The Hobbit

Yesterday Courtney and I took the day off work so we could see The Hobbit at Cinerama. This is probably the most excited I’ve ever been for a movie release. The Hobbit is the book that got me into fantasy. I may have read other fantasy books before it, I don’t really remember, but none of them stuck. The Hobbit was perfect. I’ve read it some uncounted number of times since the first and I love it just as much, or more, every time.

So yesterday when I saw my perfect fantasy utterly ruined on the big screen I was pretty disappointed.

We decided to see the HFR 3D version of the film. HFR stands for High Frame Rate. It’s High Frame Rate because it was recorded and played back at 48 frames per second instead of the usual 24. Even though the film was being released in 24 FPS alongside it’s high speed cousin, I wanted to see the HFR version because that’s the version Peter Jackson wanted us to see. I had fostered a great respect for him for his work on the Lord of the Rings films, which were incredible, and I figured that if he felt the HFR 3D version was the best version then that would be the one I would see.

It was apparent from the start that this was a poor choice. From the very beginning everything looked incredibly fake. Where Lord of the Rings made you believe that The Shire truly was a magical place tucked away in a corner of the world we can’t see, in The Hobbit it looked like a cheap set designed for a high school play. The costumes, instead of looking right at home, looked absurd and silly. Once the dwarves started showing up it took a turn for the worse. I felt like I was watching a live theater rendition of a Disney film about funny pirates.

The HFR 3D film experience made it seem as if I was sitting right there on set. At first that sounds perfect! It would be just like being there! But it is not perfect. It’s awful. Instead of suspending your disbelief for a few hours and believing you are in a world with Hobbits, Wizards, Dwarves, and Goblins you instead feel like you are watching a bunch of well funded kids role playing in the forest. It’s TOO real. There is nothing separating the reality that this does not actually exist from the fantasy of believing that it does.

I can go on and on about how badly the HFR ruined the experience for me, but other people have said it better. Here is a whole page of quotes about it and they are all right on the mark.

I am told by a friend who saw the 24 FPS version of it yesterday that it was great. There were none of the problems that I am talking about here. That brightens my spirits quite a bit. I think that if I see it again and really enjoy it I can easily forget about the bad version. So sometime soon I’ll do that, and I’ll hope for the best.

Until then, I’ll talk about the things I didn’t like about the actual film itself.


There were four specific scenes that really bugged me in the film, and one overall theme.

In the book, Bilbo never makes a conscious decision to join the party. He wakes in the morning, relieved to find the dwarves have left (and not cleaned up) and he sets about his day, dismissing any ideas of an adventure. Gandalf arrives and basically pushes him out of the door telling him there’s no time to pack or to think about what is happening. Bilbo finds himself joining an adventure that he isn’t quite sure he wants to be on. This theme repeats throughout the book.

In the film, Bilbo wakes up in the morning and decides that, by golly, he’s going on an adventure! He signs the (absurd) contract and runs out the door shouting along the way that “I’m going on an adventure!”

By changing the way the story starts it changes the way the story proceeds and it changes Bilbo’s character altogether from a slightly bumbling person out of his element to a willing participant with heroism on his mind.

The next scene that really bugged me was with the trolls. We all know that the trolls are eventually turned to stone by being tricked by Gandalf into staying outside when the dawn arrives. In the film, Gandalf cracks a giant boulder in half, letting the sunlight come through. In the story Gandalf tricks and confuses the trolls by using their voices to get them to argue with one another. They argue and argue about how to cook the dwarves until finally the dawn arrives and they are turned into stone.

It may seem like a small change, but to me it represents a loss of innocence in the film. In the story, Gandalf is quiet and mysterious and prefers to get involved as little as possible. The film has him exploding boulders from the start and it seems very heavy handed.

Overall I thought the goblins and Gollum scenes were handled well. We didn’t get much backstory about Gollum and his ring, and it’s not really clear how upset he is that he’s lost it. It seems more like he’s upset that he’s lost a meal. The goblin city was a bit overwrought and there was a hell of a lot more running around and battling than needed, but overall it was good.

My problem comes with the scene afterwards, where Bilbo rejoins the party. In the original, the dwarves and Gandalf have just discovered that Bilbo did not escape with them and are upset at having lost their burglar and suddenly he appears among them. They are shocked that they could have gotten past them and then even further when they hear about his adventures. They begin to have a grudging, but solid respect for him and for his abilities.

This is truly the first part of the story when the party begins to believe that he may have some use and it does a huge amount for Bilbo’s confidence in himself. In the film, this scene is just thrown away and glossed over with no real explanation and the audience is just left to wonder how this transformation of character happens.

Finally, perhaps my biggest disappointment comes when the party is treed after being chased by the wargs. The film brings back Azog, the orc chief, in a down and out battle with Thorin that Bilbo eventually joins in an effort to save Thorin’s life. This scene just disgusted me. We suddenly have this hero of a Hobbit facing down the enemies of Middle Earth with his glowing sword. In the book the orcs set fires around the trees until the eagles come and rescue the party. There is no epic battle where Bilbo wins Thorin over with his bravery.

This last scene, and really all the scenes that I am complaining about here make up the theme that bothers me. The theme is that of Bilbo as a hero. It clashes utterly with my reading of the book and my memories of the story. In my mind, Bilbo spends the first half of the story lost, bewildered, scared, out of place and barely getting by. Only with the help of Gandalf, the dwarves and in some cases, extraordinary luck is he able to survive.

We fall in love with a character who truly seems like what he is. A very small person from a very small place thrust into a huge world and epic events. It’s through his small, but increasingly important discoveries about himself and the world around him that he eventually grows into the Hobbit of legend.

At the start, Bilbo is truly innocent. He has no knowledge of the world and events around him. The Hobbit is a story about the loss of innocence and the joy of finding confidence and power within yourself.

I feel like the new film has removed that incredible feeling of joy that we get with each new boost in Bilbo’s confidence and it is that journey of discovery that makes the book so magical.

The Zelda Project: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

I finished A Link to the Past way back on November 24th, but I have been too busy to write about it. Now I will!

A Link to the Past is the first Zelda game for the SNES. The upgrade in graphics is pretty evident as soon as it starts up and it just gets better and better. First released in the US in 1992, I would have been about 15 years old. At this point I had my very own TV and the SNES had taken up residence in my bedroom. The game I remember most from this time period was Street Fighter II, which I played constantly with my friends. In fact, I don’t actually remember playing A Link to the Past during this time at all. I know I did, because as soon as the game started up I recognized it and I remembered more and more as I played. It’s possible that this was one of the games I played duo with a friend.

In any case, A Link to the Past was, so far, the most enjoyable of the bunch. The graphics and sound are so good that they don’t look bad even by today’s standards so it’s easy to forget you are playing a 20 year old game. The gameplay is SO MUCH BETTER than The Adventure of Link. In fact, I might even say it’s a little too easy. Where The Adventure of Link was maddeningly difficult, A Link to the Past is really pretty hard to lose at. I died plenty of times, but deaths are quick and easy to recover from and if you are careful it’s easy to avoid through potions, fairies, lots of free hearts under pots, etc.

Another nice thing about this game is that while there is plenty of exploration and adventure, it’s very easy to get a hint as to what to do next. You can always go to a fortune teller to have your “destiny” read to let you know where you’ve left off. This is pretty handy when you aren’t taking extensive notes and might set the controller down for a few days or a week at a time.

All in all, I feel this may end up being my favorite game when this project is all said and done. I started Ocarina of Time the day after I finished this one and I am sad to say that so far I hate it. The controls are awful, the graphics look incredibly dated and I am constantly fighting with the camera. Ocarina of Time is supposed to be one of the best games ever made, so hopefully I’ll get past these issues and start to enjoy it.

That’s for another post though!

The Zelda Project: The Adventure of Link

The Adventure of Link is the second of the two Zelda titles released for the NES and it’s fucking awful. It was released in North America in 1988, much to the dismay of people who liked good video games.

I mentioned in my last post a feeling of guilt over never having finished TAoL, but now I can finally put that to rest. After several weeks of work and what felt like a lifetime of misery, I will never have to play that abomination of a game again.

I don’t remember why I didn’t finish TAoL. I’ve been trying to. I think the core reason is probably that it was too damn hard but I think that may have been coupled with having rented it. I know I went through a period of my childhood where I rented games quite frequently, and then failed to return them for way too long, ending up paying as much in late fees as I would have to have bought the game. My financial acumen shined even in those days.

I always felt guilty for not finishing it because I feel like having finished the Zelda games is something I need in my pocket. I feel like these games were formative for me, but not being able to definitively say I’ve completed them all seems like cheating. That is a big part of the reason for this project, and finishing Zelda 2 was one of the major goals of this project.

Zelda 2, as I said is awful. It’s awful because it’s completely punishing and unforgiving. You get three lives and as many continues as you want. Chances to recharge your health bar are very few and far between and when your three lives are out you continue from the beginning of the game. That doesn’t sound so bad until you realize that this even happens in the dungeons. In Zelda 1, if you were in a dungeon when you died, when you continued you continued from the start of the dungeon. In Zelda 2, often times just getting to the dungeon is a life losing exercise. You might lose one or two lives getting there and then you have to fight all the way through the dungeon and kill the boss without losing the last of your lives or it’s all the way back to the beginning. It’s brutal.

Zelda 2 was also the first to introduce the overworld random attack system. I don’t know if it was the first game ever to do this, but it’s the same mechanic used in the early Final Fantasy games and other games like Pokemon. As you run around the overworld suddenly creatures will come running from three sides and they are very hard to avoid. If you don’t avoid them you go into a side scrolling battle scene and you have to fight your way back out.

Early on in the game, it behooves you to fight your way through Death Mountain and get the Hammer. You can actually go fairly far in the game before you get it, but the Hammer gives you shortcuts through the overworld. Without it you are forced to take the long way for everything past the first dungeon which means you end up losing more lives along the way. Getting the Hammer early on is the better of two very, very evil evils. Getting the Hammer caused me to throw a controller for the first time that I can remember. Part of my brain is still screaming about it.

Aside from that mess near the beginning, the majority of the rest of the game is just a grind. The graphics are awful, the controls are awful, the music is awful. You find as you go that no matter what you do you just can’t advance and that’s when it’s time to find a spot to fight and grind out a few levels to increase your powers. It doesn’t hurt to spend some time finding tactics for killing each type of enemy, too. For the longest time the red Ironknuckles were my nemesis, until I learned you can hit them every time by jumping towards them and swiping down with the sword.

Finally, when your boredom has reached it’s limit, you reach the final dungeon: The Great Palace. This hell hole is unique in that it is the only dungeon in the game where if you continue you start from the dungeon instead of the beginning of the game. Lucky, too, because while the dungeon itself actually isn’t that bad, getting to it is brutal. I died over and over until I finally decided to sit for a few hours grinding my skills up to max. Once I did, getting there was pretty straightforward although I usually died at least once getting there.

You’d think that I would have only had to get there once if I can continue from inside the dungeon, right? Nope! If you save and quit… back to the beginning.

Yesterday I finally had enough time to sit down and finish the Great Palace and I did it. It took me a few tries to learn the big flying head dude’s pattern and get him dead and then Shadow Link was easy, since he is stupid. Crouch on the left side and spam your sword. He’ll just run into it. I got the Triforce, saved Princess Zelda, got a picture, saved the game and then closed that thing down for all time.

Zelda 2
Never Again

So now we move on to A Link to the Past. Downloaded it, fired it up and it’s like a breath of fresh air. Not to mention I really remember a lot about this one. So far it’s going great and it’s a very enjoyable play. That’s for another post though.

One thing I think I failed to mention in the first post is that I will be playing only the single player console Zeldas. I know there are half a dozen or more Gameboy ones, and there’s things like Four Swords. I won’t be playing those.

The Zelda Project: The Legend of Zelda

A few weeks ago I kind of randomly decided that I wanted to play all of the Zelda games from start to finish. I don’t remember exactly why. Some of it has to do with a feeling of guilt over never finishing Zelda 2. I don’t remember why I never finished, but I have some ideas. That’s getting ahead of myself though.

So a few weeks ago I decided to start playing. I had originally intended to buy one of those NES / Super NES combo systems and buy the games and start there. Then Courtney pointed out that I was being stupid. The Wii, which we have, has basically every Zelda game ever in it’s Virtual Console. I did a little reading to make sure that people felt that they were good and authentic feeling ports and then dug in.

The Legend of Zelda is the first Zelda game. It’s a NES game and was released in the US in the summer of 1987. I am pretty sure I got the game for Christmas that year, along with a badass GT Performer BMX bike. Baby blue with white mags! I was 10 that year. I think I got my NES for Christmas the year before along with Super Mario Brothers and, for some reason, Top Gun. I spent endless hours trying to land that stupid plane on the carrier deck.

I say “pretty sure” because I don’t actually remember. As part of this Zelda vision quest I decided to sit down and try to nail down some dates from my childhood. Harder than it seems! My parents have passed, I have very few pictures from that time and my memory just sucks. So I took what I had and started putting it all out on a timeline and those are the dates I came up with.

Anyway, back to Zelda. I fired it up and started playing. I was shocked at how much I had forgotten. I mean, I knew where to find the sword and that was about it. I racked my brain for the location of the first dungeon but it wouldn’t come to me. This was somewhat distressing! As a kid I had played Zelda competitively with other kids from around my town. I was one of two kids (that I knew of) that could play the game from start to finish with no Continues. And now, just… 25 short years later I couldn’t even remember how to get started.

I decided that I would try to play the game as I played it as a kid. I didn’t immediately run to the nearest walkthrough and list of cheats. Instead, I downloaded a copy of the original instruction manual. It’s funny how big those manuals were back then. There wasn’t enough space in the ROM on the cartridge to include a bunch of tutorials and text, so it all went into the manual. There’s a bunch of tips and tricks, a few little maps, hints at maps of the later dungeons (including that scary, misunderstood swastika!) and a tutorial on getting to the first dungeon!

That was enough to get things rolling. After I knocked out the dungeon I did some wandering and I had a revelation. I used to draw maps! I noticed as I ran around that I was finding entrances to other dungeons, so I started writing down approximately where they were, still avoiding using the web to look it up. I realized that as a kid we used to draw maps of the world and the dungeons on graph paper. It was the only way to keep it all straight.

I quickly had another revelation as I started working through more of the dungeons. My game playing reflexes were gone. I used to be *good* at this stuff but now I was slow. I felt like the signals were taking too long to get from my eyes to my fingers. I would see something starting to happen on the screen but I felt like I couldn’t respond to it fast enough. Happily, this has started to come back. Practice, I guess.

The final revelation I had, while playing that game, is that I missed having a partner. When I played these games as a kid I almost always played with a buddy. Even though these were single player games, we would take turns. When you died it passed on to the other player. In the mean time, the person not holding the controller could map, research (Nintendo Power!), keep an eye out for incoming enemies or provide vocal assistance and suggestions during tough fights. This was important. I was never the most skilled twitch player. I had other skills. Like being able to grind for 24 hours straight and not getting frustrated. The benefit of having a parter was that when you had been killed for the 50th time by 10 blue Darknuts in a room you could hand off the controller and for some reason your buddy would do it in one try. That’s how it worked.

All that withstanding, I did eventually finish the game. I played a few hours during the week after work and quite a bit over the course of two weekends. I won’t bother to give a rundown of the whole game. There’s walkthroughs for that. But I finished it, and it felt great. It stirred up a lot of lost memories and got me to the point where I needed to be. Ready to take on Zelda 2 and my childhood guilt. As I write this post, I am almost finished with The Adventure of Link, but that will have to wait for the next post.


ScreenUi is a user interface library designed for small character based LCDs like those that are commonly used with Arduinos. The purpose of the library is to make it easy to quickly build logical screen interfaces with common widgets. It’s written in C++ and installs as an Arduino library or can be used external to Arduino. All hardware access is done through a very short implementable interface. You just need to define a few methods for LCD output and a few methods for button or encoder input and the library does the rest.

Here is a short video showing the widgets that are currently written:

And here is the code for that demo:

void loop() {
  Screen screen(20, 4);
  Label titleLabel("RGB Settings");
  Label addressLabel("Address:");
  char *address2 = "moof moof";
  char *address = "0xffee";
  Input addressInput(address);

  Label colorLabel("Color:");
  List colorList(7);

  Label rgbEnabledLabel("RGB Enabled:");
  Checkbox rgbEnabledCheckbox;

  Label refroLabel("Refrobulate:");
  Checkbox refroCheckbox;

  Label discoLabel("Discombobulate:");
  Checkbox discoCheckbox;

  ScrollContainer scrollContainer(&screen, screen.width(), 2);
  scrollContainer.add(&addressLabel, 0, 0);
  scrollContainer.add(&addressInput, 8, 0);
  scrollContainer.add(&colorLabel, 0, 1);
  scrollContainer.add(&colorList, 6, 1);
  scrollContainer.add(&rgbEnabledLabel, 0, 2);
  scrollContainer.add(&rgbEnabledCheckbox, 12, 2);
  scrollContainer.add(&refroLabel, 0, 3);
  scrollContainer.add(&refroCheckbox, 12, 3);
  scrollContainer.add(&discoLabel, 0, 4);
  scrollContainer.add(&discoCheckbox, 15, 4);

  Button cancelButton("Cancel");

  Button okButton("Ok");
  screen.add(&titleLabel, 0, 0);
  screen.add(&scrollContainer, 0, 1);
  screen.add(&cancelButton, 0, 3);
  screen.add(&okButton, 16, 3);

  while (1) {
    if (okButton.pressed()) {
      Serial.println(rgbEnabledCheckbox.checked(), DEC);
    else if (cancelButton.pressed()) {

You can see the bulk of the code is for setting up and laying out the screen. Processing of the screen all happens within the while (1) loop and is very simple. Buttons get their pressed() property set when they have been clicked, lists get their selectedItem() property updated, editable fields update their string in place, etc.

ScreenUi is Open Source and is available at It’s not completely finished, but it’s already very usable. I’ll be adding some more widgets to it in the coming days.

Thanks for reading!

My Brewery is the 99%

99% done that is!

My brewery has been about 99% done for a few months now. I’ve been brewing on it and until I have time to redo some fairly major things this is how it’s going to stay, so I thought it was finally time I took some pictures of it and showed it off a little.

The brewery has been a work in progress for about 2 years now. I set out to build a fairly simple “Brutus 10” system and just kept adding and adding and adding. Along the way I learned a lot of new skills and worked my ass off, but it really turned out to be all worth it.

Before I can really show off the system, it will make a lot more sense if you know how beer is made. So, in short, this is how beer is made:

  1. Malted barley is mixed with hot water to create the Mash in the Mash Lauter Tun.
  2. The Mash is allowed to steep for about an hour. This causes the starch in the barley to turn into sugar.
  3. The liquid from the Mash, which we now call Mash Liquor, is drained through a filter from the Mash Liquor Tun into the Boil Kettle. This process is called Lautering.
  4. Hot water from the Hot Liquor Tank is rinsed over the remaining barley in the Mash Lauter Tun to capture any remaining sugar. This process is called Sparging. This water is also collected into the Boil Kettle.
  5. The sweet liquid in the Boil Kettle is brought to a boil and hops are added. We now call the boiling liquid Wort. The process of boiling extracts bitterness from the hops to temper the sweetness of the Wort.
  6. The boiled Wort is cooled down, moved into a Fermenter tank and Yeast is added.
  7. The Yeast work their biological miracle and turn the sugar in the Wort into alcohol and CO2. The CO2 goes out the top and the alcohol stays in. We now have Beer!
  8. The Beer is enjoyed.

The system is an E-HERMS with a ton of automation. E-HERMS stands for Electric Heat Exchanger Recirculating Mash System. What that means is that liquids are heated with electricity (instead of gas, which is more common), and the Mash Liquor recirculates through a heat exchanger to change it’s temperature. More on that in a bit.

The automation comes in the way of temperature sensors, a BrewTroller brewing control computer, motorized ball valves and solenoid valves, a very large control panel and lots of wires. There’s also two brewing pumps to move all the liquids around.

The point of all this is that I can brew without ever having to deal with lifting heavy buckets of hot liquids or disconnecting and reconnecting a bunch of hoses as I go. And, of course, to be super geeky while making beer 🙂

So, now for the tour. First is the brewery from afar…

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From right to left is the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT), the Mash Lauter Tun (MLT) and the Boil Kettle (BK). The HLT is basically a glorified water heater with a twist. It’s goal in life is to keep a bunch of water at a set temperature. Usually around 180 °F.

The twist is that inside the kettle is a coil of stainless steel tubing. This tubing is the heat exchanger. I pump Mash Liquor from the MLT through the heat exchanger and back into the MLT to heat it up. This allows me to control the temperature of the Mash without directly heating it, which can be bad for the grain.

The next set of pictures shows the three kettles from the inside.

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The Boil Kettle contains a heating element which is used to heat up and boil the Wort. The Mash Lauter Tun contains a filter called a False Bottom which is used to drain the Mash Liquor without getting grains. The False Bottom has a series of slots cut into that are too small for the grain to pass through. And finally, the Hot Liquor Tank contains a heating element for heating water and the heat exchanger coil for passing Mash Liquor through.

Next we have some pictures showing the pumps and plumbing of the brewery.

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The brewery is plumbed using all 1/2″ OD stainless steel tubing. I custom bent every piece to get it just how I wanted it. There are two March magnetic drive pumps for moving liquids around, 11 motorized ball valves for controlling liquid flow and direction and 2 solenoid valves for controlling fresh water input to the system.

The plumbing system is designed so that I can move liquid from any tank to any other tank by opening the right configuration of valves and turning on the right pumps.

There is also a plate chiller (the thing that looks like a set of stacked metal plates) which is used for quickly cooling the Wort down from boiling to 68 °F, which what the yeast like. The chiller has channels that allow the Wort to pass in one direction and cold water in the other direction. The metal of the channels transmits heat effectively between the hot Wort and cold water without letting the two mix.

Next up are the electrical systems.

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The control panel is responsible for controlling the motorized ball valves, solenoids, heating elements, pumps and temperature sensors. It shows me the temperature of each tank, along with some auxiliary temperatures and lets me control the other components either manually or automatically. The knob in the middle is an iPod style control that lets me scroll through menus on the LCD and select options.

You can also see a breakout box I made which allows me to hook the 5 temperature sensors together to connect to the control panel.

That pretty much covers the brewery itself, but there is more to the process. Next we have fermentation equipment.

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Here we have 2 BrewHemoth 22 gallon Fermenters and their associated bits. Each Fermenter is wrapped with heating tape which allows me to raise the temperature of the Fermenter and each has an integrated chiller inside it which allows me to cool it. Managing the temperature of fermenting beer is very important in determining how it turns out. The Fermenters also each have a temperature sensor which is locked into the top at an angle. This is used to monitor the temperature of the fermenting beer.

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To manage all that stuff, we have a FermTroller. This is a miniature version of the system in the brewery. All this one does is monitor temperatures and either turn on heating or cooling. It is responsible for turning on and off the heating tape and turning on and off the chiller pumps and valves.

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The chilling system is not yet complete. I had intended to use this freezer to recirculate cold glycol solution through the chillers but it turned out that the glycol needed to be much colder than I wanted the freezer to be. I want to also be able to use the freezer to store beer, and beer needs to be around 45 °F. Unfortunately, the glycol needs to be around -20 °F. So, the chiller system is still being worked on.

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And finally, we have some kegs. These kegs are how I store and serve the beer I make. Each one holds 5 gallons and they go into the kegerator in my kitchen. All the kegs with open lids are currently dirty and need to be cleaned. The one that is closed and is hooked up to the CO2 tank contains fresh beer that is carbonating.

Brewery: Finally, a brew!

I finally managed to crank out a brew this weekend. I started on Saturday and ended up aborting due to process problems. Got it all figured out Saturday evening and got back to it Sunday. Ended up being a very, very long day but beer was made!

First, some pictures, and then my notes from the session…

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And now the notes. Beware, madness lie ahead:

Recipe: Basic Pale
Style: 10A-American Ale-American Pale Ale

Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 12.00 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 11.00 US gals
Volume Transferred: 11.00 US gals
Water Added: 0.00 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 11.00 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 11.00 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.051 SG
Expected OG: 1.056 SG
Expected FG: 1.013 SG
Expected ABV: 5.6 %
Expected ABW: 4.4 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 31.4
Expected Color: 7.1 SRM
Apparent Attenuation: 75.0 %
Mash Efficiency: 75.0 %
Boil Duration: 60.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 64 degF

US 2-Row Malt 20.00 lb (89.9 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Caramel 20L Malt 2.00 lb (9.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Caramel 120L Malt 0.25 lb (1.1 %) In Mash/Steeped

US Columbus(Tomahawk) (15.5 % alpha) 1.00 oz Bagged Pellet Hops used 60 Min From End
US Cascade (4.5 % alpha) 2.00 oz Bagged Pellet Hops used 15 Min From End
US Cascade (4.5 % alpha) 1.00 oz Bagged Pellet Hops used 1 Min From End

Other Ingredients

Yeast: DCL US-05 (formerly US-56) SafAle

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Full Mash
Schedule Name:Single Step Infusion (69C-156F)
Step: Rest at 156 degF for 60 mins

Recipe Notes

Started filling BK to do a PBW flush on the chiller
10 gallons to cover temp sensor

BrewTroller problems

Gave the fuck up

The next day…

Filled BK to 10.25 gallons and started heating and recirc

Started to pour some PBW into the water but it made the whole thing sound like a jet engine. Heating element doesn’t like it? Holding off itll the water is up to temp.

Started recirculating PBW through the chiller a few minutes ago
Running the element at 5% @ 4 second cycle to keep the solution around 120F

It has pulled some hop bits and gunk out of the chiller. Temp is holding very well with no additional heat input.

Filled HLT to 16 gallons and started heating to 180F. Should have done this from the start so it would be ready to flush the chiller.

Finished draining PBW, gotta flush with clean water now

Ran clean water through chiller and drain and into BK
PBW was left between 2 and G I guess, pumped back into BK a bit.
Could probably drain that using the prime dump next time

Probably should remove kettle manual valves. Serve no purpose and can store baddies.

Continued heating HLT, had to stop while moving water
Had to cycle clean water through BK 2X before it felt not slippery

Started moving HLT water to BK for chiller sterilization

Moved 10 gallons 130F water to BK, will continue heating and sanitize chiller with it
This represents the start of a normal brew day. Previous work was all stuff that will normally be done at the end of the brew day.

Last minute configuration stuff
Starting the brew!

BT says to fill mash to 7.8, HLT to 10.8. Already have 14 in HLT so keeping it.
7.8 is too low for temp sensor in MLT. Hmm. This wouldn’t matter as much if I had the HEX return sensor.
Going to add 2 gallons and then dump it before mashing in.

Just realized that if I continue the program right now I won’t have a chance to run the chiller sanitize, so going back to that for now.

Seem to be having some BTPD problems. Or possibly power supply. Getting a lot of flicker from LCD in certain modes. Lots of BTPD resets. Did I ever adjust the brownout on my units? Might be time to dump the BTPD v1 units.

Started recirc on chiller at 185F
Also heating HLT to 170 to get ahead of that
Manually adjusting BK heat to keep the temp around 185F

Finished sanitizing chiller, draining BK to sink
HLT at 130F

Chill water out does not have an adjustable valve on it, so it’s gonna be full bore. Maybe replace E with proportional eventually.

Uploaded new code w/out BTPD support. They keep resetting like crazy. Don’t know if they are the problem or not but that’s the first step in finding out. Unplugged BTPDs completely.
Really for real starting the brew
Really need to replace that alarm. It’s terrifying.
LCD still flickering a lot, don’t think the problem is the BTPDs. Maybe power supply. Need to stick a big ass cap on the 12v lines.
HLT 135F, MLT 85F

Just noticed I never turned the HLT heater on. Sweet! Water will heat faster with it on.
HLT 118F, MLT 111F

Crushed one campden tab and added half to MLT and half to HLT
Cleaned scrubby and put it under diptube in BK

MLT is trailing the HLT by almost exactly 10 degrees. Not sure if that is relevant right now.

HLT 149F, MLT 139F

Screwing around with serial logging a bit to get some data out. Almost up to temp on kettles.

Done screwing around, resuming brew
169F, 160F

172F, 163F

MLT now coming up to temp very slowly. Might be seeing the HEX inefficiency here.
171, 166

Fucking BT locked up and I didn’t notice. Everything kept running.
182, 173

Took off lids and stirred to lower temp, 179/170
Doughing in
Strike 156F after dough in and stirring, probably due to the grain being warmer than I programmed @ 69F
Mash running well
Heating seems to overshoot by as much as 5F. Gotta get the PID going on that.
Wort is now beautiful and clear running through the sight glass

Mash almost finished
Overshoot is about 6 degrees. Goes from 154 to 160 and then slowly drops back down.

Started sparge
Need a way to judge flow better

Bug in sparge in valve profile! Wasn’t actually pumping any water in 🙂

Need to pay more attention to volume of sparge water. Going to end up with 4 gallons of liquid in mash that should not be there.

Turned on BK element to start heating up the wort
9 gallons collected so far

Finished sparge
Got about 12.5G in kettle. Will determine why when grains are scooped out
Starting boil
Lost a taste by leaving dump valve open. Woops.
Original Gravity was 1.038 @ 150F by hydrometer
Expected original gravity was 1.051, and we’re looking at 1.048

Wort boil hit

Started boil timer
Dropped first hops
70% @ 4S is giving a nice hard boil

There was a lot of wort trapped in the HEX, probably the missing wort. Flush it next time.

Boil temp is 209F
Refilled HLT to 10G and started heating to 180F

Added Irish Moss, should have done @15 instead of @5
Cleaning water up to temp

Added the last minute hops directly to wort at 7:59pm
Remove hop bags
Started recirc for whirlpool

Stopped whirlpool, starting settle, will allow to settle for 10 mins
Wort is 194F
Kettle lid should go on at 176F
Wort has a really nice spicy note, kinda like cinnamon or nutmeg

Decided to stir the BK a little to check for temp hotspots. I’m retarded. There goes my nice hop pile.

Started chilling
Removed whirlpool return, need to be able to see if beer is flowing
Really need sightglass and flow meter

Sanitized the fermenter by putting 5 gallons of sanitizer in and spraying the heck out of the top part. Hope that does the trick.

Last few degrees taking forever. Wasting a lot of water. Need to rethink this quite a bit. Ice in the MLT might be good.

Transferring to fermenter via bucket 🙁
Think I ended up with about 10.5G, failed to look before moving some
Maybe more like 10.0G
Evaporation rate was too low, I think, and we lost some in the HEX.

SG 13*P 1.054 by hydrometer @ 68F

Finally done, finished cleaning up
Beer is in the fermenter with a hose to a bucket of sanitizer for blow off
Pitched two packets of Safale US-05, direct to fermenter. They stuck on the foam at the top so I shook it up a bit to mix them in.
Oxygenated full open for 60 seconds from bottom

Final notes:
The whole hops I threw in at the last clogged things up a bit. The scrubby actually worked really well, but it definitely slowed down the flow. I pulled the scrubby out during clean up and the whole hops instantly clogged the drain. Those things will probably get fully stuck in ½” tubing, I bet.

The scrubby was FULL of gunk when I rinsed it out. I think it caught every last drop of break.

I think pellet would have flowed fine, but then they would have been stuck in the chiller. Gotta think about filtering more.

Cleanup went pretty smooth. I kept the HLT full of 180F and used it at the very end to flush the chiller. Used fresh water to flush everything else. On reflection, should have used the 180F to flush at least the HEX too.

Shop Vac is the business for cleaning up the hop mess in the BK and the last bits of grain in the MLT. Gotta get one specifically for brewing. A bucket one would be good. Easier to dump.

Brewery: Getting Close

Well, I think I am starting to see the finish line on the brewery. It’s getting very close to done. I’ve been out in the garage bending tube and plumbing every spare hour I have. This past weekend I finally finished the final version of the manifold pieces and I mounted them on the stand. I ended up using some split ring conduit hangers from Lowes. They are galvanized, and I would prefer stainless, but the only source for stainless ones I can find are 10 times the price. I can live with galvanized for now.

Last night I finished the lines that go from the pumps to the manifold and tonight I finished the HLT return, HEX input and MLT return. These three we going to be the most difficult and I had only planned to finish one of them tonight but it actually went pretty quick thanks to some Swagelok 90 degree elbows I bought a few weeks back so I just pushed through and did all three. I’m really happy with how it turned out.

Only things left to do are the BK return and the plumbing for the chiller. I am still short a few parts for the chiller, so that will have to wait till Thursday probably, but I hope to do the BK return tomorrow night. With any luck all the major work will be done by this weekend and I can spend the weekend doing wet testing and tuning. Doubt I will be able to fit a brew in, but you never know. Here’s hoping!

[slickr-flickr tag=”brewery20110802″]

Brewery: Finally Some Progress!

Well, it’s been months and months since I have made any progress on the brewery, but this weekend I finally got out of my funk and got some shit done! I’ve really been struggling with the next step of the build, which has been to convert all the plumbing to hard, stainless steel tubing. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make it all perfect and I finally realized that I just won’t be able to, so I started bending.

So far things are coming along okay. I will probably need to add some Swagelok elbows to get things really set right and I might end up using some short pieces of reinforced nylon tubing as jumpers, but it’s coming along.

This weekend I got the HLT fully plumbed and the MLT half plumbed. I also got the HEX plumbed and pump 1 bolted down. I fully expect that I will end up redoing parts of this, but it feels good to actually make some progress.

[slickr-flickr tag=”brewery20110717″ type=”galleria”]

Brewery: Mistakes

Here is a list of things I would do differently if I was starting over on my brewery project. I think this list will be very useful when I inevitably start over on my brewery project 🙂

  • Separate control boxes for low voltage and high voltage. I would build a small box that houses all the high voltage switches, relays, SSRs and plugs and run low voltage, opto-coupled signals to it. Having all the high voltage stuff in the main control panel makes it harder and more dangerous to work on, and makes it much bulkier than it needs to be. I would put the high voltage box down in the rig somewhere. This would have the added benefit of probably not needing expensive twist lock plugs. I think I spent almost $200 just in plugs for high voltage stuff.
  • Have a box on the rig for all the valves, temp controllers and pressure sensors and come up with a way to gang them all into a single cable going to the control panel. Ideally I would like the high voltage box and the sensor/valve box to just be networked to the control panel with RS-485 or something.
  • Kettles with bottom outlets. One of the most annoying things I’ve found so far with my brewery is that there’s no good way to clean the kettles completely. It’s a battle of diminishing returns. The siphon outlet of the keg leaves about .22 gallons along with all the crap that has collected in that liquid. So washing bits of grain, hops, etc. becomes a matter of pumping in water, draining it, pumping in more water, draining it. I’ve taken to using towels to soak up the last .22 gallons and then cleaning it all by hand. If they were bottom dump I could just rinse all the crap right down the drain.
  • Drill holes at 45* angles around the kettles instead of 90* angles. At 90* angles everything wants to bump into the stuff in the kettle next to it.
  • Skip the Blichmann gear. It’s pretty but it’s expensive and once you start drilling and cutting it’s kind of a waste. There’s better options for a DIY system like this.
  • Skip the solenoids. I’ve mentioned this before, but solenoid valves are useless in a brewery. I spent over $400 in solenoids just to find this out. Use motorized ball valves.
  • Use tri-clamp fittings on manifolds. This is expensive, but it will save a huge amount of frustration. Trying to line up dozens of threaded fittings is a massive pain in the ass. I don’t know how pipe fitters keep their sanity.
  • Spend way more time thinking about how things will get cleaned. Cleaning is still a pain in the ass. I still don’t know how to completely drain my system including all the hoses, valves and manifolds. All these spots are wonderful little havens for nasties to build up.
  • Remember how useful pipe clamps are for everything. They kick ass. Use them to mount almost anything to almost anything.

To be continued…