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DIY Keezer: Part 3

February 15, 2011 By: jeff Category: Beer Gear, DIY

Having decided on the best place to house my kegged homebrew, and having completed the handywork — as detailed in Part 1 and Part 2 — now we settle in for some electrical work and put the finishing touches on the keezer.

love controller

Diagram looks simple enough, right?

Here’s where I start to get more paranoid than normal.

With the collar built and decorated, now I need Grant to wire the Love TSS2 temperature controller.  By default, Sir Grantie has become the resident electrician here at the FuzzyBrew family.

It’s one thing to wire a small stir plate, as we have previously written about.  Quite a different animal to be wiring a temperature controller to a large appliance that will run 24/7 in the garage of your home.  I have faith in him, though.

Instead of buying the same controller Grant has on his fermentation fridge, I bought a different one (I wanted the temperature shown in Fahrenheit, not Celsius) which didn’t make things easier for him.  But, he was able to get it wired up rather quickly.  I’m going to leave out the technical details of where every wire went, but if you get in a jam, send an e-mail to grant@fuzzybrew.com.

hand signals

Maybe hand signals will work

We thought the hard part was over and started to drink some new beers we had collected. Ommegang Zuur, Ranger IPA, Odell IPA, Upslope IPA and Grant’s Nookie IPA stand out as highlights.

But programming the controller didn’t prove easy.

I had heard the instructions that come with this controller are lacking, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad.  A sample: Mode ONOFF1(On1)with rO=ind–Relay 1 with c1=dir—Temperature of probe 1>=SP1+r1–>relay 1 ON–Temperature of probe 1 <=SP1–relay 1 OFF.

Yup.

This was one of nine operating modes to choose from. Luckily, they all had accompanying graphs. So we had that going for us, which was nice.

Armed with a glass of ice water (acting as the chest freezer) and a lamp (acting as the heater), we headed outside in case it blew up.  The second it was plugged in, a piercing, beeping noise that you could feel in your molars was coming from the controller.

We didn’t even know these things made noise.

So 10 minutes later, we figure out how to mute it, which was just in time because baby Marvin was asleep directly above us.  For the next hour we tried many different strategies, but the night ended with little progress on the programming front.

finishing touches

Attaching the collar to the hinges

I will say the directions become easier to decipher when you are sober and have reread them 20 times.  I’ve since figured it out, and I’m working with ClaudiusB over at homebrewtalk.com to figure an even more efficient program that will result in the freezer turning on as little as possible.  Thanks for all the help, ClaudiusB.

Now all I really needed to do was glue the piece of weather stripping to the underside of the collar.  I used silicone for this, which worked OK. I may have to redo this at some point because if I give it a little tug, it does come off.  I don’t open the lid that often, so it should be fine for now.

On our next brew day, I got an early start because I wanted to get the collar mounted to the hinges and actually install the temperature controller in the front face of the collar.

We actually were under the gun a little bit here, because we needed to transfer our 11/11/11 Wee Heavy (post coming soon) into the keezer so it could lager for another month.  Grant had two batches going into his fermentation fridge, and I had one going into my fermentation chest freezer, so we had to get this in the keezer.

junction box

Three-prong outlet

So mid-brew day, we attached the collar to the hinges with some machine screws and washers. Next, we mounted the temperature controller to the face of the unit and ran the wire out the back of the collar.

Meanwhile, the temperature probe got put in a glass of water inside the freezer.  We mounted the three-prong outlet that is wired to the controller into a junction box, which was then mounted to the back outside part of the collar.

We did a quick test to make sure that our hot and cold side programming for the controller was correct.  I will admit that I’m a huge believer that happiness is mostly found in appreciating the small things in life, but I’d be lying if I said our reaction to it working correctly wasn’t partly influenced by homebrew:

When the first beer was ready to be kegged (black witbier), I drilled a hole in the back of the collar for the gas line. I decided to keep the tank on the outside of the unit, basically to maximize my space on the inside. 

Mike was nice enough to be our homebrew mule and pick up a used 10lb-CO2 tank (along with a bunch of other random stuff) from Rebel Brewer while in Nashville for work.

Here are some pics of the finished product:
gas line tapstemp controller

For the most part, this baby is up and running. 

I’ve got a black witbier and a robust porter on tap.  The hump is filled with some beers I’m going to try and keep around for at least a year. 

In the near future I’d like to mount a small computer fan on the inside to help circulate the air. From what I’ve read, when there are four kegs on the floor, the air doesn’t circulate and it is much colder on the floor versus the top of the unit, which could result in the bottom portions of the kegs freezing. 

Also, I might have to hook up some kind of heat source on the off chance that it gets insanely cold in the garage and dips below freezing. But I’m hoping I can make it through the winter and put that off a year.

The total cost for the project, minus the kegs, CO2 tank and regulator, was roughly $375, which is definitely a big initial cost for kegging your beer.  But, not having to scrape labels off bottles anymore or bottle an entire 5-gallon batch of beer is pretty huge. 

Not to mention the child-like grin I have on my face every time I step up to the tap.

FuzzyBrew’s Favorites for 2010

January 10, 2011 By: jeff Category: Craft beer, Opinion

After checking out all the end-of-year beer lists for 2010, we thought it would be cool to share each of our top five favorite beers of the year. We drank a lot of good beer in 2010, so this was a fun trip down memory lane.

organic ale

Jeff’s picks

1.  Estate Homegrown Ale – Sierra Nevada.  This beer explodes with resiny, grapefruity, wet-hopped goodness.  The well-balanced, smooth malt backbone makes this a beer I could drink all night.

2.  Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale – Stone Brewing.  Whatever you want to call it – Black IPA, Cascadian  Dark ale – it doesn’t matter.  Roasted, chocolatey grains that you would expect in a stout or porter combined with the pine forest, citrus hop flavor of an IPA, resulting in a beer that is bad ass and unique.

3.  Sorachi Ace – Brooklyn Brewery.  The  Sorachi hops are front and center for a lemony take on a Siason,  a style known for bracing bitterness, spicy notes and a crisp dry finish.  This beer was killer.

4.  30th Anniversary Brewers Reserve: Oak-Aged Ale – Sierra Nevada.  Weirdly enough, of the four anniversary beers released this year, I was least excited to try this one. That’s why I’m learning not to trust my instincts.  This beer is a blend of their Oak-aged Bigfoot, Celebration Ale and Pale Ale.  They combine to make a tasty blend of oak, malt and hoppy goodness.

5.  Sue – Yazoo Brewing.  An imperial porter that has an incredible blend of chocolate and smoke.  I was blown away the first time I had this at the Cooper Young Regional Beerfest.

Honorable mention: Odell IPA – Odell Brewing.  Thank you for saving me my own bottle, Mr. Erskine.

Mike’s picks

1. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale – Bell’s Brewery.   A really well-balanced AIPA that would be my everyday ale if I could buy it in Memphis.

2. Sweet Water IPA – Sweetwater Brewing. An explosion of grapefruit taste and floral aroma packed in a beer that goes down easy.

3. Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter – Flying Dog Brewery.  The late Hunter S. Thompson graces the bottle’s label and proclaims, “Good people drink good beer.” And this is a really good Baltic porter: rich, roasted malt flavors with hints of molasses and a hell of a kick from the 9.2 ABV.

4. Odell IPA – Odell Brewing.  A mix of citrus and piny hop flavor and aroma with a decent dose of malts. It does not disappoint.

5. Schafly Coffee Stout – The Saint Louis Brewery. First coffee stout I’ve ever tried and loved the smoky, rich coffee flavor with notes of sweetness from the oatmeal stout base.

Grant’s picks

Modus Hoperandi1. Modus Hoperandi – Ska Brewing. Fantastic IPA I found on a trip to Colorado this past summer. The closest it’s available to Memphis is St. Louis. I made a decent clone, which started me on my quest to brew the perfect IPA. This is where the bar is set.

2. #9 – Magic Hat. I don’t actually remember when I had my first one of these, but it quickly became one of my favorites during this past summer’s ridiculous heat wave. It’s a tasty and crisp craft brew you can drink no matter how high the mercury rises. I made a pretty good clone a few months ago and have another in secondary fermentation right now.

3. Old Glory American Pale Ale – Great Dane Pub. Malty, hoppy totally drinkable brew from Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a British-style pale ale with American hops, whatever that means. Wish I could get it around here.

4. St. Vincent’s Dubbel – Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. Jeff gave Mike and I each one of these. Loved the crisp and sour taste. Luckily Mike cracked his open first to share so I still have one.

5. Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale – Lazy Magnolia. Really tasty brew from Mississippi (where homebrewing and over-5% ABV is illegal. WTF?) Also, fun to give people with nut allergies. This is why there is now an Epipen in the kitchen cabinet.

Honorable mention: Dry-hopped APA – Schlafly Beer. The first couple I had were fantastically hoppy but not too overwhelming. Unfortunately, sixers I’ve bought since indicate it doesn’t have a great shelf life, as the hop taste is muted. This is something we’ve noticed with our homebrewed IPAs, too.

What were the best beers you tried in 2010? Leave a comment below.