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Cider, The Gateway Drug To Beer!

Hey, I thought that West Coast Brewer was a home beer brewing site, why are you making cider?

Yes, it is a homebrewing blog; but I figure that cider making is in the same wheelhouse and that I would share what I learned on the topic in case anyone else was interested in making a batch. The idea of making a batch of cider came to me when I was considering what I wanted to fill my next batch of kegs with. My goal was to having something for everybody. That got me thinking. We all know one of those people who is “Not a beer person”. Whenever I hear someone mutter those words I immediately think that they just have not found the right beer or had a bad beer experience where instead of someone easing them in to beer, they pushed a double IPA on them or gave them a poorly made sour.  Although Hard Cider is not beer, many people consider them to be somewhat synonymous with one another and it has to be one of the most approachable alcohols on the planet. It has a low ABV, it is relatively sweet, can be bubbly and has next to no bitterness; it is the gateway drug to beer!

Making cider is easy! Making good cider is a bit more difficult but not too hard if you have the right equipment and a little bit of patience. The good news is that if you are a home beer brewer, you probably have just about everything that you will need in order to make a batch of cider.  If not, do not worry, I will go over all of that with you. So you have a few options.  If you are happy with mediocrity, I highly recommend you purchase a cider making kit! For approximately $45, you can purchase a Mangrove Jack apple cider kit and create a 5 gallon batch of hard cider that will produce somewhere between a bad and mediocre cider. These kits come with all of the ingredients that you will need, include instructions and make the process very simple. It may not be the best cider you have ever tasted, but it you have never made cider before and have no home brewing experience, this may be a great way to go.  You can purchase a Mangrove Jack Apple Cider kit here. You can also find some helpful information on making cider from a kit at HomebrewingDeal.com.

If you have higher aspirations and want to try and create a good to great cider then keep reading and I will do my best to help you reach that goal. The batch of cider that I ended up making was a hard apple cider aged on oak and Oregon Sour Cherries. To make a good cider it is critical to start with the best ingredients possible.  Your base ingredient will be apple cider.  If you have it available to you from a local apple orchard, pick up fresh pressed cider! If like most people you do not, a great alternative is Musselman’s 100% Apple Cider.  It can be purchased at Walmart for approximately  $4.50 a gallon.  It is pasturized, so there are no additives that will negatively impact your cider and is a great compromise between cost and quality. You need minimal equipment to make cider and the most important item is a fermenter that can hold approximately 7 gallons.  If you can swing the price, I highly recommend a Stainless Steel fermenter that will last you a life time.  You can purchase a 7 Gallon Stainless Steel Brew Bucket Fermenter here for $199 with free shipping.  You will also need to bottle or ideally keg your cider when fermentation has completed.  Items for kegging and bottling cider can be found here at MoreBeer for a reasonable price and ship free on orders of $59+. If you need any specific suggestions or help with this, please leave a comment or shoot me an email and I would be happy yo help you.  Okay, so here is the recipe that I used to make my cider:

 

How to guide to making hard cider

How to guide to making hard cider

 

Step 1: Prepare for fermentation

Clean and sanitize your fermenter and anything that will come in contact with you cider.  If you need a food grade sanitizer, I highly recommend Star San Sanitizer.

Add 5 Gallons of Musselman’s 100% Apple Cider to your fermenter
Add 1 (12oz) container of 100% frozen apple juice concentrate (make sure that there are no preservatives aside from Ascorbic Acid(Vitamin C))
Add 2 Tablespoons of Pectic Enzyme (for clarity)
Add 1 Tablespoon of Yeast Nutrient (for yeast health and a strong fermentation)
Make sure that your cider is at an ideal fermentation temperature for your yeast strain (typically 68 F)
Add your yeast, I like Wyeast 4766 or Cote Des Blancs dry wine yeast; both are great choices for cider yeast.
If possible, take a specific gravity reading. Make sure that your gravity is above 1.045 or else you may have stability issues with your finished cider. You can add additional apple juice concentrate if needed to boost your gravity.
Next seal your fermenter, place it in a temperature controlled location and let it fermenter for 2-3 weeks until your fermentation has completed.

Step 2: Post Fermentation

Once your fermentation has completed there are just a few more tweaks.
Add 1 Teaspoon of Malic Acid  (gives the cider a little zip) You may want to add a little more or less depending on your taste

 

Step 3: Back Sweeten Your Cider or Add Fruit (Optional)

At this point your cider will probably be somewhat dry. I suggest that you back sweeten it to help highly some of the apple flavor it in. In order to do so, you will need to render the yeast unable to ferment the new sugars that you will be adding to the cider. To do so conduct the following steps:
Crush 5 campden tablets and mix it with 1 teaspoon of potassium sorbate  and it to your cider.  If possible, drop your fermentation temperature down to 45F.  Wait 24-48 hours.  At this point your fermentation should be completely halted.
A 1 (12oz) container of 100% frozen apple juice concentrate (make sure that there are no preservatives aside from Ascorbic Acid(Vitamin C)) for sweetness and flavor
Add fruit if desired.  I added 2 can of Oregon Sour Cherries
Let the cider age at 45 F for an additional 7 Days

Step 4: Transfer Your Cider To The Keg

I use a keg partially because I am lazy and partially because it is the best choice.  If you want your cider to be carbonated and you chose to back sweeten or add fruit to it, kegging is your only reasonable choice. Otherwise you will need to add yeast to it once again to force carbonate it in the bottle and risk both over carbonating and undoing all of the effort you placed in to back sweetening the cider in the first place. If you keg, you are able to bottle once the carbonation level that you desire is reached and the cider will come out much cleaner!

Clean and sanitize your keg and anything that will come in contact with the cider.
Transfer your cider from the fermenter to the keg, doing your best to avoid drawing in any of the particulates that have settled to the bottom of your fermenter.
Add oak sticks or oak cubes to the keg for additional complexity if desired. I think it adds a nice touch to the cider. Oak takes time to impact the flavor of your cider, so as it ages in the keg its flavor will become more noticeable.
Let the cider carbonate and condition in the keg for approximately 2 weeks. Your first few pours from the tap will be a little cloudy but after that it should begin to clarify rapidly.

That is it. If all goes well, you should now have a delicious glass of cider in front of you!  Please let me know how yours turns out or if you have any comments, questions or suggestion.

 

How to Build a Kegerator

Guide on how to convert an old refrigerator in to a kegerator #kegerator #guide #howto #DIY

Guide on how to convert an old refrigerator in to a kegerator #kegerator #guide #howto #DIY

 

For the last several years, I have been using a boring old white refrigerator to store my kegs. Originally when it came time to purchase one, I was just looking for the best deal out there on a refrigerator that could keep my homebrew cold. I have been serving my beer from picnic \ cobra taps that sit lose on top of the kegs in my fridge. A couple of weeks ago I decided to take the keg fridge to the next level and convert it to a full fledged Kegerator with for taps to accommodate all of my kegs. After ordering the beer tap hardware at MoreBeer and taking a trip to the local hardware supply shop, I had everything that I needed to begin my work.

 

My goal for this homebrewing blog entry is to list out all of the basics of what you will need to conduct the process yourself but I am sure to miss something and if you need any specifics please feel free to ask; I am happy to help if I can.  Please keep in mind that I am not a carpenter, engineer or machinist; so there are probably 10 better ways of doing this, I am just trying to share my experience in case it helps someone else out.

 

Step 1 – Ordering your gear!
I figured that if I am going to take the time to do this project, I was going to do it right!  Recently MoreBeer started to carry Intertap stainless steel beer facuets – tap, which are basically the Holy Grail of beer taps and the best beer faucets currently available!

 

 

Intertap Stainless Steel Beer Faucets, Shanks and Beer Taps! #intertap #beer #taps #faucets #stainless #steel

Intertap Stainless Steel Beer Faucets, Shanks and Beer Taps! #intertap #beer #taps #faucets #stainless #steel

 

I chose these intertap beer faucets for a few different reasons.  For one, they offered an all stainless steel faucets which is important to me because I want it to last, I want my homebrew beer serving to be as sanitary as possbile and I do not want to be worrying about releasing strange metallic particulates in to my beer like I do when using an old chrome tap that erodes after time. Another great thing about  these Intertap beer faucets is that they are forward sealing and with forward-sealing faucets the faucet keeps beer in it so the inside doesn’t have a chance to get sticky. This makes cleaning your draft beer system far easier. It also reduces the chance of off flavors transferring to your beer while you are pouring. One of the things that sets Intertap beer taps apart from other forward sealing beer taps is that Intertap faucets use a sliding shuttle that guides the internal o-ring into the perfect position every time. The Intertap stainless steel faucets are also modularly designed  allowing you to add helpful items like a ball lock spout, stainless steel growler filling spout and an elongated stout beer spout! They have two varieties of beer faucets in all stainless and 1 features a flow control lever.  I ended up getting one of the stainless steel flow control beer faucet and three of the standard stainless steel beer faucets.

 

MoreBeer has the best price I have found for Intertap Faucets and they also offer free shipping on any home brewing equipment or supply orders over $59.  Here are links to them as well as links to the anti-microbial beer line which I also highly recommend. Do not forget to pick a shank for each beer faucet, I got the 4″ shanks and they have me plenty of extra room to run them into my refrigerator door.

 

Intertap Forward Sealing Stainless Steel Beer Faucet

 

Intertap Forward Sealing Stainless Steel Beer Faucet with Flow Control

 

Intertap Stainless Steel Beer Faucet and Beer Tap Shanks

 

Ultra Barrier  Antimicrobial and PVC Free Beer Tubing

 

 

West Coast Brewer Beer Tap Handles

West Coast Brewer Beer Tap Handles

 

For now, I am using chalkboard tap handles, which make it convenient to remind me which beer is on which which tap in case I consume a few too many and can no longer remember. At some point I would like to design a handle for each one of my home brewed beer that I make;  but for now, these look great and are very functional tap handles.  They come in both chalkboard style tap handles and white board dry erase tap handles:

 

Chalkboard Beer Tap Handles

 

Whiteboard Dry Erase Tap Handles

 

Depending on what draft beer equipment you are starting with or if you have anything at all for that matter, there may be a few other items that you want to pick up, such as a CO2 manifold (which permits you to dispence CO2 to multiple beer kegs from one tank or regulator), homebrewing beer kegs, a CO2 Tank and regulator. Here is a link to a great place to start if your are looking for an entire draft beer setup or just random draft beer and keg items:

 

Draft Beer and Keg Equipment

 

Those were the items that I picked up at MoreBeer, the remaining items I purchased at my local Lowes. I purchased 1 box of Stainmaster Vinyl flooring, which is great because it is resistant to liquid and stains; two things you need to consider when building your kegerator. Normal wood flooring does not do well with moisture so I would recommend avoiding it if possible.

I also picked up a small container of vinyl flooring adhesive, a plastic spreading knife, a razor blade cutting knife (to cut the vinyl flooring), a 1″ drill bill to cut the shank holes for the beer taps, chalkboard spray paint (for the refrigerator upper door), a 3″ wide plank of wood (to make a frame for the upper door), some wood stain to match the vinyl flooring, black duct tape for trim and a brushed aluminum kick plate to put on over the vinyl but under the beer faucets and tap handles.

 

Vinyl Fake Wood Flooring for my Kegerator Door

Vinyl Fake Wood Flooring for my Kegerator Door

 

Once you have all of your supplies in hand, it is time to get to work!  I started off my shutting off the refrigerator and giving it a good cleaning. Next I removed both of the refrigerator doors and all of the handles and hardware from the doors. I then sanded the refrigerator doors with a high grit sandpaper to make them more receptive to the vinyl adhesive and chalkboard spray paint. I did not remove all the paint but instead just roughed them up a bit. I then measured and cut the flooring so that it would fit my refrigerator door.  After making all of the needed cuts, I applied the adhesive to the lower refrigerator door. I waited approximately 10 minutes as per the instructions for my adhesive and began to put the vinyl planks in place. I tried my best to mix the planks up a bit so that it did not look to repetitive as can be the case with synthetic flooring.

 

Placing the vinyl flooring on the refrigerator door.

Placing the vinyl flooring on the refrigerator door.

 

These Stainmaster vinyl flooring planks were very easy to install. They locked in to place with one another crating a strong bond. After placing all of the vinyl wood planks, I put pressed down on each of the planks firmly and then set it to the side to allow it to dry.  Next I began work on painting the upper door, building the wood frame and preparing the mash paddle door handle for the kegerator.

After giving it a little thought, I figured that I would paint the upper door with a chalkboard spray paint. I was hoping it would add some contrast to the kegerator doors and would also give me the option of adding some notes about the beer being served or allow me to change the appearance of the fridge easily by modifying the drawing on the board. Painting the door was very easy and I gave it two coats of paint.

 

Chalkboard kegerator door

Chalkboard kegerator door

 

After the upper kegerator door was painted, I began my work on creating a simple frame to give it a border and add some cohesion with the rest of the kegerator. I searched for the cheapest 3″ wide plank I could find at Lowes and had them cut it to the appropriate sized lengths which they are always kind enough to do at no cost. I joined the pieces together with some wood glue and staples. I was going for a rustic look so was not too concerned with any rough edges or the staples showing. I sealed some of the gaps with putty, sanded it down a bit and then stained the wood. Lastly I applied a clear acrylic coat once the stain had dried.

 

Chalkboard upper door frame for the homebrewing kegerator

Chalkboard upper door frame for the homebrewing kegerator

 

Next up was crating a door handle for my homebrew kegerator.  I wanted a door handle that said beer and homebrewing when you looked at it! So I decided to use an old mash paddle that I had hanging around the garage. I am really pleased with how it worked out, it is very functional and has the look and feel that I desired for my kegerator. I started by staining the mash paddle to a color that would contrast the wood on the doors but compliment the beer tap handles. I then drilled the mounting holes and used a wine cork as a spacer so that the top of the handle would have about an inch of gap between the kegerator door to make it more easy to open. I used a heavy stainless steel bolt to mount the top of the handle so that it would not pull off the door if one of my buddies starts lifting weights and pull the door open too hard.

 

Home Brewing Mash Paddle for a refrigerator door handle

Home Brewing Mash Paddle for a refrigerator door handle

 

Once the kegerator door handle was completed I mounted the doors back on the kegerator after I had verified that the flooring had adhered well enough and the paint had dried. Next I installed the brushed aluminum kick plate to the lower door after measuring it and cutting the excess metal off with a pair of tin snips. I placed the kick plate in the center of the area where I was planning on installing my stainless steel beer taps. I simply drilled it in with screws that would be long enough length to make it into the door but not so long as to pass in to the interior of the kegerator.

 

Home Brewing Kegerator Stainless Steel Plate for Tap Handles and Faucets

Home Brewing Kegerator Stainless Steel Plate for Tap Handles and Faucets

 

Once the kick plate was installed, it was time to position and install the frame for the upper kegerator door. I drilled some pilot holes and affixed the frame to the upper door with 4 screws. I then mounted the mash paddle kegerator door handle and applied some vinyl squid decals that I picked up online to add a little something different to the kegerator. It was then time to install the beer tap shanks! I drilled pilot holes and used my 1″ drill bit to cut the 4 holes for the stainless steel Intertap tap shanks.  If I had this part of the process to do over again, I think I would have switched drill bits to a 1″ saw style drill bit as I think the holes would have been a little cleaner. On one of the holes that I drilled, some of the plastic splintered on the inside of the kegerator.  It was not a big deal, but could have been better.

 

How to cut a draft beer tap hole for your kegerator

How to cut a draft beer tap hole for your kegerator

 

If you are like me and do not have room to fit your CO2 tank in your kegerator and or do not want to store your CO2 tank in the kegerator then you will need to drill a hole in the door to pass the CO2 line.  I did so with a 1/4″ stainless steel pipe and brass fittings. It works well and makes it easy to disconnect from the kegerator door if needed. Eventually I am also going to drill 3 additional holes so that I can connect my SS BrewTech conical fermenter chilling system; but that is for a later homebrewing blog!

 

Install the CO2 hardware for your kegerator

Install the CO2 hardware for your kegerator

 

if you are reading this while you are building your own kegerator, at this point all of the hard work is behind you and you are probably ready for a beer! Next clean up the mess that you have certainly created from drilling in to vinyl and styrofoam. Then slide the shanks in to the holes and tighten down the bolts on the inside of the homebrew kegerator.  Once the stainless steel tap shanks are tightened in to place, you can install the beer taps – faucets on to the front of your kegerator. They make an actual wrench specifically for doing this but if you do not have one, you can simply hand tighten them. Next, attach your beer tap handles.  All that is left is to connect the kegs, test for leaks and you are ready to enjoy a nice cold beer!

I really enjoyed this project and my hope is that some of this information will help a fellow home brewer or beer lover. If you have any questions or suggestions about converting a beer fridge in to a kegerator, please feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment on the blog.

 

Building a kegerator!

Building a kegerator!

Adding a Ball Valve to a Kettle, Fermenter or Cooler

Home Brewing Weldless Ball Valve Kit

Home Brewing Weldless Ball Valve Kit

Adding a ball valve to a homebrewing kettle, cooler or conical fermenter is now a simple and inexpensive task thanks to this More Beer stainless steel homebrewing ball valve kit. Do you have a stainless steel home beer brewing kettle or homebrew cooler and would like the ease and convenience of using a ball valve to drain liquid? Well, at just a fraction of the cost of having a spigot welded into your kettle you can install a weldless ball valve yourself with out worry of leaks.
These new weldless home brewing ball valve kits  are designed for beer brewing and are no comparison to the weldless fittings of yesterday. This homebrewing ball valve kit is also unique in that it feature 1/2″ female threads on the inside. This allows you to thread in various other fittings that you can see below. Want to later make a mashtun… no problem just thread in our stainless screen. want to fully drain your boil kettle? No problem, just add our kettle maximizer! This allows for unlimited flexibility. Best of all, they are easy to install.  I have in fact installed two my self with out any issues.  I recommend using a step drill bit to make things super easy. This weldless home brewing valve kit includes a 1/2″ Full Port ball valve and a 1/2″ barb. All fittings are made from 304 type stainless steel for a lifetime of corrosion free use. Complete installation directions are also included with this homebrewing ball valve kit.
If you are ready to install one now, More Beer currently is running a special on them and you can pick one of these 1/2″ ball valve kits up for just $26 and if not, they regularly sell for $34 which is still a bargain if you ask me.

Click here for more details on this kit More Beer Ball Valve Kit

How to build a home brewery brewing stand!

How to build a Home Brewery \ Beer Brewing Stand \ Brewing Rack \ Single Tier Brewing Sculpture

How to build a Home Brewery \ Beer Brewing Stand \ Brewing Rack \ Single Tier Brewing Sculpture

 

I can not speak for everyone, but for me, once I had made the change from extract to all grain home brewing I began having visions of what I wanted my home brewery to look like.  In a way, a big part of the allure of home beer brewing for me was making the best beer possible.  For me that included building my own home brewing rack, doing my best to perfect the process and being as efficient as possible.  I am not going to lie, there were a few times along the way that I questioned what the hell I was thinking and why I did not just buy a home brewing stand, but now that all is said and done I am a bit proud of what I was able to accomplish with my own hands.  In hopes of helping some of my fellow home brewers out I am going to supply some general information on how I put mine together.  If you need any specifics on something I do not list here, please feel free to drop me a line with what details you are looking for.

 

Home Beer Brewery

Home Beer Brewery

 

 

 

The dimensions of my brewery are 61″ Wide, 20.5″ Deep and 20.5″ tall excluding the wheels. The following is a list of parts that I used to create my home brewing sculpture, but many of the items such as the kettles, sparge arm and pumps can be traded out for other items of your preference. I am assuming that you have some basic welding experience (it is not that hard) and the required tools including a welder, cut saw, drill and grinder.

 

For the frame of my single tier home brewing stand I used 2″ x 2″ steel fence post that I cut into the appropriate sizes.  I made two large 61″ x 20.5″ rectangles for the top and the bottom, with a supporting vertical bar on each corner of the brewing stand.  In between each of the 3 burners, I placed 2 bars for spacing and support.  Even with all 3 kettles full of liquid, the beer rack is incredibly stable.  Here is a link to the fence post available at home depot:

Fence post for the brewing rack

 

The burners are really an item of personal preference.  I started with 54,000 BTU burners, but then later upgraded to a 210,000 BTU Bayou Cooker Burners.  The smaller burners were more efficient as far as propane usage goes, but the larger bayou cooker burners certainly get the job done much quicker.  I welded brackets onto the bottom of the top level of my home brewing stand to hold the burners in place.  Initially I had a flexible line with a regulator running from each burner to a master regulator that was hooked up to the propane tank, but then later ran pipe with separate valves for each burner. The bayou cooker banjo burners are available here:

Banjo Burner – 210,000 BTU Bayou Cooker Home Brewing Burner Stand

 

For the home brewing kettles I opted for the Blichmann 20 gallon kettles.  They include a site gauge so you can easily see the volume in your kettle, a 3 piece stainless steel ball valve and adjustable thermometer.  These stainless steel brewing kettles are one of the best buys that I have ever made and have no regrets about them.  They have a variety of options including a false bottom for your mash tun, hop blocker for your boil kettle, and sparge arm.  I opted for the false bottom and hop blocker and have been very happy with them.  I do mostly 10 gallon batches, but could go as high as 15 gallons with these 20 gallon kettles.  You will want to buy kettles that are appropriate for the batch size that you intend to brew.  Blichmann currently offers 10 gallon, 15 gallon, 20 gallon, 30 gallon and 55 gallon kettles.  You can find the kettles and optional items available here:

Stainless Steel Home Brewing Kettles

 

You will need to get 2 high temperature food grade pumps for your single tier home brewing rack.  I placed my pumps in between the hot liquor tank \ mash tun and the other between the mash tun and boil kettle.  With two pumps you will be able to conduct your sparge while also transferring wort from your mash tun to your boil kettle.  I use high temperature rated march pumps with stainless steel quick disconnects.  The pumps and disconnects can be found here:

Home Brewing Pumps and Quick Connects

 

As far as sparge arms go I have tried several.  The best one that I have ever come across is the morebeer ultimate sparge arm.  It is made of stainless steel, has a ball valve built into it to easily control the flow rate and can be used to recirculate or lauter your wort in addition to sparging.  The ultimate sparge arm can be purchased here:

Ultimate Home Brewing Sparge Arm

 

Lastly for my wort chiller I use a convoluted counter flow chiller.  Much like the sparge arm, I have tried just about every chiller from immersion chillers to plate chillers and I have found the convoluted counter flow chiller to be the best.  What I like most about it is that it is just about impossible to clog, it is compact, it cools wort incredibly quickly and it is easy to clean and sanitize.  These convoluted counter flow chillers are also sometimes referred to as chillzillas.  They can be found here:

Home Brewing Convoluted Counterflow Chillers

 

Those are the basics on my home brewing stand \ single tier brewing sculpture.  If you have any specific questions or comments, please leave a comment or shoot me an email and I will do my best to assist you.  Best of luck to you on building your own all grain home beer brewing stand.  If it seems like a little more work then you are up for, there are also some really fantastic pre-manufactured stainless steel home brewing racks and brewing sculptures available here:

Stainless Steel Home Brewing Stands and Brewing Sculptures

 

Brewing Sculpture

Stainless Steel Home Brewery

 

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