Tools Of The Craft

Hop Harvesting Equipment

The first bit of kit that we built for the 2013 Hop harvest was a stackable drying rack. A 4' X 8' frame was constructed with a mesh screen bottom to allow air to pass through. It was a simple design but it dried the hops in a 24 hour period. Much more drying space will be needed for the 2014 Hop harvest so we will have to construct additional drying racks and place them into a multi-layered oast house. 

Brewing Equipment

I can remember doing my very first batch of all-grain without the above piece of equipment. It was winter and I needed to cool 5 gallons of wort as quickly as possible so I had some friends help me put the brew kettle in the nearest snow bank that we could find. In no time at all, the brew kettle steamed its way down through the bank and down the the concrete. It took over a very cold hour that night to chill 5 gallons of 212 f wort down to an acceptable 70 f so that the yeast could be pitched. The next batch would not be attempted without the above wart chiller.... it has been modified since then to include a soldered connections and a valve to make life a little easier. The chilling time has gone from + 1 hour to 10 minutes using this amazing device!

Everyone interested in home brewing needs to buy something that can hold 5 gallons of wort so that it can ferment. This can be anything from a simple brew bucket (for around $10) to something more elaborate (significantly more). For me, it was a Cooper's beer kit that got me going on homebrewing and I still use the fermenter that came with the kit to this day. I feel no pressure to upgrade as this piece of equipment has really never failed me! As I move into larger 10 gallon batches, I will need to use two different fermenting pails.

Sorry for the "grainy" picture but this is my grain mill, something that you unfortunately will have to buy to drive the costs down of your all-grain brews. I won't break even with this purchase until I use up 283 pounds of grain (or 28 brews) but I'm well on my way. Milling the grain just prior to brewing gives me the freshest beer that I can get while enabling me to buy bulk 50 pound bags of grain!

You might look at this picture and say "That is just a 5 gallon cooler from Home-depot". You wouldn't be that far off the truth either, but there are a few crucial modifications that have been made so that the cooler could be transformed into a "Mash Tun". The process of all-gain brewing requires you to hold milled grain at a temperature around 150°F for around an hour to convert the starches in the grain into fermentable sugars. The easiest way to achieve this is with some sort of device that can hold a temperature for a time (In this case a cooler). This cooler has a screen inside to prevent large particles through. The screen is attached to the bulkhead that connects to the valve on the outside. A 5 gallon cooler is just enough for a 5 gallon batch of beer under 6% ABV but ideally something slightly larger would be better... say a 10 gallon cooler.

For Christmas of 2013 my father bought me this 15 gallon brew kettle complete with a temperature gauge and valve. This is large enough to handle a 10 gallon batch and works well with the high performance propane burner that I have. I did get away with a turkey frier kit from Canadian tire for my first 20 or so brews so something like this is not required right away.

Another item that is not crucial right away is a high performance burner such as this Banjo burner (110,000 btu's of heat). One downside of such a large burner is that you can get through 20 lbs of propane in 2.5 brew sessions however if time is your concern, this burner will shave around an hour off your brew day. The turkey frier burner that come in kits from Canadian tire are a cheaper alternative but at less then half the heating power you are in at least 7-10 hours for a brew day.

After breaking my last gravity meter (made of glass), I decided to go with a refractometer from e-bay which was around $25 shipped. It is something that I use all the time and works like a charm. The only disadvantage to a refractometer over a traditional gravity meter is that you need to plug your numbers into a spreadsheet to account for the effect alcohol has on the device. The advantages of a refractometer is that you can read gravity at any temperature and you aren't wasting wort/beer every time you take a reading.... which should be frequently.

I always thought bottling was the single most boring event in home-brewing so I decided to get a couple of kegs. This is absolutely not necessary but I don't think I will ever go back to bottle conditioning. The time savings are huge and it makes a one week beer batch turnaround possible (although not always advisable as most beer gets better through the aging process). One thing to note if you wan't to start kegging is that you need some method of cooling your kegs down to at least 5°c or less or all you will get is foam. They need to stay at this temperature.


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