Search This Blog

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Getting fitter

The blog description used to have "weight lifting" in it.  I took it out because I never really blogged about that.  Maybe I will put it back in now that I am exercising again. 

For the past six months I was on a low-carb, ultra low calorie diet.  I lost 40 lbs, but at about 195 lbs, found it very difficult to make any further progress.  I was bouncing between 190 and 195 and miserable from 6 months of semi-starvation. 

Rather than continue to do what was not working (only harder), I decided to take a different approach. 

At the beginning of this month, I started exercising (something you shouldn't be doing when you are calorie-starved), and moved to a high protein, moderate carb, moderate fat diet.  So far I like the results.  More muscle definition and bulk, even if some fat is still on top of it.  I definitely won't be seeing my abs for a while!!!

I figure that I will put on some solid muscle and develop a very active metabolism.  Then later I will go slightly calorie deficient, with light exercise and high protien.   This combination should really help shed the remaining fat while sparing the new calorie-burning muscle.

That's the plan, anyway.  But right now I am sore like I was dragged behind a car for 30 miles :)

Pantry and Linen Closet upgrades

Several months ago, we decided that the kitchen pantry and the upstairs linen closets needed to be improved.  Both had shelving that only came partway to the front of the closet, so we were losing about a foot of shelving on each of the 4 shelves. 

Furthermore, because we have 9 foot ceilings in these closets, there was room for an additional partial shelf above the others. 

I had cut shelving to fit into these spaces quite a while back, and the wife had begun to paint them with primer, but she ran out of primer, and other (way larger) projects got started.  The shelves sat half-primered in the furnace room as we carpeted, framed and drywalled the basement.

This past week though, I finally put the half-finished shelves on saw-horses in the garage and set the garage heater on high, to get everything up to painting temperature.  Over two days, I painted the interior of the linen closet and pantry, completed priming and painting the shelves, and installed new footer boards for the top shelf in each closet.  The shelves fit in nicely with no further cutting, and are screwed down to the footer boards.

Each closet turned out pretty well, and I figure with the additional front-to-back area and extra shelf, it works out to gaining about extra 2 shelves per closet.   A good thing, because right now this house is very low on installed cabinetry.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

All-Grain Brewing

At some point I would like to try my hand at All-Grain brewing.  I mentioned before the advantage of expense.  Price isn't much of an issue for me.  What I'm really interested in is learning and performing the entire brewing process, as it is done without factory-made supplies.  I could see myself evetually running a brew-pub, if I had enough experience and success :)

With Extract Brewing, you are using malt extract that was produced from malted grains in a factory, and dissolving that in hot water to make wort.

With All-Grain Brewing, you are making wort the traditional way: Steeping several pounds of malted grains in hot water for an hour to extract the sugars.  This is called mashing.  Afterwards you drain the liquid from the grains and rinse hot water through to extract all the sugars.  You have then created your own wort, without the need for a factory.

A big advantage of All-Grain brewing over extract brewing (particularly Kit Brewing) is that you have infinitely more options on how to brew.  While I can (and do) add more malts/hops than an Extract Brew Kit provides, you have way more options when all-grain brewing.

All-Grain brewing requires three large vessels:  A bucket for lots of hot water, a bucket for the grains to steep (called a mash tun), and a boil bucket for brewing.  So far I only have one of these items, a large keg with the lid removed.

 This is a photo of a keggle (keg+kettle) I found on the internet.  Mine has the lid cut out, but does not yet have a valve or temperature gauge.  Both items will be useful for the Hot Water bucket.

Next I will need a Mash Tun.  Remember the mash tun holds the grains while they steep in hot water.  The mash tun can be made from an Igloo cooler with a few small modifications.  The modifications allow you to drain the wort after the grains have steeped in the hot water, while leaving the grains behind.  Here is an example:  A cooler with a strainer at the bottom.

And lastly, I will need a bigger boil bucket.  The one I have is a 36 qt, and I need more like 12-15 gallons of room for a 10 gallon boil.  Basically I need another keg with the lid cut off.  They are hard to find, and expensive.

There are a couple of different arrangements you can use to brew All-Grain.  Because the liquid gets transferred twice, you need a way to do accomplish the task.  The simplest is using gravity.  Hot water tank down to mash tun, down to boiling bucket.   Here is an example of an all-grain brewing system using gravity transfer:
Alternatively, if you don't mind paying for a pump and a few fittings (and cleaning them out after brewing), you can set up the rig horizontally, like this:

I like this arrangement best because you don't need a ladder to reach anything, and importantly, there is no danger of hot liquids falling on you in the event of an accident.  I think I could put this together.

A second burner might be nice, but I should be able to move it from the hot water tank to the boil bucket if I build the frame with that in mind.  I have a birthday coming up, so maybe I can convince the wife to get me a gas welding rig and some square iron!


Carpentry is probably not a word I would use to describe my efforts with wood.  My work is rough and imperfect.  I give myself passing grades though.  I'm not too much worse than people who do this for a living.

The basement has a bay-window shaped nook that sits directly below the breakfast nook.  When we had the big room in the basement drywalled, this nook became a storage area.  However it was a storage area without any shelves.  After doing the master closet rebuild I felt pretty competent to install shelving in this room. 

The job was far more complex than the master closet though.  This was mainly due to the angles involved and the need to cut several shelves to line up correctly to the wall, and also to each other.  I lucked out, and managed to get all six shelving pieces fit in correctly the first time.  Here are some pictures of the finished project.  There were no right angle cuts on these shelves!

Looking in:
 Bottom shelf, made from three pieces.

Looking up at the support brackets.

Not a carpenter, but not a complete loss either!

Friday, March 01, 2013

How to Keg your Home Brew

In the previous post I mentioned that I keg my beer.  I thought it might be helpful to explain how I accomplish that task.

First off, sanitation.  I mix up a 5 gallon bucket of Star-San (dilute phosphoric acid).  Star-San is nice because it won't attack stainless steel, as bleach will.  Also, amazingly, it is not necessary to rinse Star-San from your equipment before using it.  Heh.  Try that with bleach!

Star-San is a weak acid that will kill germs with about 60 seconds of contact time.  Since it is a weak acid, and your wort is quite basic, the wort basically neutralizes the traces of Star-San, and poof, it disappears as your wort contacts it!  Awesome stuff!

So, I start with a clean keg that has been washed out with with soap and water, and rinsed well.  Then I place the siphon and pump into the bucket of Star-San, and get them thoroughly sanitized.  After that I pump several ounces of Star-San into the keg.  I put the lid on the keg and shake it until I am confident that the solution has soaked the entire interior of the keg. 

Next I remove the "gas in" and "liquid out" fittings and soak them in the solution for a minute or two, then re-assemble the keg.  Put a little CO2 gas in the keg and flow all of the solution out the tap.  We have now sanitized everything the beer will be in contact with.  Release the gas pressure, using the safety valve lift, and place the keg lid and o-ring in the bucket of Star-San.

OK, our keg is now sanitized and ready for beer! 

Side note:  For this next step you will need a second CO2 hose without any fittings on the end.  In the photos you will notice the red and blue lines coming from the regulator.  The blue line has a fitting to connect with the keg, while the red is an open-ended line.

One more step and we can transfer the beer to the storage keg.  Oxygen is harmful beer, so try to minimize exposure of your beer to air.  I accomplish this by filling the keg up with CO2 before transferring beer to it (using the red CO2 line).  Sanitize the CO2 hose, and place it at the bottom of the keg.  Start a gentle flow of CO2 gas.  CO2 is heavier than air, so it will fill up the keg like invisble water.

Even though the CO2 is invisible, it's still very easy to tell when your keg is full of CO2 by sniffing gently at the lip of the keg.  When it's full of CO2, sniffing it will feel like you just burped a soda through your nose.  That's the feeling when CO2 and moisture in your sinus form carbonic acid and cause pain in the sinus.  Not pleasant!  But you can tell when you have a keg full of CO2.

Now, let's move some beer!  Remove the lid from the fermenter.  Gently place the fermenter on a surface higher than the keg will be, trying not to stir up sediment.  Put your sanitized pump into the fermenter and the other end of the siphon hose into the keg.  Give the pump a few strokes and you are transferring beer!

Here's my transferring and kegging arrangement:  Fermenter with new beer on the counter-top.  Auto siphon pump and tubing transferring beer into the keg.  CO2 bottle for purging air from keg in the background, and orange Home Depot bucket with sanitizing solution at the right.

Below: what the inside of a fermenter looks like after a batch has fermented.  Non-brewers probably wouldn't drink beer if they knew about this!!!  Beer is siphoning out the Auto-siphon tube.

Transferring beer into the keg.

View inside the half-full keg.

Let the process continue until the level in the fermenter is near the bottom.  When the level is close to the bottom, very gently tilt the fermenter to get as much liquid as possible without disturbing the sediment.  If you want to know why, take a taste the sediment (also known as dregs) afterwards.  You won't want to taste it twice :) 

After the transfer is complete, take the keg lid and o-ring from the sanitizing solution, install them on the keg, and pressurize the keg with 5-10 psi of CO2.  Inspect the lid and both fittings for leaks (soapy water can be very helpful for locating gas leaks). 

Next, install the tap and purge any sanitizing solution from it with your new beer.  Pour yourself a little and check it out.  This will be green beer and it won't taste very good at this point.  Beer needs to age for a while for the flavors to settle down.  Also, it will probably at this point contain live yeast that will cause you to experience bloating and gas.

Fresh beer.  Notice how cloudy it is.  The cloudiness is due to live yeast cells, and you will pay the price if you drink them :)

Give your brew 2-4 weeks to settle down and see how it tastes then.  Lighter beers tend to need less aging than darker, more complex beers.