Recently, I've been slowly going out of my mind. I sit in my brewing space and stare at the walls, quietly scrutinizing every aspect and element of my brewery, from grain storage, through brewhouse, to cellar operations and serving options. I'm stuck.As far as my brewhouse is concerned, I've attained the holy grail, a "self sufficiency" sized brewhouse. But I'm not brewing.
It's funny how all the books I've read, spend sweet bugger all time on dealing with the issues and problems of fermentation, conditioning and serving. The answer usually is a trite comment about kegerating with a chest freezer. There is little to advise the growing home based craft brewer about moving from 19L production to around the 76L mark (sub-100L production, 94L = 5 corny kegs).
I live in a tropical zone. Temperatures in my brewspace, currently run at 30 deg. C ambient. In summer, 40+ deg. C is normal - in the room. Winter is cooler with overnight temps in the 10-15 deg. range.
Its a challenge. So what to do? Brew only in Winter and make ales? Build an Ice driven cooler box? Try using A/C to control the insulated box temp? Done all that, not happy with it, worse still some of those experiments have resulted in me having to through away beer. Bad Beer. Bad Beer that should never have happened in the first place.
So now I'm looking and thinking long term - double jacketed, glycol chilled, refrigerated Fermenters and conditioners. So what size? (80L) What configuration? (vertical conicals, horizontal conditioners, pressure safe) What framework to support them in my brewhouse? (Steel shelving) What cost?!? Can't be done straight away, damn too costly.
So I sit and cogitate some more, Cafe Del Mar on the boom box, to help mask some of the environmental white noise. The missus informs me that the neighbours are selling several HDPE 2 barrels, 1x30L, 2x60L, & 1x120L at 10-15 bucks each - "Buy them! lets do it now!" I say. Luckily we score all of them, with an option on a 3rd 60L barrel. Within 30 min. I've got two 60L fermenter made and shelved, an option on a 30L fermenter and the 120L barrel is housing 50kg of base malt. You little ripper.
The A/C driven temp control cupboard doesn't work. The A/C doesn't cool, at all! ARRRRGGGG! What to do? Working with such volumes in a fermenter requires a very different approach to that of using 19L water barrels. What to do?
Sit. Cogitate. Change the CD.
I've got some basins. Could fill one with water, and drop a bag of ice into it each day, that might work, bit hit and miss though given the swings and slides of ambient temp at this time of year. My mate, Peter's Extra suggests using a couple of cooling coils, insulated tubing, and a pump to circulate cooling fluid through the fermenter - like an immersion chiller, ala some guy based in Brazil or Honduras. Then we conclude, that in end effect the best option would be to either have a large, temperature controlled, refrigerated, insulated cool room, our, just lash out an buy a chest freezer. Running all the other guff would end up costing more than the outright purchase and operation of a new chest freezer.
So here I am, gotta convince the missus I need a chest freezer. Good thing she's a great sport! Ticked off the idea and so the financial controller has authorized the purchase. Got a mate heading back to OZ for a quick visit, and hopefully he'll be able to bring back a temp controller for the fridge, s/s probe, and a refractometer with ATC.
I move forward. Slowly. Haltingly. But it is forward movement.
I'll be brewing again this week. I have to. It's a must do thing, that can no longer be ignored. I'll stick the barrel fermenter into a basin and dump in some ice, and measure the temp as a result. Watch it closely and keg it asap. but I look forward to getting the chest freezer and temp controller.
Keep Moving Forward...
Until the next time,
It's Your Shout, Mate!