Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lots to do

So, the Brew Day is coming up (three days from now), and I'm only just beginning to approach being almost ready. Granted, I've got the grains, and specialty grains, and hops, and a nice yeast cake--so, in that sense, I'm ready. My gear is still in its latest phase (while I learn PCB design, electronics, PICAXE programming, and a host of other things); fortunately, that phase is functional. But there's so much yet to do!

We've been having relatively decent weather of late, so we've cleaned up the back yard--but part of the assorted gardening/yard chores included splitting some spider plants. What were two large spider plants, hanging in windows in the living room, are now *four* moderately-sized spider plants, lounging in my Brewing Storage Room (avoiding a few early-spring frosts). On a somewhat related note, the hops (the ones the dog didn't dig up) are showing signs of life--small shoots are up; I'm just waiting for them to really get going...

I've got electrical diagrams and parts scattered across my desk, and tons of paperwork to file, just to have room to work. I'll probably do a bit of clearing of my Lady Wife's sewing table--just don't tell *her* that. And the Bar area is an unholy mess.

Why the frantic cleanup? Well, it's spring, for one--time for cleaning. I've also been contacted by someone who's interested in learning the Brewing Art--someone from the local Barony, no less! And it's a difficult thing to learn in a thoroughly messy environment. So, a bit of tidy-up is in order. Finally, if I'm to have *room* to brew, I've got to get a bunch of stuff bottled--the pyment can probably get bottled; the pear cider most likely can; the lambic should be about ready; my last two beers, the SMaSH and the Helles, are also coming ready for their containers. Egad, I've got to finish off a keg to have room, too... Ah, trials and tribulations...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

March Brew Day

Well, it's around the corner. I'll be doing the follow-up to my SMaSH brew from last month: the same basic recipe, swapping out a pound of the base malt (which was all there was, last month) for a pound of specialty malt--in this case, I'm thinking some of the Crystal Wheat that I've got. I've had it for a while, and have been wondering what to do with it; without that, I'd likely go with a dark Munich malt or something similar. I'll be using the yeast cake from last month, as well--it seemed like a good yeast, once it finally got going.

The parts collection for the HERMS upgrade is moving along, as well. I've got the microcontroller, the temperature sensors, and a few other miscellaneous parts; there are a few things that I've ordered recently that aren't here yet. I think the biggest part of the actual HERMS upgrade will be a second pump. Moving up to keggles will be a "3.1" upgrade somewhere further on down the line. In all, I don't figure to have the rig switched to HERMS before August at the earliest, maybe September--although things have a tendency to leap ahead when I least expect them to.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rig Update Update

I'm slowly but surely getting the planning done for the HERMS update for my brewing rig. (I've decided, somewhat arbitrarily, that the update, when it comes, will make this Version 3.0 of the rig; I hope not to go much past about 5.0 in future.)

"Why," you may ask, "do you want to improve on a functional system?" The answer comes in several parts, most of which have been covered in other websites and blogs about HERMS systems:
1) Greater consistency between brews (greater repeatability);
2) Greater control over mash temps and steps;
3) Increased brew efficiency (arguable);
4) Increased clarity;
5) To satisfy my fondness for tinkering.

Of these, I'm claiming that #1 and #5 are the most important (in no particular order), with #2 coming a very close second. I'll believe #3 when I see it, and #4 hasn't really been a problem, for the most part--I've been thinking about filtering some of my brews post-fermentation, anyway.

So I'm still looking at going with the PICAXE--it seems most suited to my abilities (or lack thereof). I'm mildly frustrated (as I have been in the past) with the electronics side of things. The Venerable Guild of Electrical Engineers has kept their secrets well and truly hidden from the non-initiate; I'm picking up a thing or two here and there, and may even be able to explain some of it to the layman, when I'm done. And I'm gathering parts, one by one: a heating element has been acquired, and other parts are being negotiated for.

To bring the blog back around to "touch" the SCA, which I've been meaning to do for some time, a brewing contest has been announced for Sapphire Joust, here in Atlantia. I'm not sure that I'll be here for it, nor that I'm even going, but I'm contemplating entering something, just for the heck of it. Perhaps the French Pale Ale? Granted, it's almost completely undocumentable. But even getting just the feedback can be helpful, sometimes.

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