Look At This Little Beauty

Was that a shoutout to the late, great Steve Irwin? The only man I’ve ever known to make reptiles and amphibians not only pallatable, but…kind of endearing? You’re damn right. It’s been what, the better part of 20 years? I can still remember his voice and contagious enthusiasm. Alas, this isn’t a blog about bygone heroes. It’s a blog about the ‘shine.

We’re now about 48 to 72 hours before the rubber has to meet the road, and the CQ has to get into the fermenter. The trouble is that I’ve been hurt before, and I’m not ready to trust again. Don’t believe me? Scroll down to my discussion on my (at the time) new Chapman 14 gallon fermenter. As a dewey eyed youth I pontificated on its merits only to meet with bitter betrayal as the connection to the ball valve leaked. The sweet, sticky, yeasty nectar dribbled fourth winning me the People’s Choice Award for “Best Husband”. I can still recall the enthusiasm in her voice as she…encouraged me to clean it up. Yep, that’s how it happened.

Anyway, since the plan is currently to shoot for a 7 gallon batch, I’ve polished up and assembled my Flex+ fermenter from Spike Brewing. For those of you who are down in the US and looking for some quality home brewing/fermentation supplies you should check them out. I’m not on their payroll, but the quality of their work speaks for itself. I’m a big fan. It’s the brand that famously asserted that “your liver will fail before our equipment does”. So far, that commitment has held up. Despite my deep and abiding love for this particular fermenter, I wanted to make sure that my assembly was rock solid before I had to be…encouraged…to clean up for a second time.

I did tell you it was beautiful, right? I mean, Jesus…look at that little beauty.

So I filled it up about half way to make sure that the racking arm and the thermowell wouldn’t be an issue. Here are some more shots.

Here’s a shot of the inside. You can see the racking arm on the right is adjustable. It’s a really solid addition to the conical bottom which would help home brewers/winemakers/distillers keep their batches clean of the, technical term incoming, shmutz that accumulates at the bottom of the mash. Admittedly, it’s not super useful for a CQ wash (with no grains whatsoever) as the conical bottom should hold the attenuated yeast and the racking arm is perfectly placed to avoid it. That being said, I’m happy to have it.

One last closeup, Mr. Demille.

Here you see a 100% authentic pirate gold coin (according to my oldest), and perhaps an even more impressive racking arm. You’ll note that, unlike the Chapman, this rig uses TC clamps and gaskets along with some top quality machining to form a watertight seal. The arm itself is actually separate from the valve and can be adjusted to minimize the shmutz.

I can’t say that I’m surprised, but I will admit that I’m happy to report that there were 0 leaks. It’s safe to say that I’ll need no “encouragement” this batch. It’s also particularly good since I’ll be away during the tail end of the fermentation. Questions might have been raised if the young lady across the street returned home from pet sitting smelling like tequila and wet cat food. Anyway, nicely done Spike!

In addition to the water tight testing, I thought I’d also give the thermowell a shot. I have the ability now, so I might as well go for it. It’s time to turn in the ol’ analog rig and embrace the digital future. I’m, of course, doing this at no cost because I whined to my friend to loan me his digital. He said that in order to get completely accurate results I’d need to seal up the probe. I was, admittedly, curious about the accuracy of a temperature probe in a thermowell. So here’s the test.

Here we see the OG Analog, my tried, trusted and dubiously accurate BBQ thermometer, the room temp (up top) and his fluke (it’s both the thermometer brand and his preferred term for our continued friendship).

Full disclosure, there’s literally no way that the thermoworks smoke is more accurate than the fluke. They’re in different weight classes when it comes to accuracy, but I’ve been using the smoke for a long time, and not a single one of my guests has died from food poisoning (that I know of). The smoke thermometer is definitely on to something. All I had to do was drop the smoke into the water, insert the fluke into the thermowell, and wait.

So, how did it stack up? Here’s the results after 10 minutes in the water/well:

1 tenth of a degree Fahrenheit difference. That’s right, I said it…Fahrenheit. Twelve plus years north of the border aren’t enough to diminish my love for Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit or his completely, 100% logical way to measure and report on temperature. I think that’s a margin of error that I can manage.

And, just for grins…one more:

Testing complete, we’re one step closer to the CQ. Tally Ho!

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