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Reviewing the Hydra Immersion Wort Chiller from JaDeD Brewing

Posted by Olan on 11/24/2014 at 11:26:58 AM

The Hydra wort chiller
The Hydra wort chiller from JaDeD Brewing

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from the guys at JaDeD brewing. I was told that they were impressed with the quality of my posts and the activity level that I was able to maintain. Now, I will freely admit that the quality of my posts is certainly up for discussion (that is, unless you are the sort of person that enjoys reading my train derailment type brewday tales), but I would be lying if I said that the compliments didn't feel good.

At any rate, they had an ulterior motive - they wondered if I would be interested in trying one of their wort chillers. They went on to explain that they are a small company without a real advertising budget, and that they feel that the best way to get the word out is to get their chillers into the hands of actual homebrewers, then let word of mouth help them out. They offered to ship one of their chillers to me, free of charge, with the only request being that I gave an honest, unembellished assessment of how it performed.

Consdering that I was already trying to figure out how I could justify the expense of owning a JaDeD chiller, I could not send an enthusiastic "yes" reply to them quickly enough!

We exchanged a few more emails; the guys wanted to know my typical batch sizes and the dimensions of my boil kettle (so as to ensure that they sent me the optimal chiller for my setup). I sent them the specs of my Bayou Classic 1044 stainless steel kettle, and they decided that the Hydra (aka their flagship product) was probably best for me. They then sent me some suggestons on optimizing the chilling process, and two days later, I had shiny, new Hydra sitting on my front porch.

The first impression was that this thing was extremely impressive. There is a *ton* of copper involved in the construction of this chiller - far more than my generic immersion chiller uses. On further review, the craftsmanship is very impressive; the coils are tightly arranged, the layout is cunning. Multiple spacers are employed to not only keep the coils from touching, but also ensures that everything stays where it should be; the overall feel of the chiller is that it is quite sturdy.

Compared to my old immersion chiller
I wonder which one of these will perform better?

This past Saturday, I was set to brew my take on Hofbrau's Oktoberfest; I was doing a six and a half gallon batch, with the intention of splitting off one gallon as an experimental brew using wild Alaskan ale yeast. Needless to say, I was quite excited to try out my new chiller. We've had a recent cold snap, and my ground water prior to starting was 58.3 degrees F - easily the coldest I can remember it being when I was trying to chill.

Some brewers play music when they brew. From time to time, you'll see discussion on various homebrewing forums as to what an ideal brewing playlist might consist of. I have decided on an appropriate theme song for my brewing efforts (thanks to uberg33k for the spot of suggestion).   Enjoy:

My intention had been to simply hook my new Hydra up to my kitchen sink, as I was aware that my other choice would be to use a very long garden hose. Sadly, I didn't think about this enough ahead of time; once my boil was winding down and it was almost time to put the chiller in the wort to sanitize, it hit me - the Hydra's input valve is attached directly to the copper, and is angled 90 degrees from my faucet connection. Rats, I'd have to use the hose. Oh, well.

It was then that the real silliness set it. One hose wasn't long enough, I had connect two together (note to self - you REALLY need another outdoor faucet!). These, of course, had a slight leak at the connection point... and, for that matter, the original hose had a leak at the faucet itself.

The hose didn't want to perfectly attach to the Hydra... add in another small leak. Worse, though, was the discovery - once I was under pressure - that I had several small leaks in the hoses themselves (apparently, our dog had decided to play with the hoses a bit at some point) - including one MASSIVE leak some twenty feet from the end of the hose.

For best results with chilling, you need two things - one, your water needs to be on full blast, as the more pressure, the better. Two, you need to agitate the wort, as hot wort makes an excellent insulator; the parts next to the chiller coils will indeed cool quickly, but the parts away from it will remain hot. If you stir the wort or agitate the chiller, you can greatly reduce needed chilling time. I knew this lesson from my old chiller, and it of course applied to the Hydra.

Even at full blast, the long hose length combined with multiple leaks led to poor pressure; the outlet flow was pretty weak. It took me better than three minutes to get below 150 degrees F, whereas the JaDeD site tells me that, with my water temps, I should have been able to get to 140 degrees F in 45 seconds. Ouch. I stirred, I tinkered with connections. It helped a small bit, but things were still going slower than I hoped.

At the five minute mark, inspiration struck me. For grins, I stood on top of the big leak... and it stopped. Suddenly, the outflow from my Hydra was double what it had been!

For those of you playing along at home, feel free to cue up the music control above... it perfectly narrates the rest of my chilling time. Water pressure is vital. Agitation is very important.

To maintain my best possible water pressure, I had to stand twenty feet from my kettle... which, of course, made agitation impossible. I decided to stand in place for a bit, run to the kettle, give it a big stir, then run back. This ridiculous process repeated over the next few minutes.

All told, despite my challenges, I was still down to pitching temperatures in under ten minutes. I cut the chiller off when I reache 68.5 degrees F, which took close to twelve total minutes of chilling time.

The good news is that this is less than half the time it took for me to accomplish the same type of chilling with my old immersion chiller... and that was with me making an absolutely horrible effort and breaking all of the suggested guidelines for best results. I got an absolutely MASSIVE cold break out of this batch. Guys, this thing is *really* impressive.

I'm going to try this experiment again soon - next time, I'll pick up a short feeder hose to attach to my kitchen sink, and I'll pre-fit it ahead of time. I can't wait to see what the Hydra can do if I give it half a chance.

Full disclosure: I was given the Hydra chiller for free in exchange for this review. I was told in no uncertain terms to be honest and to not embellish my results. This is my 100% true, factual experience using the Hyrda immersion chiller from JaDeD Brewing.

Tags for this post: hydra, wort, chiller, immersion, JaDeD Brewing, JaDeD, wort chiller, brewing

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Tags for this post: hydra, wort, chiller, immersion, JaDeD Brewing, JaDeD, wort chiller, brewing

Grizzly Bear Loves Kölsch

Posted by Cameron on 11/23/2014 at 04:14:11 PM


I feel as though there is so much to explain before I even begin this project. Indeed, your probably already wondering, "Who the hell is Grizzly Bear, and why does he love Kölsch?!". Maybe the second part of that thought should be qualified by instead asking "... and why does he love Kölsch so much?!" I mean, come on, who wouldn’t like a crystal clear, refreshing, top fermented and cold conditioned beer?!

But... who is this elusive Grizzly Bear, anyways? A good question, indeed! I think you will find that after learning about Grizzly Bear, the reason he loves Kölsch so much will become evident.

About Grizzly Bear

I've never got a date by posting my vitals on a home brewing website, but, suffice to say, I am Grizzly Bear. Yes, it's me. But I'm not really a bear (although my girlfriend may disagree). I'm Canadian, and I live in Leeds, U.K. As a foreigner from a land far away, of which is inevitably covered in ice 365 days a year and is populated by lumberjacks, I am the subject of many 'Canuck' jokes. It doesn't help that I love wearing plaid shirts and rarely trim my beard. Oh, and I work at a law firm where the clean cut, suit wearing approach is usually best. Nevertheless, I have adopted the name Grizzly Bear to complement my appearance both at home and at work.

Now, I also love Kölsch. I've been brewing for...
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Tags for this post: Kölsch, homebrewing, beer, brewing, grizzly, bear

How to use Bru'n Water - Video Tutorials for Water Chemistry

Posted by Olan on 11/21/2014 at 12:31:58 PM

Water chemistry. Those two words can invoke feelings of unease and uncertainty. Perhaps you didn't enjoy (or understand) a high school or college chemistry class, and since that point, any exposure to the term "chemistry" leaves you with hives.

Maybe the idea itself of tweaking your water chemistry is interesting to you, but you've discovered lots of complicated discussions on the subject, and you really don't know where to start.

That latter situation was me at the end of last year. I had gotten pretty compfortable with all grain brewing, I had repeatable success, but I was starting to understand that the next level entailed me getting a good handle on my water. What I didn't understand was how on earth I was going to do that.

Enter my pal Greg (aka vinpaysdoc), a fellow redditor who had this water business figured out, and was kind enough to teach me. Greg introduced me to a life saving tool - Bru'n Water, by Martin Brungard. Bru'n Water is set up as an Excel spreadsheet, and is free to download and use (though if you *do* use it, it would be cool of you to drop a couple of bucks to the author).

Sadly, I had convinced myself that water chemistry was actually a really difficult topic, so I had trouble getting going, even with this great tool; Greg was again kind enough to help me get everything set up. Over the past year, I'd seen him help multiple...
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Tags for this post: bru'n water, water chemistry, salts, acid, brewing

Lots of New Stuff at Homebrew Dad!

Posted by Olan on 11/17/2014 at 02:55:14 PM


This last week was, quite honestly, a really good one for Homebrew Dad.  There are a lot of exciting things going on, and I'd like to share with you some of the irons that are currently in the fire.

First off, I have been contacted by Homebrew Talk and asked to write a guest article for them.  I'll admit that I thought about this one for a bit; I do tend to focus my creative energies on this site, and for some reason (six kids, two jobs), I don't have a ton of free time.  However, being asked to contribute to the largest online homebrewing resource is no small thing, so in the end, I decided to accept.  I'm going to be doing an article for them focused around recipe creation; this will mostly be about my own process, which is a mixture of art, science, and instinct.  Hopefully, it will be well received... but if not, feel free to mock away!

Next up, I got an email from the folks up at JaDeD Brewing who wanted to know if I would be interested in demoing one of their award winning wort chillers.  Well, I had to really think long and hard... I'm kidding.  I couldn't send an enthusiastic response email quickly enough!

Their only request was that I follow their tips on optimizing the chilling process, and that I write an honest review of my experience.  Considering that I was happy to do the same for...
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Tags for this post: upcoming, news, homebrewtalk, JaDeD, hydra, yeast starter calculator, blog, partnership, homebrewing

Making a DIY Wind Screen for my Bayou Classic SQ14 Burner

Posted by Olan on 11/04/2014 at 04:31:35 PM


For two years now, I have been brewing outdoors with my Bayou Classic SQ14 burner and my Bayou Classic 1044 44 quart stainless steel kettle.  I've been extremely happy with them; the quality has been solid, and both items were quite affordable.

I know that a lot of people look down their nose at the SQ14 burner a bit, mainly due to the fact that it does not have a wind screen built in.  To me, that's a shame; the burner has a big, sturdy frame, and is low enough to the ground to make it easy to haul a full pot on and off of it. 

I suppose that I've been lucky, as the wind screen has never been a huge issue for me.  It seems that most of the windy days I've chosen to brew on have turned out to also be rainy, so I'll retreat to my basement and thus have most of the wind issues alleviated. 

Still, I have seen issues from time to time, so recently, I decided to do something about it.  The last time I was in Lowe's, I picked up an inexpensive HVAC fitting known as a starting collar (I think that it cost all of five dollars).  I believe that this was the eight inch version, which I guessed from memory was about the size that I needed.  The fitting is made from the typical flexible sheet metal that you see in virtually all HVAC applications,...
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Tags for this post: wind, screen, propane, burner, bayou classic, sq14, diy

Creating Syrup from First Runnings

Posted by Olan on 11/03/2014 at 04:47:10 PM


This past weekend, I brewed my Christmas ale.  I'm hoping for a rich dessert beer; ideally, I'll have big caramel flavors, some nice plum/dark fruit, with a little roastiness to help balance things out, accented off by a blend of traditional holiday spices.  If all goes well, this beer will be special.

One of the techniques that I employed for this beer was the conversion of a little over a gallon of my first runnings into a little under a quart of syrup.  The maillard reactions from this process really emphasize those caramel flavors, and can help to enhance a variety of beer styles.  It's not a complicated process, but I do see questions about it fairly often, so I figured that I'd put together a step by step to help guide those who have never done it before.

First off, be sure to collect first runnings for this, as you absolutely want that sugar-rich goodness for the process.  While you can certainly do this with second runnings, you get noticeably more water in that pass, and your syrup won't be nearly as rich or flavorful.  In case you are unfamiliar with the terminology, note that "first runnings" refers to the sweet wort that you drain from your mash prior to any sparging (rinsing) of the grain.

I collect a gallon of the first runnings into a pitcher, which I then dump back into the mash tun.  This process (known as vorlaufing) helps to set your grain bed, which then...
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Tags for this post: syrup, first runnings, caramel, boil, maillard reactions, Christmas ale, homebrewing

My Award Winning Chili Recipe

Posted by Olan on 10/30/2014 at 05:21:28 AM

Last week, I posted about success brewing for my company, followed by winning the company chili cook off. It was a pretty cool week for me, no doubt.

Well, a surprising amount of people have contacted me to ask for my chili recipe. I'm not one of those "it's a secret you'll have to pry from my corpse" kind of guys; I'm happy to share.

A few notes:

I am aware that some (looking at you, Texas) hold that "real" chili contains no beans. That's fine, but mine does. It has two kinds of beans, as a matter of fact. If that bothers you... well, this isn't the recipe for you.

This chili is rather spicy; I feel like if you don't get a bit of a runny nose when you eat it, then it's not hot enough.

Please understand that I learned to cook from my mother, who is a notorious "pinch of this, dash of that" kind of cook. This is her base recipe, though I have changed and adapted it over the years (for one, it WAY spicier than she used to do).

Every single time that I cook my chili, I season it to taste... which means that the exact amount of pepper and such does vary. I'll give some wild approximations on seasoning in the ingredient list below, but you really should follow the "season to taste" methodology to ensure that you're happy with the end result. Realize, too, that red pepper tends...
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Tags for this post: chili, recipe, award, winning, cooking

Success and Failure: Bottle Infections and Experimental Beer

Posted by Olan on 10/27/2014 at 04:04:27 PM


According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2014 is the Year of the Horse.  For me, 2014 could well go down as the Year of the Bottle Infection.  As you may recall, I've had multiple nice beers ruined by creeping bottle infections.  The beer would seem to be great in my bottles for a few weeks, but invariably, I would get crazy foam gushers, the beer in question would see the body suffer, etc.  It's bad enough to have an ale suffer this fate, but having it happen to a bock (with months invested in the brewing and lagering) was really, really painful.

I got lots of advice on the issue; some of it was good, some was more suspect - yes, I am quite certain that four weeks in the fermentor meant that gravity was stable whether or not I did multiple hydrometer checks!  A thorough cleaning regimen - namely, long soaks in strong bleach solution, PBW solution, strong starsan solution, with plenty of rinses in between - did no good. At any rate, I developed the following plan.

1. Replace all plastic bottling gear - the bottling bucket, the autosiphon, the bottling wand.

2. Boil the silicone tubing for an extended period (my LHBS sadly does not carry silicone tubing).

3. Pre rinse all bottles with a bottle washer.

4. Keep the bottling bucket covered with a lid at all times.

5. Immediately place caps on bottles as they are filled.

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Tags for this post: bottle, infection, infections, roggenbier, homebrew

Brewing for My Company: the Aftermath

Posted by Olan on 10/23/2014 at 05:34:03 PM


A few weeks ago, I posted about being asked to brew beer for a major company event.  This past weekend, that event took place; I figured that I would follow up and relate how it went.

I brewed two beers for the event - my Oakenbranch IPA, and my Thundersmoke brown ale.  The two brew days themselves went just fine (no snickering, you in the back!).  I added even more dry hops to the IPA, figuring that it would be impossible to end up with too much; the brown ale (which happens to be a "house beer" for me), I brewed exactly according to the recipe.  I did scale both recipes up a hair in the hopes of ending up with at least a few bottles of each for personal consumption.

My numbers were great on the IPA - 1.077 OG (1.076 target), 1.014 FG (1.017 target).  That did come in a bit high on ABV (8.31%, to be exact), so I was a little concerned about aging time, but there wasn't much to do about that.  The brown ale landed at 1.058 OG (target 1.057), but I got big attenuation - FG was 1.008 (target was 1.015, holy cow!). 

To be fair, I always make large starter and oxygenate well.  I think that I need to adjust my numbers a bit; Beersmith wants to set the target OG in the middle of the yeast's expected attenuation range, but I almost always hit the top (or...
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Tags for this post: company, brewing, beer, IPA, brown ale, Oakenbranch, Thundersmoke, marketing

Developing Your Own Terroir (Style) for Your Beer

Posted by Immaculate on 10/08/2014 at 02:39:53 PM


I'm assuming if you're reading this, you like beer.  You probably have a particular beer or style you enjoy more than others.  Have you ever stopped to think how that beer style came to be?  While it may be hard to believe in the age of overnight shipping, hops available from around the globe, and hundreds of cultured yeast strains available, most styles were born out of limitations and necessity.  People were forced to make the most of the malt, water, and hops they had available in their town or village.  Their beer fermented with whatever happened to be floating around in the air or lining their barrels.  This hyperlocality of source materials gave the beers they produced a certain terroir unique to that beer.  Over time, refinements and industrialization shaped these local products into the beer styles you love today.  While it's fun to make and consume these established beers, we have lost something along the way.  We don't challenge ourselves anymore because the necessity to do so has gone.  The aforementioned convenience and abundance of ingredients have given brewers possibly too much freedom to create.  Instead of developing beers based on terroir, they're based on ever escalating gimmickry.  What does a Triple Imperial Habanero-Pineapple-Peanut Butter IPA made with 5 strains of Brett and aged in Birch barrels tell you about the brewer, the place it was made, or the locals that drink it other than the possibility of a high prevalence of head injuries?  If you're reading this...
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Tags for this post: terroir, style, local, beer, ingredients, homebrew

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