It’s Memorial Day weekend and you have nothing to do but brew, drink, and eat. But you could make your future brewing a little more productive with the very clever — and slightly challenging — UberFridge.
Homebrewer Elco Jacobs has posted a very detailed and easy-to-follow guide on how you turn an Arduino Nano and Asus router into an internet-connected temperature controller for your fermentation needs. Total cost? A couple of hours and about $100-$125, assuming you have a fridge. Not the cheapest project, but given that fermentation temperature has a major effect on the outcome of your homebrew, it’s not the worst money you could spend.
Jacobs has posted the code needed to run the whole system on Google Code, but his guide is definitely the place to start.
Almost a year ago, our friend Joe wrote up his experience using spent grain to bake brewer’s beer bread. He didn’t have great results, and ended up with an under-baked, not-so-great-tasting bread. After a recent brewing session, I decided to revisit his experiment and see if I could make it work. For the most part, I did.
The recipe is below, and I’ve annotated places where I think you could run into trouble. Baking, like brewing, is science — there’s not a lot of room to mess around with the process or ingredients and still achieve what you want. But when you combine the two to make this spent grain bread, there’s actually a lot of guess work that goes into it.
Also, keep in mind that different grain bills will obviously produce different tasting bread — I used a darker Amber that was 17% Belgian Special B, 17% American Roasted Barley, and 66% Crystal Malt 80L.
Brewer’s Beer Bread with Spent Grains Recipe
To start, you will need the following:
2 cups spent grain – wet-to-damp, but not soaking wet
1 cup of 100 degree warm water
1 packet of standard bakers yeast
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 cups of flour, +/- 1 cup depending on the wetness of the spent grain (see procedure)
1/4 tsp kosher salt (optional)
Handful of oats (optional)
Dissolve the brown sugar in the warm water and add the packet of yeast. Cover loosely and let sit for 30 minutes.
In a food processor or blender, make a spent grain mush. Try to break down the husks as much as you can, but don’t over do it. You want something closer to the consistency of smooth oatmeal than to grits.
Put the spent grain mush, 2.5 cups of flour, water/sugar/yeast mixture, and salt into a mixing bowl and start mixing. A Kitchenaid or something similar will save a lot of work, but you can mix with a spoon or hand mixer until it gives out, then start kneading by hand.
After you’ve combined the ingredients, you want the dough to be cohesive and not sticky — a slight tack is ok, but you don’t want it wet, and it should hold a shape without oozing or anything. Keep adding flour until that happens. I think I used about 4 cups, but the final amount of flour is completely dependent on how wet your spent grains were to begin with. Knead it for a few minutes to allow for the gluten structures to develop — they’ll hold the CO2 from the yeast during proofing and baking.
Take the final dough and place in a clean, lightly-oiled bowl for 1-2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
Punch the dough and put it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or some type of silicone baking mat. You can also split the dough in two and put it in greased loaf pans, but I think it will lead to a soggier bread. I prefer the boule-style approach. Either way, scatter the handful of oats over the dough.
Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
That’s it — instead of throwing the spent grains away, slather it with some Irish butter and eat it with Guinness beef stew.
How-to/tech blog Lifehacker has written up a useful guide and produced a video on how to chose the right glass and make the proper pour for whatever it is your drinking.
More and more craft brewers would prefer you not use the standard pint glasses you’ve had for decades. They want you using something that helps the aromas come alive, the carbonation expand properly, and the taste to hit your tongue in the way they intended. Whether you believe that a particular glass can do that or not, it’s still worth a shot. Glassware is typically not expensive — a tulip glass can be had for less than $5 if you look — and you usually only need one of each kind. If you’re skeptical, it’s a cheap way to experiment with craft beer in a new way (plus, it will give you an excuse to buy more beer).
This has been around for a little while, but we felt like it was worth posting again for another Friday how-to article.
The team at SparkFun electronics has written a detailed guide on how to connect your kegerator to a Twitter account, allowing you to broadcast the status of your keg to the world.
When I was first given the duty of making sure the SparkFun kegerator had beer for the SparkFun employees I was excited about getting to choose beer for my colleagues. My excitement quickly waned when I got a knock on my door while in the middle of a panelizing session for BatchPCB. The keg was out. It turns out the SparkFun drinking habits vary and the keg never goes out at a convenient time. People never like going to the break room to grab a cold pint of beer only to get the dreaded fweessssssh of an empty keg. I needed a solution. I wanted something that I could monitor remotely that could tell me when the keg was about to run out.
The most well known method of determining the fullness of a keg is to try to pick it up. If you can pick it up and not feel the mass of the liquid swishing around inside, the keg is out. The more difficult it is to lift the keg, the more full it is. This is just not feasible when it’s carefully wedged inside the keg fridge and is not the most accurate method around, plus it shakes up the beer. Weighing the keg would work well and four 100 pound force sensors would work for weighing the whole kegerator. I replaced the casters on the kegerator with carriage bolts that rest on the force sensors that rest on leftover PCBs that rest on furniture coasters. Hot glue was added to give some support that was needed for the lateral forces of moving the keg in and out of the kegerator.
It unfortunately doesn’t involve an iPad, but it’s certainly a cheaper solution. And as soon as you get it up and running, be sure to have your keg follow the Lautering account.
Long-time Lautering favorite Make Magazine has an article this month about how to create your own “Jockey Box,” a modified cooler designed to rapidly cool hot wort or beer from a warm keg.
A jockey box is one of those funny coolers with a built-in beer tap on the outside. Inside, it has the requisite plumbing to draw beer from a keg, and a metal coil or cooling plate. Once you fill the cooler with ice and attach a keg, the coil or plate, acting as a heat exchanger, quickly chills the beer to a proper serving temperature — even when the keg itself isn’t cold.
If you’re not already working to build your iPad-controlled kegerator, this seems like a useful, affordable weekend project for any homebrewer or keg-buyer out there.
The engineering team at Yelp has created a fantastic iPad interface for their office keg. Building off of the existing KegBot platform, they built an iPad app that allows them to check-in with an RFID keycard, track user ratings, and track the amount of beer coming out of the keg. It even tracks the temperature.
Sensors attached to the keg feed data into an Arduino microcontroller, which in turn communicates directly with the iPad via a serial connection. The iPad processes that data and displays it in a snazzy manner along with a description of the current brew. An RFID reader attached to the system allows users to ’swipe in’ to KegMate and keep track of how much beer they’ve had, as well as assign a star rating for the beer currently in the keg (this is Yelp, after all).
If you were going to starting from scratch, this definitely takes some understanding of circuitry, iPad app development, and a host of other technical skills. Forunately, the team at Yelp has released everything they’ve done — the app, schematics, even part numbers — to help you put it together. If you’ve got an extra Saturday afternoon and a little ambition, they’ve made it simple enough to be an approachable project for almost anyone.
The downside? It requires an iPad, which is $500 alone, making this a $600+ project. If you’re interested in a simpler version of this, you can eliminate the iPad and use an old computer with the KegBot software.