Sunday, May 9, 2010

Nose to the Grindstone

Yesterday was a big day around Fork and Hay. The eldest apprentice brewmaster graduated from college with a BS in biology and we had quite a celebration in the hospitality area of the brewery (the portion that everyone else refers to as "the house"). The apprentice will be continuing his biology studies in pursuit of a PhD, but in a career-limiting move for a brewer he is concentrating on algal phycology instead of the mycology of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. He will be spending a lot of time in the lab, though, and I hope he'll be able to culture out some commercial yeast strains for the brewery's use.

Kegged: 100401 Honey Half-Wit

Just prior to heading down to the apprentice's commencement ceremonies, I kegged the Honey Half-Wit batch I made two weeks ago. I had cold-crashed it in the carboy overnight, so the sampling and kegging took place at about 37 F. The temperature-adjusted FG for this batch came in at 1.011, which seems like a reasonable finish, but given the uncertainty of the OG reading I can't figure the exact ABV. The beer is a nice bright color and has the characteristic cloudiness of the style. The Brewmistress tasted a portion of the SG sample and gave her conditional approval (while noting that it was flat and not cold enough).

I started to carb it but I didn't quite get enough CO2 dissolved before we had to depart for the ceremony. I'll zap it again today and bring it up close to 2.4 volumes, because it's supposed to be a reasonably fizzy beer. The Brewmistress likes fizz. However, I'm going to have a bit of a serving dilemma, because I only have three taps - yes, taps - from which to serve.

Grinding teeth

I am edging ever closer to finishing the keezer after only 10 months. The three taps are installed, tested leak-free, and functioning. About all it lacks now are casters for mobility and a drip tray.

Getting the taps installed and leak-free was a challenge. As I mentioned before, I got a great deal on some Perlick 525SS stainless steel faucets. Faucets, of course, are only part of the entire tap system, and they are attached to the all-important beer line with a shank and a tail piece.

Instead of getting stainless steel shanks, I opted to save a few bucks and go with chrome plated brass ones. After all, nobody can see the shank (unlike the faucet), and while stainless is more durable and less subject to degradation through abrasion it's not like there will be a lot of abrasion in this application. I picked tail pieces with flare fittings, so they can be disconnected from the beer line for cleaning without disassembly.

In the last post I mentioned that I found some issues with this arrangement due to what appeared to be manufacturing tolerance variations among the shanks, and between the spec conformance of the shanks as compared to the faucets. Some real-life pictures would help to explain the issues, but I don't have any, so you'll have to use your imagination and look at this diagram that I shamelessly lifted from

The faucet (1) attaches to the end of the shank, where its threads are engaged by the collar (2). The faucet has an internal o-ring that is supposed to press up against the end of the shank as you tighten the collar, forming a seal.  To keep the faucet from rotating on the shank, there are some teeth (like a gear) formed on the inside of the faucet and on the outside of the shank.

It was the teeth that were creating my leak issues. I was only able to find one shank-faucet combo where the teeth mated well enough that I could get the faucet pushed onto the shank far enough to allow the seal to be formed correctly. On every other set, I could only get the faucet onto the shank a little, and no amount of tightening of the collar would drive it down to set the o-ring.

I used (and wore out) two steel brush attachments for my Dremel trying to clean up the shank teeth enough to allow the faucet to fit correctly. Eventually, I switched to a grinding stone and simply wore the teeth down to a degree that I could get the faucet connected. Once I did that I was able to get a solid seal that's leak free, and now all three taps are hooked up and freely flowing.

The problem, of course, is that I now have four active kegs. Time for a bigger keezer? Edit: it may be time for a bigger keezer but I solved the immediate problem by dumping the last gallon of 090901 Gayle Bait. It just wasn't doing it for me any more. It's nice to have Honey Half-Wit on tap, and with the right carbonation and an orange slice, it really hits the spot!

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