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Wine Wisdom

  • Common Mistakes People Make While Brewing at Home

    Posted on November 20, 2014 by Glen Ralston

    It’s easy to make mistakes, especially when you are new. Here are some most common homebrewing  North American Clone Brewsmistakes. Make sure you read this and get the perfect beer.

    1. When you purchase home beer kits, you get sanitizers in them. The problem is that these sanitizers are not strong enough to kill all germs. You need to sanitize absolutely everything that touches your beer. It is very important to keep those pesky germs away.
    2. As you get ready to make your first homebrew, make sure you select a recipe that is easy to follow, and is tried and tested. It is best to be safe on your first beer batch. While high alcohol beers might tempt you, they need more time and yeast. You don’t want to deal with complex things on the first batch, so follow an old recipe.
    3. Brewing at home should be done with dry yeast. Liquid yeast has just about enough cells required to ferment beer when it is packaged. These cells die out quickly and fermentation stops. Powdered yeast has better cell viability. However, liquid yeast can be used for low alcohol beers.
    4. Select the right temperature. You need to measure the temperature of the room where you are making beer. At the peak point of fermentation, the temperature of beer can increase by about 7F. If fermentation is done at too high temperatures, it can produce excess of fruity flavor and alcohol. If you can’t control the temperature of fermentation, select a yeast strain that would fit the conditions.
    5. You can’t rely on just the bubbles to know if fermentation is complete. When it appears that fermentation is finally over, wait for a couple of days and then take a sample of wort. Do not rush towards bottling beer until the final gravity is achieved.

    Make sure you do not make these mistakes while brewing your first beer.


    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog

  • Belgian Abbey Single Recipe (Extract with Specialty Grains)

    Posted on November 14, 2014 by David Ackley

    Glass Of Home Brewed Abbey SingleIf you’re a fan of Belgian Abbey beers, you’ve probably heard of dubbel, tripel, and witbier. But what about Belgian Abbey single? If you like these beers you'll love brewing the Belgian Abbey single recipe below.

    You may have a hard time finding a beer in Belgium called single. You’re more likely to hear it referred to as table beer or just Belgian ale. But with the stronger Belgian ales referred to as dubbel and tripel, many American brewers have grown accustomed to calling the most sessionable one a single.

    These Belgian pale ales are routinely brewed for daily consumption, often by monks. They are usually about 5% ABV, pale or light amber in color, and very complex and aromatic due to fruity and spicy characteristic from Belgian ale yeast. A single is the type of beer you might enjoy with lunch. As such, it shouldn’t be too heavy or alcoholic, but still features the aromatic complexities of Belgian ale yeast. Two of the best American interpretations I’ve come across are made by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and Starr Hill.

    For the homebrewer, there are a few advantages of brewing Belgian beer:

    • The complex flavors demonstrate the versatility of different yeast strains.
    • Belgian ales can often be fermented warmer than English- or American-style beers, making them convenient to brew at room temperature.
    • They offer an opportunity to brew with spices or adjunct sugars, though brewers should show restraint.

    Are you looking to brew an easy-drinking Belgian ale? Try the Belgian Abbey Single recipe below!

    Shop Dried Malt Extract

    Belgian Abbey Single Recipe

    (five-gallon batch, extract with specialty grains)

    Specs

    OG: 1.049

    FG: 1.012

    ABV: 4.8%

    IBUs: 28

    SRM: 9

    Ingredients

    3 lbs. light dry malt extract

    3 lbs. light dry malt extract (late addition)

    1 lb. Dingeman’s biscuit maltShop Hops

    .5 lb. Dingeman’s aromatic malt

    1 oz. Styrian Gold hops at :60

    1 oz. Saaz hops at :15

    1 oz. Saaz hops at :5

    1 packet Wyeast 1762: Belgian Abbey II
    Directions

    The day before brewing, prepare a two-liter yeast starter. On brew day, steep the crushed biscuit and aromatic malt in a steeping bag in one gallon of water at 150˚F for 20 minutes. Remove steeping bag, then add half the DME and enough clean, chlorine-free water to make three gallons of wort. Bring to a boil and add hops according to schedule. At the end of the boil, mix in remaining dried malt extract. Chill wort and transfer to a clean, sanitized fermenter containing about 2.5 gallons of clean, chlorine-free water. Top up with enough water to make 5.5 gallons. Mix well with a sanitized stirring spoon to aerate. Pitch yeast starter, seal the fermenter, and ferment at 70-75˚F. After 2-3 weeks, bottle with priming sugar or transfer to a keg and force carbonate.

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    David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

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    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog, Beer Brewing Recipes

  • 10 Home Brewing Tips For The Beginner

    Posted on November 12, 2014 by David Ackley

    First-timer using the 10 home brewing tipes for the beginner.Are you getting ready to brew your first batch of beer? While the idea of home brewing may be intimidating, don’t let it keep you from making the leap. Here are ten home brewing tips for beginners to help get you through that first brew:

    1. Relax, don’t worry have a homebrew – Charlie Papazian’s mantra is a good place to start. Always remember that you’re doing this for fun. Don’t let little mishaps get you down – they will happen. Be prepared to laugh it off when things don’t go right and don’t let it throw you off your game.
    2. Focus on the cleanGood sanitation is critical to brewing good beer. If there’s anything you should put a little extra elbow grease into, it’s making sure you have a clean, sanitary environment for your beer.
    3. Don’t cut corners – With the demands of modern life, sometimes it’s hard to find a block of time for home brewing. That said, don’t try to save a few minutes by cutting corners, especially on the cleaning and sanitation front. It’s worth repeating the importance of cleaning and sanitation – the last thing you want to do is dump a batch of infected beer.
    4. Brew with a friend – Of all the home brewing tips for beginners I've seen, this one is my favorite. An extra pair of hands can make some tasks much easier, especially bottling. Plus it’s more fun! Crack open a beer with a friend or two and learn how to make beer together.
    5. Avoid multitasking – Once you get a few brews under your belt, you might be able to handle multiple tasks at once. My advice for the home brewing beginner is to focus on one task at a time. When you’re cleaning, just clean. This will help keep you from getting distracted and avoid potential mishaps like boilovers.Shop Home Brew Starter Kit
    6. Begin with the basic styles – You’re welcome to brew whatever you want, but for your first batch, you might want to brew something straightforward. Unless you have a temperature controlled fermentation chamber, stick with ales. Stouts and porters make good starting points for a first homebrew.
    7. Save beer recipe formulation for later – While it’s tempting to build your own beer recipes early on, consider brewing a few established recipes first. There are plenty of homebrewing books out there with solid beer recipes. Once you get your process down, you can branch out and start to develop a sense of what different ingredients bring to different beer styles.
    8. Pay attention to fermentation temperature – Don’t stress out too much over fermentation temperature for your first batch, but do keep in mind that it can make a big difference in the flavor of your homebrew. Take a look at the recommended fermentation temperature for whatever yeast strain you’re using and aim for keeping your fermenter smack in the middle of the range for the duration of the fermentation process.
    9. Take good notes – In the long run this is probably the most valuable home brewing tip for a beginner. If you see yourself brewing long term, make a habit early on of taking good notes for each of your brews. This will make it much easier to remember good recipes and to identify possible problems that might occur in your process.
    10. Share your beer with friends – One of the best ways to get feedback on your homebrew is to share it with friends, especially if they’re homebrewers or craft beer geeks. Take their advice with a grain of salt and don’t be offended if they don’t like what you brewed – everyone has different tastes!

    There you have it, 10 home brewing tips for beginners. What other advice would you offer the first time homebrewer?
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    David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

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    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog, Tip Of The Day

  • Adding More Color To Wine

    Posted on November 11, 2014 by Ed Kraus

    Results when adding more color to wine.How can I give my red wine more color? I'm new at wine making.
    Jerre M. — TN
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    Hello Jerre,

    Adding more color to your wine is something that is easy to do when you are making it. The color pigmentation mostly comes from the skin of the grape. To add more color you leave the skins in the fermentation longer. This can be done for up to 7 days for maximum color.

    Time plays a dramatic role in the color of the wine. If the skins are not in the fermentation at all, you will get a pink or blush-colored wine. This small amount of color is from what is released into the juice while crushing the grapes. Leave the skins in the fermentation for three days, you might get a ruby-colored wine. Seven days, you could end up with a wine that has an inky-dark color.

    Results will very as to the hue of the wine (red brick to purple), but this should give you some idea as to the role time and grape skins play in adding more color to a wine.

    So far we have been talking about grapes, but the same can be applied to many fruits: blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, even strawberries, and others. All will contribute more color to the wine when left in the fermentation longer.

    There is a tradeoff. Along with the color comes more tannin. This is the stuff that adds body and structure to the wine. For most wine drinkers this is considered to be a good thing. The wine will be bigger, bolder, more aromatic and typically more layered in its flavor profile.

    Shop Wine KitsThe tradeoff comes in the amount of aging the wine will need before it starts to taste pleasant. In short, the more time the skin is in the fermentation, the more time the wine will need to age before its harshness starts to subside. Exactly how much time is something that will vary from one wine to the next, but suffice it to say that it may be several years for the darkest of wines while maybe only three to six months for a blush wine.

    If you are referring to adding more color to a wine that has already been made, there's not much you can do. You can try making another batch of the same wine, only with more color, and then blending the two before bottling. The second wine could even be made with next year's grapes. Just let your first wine bulk age for a while.

    If you ultimately like your wines sweet, you can experiment with adding Welch's grape concentrate to sweeten the wine. This will also add more color to the wine. It will also add more fruit acid to the wine. You will need to be careful not to make the wine too acidic. It would not be a bad idea to use an acid test kit to keep track of how much acid is being added to the wine by the Welch's grape concentrate. You will also need to add potassium sorbate to the wine, just like any other time you would sweeten the wine. This is to keep the wine from starting a renewed fermentation with the new sugars from the concentrate.

    As you can start to see, adding more color to a wine is not all that cut and dry. There are other considerations that need to made as well. Do you really want to make a big wine that might not be drinkable until next year? Do you really want to make your wine sweet by adding Welch's grape concentrate for color? There are always tradeoffs.

    The only thing I can really say is color does not make the wine. It is only visual cue as to what to expect. There are excellent wines of all colors: light and dark.

    Best Wishes,
    Ed Kraus

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    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

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    This post was posted in Q&A, Wine Making Blog

  • Judging In A Homebrew Competition: English Brown Ales

    Posted on November 10, 2014 by David Ackley

    Scoresheet for judging a homebrew competitionI recently had the opportunity to judge at a local homebrew competition. Judging homebrew in competition is a great way to improve your sensory technique and your abilities to detect subtle differences in ingredients within a certain style. I will share my experiences to shed some light for those who are interested in competing in homebrew competitions.

    The competition I judged for was a BJCP-sanctioned homebrew competition. That means all of the beers were submitted in and judged against categories based on the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines. Though the BJCP has recently announced changes to the style guidelines, this competition was judged using the 2008 Style Guidelines.

    What typically happens with these homebrew competitions is that the host homebrew club seeks out volunteer judges and stewards. Judges judge the beer; stewards facilitate distributing the entries to the judges. Judges are assigned to different style categories. There are at least two judges per category. Sometimes categories are combined if there aren’t enough judges to go around.

    For this homebrew competition, I was assigned to judge English Brown Ales and Fruit Beers. I’ll start by sharing my experience with the English Brown Ales.

    One of the challenges in judging this category was in the diversity of the three sub-styles within the broader category:

    • Mild: “A light-flavored, malt-accented beer that is readily suited to drinking in quantity. Refreshing, yet flavorful. Some versions may seem like lower gravity brown porters.”
       
    • Southern English Brown Ale: “A luscious, malt-oriented brown ale, with a caramel, dark fruit complexity of malt flavor. May seem somewhat like a smaller version of a sweet stout or a sweet version of a dark mild.”
       
    • Northern English Brown Ale: “Drier and more hop-oriented that southern English brown ale, with a nutty character rather than caramel.”

    If you click the links above, you’ll see that each has fairly specific specifications for the aroma, flavor, appearance, and mouthfeel of each beer. The judge scores each entry on each of the four sensory areas, as well as their overall impression. Scores are given by each judge, which are then averaged out by the steward. The top three beers in each category are awarded prizes, with the top beer in each category moving forward to compete for the Best of Show (the top three best beers out of the whole competition).Shop Beer Ingredient Kits

    In this homebrew competition, there were about 5-6 entries each for Mild and Northern English Brown Ale, and a single entry for Southern English Brown Ale. It quickly became apparent how subtle the differences could be between each beer. Though each beer within a subcategory may look identical, some would have more prominent malt flavor than others. Some had more of a toasty character, while others had stronger caramel notes. Most of them were very good, but a few had some fermentation faults and off-flavors, such as diacetyl, in which case the judge is expected to make suggestions for how to fix it.

    In judging the English Brown Ales, I found that while color may be similar between the three subcategories, Mild is more nutty, Southern English Brown Ale more fruity, and Northern English Brown Ale more nutty with a more assertive hoppy character. The Southern English Brown is very fruity compared to the Mild and the Northern English Brown. With the Mild being such a delicate style, it was hard to hide subtle faults. The beers with clean fermentation were quite good, and those with fermentation problems stuck out. There just aren’t that many hops to hide behind.

    For the best beers, the key was balance, which leads me to believe that to achieve such a balance, it really requires a brewer to brew the beer multiple times to really refine the recipe. If you’re interested in competing in homebrew competitions, you might consider picking a style or two to concentration on in order to really get your recipe dialed in.

    Have you done any judging in a homebrew competition? Do you ever submit beers in competition to be judged? What has your experience been like?
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    David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.

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    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

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    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog

  • When To Rack Your Wine Into A Secondary Fermenter

    Posted on November 8, 2014 by Ed Kraus

    Racking Wine Into A Secondary FermenterHow long can I let the wine ferment before racking into Demi-Johns. It has been working Vigorously for almost three weeks now. Should I wait until then to transfer or what?

    Russ — NY
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    Hello Russ,

    When to rack your wine into a secondary fermenter is a question we get from time to time. The quick answer is, "it depends".

    If you are fermenting on fruit pulp, you will want to rack the wine into a secondary fermenter around the 4th to 7th day. Whether you rack on the 4th day or on the 7th day will make a noticeable difference in the body and color of the wine. The longer the pulp is in the fermentation, the more tannin and color pigmentation will be extracted from the fruit. So timing is important when there is fresh fruit involved.

    If you are fermenting from a juice concentrate, where there is no pulp involved, timing is still important but not nearly as critical. If you are fermenting an actual wine juice kit, then I strongly suggest that you follow the directions that came with it. It will specify a number of days before your first racking.

    If you do not have an actual wine juice kit but are freestyling it with some juice concentrate you have, then I would take the following into consideration with determining when to rack your wine into a secondary fermenter:

    • You will want the primary fermentation to be long enough to allow the yeast colony to grow into healthy numbers. The primary fermentation should be exposed to air. Shop Secondary FermentersDon't use an air-lock on it. Just cover it with a thin towel. Oxygen is what allows that little packet of wine yeast you added to flourish to about 100 to 200 times itself. If all goes well, this will happen in about 3 or 4 days.
    • The fermentation needs to have settled down enough so that it doesn't foam out of the secondary fermenter. You do not want the secondary fermenter to have a lot of head-space, so there will be little room for foaming. Yes, you could employ a blow-off tube into a jug of water, but it is completely unnecessary to go through such measures when simply waiting longer will do. This is not an issue that will affect the wine. It's more of a practicality issue.
    • You do not want the wine to be sitting on dead yeast cells for extended periods of time. You want to get the wine off the sediment in a timely manner. Not doing so can cause a condition known as autolysis. This is when the live yeast cells start feeding on dead yeast cells. This mostly happens the wine yeast run out of sugars to consume. This result is an off-taste in the wine that ranges from bitter-nut to metallic. For this reason the primary fermentation should last no longer than 2 weeks, and less than this if the fermentation has already stopped.

    Russ, all these things need to be considered when trying to figure out when to rack your wine into a secondary fermenter. If you are making your wine from fresh fruit, the timing is fairly narrow 4 to 7 days. If you are making your wine from a wine juice kit, the answer's simple: follow the directions. But if you on your own with some concentrate consider the three bullet-points above.

    Happy Wine Making,
    Customer Service at E. C. Kraus
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    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

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    This post was posted in Q&A, Wine Making Blog

  • Cloning Ithaca Beer Co.’s Flower Power – Pt. 2: Brewing Water Adjustments

    Posted on November 7, 2014 by David Ackley

    Flower Power BeerLast week I put together a clone recipe for Ithaca Beer Co.'s Flower Power, a deliciously hoppy American IPA. As I prepare to brew the beer, the next thing I will focus on is a water profile and making brewing water adjustments necessary.

    I’ve been getting relatively obsessed with water profiles and brewing water chemistry lately. After conducting an experiment with gypsum, I am absolutely convinced that it can have an effect on the perception of hop flavor. I’ve also noticed that including elements like magnesium, which are beneficial to yeast health, my fermentations have appeared stronger and healthier.

    To figure out how to adjust the brewing water for this IPA, I need two sets of figures: a source water profile and a target water profile. There are several programs that can help with these water calculations, but in this case I’ll use the water adjustment calculator on Brewer’s Friend. It’s free to use and relatively straightforward. Let’s walk through how to use it.
    1. Input water volumes

    Here I will stick with the defaults:

    Flower Power pt 2 - Water Volumes.jpg

    2. Input source water profile

    Here’s what my municipal water profile looks like:

    Flower Power pt 2 - image 2.jpg

    3. Select a target water profile and compare source water to target water

    Here I’ll choose the “light colored and hoppy” water profile. Brewer’s Friend also provides target water profiles for many of the major brewing cities of the world.

    After clicking on Update Calculations, I can now see the difference between my source water and the target water profile. A number in green is relatively close to the target, a number in red is off. The arrows show whether your water has too much or too little of a given mineral. It’s easy to play around with the Salt Additions (next box down) to see how they will adjust the water profile.

    One trouble spot in this example is the alkalinity. Since I can’t add minerals to remove alkalinity, I have to change my source water by using reverse osmosis or distilled water. That’s the only way to get the HCO levels down to 0 (as far as I know).

    In this case, I’ve gone back to edit my input water to match distilled water:

    Flower Power pt 2 - image 3.jpg

    4. Compare source water to target water and determine salt additions

    Now I can play around with the mineral salt addition inputs to get the brewing water profile adjusted to as close to the target as possible. Here’s the initial difference between the two waters:

    Flower power pt 2 - image 4.jpg

    And here’s the mineral salt combination I’ve found that will get me pretty close to the target water profile I need:

    Flower Power pt 2 - image 5.jpg

    On brew day, I’ll use a small digital scale to weigh out the different mineral salts. This mineral salt combination will be added to the total water used in the beer recipe – all 8 gallons as determined in the original water volume input. For now, I can add the additions to my homebrewing notes so they’ll be ready when I need them.

    The Water Calculator goes on to include brewing water adjustments and inputs for adjusting mash pH as well, but I’ll save you the trouble and just say that in this case none are needed. Feel free to play around with the calculator to determine whether you need to add any acids to acidify your mash.

    Next, stay tuned for the Flower Power Brew Day!
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    David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described "craft beer crusader." He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the IBD and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.

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    This post was posted in Beer Brewing Blog

  • Leigh Erwin: Using My Wine Filter System

    Posted on November 6, 2014 by Leigh Erwin

    Wine Filter SystemHi guys!

    Just wanted to update you on the filtering of my mead wine.  It's now to the point where it's ready to be filtered.  Using my wine filter system went OK, though I have to say the one thing that went “wrong” per se was my own stupid fault and I’m such an idiot.

    I’m blaming it completely on the mental fatigue due to all the wedding-related things, and not the fact that I didn’t read the instructions that came with the wine filter system carefully enough.

    First thing I did before using my wine filter system is bust out all the parts.  Looks simple enough!  One thing that should have been really obvious to me and taken about 2.5 seconds was hooking up the pump plunger to the unit, but for some reason is stumped me.  I was sitting there all confused trying to figure out how the heck I was supposed to take it apart and attach it to the unit, and then it dawned on me after LOOKING AT A PICTURE how silly I was and how ridiculously easy it was to do it.  Basically, all I had to do was insert the plunger all the way into the unit and screw it in place.  Seriously?  So much confusion for one of the easiest things I’ve ever done.

    If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, after I put together the entire wine filtering system, ran some water through the unit to make sure there were no major leaks or anything, AND filtered the entire carboy of wine did I realize that I didn’t put the wine filter pads in the housing correctly.

    Shop Wine BottlesWhat I was supposed to do was this according to the instructions:  “The filter unit consists of three parts: Bottom Housing, Top Housing, and Separator. Into this assembly the two filter pads must be inserted. The pads are assembled with the cloth looking flat side outwards. The correct sequence is thus: Bottom Housing, Filter pad, Separator, Filter pad, Top housing."

    So what did I do?  Well, I foolishly kept the two filter pads TOGETHER and placed then between one of the housing pieces and the separator.  I was supposed to take the filter pads apart and place each one separately between one of the housing units and the separator.  I have no idea why my brain decided that I wasn’t going to do it the proper way.  While I didn’t end up with much leaking, I probably ended up leaking more wine out of the unit than if I had set it up properly.

    Quite embarrassing that I would do something like that when it was obviously incorrect.  I guess I wasn’t having a very good day!  In the end though, I did end up partially filtering my wine, which is more than I have ever done in the past.  Half filtered wine is probably better than no filtered, right? I won’t be making that silly mistake again when using my wine filter system.  Read the directions.  More than once.  Sigh…

    See All Blog Posts From Leigh Erwin

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    Leigh ErwinMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I'll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.

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  • You Say Refrigerator, I Say FERMigerator: Converting a Refrigerator into a Fermentation Chamber

    Posted on November 5, 2014 by David Juliano

    Refrigerator ThermostatDave Juliano shares how to convert a refrigerator to a fermentation chamber without losing the freezer function.

    Having an extra refrigerator is often a blessing to the home brewer – it can be converted to serve kegged beer, or to provide controlled fermentation temperatures to improve the quality of your beer.  The one thing these two uses have in common is that, with few exceptions, the temperature range of a commercial refrigerator is too cold for the typical “kegerator” or “fermigerator”.
    How Most Fermentation Chambers Work...

    Several companies make plug-in thermostats to solve this problem, and the versions I’ve seen (Ronco and Johnson) all work in a similar fashion: the temp control unit plugs into the wall, the fridge (or freezer) plugs into the unit, and the thermometer probe portion of the unit is placed into the refrigerator compartment. Typically, the internal thermostat of the fridge (or freezer, we’ll just call them fridges for simplicity from here on) is set to its lowest point. When the external thermostat senses that the internal temperature is too warm, it energizes the control unit, which powers on the fridge. This allows the compressor to run, cooling the compartment.

    Once the external thermostat senses that the temperature is correct, it de-energizes the control unit, effectively pulling the plug on the appliance. This means that if you open the door in this state, the light will not turn on. It also means that the freezer only runs when cold air is needed. Now is a good time to note that most modern refrigerators that have a freezer only chill the air in the freezer – if the fridge needs to cool down, the computer in the unit opens a damper and activates a fan that blows some of the cold air from the freezer into the fridge compartment.
    The FERMigerator

    Shop Temperature ControllerAs you can probably see, using an external temp controller like this is easy, but compromises the use of your appliance. My plan to convert a refrigerator to a fermentation chamber enables the fridge to be set at a user-definable temperature while leaving the freezer unchanged. This way, excess food from the house can be kept frozen, hops can be stored, or the fridge can be put into service as an extra food-fridge if the need arises.

    To do this, you will need the following supplies (Read through the instructions before going to collect anything, as you’ll need to make some measurements of your existing system before you buy some of the components):

    • A temperature controller – Make sure to buy the model that suits your local power requirements, 110VAC for those of us in North America. These also may be available in Fahrenheit options, mine is in Celsius.
    • A project box – These can be found at Radio Shack or an electronics shop. Get the temperature controller first, and then find a box that is about twice as deep.
    • A regular duplex outlet – necessary if heating is desired (not covered in this article)
    • An extension cord – to power the temperature controller, also not covered here
    • A small piece of perfboard – from your local Radio Shack or electronics shop
    • Two 1/4w resistors, the values of which will be determined below – electronics shop or Radio Shack

    You’ll also need the following tools:

    • An electric or cordless drill with a 1/4” bit
    • Soldering iron
    • Wire cutters
    • A digital multimeter and knowledge of how to use it to measure resistance (don’t worry – it’s easy-peasy)
    • Assorted hand tools to access the necessary bits of the fridge controller

    The best place to start this project is to look up your particular model of fridge on an online appliance parts website. Look for the controlling circuitry for the fridge – this project will replace the factory thermistor with the new temperature controller. Be sure you’re looking at the right one! The freezer compartment will have the exact same device, but we want to leave that alone. The photos I’ve included are from a 2002 Amana French-door bottom freezer. When looking online, I could tell that the part I was after was housed in the control assembly at the top of the fridge compartment where the two doors meet. Once you’ve identified its location, unplug the fridge and begin carefully disassembling the trim around it to get to it, and then we’ll begin.

    Steps To Convert A Refrigerator To A Fermentation Chamber

    1. Make sure the appliance is unplugged!
    2. Using wire cutters (if required -- some thermistors are replaceable and may just have spade connectors holding them in) cut out the thermistor. Mine looked like a large white cylinder.
    3. Multimeter for checking sensor resistance.Using the multimeter set to read resistance (Ohms), connect the leads to each wire from the thermistor at room temperature.Here, mine is reading 7.82K Ohms at about 78°F. The temperature isn’t important – we just want to know that what the fridge computer reads from the thermistor is two states – hot and cold. Hot is any temperature above where we want to be. I brew ales and plan to lager, and saw no reason to ferment higher than this. If you’re doing something different, adjust the ambient temperature of this step accordingly!From this information, I know that when the fridge computer reads 7.82K Ohms, it will want to turn on to cool the fridge down.
    4. Keeping the multimeter set and the thermistor connected, now place the thermistor in a glass of ice water. This is 32°F, and represents the “cold” side of my needs. When the fridge computer reads 24.54K ohms, I know it will turn off.
    5. Now comes some math and a little knowledge of electronics.  If 7.82K ohms equals “ON” and 24.54K ohms equals “OFF”, how do I trick the fridge computer into reading those?This is where the temperature controller comes into play. Unlike some other external temp controllers, this one is a relay (electronic switch).  When it says to turn on, it closes a switch, which completes contacts. If those contacts happen to be wired to a 120VAC outlet, it will deliver 120VAC, just like the Ronco and Johnson units we discussed previously. If, however, we wire the relay to a couple of resistors, we can electrically trick the fridge computer into reading one of the two previously determined values, allowing the existing fridge computer and electronics to do the actual work of cooling the fridge down.Resistors, when wired in series, increase their resistance by the sum of the parts.  In other words, if R1 and R2 are put end to end, R1+R2=Rtot.  If they’re wired in parallel, however, we get the inverse: Rtot=(R1xR2)/(R1+R2).  This is important because we need the fridge computer to read a higher resistance to turn off, and a lower resistance to turn on.

      Schematic for resistors when coverting refrigerator.The STC-1000 will close the relay when the external probe reads a temperature above the set point, so when that relay closes, we want the fridge computer to read <8K ohms.  When the temperature falls below the set point, the relay opens, so we want the fridge computer to read >24K ohms

      I designed this simple schematic so that the fridge computer was reading R2 directly, and when the relay closed, R1 would be added to R2 in parallel, dropping the resistance read by the fridge, telling it to start to cool.

    6. Here’s that math bit – how do we determine which values of resistor to use for this? Here’s how I did it.  The values I measured weren’t standard resistor sizes, so I rounded.R2 must be 27K, since that’s the “Off” state, so to determine what value resistor I needed to give us 8K in the “On” state, I did math. There are websites that help with this, like this one.Type in the two known values (R2 and Rtot), and it tells us the value of R1 is 11.37K
      _________________________________________________________
      NOTES:
      11.37K isn’t a standard size either, so I found 12K in my parts bin.
      8000=(27000*X)/(27000+X)
      Solve for X
      X=11368,

      Or: (MATH+BEER+GOOGLE=RESULT)

      X=11.37K

      Keep in mind the following things:
      Always use the same units- 1k ohm = 1000ohms
      Remember that the lower resistance is the “On” state, and the higher resistance is the “Off” state.
      ________________________________________________________

    7. Armed with these numbers, go to Radio Shack and buy some 12K and 27K resistors, and a small piece of Perfboard, wire, an enclosure, solder, iron, whatever you don’t have. The project from here is simple.
    8. Assemble the perfboard. I soldered the two resistors to the perfboard, using their leads to make the connections, and also two pigtails of braided wire. The white wire was cut off of the end of the old thermistor, and the black is just some speaker wire I had that will connect to the temperature controller relay.  Follow the schematic from above to ensure you have it wired correctly.
    9. Wire it in: the white wires got crimped back in to where the thermistor was removed. The black wires got crimped onto the wires coming from the “Cold” relay on the STC-1000. Neither of these connections has a polarity to worry about. I had previously drilled a hole in the top of my fridge case by first making sure no refrigerant lines were in the way (check YouTube for lots of great videos on how to do this!).
    10. Thermostat panel for used when you conver a refrigerator to a fermentation chamber.I tucked the bit of board and the wire into the shroud that holds the fridge electronics, and reinstalled the panels and covers. I did have to drill a small hole in the plastic shroud to allow the black wire from the temp controller out.
    11. With everything plugged in and cooling, the STC-1000 is now in control of the fridge, while the factory-provided temperature circuitry was still in control of the freezer, and I could watch the temperature drop in the fridge!  (Remember, this is Celsius, and in my garage in Tucson)

    And that’s how you convert a refrigerator to a fermentation chamber or kegerator, and still use the freezer portion for storing hops or whatever else you need cold.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Dave Juliano is a DIY homebrewer and maintains a homebrew website detailing many of his projects.

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  • When To Add Sparkolloid To Wine

    Posted on November 4, 2014 by Ed Kraus

    Wine Treated With SparkolloidAt what point do I add the sparkolloid to my wine?

    Jerre M. — TN
    -----
    Hello Jerre,

    Thank you for the great question about when to add Sparkolloid to a wine.

    Technically, Sparkolloid can be added anytime after the wine has stopped fermenting. However, normally it is added after the wine has been treated with bentonite. It's kind of the left-hook the bentonite's right-jab. One works to take out what the other can't.

    Bentonite takes the most particulate out of the wine, so it is used first. Once the fermentation stops, a winery will add a dose of bentonite to drop out the proteins. This is mostly yeast cells and tannin. Most would drop out on its own, but the bentonite helps it drop out more quickly.

    While bentonite is the best at dropping out large amounts, what it is not particularly the best at is adding a polish to the wine. While the wine will look somewhat clear after a bentonite treatment, there are fining agents that can add more polish to the wine. This is where Sparkolloid comes in. Sparkolloid is able to take out finerShop Sparkolloid particles by neutralizing their electrical charge and allowing them to collect and drop out. This increases the luster of the wine. For this reason, after a bentonite treatment is when to add Sparkolloid to a wine.

    Sparkolloid is not good at taking out large volumes of particulate matter. For this reason, if you are only using Sparkolloid to fine your wine, then I would wait a month or two after the fermentation, to make sure that what can drop out on its own does so. Once the wine quits improving in clarity on its own, rack it off the sediment and add the Sparkolloid.

    So, when to add Sparkolloid to a wine really depends on whether or not bentonite is being used beforehand. If so, wait about a week and then add it. If you are not using bentonite, then you may need to wait several weeks before the wine has cleared enough for Sparkolloid to be effective.

    Happy Winemaking,
    Ed Kraus

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

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    This post was posted in Q&A, Wine Making Blog

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