Hackers: The homebrewing edition.

April 20, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Posted in Brewing | Leave a comment

On Saturday Nic an I headed over to Home Depot with four things:

1) A strong desire to brew beer completely on our own. (up till this point we’d been using a friends equipment)

2) The knowledge that HDPE #2 plastic is considered “food safe” for brewing equipment.

3) tight wallets.

4) Our inner engineers trying to claw their ways out.

The only item holding us back from being able to brew, was a device for mashing our wort.  Our friends use a double-bucket system, but this method has its flaws.  Namely, that the upper bucket creates fluid displacement if it gets filled to the top, which in turn creates a major mess.  The other option, is to spend a lot of money, and make a stainless contraption that will last forever, but create a major hole in your pocket.  I’ll invest in better equipment when I have the space, time, and money for it.  At the moment I lump myself in the category of “amateur homebrewing hobbyist”.  Cheap is fine.

So after wandering through Home Depot, we found the materials to turn a 5 gallon plastic bucket, into a bright orange sparging machine!

A stainless mesh shower drain, and two sheets of rubber gasket material.  We made a friend named Sid in the hardware department, and he hooked us up with all the stainless lock-washers, machine-nuts, and bolts we would need to hold the contraption together.

As soon as we got home, Nic got to work.  The first order of business was to drill the whole for the spigot that had been part of his birthday present nearly two years ago when we decided to take up home brewing.

Once the holes were drilled all we had to do was connect the dots.

Here is a bird’s eye view of the bucket.

And again from the front.

Total cost: $15

After all that work, we had to do a test run to make sure it worked.  We went to the beer depot to pick up brewing supplies, and came home with the materials needed to make an Oberon clone.  Here’s a few pictures of our masher in action.

You can see in the picture that I had to add more gasket material to reinforce the water-tight seal.  We had a few drips, but no big mess.

If you can steep tea, and make oatmeal, you’ve pretty much got the essential skills needed to brew beer.  After the mash sits for an hour or so at 150°, the grains have pretty much given up all their malt sugars.  At this point, the sludge becomes wort.  The wort is deliciously sweet.

Once you sparge the wort, you return the pot of wort to the stove, where it gets a final hour long boil with the hops.  We made three additions of hops (all different varietals for flavor) during the boil.  Hops are related to well-known plant that contains the molecule THC.  So during this boil, well, you get a little silly if your house isn’t well ventilated.  It will also destroy you if you have bad spring allergies, as I did.

After the boil, the wort has to be chilled down to 70° so that the temperature doesn’t kill off the yeast.  We let the wort sit overnight to cool down.  An immersion cooler makes quick work of this task.  But once again, brewing equipment is expensive.  The immersion cooler might have to be my next home-brewing hack.

Once the wort is cooled and the yeast is pitched, all you need to do is cap the carboy with an air-lock.  And sit.  And wait.

I’ve listened to the beautiful music of the carboy bubbling away as I’ve written tonight.  In a few days we’ll rack the beer into another carboy to reduce sediment, and a week or two after that it should be ready to bottle!

Until next time,



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