Update on the BrewJacket Immersion Pro

In March of 2016 I wrote a post, BrewJacket Immersion Pro Fermentation Temp Control, that was sort of an ad for a Kickstarter campaign. It felt a bit scuzzy of me at the time but I felt it was my best hope at getting started in homebrewing if good fermentation temperature control was considered paramount; I believe it is. It turns out I was correct on the “my best hope” business.

The original BrewJacket had been around for a couple of years but was a cooling only device. The Kickstarter campaign was for a redesign of the circuitry so that it heated and cooled. It succeeded. I went with the No Wait Carboy level which got me a then current (cooling only) model BrewJacket immediately and the updated electronics several months later when they were ready.

This year when I was finally ready to begin brewing I swapped out the electronics and started looking at the instructions closely. BrewJacket wisely suggests running a test with just water in a carboy to get a feel for the system before committing it to your first batch. I did it and it ran great for about an hour and then quit. No lights or anything, although I did smell a faint burnt plastic odor. I reached out to BrewJacket and they (and I) assumed it was the head unit. They sent me a refurbished one within a few days. Swapping out the heads meant no change whatsoever though. Then I took a closer look at the external power supply and noticed a small, warped, bubbled area on its bottom. I contacted them again and they sent me another power supply. Eventually everything was working so I ran the test. Put me a couple weeks behind for my first brew but whatever. I am stoked I have done 3 batches already!

Everything was good until it wasn’t. I was using a Big Mouth Bubbler 5-gal carboy with spigot. I had left water in it for a couple days and absolutely no leaks. A day after I put it into the BrewJacket insulating bag it leaked and trashed the bag. The bag got a strange white mold all over where it had been wet. A fairly quick drying in our low humidity environment and a couple cleanings and it seems to be OK. I now only use those spigoted carboys as bottling buckets!

I brewed my first batch of beer on 2 July of this year, the second on 18 July, and the third on 8 August, which is still in the fermenter. So far the Immersion Pro is working like a champ. But there are some limitations. I will lay out some pros and cons as I see them, so far, though some are specific to similar circumstances as mine. [Addressed somewhat in that first post, with some update coming.]

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can be adjusted from +/- 30°F from ambient temperature
  • Maintains ~+/- 0.2°F from where set
  • Cooling 10°F takes approximately 12 hours [@ ~74-82°F ambient temp]

Cons

  • Can only be adjusted from +/- 30°F from ambient temperature
  • No real cold crashing if ambient temp is much above fermentation temp
  • One batch at a time
  • Somewhat noisy
  • To do anything with the fermenting beer means pulling the ImmersionPro out
  • This needs two people: one for removal, one to do whatever: gravity reading, finings/gelatin, dry hopping, ….
  • Cooling 10°F takes approximately 12 hours [@ ~74-82°F ambient temp]
  • The ferrite rod itself can only be sanitized with iodine-based sanitizers, like Iodophor

The temperature range of this thing is pretty incredible, except when it isn’t. In July and August, it has been approximately 72-82°F+ [thermometer tops out at 80°F so “82” is max] ambient [a daily change] in the spare shower where the fermenter is residing. This means no actual cold crashing. The best you could obtain is 42-52°F and that would be seriously taxing it by running almost constantly without the true benefit you are looking for. The opposite would exist if you were trying to ferment warm in a very cold environment. It only gets down to about 60°F in the winter in that shower but I cannot brew then anyway, even though that would be awesome for doing lagers along with the Immersion Pro.

Entire unit showing drawstring closed around neck of carboy. 1st batch.

The head is somewhat noisy but it isn’t really an issue for us since it is in a spare bathroom off the “entertainment” room. In a small aprtment or sitting in your living room, like one of their images shows, it would probably be disturbing to many people.

Close up of krausen and rod in carboy. Normally the jacket would be closed tight. 1st batch.

Removing the carboy lid or only the Immersion Pro is a bit more complicated than a regular carboy lid and tube/airlock. I guess a sanitary place to lie it could be made if you had to do something inside the carboy by yourself but it seems mighty problematic. Not that I am a fan of the wife holding it up above while I do what I need to quickly but that’s “easy” at least.

Closer look at the head unit. 1st batch.

Part of the sanitation issue is that it requires an iodine-based sanitizer. I use StarSan otherwise. So I needed a special “vessel” to make up Iodophor and put the rod in which is not the smallest nor best shaped/weight for such things. Then there is the “air drying” that iodine-based sanitizers require. How the fuck is that supposed to happen with a rod? Well, with any shape really? There is no way to suspend it and if it touches anything (assuming something sanitary) then it cannot dry fully. This might be my biggest peeve about the whole thing right now.

Maybe I am missing something obvious about drying iodine-based sanitized items but this is inconvenient, to say the least. If you already primarily used iodine-based sani then you are golden. (And perhaps laughing at me. Oh well.)

View from the side showing blowoff tube and temp probe. 3rd batch.

As for temperature stability, it is usually +/ 0.2°F from your set point so a total fluctuation of 0.4°F. Sometimes, especially if changing several degrees it may fluctuate for a bit at +/-0.4°F until it settles in to temp. That is pretty rock solid in the stability department!

Head, lid, rod and high krausen. 3rd batch.

As for how quickly it can cool, it has mostly met my needs so far but I can imagine that I might have reason to cool faster (or further) than it can go. Again, a 10°F change, for me, at ~74-82°F ambient, takes a bit over an hour per degree.

Calming down. Things have gotten a bit gunkier. 3rd batch.

The unit uses a blowoff tube for ale primaries and a one-way check valve for lagers and ale secondary, if you like. I have only been using the blowoff tube so far and it has been working great, although I do wish it were slightly bigger as I can see it getting blocked someday. The supplied connectors and tubing are 3/8″.

The jacket I got is compatible with normal 5 and 6.5 gal carboys, Speidel 20 and 30L, Fermonster PET 6 and 7 gal, 5 and 6.5 gal plastic and glass Big Mouth Bubblers, and other PET carboys in this size range. The possible difference between any of them is simply which lid you use. Currently I use the Universal Big Mouth Bubbler lid with a plastic BMB 5 gal.

All in all, I really like my Immersion Pro as it was my ticket to “solving” fermentation temperature control, a big hangup for me. I am looking forward to moving on from certain of its restrictions if/when we can get more space cleared in the detached “garage” and get another refrigerator/freezer and dual-stage temp controller out there. I also need space for conditioning. So , ….

Oh, what a hobby.

Great service report: Imperial Yeast and Casey

I want to take an opportunity to give a shout out to Imperial Yeast (Portland, OR) and in particular to their rep, Casey Helwig.

Casey came and spoke during the education session of our monthly meeting of COHO back in April of this year. One of the owners also came with her but she handled all of the presentation and ~98% of the questions. I took a lot of notes that night but have sadly been unable to find them.

The main thing I remember was how seriously impressed I was by Casey that evening. She did an excellent job, which I tried to let her know before I left but she was engaged with others answering even more questions after the meeting ended so I was unable to do so.

My first beer, Path of Totality SMaSH pale ale used their A01 House yeast and my second, Time and Tide: A Romance of the Moon, used their A10 Darkness. Both seemed to do a great job right out of the can. They both kicked off to a rocking primary fermentation. I have tasted Path of Totality but it is not yet fully carbonated. Clean with some light esters (fermented at 67F). Time and Tide was last tasted on bottling day so questions remain. I have not detected any off flavors from either so far though.

While I was working on recipes for my third batch, another pale ale, and fourth batch, a big barleywine, I was running into trouble getting the yeast I wanted.

I was trying to get some A15 Independence for my pale and also trying to figure out which would possibly be good for the barleywine. My local homebrew shop had ordered my previous two cans but they have a glut of other Imperial yeast on hand right now and are not ordering currently. With the weather so freaking hot here (and elsewhere) it is not the time of year for mail ordering yeast. Or the time of year for much homebrewing in these parts perhaps (Casey’s suggestion).

So on 3 August I asked some questions on Imperial’s contact form about where/how I might source some A15 and about suggestions for the barleywine. Within an hour, I got a phone call from Casey. She spent at least 10 minutes on the phone with me chatting about yeasts for both of the beers.

Sadly, yet not unexpectedly, she couldn’t help me source the A15 but we ended up agreeing that for what I was trying to do with the hopping in the pale that A04 Barbarian and its stone fruit esters would probably work nicely. That one, Annie Jump Cannon pale ale is still in the fermenter but boy did it get off to a rocking start.

She also gave me four suggestions for the barleywine. My thoughts are still open on this one but I am seriously considering using one (or more) of her suggestions.

So, in many ways, I have little empirical evidence for how the Imperial yeasts have worked in these recipes. I accept that. This shout out is more specifically about the great customer service—even to homebrewers—by a young company putting out, as best I can tell, a solid and very useful product.

Their yeast is all-organic—only organic yeastery in the world (for now)—and comes in convenient, keep cold until use, small cans that have double the amount of yeasts cells as the liquid yeast competition. This means that for normal gravity beers you can skip the yeast starter step and still provide plenty of yeast. Yes, a can does cost a bit more than a smack pack or vial but it is nowhere near twice as much, perhaps 30% more.

For now, I am sold. I certainly will try Wyeast and White Labs yeasts at some point, and hopefully others as more yeasteries arrive, but Imperial has allowed me to feel good about giving my wort plenty of healthy yeast in an easy manner. They have also provided me with education and spent good time on the phone chatting with me. That means an awful lot to me.

By the by, I did tell Casey right away once she called that she impressed me at the club meeting. Wasn’t going to blow that chance! [Thank you kindly, Mark’s mind, for remembering.]

Thank you, Imperial Yeast. And thank you, Casey.

Strong – Brewing Better Beer

Brewing Better Beer: Master lessons for advanced homebrewers by Gordon Strong

Date read: 09-19 February 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Strong's Brewing Better Beer book

Paperback, xvii, 316 pages
Published 2011 by Brewers Publications
Source: Own

This was an amazing book and it has vaulted to the very top of the list of homebrewing books (as far as I’m concerned) for anyone beyond ultimate beginners. I intend to get very good use from this. Strong writes that it’s meant for advanced homebrewers but as Michael “Musafa” Ferguson writes in the Foreword:

“Gordon would say that this is for the experienced home brewer already brewing all-grain recipes. I say that this book is a book for anyone who has ever contemplated or attempted homebrewing, from the newbie looking in through the window to the professional brewer who has returned to his or her roots, not unlike what I have done” (xiv).

I think the author of the foreword makes the more accurate assertion, although I disagree with the whole “anyone who has ever contemplated …” claim. I believe it would be a bit overwhelming for them. But it is for anyone else with almost any amount of experience, and especially if any of that is with all-grain.

Highly recommended for everyone except those who have only contemplated trying brewing, and somewhat reluctantly for those who have only done extract brewing.

[I finished this book a month ago. I would prefer to write the review that this book actually deserves but I am seriously backlogged on book review writing and want to get something out. I guess I am telling myself that I will revisit the review and improve on it, just as I intend (and already am) revisiting the book. Perhaps I can give you enough of an overview to make a decision whether it is for you or not; that is kind of the idea anyway.]

With that in mind, I have provided the outline of each chapter at one step below the chapter heading so that you may gauge the book’s coverage. Keep in mind, there are a couple levels below many of those headings also.

Contents:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Philosophy
  • Chapter 1. The Philosophy of Brewing
  • Part II: Mastering Your Craft
  • Chapter 2. Mastering Techniques
  • Chapter 3. Mastering Equipment
  • Chapter 4. Mastering Ingredients
  • Part III: Applying Your Knowledge
  • Chapter 5. Evaluating Your Own Beer
  • Chapter 6. Envisioning Your Beer
  • Chapter 7. Troubleshooting
  • Chapter 8. Finishing Beer
  • Chapter 9. Competition Brewing
  • Chapter 10. Conclusion
  • List of Recipes
  • Index

Foreword [by Michael “Musafa” Ferguson]

I liked several things Ferguson said. The first is in relation to book forewords and does go on just a bit more for a little more clarity but this excerpt is what you get. The others are more directly about the book in hand.

“There are basically two reasons to read a foreword. You have either already bought the book and are looking to get everything out of it you can, or you are contemplating buying the book and are looking for insight into whether or not you should spend the money.” xiii

“This book, however, is not a how-to book; it’s a “do you want to” book.” xiii

“This book is just like having a mentor.” xv

“This book flows along the lines of analogy, technique, and practice.” xv

Introduction

  • Blown Up, Sir
  • The Journey Is the Reward
  • Structure of This Book
  • Using This Book
  • But Why Nothing on Extract Beers?

The recipe for Old Draft Dodger, an English Barley Wine [p. 3], gave me a solid slap upside the head in full acknowledgment of how large a mash tun I need. And since my mash tun will also be my boil kettle—am going to use Brew in a Bag—that was a good and solid bit of info. I had been working with estimates of 25 lbs but this uses 30.25 lbs of malt + 1 lb muscovado sugar [yields 8 gal to boil down to 6 gal]. Thus, this was a critical equipment and process control point, for me, which I will discuss in a bit.

There is a fair bit in the intro but mostly Strong lets us know what he isn’t about and a touch of what he is attempting to be about. In the process, he gives the authors and texts he turns to in a pinch or otherwise necessary, as he does throughout the book. Pay attention as he tells you exactly who he turns to for a topic.

What the book is not

  • “isn’t a textbook or a purely technical brewing book.”
    •     SEE brewing reference textbooks – “De Clerck, Kunze, Narziss, Briggs, Bamforth, and Lewis.” 5
    •     more towards homebrewers SEE Fix and Noonan 5
    •     “online technical studies by A.J. deLange and Kai Troester that describe practical experiments, ….” 5
  • “isn’t a scholarly study; …” 5
  • “is not a recipe book, but I provide many of my award winning recipes.” 6
    •     illustrate points & add color
    •     “If I’m looking for a new recipe, I often look at books by Zainasheff/Palmer, Noonan, or the Classic Styles Series published by Brewers Publications.” … “If I’m looking for ideas on formulation, I’ll look to Daniels and Mosher.” 6
  • “is not a basic brewing book and it doesn’t discuss extract brewing at all; … … won’t teach you how to get started brewing or give you step-by-step procedures for bsic brewing processes.” SEE Palmer, Korzonas 6

What the book is

“What this book does is fill an unaddressed niche in homebrewing literature. It describes how to think about brewing, how to select and apply proper techniques, and how to continue to learn and develop your own brewing style.” 6

Stories, recipes, and anecdotes are used to illustrate points, analogies (and other influences) will be used liberally, and he states strong opinions based on his experience. [quasi-paraphrase] 6

Part I: Philosophy

Chapter 1. The Philosophy of Brewing

  • Everyone Has a Story
  • Channeling Influences [Write out your own]
  • Mastering Skills [On what it means to be a master]
  • Developing Your Own Style

“Think about your own style being your framework for brewing. You’ll find out the details as you learn and grow in your abilities. Select the tools and methods you want to use and learn. Work towards mastering a core set of skills that let you make the beer styles you enjoy most. …” 23

“Reconsider what you are able to do whenever you make modifications to your system.” 23

Part II: Mastering Your Craft

“In the next three chapters, I will review the stages of brewing, the choices to make, identifying the critical control points, and what your choices will imply later.” 25

Books for all-grain knowledge:

“My favorites are John Palmer’s How to Brew and Greg Noonan’s New Brewing Lager Beer. Noonan’s book is more advanced and is really a great reference text. I also like Al Korzonas’ Homebrewing: Volume I as a source  of useful information, although it doesn’t cover all-grain brewing. For a person first learning to homebrew, I still like Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide. All of these books have given me information that I still use today.” 25-6

Some of the things that will come up in the next several sections are control points [e.g., single-infusion mash], decision points [e.g., lautering options], techniques of interest [to me], and critical process/system decisions [e.g., moving liquids]. These are strewn throughout the book and add immense value to Strong’s clear system thinking.

Chapter 2. Mastering Techniques

  • Transforming Grain
  • Mash Temperatures, Final Gravity, and Maltsters
  • Step Mashing for Attenuation Technique
    • Tripwire–Belgian Tripel (recipe)
  • Decoction and Tannins
  • Hochkurz Double Decoction Mash Technique
    • Procrastinator Doppelbock (recipe)
  • Step and Decoction Mashing Techniques Combined
    • El Hefe German—Hefeweizen (recipe)
  • Cold-Steeped Roasted Grains Technique
    • Headlights On Sweet—Stout (recipe)
  • Unusual Technique: The Overnight Oven Mash by Joe Formanek
  • Lautering
  • Part-Gyle Technique Producing Two Beers
    • Seven-Year Itch—English Barley Wine (recipe)
    • Session Slammer—Northern English Brown Ale (recipe)
  • No-Sparge Technique
    • Pride of Warwick—Strong Bitter (recipe)
  • Managing the Boil
  • Intentional Caramelization Technique
    • Gunn Clan Scotch Ale (recipe)
  • Using Hops
  • First Wort Hopping and Late Hopping Techniques Combined
    • Avant Garde–American Pale Ale (recipe)

An example of control points [for single-infusion mash] under Transforming Grain:

  •     mash temperature
  •     rest time
  •     mash thickness
  •     mash pH [measured at mash temp; NB: pH is temp dependent; generally regulates itself] 33-34

Lautering Options are a [decision point]

“The method used to get the wort into the kettle is a decision point for the brewer: Will sparging be used, and if so, what technique? We examine the techniques of continuous sparging, parti-gyle sparging, batch sparging, and the no-sparge method.” 50

Some decision points under Using Hops are:

  •           Varieties to use
  •           Form of hops
  •           How much of each
  •           Techniques used during/after boil 65

All-Late Hopping [technique of interest]

“In a nutshell, the techniques involves adding all your hops within the last 20 minutes of the boil, adjusting your amounts to compensate for the reduced utilization.”  … You will want to watch out for excessive vegetal and grassy flavors coming from the increased hop material (as weel as the volume loss due to absorption). The advice to keep your total hop bill to less than 8 ounces (227 grams) per 5-gallon (…) batch still applies.” 66

Chapter 3. Mastering Equipment

  • Matching Equipment to the Task
  • Learning Your System
  • Optimizing Your Brewing

“In order to be a great brewer, you have to learn your brewing system in detail and make it your own. You have to know its strengths and weaknesses and how it responds to different brewing conditions.” 75

“The major topics in this chapter are selecting your equipment, learning your system, and optimizing your brewing.” 75

Matching Equipment to the Task tells us to:

“Start with what you need to accomplish, then find devices to best meet those needs.” 76

“Consider your equipment selections along with your process choices.” 76

“In this section, I’ll walk through the common brewing tasks that require equipment and discuss alternatives and tradeoffs. 76

This section is most valuable for brewery planning. I am really happy that I have read this before I finalized my ideas on what I think I am doing. Nothing changed except I feel better prepared and better educated/validated in my decisions. I appreciate that. [I have read quite a few how-to-brew books. This one works for me.]

To give you some idea of the further breakdown and amount of information covered by Strong, Matching Equipment to the Task covers all of the following: Measuring Ingredients, Crushing Grain, Moving Liquid, Managing Heat, Mashing, Lautering, Boiling Wort, Chilling and Separating Wort, Fermenting and Conditioning, and Packaging.

Moving Liquids under Matching Equipment to the Task brings in the most important decision, per Strong, as to system design:

“Water and wort have to be moved between vessels during brewing. This is generally accomplished manually, with gravity, or with pumps. To me, this decision, along with the number of brewing vessels, is what drives the overall design of your system.” 79 [critical process/system decisions, emphasis mine]

“The phases of this that are important in this step are how water gets into the hot liquor tank, how brewing liquor is added to the mash tun, how sparge water is added to the mash tun, how the outflow of the lauter tun is directed to the kettle, and how the boiled wort is moved to the fermenter.”  79

Learning Your System contains a massive amount of useful advice, again, especially still validating your system design.

“Think of systems in abstract terms, like black boxes with inputs and outputs. … This is the systems approach for managing complexity; it allows you to learn the system a piece at a time.” 89

Some of the key things to understand about your system: The range of anything that can be adjusted, How those changes affect the outcome of each step?, …. 90

Some examples of process control points: How accurate are your thermometers and other instruments?, …, When step mashing, how do I increase temps? Direct fire, how long continue to rise after cut-off? Responsiveness of thermometer?, …, What is my evaporation rate?, How much loss do I have from final boil volume to initial fermenter volume, and from initial fermenter volume to final finished beer volume? Also from mash volume to IFV, …, In general, how many pounds of grain needed to hit different gravity targets?, …, What kinds of techniques are possible on my system? How difficult are they to perform? 90-93

Not all control points are of equal importance; focus on those that make a big difference first. 94

Optimizing your Brewing

“…, since the difference between a competent brewer and an expert brewer is often measured in how efficiently and effectively they perform the same tasks.” 94

“… internalizing the techniques and processes so that thoughts and desires are more directly translated into actions and outcomes.” 94

“Some of this mastery comes through simple repetition and understanding of processes and techniques we’ve previously discussed, while executed on your particular system. However, other parts involve changing the way you think and plan your brewing, and how you approach tasks.” 94

Planning Your Brew Calendar under Optimizing your Brewing

Provides several reasons why to plan out your brew calendar, including the most obvious … have a beer available for a certain date but there are others. 95

Planning Your Brew Day, also under Optimizing your Brewing, provides reassuring ways to think about planning out your brew day, even if you’ve never done it on your own before.

  • Think like a chef; do the prep work before cooking. Mise en place, having all that you need to cook ready and waiting. 96
  • Start with breaking down all of the steps. Think about order, equipment needed, ingredients needed, time required.
  • What consumes the most time? If can start longest task first you may shorten the brew day.
  • “Critical path,” from project management : the sequence of dependent tasks that must be completed to get the job done on time. ID the minimum time needed to complete a complex project involving multiple tasks.”
  • Checklists help to not forget certain tasks 97
  • Have extra consumables on hand in case run out : extra propane, DME or LME, …
  • Pay attention during brewing sessions and take notes of things to improve in future; sticking points, etc.
  • Prioritize tasks also; where do I need to focus my energy and attention? 98
  • Avoid wasted effort by understanding the end-to-end process of brewing, and what decisions drive the quality of my final beer.
  • Now, how can I extend this critical path planning if add a 2nd or 3rd batch?
  • “Finally, remember that brewing is often a series of small course corrections.” 98

Chapter 4. Mastering Ingredients

“I’m going to focus on how you categorize, characterize, differentiate, and select each of these types of ingredients.” 103

“The goal is for you to be able to choose ingredients that allow you to brew what you want, to be able to understand cause and effect and how ingredient choices affect the finished beer, and to be able to evaluate new products …” 103

“For each of the types of ingredients I’m discussing, I provide some background on the key points you need to know to properly work with them. I’ll also share the selections I’ve made, and how I approach using these ingredients.”103 His selections are in the So What Do I Do? sections under all of the individual ingredients.

  • Assessing Ingredients
  • Malt
  • Adjuncts
  • Hops
  • Yeast
  • Water

Part III: Applying Your Knowledge

Chapter 5. Evaluating Your Own Beer

  • Understanding Beer Styles
  • Developing Your Palate
  • Critically Assessing Your Own Beer

Chapter 6. Envisioning Your Beer

  • Basic Beer Math
  • Recipe Formulation
  • Adjusting Balance
  • Avoid Clashing Flavors
  • Recipe Formulation Examples
  • Conceptualizing New Styles

Chapter 7. Troubleshooting

  • Detecting Beer Faults
  • Technical Brewing Faults
  • Style-Related Faults

Chapter 8. Finishing Beer

  • Factors Affecting Beer Stability
  • Conditioning
  • Lagering
  • Clarifying
  • Carbonation and Packaging
  • Final Adjustments
  • Blending

Chapter 9. Competition Brewing

  • Brewing for Quality
  • Brewing for Quantity
    • Three Beers From One Base Beer by Steeping Specialty Grains
    • Two Beers From One Mash, Using Different Yeast
    • Making a Fruit Beer Using Mead
  • Winning BJCP Competitions

Chapter 10. Conclusion

  • Expanding Your Knowledge
  • Staying Current
  • Final Advice
  • Staying Alive

My conclusion

Highly recommended for everyone except those who have only contemplated trying brewing, and somewhat reluctantly for those who have only done extract brewing. I have already gained immense benefit from this book and intend to get even more from it. It has been a blessing in planning out my brewing system and processes.

You know? This may be all you’re getting review-wise for this book. I would much rather spend time making this book useful to me than telling you about it. As you can probably tell, my notes aren’t even fully typed up as I decided to invest in the reading first.

You ought have enough to go on to decide if it is of use to you. You can also attempt to look at it at a bookstore–new or used–or see if your library can get it for you, which I deem as highly likely. Then buy a copy! Or buy your library a copy, if you can.

This was actually the 11th finished nonfiction book I finished this year but it is the 14th review written and posted.

This is the 14th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

BrewJacket Immersion Pro Fermentation Temp Control

Homebrewers and potential homebrewers, do you live in an apartment, small house or other constrained space, like I do? Do you want to take your fermentation temperature control to another level but but don’t have room for a dedicated refrigerator or freezer? Are you OK with ales but need better cooling for lagers? If any, or all, of those things are true for you then please consider backing the BrewJacket Immersion Pro on Kickstarter.

Photo of BrewJacket Immersion Pro in a carboy in someone's living room

*All images courtesy of and property of BrewJacket*

I am a budding home brewer with some serious space constraints among other things. We live in a small house and already have two temperature-controlled refrigerators for cellaring beers and have no more room for a fermentation fridge. And seeing as we need more cellaring space neither of those will be converted to brewing use. But I do have a spare small shower in a second bathroom that would be perfect. Most of the winter it has been sitting at 60° F but it will warm up come warmer weather. I clearly need better temperature control to undertake brewing.

The BrewJacket Immersion unit has been around for a couple of years now but was so far restricted to cooling only. Their new, upgraded version which will both cool and heat to 35° F from ambient temp is currently being funded on Kickstarter. There are still 9 days left and they are just under $11,000 away from the $65,000 goal.

I backed the project at the No Wait Carboy level in which, if funded, I will be sent a current BrewJacket Immersion cooling-only unit in April and then be sent an upgrade [new circuit board] in September that will allow both heating and cooling.

How it works: It consists of a “highly insulated, waterproof, beer-proof, heavy duty jacket” and the rod which goes into your fermenter with the solid-state cooling (and heating) system connected to that.

Photo of rod and control unit lying on side

Now this unit isn’t exactly cheap but it does solve serious space issues for many of us, along with replacing that fridge or freezer and dual-stage temperature control and heat source which would be needed otherwise. They are compatible with over 20 different fermenters, with more coming, and work with 5-gal batch sizes.

Photo of two different styles of fermenter both jacketed and unjacketed

Here are a couple reviews of the cooling-only unit:

If this might solve some of your homebrewing issues then please consider backing the Immersion Pro on Kickstarter. I truly need this device if I hope to start homebrewing this year. Thanks.

Hornsey – Brewing, 2nd ed.

Brewing BrewingI. Hornsey; RSC Publishing 2013WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder Read 28 Feb – 22 April 2014

Well-illustrated, learned, and perhaps serving multiple readers, this book, now in its new 2nd edition, is, despite being fairly heavy on the science, a useful, up-to-date, statement of the brewers art, with a little bit of up-to-date history and anthropology (Introduction).

[Note: I apologize for the somewhat mishmashed citations. Brewing science uses one of the most ridiculous citation styles ever invented. For starters, they throw out the title of a book chapter or article. I could go on but won’t.]

Contents:

  • 1 Historical Material
  • 2 Barley and Malt
  • 3 Hops
  • 4 The Brewhouse
  • 5 Fermentation
  • 6 Beer Post-Fermentation
  • 7 Achieving and Maintaining Beer Quality
  • Subject Index

I will have little to say about most sections as it is fairly science heavy but still often understandable to someone with a good basic knowledge of commercial brewing. If I were a brewer with a problem or wanting more information on a process or an ingredient then I would turn here to get pointed in the right direction. I will leave in all of the section headings so you can get a good idea of what it contains, which is no more than you can do at amazon [although amazon is showing you the table of contents for the 1st ed. at the 2nd ed. page]. Again, after the Introduction there won’t be much in the way of comments. I may leave a note or two and add context as needed but not all of my notes are of use to you as you may well be interested more in one of the many other topics covered in the book.

1 Historical Material

Hornsey’s introduction, while being both interesting and easy to read, is also erudite. He turned me on to so many interesting looking works and some possible follow-on work to something I was hoping to find more of [http://marklindner.info/bbl/2013/11/some-things-read-beer-ed/ See Samuel, D.].

He chooses two topics as his focal point in the intro: Likely Origins of Brewing and Some Notable Figures in Brewing Science. The areas of most interest for me, if measured by note-taking and citations recorded for obtaining resources, were the section on the likely origins of brewing and the last paragraph of the chapter where he ends with suggestions for several books and articles on the topic(s) at hand.

1.1 Likely Origins of Brewing

I was particularly excited to learn of his Alcohol and its Role in the Evolution of Human Society, Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, 2012 and his A History of Beer and Brewing, Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, 2003. I acquired a copy of each via Summit (interlibrary loan) and will definitely be ordering myself a copy of both soon.

This section also covered Delwen Samuel’s work on brewing and baking in Ancient Egypt. I had read two of his articles, both from 1996, and had hoped to find resources describing any further work. Hornsey pointed me to two of them, which can be found here http://www.ancientgrains.org/delwen_papers.html along with others.

Samuel’s work is covered on pp. 3-5 see fn 14 & 15

     fn 14 ref “With the aid of scanning electron microscopy, Samuel has demonstrated that some grains were sprouted (malted!) before being crushed and used for brewing; ….” (5)

     14 D. Samuel, “Fermentation technology 3,000 years ago — The archaeology of ancient Egyptian beer.” SGM Quarterly, 1997, 24, 3-5.

     fn 15 ref “Brewing and baking in ancient Egypt has been thoroughly studied by Samuel.” (5)

     15 D. Samuel, “Brewing and baking” in Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, ed. P. T. Nicholson and I. Shaw, Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge, 2000, 537-76.

This section ends with some suggestions for articles and books:

“Highlights in the history of international brewing science have been summarized by Anderson, who has also documented the way in which science transformed brewing over the past three centuries, and the history of industrial brewing. A number of useful articles on brewing research and brewing history have appeared and are worth consulting, as are the books by Bamforth and Priest and Stewart.” (22)

  • R. G. Anderson, Ferment, 1993, 6, 191. [“Highlights in the history of international brewing science,” 191-8.]
  • R. G. Anderson, Brewery History, 2005, 121, 5.
  • R. G. Anderson, in Handbook of Brewing, 2nd rev. edn, ed. Priest, F. G. and Stewart, G. G., CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 2006, p. 1. [History of Industrial Brewing, 1-38]
  • T-M, Inari, One Hundred Years of Brewing Research, J. Inst. Brewing Centenary Edition, London, 1995.
  • F. G. Meussdoerffer, in Handbook of Brewing: Processes, Technology, Markets, ed. H. M. Esslinger, Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KgaA, Weinheim, 2009, p. 1. [“A Comprehensive History of Beer Brewing,” 1-42]
  • C. W. Bamforth, Brewing: New Technologies, Woodhead Pubishing, Abington, Cambridge, 2006. [See my review here http://marklindner.info/bbl/2013/08/bamforth-ed-brewing-new-technologies/]
  • F. G. Priest and G. G. Stewart ed., Handbook of Brewing, 2nd rev. edn, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 2006

From 6.6 Beer Flavour:

     “For an up-to-date account of the sensory evaluation of beer see the excellent chapter by Bill Taylor and Greg Organ, 217 a repository of important facts and references.” (269)

     217 W. J. Taylor and G. J. Organ, in Handbook of Brewing: Processes, Technology, Markets, ed. H. M. Esslinger, Wiley-VCH Verlag, Weinheim, 2009, p.675. [“Sensory Evaluation,” 675-702]

Have my hands on this and looking forward to reading it.

From 7.2.4 Foam one little nugget (amongst many):

     “Even allowing for the enormous amount of research that has been carried out into the broad subject of head retention, there is still a mysterious side to the subject, a fact that is referred to in an article by Bamforth.48” (287)

     48 C. W. Bamforth, The Brewer, 1995, 81, 396. [“Foam: method, myth or magic?” 396. [389].]

Contents:

  • 1 Historical Material
  • 1.1 Likely Origins of Brewing
  • 1.2 Some Notable Figures in Brewing Science
  • 1.2.1 Robert Boyle (1627-1691) and Robert Hooke (1635-1703)
  • 1.2.2 Antonj van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)
  • 1.2.3 Challenging “Spontaneous Generation”
  • 1.2.4 Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)
  • 1.2.5 The Sedlmayrs – a Scientific Brewing Dynasty
  • 1.2.6 The Carlsberg Laboratory, Copenhagen
  • 1.2.7 Chemists and the Brewing Industry
  • 2 Barley and Malt
  • 2.1 In the Beginning
  • 2.2 The Barley Plant and Its Domestication
  • 2.3 Barley Breeding
  • 2.4 Biochemical Structure of Barley
  • 2.4.1 Starchy Polysaccharides
  • 2.4.2 Non-Starchy Polysaccharides
  • 2.4.3 Proteins (Nitrogen; N)
  • 2.4.4 Lipids
  • 2.4.5 Other Constituents
  • 2.5 Malting
  • 2.5.1 Steeping
  • 2.5.2 Germination – and What Happens
  • 2.5.3 Kilning
  • 2.5.4 Malting Loss
  • 2.6 Other Cereals Used In Brewing
  • 2.6.1 Wheat
  • 2.6.2 Rice
  • 2.6.3 Maize
  • 2.6.4 Sorghum
  • 2.6.5 Oats
  • 2.6.6 Rye
  • 2.6.7 Triticale
  • 2.6.8 Buckwheat
  • 2.7 Specialist Malts and Adjuncts
  • 2.8 Commercial enzymes Used In Brewing
  • 3 Hops
  • 3.1 Historical
  • 3.2 The Plant
  • 3.3 Hop Varieties
  • 3.3.1 Dwarf Hops
  • 3.3.2 Hop Processing
  • 3.4 Hop Constituents
  • 3.4.1 “Sunstruck” Beer
  • 3.5 Hop Products
  • 3.6 Hop Pests and Diseases
  • 4 The Brewhouse
  • 4.1 Milling
  • 4.2 Mashing
  • 4.3 Wort Separation
  • 4.4 Sweet Wort
  • 4.4.1 Carbohydrate Composition
  • 4.4.2 Nitrogen Compounds
  • 4.4.3 Fatty Acids
  • 4.4.4 Sulfur Compunds
  • 4.5 Wort Boiling
  • 4.6 Wort Cooling
  • 5 Fermentation
  • 5.1 The Yeast
  • 5.2 Nutritional Requirements of Yeast
  • 5.2.1 Carbon Metabolism
  • 5.2.2 Nitrogen Metabolism
  • 5.2.3 Vitamins
  • 5.2.4 Inorganic Ions (Other Elements)
  • 5.2.4.1 Sulfur
  • 5.2.4.2 Phosphorus
  • 5.2.4.3 Metallic Elements
  • 5.2.5 Relationship with Oxygen
  • 5.3 Yeast: Vitality and Viability
  • 5.4 Fermentation
  • 5.5 Yeast Storage Compounds
  • 5.6 Fermentation Technologies
  • 5.6.1 Batch Fermentation
  • 5.6.2 Continuous Fermentation
  • 5.6.3 High-Gravity Brewing
  • 5.7 New Brewing Yeasts
  • 6 Beer Post-Fermentation
  • 6.1 Maturation
  • 6.1.1 Flavour Development
  • 6.1.2 Colloidal Stabilisation
  • 6.1.3 Carbonation
  • 6.1.4 Clarification and Filtration
  • 6.2 Brewery Conditioned Beer
  • 6.2.1 Kegging
  • 6.2.2 Bottling
  • 6.2.3 Canning
  • 6.2.4 Nitrogenated Beer
  • 6.3 Cask-Conditioned Beer
  • 6.3.1 The Cask
  • 6.3.2 Beer Fining
  • 6.3.3 Bottle-Conditioned Beer
  • 6.4 Low-Alcohol (LA) and Alcohol-Free Beers (AFB)
  • 6.5 A Couple of “Special” Beers
  • 6.5.1 Ice Beer
  • 6.5.2 Wheat Beer
  • 6.6 Beer Flavour
  • 7 Achieving and Maintaining Beer Quality
  • 7.1 Management and Systems
  • 7.2 Chemical and Physical Laboratory Analysis
  • 7.2.1 Gravity and Beer Strength
  • 7.2.2 Bitterness
  • 7.2.3 Colour
  • 7.2.4 Foam
  • 7.2.5 Nitrosamines
  • 7.3 Microbiology
  • 7.3.1 Rapid Identification Methods
  • 7.3.1.1 ATP Bioluminesence
  • 7.3.1.2 Fluorescence in situ Hybridisation (FISH)
  • 7.3.1.3 The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
  • 7.3.2 Bacteria
  • 7.3.3 Wild Yeasts
  • Subject Index

Again, a well-illustrated and learned book that can perhaps serve multiple reading publics.

I got this from COCC Barber Library [TP 570 .H66 2013]. It is a second copy of a text for the brewing certificate exam prep course that started this spring term at COCC.