Things that are badass for 500 please, Alex.

For those of you wondering how I’m spending my time these days, I’m spending my time researching. I want 2016 to be a legendary watershed sort of year for my distilling. Unfortunately, that takes a lot of reading and math. Yep, math. I know, I know…I’m not great with it either. Now that I’m well into my thirties I can honestly say that if my high school teacher had only told me that I could use my powers to make booze if I studied harder I probably would have. Anyway, let’s let bygones be bygones. I graduated ignorant and am playing catch up. Woe is me.

There has been a little ray of sunshine in all of this studying. For those of you keeping track, I have some pretty lofty goals this year. I want to fine tune the flavor of my liquor, and that means an upgrade to some equipment. Let’s not get crazy and think that it’s time to grab a new copper still. I believe wholeheartedly in my tried and true Brewhaus. The rest of my equipment, however, left much to be desired. So, let’s take a look at what I got.

For those of you who live in Canada and are interested, all of this equipment came from beergrains.com. I’m still a big fan of that site and they’ve never once let me down. In the interest of full disclosure, there was an issue with my order. However, they shipped me too much not too little. They’re straight up awesome to work with and I still recommend them. So, what did I get? I got 3 things:

  1. A sweet new brew kettle to mash the grains.
  2. An amazing stainless steel fermenter
  3. The Godzilla of all propane burners

Here’s some info on the new equipment:

Let’s start with the brew kettle.

A good sized pot is important for any distiller. As you know, I’ve been using a Turkey frier pot for the last 2 years. It was a good run, but it wasn’t sufficient to meet my long term needs. It fell short when it came to volume, and also when it came to flexibility. Let’s start by looking at the new kettle.

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See that? It looks like it’s just as happy to see you as you are to see it. Rawr.

I jest at the large screen attachment, but in all seriousness you can see that the volume of the pot is substantially larger. In addition, it has welds that facilitate a valve for training and an angled thermometer that will help me control the mashing process. The screen attachment will be invaluable when it comes to sparging (which is something we’ll discuss soon).

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I may need to rotate the face of the thermometer, but you can’t get better than that when it comes to visibility. The second (top) weld puts the probe straight into the middle of the mash. You may also note the valve below the thermometer. The quality there seems fantastic. It has a ball valve and a lock so that you can’t flip it on accident. Here’s a shot of the valve.

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This pot, coupled with the new burner, should really let me control the mashing process. Exciting times.

With that introduction, let’s look at the new burner. It’s a popular model with the homebrew crowd. Behold the majesty of the Bayou Classic Banjo burner.

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Yep, it’s huge. What do I like about it? In a word, surface area. But wait, that’s two words. I DO WHAT I WANT.

Anyhow, I love the fact that I can kick this puppy on low and get a nice simmer going on both the kettle and the still. For those of you who have recently checked out the pictures of my old rig, you’ll see the turkey frier setup had a few issues.

  1. It had a damnable 10 minute shutoff. The shutoff was more of an inconvenience than an issue in mashing. It was a HUGE issue in distilling.
  2. It was built to hold a turkey frier pot. That means that it had these weird little prong things that I had to rest the still on. I like the low profile (read: center of gravity) here. I also like the large and presumably stable bracket.

The size of the burner should give me incredible temperature control through the mashing and distillation processes.

look at the size and quality of the hardware. I love the guard.

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It has a nice, big gas intake. It also has a really nice adjustable air regulator.

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See those 2 little holes in the stainless steel plate (where the hose connects)? You can adjust that to adjust the amount of fresh air that’s mixed with the LP to power the burner. Cool, right? Also…NO DAMNABLE TIMER. That’s right. It’ll stay right where I put it. This is perhaps a good time to remind you all not to leave your stills unattended. Stable heat is important. Constant supervision and attention is more important.

Well, now that we’ve gone through those 2 things, let’s talk about the last one. The stainless steel fermenter. I’ll be honest and say that I’m an idiot and didn’t take good pictures of it. You can see it for yourself on the beergrains.com website.

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In my defense, I told you that the pictures were bad. Despite the bad pictures, I’m excited about this gem. I’m excited because:

  1. Stainless steel means that I can use steam rather than chemicals (if I so choose) to sanitize. I’m trying to improve my flavor. I’m not saying the chemicals are a contributing factor, but i’m interested. I’ll also be honest and say that I picked up a new liquid sanitizer. I’ll let you all know how that goes.
  2. It has a fricking valve so I can easily move the fermented product into the still. How cool is that?
  3. The weight, strength and overall construction indicates that the quality is fantastic. I’m very impressed with how this thing is put together.
  4. It’s all inclusive. I know that might sound silly, but this thing came with the teflon tape required to seal it. It actually came with enough for me to seal the brew kettle as well. That’s awesome. It was a complete solution for me.

I guess that the summary here is that I’m really excited about all of this equipment. I had done a fair bit of research leading up to it and I think I’ll be very pleased with it.

The next batch is coming soon. I’ll let you all know the new equipment performs.

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