Month: March 2015

Home brewing on the small scale

This year I’ve decided to dive head first into home brewing. To get back on the horse, I’ve built a new small scale 1 gallon all grain system. This has a ton of pros; its small enough for my tiny kitchen, it is quicker and cleaner, cheaper per batch and makes it easier to brew lots of batches. That being said, I’m still working out the system, but it is coming along pretty well.

3 Vessels

The system isn’t a brew in a bag setup, but sort of a miniature all grain set up. I built the mash tun out of a 2 gallon beverage cooler with a stainless mesh bottom made from a hose. Nothing crazy, but I haven’t had any stuck mashes, and I can hold temp pretty well (+/-2 degrees) during an hour mash (as long as I preheat the tun). I’ve got two 30 qt kettles, one liquor tank and one for the boil. I want to add valves to these kettles at some point in the future, but for the time being, this works perfectly. The mash comes out looking great, and hitting preboil volumes and gravity no problem thanks to Beer Smith.

1 gallon brew
The 3 vessels.

 

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The mini mash tun, fitted with a ball valve holding steady at 154F.

 

Recirculating Chiller

My sink is hopelessly small. I couldn’t fit a bucket, let alone a kettle. I decided to build a wort chiller nice and simple. Some 3/8″ copper hose very loosely wrapped and connected into a small Harbor Freight submersible pump. I load up a bucket with about 2 gallon of the coldest tap I can get, and I’m usually around 75F in 15 minutes. I’m really happy with how this came out, it was a fun little thing to build.

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The chiller set up, sitting in the boil and sanitizing.

 

 

1 Gallon Jug Fermenters

I’ve been fermenting each batch in 1 gallon jugs, and have had no issues getting into a strong ferment. Everything after that has been the struggle. At first, I built a little temp controlled water bath with an aquarium heater and left that to keep the temps around what I thought was 68F, but turns out was way too warm, more like 75. The first two batches came out wonderfully vegetal. The next two batches were pulled mid ferment from this hot bath, but I think the damage was done. Now, the temps are rising and it is easy to maintain 64F ambient in the house. I’m likely going to move into 2 gallon buckets shortly. I worry that the 1 gallon jugs don’t supply enough head room, both for krausen and for aeration. I’m still experimenting with the fermentation, but hopefully I’ll have that locked down soon.

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The product, just after pitching. Lots of cold break still settling.

Moving Forward

Getting this new system up and running has been a blast. I’m still getting the hang of it, but it has been easy and not heartbreaking to ruin a few batches as I figure out what the hell I am doing. I love the approach of brewing often, and brewing experimentally. I’ve been trying anything and everything, meticulously controlling variables, digesting as much reading material as possible and getting absorbed into the hobby like never before.

notebook
Keeping track of all the numbers.

 

new hops
Experimenting with these new southern hemisphere hops. The galaxy’s look and smell wonderful.

 

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Brew buddy Poppy, ensuring no squirrels mess with the brew day.

 

 

Getting artsy with gift giving & laser cutting.

Over the last few months, I’ve been making lots of gifts between birthdays and the holidays. For these gifts, I turned the the laser cutter to make some unique and goofy gifts.

Jewelry:

The jewelry I’ve made has become more an experiment in post processing then in design or fabrication. I’ve been using very basic shapes (mostly from the KG Flavor and Frames font series), or the traditional monogram style to create basic shapes in wood and acrylic. Then it was off to spray painting, washing, laquring, masking, etc. I’m still no where near finished with this. I’ve really enjoyed the experimental design with attention to detail nature of making jewelry.

Layering wood and acrylic.
Layering wood and acrylic.
Experiments with masking.
Experiments with masking. I liked the result of leaving clear acrylic masked to make ‘windows’.
Showcasing some of the finish products
Showcasing some of the finish products

Making Maps:

This project is certainly the most challenging I embarked on. I attempted to extract map data from OpenStreetMap to use as vector lines to create a thin street mesh that can be layered onto a contrasting based board. In the end, I feel defeated to the monster pile of vector data that my computer was not quiet able to handle. I simply raster engraved it. Hopefully I will lock this process down later and will have some details to share.

Detail of the engraving.
Detail of the engraving.
The mess of vector data
The mess of vector data
Laser engraving in action
Laser engraving in action
The engraved result on baltic birch.
The engraved result on baltic birch.

The final map framed and ready to be hung.
The final map framed and ready to be hung.


Medal Rack

My father spends more time running races then not, and he has amassed quite the collection of medals that ends up hanging off of post next to a vanity mirror in his bed room. Under the wise suggestion of my mother, I made him a rack for the medals to live on. The box is simple dovetail joint in 1/4″ red oak boards. 3 dowels are off set from one another on the top to create a cascade of medals on display. This project was a ton of fun, but I ended up completing it quite close to the buzzer and the rush left plenty to be desired. I would love to try to remake this again, but the joinery was so simple that I think I would use hand tools to do it in the future. (Feel free to download the Sketchup model. The joints are not designed with any kerf in mind, so it isn’t perfect.)

The model designed in Sketchup.
The model designed in Sketchup.
Red oak medal rack with laser cut dove tail joinery.
Red oak medal rack with laser cut dove tail joinery.
The completed rack, hung and displaying medals.
The completed rack, hung and displaying medals.

Various Boxes

I’ve learned recently that it is all about presentation. So I made some ornate little dove tail boxes on the laser cutter. These are generally generated with Makercase, and some edits are made to fit the various gifts. I’ve found these are no nearly as useful in the grand scheme of things. Some funk foam would go a long way to keep things from bouncing around in the box.

A mini pétanque set needed a better home then a tin tube. This box looks pretty, but the balls move a bit too much...not to mention the pea sized cochonnet.
A mini pétanque set needed a better home then a tin tube. This box looks pretty, but the balls move a bit too much…not to mention the pea sized cochonnet.
Jewelery box works great, but could use something to keep the piece in place.
Jewelery box works great, but could use something to keep the piece in place.

In Summary:

The laser cutter is such an amazing tool. With a bit of goofy design, and lots of experimentation, you can make some really inexpensive & unique gifts. I’d love to hear any feedback! I’ll be rolling out details on some of these projects in the future, so check back!