After the success of my post “The Little Guys” showcasing some odd things that make the brewday easier, I thought I’d post a few of the other just slightly more expensive odds and ends I’ve used that make things easier. I try to have these items or ideas be things I don’t see much of online to help with some new ideas. These are the “Extra Medium Guys”, primarily showcased based on a slightly higher price and/or difficulty to build or buy.
For what its worth, I don’t get any money from any of the links listed here at all. Brouwerij-Chugach is completely ad-free and there isn’t a dime that I get for any of this.
Camlocks (& a few tricks)
If you’re sticking at 1/2″ tubing and using a pump, you probably already know about camlocks, but I felt they deserved a spot on this post because of their ease of use and good price point – and there are a few things that make using them easier, mostly relating to cleaning.
When cleaning out anything, whether its a pump or plate chiller, a quick tip I’ve been using is that I have a short section of hose with a camlock on one end, and the other end attaches to my garden hose or sink threading. This allows me to connect quickly to the sink via this short tubing, which makes rinsing easy. Also – if you’re doing quick backflushes one way then another on your plate chiller, you don’t have to close the clasp on the camlock – just hold it there and the seal will work well enough (for hot water flushes, I recommend using gloves.)
The second thing I have is a camlock attachment male and female threaded (or A and F if you’re shopping) onto each other.
Because all my tubing has camlock female ends on them, this allows me to attach one hose to the next for an easy cleaning solution. Connect them all together and circulate your cleaner/sanitizer. You can also use this piece at the end of a hose to provide suction for priming a pump, without infecting the hose. Just prime and remove the connectors before attaching to whatever you’re pumping in to.
Homemade “Beer Gun” Bottle & Growler Filler
This is what I use for filling up growlers and bottles. It’s a keg connect plumbed to a party tap, with 5/16 hose (that was heated) run over the picnic tap. It allows for quick filling and costs $8 or ($0.67 for the extra foot of hose if you already have party taps set up.)
Yes, some dribbles out the hose at the end of the fill, but that small amount stirs up the beer in the neck of the bottle, sending a little foam up to purge all oxygen from said bottle. Really great, really easy. The video below shows the process – and this is from a 42degF keg to a cellar temp bottle. Nothing has been extremely chilled down. Sure, a tiny bit of O2 probably hits the beer, but when the beer foams at the end, most all is purged out. I think I’ll send this beer to Ed Coffey.
Note that first the keg is purged most of the way, allowing for a slow start. This is critical in keeping a low amount of foam. Total loss on this fill was a tablespoon or two.
I ordered a few of these recently as I had used them at a friends house and was very impressed in their ability to clean without scratching. They are great in the brewhouse, the kitchen, and I also use them for random household cleanings. I highly recommend both. The twisted one is slightly softer and the two-tone one is stiffer. If you’re paying for the shipping, I’d just get one of each.
While not exactly a tool that can be used in different parts of the brewery at the same time (unless you have multiples), I’ve found a diffusion stone to be a really nice tool to have. It is an easy way to introduce oxygen to your wort pre-fermentation as we all know, but it can also be easily used in a keg to quickly carbonate beer. If you’re in a hurry to get that hoppy IPA or APA to serving in a few hours, a diffusion stone can help you immensely. Perhaps you forgot to carb your beer for the party tonight? CO2 tank leaked? Rather than wait 3-5 days, you can carb that beer up in an afternoon. They can be found at almost any homebrew shop, or my favorite place to spend money, Amazon.
If you choose to set up a diffusion stone in your keg, MAKE SURE you have a check valve on it, otherwise you’ll be getting beer back in your CO2 lines if the keg pressure ever exceeds the output of the regulator. Not that it has ever happened to me…
Spare Parts & Tools
I know, this is kind of a catch-all for this post, but I think it has saved my bacon many times to have spare parts on hand. If you’re paying for shipping on a small gasket, buy two. If you are setting up a 4-tap kegerator, get an extra of everything. I tend to get most of my extra parts from Craigslist purchases where someone happened to be getting rid of all their equipment, however I tend to order 110% for things that I know tend to break (or even get lost.) An extra post or poppit can come in handy when that brand new brew starts leaking out of your keg…
I buy double tools of anything I use for brewing. This way I have my shop/house tools and my brew tools. I tend to buy cheaper brands for brew tools as they’ll be exposed to moisture and the potential to be tossed around a little more. Having a basket of brew tools has been essential to smooth homebrewery operation.
I hope some of these have helped or inspired you to make your brewing an easier operation. There are many things out there in the brewing community we use or build, which helps the healthy addiction we have with this hobby. Look for the Large Guys, coming eventually where I’ll look at the places I drop the most money and what works at brouwerij chugach. Cheers!