Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hop Taco Constructed: Another brutally labor intensive project!

I've been working on a better way to strain my wort, so that I can use the Shirron plate chiller that Alex (from Upright) loaned me to try out. I needed to make sure I'm not letting any hop particulate into the plate chiller that could stop the flow and be a real pain in the ass to clean out later.

Why change from am immersion chiller, that works just great, to a plate chiller? Well, my last batches of beer brewed with Cali ale yeast showed a little of the "ring around the bottle neck" that indicates non-beer yeast contamination. This contamination, if that's indeed what it is, isn't tastable by myself or anyone else that I've let taste the beers, but it still bothers me. It could be from the fact that I'm chilling my wort about 15 feet from the neighbor's compost heap! Or not, but it was pretty stinky the last time I brewed. I also changed out all my beer hoses in case there was any infection there.

So, once I have the plate chiller hooked up, I'll rule out the problem of wild funk floating in from the decomposing food so close to my beloved beer. I did some web research, which mainly consisted of going to the KOTMF website to check out how they made a cheap DIY version of the Hop Stopper.

I scored some cheap materials totaling less than $5, with about a 6 inch SS strainer from a thrift store, and some copper wire (medium and thin copper scored out of some electrical wiring from a metal shop. I'm hoping that this size will be fine for 5 or 10 gallon batches. The screen is not "fine". It's just regular old SS screen with maybe 1/8 inch holes.

I started by cutting out the screen from the strainer, and then bent the ragged edges in so I would have a good edge to sew shut. Then I just started at one edge with the fine copper wire and sewed it up. I couldn't figure out how the hell the KOTMF managed to get a hose clamp to attach the screen to the tube, so I just sewed around that as well as I could too.

Before I sewed the tube in, I worked in a little piece of medium gauge coper wire to keep the tube suspended in the middle of the screen. Then I just sewed the Taco shut all the way, and things looked good! We'll see how things go on brewday. The first brew will be with about 2 oz. whole hops, then I'll try pellets if that works out well.

It took me at least 2 hours to construct this thing, so be prepared if you try to make this to spend some time. It will be worth it if it works well!

I don't know if anybody cares about this stuff, but here are some pictures of me and Clarissa's "Christmas" meals. We celebrated on Sunday, since she's going home for a while to see her family. We started off the morning with some "eggs in the hole", made with some really fantastic rosemary bread that we pick up at the PSU farmer's market. We are totally addicted to this bread and we usually finish the loaf within a day of buying it. The beer is Trader Joe's Doppelbock, which is another great contract-brewed lager from Gordon Biersch. Seriously, try it if you haven't yet.

Dinner was the main attraction of course. I bought a leg of lamb at the farmer's market also, which we marinated for 1 day in some cheap wine (Smoking Loon, don't buy it!), and lots of garlic, shallots, rosemary, and thai basil. We hit it with some coarse salt and pepper and roasted that sucker for about an hour at 375, til it hit an internal temp of 120 degrees (a nice medium once it's rested for 20 minutes). The lamb turned out amazingly, and the sides complimented it well.

We served the lamb with a celery root puree, sauteed hedgehog mushrooms, and kale sauteed with raisins and whole cumin seed. The wine is from a small winery in Oregon that we actually bought in New York. It's really tasty, so if you ever see Montebruno, give it a try. We met the winemaker, who used to brew for Deschutes and helped them expand to their current (I think 50 bbl) system.

Dessert was a very rich and tasty, but ugly, chocolate mousse. No picture, sorry! I'm not a great pastry chef.

So, I'll be brewing a lightly spiced saison on Christmas eve, and hopefully a parti-gyle brew of an imperial stout/stout on Christmas day. Cheers, people, enjoy your holidays and brew strong!!!


Chillindamos said...

Looking forward to hear how the taco performs today (and tomorrow). Seems like you'll get the benefits of the bazooka tube while possibly keeping your immersion chiller (would it still fit?). I'm a fan of the immersion chiller since it has the potential to leave the cold-break in the kettle.
Have you seen Jamil's circulation modification? This could also be beneficial to you by moving around the wort so it effectively collects in the center of the kettle (inside your chiller) while significantly decreasing the time of chilling. Jamil uses two pumps, one that whirlpools the wort and one at the end to recycle ice water through the immersion chiller. I have been doing only the later but will be making the modification to try this summer (when tap water is too warm). All in search for the ultimate chillinGdamos.
On another note, I would like my whole hops to wander around the kettle rather than in a hop bag but they tend to clog up the ball valve or a racking cane. Perhaps a taco would help!? The other problem is that whole hops are like sponges, absorbing a couple of pints of wort that I'd rather have in fermentation. At least with a hop bag I can squeeze out the hops at the end of the boil. Alas, I digress.
Happy Holidays, Sean

Seanywonton said...

Working on the first brew with the Taquito right now. 3 oz. of whole hops will be used.
I'd love to do a JZ chiller, but right now I'm rubbing nickels together so I can't justify a $130 pump. Maybe sometime soon. At least after using the plate chiller I will have used both immersion and plate, so I can make an informed decision on which I prefer.

Happy Holidaze!