2015 Cider Extraviganza

As I pulled up to the farmer’s market, the rain began to fall on my windshield. The patter of rain combined with the rich smell of coffee from my thermos created a soothing environment; one which I was not willing to give up for the frigid rain and biting wind that waited for me outside of my vehicle. It was one of the first truly cold days of fall and with my winter clothes still in storage, I was poorly equipped for the weather in my cargo shorts and a t-shirt. With a grunt, and a final sip of my coffee, I got out of the car to make my cider purchase.

Mood's FarmMood’s Farm is located in South NJ, located far enough away from the major commerce areas to be considered rural, but not so far away that it’s a challenge to get to. The farm market where they sell their produce is a bit run down, but it’s age certainly gives the building character. If you are in the area, I certainly recommend checking out this local hub.

Among the home brew community, Mood’s is known  for one thing in particular… Cider. After pressing, they run their juice under a UV light, thus “cold pasteurizing” their cider. It allows for a preservation of taste but more importantly, it allows for fermentation without the interference of chemical preservatives. The juice that they create is primarily sweet, but it does have enough tannin and acidity to make it worth fermenting and acceptable as a hard cider without the need for chemical adjustments (although adding acidity brings this cider to a whole new level).

Cider from MoodsThis year I made a grand purchase of 20 gallons of Cider. 6 Gallons of that cider went to a class I taught at Keg and Barrel Home Brew Supplies, the remaining 14 gallons was mine to play with. I divided the cider up into 4 different projects: One Apple Wine, Once Hard Cider, and Two Apple Meads (Cysers). I’ve compiled my list of fermentations from this years cider, I will be updating them as the year goes on and the ciders reach completion.

The Cider Projects:

Electric Brewing

“It’s Alive!” I said as I turned on my electric kettle. 2 minutes later “Crap, why isn’t this piece of $@!? working!”

I decided to move to electric for several reasons. Firstly as an apartment brewer my sources of heat are limited, and my stove top burner was not allowing me to get achieve a strong rolling boil. Secondly the heat coming from my burners would quickly raise the temperature of my poorly ventilated kitchen well into the low 100° F. While I love a good sauna, during a long brew session, I would prefer a more comfortable environment. With the electric brew kettle, all of the heat is focused inside the kettle and although some radiates from the pot, the temperature of the kitchen remains mercifully low. Finally brewing with electric allows much more control over the brewing process. It allows me to set my strike water temp first think in the morning and later in the day, I have my water at the perfect temperature. Additionally having temperature control in an electric brewing set up gives me the option of doing a HERMS system in the future, allowing even more mash precision and options for brewing.

Instead of trying to create my own exterior shell for the heat coil, I decided to purchase the pre-made model from Brew Hardware. They have created a great design and a very elegant solution to the electrical container problem. I obtained my heat element from the same location. For my power cord, I altered a Husky 14-3 15 foot Extension Cord. I chose a 14 gauge over a 16 since I wanted a the additional volt capacity that the larger size would offer me.

For my HLT, I went with a single 1500 watt element. In my initial tests it was able to boil 4 gallons of water as long as the lid was on. Also in the HLT I’ve installed a thermowell to monitor temperatures and regulate the strike and spurge temperatures.

HLT Pic 1 HLT Pic 2

For my boil kettle I decided on 2 1500 watt elements. At a total of 3000 watts, this should give me a solid rolling boil. My tests showed that this system could heat up 7 gallons from 160° to 212° in 45 min and sustain a rolling boil. My boil off during a 60 min boil was 1.25 gallons. Overall I am very happy with how this system has come together. It provides me with more control over my brewing process, a much easier brew day, and better beer in the end.

Inside Boil Kettle Outside Boil Kettle

If your interested in more information on how to put together and electric brew kettle you can read my article here: Building an Electric Kettle


P.S. The HLT mentioned in the beginning was not working because I never reset the Ground Fault Interrupter after doing a safety check. Worked amazingly after I figured this out.

Bottle Cap Magnets

Keezer with MagnetsNeed a little flare for your keezer? Refrigerator looking a bit plane? Drunk, Bored, and need something to do with all of the bottle caps you just liberated from that delicious beer? If so, these Bottle Cap Magnets are a really fun project that is easy to do and a great/cheap/reversible way to decorate any magnetic surface. I think that each of these little beauties took about 1 minute and they are almost instantly ready to put on your fridge. One quick tip is to place a quarter on top of your cap while prying it open. This will give you a perfectly flat faced cap and it will look practically brand new.. You will probably be fine opening it the normal way, but why not take an extra minute and make your project look even better.

Materials

  • Hot Glue & Hot Glue Gun: $0.05 Per Squeeze
  • 1/2 inch Round Magnets: $0.20 Each
  • Bottle Caps: Free or $1.50 if you think of your beer as free, totally your choice
  • Total Cost: $0.25 Each

Process: Simply put a drip of hot glue on the back of the bottle cap, add magnet, put on metallic surface of your choice.

Cap & Magnet        Cap + Magnet

Credit goes to Vernon Wells for this Idea

Magnetic Spin Plate

A while back I purchased an old spin plate from ebay that was being sold as part of an industrial warehouse clearance sale. The plate was a fantastic deal at $25, but was definitely beat up. Part of the metal covering was corroded and the machine looked a bit grungy. As much as I love a healthy dose of industrial chemicals in by beer, I felt it would be best to clean up the spin plate a bit. I decided to rebuild the frame using plywood, then spray paint the whole unit. I think it came out pretty well and for $25 and $5 in repair materials, it was a great deal.

Before:

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After:

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In Use:

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