The Beer Journals Est. 1992

Hello, I'm Dean Palmer, and welcome to my site. Although a very different site today, The Beer Journals was started back in 1992 when I moved to Ft Lauderdale/Miami for my first corporate management job. I created a newsletter of stories and photos that was printed and mailed to friends and colleagues, detailing my adventures in South Florida.

I'm not an expert, I don't have a degree in brewing science, I'm a hobbyist, and the intent of this website is not to teach brewing, or to imply that my way is the best way. I do hope that by showing what I have done, and how I do it, might help someone with their process.

Custom welded brew stands available to your specifications and design.

Kettle drilling for valves, bulkheads, thermometers, etc.

Complete All-Grain Brewing Solutions from Basic to Expert.

Custom Electric Control Systems.

Call or email for information.

Links, Recipes, & Places to Go
The Brewery Kegerators
Fermentors Sanitation and Cleaning Growing Potted Hops in Florida
Mash Tuns
RIMS Heater Tube Misc. Gadgets, Methods & Good Stuff
Yeast & Starters
Free Brewing Classes
NEW Perlick Perl Faucet!
Chilling Wort
Carbonation Brewery Closed-System Fermentation and Transfer Page
The Brewery Version 6, Electric and Propane (March 2013)
View of the brewery showing the new electric control panel. The propane burners will still be used when needed (maybe for cookouts :-), but currently all brewing is done with the more efficient 5500w 240v electric elements.
The electric control panel uses a 240v/50amp service and powers three water heater elements. The controllers are from Auber Instruments. This is a modified and more compact version of the panels shown at http://www.theelectricbrewery.com/

The controllers for the mash tun and kettle have integrated timers, and all of the controllers utilize an alarm circuit to alert the operator of any number of programmable conditions. It is still a very manual process just with tighter controls. When finished the system will be able to work with RIMS and HERMS and be able to fly or batch sparge at any time.

The 20 gallon cylindro-conical fermenter is stainless steel with completely sanitary fittings and valves. No threaded fittings to trap contaminants. It sits inside a temp controlled upright freezer and also has a small heater just in case the florida garage temps drop below optimum. It is shown with the sight-glass assembly and oxygenation stone installed and ready to receive wort from the next brew session. Although I resisted spending on conicals for almost a decade, now having one is really nice. I still can't say if it helps make my beer better but it is great to be able to harvest yeast for myself or friends at any time, and to drop out the trub and debris before pitching yeast.
The Keg Kettles
The kettles are made from scrapped, damaged, and legally-purchased stainless-steel 15.5 gallon beer kegs, hence the name "keggle." I was fortunate enough to have found the current ones from a keg wholesaler. I also purchased some from Sabco.com. Sabco is just about the best place to get a good legal keg, and their Brew Magic Systems are nice as well.

I cut a 10" or 12" hole in the top and install valves, thermometers, and filtering devices as needed. The Hot Liquor Tank (HLT or water tank) only has a simple pickup tube, the Mash Lauter Tun (MLT or mash kettle) has a false bottom, and the Boil Kettle has a false bottom as well to screen out as much debris as possible before racking the beer to the fermenter.

I can build these for you if you are local, and already have your own legal keg that needs cutting or drilling.

Firepower
I use the Bayou Classic brand cookers because they are readily available, portable, and able to be used for other cooking tasks throughout the year. I use the KAB4, KAB5, KAB6, and SQ-14.

The KAB4, 5, and 6 Banjo Burners are the main ones used in my rig. They have 185k to 210k BTU, but the nicest thing about them is the ability to have a nice even simmering heat when needed, for brewing and for any outdoor cooking we do. This KAB4 shown to the left has been modified with edge supports welded on to keep keggles from slipping off the sides.

Above and to the left is the KAB6. The wind shield was added by me and is just made out of some tin roof flashing from the hardware store. The frame on the KAB6 is the best so far for holding the keg kettles, and works great for big pots of all kinds. The burner is further away from the kettles so the wind screen helps a bit to direct the heat where needed. It is the same design as the KAB4 and 5, but with some changes they have really made it more powerful. It has a larger air inlet, and I suspect the orifice might be changed, but the regulator seems to the same one as my other KAB series. Worth the extra $$.
Below is a pic of the Bayou Classic SQ-14 that holds a keggle well, and is available at many places including Home Depot for about $45. Works as well as the more expensive burners, and is quieter, more powerful, and more efficient than the standard 55K BTU burners. These are rated up to 150k BTU per the manufacturer, but seem to really have to work to get 13 gallons to a rolling boil. Works though.
Chilling Out

Recirculation Pump

To the left is a pic of my pump that I currently use to recirculate the ice water through the IC instead of wasting it like I did using the pre-chiller. The ice seems to last about the same as before however, and I never connect this pump until the wort is below 100f anyway. It's also a nice way to rinse the cooler after lautering. The pump I have is a 1/2HP from Harbor Freight, but I'd suggest the 1HP model as mine is just enough to do the job with a 50' copper chiller.

Why the Ice???

Here in Florida the tap water is rarely if ever cold enough to chill our wort down to pitching temps. To get colder water we need to either recirculate ice water with a pump, or pre-chill the tap water as it goes into the immersion chiller. The recirculation pump has proven to be the best method, and doesn't waste as much water.

Pre-Chiller... Don't waste your time!

This pic shows my pre-chiller in a cooler full of ice, to cool the hot Florida tap water before going into the main immersion chiller inside the keggle. The pre-chiller is just a 3/8" copper immersion chiller like the one that goes into the keggle.

Unfortunately this is not an efficient way of chilling the cooling water. The recirculation pump in a bucket of ice works best. You run the tap water through the immersion chiller until the wort is down to ~100f, and then connect the pump for the ice water to bring the wort topitching temps. This is the most efficient way to chill your wort in hot Florida weather!

Grain Milling
Below is a picture of grains crushed at .037 in my BarleyCrusher mill. I'm still fine-tuning my crush, but I've got it to a place where I don't have any whole grains, and I'm also not making too much flour. This is a place I'm looking to improve my efficiency a bit more. I'm at a consistent 75% efficiency per Promash Software, so I can't complain.
Fermentation
Here in Florida our weather is hot most of the year, and keeping your house cool enough for even making ales can be impractical. A solution to that is a dedicated refrigerator or freezer with an external temperature controller. With this setup I can ferment any type of beer, at any time of the year, and it can even be set to cool based on the temp of the wort for ultimate accuracy. There are cheaper methods, but no others are "set it and forget it" like this.

Also in my case this has to be a part of our dining area, so other solutions just are not visually acceptable.

Shown above is our set of 15 gallon Cornelius keg fermenters. One is used for primary fermentation, and the other is the secondary fermentation/conditioning tank. The black and silver tape you see is to secure the temp sensor to the keg for stable readings. The oval thing below is a dehumidifier. Once the beer goes into the fermenters, all transfers of the beer between fermenters, and between fermenters and serving kegs is done with a closed system and CO2 pressure. This is to limit any exposure to oxygen to prevent oxidation of the beer and also possible exposure to contaminants. The photo to the right shows the fermentation fridge with a Vittles Vault fermenter and a few corny kegs which was my old process before buying the twin 15 gallon stainless kegs.
Click Here for the Closed-System Fermentation and Transfer Page
Kegging
Once the beer is made, you need a container. Kegging makes home brewing wonderful. You can always bottle a few, but kegging is much less work with the same or even more consistent results than bottling. The investment can be a bit more, but it pays off! Now, every day at my house is a keg party.
Here are photos of beer being racked from various containers to kegs. I use the same basic CO2 system to move the beer into the keg that I do when racking between kegs. In this case I purge the keg with CO2 before starting and leave the purge valve open so that the incoming beer purges the gas out as it rises. As mentioned before, the CO2 pressure used here is very small and there is little danger of the glass breaking as the tops will fly off (and have) long before the glass breaks. The CO2 is also left on through the entire process so that the airspace in the fermenter is replaced only with CO2 and not with air from outside.
Click Here for the Closed-System Fermentation and Transfer Page
Dry-Hopping

Here is the hop bag that I use inside my kegs. It is attached to the pressure release nub on the underside of the lid with a stainless hose clamp. I've also learned to seal the bag with a zip-tie to prevent the hop sludge from escaping if I leave the bag in while shaking to force-carbonate. This method allows you to remove the bag without reaching into the keg, thus reducing the risk of contamination. It also allows the lid seal to properly seal unlike other methods that run something like dental floss or fishing line through the seal. Of course you need to sanitize everything before use!

Serving
Here is Kegerator #1. It can hold 4 of the 5 gallon homebrew kegs, and serves 3 of them at any time. I can add a 4th tap if needed, but 3 seems to keep pace just fine. It can also hold commercial kegs if needed. All the hardware is stainless steel, and the faucets are the Shirron/Ventamatic forward-sealing type. Each keg has a separate regulator for serving at different pressures, or force-carbonating.

It is made from a Frigidaire freezer, and the temperature is now controlled by an external controller instead of the factory thermostat. The collar is made with a frame of regular 2x4's and it has a red oak trim panel. The original lid is simply remounted to the collar, and the collar is sealed to the freezer with some foam tape.

Kegerator Page
Here is Kegerator #2. It is an older Beverage-Air DD68 that I just refurbished. It now has 6 taps and will hold as many as 12 cornies, but that space will be mainly for storage and lagering of beer that just came from the fermenters.

Newly added are lower trim panels made from polished aluminum diamond-plate to give it a really tough look. I pimped out my kegerator!

The only issue with these commercial units is the noise. There is a fan that runs constantly, but the real killer is when the compressor kicks in. We have this in the same room as the TV, and in some cases we are turning the volume up and down when the kegerator cycles. If it wasn't for the function and convenience of the front doors and stainless top, I'd just build another chest freezer kegerator and have a quiet house again! I've started to build a noise baffle system with some acoustic foam panels, but you just can't restrict the airflow very much, and that is where the sound travels.

Other Stuff
The Vittles-Vault containers use the Gamma-Seal Lid system, which has a rubber gasket between the lid mount and the bucket which is not visible, and another seal between the actual screw-on lid and the mounting rim. To make sure this hidden area gets clean when you use this lid system for fermenting, you should remove the lid mount. This was not a thought of the people who designed the system, so I simply made the holes like you'd find on regular bucket lids with a drill, being careful not to drill through anything but the outer rim. Then with a utility knife I made cuts downward. This allows the edges of the lid to flex and be able to release from the bucket. After breaking the first lid after repeated and difficult removals, this was a good fix!

The Gamma-Seal lid systems are great for dry storage in buckets and such, but are clearly not the best for fermenters and liquid storage. I would advise against using them ,or the Vittles Vault containers for fermenting in unless you really have to use a single container. Just buy two regular fermenting buckets or carboys and be happy.

My email address is Dean_Palmer@jabil.com