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Sean Richens
Username: Sean

Post Number: 135
Registered: 04-2001
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2005 - 01:28 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

There are some beautiful breweries shown here, and of course their makers should be proud of their work. But I always worry that prospective brewers might be scared off the hobby, thinking they need a toy refinery to make beer.

My setup has made over 135 brews over 10 years, and the more intimate I get with it, the less I feel like changing it. By now, I can make beer in my sleep, in fact, I do!

It's a 23-L setup. Because the boil kettle is only 17 L I top up the gravity sometimes with a bit of extract. That makes a drier beer than lowering the efficiency (80-85%!) and using more grain.

Yep, I still use a Corona mill. I can't see any difference between my grist and my LHBS 2-row mill.

Note the shims that convert the gap from "flour" to "grist". By the way, I usually don't do this in nice weather. Minus 30 is much more common since I focus on lagers and my refrigeration's 100% natural.


I use a grain bag for lautering. A neighbour made this for me and I can't believe how it's held up. Her craftmanship is amazing.

grain bag

I put a metal trivet in the pail to support the bottom a bit.


Kettle on overturned pot to get it off the cold floor, styrofoam insulating underneath:

mash 1

And then I wrap it up in about 5 or 6 blankets. Not ones I use for camping, I don't want to smell that delicious in bear country!

mash 2

At this point it's about 11:00 at night, and I go to bed. I'll break my post at this point as well.

Sean Richens
Username: Sean

Post Number: 136
Registered: 04-2001
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2005 - 01:53 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

So the next morning I get up bright and early, put the coffee on, and if I'm feeling self-indulgent grab a slice of toast. I kiss the Ms., and stumble downstairs to start the sparge water, drag the mash onto the basement stove and get the mash-out started while I dig out the hops.

A 1/2 Litre Pyrex jug is my "pump" for mash and sparge, and the wooden spoon my sparge distributor. I add 12 L of sparge at a time since the lauter tun has room:


I mash stiff (1 L per lb) so there's no first runnings. I deliberately stretch the sparge out to 45 minutes for efficiency and not to worry about stuck mashes. There's enough work to keep me slightly busy during the sparge. Note the high-tech flow control - I just nudge the pail on or off the hose a bit:


I boil right up to the rim of my kettle (at 17 L I don't have much choice). Richens' Law: A watched pot eventually boils. An unwatched pot eventually boils over.

To prevent foaming I watch the temperature. At about 190F I start stirring to help the dissolved air escape so it doesn't all come out at once at boiling point, and it gets the hot break started so I don't have as much fine particulate nucleating gas bubbles.

boil up

Immersion cooling is the only way to go until the batch sizes get out of reach. 50 ft. of 3/8 copper and water barely above freezing - who needs efficiency?


I didn't get a shot of wort aeration: pouring from pail to pail until 16 L wort foams up to the 25 L rim. I rinse out the kettle, drain water from the immersion chiller (very important - a full coil is DANGEROUS in a boiling kettle) and get the extra water going. I thrash the chilled boiled water with a spoon to get air back in and top up the wort in the starter pail.

I'll come back later to rack the wort off the trub and pitch the yeast. The remaining clean-up is no big deal, and I still have most of Sunday ahead of me:


Fermenting, is well, not much different from anyone else. Primary in pail, secondary in plastic carboy, condition in bottles, and I just try to hold 45-50 F through the entire process. Here's the ozone-friendly refrigerator:

Ron Siddall
Username: Listerdister

Post Number: 224
Registered: 10-2004
Posted on Monday, May 23, 2005 - 02:03 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Sean, nice to see someone brewing in the Antartic continent!

I love your method of flow control. Unfortunately, I am a tinkered and cannot possibly use that method. I am doomed and had to build something more complicated. HEHE.

Sean Richens
Username: Sean

Post Number: 142
Registered: 04-2001
Posted on Tuesday, May 24, 2005 - 02:19 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Saved by my job. It's bad enough that I do fermentation for a living. I've sized pumps and sourced valves and done heat transfer calculations for other homebrewers, but to do it for myself would be a busman's holiday. I try to approach brewing as kitchen work, like any self-respecting African peasant woman.

Unregistered guest
Posted on Friday, November 18, 2005 - 07:22 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Instead of pouring the sparge over the spoon, take a sheet of aluminum foil and lay it over the mash. Poke several small holes to allow the water to pass through. Pour the water on the perforated foil, it allows to water to pass without channeling and allows for a one handed operation.
I got this tip from a fellow homebrewer here It has worked well for me.

Intermediate Member
Username: Miker

Post Number: 331
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Friday, November 18, 2005 - 08:34 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I enjoyed looking at your photos, Sean. It's great how everyone finds their own different ways to make good beer. I was curious about this statement, though:

(very important - a full coil is DANGEROUS in a boiling kettle)

Patrick C.
Intermediate Member
Username: Patrickc

Post Number: 461
Registered: 01-2001
Posted on Friday, November 18, 2005 - 09:17 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

You've never been burned by a steam-spewing immersion chiller, Miker? If the chiller has water in it, the water will boil. This blows steam and hot water out the ends. Not a problem if you empty it or keep the hoses on.

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