Archive for May, 2012

This. Thing. ROCKS! -or- First Brew on the Black Mamba

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Game ON!

When I was putting this rig together, I figured I’d get a bit of time saving by not having to rely on gravity to move liquids around and I knew the plate chiller would be a big help as well. I checked my watch from the moment I turned on the water to fill the hot liquor tank and checked it again when I pumped the last bit out of my boil kettle. I thought I had got it wrong because It was coming in at just a fraction over 4 hours. Another brewer friend of mine was over and confirmed that it was indeed only a for hour brew day with about 20 minutes of cleanup before we started and about 15 or so after we finished (I had already cleaned up the mash tun during the boil phase). My BEST time for all that with my old ghetto rig was 5h 20m. And that’s when Mrs. Brewer and the kids were out of town. So between the pumps and my new plate chiller, I knocked a full hour off my brew day!

I went with with a few extras on this journey. One of the nicest conveniences are the two sight gauges on the HLT and Boil kettle. HOWEVER, I have discovered that I get boil over out of the BK gauge, so I’m going to have to buy a solid cap for that one. Basically, I’ll use it with the open cap while filling it from the Mash Tun, but then cap it off so it won’t be able to boil out after I start the burner.

I’m going to add a little bracket to hold the water filter. I just didn’t know quite where to put it on this first run-through. Note the high-tech hose holder I created for keeping the water line in the kettle!

When thinking how I wanted to maintain temperature in the mash tun, I knew the stainless kettles were notorious for loosing heat. The guy at the beer store tried to convince me that using a HERMS coil in the HLT, then doing a constant recirculation for the hour was the only way to do it right. I didn’t buy it. So I picked up a water heater blanket, cut it to size, then taped off the top and bottom to keep the loose fiberglass out of the brew. I took a measurement after dough-in and one after. I hit 154 at dough-in and below is the pic of that temp after an hour. I did use 3 piece of aluminum foil on the top, just to get that little extra insulation.


I forgot to take a pic of the sparge arm in action, so I snapped one of it after clean-up. The Loc-Line worked brilliantly! I love the adjustability of it, both for hight above the grain bed and the way I can direct each nozzle to widen the spray area.

I picked up a DudaDiesel 30 plate chiller from Amazon for $88 and I was surprised at how well it performed! I was able to chill all 10 gallons down to 70 degrees in just under 15 minutes. This was a MASIVE time savings. My old wort chiller took well over 30 minutes to get the wort down that low and then I still had to gravity feed it into my fermenters. No more of that nonsense!

Needless to say, I’m thrilled with how this turned out! I brewed a Black IPA, which is fermenting away in my fridge as we speak. I’ll publish a parts list and plans in my next post, but I think if I had started from nothing, this looks like about a $1500 build, give or take. You could get that under $1000 if you picked up some used kegs instead of the Winware kettles, But I wanted this just a bit more posh. 😉

Very Nearly Done… Nearly

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Heading over with my new kettles to get the ports welded in tonight! Just a few small plumbing pieces left and we are ready to roll! Here’s a pic of the almost finished product (sans hoses and pumps which will be added tomorrow) and a vid of my burner test. just cuz.

Looking sharp!

New sight gauge installed and marked

I was a little surprised that I needed to light “sections” of the burner, but then on the second test, I let it roll and the whole thing lit up after about 5 seconds. I just wasn’t patient enough.

Rise of the Black Mamba!

Friday, May 4th, 2012

When you build a brew rig, you can’t just call it “brew rig”. It’s like getting a dog and naming him, “Dog”. So after I finished painting the frame with the “heat resistant to 2000 degrees” engine paint (we shall see about that), I really liked that all-business look of the flat black color. Some folks pick up the stainless steel and make it look all Cylon sexy, but I kind of like the more muted, hide-in-the-tall-grass ninja style of this thing. Anyway, the build is nearly complete. I’m doing the gas pressure test tonight and will be firing up the burners for testing purposes (video to follow). Here’s some new photos below of the build out.

A shot of the gas manifold. I used flex pipe simply because I suck at getting measurements just right and this gave me 2″ of fudge room for about $10 more than custom cut black pipe. Note my kid’s mini papasan chair leaning against the motorcycle. Apparently my bike is now storage space. Thanks, Mrs. Brewer!

The burners are surprisingly stable with this configuration. I really wondered if I was going to need a crossbar support, but they are rock solid. I ended up needing to add a small spacer between the valve and the 90 degree elbow. The flange on the elbow was just wide enough to interfere with the valve handle rotation.

Another shot of the gas line assembly. I’ve capped he middle port for now. I don’t really do any decoction or step mashing, so I didn’t have an immediate need for the 3rd burner, but I’m paranoid enough to know that one day, I’ll probably want it. Its a $60 add-on if I change my mind.

The Black Mamba emerges! As I said earlier, I used Rust-O-Leum 2000 degree engine paint, but I’ve yet to see a spray on paint that can withstand direct flame. The only true way to do that is to get it powder coated and if I was going to bother with that, I’d have just bought stainless steel, as it comes out to around the same money. I figure if the paint in the direct line of fire can last for several brews, then I can keep a $6 can around for touch-ups. Amiright??

Next up: Flame On!!

We Are Nearing Launch!

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

The welding is done and all that remains is for me to throw on some high-temp paint and assemble the gas manifold and burners! I’m still waiting on a few parts that I ordered earlier this week, but with luck, I’ll have everything set and ready for a brew this weekend! MUHAHAHAHAHA!!!