Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Filtering beer

I was less than impressed with the clarity of the Oktoberfest beer I'd made back in May, so I thought I'd try filtering.  It turns out I had almost all the parts necessary.  The only thing I had to buy was the filters themselves.  I got them at Lowes for about $7 for two filters, so it seems like a pretty cheap solution -- if it actually works.

I started with the water filter housing I already have.  I use a carbon filter in it for filtering the tap water for brewing.

I also had the ends I'd cut off of my immersion chiller a while back. I don't use the immersion chiller as a chiller so much as a heat exchanger for keeping my mash at a constant temp.  These are garden hose fittings, so they screw together and screw right into the water filter.

These are the filters I got at Lowes.  They were about $7 for the pack of 2.  They are 5 micron sediment filters, no charcoal.  1 micron filters would be better, but Lowes doesn't carry them and the prices I found online are significantly higher.  The research I did on the internet says 5 microns should do a pretty good job.

The other piece of equipment I had on hand was a "jumper" hose.  This connects 2 kegs from the out of one to the out of the other.  This is a handy hose for transferring from one keg to another, either by siphon or with some CO2.

My plan is to replace the hose on the jumper hose and insert the filter housing in the middle.  I still want to be able to have a jumper hose without having the filter, though.  No problem!  Here is the new hose attached to the disconnects and to the garden hose adapters from my immersion chiller.  The garden hose adapters screw together, so I still have a plain jumper hose.

This is not a "before" shot, it's a nice Amber beer that I was drinking while assembling this.  Total assembly time was about half an hour, and most of that was spent looking for hose clamps.

Here is a shot with the filter housing.

And all set up to filter:

The pictures don't show the whole process.  First I put about a quart or so of Starsan into the empty keg and used the CO2 to push it through the hoses and filter.  (Tip: I put a sewing thimble on my finger to push in on the poppet in the disconnect. Big time finger saver!)  Then I reversed the setup.  First I let all the pressure out of the full keg. Then I  hooked the CO2 to the full keg, hooked the "in" side of the filter to the full keg, hooked the "out" side of the filter to the "out" of the empty keg.  Then I turned the pressure up on the regulator to about 2 or 3 pounds.  That is plenty to get the beer through the filter.  It took about 10 minutes to do the filtering.

Filtering in progress:

Pretty simple, and pretty easy.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to get a "before" picture of the beer.  Worse, I had a problem with the empty keg when I was cleaning it.  The "out" poppet broke, so I replaced it with a popped from another keg.  It turns out it doesn't quite fit.  I can't get any beer out of that keg, so I'll have to buy a new poppet to fix it.

Update Sep 15: The poppet was fine the next day, I don't know what the problem was. Vapor lock, maybe? I'm still less than impressed with the clarity. I think the 5 micron filters did an okay job, and I'd use it again for transferring from a lagering keg to a serving keg. I found some cheap 1 micron filters on-line, so I ordered them. They are $2 each, and I ordered 6. They should be here early next week, so I'll try again.

Update Sep 17: The filters arrived today. These are the same filters that Northern Brewer sells, but these are considerably cheaper. I got them here:

I poured a "before" glass, then filtered, then poured an "after" glass. Holding them side-by-side, I could see that the "after" class was somewhat clearer, but still not the sparkling clarity I was hoping for. I should have used Irish Moss in the first place...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Batch 96, Panama Red

Once again, Panama Red, but with a few changes.

10 gallon batch

20.25 lbs 2-row
1.5 lbs Crystal 60
1 lbs Wheat (this is new)
4 oz Chocolate malt

Mashed with 8.5 gallons 170F water to get 160F in the mash tun.  Didn't adjust the temp, but it did drop to about 155F by the end of the mash.  Mashed 40 minutes, iodine test said conversion was complete.

Batch sparge with 165F water, collected 13 gallons.  Measured mash efficiency, got 77%.

Hops additions, did a 90 minute boil:
2 oz Willamette, FWH.  Usually I use Mt. Hood, but I didn't have enough.
2 oz Nugget, 60 min
2 oz Cascade, 30 min
1 T Irish Moss, 15 min
2 oz Cascade, 5 min
2 oz Mt. Hood, 5 min (I picked these last week, this is my entire 2010 crop of Mt. Hood.)

Ended up with 9.5 gallons in the fermenters.  OG was 1.061.  I was aiming for 1.056, so I probably boiled a little too hard.

I'll use Wyeast 1272 in this, but I'm not going to pitch until tomorrow.  I'm going to let the wort settle overnight, then I'll rack into new fermenters to remove the cold break and trub, then I'll pitch the yeast.

Update, Sep 7: racked the wort off of the trub into new fermenters, pitched the yeast.  Lost about 2 quarts.  Wort was at 66F.

Update, Sep 20: racked to secondary, harvested yeast.

Update, Oct 1: kegged


Friday, September 3, 2010

Vacuum packing hops

How to vacuum pack hops for just about free

Parts list:

  • 2 ft 5/8" hose
  • Vacuum
  • duct tape
  • 1 gallon freezer bags
  • damp sponge
  • kitchen towel

You probably have all of this stuff laying around, so it might be totally free.


  • Tape the hose into the vacuum nozzle.


  • Fill a gallon freezer bag about 3/4 full with hops.  
  • Wipe the bag seal with the sponge to clean it (it will probably have hops particles on it, which will cause the bag to lose its seal).  
  • Zip the bag completely shut.
  • Open the bag about an inch in the middle.
  • Turn on the vacuum.
  • Push the hose into the bag about 4".
  • With one hand, pinch the zipper as closed as possible, with the other hand, press down on the hops to help compress them.
  • Place the sponge over where the hose enters the bag and hold.  This will make the vacuum even better.
  • Slowly pull the hose out of the bag.
  • Press down on the sponge to seal the bag zipper.

5 HP shop vac: