I’ll be the first to admit. I’m a large bearded child. So when it came time to build a tap I wanted to do something that was fun and childish. At first I thought a fishbowl tap would be cool. But after some research it seemed like a little much of a time investment and riddled with all types of leak issues. Discussing it with my girlfriend (who I am so lucky to have and doesn’t mind if I build taps in the home) her first thought was a gum ball machine.
At first I wasn’t sure it could be done. But the idea of dispensing two treats at once got my glutinous side so excited I had to find a way. And a way I did find. Here’s a link to the full project in detail if you’d like to build one yourself! I’m sure there is plenty of room for enhancements. But here’s a lot of groundwork for you. Enjoy!
Bubblegum Tap Machine
I’ve been brewing on the Brew Magic system for a couple months now and it’s been great. I’m hitting ~83% efficiency every time now but the more I read the more I see I can still do things better. A big one that I just resolved is “Cavitation”. Which is the fancy term for meaning there is air stuck in the system and it stops the RIMS capability that is so precious with this system.
The key factor here is a proper prime. Which I was not achieving. I typically would just move the liquid from the HLT to the Mash Tun via the RIMS system. Priming the pump via the HLT valve and closing the lower valve to the Mash Tun. Having cleaned the system prior to using it my assumption was there was still water in the lines to retain suction. The fool I was!
My high efficiencies had made me drunk on power and blind to the other flaws I could be creating along the way. Well I have woken up and seen the light! Out with you damned cavitation! Out!
I love working with adjuncts. I think finding the different qualities fruits, vegetables and obscure grains can bring to your beer is amazing. The only issue with that is some of those malts or other little fellas can up the protein in my mash. Possibly leading to off flavors or bad conversion.
That’s when I need to take a little more time to enjoy some more homebrew and go with a protein rest. A protein rest helps to breakdown proteins into smaller proteins and amino acids, plus it’ll let you get at more of those starch strains letting your saccharification have more potential for a good efficiency.
While it does add to the brew day, it’s going to also add to the quality of your final product. Along with making you an amazing homebrewer that makes you the envy of the species… well at the very least be able to drink tasty beers.
After a couple of weeks of kicking around some recipe ideas with Chris and finding the best time to brew we finally were able to collaborate on a new batch of beer. I got to brew into the wee hours of the night with Chris on his 2 bbl system to create Navidad Voyage. A recipe I based on a story that compliments some of the fare you’d find on their menu.
The story behind the beer is based on the third voyage of theSanta Maria, which we all know as the first ship in Columbus’ fleet to land in this great country now dubbed the U-S-of-A. Basically Columbus was not happy that he never really got to explore the West Indies like he had intended and wanted to take a crew down there to check it out. Well it just so happened by the time they got there it was Christmas Eve. And like a bunch of good Americans they decided to celebrate by breaking open the ale barrels.
As the crew started to celebrate more and more they were getting past the ability to steer the ship. So the duties passed off to the lower and lower crew mates until eventually the ship was being guided through the sea by the cabin boy. Not being very experienced at steering a ship he ended up running it into some rocks and damaging it beyond repair. The crew woke up to found they had crashed on Haiti and not being able to salvage the boat they decided to strip the timbers and turn it into a fort. He dubbed it La Navidad. And there it lives to this day. The boat that started it all crashed by a bunch of beer drinkers sitting on an island in the Caribbean.
Using this story we came up with a recipe for a standard English Bitter that they would most likely have on board. But decided to add some local flare with some Guava and All Spice. And being that we had so much fruit in the recipe we decide some salt would be a good addition to bring out the sweetness. Knowing that salt is a tricky substance to work with in beer this seemed like a prime opportunity to play around with it.
The beer is chugging along right now and we’re hoping to have it on tap end of the month. But if you’re not busy anyway why not stop by 508 for any of the other delicious brews on tap and come meet Charlie Papazian Oct 28 while you’re at it! If you can’t catch him at 508 head over to his book signing at Bitter & Esters Oct 29.
Chris has an amazing brewing system that he retrofitted in the restaurant basement. Not originally being thought of as a location to brew beer it’s amazing what one can do with a little creative energy. Just like any NYC homebrewer this system is something that’s unique and you wont find similar builds listed on r/homebrewing. I was super excited and lucky to brew on this set up even the cleaning didn’t seem like a chore! Thank you Chris for giving me the opportunity!
The more and more I brew the better and better I try to get at my efficiency. The first couple of batches I was plugging away into brewing calculators and getting amazing potential gravities from my recipes. The only problem was every calculator I was using was thinking I was getting 80% efficiency. As I failed to hit the ABV I wanted I read more and more on honing in on your brew setups efficiency.
One thing to check out is the °Lintner or Diastatic Power of your grain bill. Lintner and Diastatic power both translate to the ability of your malts to convert starch into sweet-sweet sugar (maltose!). They need a minimum of 35 °Lintner to properly convert your starches.
This is where you need to make sure you check the Diastatic Power of your TOTAL grain bill. If you’re using some type of malt that has less than 35 °Lintner then it’s affecting the overall total of your Diastatic Power. If you’re getting poor efficiency on some brews vs others this could be a big reason why. This is why there are so many typical base malts. They contain the Diastatic Power you need to convert your starches to sugar.
It’s also another reason why barley is so heavily used in beers. It’s just got what it takes to get things going. I recently mashed some Malted Millet from CMC all by it’s lonesome. While I did get some conversion out of it the amount of sugar I got for 5 pounds of grain was only 1.017. HARDLY FERMENTABLE! I guess that’s why there is Sorghum syrup.
If you’ve ever tried to move your beer over from a keg to a bottle or growler you’ve probably noticed that it’s tough to keep the carbonation up in the bottle. That’s because when you move it over from the keg at the standard PSI you basically shake out all the CO2 on it’s way into the bottle.
A good way to keep the bubbles in your suds is to use a beer gun. You can buy these if you want but they’re fairly easy and inexpensive to make. Some big things to keep in mind are, keep the PSI low when bottling, pre-chill your bottles to prevent foaming, and push out as much oxygen as possible during the process.
Photo: Alison Benbow
I have a converted 10 gallon igloo cooler for my mash tun and I have tried preheating vs higher strike water temperatures to maintain a consistent mash temperature several times.
With all the times I’ve tried this in my set up it seems that preheating the tun is the way to go. It may seem small if the temperature only varies in a few degrees but those few degrees have screwed up my efficiencies on several batches.
All I do to heat mine up is heat about a gallon of water to 200°F and toss it in the tun and let it sit for about 20 mins with the lid on. I don’t heat it to the boiling point as to reduce wear and tear on my cooler, the boiling temp is a bit too high for it and can potentially warp it.
This works well for me anyway since I’m waiting for the other 6 or so gallons of water to hit the right temperature I’m looking for.