Sunday, March 20, 2005

$4 Carbonator

Products like The Carbonator look like a great idea until you see the price tag. The link back there is the cheapest I have seen. The local homebrew shops in my area want $15 for it. In the end it's only a plastic cap with a check valve and disconnect. It's also something who's function you can reproduce for under $4, under a dollar if you don't want the check valve function.

This hack works a lot like the Vacuum Beer Bleeder below with one modification for managing the extra pressure.

Again you are going to need a few fittings:

I know that adds up to more then $4, you will only one of the instant hose fittings. If you haven't see these before the are kinda like ad external hose barb. There is an o-ring inside to seal around the tubing and some little barbs to grab the outside of the tubing. The really cool part is you press on the front of the fitting and it releases the tubing. Kind of like a simple quick disconnect, but you don't need a fitting on the tubing. As for the check valve you only need this if you want to carbonate something and store/transport it. If you only want to quickly carbonate something like a beer sample or water you won't needed the check valve. So you could do this for just over $1 a cap.

So to get things started. You will need to drill a 3/16" hole in the center of the cap. Next thread in one of the hose barbs making sure to include the little gasket they give you. Now to make sure the hose barb stays in place thread a coupling onto the end of the hose bard now sticking thru the inside of the cap. Tighten this being careful not to strip it. Now just add some hose and the check valve if you desire. Use the instant fitting to make the connection to your CO2 regulator.

I find that 30psi and about 1min of violent shaking will carbonate any cold (40F or lower) liquid. Let it sit for another minute still under pressure before you remove the cap. I mostly use this for making soda water and carbonating beer samples.

Note: You could use a regular #10-32 nut in place of the coupler just make sure it is brass or stainless.

Vacuum Beer Bleeder

I've spent a lot of time thinking about a good way to take samples for beer in progress to check gravity. I bought a 50ml volumetric pipette but it was quite slow to fill and took 2 cycles to get the 100ml I needed to float the hydrometer. I have looked at devices like the wine thief and didn't feel like spending money on something I felt should be very cheap also it was more then I wanted to sanitize every time.

The result of this is the Vacuum Beer Bleeder for about $2 in materials, an empty soda bottle and cap you to can make the greatest breakthrough in beer sampling technology!

It goes like this you need 2 1/8" x 10-32 hose barbs (McMaster Carr 5454K62) and about 3' of 1/8" ID tubing. Now drill two holes in the plastic bottle cap just small enough to force thread the fittings into, if you want to get fancy break out the tap set. Keep in mind that these holes need to be close enough together that you can still thread the cap on. Now screw in two hose barbs and shove some tubing on. I like to cut one tube short just so I know which one to stick in my month.

When you need to sample just stick this cap assembly in sanitizer, drain and screw on an empty soda bottle. Now stick the long hose in the beer and the short on in you mouth and suck until you have drawn what you want.

Here are some images of the finished product....

Simple brew kettle heat sheild

This could easily fall into the catagory of too simple to mention but who knows....

Yesterday was a great day with temps int he high 50's and sun. So i decided to do my first outside brew session. The only problem it was a bit windy and i could stant sitting there feelign like all the heat was exiting my kettle thru the exposed sides. No to mention all the wasted heat blowing off the burner. Luckly I had some aluminum flashing laying around. 2 minutes worth of work and i had a cylinder held together with binder clips that fit nicely inside the frame of my $30 Thermos turkey fryer burner (the kettler came with this kit from Target, great deal of the year).

Now i had a way to carry all the waste heat from the burner up around the side of the kettle, not only should this prevent cooling of the kettle but should also push a little more heat into the kettle. I don't have any data to back you this efficeny increase but quick readings at the top of the jacket showed the air between the kettle and heat sheild was 215F-230F.