A false bottom is a perforated or slotted screen on the bottom of a mash tun or lauter tun that restricts grains from being collected with the wort when it is drawn from the mash in preparation for the boil. There are a variety of false bottoms available for home brewing.
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A home brewing single-tier brewing sculpture or beer rack is a single level brewing configuration where all of the brewing kettles are at the same level. Single-tier brewing racks typically consist of a hot liquor tank, mash tun, and boiling kettle. One or two pumps are used to transfer liquid from one kettle to another.
A notable benefit of a single-tier brewing sculpture over a multi-tier one is ease of access to the kettles. On a single-tier platform, the kettles are all at one low height, so it makes it safe and easy to stir the mash, add water to the hot liquor tank, or transfer the wort from the boil kettle. If the single tier system is constructed high enough off the ground, gravity can still be used to transfer wort from the boil kettle to the fermenter. Single tier beer racks also tend to be more stable then a multi-tier rack; trust me when I say that one of the last things you want is 15 gallons of burning hot liquid pouring down upon you due to an unstable rack or earthquake.
Cleaning and unloading grain from kettles is also very easy with a single-tier design since no step stool is required to reach any of your kettles. I personally use a single-tier brewing rack that I designed and constructed myself. It was a good deal of work, but I also learned a lot while building it. If you prefer not to build your own, there are some really fantastic stainless steel models available for sale here:
Below is a photo of the brewing rack that I built. It uses 2 pumps, 3 burners, and 3 (20 gallon) Blichmann brewing kettles. If you have any questions on building your own, please feel free to drop me a line.
A fermentation freezer or fermentation refrigerator is a freezer or refrigerator that has been converted to a temperature controlled fermentation chamber. Controlling the fermentation temperature of your beer is one of the best ways of improving the quality and taste of your beer. A fermenting beer generates a great deal of heat, and if you live in an area where room temperature reaches 75° F or more, you can have a very difficult time keeping your fermenting beer at an optimal temperature.
If a fermenting beer reaches too high of a temperature you can get some nasty off flavors and potentially kill your yeast. I live in Southern California and when I first starting out in home brewing, I had to try all the tricks to keep my beer cool; I placed my carboys in a plastic tub filled with water, I covered the carboys in wet towels and had a fan blowing on them, but no matter how much effort I put forth, I could not regulate my fermentation temperature nearly as well as my fermentation freezer does.
Setting up a fermentation freezer or refrigerator is easy and can be inexpensive as well. I purchased mine when Lowes was having a 20% off appliance sale for around $400, but other people I know have gotten amazing deals on Craigslist for as low as $75. All you need besides a freezer or refrigerator is a temperature control unit like a Johnson Controls Digital Thermostat which you can find here.
The freezer that I use is a Frigidaire 14.8 cu ft LFFN15M5HWF, which works great for my needs. It fits two large 6.5 gallon carboys, 4 pin lock conversion 5 gallon kegs that I use for secondary, and about twenty bottles of beer (a.k.a. my emergency stash). I use a Johnson Controls Digital thermostat to maintain the temperature. Best of all, since I use pin lock conversion 5 gallon kegs, which are shorter then ball lock kegs, I did not need to build a collar onto the freezer for additional height. The only complaint that I have is that on occasion I get more humidity then I would like. To combat that, I periodically wipe the inside of the freezer down with a dry towel to remove any moisture and also use a product called DampRid, which helps absorb the remaining moisture.
Image of the chest freezer that I use for my fermentation chamber:
Johnson Digital Temperature Controller – Fermentation Thermostat Review
The Johnson Controls digital temperature controller can be used for a variety of home brewing functions. You can use it to keep an exact temperature in your kegerator, keezer, fermentation refrigerator or freezer, or it can be used to activate a heating element such as a heating pad to increase temperatures if needed.
I have my Johnson Controls Digital Temperature Controller hooked up to my fermentation freezer. It comes fitted with a wired temperature sensor that I attach to the side of my carboy or secondary fermentation keg. I insulate the side of the temperature sensor that is exposed to the air with some foam insulator and tape it to the side of the fermenter so that I can get as precise of a temperature reading as possible. There are also thermowells available that allow you can get an exact temperature reading of the inside of the fermenter.
One of the things that I like most about the Johnson Controls Digital Thermostat is that it allows you to set a temperature variance and a anti-short cycle delay. This comes in handy as a method for preventing the compressor on my freezer from constantly turning on and off, which could cause damage to it over time. I have it set to keep the temperature of my freezer within a 2 degree variance of my target fermentation temperature, and it works perfectly. The freezer rarely activates more than once every 30 minutes or so, even during primary fermentation. If it is detects a fault, I have it set to disable the freezer so that I do not freeze and destroy my batch of beer and blow up some of the bottles I have stored in there as well. I try to check on it everyday just to make sure all is well.
The Johnson Controls Digital Temperature Controller has met and exceeded all of my expectations, and I give it a 5 out of 5 stars review.
If you are interested in buying a Johnson Controls Digital Thermostat, they can be found here:
A wort chiller is a device used to rapidly cool the wort after the boil has completed. Typically the wort is knocked down from boiling temperatures to less than 80° F as quickly as possible so that yeast can be pitched. Once the wort falls below boiling temperatures, it becomes susceptible to bacterial and wild yeast contamination. It is important to get the wort below 80° F without splashing or aerating it too much, as hot side aeration can oxidize your wort above that temperature.
There are three typical types of home brewing wort chillers. Immersion chillers are large coils constructed of copper or stainless steel. They are placed inside the brew kettle while cold water is pumped through the chiller, cooling the wort. Plate chillers are made of fused plates and have channels where the cold water is pumped in from one end, causing it to intersect with the plates being heated by the wort from the other end, which rapidly cools the wort. Lastly, counter flow convolution chillers have hot wort flowing through one tube as chilled water passes over it from the opposite direction in a surrounding tube. I personally prefer the counter flow convolution chillers because they permit me to cool my wort quickly while also being easy to clean, since hops and trub are less likely to get lodged in the tube than they are in a plate chiller.
Below is a photo of three examples of home brewing wort chillers: an immersion chiller, plate chiller and a counter flow convoluted chiller.
A sparge arm is a piece of brewing hardware used to flush the grain bed with hot water in order to extract any residual sugars left behind in the mash. The sparge arm water needs to be in the range of 168° F in order to liquefy the remaining sugars; if the temperature exceeds 170° F, the brewer many risk pulling excess tannins from the grain husks and causing off flavors and chill haze in the finished beer. Sparge arms are typically constructed of copper, stainless steel, or plastic, and should have some form of flow control so that the approximate flow rate can be set to keep pace with the flow of wort leaving the mash tun (or lauter tun) and heading to the boil kettle.
Below are three examples of home brewing sparge arms. From left to right, there is a MoreBeer.com “Ultimate Sparge Arm,” a rigid copper sparge arm, and a fly sparge arm with a stainless bracket. I have used each one of these and am currently using the MoreBeer.com sparge arm due to its versatility, which allows me to integrate it into my RIMS system.
Top fermentation, or top fermenting, describes the tendency of ale yeast cells to conduct the majority of fermentation on the surface of the fermentation vessel as opposed to the bottom, as is common with lager yeast. Top fermenting ale yeast is typically fermented at a temperature range between 65° F and 75° F; the lower the temperature, the slower the fermentation is carried out.
Excessive fermentation temperatures have been known to generate off flavors in beer, and that is why a temperature range of 65° F to 75° F is typically recommended. When a top fermenting ale is most active, a thick head of foam known as a krausen forms on the top of the fermentation vessel and will subside as the fermentation draws to an end. The length of fermentation is dependent on the health of the yeast, the original gravity of the wort, the temperature of the fermentation and the amount of yeast pitched, but typically takes anywhere from one week to three weeks for the majority of fermentation activity to complete. A secondary fermentation is oftentimes conducted so that any remaining fermentable sugars can be converted to alcohol, and the beer can condition and allow the yeast to precipitate to the bottom of the fermenter in preparation for bottling or kegging.
Below is a photo of a top fermenting ale that was recently transferred to a secondary fermentation carboy.
In brewing, specific gravity is defined as the ratio of the density of a brewing liquid, such as wort or beer, as compared to the density of pure water. Typically either a hydrometer or a refractometer is used to determine the specific gravity of beer or wort.
A wide selection of home brewing hydrometers and refractometers can be found here:
Lovibond is one of the methods used to measure the color of beer. Using the Lovibond method, a beer’s color is compared against colored glass slides to determine a numerical value for the beer. The more recently created and precise Standard Reference Method has for the most part replaced the Lovibond method.
The following chart shows approximate Lovibond numerical values with the corresponding color and is categorized by style of beer.
The hot liquor tank or HLT is a brewing vessel used to heat water for different stages of the brewing process, including the mash and sparge. The hot liquor tank is typically heated by either gas, steam, or an electric heating coil. Depending on brewery configuration, the hot liquor tank may hold water at temperatures as high as 170° F or possibly even higher in cases where a boil is conducted to modify the mineral composition of the brewing water in order to remove bicarbonate
The photo below is the brewing configuration that I use. The hot liquor tank is the rightmost kettle, and I utilize a march pump to transfer the heated water to the mash tun at different times in the brewing process. Additionally, at the end of the boil I fill the hot liquor tank with ice and cold water and pump the cooled water through the counter flow wort chiller to cool the wort more quickly.