MacBourne's Musings

Time to go back to the land: Planning to be as off-grid as I can - in the process there'll be music, guns, guitars, a smattering of politics (really kind of over that), CNC routing, yeah - a bunch of other stuff, too. Conservative with libertarian leanings - no wookie suit, yet. Μολὼν λαβέ - ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒE

Author: Scott McCray (page 1 of 4)

All-Grain Homebrewing – Fermenting

Cool…I didn’t scare you off with the first one…

(“ain’t skeert” chorus heard in the background)

So, what do you think? Isn’t brewing all-grain beer fun?

Back to the end of the brew notes from the brew  session – I’m sure you noticed that after I whirlpooled the wort I didn’t use any form of accelerated cooling. While many folks use wort chillers (immersion, plate or counterflow), for this session, I just covered the kettle and waited for it to naturally cool to 185°F which takes about 25-30 minutes. More on that in just a sec…

Remember the bag of spent grains? Now that they have had time to cool, it is a good time to get ’em out of the bag and into a plastic bag or pail. What? you were going to throw them away? Nope – use them to cook with, make dog biscuits, feed ’em to your Euskal Oiloa Chickens or put ’em in the compost pile. You do compost, right? Just be sure to use them in moderation in the compost pile and stir the pile to aerate and encourage the aerobic bacteria! No waste, no worry.

Back to the brew process…I then transfered to a sanitized Winpak® Tight Head Pail that I used for fermenting…you’ll want the 70 mm wrench, too. Those caps seal very well…pretty much impossible to remove by hand.

Australian No-Chill Method

This natural cooling technique is known as the Australian No-Chill Method. By sanitizing the Winpak® Tight Head Pail with One Step and then filling it with 180°F wort, no contaminants will survive. Once you’ve tightened the screw cap, turn the Winpak® on its side and gently roll it around on the floor – now you’ve heat sanitized as well. You can leave the wort to cool overnight…possibly longer if need be…

While it might not be for everyone, it works great for me and makes imminently drinkable beer with a much-shortened brew day. That’s a WIN! (If no-chill is not for you – there’s a few links at the bottom for more traditional cooling equipment…)

As you fill the Winpak®, reserve about a quart and a half into a 1 gallon glass jug. Cap that off with a screw cap and place it in a sink of cool water to speed chill it for a starter. When you get to pitching temperature of 70-80°F, add your yeast, agitate well and cap off with a Twin Bubble Airlock and Carboy Bung.

The next day, verify the wort has cooled to pitching temperature, use the wrench to remove the cap from your Winpak®, swirl the yeast starter and pitch (add to the wort). Cap the Winpak® with a number 11.5 bung and an airlock. You may want to use a blowoff setup for the first couple of days.

Cleanliness is next to…better beer

Good, you’re still with me…

Whether you’re intrigued or horrified, at least you’re still reading!

So far we’ve cut our necessary equipment by 2/3, time spent on brew day by a couple of hours and we are still making good beer! Icing on the cake? It costs less than $1.00 in power per brew session – compare that to the cost of propane!

The wort is now fermenting away as the yeast does it’s job…in a week to ten days it will be time to rack the beer to the secondary fermenter. I’ll keep it in secondary for two to four weeks and then bottle or keg…not sure which this time.

Happy Yeasties!


Chill out, dude…


Need to drop back to a simpler method?

Go back to where it all began for many brewers:

Relax Don’t Worry, Have a Home Brew

All-Grain Homebrewing – The Equipment

…and the brew session redux…

Let’s get a bit more in depth with how I put the brew system together:

Make that Electric Brew-in-a-bag All-Grain Homebrewing…

Have you tried brewing beer at home? Are you ready for the next step in homebrewing – but the expense and complexity of a traditional all-grain setup has you stymied? Gather ’round ‘cuz yer old Uncle Scott has the solution!

I’ll show you how to build an inexpensive setup with easily accessible components that will have you brewing all-grain beers indoors that you’ll be proud to share. (Or maybe not – that way there’s more for you!)


Photo: Scott McCray

The backstory

Time issues and how to overcome them

I initially started homebrewing in the early 90’s as most folks do by brewing extract batches on the stove top. When I realized how good my own beer could be, I was hooked. As time passed, I gravitated to partial mash brewing – then soon after that to all-grain brewing. Unfortunately, the traditional methods for all-grain require a significant amount of equipment and time. You need three vessels – a mash tun, a hot liquor tun, and a boil kettle – and propane or natural gas burners for each. A typical brew day meant dragging all of the equipment outside and dealing with the elements for six plus hours. All of those factors along with working away from home contributed to me hanging up my mash paddle for over ten years.

Fast forward that ten years and there have been some major advances in homebrewing methods. First came single vessel brew-in-a-bag techniques – then along came electric brewing. Major improvements, but still kind of pricey.

One day while researching another project, I discovered this little fellow. Compared to the monster rigs I was reading about on the forums, 1500 watts seemed like it might be under-powered. But, hey – light-bulb moment – what about using two of them? I created a spreadsheet to run my calculations and it seemed like it might be doable. This was starting to get exciting!

Here’s what you’ll need…


Bayou Classic 800-416 16 Gallon Stainless Steel 6 Piece Brew Kettle

What’s not to love? Thermometer – check. Drain valve and bulkhead fittings – check. Hop screen – check. False bottom – check. All stainless? Yep!


Neiko 10194A Titanium Step Drill Bit

The best deal around on a step bit – this is a tough little rascal!


Stainless Steel 304 Cast Pipe Fitting, Hex Locknut, MSS SP-114, 1″ NPT Female

You’ll need one of these for each of your immersion elements.

217 Silicone O-Ring, 70A Durometer, Red, 1-3/16″ ID, 1-7/16″ OD, 1/8″ Width (Pack of 10)

You’ll need two of these for each of your immersion elements – spares are a good thing! 😉



Winco Wooden Stirring Paddle, 36-Inch

You’ll need a mash paddle…this fits the bill nicely.


Other components you’ll need

  • Immersion Heater – 1500 Watt
    HEET-O-MATIC 1500W,115V with a length of 7″ below the 1″ NPT fitting. Features a Type 316 stainless steel sheath & thermal probe. Includes an adjustment dial with reference scale of 0-11. Pilot light indicates when unit is heating.
  • Custom-made Brew Bag
    Jeff makes his brew bags from high quality 100% polyester fabric using 100% polyester gutermann thread. The bags have a total of three rows of stitching, although one is hidden in the seam. Of the two visible stitches, one is a reinforced stretch sti


Let’s get started

Drilling for the immersion elements and installing all of the components

Your brew kettle is shipped already drilled for the thermometer and valve, so the first thing you’ll need to do is drill the hole(s) for your element(s). This can be done with a handheld drill – but you’ll need to go slowly and carefully. Step drill bits have a tendency to “grab” as they break through to the next step. Use cutting oil – 3-IN-ONE 10135 Multi-Purpose Oil works fine. Use an automatic center punch to dimple where you want to drill to keep the bit from “skating.” I placed mine about halfway between the bottom of the kettle and the false bottom support ring. (see pic – click to embiggen) If I had mine to do over again, I’d probably shift the two holes about 5 to 10 degrees closer together. This would have allowed the hop screen to fit between the elements – but they all work fine as is.

Once the holes are drilled, use a round file or a Dremel with a Sanding Mandrel to clean up any burrs.

Next, you’ll need to mount all of the hardware using Teflon Tape on all of the threads – don’t forget the silicone rings on both sides of the kettle wall. You’ll need a couple of crescent wrenches (an 18-inch and a 12-inch) to finish tightening the fittings.

Finally, you’ll want to fill the kettle with water to test the seals on all of your fittings. Once you are satisfied that you have no leaks, plug your elements into Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor-protected circuits and bring your kettle to a boil with just water as a dry run (errrrrrmmmm…wet run?). I use my setup in the kitchen of my apartment so I can pull power from two separate GFCI circuits to prevent overloading and tripping breakers. Note: It is NOT recommended that you power this system from a circuit that is not GFCI protected.


Brewing with your new rig

I wrote about this session over here – but this is a bit more in depth…

So your brew kettle passed the hot hydro test and you are raring to go – you do have your recipe ingredients ready, right? Well, I have one here in the hip pocket of my bib overalls I’ll share if you don’t:

This was originally going to be Midwest’s Sierra Nevada Pale clone modified with additional base and caramel malts for a 6 gallon batch. Best laid plans of mice and men and all that. I inadvertently grabbed the grains for a California Common Ale out of stock – as I was mashing I noticed the color was a bit darker than I expected. Oopsie.

I decided to roll with it, so now we have the birth of the California Uncommon Pale Ale. A bit over the top in IBUs for an American Pale Ale, but a tad weak for an American IPA. We shall see.


Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 9.00 lb

Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 0.50 lb

Caramel/Crystal Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 0.50 lb

Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 3.00 lb

Perle [8.90 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 1.00

Perle [8.90 %] – Boil 30.0 min Hop 1.00

Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins) Misc 1.00 tbsp

Cascade [6.80 %] – Boil 2.0 min Hop 2.00 oz

Safale American (DCL/Fermentis #US-05) Yeast 1.00 pkg

8.75 gallons water @60°F

So let’s get going, shall we? Put the false bottom in your kettle – being sure to put the lifting handle in as shown – away from the thermometer side. This will be critical when it comes time to remove the false bottom after the boil using your brew paddle!

Brew Notes

6:10 PM – 60°F

Power On – 100% (Both elements – more on that later).

6:50 PM – 108°F

7:10 PM – 130°F

7:30 PM – 145°F

7:40 PM – Noticed power cord for second element had not been plugged in…d’ya think that could help?

7:45 PM – 164°F

Reduced power on both elements until thermostats clicked off.

Added grains to bag – “Doughing-in.”

7:50 PM – Mash at 153°F – Started mash timer.

8:55 PM – Increase heat – Ramp up to 170°F

9:00 PM – 170°F – mash out.

Reduced power on both elements until thermostats clicked off.

9:10 PM – Pull grain bag out and hang above brew kettle to drain.

Power on both elements (really both of ’em this time)

9:25 PM – Initial boil – initial hop addtion – Perle

9:30 PM – Hard, rolling boil

9:55 PM – Second hop addition – Perle

10:15 PM – Irish moss

10:23 PM – Aroma hop addition – Cascades

10:25 PM – Cut power

10:26 PM – Removed hop bags and false bottom.

10:27 PM – Whirlpool and cover brew kettle

10:40 PM – 185°F started transfer to sanitized tighthead fermenter

10:45 PM – 180°F – gently tilted brew kettle to get the last of the goodness – Capped tighthead fermenter.

1.5 quarts of wort reserved into sanitized half gallon jug – set in water bath in sink to cool.

10:50 PM – Tightened fermenter cap with wrench – turned fermenter on its side and rolled it around to heat sanitize. Set in sink to cool.

11:00 PM – Dead on OG – 1.056

11:15 PM – Pitched yeast in cooled reserved wort.

11:45 PM – Airlock on yeast starter bubbling already.

8:10 AM – Opened tighthead fermenter – pitched yeast starter. Set up blow-off and left for work.

Rolling boil

Two Heet-o-matic 40830 immersion heating elements maintaining a rolling boil on a 7.5 gallon boil size – this was about 20 minutes into the boil. The built-in thermostats were great during the mash to hold temperature, too – but cranked to 11 here. (yes, they actually go to 11 – heh).




Home Brewing Beer Brewing Hop Filter Hop Spider





Excellante 48-Inch Standard Mixing Paddle



All non-sales module images © Scott McCray unless otherwise noted. Sales items link directly to their respective owners.

Not sure what happened…

…but my blog installation hurked a hairball.
Alas, none of my backups would let me do a direct restore, so I’m manually copying, pasting, updating links, and cursing. In the process, I’m purging out stuff that was really past its due date and preparing to get my slack butt back to writing again.
The page ain’t pretty – I still have a ton more work to do. Please bear with me as I ferret out broken links and try to get things back in good shape…

Update: Automated backups configured – hopefully I won’t have to do this exercise again…

Gabriella Quevedo – (VIXX) Error

More amazing work from the extremely talented Ms. Quevedo:

I had never heard the original before – interesting. Gabriella’s version, though…

Liz Longley – “Unraveling”

I’ve been wandering through Liz Longley’s catalog – this will be my last one for tonight…

If you’ve lost a family member or friend to Alzheimer’s – this is your song. Thank you, Liz. Sadly beautiful. Tears…

Liz Longley at OpenAir: “Peace of Mind”

I just can’t get enough of her voice – hopefully Liz Longley will become a household name soon! Funny that two of my favorite vocalists are both Liz – though one proclaims herself “Lzzy” (Lzzy Hale of Halestorm). Enjoy…

Oh my, that voice…

Like velvet, perfect pitch – enjoy. You’re welcome…

Processing venison – efficiently

Everyone has their own way of processing meat – this fellow is an artist. If I was half as efficient and smooth with my cuts, I wouldn’t have near as much burger, stew meat, and jerky grind!

Of Farts and Bubble Suits…

Back in the day – all good stories start that way, right? – I worked in the nuclear power industry as a Senior RadCon tech. (Radiation Protection/ Radiation Control/Health Physics – all the same-same).

We monitored the workers that did maintenance in high radiation/high contamination areas. On this particular job, we were covering steam generator jumpers that were crawling into the hot side of the steam generators to plug tubes that had developed leaks. They were suited up in canvas protective clothing and plastic “bubble suits” like the guy in this pic…

We had a steady flow of contract boilermakers coming down to the staging area, dressed for success in their PCs and partially suited up in the plastics – no bubble hoods at this point. They were all sittin’ on the Group W bench waiting their turn. This one boilermaker apparently had some pretty severe intestinal issues – that or he ate a roadkill possum for dinner the night before. Flatulent did not begin to describe this guy. He was in serious violation of all known chemical warfare rules. The rest of the guys were sitting as far away as possible, but he kept firing ‘em off.

Gawd, it was nasty…

The manway they used for access to the genny was 18 inches in diameter, so no SCBAs for them. Their bubble hoods had an airline pigtail that we hooked up to an air whip bringing in nice clean filtered air. When it was his turn to jump, I was working on finishing his suit-up. Just as I’m tucking the hood in and taping up the seams on his suit, he rips the loudest, longest one yet.

The other RPT at the jump station calmly grabbed the jumper’s air hose (which vented in around the top of his head), and kinked it – thus stopping the air pressure. Now, there’s plenty of air in the suit for several minutes of breathing – in fact the guys would climb up to the genny platform without being connected – but now Ol’ Cuz had effectively gassed himself. When the cool flow of air stopped, and the realization of just how screwed he was hit him, the look on his face was priceless.

His face went several glorious shades of green, and my coworker looked at him with an evil grin, “Pretty effin’ nasty, ain’t it?”

The jumper nodded.

“Gonna walk around the corner next time you need to, right?”

Jumper agreed – and there was a huge round of applause from the rest of the boilermakers. He did wander off around the corner for the next several days he was on our job…

Moral of the story? Don’t screw with the guy that controls the air supply…

Gabriella Quevedo – Dream On – (Aerosmith)

Simply awesome – amazing talent…

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