Sunday, January 29, 2012

Brewery Upgrades

Assembled Monster Mill
I've been spending the last couple of weeks upgrading the brewery instead of brewing.
1. Grain Mill - I got a Monster Mill MM-3 which has (3) 6" rollers. This provides a larger rolling area (6" instead of the usual 4") and 3 rollers instead of 2, which has the advantage of flattening/softening the grain kernel in the first roller and then the second pair of rollers crushes the grain. This method allows for a better crush and causes less damage to the grain.. I bought the hopper and base that the company sells so I didn't have to spend build it myself. I'll be getting a drill motor to power the mill.

Oxygen tank with aeration stone
2. Oxygen Tank - For the sake of safety and better yeast health and fermentation, I purchased an oxygen tank, regulator and was given an oxygenation stone. This will allow me to inject mostly pure oxygen into the wort, rather than shaking the daylights out of the wort (and myself) in an attempt to infuse the air in the headspace of the carboy into the wort. The shake method only can get about 2-4ppm of oxygen into the wort, when 8-10ppm is actually needed for proper yeast health, which injecting compressed oxygen into wort allows the the brewer to achieve. The oxygen is also significantly cleaner than the air in the headspace. A primary concern was the safety factor involved in shaking a carboy with 6 gallons of liquid weighing about 50lbs. If the carboy is dropped, it becomes a giant grenade with the annealed glass shards exploding, propelled by the pressure of the liquid inside. This also allows my wife to brew entirely by herself since the heavy lifting is eliminated.

Stir plate in action with 2000 ml Erlenmeyer flask

3. Stir Plate for Yeast Starters - I was given a stir plate recently and I just purchased a couple 2000 ml Erlenmeyer flasks (see picture right). The stir plate keeps the yeast in constant suspension in the wort, allowing for fast growth of the yeast cells. I just need to hit it with some O2 then turn the stir plate on and let the yeast grow. This will allow me to grow a large enough yeast population to pitch the correct amount of yeast into the wort. I've essentially been underpitching yeast from a vile or dry packet. Yes, the beer will ferment and turn out fine, it just may create some off-flavors due to poor yeast health since the yeast will get stressed trying to ferment so much wort with a small cell population of yeast. Between oxygenating at proper levels and creating yeast starters to grow sufficient yeast to pitch, I should see significant improvements in my beer.

Inside view of Monster Mill

The three roller mill - yes there really are three
rollers there, I just didn't take a photo from the side.


  1. I need to get around to doing the same thing.

    I have the pure O2, but I need to be able to better control my crush to see if I can boost my efficiency.

    I'm also making a lot more yeast starters and it would be nice to cut the lead time needed with a stir plate.

  2. Supposedly the mill is factory set to .045, but I'll probably want to tighten it up to get better efficiency. I'm going to brew a batch with the factory setting to get a baseline efficiency.
    I'm excited to use the stir plate. The couple starters I've done without a stir plate haven't worked out so well.