I can’t bring myself to solder another valve connector, so it’s time to write.
After the initial brew which went poorly I decided to change some things in my design and fix up a few things that I had designed poorly while I was at it. This weekend I got the first batch of the changes done and I’m still working on it.
The main thing that needed to change was the need for a way to filter the wort as it comes out of the boil kettle and before it enters any plumbing, and I needed to change from solenoid valves to motorized ball valves where there is a chance solids will enter the plumbing. I ordered 8 motorized ball valves (MBV) to replace all the solenoids that come in contact with solids. Unfortunately the MBVs require 3 wires to operate and I had designed the control panel with 2 pin valve connectors. So that meant pulling the bottom panel and rewiring that whole thing. While I was at it I decided to change from 2 SSRs controlling a single hot leg each to 4 SSRs controlling all four hot legs. I also added a loud buzzer, moved the BrewTroller and relay board to have more room to work and cleaned up a lot of the wiring. For electronics, left to do is finish wiring the new valve connectors and retest all of the control panel logic. I also need to wire all of the valve status LEDs, which I never got around to doing before.
Since I was making so many changes I decided to make some plumbing changes as well. The biggest change is that I re-routed the HLT output through the HEX so that when I begin my sparge it will flush the HEX with clean, hot water. That will help with cleanup and will save some wort that was otherwise being lost. I also added dump valves right at the kettle exit for all three kettles to make cleaning easier and I am putting a purge valve right at the pump exits to make priming easier. I also have plumbing slated for H2O input, so I can ditch the hose for filling and I am going to move the MLT heat sensor to the output of the MLT instead of inside the kettle. I got some really weird heat readings last time and I think it was due to uneven heating in the mash.
Finally, for filtering, I ordered a Hop Stopper which is a giant mesh pancake with a dip tube in the middle. I have the Hop Blocker from Blichmann, but it just plain doesn’t work very well. Part of that is due to my lack of whirlpool at the end of my brew, but it’s also just too coarse for pellet hops.
Additionally, the guy who is doing The Electric Brewery posted his info on how to make Blichmann style weldless fittings and I promptly ordered the parts from McMaster to do that. I wanted to do it myself but it probably would have taken some experimentation and he did it for me. So far I have installed one set and they are way, way more solid than what I was using. Haven’t tested for leaks yet but it looks great and I bet it will be leak free.
As for the first brew, I kegged the beer last week and have been drinking it. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. According to my hydrometer and refractometer it’s only about 3.2% ABV. I think that the temperature readings I was getting were way off and I ended up cooking the mash way too cold. I also failed to take good reading during the mash so I didn’t catch the error. Brewing is apparently not like riding a bike. I have forgotten quite a bit.
So, that’s the update. I am hoping to brew again next weekend with all the upgrades in place and hopefully things will go much more smoothly!