West Coast Brewer Home Brewing Blog

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How to install a thermowell

How to install a thermowell in a stainless steel brew kettle or fermentor.

How to Install a Thermowell

How to Install a Thermowell


I live in Southern California and it is not unusual for me to get daily temperature deviations of more than 30 degrees depending on the time of the day.  As you can imagine, this makes regulating fermentation temperatures a bit of a nightmare.  So about a year and a half ago I purchased a chest freezer to use as a fermentation chamber.  The chest freezer greatly helped in creating a more stable environment for my fermentation but I was taping the temperature probe of my digital thermostat to the side of my carboy or fermentor and that was not giving me a true reading of the actual temperature of the fermenting beer. As beer ferments, especially during times of high yeast activity a good amount of heat is created inside the fermentation vessel which means that the temperature of the beer can differ significantly from the ambient temperature of your fermentation chamber.  If the temperature in your fermentation vessel gets to high, your yeast may begin to create off or undesired flavors in your beer.  Since the heat produced by yeast activity changes significantly over the course of fermentation, simply compensating by moving the thermostat temperature down a few degrees is not ideal.  For this reason, many home brewers choose to either purchase a fermentor with a thermowell built in or add a thermowell to their fermentor.


A thermowell is a hollow thin walled tube that reaches from the outside wall of the fermentor to a near center point of the inside of the fermentor.  The hollow chamber of the thermowell allows you to insert a thermostat temperature probe so that you can get a far more precise reading of the actual temperature inside of the fermentation vessel.


For my fermentation vessel I use a 7 Gallon Stainless Steel Brew Bucket.  If is far less expensive than some of the higher end stainless steel fermentors but unfortunately it does not come with a thermowell built in.  That being said, it still costs a couple hundred dollars and the last thing that I wanted to do was ruin it by improperly installing a termowell. After doing a little research I was able to install the thermowell with no issues and it only took me about 20 minutes to do.  The tools that I used were a center punch, hammer, electric drill, 2 small drill bits, step drill bit, crescent wrench and a little fine grit sand paper.


How to Install A Thermowell Step1

How to Install A Thermowell Step1


First things first, you will want to gather your tools and mark the point on your fermentor where you want to place your thermowell.  The thermowell should be near the center of the fluid level of your filled fermentor.  Also consider that if you prepare different sized batches in your fermentor, you will want to place the thermowell so that it will be able to read the temperature of small batch sizes as well, so it may make sense to place the thermowell a little lower in the fermentation vessel.  After you mark your installation spot on your fermentor, you will want to use a punch or sharp instrument to make a starting point for when you drill your pilot hole.


Thermowell Installation Step 2

Thermowell Installation Step 2



Next you will want to drill your pilot hole as shown in the image above.  In my situation I actually increased the size of the initial pilot hole with a slightly larger drill bit to help accommodate the head of my step drill bit.



Thermowell Install Step 3

Thermowell Install Step 3


I then used my step drill bit to increase the diameter of the hole until the thread of my thermowell was  able to enter it snugly.  Once I verified that it was able to enter, I used the fine grit sand paper to remove any sharp metal and to polish the edges of the drilled hole.  Next I mounted the thermowell, making sure to use the included silicone o-ring.


Thermowell Step 4

How to Install a Thermowell Step 4



Lastly I cleaned the fementor and thermowell and tested it to insure that there were no leaks.  The install was a success and I currently have a batch of beer in it and the thermowell is working well as expected!


If you are looking to either purchase a fermentor or a thermowell for an existing fermentor, here is where I purchased mine.


Click Here for Fermentors and Thermowells


Today Only – Save $25 on Your Order of $125 or More at MoreBeer.com

Today Only – Save $25 on Your Order of $125 or More at MoreBeer.com

MoreBeer Coupon

MoreBeer Coupon




Click Here For The Coupon


Today only, you can save $25 on your home brewing supply or equipment order of $125 or more from MoreBeer.com.  When checking out, just enter coupon code SAVE25.  Good luck and happy brewing!


Home Brewing Cyber Monday Deals








Save Big On Home Brewing Equipment and Supplies with these Cyber Monday Sales!

Save 15% off select homebrewing gadgets for cyber Monday!  Just make sure to use promo code CYBER14 during checkout and save 15%!   Click Here for Savings!


Save up to 50% on select home brewing gear!
Click Here for Savings!


Brew Stands and Home Brewing Racks

Brew Stands and Homebrewing Racks

Brew Stands and Homebrewing Racks

I recently added a new page to the West Coast Brewer main site for brew stands, homebrewing racks, home breweries, beer brewing stands and home brew racks!  Whatever name you want to call them by, they can be found here:

Home Brewing Stands


My goal is to list all of the turnkey \ pre-built homebrew racks that I can find available for sale online there, so if you know of any that I have not listed, please feel free to shoot me an email about it so that I can get them added.


The page features the whole range of home brewing stands from entry level to digital stainless steel brew racks and photos of each stand.  There are several single tier models as well as multi tier homebrew stands to chose from.  The prices range from about $500 for a bare homebrew stand to over $6000 for a complete home brewing rack with kettles, pumps and digital temperature controllers.


First home brewing batch with the new RIMS controller.

Brew beer at home!

Home Brewing Beer

I brewed a batch of Karamel Citra Session IPA over the weekend to test out the new RIMS system that I had built for my home brewery. Sometimes you can test as much as you want, but until you go live with an actually batch of beer, you just never know what is going to happen.  Thankfully everything with this batch seemed to work just about perfectly.


There are a couple of things that I would like to make note of for anyone else who is planning on building their own RIMS setup using a similar configuration as mine.  Initially the march pump did not seem to want to pass the wort through the RIMS heating chamber. To correct the issue I bypassed the heating chamber and recirculated directly back into the mash tun for a couple of minutes until the work began to clear a bit.  After that it passed through the heating chamber with out any issues.  Also, as a safety measure I wired my Ranco temperature controller so that the only way that it can be on is if the mash tun pump is active.  I would recommend that you do the same in order to help reduce the chances that the heating element engages with out any fluid in the heating chamber.  You will also want to check on your flow rate periodically to make sure that the march pump is transferring fluid at the expected rate.


Stainless Steel Convoluted Counterflow Wort Chiller

Stainless Steel Convoluted Counterflow Wort Chiller

Stainless Steel Counterflow Wort Chiller


For those of you who are trying to go all stainless steel with your home brewery, a stainless steel convoluted counterflow chiller is one of those items that has been almost impossible to find.  You can breathe a little easier as that is no longer the case.  For right around $200, you can pick a stainless steel counterflow chiller up here:


Click Here for Stainless Steel Convoluted Counterflow Chillers


You can also select add on options for your stainless convoluted counterflow chiller including stainless steel quick disconnects and ball valves!


Stainless Steel Convoluted Counterflow Wort Chiller for Home Brewing

Stainless Steel Convoluted Counterflow Wort Chiller for Home Brewing

Seven Easy Ways to Improve Your IPA!

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your IPA

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your IPA


Recently I came across a great article (5 Tips for Better IPAs) from the American Homebrewers Association where they interviewed Vinnie Cilurzo (Owner and Brewer at Russian River Brewing) and he gave 5 recommendations on how fellow brewers can improve their IPA’s.  I thought that I would take some of Vinnie’s fantastic advice and expand on it a bit with a few of my own suggestions!


Here are 7 easy ways on how you can improve your Home Brewed IPA!


 1) Every Beer Starts with Water!


Never under estimate the importance of beers primary ingredient, water.  The water that you are using to make your beer is critical, especially when it comes to all grain brewing.  Water plays an important part in everything from the taste and the mouth feel of a beer to the sugar conversion and acidity in a finished beer.


If you are using city water that has been treated with chlorine, always make sure that you are removing the chlorine with a carbon filter or alternative method.  It is also a good idea to check your city’s water report to see if you are lacking or have an over abundance of minerals in your water that may be impacting your beer.  Vinnie suggests treating your water with gypsum in both your mash and your boil to heighten the hop flavor of your beer.  You can also use low level sodium additions to have a similar effect.  Before making these additions you should first examine your existing levels to make sure that it will not detract from the quality of your finished beer.


2) Dry Hop Until You Just Can’t Dry Hop Anymore!


Unlike adding hops early in the boil, dry hopping adds little to no bitterness to the finished beer but what it does add is a strong and fresh hop aroma!  When dry hopping beer, I always recommend adding the hops after the airlock has stopped bubbling in fermentation.  That ways the escaping CO2 will not carry the hop aroma out of the fermentor along with it.  Vinnie suggests adding multiple dry hop additions at different times which may deliver additional hop aroma to your finished IPA!


3) Do Not Rush Your Fermentation!


We all want to try out our latest beer as quickly as possible, but there is allot to be said for patience in home brewing!  If you have the ability to temperature control your fermentation, set the temp between 65F to 67F.  Yeast loves a low stable temperature and produces far less off flavors than at higher temps.  It will take longer to ferment at a lower temperature but your beer will come out cleaner tasting so that your robust hop profile can really shine in the finished beer!  Also, cold crash your beer once your fermentation has completed.  Try to crash at around 36F for 2 weeks if possible.  This will help force any residual yeast out of suspension and leave you with a cleaner tasting and clearer beer!


 4) Don’t Skimp On the Yeast!


Now a days home brewers have a huge variety of options when it comes to yeast.  If you want your beer to be as good as possible, then you are going to have to use the best and most suitable yeast for the style of beer that you are brewing.  A great West Coast IPA yeast strain is the White Labs WLP001 Ale Yeast, available here.


Make sure that you create a yeast starter, insuring viability and that you pitch a sufficient quantity of yeast for the strength of beer that you are brewing.


5) Do Not Overload Your Beer With Crystal or Malty Grains!


Vinnie suggests that you add crystal malts sparingly to your grain bill. He remarks that the sweet flavors and aromatics derived from those grains can compete with the flavors and aromas of your hops.  An IPA is a showcase for the hops and the other ingredients should complement them not detract from them.


6) Consider Adding Hop Resin Extract to Your Boil!


Pure hop resign extracts can be a great way of boosting the bitterness of your wort with out having to add an extreme amount of hop additions to your boil.  Just like with actual hops, in order for the bitterness to be captured by the wort, the hop resign still needs to be boiled in the wort for a sufficient amount of time.


7)  Opt For a Dryer Beer!


A dryer  beer can really help the hops in your IPA stand out!  Vinnie suggests supplementing approximately 5% of your grain bills sugars with dextrose. Dextrose is a very simple sugar that yeast can easily ferment.  Another option would be dropping your mash temp down by a degree or two in order to create less complex sugars during the mashing process.


If you are looking to try your hand at one of Russian River’s IPAs, you can find a couple of excellent kits available here:


Russian River Blind Pig IPA Kit


Russian River Pliny the Elder Home Brewing Recipe Kit


Good luck and happy brewing!


Father’s Day Sale at MoreBeer.com

MoreBeer.com Fathers Day Gift Guide & Sale

MoreBeer.com Fathers Day Gift Guide & Sale








I do not blog about home brewing coupon codes and promo codes to often, but if I come across a great one or a really fantastic sale that might save you some money then I will.  Currently MoreBeer.com is having one of those sales.  Right now you can save more than 25% off of some of their best home brewing equipment including stainless steel conical fermenters, stainless steel home beer brewing stands, home brewing ingredient kits and home brewing starter kits!  Here are a few of the items they currently have discounted.

Click here for the sale details! 


Stainless Steel Conical Fermenter

Stainless Steel Conical Fermenter

Stainless Steel Home Brewing Stand

Stainless Steel Home Brewing Stand 


More Beer Home Beer Brewing Kit

More Beer Home Beer Brewing Kit









Reusing beer yeast and how to harvest and clean your beer yeast.

Reusing and harvesting beer yeast

Reusing and harvesting beer yeast

While cleaning out your fermenter have you ever wondered if you could reuse the yeast that has collected on the bottom?  The answer is yes, you certainly can!  You can actually often reuses your yeast 4 or 5 times with out the likelihood of having any ill effects from mutations or high quantities of alternate yeast strains impacting the flavor of your beer.  Yeast isn’t cheap at around $7-$10 for a vial of the good stuff, so you might as well get your moneys worth!


Here are some basic things to consider when reusing your home brewing yeast.  

It is best to reuse the yeast as soon as possible.  You will probably want to consider discarding it after approximately 6 months.  If you are pitching the yeast more than 30 days after harvesting it from your fermenter, I would recommend creating a starter with it to help insure viability.


Only reuse your yeast 4-5 times.  Each time you reuse the yeast, mutations will occur and the probability of alternate yeast strains impacting the flavor of your beer will increase.


Do not reuse the yeast if the ABV of the beer that you harvested it from exceeds 6.5%.  High alcohol levels weaken and destroy your yeast.


Do not reuse yeast from a heavily hopped beer.  Like with alcohol, an over abundance of hops (from a dry hopped IPA for instance) will diminish the longevity and potency of your yeast.


Do your best to avoid harvesting the trub along with your yeast.  This is most easy accomplished via a conical fermenter. It is also possible transfer the yeast slurry and then rinse and decant your yeast with sanitized water to separate it from the trub.


Harvesting Beer Yeast

Harvesting Beer Yeast


Yeast should be stored at approximately 36 F in a sanitized vessel.  Keep in mind that even at that temperature the yeast may still be active and can create CO2.  So beware as your container may explode if too much fermentable sugar remained behind in your harvested yeast solution and the vessel is unable to vent the pressure.


If you are interested in purchasing a conical fermenter or yeast harvesting cylinder; many options can be found here:

Conical Fermenters and Yeast Harvesting

Blichmann Home Brewing Kettle Review

Blichmann BoilerMaker Home Brewing Kettle Review:


I have been using 3 Blichmann BoilerMaker 20 gallon home brewing kettles to conduct my all grain brewing for about 2 1/2 years now. In that time I have not been dissatisfied with my purchase even once. The kettles are durable, rigid, versatile and problem free.


One of the things that I like most about the Blichmann brewing kettles is that they come ready to go out of the box with a sight gauge, thermometer, and draw tube/valve. The kettles are engineered beautifully so that you can easily break the parts down with a couple of tools for easy cleaning.

The 20 gallon kettles are very rigid, and I never have to worry that one of the handles is going to bust off while I am cleaning it. Blichmann also sells the kettles with easy add-ons like the hop blocker for the boil kettle, and the false bottom for the mash tun, which I both recommend. They also have an optional sparge arm, which I do not use but others speak highly of.


The only downside for the Blichmann home brewing kettles is the price. They are by no means the cheapest brewing kettle on the market, but in my opinion, a brewing kettle is not one of the items that you want to skimp on. If you treat them well, they should last you a lifetime and be well worth the extra money.


 Click Here to see a selection of Blichmann Home Brewing Kettles.



Blichmann Brew Kettle

Blichmann Home Brewing Brew Kettle

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