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Home » Tech and Tips » Tech - The Phantom Brewer's Tips
The Complete Tips, Techniques and Gadgets of a Phantom Brewer
    The Falcons have a long tradition of anonymous authors dropping their knowledge in the Brews & News. The most recent addition to this list is none other than the Phantom Brewer. TPB's mission is to bring you the simple tips and techniques that every brewer has in their arsenal, but aren't prepared to write a full article covering them. Some of these ideas come straight from the Phantom's own brewing practices, others are gleefully stolen or borrowed from other brewers (including non-Falcons), amateur and professional. If you have a suggestion for topic or a tip for the Phantom, drop the ghost a line at .
Table of Contents
2006 October - Hoppier Extract Beer Extract Beers Not Hoppy Enough? Here’s some tips for getting more IBU’s into your IPA’s
2006 March - Keg Hopping Adding Hops to the keg can add great aroma, but cloud up your brew. Here's how to get around
2006 February - Tip Potpourri The Phantom presents a whole slew of small tips to add to your brewing arsenel.
2006 January - Batch Sparging The Phantom walks you through how to perform a batch sparge.
2005 December - Cold Pitching Yeast A new yeast technique captures the Phantom's attention
2005 November - Stealing The Wort For Your Starter Need starter wort and you're brewing? Follow the Phantom's lead and steal from yourself.
2005 October - CO2 Powered Bottling Why lift your beer to bottles when you care use your favorite kegging system to save you time?
2005 September - Portable CO2 and Beer Service TPB addresses some of your portable deaft service questions. How to lighten your CO2 load and keep those kegs cold.
2005 July - A Tip to Prevent Boilovers Need a good and easy way to prevent the mess of a boilover? Take this tip from Sal Sciortino and presented by the Phantom Brewer.
2005 June - Clean that Kettle Kettle looking a little brown and gross? This time the Phantom teaches you what's the dirt and how to get rid of it.
2005 May - Organizing Your Brew Keeping track of your brew requires a little simple planning. The Phantom gives you the tools.
2005 March - Draining Carboys Fast Need to speed up how fast your carboys drain? This Phantom Brewer's tip is up your alley.
2005 February - Stove-Top Stuffing Using Your Underpowered Stove to Brew your Beer.
2005 January - A Dry Counterflow Chiller The best way to store your Counterflow Chiller (CFC) to avoid growing mold on board.
2005 January - How to Turn a Refrigerator into a Kegerator Making your own kegerator at home and enjoy your draft beer.
2004 December - Foil Diffuser For Sparging The cheapest, easiest sparge diffuser you'll ever find
2004 November - Yeast Recovery System The quick and easy way to save yeast for repitching from batch to batch.
2004 October - Forced Ferment Test The best way to find how far your batch of beer will actually ferment, ahead of time.
2004 August - Getting Those Kegs Ready Cleaning kegs doesn't have to be a choir. Here's an easy and sure way to have a clean keg for your brew.
2004 July - Dissolving Candi Sugar in the Boil Cleanly An easy trick for dissolving sugar into your beer.
2004 June - Using a Cornelius Keg as an HLT To eliminate a kettle from your system and give you a portable hot water source, use those spare kegs as an HLT.
2004 May - Cold Soaking Dark Grains To Adjust Your Beer Color Boost the color in your beer.
Articles

2006 October - Hoppier Extract Beer

Extract Beers Not Hoppy Enough? Here’s some tips for getting more IBU’s into your IPA’s

Use a Bigger Kettle, or Multiple Kettles.
    Many extract brewers perform a partial-volume boil. This is where only a portion of the full volume of wort is boiled. Then, in the fermenter, water is added to “top-up” to your desired volume. The problem is that by diluting the wort you are not only reducing the original gravity, but also the bittering compounds dissolved in your wort. Keep in mind that if your goal is a finished beer with 45 IBU’s, and you’re only boiling half of your final volume, you’ll need to create a wort with 90 IBU’s! If you don’t have a kettle big enough for a full-volume boil, try splitting your batch between two kettles.

Boil the Hops First
    The more dense the wort, the less soluble the alpha- acids (bittering compounds) will be. In other words, if you boil a lower gravity wort, you’ll be able to get more bitterness out of the same quantity of hops. Don’t use all of your extract for the entire boil. Instead boil 1/2 or 2/3 of your extract for 45 minutes, with your bittering hops. Then add the last portion of your extract for the last 15 minutes of the boil. If you can keep your wort under 1.050 for the majority of your boil, you’ll get much better utilization from your hops.

Use Pellets
    Hop pellets are whole hop cones that have been pulverized and pressed into those little tube-like shapes. This process ruptures the lupulin glands, which contain the bittering compounds, and makes them dissolve faster and more readily. Again this means better utilization. Also, whole hops tend to soak up your wort and hold onto it – leaving you with less volume in your fermenter…and less beer for you to drink!

     Got tips and/or tricks? phantom@maltosefalcons.com

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2006 March - Keg Hopping

     For those about to hop…..

     Pale Ales, IPA, Imperial IPA and any other beer that you want to have that great nose and aroma of hops can be done in secondary fermentation. The problem is most brewers use a glass carboy for the secondary. The difficulty has always been how to get the hops in the carboy and the beer out of the carboy. The hops need to be in a bag or they can clog the racking cane. The Phantom Brewer no longer suffers from this affliction. The Phantom Brewer found the Sure Screen. The Sure Screen is a stainless steel mesh screen that attaches to the bottom of the racking cane. You can add whole hops to the secondary and after two weeks or so use the Sure Screen and rack off the hoppy beer. The screen holds the hops in and lets the beer out.

     An additional use for the Sure Screen is to install it on the bottom of the output tube of a corny keg. You can then freely add whole hops right into the keg. This makes for a very hoppy beer, perfect for the Imperial IPA everyone loves. One warning, USE WHOLE HOPS, You can clog the screen with pellets. I have installed the screen on my racking cane and two kegs. I no longer fear

     Got tips and/or tricks? phantom@maltosefalcons.com

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2006 February - Tip Potpourri

     The Phantom Brewer outsourced this month:

     Adding Rice Hulls when using a cooler as a mash tun. I pre-heat my tun with hot water so as to have a thermal mass close to zero when adding my strike water. If you are worried about the hulls affecting the amount of strike water needed, you should add them into this pre-heat water. After you drain the pre-heat water, you have pre-soaked hulls and a warm tun.

     Keeping the magentic stir bar in your flask when pouring out a starter: When I go to pitch a starter from my flask that has been spinning on my stir plate, I will hold a piece of metal between my hand and the flask to hold the stir bar in place and not end up pouring it into the carboy. This way I dont have to pour too carefully or dig around in the yeast cake for the stir bar later. (Richard Sloan, XXL brewing, San Diego)

     Seems like many brewers forget to sterilize their caps when bottling -- this is bad. One trick to make this easier is to have a separate, small container nearby filled with sanitized water to keep your caps in. Another trick is just to wrap your caps up in tinfoil and toss the bundle into the bottling bucket.

     For those of you who use a counterflow chiller, you can use the escaping water to clean out your mashtun and other tools. Not only is it good for the environment, it saves you money! (Jonny)

     And keeping an Isopropyl spray bottle around like the pros for surface sanitation. Just spritz any openings or equipment your grubby paws come in contact with to neutralize the little bastards. (Drew)

     Got tips and/or tricks? phantom@maltosefalcons.com

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2006 January - Batch Sparging

     The longer you brew, the more technical you tend to get. Immersion chillers? That's for beginners. More and more brewers (especially us gadget crazy Falcons) are opting not just for counterflow devices, but for mini plate style heatexchangers, just like the pros use (only minus all that glycol). Therminators for all! Hydrometers? Get a refractometer. Glass Carboys? I'll take my conical in Stainless Steel, please. And on and on it goes until many of us have a full working small scale brewery sitting in the backyard. And some aren't so small! The point is, as your enthusiasm for homebrewing increases, so does the complexity of your system, and probably the complexity of your various techniques. And of course, along with more money comes more time.

     How about we take a step backwards and try something simpler? In this case, Batch Sparging. If you have ever been to a shop brew or brewed a batch of all-grain beer, you are (probably) familiar with fly sparging. This technique, developed in Britain around a century ago, is where you gently rinse the grains post-voraluf with new water at the same rate that you are running the wort off into the kettle. Slow and steady is the name of the game, for the slower your sparge, the more sugar you will be able to extract from the mash. Batch Sparging is the opposite of fly (or continuous) sparging. Once you are done recirculating your mash, open up the valve and let her rip! The idea is to drain the mash tun as quickly as possible. Then, you refill the mashtun with new water, give it a stir, let it sit for a bit, restir and then once again drain the tun as fast as you can. Essentially, you are doing a parti-gyle and then immediately combining the two run offs.

     Besides a reduction in time, Batch Sparging has a couple of other benefits. One is that you never have to worry about mash pH since the grains' buffering ability is not being continuously diluted like it would be in a fly sparge. Another benefit is that you can essentially skip Mashing Out since the liquid will get into the kettle so quickly the heat will denature any enzymes present. Drawbacks? Depending on your system, you will probably see a reduction in efficiency, but some brewers actually claim better extraction rates from Batching. Also, remember, grain costs about a dollar a pound, so just toss in some more. Is an extra buck per batch worth a one hour reduction in time? Probably. And best of all, you can use your existing equipment. And throw out your sparge-ring.

Keys to a Successful Batch Sparge:

  1. Mash at the usual ratio -- slightly more than 1 quart per pound of grain.
  2. Due to grain absorption, you will need to add additional water to the Mash Tun before the first runoff. So if you are mashing 5 gallons of water, two of those gallon will be absorbed by the grain, so you will need to add the two lost gallons back.
  3. You still need to perform a vourlaf -- on both mashes.

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2005 December - Cold Pitching Yeast

    If you harvest and reuse yeast from your fermenter, you should try cold pitching. This is done by pitching the yeast directly from refrigerated storage, into wort that has been cooled to about 4-5 degrees below the optimal temperature for the yeast strain and beer style. Cold pitching can give you shorter lag times, more vigorous fermentation and more complete attenuation.

     When harvesting yeast from the fermenter, leave a small amount of beer behind, then swirl to re-suspend the yeast in the liquid, and carefully pour into a sanitized growler or other glass vessel. Cap and place into the fridge. You want to keep the yeast at about 34° F. Cold enough to virtually stop autolysis (when the enzymes in dead cells begin breaking down the cell structure), but not cold enough to freeze.

     When pitching, some elect to pour off most of the beer, leaving only enough to rouse the yeast, others pitch the whole works. The yeast quickly warm up to the wort temp, and start taking in oxygen and nutrients, so be sure to oxygenate as well as you can. The activity from the respiration phase and beginning fermentation will raise the wort the remaining few degrees to your optimum temp.

     Don't have harvested yeast? You can also use cold pitching with a starter. Grow it up as usual, allowing an extra day or two for refrigeration and settling.

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2005 November - Stealing The Wort For Your Starter

     If you are a Falcon, odds are you brew often. Odds are even better that when you do brew, you make sure you have enough viable yeast to give your creation the best chance possible. Unless your roommate is the head brewer at BJs, this entails making a starter. And, since you're a Falcon you are going to want to step that starter up once -- possibly twice if you're doing a big lager. That's two to three hours out of your week when you could be with your family/feverishly refining your next recipe. But the Phantom Brewer has a trick for you. Steal the wort -- from yourself.

    Those of us with pressure cookers often brew up a 5 gallon batch of hopless wort which is then pressure canned and sterilized and stored at room temperature for a series of starters sometime down the road. But if you're already brewing beer, why not just snatch a pint or two of the sweet stuff and use that? You can even use pint glasses if you like. During the lauter run-off, when the beer gets down to around 1.045, redirect the hose into a vessel to collect a few pints. If your starter is intended for a larger brew, start the theft at around 1.060.

    If you already have a starter going, stick the stolen and covered wort in the freezer for thirty minutes -- Don't forget about it -- and then simply add it. If you are starting from scratch simply add yeast. And if you are not going to be needing a starter for a little while, stick it in a mason jar and stick it in the fridge for later. It's that simple. To make up for the lost gravity, boil the beer for 10 minutes longer.

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2005 October - CO2 Powered Bottling

    Who likes lifting heavy things? Right, so why lift, when you can simply turn on the gas? In his article on CO2 racking, Falcons' President Drew described how you can use CO2 to move your beer from Carboy to Carboy (or keg to keg). But why stop there? Let CO2 assist you when it comes time to bottle.

    What you need; you probably already have 90% of what you need if you have a CO2 setup:

  1. CO2 tank
  2. Standard out-hose -- 1/4" inner diameter (id)
  3. 2' of 3/8 id tubing
  4. Bottle filler (get a good heavy duty one – John sells "Phil's Philler – recommended)
  5. Screw-tight hose clamp
  6. 1/4" to 3/8" reducer-bard (this simply allows you to make the 1/4" hose talk to the 3/8" hose)

    This process is even easier if you secondary your beer in 5 gallon cornies. Even if you don't, you can achieve the desired results by using a corny as a bottling bucket.

    Setup as if you were going to move beer out of the keg using CO2; standard keg to keg transfer. But, instead of connecting to another keg, plug in the ¼" end of the reducer-barb to the beer line. Attach the 3/8" tubing to the other 3/8" end of the barb. You don't need a clamp here, as the barbs will hold. Jam the bottle filler into the other end of the 3/8" tubing. Secure it with the clamp. Now you are ready to bottle.

    The Phantom Brewer recommends no more than 10 psi – use 3 psi if you are bottling out of a glass carboy. You will find that the CO2 fills the bottles about three times as quickly as gravity, and you don't have to lift or move a thing. Foaming is normal – you will lose a minute amount of beer.

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2005 September - Portable CO2 and Beer Service

    Summer time and the beer's flowing freely; or at least it will if you remember this Phantom Brewer's Tip.

    It's that time of year, friends are having parties; there's food on the grill; children splashing around in the pool and beer needing to be tapped. Having our beer on tap at home is a breeze, just go and fill some pitchers or get the guys (and gals) to gather around the taps whenever they'd like a beer. Mobile beer service is a whole other story. Growlers just don't cut the same fine jib that a bringing a keg does, but who wants to lug that CO2 bottle around and how do you keep it cold?

    If you're a gadget junkie, Daume has a few items on sale that will meet your needs, including a cycling inspired cartridge based injector system. Downside with those is the expense of the cartridges and the number you need to dispense a keg. The cheap trick is to use an empty keg. Blast a clean, empty keg with 30psi until the gas stops flowing. Using the gas keg and a jumper line (hose with two gas in fittings on it), you can give a lethargic keg a shot of CO2. Like the cartridge injectors, the pressure won't be regulated out of the keg, but it's an easy solution to the problem.

    The other trick of mobile beer service: how do you keep the beer cold? Most of us can't afford or need a jockey box or cold plate arrangement, see the Club's front bar for an example. Coolers and buckets don't cover the whole keg, trash bags don't work, foam boxes leak, etc. What to do? TPB suggests taking a lead from Richard "Beanie" Webster: repurpose Daume's old extract canisters. With your favorite cutting implement cut around the lip of the canister top (the side with the spigot). Leaving the top portion of the lip intact and knocking out the top side leaves you with a perfectly sized and leak-proof container to hold a keg and ice. For extended cooling time, wrap the container with moving blankets or other insulation and secure in place with bungee cords or other means.

    There you have it. Easy portable beer service. With a little creativity, you could refit the lid (with tabs) and set it up to have a tower to make all your friends, oh and ahh even more.

    If you have other suggestions for portable beer service (lots of parties!), let the Phantom know. (phantom@maltosefalcons.com) Other ideas are needed! Tell the Phantom the things you've made or the questions you have. The Phantom knows!

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2005 July - A Tip To Help Prevent Boilovers

     A good rolling boil is important for a good beer. Lots of good stuff happens during the boil. Volatile, smelly sulfur compounds are expelled from the beer. Other compounds, alpha acids, that bitter our beer are only extracted by boiling. But get too vigorous a boil going, and you'll slop wort all over the place. Instead, try using your marbles.

    That's right, glass marbles, the kind kids play with. Just put about 20 of them in the brew pot. Don't worry about the marbles breaking. There're made of tempered glass and their spherical shape gives them great strength. That's why kids can bang them together day after day and they don't break. Don't worry about the heat, either. A few hundred degrees Fahrenheit is nothing to a tempered glass marble.

    Instead of getting big, explosive gas bubbles popping up and blowing beer out of the kettle, you'll see a bunch of smaller, finer bubbles evenly spread over the center of the boil. This steady stream of smaller bubbles will do just as good a job of breaking up the hop resin and oil bubbles in your wort -- without the sloppy mess.

    A Phantom Brewer had this problem early on and greatly smoothed out the boiling by adding about 20 glass marlbes to our 15 gallon brew pot.

tpb

The Phantom thanks Sal Sciortino for retaining enough marbles to pass this tip on!


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2005 June - Clean That Kettle

    Beerstone. No matter how much you much how you squeeze it, you'll never get beer from it. Beerstone, the colloquial term for calcium oxalate and water salts, is the ugly brown coating that grabs hold of the inside of your shiny brewpot. Not only is beerstone unattractive; it affects the performance of your kettle. Remember a clean brewery is a good brewery.

    Now the Phantom has seen many brewers laying into their kettles hard with a scrub pad to remove that stone. My fellow brewers to borrow from Dupont, "Better ways for better living through chemistry." Unlike organic by-products of brewing, proteins, hops, etc.; beerstone doesn't clean easily with alkaline chemicals (soap, detergent, caustic, PBW). After a light scrub to remove organic residue, the cleaning agent of choice is an acid wash.

    Myriad choices exist for the brewer with different effects. Yet the basic process remains the same: an acid salt or liquid is mixed into hot water. The solution sits in contact with the stone for 10 minutes (soak directly or apply via a sponge). A soft sponge can then be run around the kettle and the beerstone will peel right off, exposing the bright shiny stainless steel underneath. Rinse with hot water To protect the kettle, you need to passivate the steel. With solutions of citric acid or vinegar, the cheap acid washes, you need to let the kettle sit dry exposed to the air for a week before use. Professional acid washes (including the Acid 5 solution at Daume's) include acids that will passivate the steel quickly.

    Rescue those kettles from the grip of the notorious brown! Give them acid and bring them to the bright and shiny enlightened path.

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2005 May - Organizing Your Brew

    Something funny seems to happen when brewers get to the boil, they get distracted and disorganized. The Phantom’s seen it happen to many a brew partner and himself, so this month’s tips are some simple techniques to fight the fog of brewing.

  • Keep Notes! – TPB doesn’t care how you do it: Promash; notebook; index cards; bubble gum wrappers. If you can take notes and look back you’ll know exactly what you did right. You don’t do anything wrong, right?
  • Make a checklist. It seems silly, but you’ve got a computer or a notebook. Put all the the things you need to accomplish with times and check them off.
  • Organize your boil
    • Lay down some foil and mark it with your boil checkpoints (60, 20, 0, etc). Place your hop additions, irish moss, minerals in each of the slots and work left to right.
    • Label a set of cups with your boil time and fill each of them with the appropriate hops and chemicals. This is really great since you can ask your wife or girlfriend to throw the “yellow” cup or the cup with “20” on it when you’re busy cleaning carboys. This has saved the Phantom some effort in the past.
TPB would like to thank Todd Bissell of Foam on the Brain for instigating this tip with his suggestions. Remember if you have a simple idea or tip email phantom@maltosefalcons.com. tpb


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2005 March - Draining Carboys Fast

    TPB brings you two tips this month, both to help you get those carboys empty quick by avoiding the glugs. Those pressure equalizing bubbles of air slow down the voiding of liquid. So to speed up the flow, you must provide air to the interior of the carboy.

    The Racking Cane – This is the classic alternate use of everyone’s racking cane. Just place and hold the racking cane while you invert the carboy. Move the racking cane so that it’s open in the air bubble at the inverted base and watch the water gush.
    The Vortex – The old standby frat party trick, the swirl can help you out here. If you have a carboy stand, it’s even safe. Place the carboy in its stand and start rotating it quickly. Get the liquid moving quickly and then stop the carboy. The liquid will keep swirling and soon a vortex shooting air into the carboy should appear. (This can also be done by holding the carboy in your arms and rolling the liquid, but be careful and don’t drop the carboy!)
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2005 February - Stove-Top Stuffing
    Many of us out there are forced by fate to brew on the meager fire of an ordinary kitchen range. Far from the jet-wash inferno of a good Cajun Cooker propane burner, ordinary stoves take forever to boil 5 gallons of liquid, and forget about trying to step up a mash before it goes sour. There are ways around this though.

    I’ve successfully stepped up mashes by running a modified decoction on the stove. At first, I did it because the style I was making with a lot of unmalted wheat really necessitated a protein rest, which would mean I would have to step up my mash. I was hoping that I could start it pretty thick and add hot water and use the one burner to step it up, but it was going too slow. I just grabbed another pot and scooped out some of the mash, heated it real quick on a free burner and tossed it back in, hitting the step-up temperature nicely.

    That Belgian Witbier took gold in competition several times over. I’ve been following a similar mash schedule since then. With one burner I was stuck doing single infusions, but just by using two burners, I can be considerably more versatile in what styles I can brew. Also, I always split the boil, too so I can actually boil it, instead of barely simmering it on one burner. tpb


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2005 January - A Dry Counterflow Chiller

    The Phantom Brewer has seen some brewers in the club use an older technique of keeping a counterflow chiller (CFC) clean by filling the line with sanitizer. TPB has always been deeply troubled by this practice. The copper tubing used in chillers is sensitive to long term acid exposure. Also, many sanitizer solutions become ideal bacterial and mold breeding grounds as they drift from their effective pH range during long storage times. Nope, TPB doesn’t like this one bit.

    Instead, TPB would like to recommend that you go the opposite route and store your CFCs bone dry. This will prevent the growth of mold and reduce copper patina. The most effective way to dry your chiller is that trusty bottle of carbon dioxide you use for your kegs. Remove whatever keg adapter you have from the line and press the gas line over the output side of your CFC. Hit the CFC with bursts of CO2 until you’re blowing dry from the line. All done! Remember CO2 is cheap, bad beer is expensive! tpb


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2005 January - How to turn a Refrigerator into a Kegerator

    Thinking of turning an ordinary fridge into a kegerator? It is cheaper and easier than you think. First, find the refrigerator. Ask family and friends if they have an old one. If not, you can find them easily in the Recycler for about $50. The kind with a top freezer work best. Make sure the inside dimensions of the fridge are at least 16” deep and wide and 27” high in case you ever want to put a commercial keg inside.

    Next, round up your parts. You’ll need a CO2 tank, beer regulator, gas line, keg taps (either quick disconnect (QD) for Corny kegs or a Sanke tap to fit commercial American brews), beer line, a beer shank(s), faucet(s), some 1/2” or 3/4” plywood, and some assorted fittings. You want your shank(s) to be as long as possible, at least 4 or 5”. The extra length picks up cold from the refrigerator and transfers it to the faucet, which helps to minimize foaming. All this adds up to about $200 if you have nothing, usually less. Both the Home Wine and Beer Shop and Draft Beer Store have everything you’ll need, except the plywood and tools. The only tools you’ll need are a drill motor, a 1” hole saw and a wrench to tighten everything down.

    Start by cutting a piece of plywood to fit the floor of the fridge. This small step will make your kegerator last much longer and be much easier to work with. You may also want to cut a smaller piece of plywood to go inside the door, with the beer shank(s) passed through it, this helps stiffen things up. Use the hole saw to cut a hole through the exterior skin of the door. If there is a butter dispenser in the door, align your shank hole(s) with it. If you’re using the plywood backer, have an assistant hold it in place and cut through it with the hole saw, place through the hole you cut in the exterior skin. Put the shank through the door and attach the lock nut included at the back. Your beer line should be either 1/4" or 3/16”. It should be at least 5 ½” long, both for foam control and ease of use. Make sure you get a “tail piece” that is the same as your beer line, put it through the supplied hex nut, insert a washer, and attach it to the back of the shank. As an alternative, there are shanks available that have the barbed nipple cast in with the nipple, all in one piece. Be sure to secure the beer line with a hose clamp.

    From there, all you need to do is run the beer line from the back of the shank to your black Cornelius QD or the top of a commercial tap. Attach the regulator to the CO2 tank and run the gas line from the nipple at the bottom of the regulator to the gray Cornelius QD or the side of a commercial tap. Use hose clamps to tighten everything down. Then attach your faucet. Use a spanner wrench, they’re cheap and will make your faucet last for years. Turn your CO2 on, adjust your pressure, hook up your kegs, and enjoy your draft beer.

    If you have any questions, John and Mark at the Home Wine and Beer Shop or either of the Johns at the Draft Beer Store can answer your questions and make sure you have the right fittings. tpb


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2004 December - Foil Diffuser For Sparging

    The Phantom Brewer has been quoted in the past saying that Aluminum Foil is duct tape for homebrewers.” This tip comes to us courtesy of Mike Dixon out of North Carolina.

    Folks have tried a lot of different devices for evenly distributing their sparge water over the mash bed without causing channeling. There are fancy whirligigs, turned over bowls, colanders and more. By far the simplest and cheapest though comes from Mike, foil. Take a sheet of foil long enough to cover a good portion of the mash bed. Poke a set of holes in the foil. Just set the foil on top of the mash bed and pour your sparge water onto the foil. tpb


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2004 November - Yeast Recovery System

    Those of us who brew big beers and pitch a lot of yeast know all about blow off. That wonderful frothy head that grows way beyond the confines of the carboy and blows through the bubbler and gets all over the place.

     The remedy you say is simple, use a blow off tube: a large plastic tube, one end of which fits and seals directly into the top of the carboy while the other end is put in a jar with some sanitized water in the bottom. This will let all that extra foam and CO2 be released from the carboy and avoids the mess.

    The Yeast Recovery System is simple, just make sure that all parts, the blow off tube, the jar, the water in the jar, and the foil to cover and partially seal the tube into the jar are all sanitized when you put it together. All of the foam blow off collected in the jar is pure useable yeast and can be used to start another batch or to help ferment out the batch that it was blown from. After the ferment stops blowing off, take the jar, cover it completely and place in the refrigerator to allow it to settle. After a few days it should have clear liquid on top that can be poured off and the remaining slurry can be put in a sanitized container and kept refrigerated until needed.

    This System has worked great many times, especially when used to aid in fermenting out those last few specific gravity points to make that brew just right. tpb


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2004 October - Forced Ferment Test

    We’ve all had that moment of panic and doubt. You brewed a beer that’s stuck up higher than you’d like. Was the beer just not as fermentable as you’d thought? Maybe you mashed warm, maybe your extract is poorly fermentable or maybe the yeast is in poor health. One important data point to obtain is the brew’s absolute terminal gravity. In professional breweries this information is known for their brews and the way to find it is the classic Forced Ferment Test.

    To perform the test, you need a sanitized growler or flask and a pint of wort, just after pitching the yeast is best. Ideally you should have a magnetic stir plate (that you use for your yeast starters, right?). Place the pitched wort sample into the growler covered with foil and stir on high for 2 or 3 days. Measure the gravity. This is your absolute minimum terminal gravity. If you don’t have a stir plate, you should swirl the sample as often as possible.

    A ferment that is ideal for producing flavorful beer will probably never hit this absolute gravity, but it should come within a few points. If your beer isn’t at the end of primary you might want to consider re-pitching the brew with fresh yeast.

    If you have a stuck brew, try removing a small sample and performing a forced ferment test on it with fresh yeast and nutrient. This will let you know if you should re-pitch the beer to bring it down further or if the beer is high by nature.

    The Phantom doesn’t do this test on every batch of beer brewed, but if the beer is made with an unusual technique, ingredients or a high starting gravity the results are great to have. tpb


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2004 August - Getting Those Kegs Ready

    Kegging is one of those great Hallelujah moments for brewers. Why would I ever go back to bottling now? But while there's only one container to clean and sanitize, its mission critical to get the job done right.

    Here's a simple method that allows you to be sure that your kegs are clean, santized and ready to go whenever you need them. It also has the advantage of using less cleaners and sanitizers and purging your kegs of all that staling oxygen.

  1. Gather up as many kegs as you have to clean (TPB generally does this four at a time)
  2. Spray each keg out with hot water to remove any of the obvious gunk.
  3. Every other cleaning or so, remove the posts and soak the posts, poppets, and the gas dip tube in PBW. (Tip: Use different containers for gas and liquid fittings to avoid confusion.)
  4. Fill the first keg with a scalding hot solution of PBW and run a brush through the liquid out dip tube.
  5. Rinse and seal the posts and poppets back in place. Rinse and seal the keg with it's lid.
  6. After 15 minutes, push the PBW out of the keg with CO2 through the liquid out using a jumper hose. (2 liquid fittings on either end of a short piece of hose)
  7. Rinse out the newly empty keg and let sit upside down to drain with the lid off.
  8. Fill the empty keg with a 5 gallon solution of Saniclean/Starsan/Iodophor.
  9. Push the PBW solution out of the other keg and rinse it out.
  10. Using the jumper hose, push the sanitizer from the first keg into the second. Seal the keg with CO2 and set off to the side.

    A ferment that is ideal for producing flavorful beer will probably never hit this absolute gravity, but it should come within a few points. If your beer isn’t at the end of primary you might want to consider re-pitching the brew with fresh yeast.

    If you have a stuck brew, try removing a small sample and performing a forced ferment test on it with fresh yeast and nutrient. This will let you know if you should re-pitch the beer to bring it down further or if the beer is high by nature.

    The Phantom doesn’t do this test on every batch of beer brewed, but if the beer is made with an unusual technique, ingredients or a high starting gravity the results are great to have. tpb


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2004 July - Dissolving Candi Sugar in the Boil Cleanly

    This tip comes to the Phantom Brewer courtesy of Dave Mathis of BJ’s Brewhouse.

    Many of us use candi sugar in our Belgian style beers, but dissolving it in our boil kettles can be a pain. More often than not, the crystals end up sticking to the bottom of the kettle and require vigorous stirring to fully dissolve and incorporate into the brew.

    The solution lies in that nylon hop bag you bought long ago and never really used. Simply place your candi sugar in the bag and tie the bag to one of you kettle handles. Drop the bag into the boil and let it remain suspended in the brew. Come back 5 minutes later and all your sugar will be gone! tpb


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2004 June - Using a Cornelius Keg as an HLT

    Many home brewers don’t have the room or desire to set up a three-tiered brewing system. Here is an easy way to eliminate the top tier—the hot liquor tank.

    When your brew is in the mash, just bring 5 or more gallons of water to a boil. You’re not using your burner anyway at this time. Once it reaches a boil, pour it into clean keg using a large funnel (for safety). I use 10 gallon kegs, but 5 gallons will work fine also. By the time you have finished re-circulating the wort in your mash tun, the water will have cooled to 175-180 degrees.

    Just use CO2 to push the hot water to the top of your lauter tun. I have a pie tin with many small holes drilled in it so I won’t disturb my grain bed. The faucet drains into it.

Make sure your water line has clamps on both ends! Many of us omit them on serving lines, but the tubing expands when hot, and WILL pop off, spraying scalding hot water.

    You can fill two or more kegs that way and never run out of hot water. It comes in handy when you’re cleaning your wort chiller, sanitizing your aerating stone, etc. An added advantage is that the boiling water sanitizes your kegs. They’re ready to go for either fermenting or kegging. tpb


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2004 May - Cold Soaking Dark Grains To Adjust Your Beer Color

    It happens to all of us at some time. That beer that you wanted brown is copper instead or maybe your stout is just a shade more brown than black. What's a light in the color brewer to do? Do what the Germans do and make up a homemade batch of Sinamar, which is a Weyermann malt extract product used to adjust color.

    To produce your own, soak a pound of Carafa malt in a quart of cold water for 24 hours. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, a fine mesh strainer or a coffee filter. The resulting black inky mixture can be saved in a sanitized jar for over a month.

    To use your new color extract, carefully pour a small amount into the brewpot, stir and pull a sample to look at the color. Keep adding small amounts of colorant until satisfied. tpb


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Want to make your own beer at home? Get started on the right foot. Check out the Falcon's sponsoring shop, The Home Beer, Wine, Cheesemaking Shop. John Daume, proprietor, has been serving the home brewing and winemaking needs of Angelenos since 1972, over 30 years! (Falcon Members receive a 10% discount on supplies)
Looking for older Falcons' information?, The Westval Maltose Falcons Webpage (Locally cached) (The Original Falcon's Roost, prior to 1999)
Looking for a home wine making club in the Los Angeles area? Check out our sister club, The Cellarmasters, over 30 and still stomping grapes.