Friday, February 4, 2011

It's Like We Discovered Fire!

This posting is dedicated to those glorious items, without which, I will not brew.

Not any more, at least. I used to brew without all of them, but I have seen the light, and will wander in darkness no longer. Because each one of the following items is, frankly, beyond brilliant.

And I'm about to tell you why.

Oh, and I brought pictures!

Immersion Wort Chiller
Definition: A contraption made of copper and plastic tubing designed to cool wort to 70 degrees in nothing flat. If you have a bit of skill you can make one of your own. (I don't, and I didn't.)

Approximate price: $65

How It Works: The copper coils sit inside the brew pot, immersed in the beer. One plastic tube gets attached to your kitchen faucet to provide cold water. The cold water swirls through the copper tubing and picks up the heat from the just-boiled beer. The other plastic hose provides an outlet for the hot water (heated by the beer) to pour back into the sink. Once the water coming out of the outlet hose is no longer warm, your beer is ready for the fermenter.

What Life Was Like Before: Insert ridiculously hot (200+ degree) stainless steel brew pot into ice bath. Watch ice immediately melt. Replenish ice while saying many four-letter words. Do not touch plastic ice bags to side of hot brew pot, for they shall melt, causing more obscene language and a damn near impossible clean-up. Measure the temperature of the wort. Exclaim in utter frustration that the temp has only dropped 4 degrees. Lather, rinse, repeat until wort is 70 degrees. Time to completion: 3+ hours. Pounds of ice required: About a million.

What It's Like Now: 15 minutes of cooling time. Tops. And no ice or melting bags. Awesome.

"The Thief"
Definition: A long plastic tube with a widget/plunger thing on the end that allows you to easily take a hydrometer reading (for testing the beer's gravity) without wasting the beer. Easy-in to collect the beer, easy-out to measure the beer, and easy-back-in to waste not that beer you sampled, young Jedi.

Approximate price: $11

How It Works: Insert a hydrometer into the open end of the "Thief." Stick the business end of the tube into the beer until the tube fills and the hydrometer floats. Read the hydrometer. Press the widget/plunger thing against the inside of the fermenter to dump the sample back into the beer. Reading done, and nothing lost because of it!

What Life Was Like Before: Uh, yeah....we didn't take hydrometer readings unless absolutely required. Previous procedures involved, well, wasting beer. Totally unacceptable.

What It's Like Now: We're following our beer's measurements so closely, it'd be justified in getting a restraining order.

Digital Thermometer
Definition: This is not your grandmother's thermometer. This is the baddest of all bad ass thermometers, my friends. A temperature probe (with a handy-dandy clip). A digital readout display. A long cord connecting the two, so the probe can be in the pot on the stove (or in the turkey in the oven) and the display can be on the counter, away from all heat sources. The ability to set alarms when temps go over or under desired readings. Oh, yeah...and it has a timer. (And for those of you who don't brew, but who cook meat/stews/soups or make candy? I'm telling you.....put this on your Christmas list. Now.)

Approximate price: $25

How It Works: Hang the probe in the brew pot. Set your over/under temp alerts. Walk. Away. This Holy Grail of Digital Thermometers requests your presence when you need to attend to something. Let me hear you say, "Freedom!"

What Life Was Like Before: See that 6-gallon pot filled with 4+-gallons of syrupy-sticky-really-crazy-hot stuff? Hold your old thermometer in that until you get your temperature reading....or until your arm skin flakes off. Do that every 10 minutes or so....for hours. And then report back on how that's feelin' right about now.

What It's Like Now: No need to dangle body parts over boiling liquid. there anything else that needs to be said?

The above items are never included in a "beginning brewer's" equipment kit. But I'm telling you, if you brew and don't have these things, you are missing out. Go buy them. Now. In fact, each of the pictures above has a link beneath them that will direct you to some online shop that sells them.



And you're welcome.

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