Brewery Update, Part 1. Hardware

2011 (and, technically, the end of 2010) has seen some exciting changes at the St. Cecilia Brewery. Now that the year is nearly 1/4 past, it’s time to talk about them!

1. The Move Outside.
Although Mrs. Perm swears she doesn’t mind, I’m never fond of fogging up the windows and perfuming the house with the aroma of malt on brew day.  Especially now that we’re in a house with a smallish electric range, I was keen on a change for the boil procedures.  Enter the propane turkey fryer, complete with 7-gallon stock pot!  With this wonderful device, the boil operation can move outdoors, AND the large pot allows for a full 5-gallon boil, yielding a richer product.  The propane burner also greatly reduces the amount of time it takes to reach the boil.  St. Cecilia’s first outdoor-brewed beer, the Cerveza pro defunctis, definitely benefitted from the move — and how nice it is to sit and enjoy the outdoors whilst brewing!

2. The Wort Chiller.
If I could recommend only one equipment upgrade for the home brewer, this would definitely be it.  Cooling wort quickly and effectively has been the bane of my brewing existence from the get-go, particularly as I gradually increased boil volume.  The wort chiller does an amazing job of bringing the temperature of the wort to pitchable levels in a fraction of the time that the ice bath or even cold-water additions can produce.  The premise is simple: a hose attaches to a cold-water spigot on one end, and a copper-coil apparatus on the other.  The apparatus has an opening at its other end, to which a second hose is attached.  The apparatus is submerged into the hot wort, the spigot turned on, and cold water flows through the coils and out the second tube, cooling the wort.  The only nagging issue is what to do with the water.  It uses a few gallons’ worth, and I hate to just run it down the drain.  Perhaps a holding tank can be devised, with the water being used for a) future brews, b) watering plants/garden, c) putting in the composter, d) something else.

3. The Fridge.
The most recent addition of the three, it has yet to achieve its full purpose as of yet — namely, the brewing of lagers (and, further down the road, the storing and dispensing of kegged beers). However, the refrigerator, and its associated gadget, the external temperature controller, will also come in handy during the height of summer — they will allow me to brew ales as well in an otherwise temperature-shifty July, August, and September basement.   And, the very least, the shelves in the door provide handy space for storing bottles of homebrew, and the freezer is great for hops.


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