One Pot Brewing v3: Stainless Steel

So Zymurgy paid me money to write an article about One Pot Brewing. I decided to spend some of that money on…you guessed it.

With jealous eyes, I’ve touted the benefits of using an aluminum pot, rather than the standard stainless steel that homebrewers seem to love and adore. Aluminum is lighter, it gets to a boil faster, and it’s cheaper. Except check this out!

Bayoo

So I bought it, along with the other necessary attachments:

IMG_20170801_124928169

Super big pot, fitted Brew Bag, Stainless spigot (or whatever those are called), step bit, and cutting lube, and–roughly $150 bucks later–a new and improved One Pot Brewing system was born. Although an airlock would be easy to add, I don’t see the point.

Where to put the hole for the spigot? This was something I learned from the aluminum pot set up. I decided to place the hold a little bit higher, 2 1/4 inches from the bottom, giving a solid 2 inches for gunk. I didn’t want to bother with hop sacks, or tilting the pot. This should give me plenty of room. Plus, for low hopped smaller gravity beers, I plan on doing 10 gallon batches. It’s better to place the spigot conservatively; after all, while transferring, you can always tilt the pot towards you, in order to get all the beer you can.

Cutting the hole with lube was fairly simple, even for me. youtube it.

Only problem: it barely fits in the freezer. I might have to do some cutting of plastic or something.

IMG_20170813_193501412_HDR

Advertisements

How Much Does Brewing Cost Over Time? (on Infographic Whiteboard)

Is brewing worth it? Does it make financial sense? Factoring in the equipment, do you “save” money? How much? This was the question I had before brewing and the reason I got into the hobby in the first place. And making things from scratch sometimes doesn’t make financial sense. Chocolate making, for example, is something that – after researching a little bit – doesn’t seem worth it. Coffee Roasting, alternatively, saves you 1-3 dollars per pound (which is why I do that, too). Cheese making, bread making, whisky making, clothes making…you get the point.

This is why I calculated every single piece of equipment, every recipe, every expense, every bottle. I loved Two Hearted Ale but could not justify (or afford) the $10.50 price tag. Now, when I go to the store, I have an odd predicament: I know how much it would cost me to make it. Some homebrewers start the hobby for non-financial reasons, and that’s cool; and I can only talk about my system, but for people who truly want to brew good beer simply and cheaply – One Pot Brewing makes sense.

img_20160926_194404314

this is how much One Pot Brewing costs (not including a fermentation chamber)

Impressively, after only 10 batches, using conservative estimates, you are already far below the cost of Two Hearted Ale. After 20 batches, it’s below the cost of Bud Light. After 40, it’s at a ridiculously low price of $3.78 a six pack – for craft beer! I imagine it starts to level off after that, although I don’t know where it hits bottom. I’m guessing around batch 100 or so.

These estimates – cost of equipment, average cost per recipe – are conservative. They assume buying everything new. Buying equipment from Craigslist, getting stuff for your birthday/holiday, being patient, shopping, using dry yeast, reusing yeast, buying in bulk, growing hops – these all brings costs down significantly. I’m also assuming ABV’s well above 5%.

What If I Want a Fermentation Chamber?

Let’s assume you want a really good one, like mine, and you’re not very mechanical, like me. I got a brand new upright freezer from Lowes ($450), an Inkbird temperature controller ($33), and a personal ceramic heater ($18). For simplicity of math, let’s call that $500 bucks – so the total initial investment would be $750. After only 10 batches, the cost of a six pack would be $12, which is sometimes the cost of a 4 pack of your favorite fancy Double IPAs (Hopslam). In other words, you are already there. After 20 batches total, you are at $7.50 per six pack, well below Two Hearted Ale. After 30 batches, $6.00/six pack. After 40, $5.28. Now you’ve been brewing for a couple years. After 50 batches, you’ve spent about 2,000 dollars and made about 2,500 beers – you are at $480. After 60, $4.50. After 70, $4.26. After 80, $4.14. After 90, $3.96. On you’re one hundredth batch you can say your beer costs roughly $3.90.

Congratulations you alcoholic.

Of course this assumes an ideal world where you resist the urge to buy crap to “improve your brewery”, which is part of the fun (I’m guilty of it). But the point is clear: making beer saves a significant amount of money. And there are other random costs involved, but they are minimal and occasional. Propane needs to be refilled, caps need to be replenished, sugar cubes need to be bought. Brewing beer takes time and work too, but I feel like it’s a hobby, it’s fun, and One Pot Brewing makes it truly enjoyable and mitigates most of the workload and time involved.

The Shark Tank (a new way to dry hop)

img_20160901_182310036

the Shark Tank holding 7 ounces of mostly whole cone hops

Dry hopping is the best way to get an amazing aroma from an IPA. The more, the better. In fact, I tend to think that dry hopping is the best way to get the best aroma and flavor from your hops. Which is why my IPA recipes tend to have only two hop additions: first wort and dry hop. 30 minutes additions, flame out additions, and whirl pool additions can all suck it.

The problem with dry hopping, especially with One Pot Brewing, is that it can clog the spigot, creating a bottling nightmare. This has happened twice. The spigot is simply too low for that amount of trub, gunk, yeast, hops. If I could redesign the pot, I probably would move it up a half inch. Hop sacks work just fine, and I’ve used them, but they are sorta messy.

So one day  I was roasting coffee on my new coffee roaster and thought: holy shit, this little drum is the perfect dry hopping vessel! Big enough, easy to clean, and easy to suspend directly into the beer at the exact spot I need it. When it comes time to dry hop, I simply flip over the lid of the pot (so that the handle is facing towards the beer), then I tie the Shark Tank to the lid handle, and splash – here we go.

One minor problem I noticed is that hops float. And even the Shark Tank floats. I don’t like that; I would rather have the hops submerged completely. I might think of some way to weight them down.

So how did my first Shark Tank IPA come out?

Stay tuned (hint: the aroma is very good, maybe the best aroma I’ve gotten. And after a few weeks in the keg, still very good).

 

Using a Wort Chiller with One Pot Brewing

While my method doesn’t require extra stuff, it’s certainly compatible with it. Like a manufactured home, upgrade according to your taste and budget. For most brewers, a wort chiller is a required piece of equipment. It quickly gets the unfermented beer cold enough to add yeast, thus reducing the risk of infection and moving on with the process. But, since they are expensive and not absolutely necessary for brewing good beer, I never took the plunge. From the beginning, I chilled in my bathtub, which works just fine, although it’s not the cleanest environment in the world. Recently, after getting a fermentation fridge that gets really cold, I decided to stop chilling altogether, using a no chill method: simply throw the hot unfermented beer in the fridge for 18 hours and then add the yeast. This also seems to work just fine. But, especially with an old fridge, it takes a while. The main drawback with no chill, however, is hoppy beers. IPAs can come out too bitter. For me, that’s a problem because I make a lot of them.

Enter wort chiller.

IMG_20160717_163807706

So I borrowed my friend’s wort chiller, just to experiment with yet another method for chilling: the partial chill method. If you’re a rabid fan of brulosophy.com like me, you might be familiar with how it works. Basically, you chill the beer to 100F, or 80F, or whatever temp you want (depending on the season), and then you let it finish chilling in the fermentation chamber. After trying it on my latest two batches, I really like this idea. It sounds more complex than it really is. It’s fast, convenient, and consistent with quality brewing practices. I adds only about 7 minutes to the brewday, and cleaning literally takes a minute.

Yesterday, for example, I brewed a Belgian Golden Strong Ale in exactly 1 hour, 31 minutes, while my 2 year old son was taking a nap. 30 minute mash, 25 minute boil, chilled for about 7 minutes or so, had the fermentation chamber set to -10C, and let the beer finish chilling for a few hours in the fermentation chamber before pitching the yeast. That’s what I love about One Pot Brewing: at the drop of a hat, providing you have ingredients on hand, you can simply brew a beer and get on with your day.

New Upright Freezer: the Solution to Bottling from a Fermentation Chamber

My minimalist philosophy of reducing wasted motion has forced me into this purchase (riiiiiight). After much thought and failed attempts to find a cheaper alternative, I finally scrapped my old craiglist fridge/fermentation chamber and replaced it with a new and improved upright freezer/fermentation chamber. This is by far the most expensive piece of brewing equipment I have, and will, buy. But damn it’s nice.

IMG_20160611_160846603

IMG_20160611_160900996

How did we get here? When I first started homebrewing, I worried too much about fermentation. For good reason. Temperature does matter, and temperature swings matter. I distinctly remember opening a batch of super fizzy, overcarbonated beer. I had been fermenting in the basement: too cold, too slow, a brewer too impatient, leaving an underfermented, fizzy beer. Learning my lesson, I started fermenting in the kitchen, which was probably still too cold in the winter, but an improvement nonetheless – no more fizz bombs. Yet having a fermenting beer in the kitchen is not ideal, or practical, and involved moving the beer too much in my opinion. My ultimate goal was to never move the beer.

Thus, 50 or so batches latter, I got a 30 dollar fridge, rigged it with an STC-1000, put a heat lamp in, and began experimenting with the convenience of temperature control. This was great. I never worried about temperature, I could make excellent Belgians, and I could use it to cold crash. However, I had three problems. First, because it was old, it took forever to get really cold. In the summer, it took days to get to freezing, and was horribly inefficient. Because I was using it to chill my hot beer, that was an issue. Second, the top freezer was unusable dead space. I could barely fit my pot in it, leaving no room to dry hop or add gelatin. Third, it’s too short for bottling. My bottling wand would be too low for comfort. So, when the beer was ready to bottle, I would have to move it to the freezer part. That stirs up the sediment and it’s God damn heavy. If you’re going to have a fermentation chamber, and if you’re going to bottle directly from it, then an upright freezer makes the most sense. It puts the beer at the perfect height for bottling. Continue reading

Auto Siphons are Dead to Me

A few batches back, I threw away my auto siphon forever. It felt so good. It seems like every time I try to use this awkward device, something goes wrong. It makes no sense, it should be easy. It slips, it gets clogged, it pushes oxygen into the beer, it falls, the clamp isn’t good, I have to constantly pump it, etc. I’m either not alone in my hatred for siphoning, or I have a bad product, or I’m a stupid fucking idiot. I’m fine with all three. But as for me, I have parted ways:

IMG_20160129_144359173

There are three things I like most about my One Pot Brewing method: less cleaning, less time, and, now, no siphoning. Luckily, transferring is no problem, if I so desired. Simply attach a plastic hose to the spigot and use gravity.

Why I bought a Barley Crusher

Efficiency and convenience (and Cyber Monday savings) got the best of me with this purchase. The ‘Cereal Killer’ grain mill gives me two things: first, a finer crush, allowing me to squeeze more alcohol out of each precious pound of barley that I put into each beer recipe; which, incidentally, is a huge benefit with BIAB not available to the traditional brewer. How fine? Credit card fine. Following advice from brulosophy.com, I set my mill to credit card thin. The second reason I made this purchase is having the convenience of buying a recipe in advance, so that I can brew it whenever I want. So, for example, yesterday I bought the ingredients for an IPA. I will brew it tonight. It’s all about making brewday faster and more convenient. Previously, going to the store, crushing the grains, and buying them added about 45 minutes to my brewday. Crushing my own grains doesn’t make the brewday any longer; I simply crush the grains while I’m waiting for the mash water to warm. Lastly, I like the idea of having the freshest crushed grains imaginable, although I have no clue whether that matters (my coffee snobbery coming out probably…I roast and crush my own coffee beans for similar reasons).

cereal-killer-malt-mill-other-side-th.jpg

For 80 bucks (normally $130) it was worth it, although I would be completely happy without it and would never tell anyone to get one. It’s extra, not needed, one of those convenience buys. I can’t wait to use it tonight though.

TIP: Crush directly into your BIAB bag.
Extra equipment needed: power drill and bucket. Put your BIAB bag into a bucket, then place the barley crusher on top of the bucket, then crush the grains directly into your bag. Now, once the mash water is ready, simply dump the bag full of grains into it. This method works best for me.

This damn hobby. Always in search for the ‘perfect’ system. Until I become convinced of kegging, this is all the equipment I will want for 2016. Well, I take that back. I would love to have a utility sink in my garage, where I brew. That would be awesome. Lol.

Fermenting in a Short, Fat Pot

You can ferment beer in a short, fat pot. It doesn’t have to be tall and skinny.

Where does this question even come from? One of the early questions I had about One Pot Brewing was whether head space in a fermentation vessel mattered. I wondered because most glass carboys and plastic fermentation buckets that we buy don’t allow for much space between the fermenting beer and the top of the vessel. Which leads to blow off tubes and other nonsense. My pot, on the other hand, is big and allows for a lot of head space. After making 12 beers, I don’t see any issues, even with dry hopped IPAs. I would venture to guess that commercial breweries have a ton of head space too. So that’s that.

Another thing I noticed about carboys and fermentation buckets: they are tall and thin. And commercial breweries seem to have tall, thin, tanks too.

7BBL-Fermenter.jpg

Does that matter? Do pot dimensions matter? I didn’t think so, but then a person commented on one of my blog posts that it did matter. I cannot find the quote for the life of me (it may have been a comment on brulosophy.com), but he said something like this: “as long as your pot is taller than it is wide, you shouldn’t have to worry.”

Well, my pot isn’t taller than it is wide.

It’s 17 inches wide, only 16 inches tall. It’s short and fat. Worry about what? – I can’t even remember what the issue was, to be honest.  All I can say is that I have made 4 batches of beer with this pot, and they have came out just fine. I love this pot. It’s light, conducts heat fast, has a fat bottom which heats the water fast, comes with a nice lid, and is affordable.

One Pot Brewing v2.0: bigger, easier, simpler

Just when you thought my process was simple, it got simpler. After much thought, I tweaked my system into a no-sparge, single vessel, Brew in a Bag system. I got a bigger pot and stopped sparging. This new system allows me to (1) get rid of some sparging equipment (2) make brew days easier and (3) make bigger beers and bigger batches (previously I was limited to only 12 pounds of grain). Of course I’m hoping this to be my last and final brewing system (haven’t we all said that?).

What’s different? A larger aluminum pot ($50):

13 gallon pot

It’s a 52 quart (13 gallon) aluminum tamale steamer. I wish I had gotten this from the start. Sparging is no fun. Now, with this beast, I don’t have to. I can start with all the water I need (say, 8 gallons). As usual, I will be using this pot to mash, boil, ferment, and bottle. I can do a 5, 6, 7, or 8 gallon batch if I want. I’m excited to use the lid as well. For fermenting, I will simply put the lid on and let ‘er go (no more aluminum foil). This is not technically open fermentation, but it’s in the same ballpark; as you can see, it’s not a super tight seal. I’m not worried.

Next, a better spigot ($16) to bottle from:

new spigot

This will go about 2 inches from the bottom of the pot (above the trub line). My previous spigot was similar, but the advantage here is the possibility to attach a bottle filler, if I so desire (I probably will). Here’s what it looks like put together: Continue reading

You Don’t Need a Secondary Fermenter

glass-carboy

glass carboy

As you know, my system, One Pot Brewing, has one vessel for everything: mash, boil, ferment, bottle. When it comes to fermenting, here’s what most homebrewers do. After boiling and cooling, they put the beer into a “primary fermenter” for about a week, probably a plastic bucket. Then, they “rack” the beer into another vessel, a “secondary” fermenter, usually a glass carboy, which allows the beer to finish fermenting and to settle (clear). This involves purchasing the carboy, purchasing a siphoning device, tubing, and sanitizing them every time you use them. Already a pain in my ass. Not to mention wasting beer and introducing oxygen into your beer (and potentially infecting your beer). I hated using a siphon.

Unless you are making a huge, hoppy barley wine, or a scotch ale sitting on bourbon oak chips for a month, you simply don’t need to transfer your beer from one bucket to another bucket. It makes no sense. A beer takes about a week to ferment. Then it takes a few days to clear (settle out). Then you can bottle it. A beer sitting on sediment for this long will not develop “off flavors.” It will be just fine. I’m guessing that secondary fermentation is just an old habit, hearkening back to the days when malted barley and yeast didn’t have the quality it does now. I also think some homebrewers are obsessed with clarity. Which is fine – then you should cold crash and use gelatin (again, no need for another bucket).