil hops in the dry hop, hence the seemingly random values here.

Importantly, to address the suspected water chemistry problem (ie. sulfate level), we've grabbed the recommended profile from award-winning Australian brewery, Black Hops - as specified in their water chemistry blog post on their website. They've kindly shared the water profile they use for their Pale Ale, so we figured we'd give it a go to see how it works for us.

This profile has 150ppm of sulfate - significantly less than the 270+ppm rate that the Brewfather Hoppy profile had us using. With 50ppm of chloride, this gives us a 3:1 sulfate:chloride ratio that should still present a bit of bitterness, without being too overpowering and still letting hop flavour and aroma shine through.

Vitals

Batch Volume: 22L 
Boil Time: 30 minutes
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%

Original Gravity: 1.048
Final Gravity: 1.011
IBU (Tinseth): 29
BU/GU: 0.60
Colour: 6.5 EBC
Expected ABV: 4.9%

Mash

Temperature: 65°C - 60 minutes
Mash Out: 75°C - 10 minutes

Fermentables

4.3kg - Gladfield Pilsner Malt
0.4kg - Gladfield Wheat Malt

Hops

30 mins - Mosaic - 11g - 12 IBU
10 mins - Mosaic - 10g - 6 IBU
10 mins - Simcoe - 10g - 6 IBU

Hopstand 15 mins @ 80°C - Simcoe - 20g - 3 IBU)
Hopstand 15 mins @ 80°C - Mosaic - 15g - 2 IBU)

Dry Hop - Simcoe - 70g - 3 Days
Dry Hop - Mosaic - 64g - 3 Days
Dry Hop - Nelson Sauvin - 18g - 3 Days

Yeast

Mangrove Jacks - M66 Hop Head (Dry - 1 packet)
(Originally planning to use Verdant IPA)

Fermentation

20°C - 14 days

Carbonation

2.4 CO2-vol

Water Profile 

Custom "Black Hops" water profile (refer to Foreword above)

Ca2+ (Calcium): 64
Mg2+ (Magnesium): 5
Na+ (Sodium): 29
Cl- (Chloride): 50
SO42- (Sulfate): 151
HCO3- (Bicarbonate): 37

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Thursday 13 June 2024

Does the RAPT Pill work in a stainless fermenter?

The RAPT Pill from KegLand is an incredibly popular piece of homebrewing equipment, providing an affordable and easy to use way for brewers to monitor the progress of their fermentations. (If you're after more detail on exactly what the RAPT Pill does, check out our RAPT Pill Review).

With the increasing popularity and affordability of stainless steel fermenters, more homebrewers are embracing stainless vessels of some description for their fermentations. This inevitably raises the question as to whether the signal from the RAPT Pill is strong enough to protrude the stainless steel walls of such a vessel so it can connect to Wi-Fi for submitting it's telemetry to the cloud.

The answer - is yes, it does work, but how well it works in your particular situation depends on a number of things.

The RAPT Pill utilises older 2.4GHz Wi-Fi technology, which although is slower than the newer Wi-Fi standards, it has much stronger signal strength and penetration, so it works better when needing to work through surfaces like stainless steel.

Whether the signal will be strong enough to connect to the Wi-Fi network in your particular scenario depends on a number of things. The Pill signal needs to penetrate the walls of your stainless fermenter, but if it's located in a fermentation fridge, then it will need to penetrate the walls of the fridge too, which being reasonably well insulated will have a further impact on signal strength.

The next big thing will be where your Wi-Fi modem/router/access point is in relation to your fermenter. If it's at the other end of the house and the Wi-Fi signal needs to penetrate the stainless fermenter, fridge, and several walls of a house, it's unlikely it's going to work. Moving your Wi-Fi modem/router/access point as close to the fermenter (preferably in the same room) can help also, or putting a Wi-Fi signal booster/repeater nearby.

But what can you do if you're not able to move your Wi-Fi modem/router/access point closer to your fermenter? The simple option is to leverage the RAPT Temperature Controller which integrates very neatly with the RAPT Pill. By doing this, the RAPT Pill is able to connect to the RAPT Temperature Controller using Bluetooth instead of Wi-Fi. The RAPT Temperature Controller then relays the telemetry from the Pill to the cloud. This of course requires the RAPT Temperature Controller to have a strong enough signal to connect to the local Wi-Fi network as well - but this isn't anywhere near as difficult as it obviously won't be located inside your stainless fermenter, and wouldn't usually be inside the fermentation fridge either.

This is what we have been doing for several years now, and never have any signal issues with our RAPT Pill connecting via Bluetooth to the RAPT Temperature Controller. In our situation we have the Pill in a stainless fermenter, in a fermentation fridge with the Temperature Controller fixed to the outside of the fridge door, and using this setup we see constant and reliable telemetry updates to the RAPT Portal from the RAPT Pill, via the RAPT Temperature Controller.


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