First brew of the year…

I had planned on brewing this weekend, but then remembered I actually had a day off and everything in house, so…

I had picked up two botched batches of grains meant for shop-designed kits; I guess something in each batch was wrong for their intended recipes, so they couldn’t include them, but hey, 50% off for anyone who wanted them.

The first one looked to be a good stout – or at least based on what made it into what I picked up – so I fleshed it out with 4 more pounds of Maris Otter, a pound of oatmeal and a few ounces of roasted barley.

…or, rather, I intended to add oatmeal. I forgot to add it to the mash step and didn’t realize until the boil stage…but my water volume was all based off of having it included. If it were just a matter of volume, I could just boil off to get whatever the volume should be, missing the oatmeal.

Turns out, though, I could add the oatmeal at the boil stage, so…we’ll see what happens. Still too much wort, in the end, by the looks of things, but at least it’ll have (at least some of?) the body that oatmeal brings 🙂

Here is my current fermentation chamber setup: a 7 cubic foot chest freezer with a temperature probe (lower left), Raspberry Pi (upper left), blowoff “bucket” and keg (middle) and two one-gallon carboys (right).

The temperature probe is attached to a temperature controller (which just shuts the freezer on and off to regulate temperature more accurately than the freezer itself can). The RPi is in there primarily for connectivity to a Tilt hydrometer but also has a fan to address an issue where heat settles into layers in the keezer and needs to be circulated. Less important in the fermentation version of the keezer, but it’ll be more important in the next keezer where the serving taps should be kept as cool as everything else, not actively warmer.

The RPi also has a sensor “hat” for temperature and humidity sensing; I don’t really need another temperature sensor, but the probe is kept in water since that is more indicative of what the beer will experience, so the ambient temperature sensor of the RPi is useful as well. The humidity sensor is what I really wanted, since the RPi will be sitting around in there…I figure humidity can’t be good for the RPi 😉 Hanging from the wire cage are two dessicant dehumidifiers that you can recharge by plugging them into a wall outlet (I didn’t need two, necessarily, but one is just hanging out until I get the second keezer).

One batch of beer is usually 5 gallons; people often ferment that volume of beer in a fermentation bucket or the like, not a keg, but I’ve been trying to do everything in kegs for a few benefits. The downside is that you cannot ferment 5 gallons in a corny keg, even though you can store and serve 5 gallons from one… You want some headspace during fermentation, due to the krausen that forms, so I bank on about 4 gallons in the keg for fermentation…which leaves a gallon I need to do something else with. As you can see below, I have two one-gallon carboys, which is due to the aforementioned volume issue relating to forgetting the oatmeal.

I forgot that I’d have extra wort, so the intended yeast went into the keg (an Irish ale yeast) while I put an English ale yeast in the carboys. If I wanted to get fancy, I could’ve done three different yeasts…but I also didn’t want to waste a third yeast by cracking it open just for .8 gallons of stout… Maybe I should just get some extra to keep on hand just in case.

The picture below shows the Tilt hydrometer output, which is collected by the RPi via Bluetooth very frequently. It also logs readings to the cloud, which will be interesting over time, but the idea is that you can tell when your beer is done fermenting when it stops registering activity in the wort from the fermentation process. It also can calculate the alcohol content of the beer since the sensor knows the original and final gravities once fermentation stops, which is handy. To the right of the Tilt output is my budget display of temp and humidity (and pressure because it was in the example code for the sense hat).

Eventually, the webpage displaying stats, etc. will be on a TV or monitor above the keezer(s) and should include what’s on tap, what’s on deck, what’s actively fermenting, and what the temp/etc. is for each keezer.

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