Keezer – Plumbing

June 19, 2012

Throughout the keezer I have elected to minimise the number of barbed fittings and instead use John Guest-style push fittings.  Unlike barbs these fittings can have the hose lines easily removed and generally terminate to a 1/4″ flare thread (MFL/FFL).  For this reason I chose a gas manifold and liquid/gas disconnects that terminate to 1/4″ MFL for every connection.  Easy disconnection has distinct advantages for cleaning and system adaptability.

The drawback of this plan is that an awful lot of FFL to hose connectors are required and this pushes the price up.  The standard line used in home beer dispensing is 5/16″ OD (3/16″ ID).  The internal diameter is important because appropriate flow resistance is critical for ensuring that carbonation stays in suspension while the beer is in the lines.  Failure to do so causes a foamy pour.

5/16″ connectors in Australia (like everything niche) are very expensive.  A $2.30 connector in the US is $7 here in a brew shop (who are pretty much the only people that stock this size).  Yet 1/4″ line is extensively used for water filter systems here and is very reasonably priced ($3-4 a connector).  1/4″ hose is obviously narrower causing higher resistance, lower flow rate and be harder to fit to flared fittings.  So basically I have a couple of options:

  1. Buy all in 5/16″ locally and pay 2-3 times as much [aka The Chump’s Option]
  2. Buy all in the US, pay international shipping and wait for 2 weeks for it to arrive (and this option leaves no room for finding out I’m short by one connector) [aka The Trader’s Option]
  3. Buy all in 1/4″ and run the risk of flow issues [aka The Pioneer’s Option]
  4. Buy all the gas, where resistance doesn’t matter  and most of the fittings are used, in 1/4″ and only do the liquid side in 5/16″ [aka The Heath Robinson Option]
  5. Try and talk a water filter shop into ordering in the 5/16″ gear from their supplier and not charge me massive brew-shop prices [aka The Wheeler-Dealer Option]

The two approaches that appeal to me are 4 and 5 – I would prefer to have the liquid lines in proper 5/16″ but I would like to avoid where possible giving my money to the graspy brew-shop owners that know they have their customers over a barrel.

So the option that I finally went with was the local water filter shop.  Chris at truwater got the bits ordered in – while not as cheap as an overseas order, still pretty good.  For comparison, a $7 John Guest 1/4″FFL fitting at a brew shop was $4.50.  I estimate that I saved at least 35% by buying through him.  And didn’t have to wait for anything.

Once all the bits arrived it was all pretty much plug and play thanks to all the John Guest fittings I was using.  After getting truwater to price up the bits I went the extra mile and ordered in some JG fittings for my tap shanks.  This made installation a breeze and will allow greater disassembly should I need to.

One of the challenges was working out how to make the connection between the keezer and an external gas cylinder (so that I can run the full complement of 4 kegs).  My solution was to use 5/16″ grommets and some spare plastic (old ipod box, I believe!).  I have this arrangement sealing both the inside and outside walls of the collar.

And finally, here’s a look at the inside of the keezer. You can see my JG shank fittings at the top; the black is a sheet of coreflute with yoga mat behind it for lid insulation; and on the left is my 4-way gas manifold.

Blow-Off Tube – Update!

June 15, 2012

Two days ago I pitched a hefeweizen that was notorious for vomiting through the airlock.  This time I used a blow-off tube.

Here’s an update showing how successful it was…

Fermentation is currently happening at a furious pace.  You can see that the collection bottle is full of krausen, which would otherwise have ruined an airlock.  Taping the hose down into the collection bottle was definitely a good idea – when I opened the door to take this photo it caused an eruption of activity.  Without the tape the hose would certainly be blown out of the bottle.

This technique seems to be delivering the goods – and will definitely be an addition to my arsenal.  In many respects I think I may move away from airlocks entirely for primary fermentation, and just use them for conditioning, dry-hopping, etc.

Shahi Chicken Korma

June 14, 2012

Tonight was curry fest.  Everything you see on the table was made from scratch – from the 3 curries, to the bread, to the beer.  All was very tasty – so I thought I should share one of the recipes.  This one is for Shahi Chicken Korma (seen below in the orange pot)…


  • 500 gm chicken, thigh
  • 1 big onion, pureed
  • 1 big tomato ( diced)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp dry fenugreek leaves
  • 1/4 cup yoghurt
  • pinch of asafoetida
  • 3 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

For Chicken marinade :

  •  1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1/4 cup yoghurt


  1. Combine all marinade ingredients into bowl. Let the chicken pieces marinate for about 1 hour.
  2. Heat oil. Fry onion puree until moisture is gone and starting to golden.
  3. Add pinch of asafoetida and caraway seeds, saute for a few minutes.  Add marinated chicken and salt to taste.  Mix well, cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add tomato and tomato paste and let chicken cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Keep stirring frequently.
  5. Add fenugreek leaves and yoghurt. Let gravy simmer on low heat.


Blow-Off Tube

June 14, 2012

I recently lost a batch of beer when the krausen (the top layer of yeasty foam) completely filled the headspace of my fermenter and vomited through the airlock.  By doing so it displaced all the liquid in the airlock, leaving it dry (and filthy) and it also filled the fermentation fridge with half-fermented wort.  This of course went entirely moldy and rancid.

The solution this time around is to replace the airlock with a blow-off tube.  This setup is essentially a junior version of what they have installed in commercial fermenters.  The tube runs out of the top of the fermenter and into a plastic bottle full of sanitizer.

I found that 6mm vinyl hose from Bunnings worked fine, although it did need a few turns of electrical tape to increase the diameter sufficiently to make it fit snugly in the grommet of the fermenter lid.  The whole thing got flushed with sanitizer before the free end was placed under a volume of spare sanitizer in the soft-drink bottle.  A little more tape holds the tube in place.

Should a blow-off occur, any krausen should simply accumulate in the bottle full of sanitizer and no airlock will be lost.

Results here.

Sparkler rockets?

June 1, 2012

I remember in my uni days people buying packs of sparklers, bundling them together and setting them off in one go.  A single sparkler may last for 30 seconds or more, but with all the heat that is generated when bunched together the whole lot goes up in only a couple of seconds.  The resulting effect is an impressive but very short-lived fountain.  Not only is a lot of heat and light produced, but the combustion also results in an awful lot of gas.  This got me wondering: a whole lot of gas in a short time… was this enough to make a cheap and cheerful rocket?

The first video shows the basic proof of concept.  The questions I had were:

  • when confined how much longer would the bunch burn for?
  • would plastic packing tape work or would it just burn through?
  • would the bundle move at all?
  • or would the whole lot just blow up?

All in all this looked quite promising, especially the slow motion replay which shows plenty of gas production.  So I moved to the next step which was a full trial, fashioning a proper rocket.  I left the bottom entirely open and added some cardboard fins hoping to stop the furious rotation of the first video.

It has to be said that this does indeed make a successful rocket.  Of sorts.

The flight was pretty erratic.  It certainly didn’t have a predictable flight-path – veering off to the side almost instantly.  This combined with the fact that all the tape and cardboard elements sit there on fire after it lands means that my rocket days are over as quickly as they began – it would just be far too easy to set something on fire.

But all in all it’s been a satisfying journey just getting any sort of rocket-like behaviour, and it was certainly spectacular.  And of course, seeing a hunch play out is always rewarding!