Friday, December 17, 2010

Equipment is in place

Here are a couple pictures of the equipment in place... Over the next two weeks of holidays I'll connect the system to the utilities and start brewing in January.



Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The floor is complete

I decided to put down a Hardrock floor as I believed it would be:
1. Easy to install
2. Easy to clean
3. Have a nice look to it

If you've never seen the commercial for Hardrock products here it is: HH Hardrock
Note the ease with which the woman coats her patio in 3 simple steps, I would like to tell you what it really takes to install this stuff... Unlike the commercial and the brochure, this is no easy 3 step process, but a 5 step 9 day process that is outlined in the paperwork included in each can of Hardrock.

Step 1: Etch the concrete. I needed to wash the floor with soap and water, then rinse thoroughly. Then I mixed the solid etching agent with water and covered the floor area. With a broom I rubbed the acid into the floor.
Step 2: Wait 24 hours then wash the floor several times to ensure there is no etching residue, let dry for 2 hours
Step 3: Apply textured primer paint to the floor using a paint brush and roller then wait 4 hours
Step 4: Apply first coat of Hardrock USING A TROWEL, "No backbreaking work" my ass. Wait 48 hours and repeat.
Step 5: Wait 48 hours and apply the sealant with a roller. Wait another 48 hours to apply the last coat of sealant.

I am now waiting the last 48 hours in the process so that I can put the equipment in the room.

Here's a picture of the finished floor:
It looks good, will be durable and easy to clean, so I'm very happy with the final product. I'm just not a fan of false advertising.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Drain Is Done

It only took 2 months 3 plumbers and 2 project managers, but the drain is now actually installed! All that remains is work that I can mostly do on my own and then... Beer time.

Here's the story of my drain:

I first contacted 2 actual plumbing companies for quotes on installing a new drain about 10 feet from an existing drain in the basement. Both companies came back with estimates around $800 which seemed a bit steep (but in hindsight may have been worth the money). I looked online to Kijiji and Craigslist to see if there were any plumbers who did side jobs after work, and there were a few. I contacted one, he showed up that night to give me an estimate of $500 and said he could do the work the following Saturday. $500 is better than $800 so I agreed, Saturday came and went and I never heard from plumber #1 again.

I contacted a second plumber about 2 weeks later, he too said $500 and that it would take him 10hrs to do the job. I said come by Saturday. Saturday came and went, no call, no email... then about a week later he called and said that his truck had broken down on Saturday and he could come by this Sunday at 8:00. At 1:00 Sunday afternoon he called and said he was hungover from a party the night before, but might be able to come by around 3:00 if I could go rent him a jack hammer. Needless to say Allison and I declined the offer.

I discussed our plumbing woes with my friend Paul who promptly offered assistance as he's done a couple drains in the past. So I went to Home Depot, rented a jack hammer and Paul and spent 4 hours breaking the concrete and 48 hours recovering from the ordeal. When we opened up the floor, we found a main drain in our way and the plumbing stores were closed for the rest of the weekend, so we put the gravel back in and it was time to hire a real plumber again.

Back to Kijiji I went and found a third plumber who was willing to do the job, this time for $150 as most of the tough labor was already complete. He said he'd be at my house Sunday morning at 10:30. Guess who didn't show up or bother to call?

Wednesday I get a call from plumber #3 stating he was sick, but could come by Sunday at 9:00, and he did! The job is to code, so not quite the 10 feet I wanted but good enough.



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Brewing Process

Hi Everyone,

It's been a few weeks, and unfortunately no real progress has been made on the installation of our brewing system. But we have confirmed that a friend who has installed a drain or two, will be helping me break the concrete and install the long awaited drain on October 2nd. It'll be a long day but well worth the effort!

In my last post I mentioned that I would post a P&ID of the system, so here it is (well sorta):

 Any real process engineer would laugh at the thought of calling the above drawing a P&ID but for this blogs purpose, I think it's adequate. If you'd like a more in depth look at the brewing process have a look here: and if you're really nerdy buy this book: The Prctical Brewer  (or you can borrow mine).

A few notes about the drawing: The "Auto Sparge" is a float system that allows Sparge water to automatically be added during the second phase of the Lautering process. The valve to the right of the Transfer pump is used to bleed off any air before we start the pump, as this type of pump will not run dry. All the valves on the system are manual, but maybe in a couple years I'll automate them and run this system by computer.

Onto the description:
In our home brewery we will be doing all grain brews, which is why we need the Sparge Tank and Mash-Lauter Tun combo tank. The Sparge tank will hold brewing water at a predetermined temperature (notably 45°C, 62°C and 73°C depending on the grains). We will mill the grain (which grain will depend on what type of beer we're making) and put it into the Mash Tun, then add water from the Sparge tank. All three of the above tanks sit on natural gas burners and they have thermometers so that I can heat up and maintain the desired temperatures.

Once the Mash Tun is to temperature enzymes will be activated and it will take from 1 to 2 hours for the  enzymes to convert the starches of the grains to dextrins and then to fermentable sugars such as maltose. Once we have Mash, we will start the Lautering process.

Lautering is the separation of the wort (the liquid containing the sugar extracted during mashing) from the grains and moved to the Brew Kettle.The separation process has two stages: first wort run-off, during which the extract is separated in an undiluted state from the spent grains, and sparging, in which the extract which remains with the grains is rinsed off with hot water from the Sparge Tank. The false bottom of the Mash-Lauter Tun has holes small enough to hold back the large bits of grist and hulls. The bed of grist that settles on it is the actual filter.

Now that the wort is in the Brew Kettle we'll crank up the heat and bring it to a vigorous boil. Once boiling, we'll add our hops at different stages and in varying quantities to get the desired flavors, bitterness and aromas. When the boil is complete we'll pass the wort via the Discharge Pump through the 2 Stage Filter and then through the Heat Exchanger to drop the temperature of the wort quickly to a fermentable temperature. From here we'll transfer into our 14.5 Gallon conical fermenter, add some yeast and let fermentation run it's course.

I'll cover aging, filtering and carbonation in another post, once we've actually made some beer! My next post will be about the final stages of the installation, then onto brewing.



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Plan

When Allison and I first started talking about a home brewery, we knew very little about the micro details. I've been working in the brewing industry directly and indirectly since being an engineering co-op student at Molson from 1999-2000. Having been in many breweries and worked on most of the large processing and packaging equipment, I thought scaling down would be simple... It's not.

In a large brewery every step has a dedicated piece of equipment that plays a specific role, in a home brewery you need to combine vessels so that your whole house isn't filled with hoses and tanks. Luckily I happen to know a few brewers who run micro-breweries as well as Paul Dickey who has an amazing home setup. Paul's been brewing since 1985. He's a BJCP [Beer Judge Certification Program] Master Beer Judge (the only one in Canada!) and also on the cusp of selling his own beer on contract with Black Oak Paul was kind enough to let me see his home setup, and from there our planning really started. After many discussions/beers with brewers, I had a good idea of the basic needs of our home setup.

We decided early to do all grain brewing, we have the space in our basement for the extra couple tanks and wanted to be able to make any kind of beer we choose. Although using extract can make some really nice beers, we really wanted to be somewhat traditional in our approach. After some equipment research online, we settled on buying most of our main equipment from Canadian Home Brew Supplies. Randy is the owner and was really great to deal with, if you need anything home brewery related I'd highly recommend getting in touch with him.

Here's our list of major components:
2   BoilerMaker 15 Gallon Brew Kettle
1   Blichmann AutoSparge Assembly
1   BoilerMaker 10 Gallon Brew Kettle
1   False Bottom for 15 Gallon Boilemaker
1   14 Gallon Fermenter with Tri-clamp fittings (more expensive but easier to clean)
1   JSP MaltMill Model A
1   Therminator (small heat exchanger)
2   High Temperature Wort Transfer Pumps
3   Blichmann Engineering Natural Gas Burners

Once we had all the major components, it was time to call a good friend of ours who happens to build process skids for the pharmaceutical industry. They had plenty of scrap stainless steel to build a frame and piping for the components. Here's a picture of the 3 kettles on the scrap stainless before assembly. Note: only in the pharma industry would a scrap frame be polished!

We sketched up a P&ID (piping and instrumentation diagram) for the welders and over the course of 5 weeks, whenever they had a bit of spare time they put the whole thing together. Here's a picture of the almost complete system:

I'll post the P&ID at a later date, as well as a labeled picture of the brewing system for your reference. All the fittings are either tri-clamp or Swagelok, so they are really easy to take apart for cleaning. As I've never actually brewed before I designed the piping/valves and pumps to be able to go from any tank to any tank just in case.

Now to focus on the renovations... As I mentioned in my first posting we are going from an unfinished room to a brewery. Step one was to remove all the junk the former owners of our house had left us (mainly an old work bench, some wood shelving and a bunch of really old paint cans). Then I spent a Saturday afternoon putting up rough drywall on the studded walls. This is where the project sat for about 6 weeks mainly due to the arrival of our daughter Abigail. So 2 weeks ago my good friend Balreet (pictured below with me at his wedding)

 was kind enough to spend a good 8 hours over 2 days helping put up FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Paneling). Here are a couple progress pictures:

So the walls are done! I had to run a new electrical feed into the rest of the basement because I covered up 2 outlets that fed 4 others in the other room. The next steps are as follows:

1. Get a plumber to add a new drain (the existing drain is 12 feet from where I need it) so far I've lined one up twice to do the install and they didn't show up. Hopefully third time is a charm.
2. Finish the floor with an epoxy type of paint
3. Tile the lip between the floor and the FRP walls
4. Run a new electrical feed from the garage to a junction box, then I will run PVC conduit fo all the electrical needs of the skid as well as 2 fans to vent the room during brewing
5. Install the 2 fans and create a new vent hole to the side of the house
6. Hire a Gas fitter to bring the natural gas to the header on the skid
7. Buy and install a commercial stainless steel sink next to the skid for cleaning
8. Brew Beer!

After you brew you must then ferment, age, dispense and drink... My next post will cover some of these items.



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My First Post

A few months ago my lovely and patient wife Allison and I decided to build a home brewery. We both have chemical engineering degrees (Environmental Chemical, but process is process) and both enjoy beer. Allison hasn't been able to enjoy much beer of late with having 2 kids 14 months apart, but she's still a fan.

I've decided to write this blog as a way of documenting our journey from an empty unfinished room in our basement to full blown home brewery. Over the next few posts I'll outline the steps we've already taken and hopefully catch up to present day within the next couple weeks.

I'm very new to the home brewing game, but I'm happy to share what little knowledge I've gained over the past few months with anyone who asks.