Wow. It’s been too hot (on the rare clear evenings) to do anything with astronomy so no activity to report there. The observatory remains set up and ready to go when I get to it. On the other hand, I’ve been doing 5 gallon all-grain homebrews most weekends. Last weekend was my first 10 gallon batch (California common) and that all went well. The latest boil burner revision was successful; brought 13 gallons to a boil very quickly and boiled it down to 11 gallons in just over an hour. I used to struggle to get a good boil with 7 gallons in there. The photo above shows the rig with the new boil kettle. I doubt that it has improved performance, but it looks nicer than the old keggle (converted beverage keg) and the laminated flat bottom helps to ensure even heat and eliminates the risk of wort scorching. The thermometer hadn’t arrived by brew day so there’s a plug above the ball valve where the thermometer should (will) be. Don’t much need a thermometer in the boil kettle; it is either boiling or it isn’t. It is still handy to watch the temperature as the wort cools, though.
Next for the brewery? HERMS (Heat Exchanger Recirculating Mash System), I believe. Unless I go with RIMS (Recirculating Infusion Mash System) . I know that I want to recirculate the mash for several reasons and I may as well add temperature control while I’m at it. I picked up a March pump and I have an extra wort chiller that could be used as a HERMS heat exchanger so that’s tempting. I’d need to convert the HLT burner to low pressure (or maybe natural gas) and add a furnace-style Honeywell valve/pilot/igniter, plus a temperature controller. Still less expensive (but slower) than adding an electric RIMS system, and I’d keep 120VAC (or worse, 240VAC) away from the brewstand and all the liquids to be found there. I’m still evaluating both options.
With the pump available, I could also modernize things a bit and switch from the old school three tier gravity brewstand to a two tier (or even one tier) rig. I’ve started work on a two tier stand. It is MUCH lighter than the wood stand I use now, and because it is only two tiers it is much lower. I could get rid of the stepstool and see into all three vessels. If I go with the HERMS I’ll probably do the gas valve modifications to that stand so I can keep brewing on this one while I fidlle around. Then, when everything works, switch it all over at once to the new stand.
I’ll try to be better about updates in the coming months.